One For the Road – Green Goblin

green-goblin-7_hahaha A curious relic from 90s-era Marvel, Green Goblin was the publisher’s attempt to turn Spider-Man’s arch-nemesis into a full-blown superhero. They had similar success with the Punisher and Venom, though the Goblin posed an interesting challenge, in that the identity’s first bearer, Norman Osborn (who was dead at the time in Marvel’s universe), had murdered Spider-Man’s girlfriend, Gwen Stacy, and was such a horrifying monster he screwed up his son Harry (who also took over the role before dying, also temporarily)(Only Gwen has remained dead out of this group). The series, drawn by Scott McDaniel and written by Tom DeFalco, never sidesteps this dilemma. Using the superhero model passed down from Steve Ditko’s Amazing Spider-Man, tension is created between two perspectives: the new Goblin, college dropout Phil Urich, sees his accidental inheritance (both the costume and dosing on the serum which gave his predecessors super-powers) as a ticket to fame and fortune being New York’s latest hero; the people of New York, especially those within the orbit of Spider-Man, regard this new figure with suspicion and fear. green-goblin-2_warriors Not without reason, either. Phil is mostly an introverted figure, cluttering up pages with narrative captions of him pining–for success, for the attentions of a female co-worker, for peer acceptance. He imagines himself being smoother than he really is, often stammering out sentences when he attempts to speak. McDaniel lays out pages like a panic attack, with plenty of alternation between panels that are long/thin and short/wide, the world as seen through a nervous Gen X-er. Unlike other costumed characters, putting on the mask doesn’t alter Phil’s personality much. Peter Parker as Spider-Man is bolder, more flippant; the Osborns became cackling chatterboxes when they slipped into the Goblin persona. Phil remains quiet, stuck in his own head as he flies through the night sky on a jet-propelled glider, occasionally breaking the silence with a “lunatic laugh”–really a device in the mask intended to weaponize sound. This fact is noted by another Spider-Man enemy, the Rhino, during a brawl in the series’ second issue. Phil’s own insecurities exacerbate an already inflammatory identity into something eerie and unknown. green-goblin-2_phil Even the comic’s creators seem ambivalent about their protagonist. New York–under McDaniel’s sketchy line work and the dark green/black/brown color scheme of Gregory Wright–becomes a series of distorted blocks, resembling a German Expressionist painting more than a bustling city. DeFalco’s efforts at replicating teen speech (“Mega-cool” a repeat offender) and the constant asides about marketing and image (one recurring gag involves the Green Goblin cycling through poor attempts at a catch phrase) mark Phil as a bigger dweeb than Spider-Man ever was. The way he fixates on his co-worker, Lynn, and follows her around (in and out of costume) borders on stalking, implying an undercurrent of sociopathy on his part. This takes on larger implications in the context of the Marvel Universe: the Osborns, Norman especially, were self-centered (if not outright selfish) people, regarding everything in terms of whether they can use it to attain their goals. Early-to-mid 90s Spider-Man comics dealt with the subject matter of the Goblin’s lasting, painful influence (The Clone Saga being a direct consequence of Gwen Stacy’s death; Harry also had been shown to devise ludicrous schemes, implemented in the event of his death, for tormenting Spider-Man). One particular idea which was expanded was the idea of madness being entwined with the Osborn family, as seen in Spider-Man: Legacy of Evil. Though he never exhibits their paranoid hallucinations, Phil is shown to be haunted by this specter at all time. It manifests throughout the series: sometimes it’s how the mask appears to watch Phil from the football helmet he hid it under, others it’s the Goblin’s hazy outline appearing in a smoky sky (a riff on what had become a cliche image in Spider-Man comics). DeFalco, McDaniel, et al continually stress something dangerous lurks beneath Phil’s awkward demeanor. Something already inherent to the boy, which now has an outlet. That perhaps, rather than rehabilitating the image of a villain, readers were seeing the meek beginnings of a new terror. green-goblin-7_catchphrase


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