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.
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.
Ned was revealed to have been a dupe all along with the real Hobgoblin turning out to be fashion industrialist Roderick Kingsley.
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.
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.
Do I even need a closing paragraph? It’s The Green Goblin vs. The Hobgoblin; just read it!