Overlooked Gems #10: “Goblins at the Gate”


Today we will be taking a look at Goblins at the Gate in SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN vol. 1 #259-261 by Roger Stern, Glenn Greenberg and Luke Ross from 1998.

What is it about goblins that spell success for the Spider-Man comics? The Green Goblin was Spider-Man’s greatest nemesis in the 1960s and early 1970s and The Hobgoblin became his top villain throughout the 1980s (until Venom came along anyway). Both had slow-burning mysteries centered around them as well as plenty of dread to place them at the top of Spidey’s rogues gallery.

With such popularity and legacies for both characters, a confrontation between the two was brimming with possibilities. Well in 1989, a battle between the two Halloween-themed menaces is just what we got…sort of.

While perfectly entertaining in its own right (with some truly excellent artwork from Todd McFarlane), it wasn’t quite the encounter fans hoped for. It was more a battle of the second-stringers since it wasn’t the original Green Goblin (Norman Osborn) and Hobgoblin (Roderick Kingsley…or would it technically be Ned Leeds at this point in time?), but rather their replacements, Harry Osborn and Jason Macendale (the latter of whom didn’t hold a candle to his predecessor). So while it ended up being a fun comic, it didn’t come anywhere close to capitalizing on the full potential of a Green Goblin/Hobgoblin rivalry.

But in fairness, how could it? After all, the original Goblins were both dead and buried at the time.

Norman met his end way back in 1973 at the hands of his own glider and The Hobgoblin was murdered by The Foreigner’s assassins after being outed as (then) Ned Leeds in 1987.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN vol. 1 #122

 

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN vol. 1 #289

Thankfully (or not depending on who you ask), neither of these deaths stuck.

Norman was revealed to still be alive and returned with a vengeance at the end of the infamous Clone Saga.

SPIDER-MAN vol. 1 #75

Ned was revealed to have been a dupe all along with the real Hobgoblin turning out to be fashion industrialist Roderick Kingsley.

HOBGOBLIN LIVES #3

With both of the originals back in the picture, the stage was finally set for a proper confrontation between the two titans of tyranny. Naturally, this is where Goblins at the Gate comes in.

Our tale begins with the nefarious Norman Osborn hamming it up for the media in his ongoing ploy to convince the public of his innocence.

But as it turns out, Spidey isn’t the only person who isn’t buying Norman’s little act.

As one might imagine, Roderick Kingsley isn’t too pleased at the prospect of Norman running around free while he is left to rot in prison; especially since Roderick is all too aware of Norman’s alter ego.

Unwilling to accept his current circumstances, Roderick meets with his attorney to cut a special and peculiar kind of deal.

Naturally, this information soon makes its way straight to Norman himself…and you’d better believe he isn’t going to take it lying down.

The district attorney accepts Roderick’s terms and arranges for a transfer. But one of the guards has other ideas…

Later that night, Daily Bugle reporter Betty Brant stops by the Parker residence to enlist Peter’s photographic capabilities for Roderick’s transfer.

Betty Brant: killing the mood since 1963.

And of course, everything quickly goes to hell during the actual transfer.

Finally, The Green Goblin himself finally arrives at the scene.

But unfortunately for old Gobby, so does Spider-Man.

Spidey and The Goblin duke it out over Roderick, but it turns out that he actually doesn’t want to be saved.

As Spidey ponders just what exactly he’s going to do about two of his deadliest enemies escaping…

What does Stormin’ Norman have in mind for Roderick? Why did Roderick allow himself to be taken? Who will get their hands on the journal first? Who is this other Green Goblin? So many questions, so few answers I’ll actually give.

What makes this such a memorable confrontation is that it’s more a battle of wills and strategy than just straight-up fisticuffs (don’t worry though; we get some of that too). Throughout the course of the story, Norman and Roderick desperately try to stay ahead of each other and ensure that they hold all the cards in this deadly arrangement. As you would expect, deception, double-cross and many different swerves transpire as the two Goblins enter an uneasy alliance to achieve their desired goals.

This was the last appearance of Roderick Kingsley for quite some time until Dan Slott brought him back for his run in 2011 (only to then replace him with the vastly inferior Phil Urich), making this a swan song of sorts for the character. And in my humble opinion, fans were treated to a darn good sendoff.

You can track down the individual issues, or purchase the Hobgoblin Lives TPB.

A darn good deal considering you get two great story arcs in one collection.

Do I even need a closing paragraph? It’s The Green Goblin vs. The Hobgoblin; just read it!

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(10) Comments

  1. Cheesedique

    As long as they drag stories out now, this would've been a year-long storyline and not just 3 issues. Which I would kinda love, actually.Unfortunately, after slott, both Norman and Roderick are in pretty lousy state.

  2. Joshua Nelson - Post author

    @Andrew C I understand where you're coming from. Like I mentioned in the article, "Goblins at the Gate" is more of a strategic battle than a physical one. While Norman and Roderick do exchange punches at the end, it is very brief and leaves you wanting more (which isn't always a bad thing, mind you). We've yet to get an all-out brawl between the two yet, but where "Goblins at the Gate" falls short in action, it more than succeeds in scripting.Thank you for the support as always, Andrew!

  3. Andrew C

    Now that I look at the panels, I think one of my annoyances was I had wanted a GG/Hobby battle so badly, but the GG who fought Roderick wasn’t even the “real thing.” That soured the arc for me a bit. I forget if Norman got in on the action by the end, but I don’t recall him doing so.

  4. Andrew C

    Hey Josh, another great article. Keep up the good work, bud. Unfortunately, this may be the first time I disagree with one of your “overlooked gems.” I read it when it came out. I had been looking forward to it since I saw it solicited, and I don’t remember much now (although your article jogged my memory a bit), but I just recall being disappointed. It’s not that it was bad, it just didn’t live up to the epic expectations I had built up in my mind. I also think I was annoyed DeMatteis was being taken off Spec. Maybe I owe it a second look though. This is my favorite column on the Crawlspace. I can tell you put in a lot of hard work, and think carefully about each one. Hope that’s encouragement to get you going on the next one! :)

  5. Joshua Nelson - Post author

    @666andahalf That was definitely one of my favorite articles from JR.@Spideydude And editorial interference derails yet another promising story...

  6. Spideydude

    Originally, the plan was to reveal the fifth GG as the Good Goblin, Phil Urich in this very story. But Editorial override prevented it from happening.

  7. 666andahalf

    Love this story! Sure, it wasn't perfect, but was one of my formative Spidey stories in my early years of reading the comics regularly. Hobgoblin is my 2nd favorite Spider-Man villain and is highly underrated among fandom.JR has a great article about this story and an overall comparison and general match-up: http://www.spideykicksbutt.com/SquanderedLegacy/KingsleyvsOsborn.html

  8. Joshua Nelson - Post author

    @Cheesedique The "Clone Goblin" reveal was definitely terrible, but I can't really blame this story since it predated that revelation by at least two years. Definitely one of the worst arcs during the Howard Mackie relaunch (which is saying something).And yes, their confrontation in SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN fell flat for the reason you mentioned. While it is true that we've never gotten an all out Norman vs. Roderick slug-fest, "Goblins at the Gate" is still a really good confrontation between the two.

  9. Cheesedique

    Goblins At the Gate is a solid story. But its impact was lessened by the fact that there was the dumb GG 5 “genetic construct” running around in place of Norman most of the time—in what was one of the worst reveals in Spider-Man history. Not Greenberg’s fault (but rather, Mackie & Bryne’s), but still lousy.Even the Norman / Kingsley fight during Superior was a dud due to the fact that Kingsley installed his butler in his place to fight Norman. We’ve still yet to get a full-blown GG Vs Hobby blowout fight.

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