Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #40

 Posted: 2005
 Staff: Al Sjoerdsma (E-Mail)


Almost as if he feared that leaving Spidey tied up and unmasked in the power of the Green Goblin would keep his young audience in too much suspense over the next month, Stan assured us in the "Next Issue" box of ASM #39, August 1966 that "Spidey Saves the Day!". He does this again on the cover of ASM #40, September 1966, repeating the phrase from ASM #39 and adding "The End of the Green Goblin!" underneath. John Romita's cover shows Norman Osborn's lab on fire and in ruins as Spidey stands confidently, with fists clenched, over the staggered Green Goblin, on his hands and knees, his head bowed. The splash page gives us both sentences again, entitling the story "Spidey Saves the Day! Featuring: The End of the Green Goblin" even as the full page drawing picks up where we left off; with Peter bound and helpless, with the Goblin holding his mask in his hand, revealing himself to be Norman Osborn. Now, I could get as squeamish as the next kid about the fate of a super-hero but I think Stan coddled us just a little too much here. After haunting the Drug Store for weeks waiting for the next issue, here it is and... It takes all the suspense out of it at our very first glance. Except... the Green Goblin knows Spider-Man's identity. What in the world is Stan going to do about that?

Story 'Spidey Saves the Day! Featuring: The End of the Green Goblin!'

Let's go back to that splash page with Spidey tied to a big metal chair and Norman Osborn revealing himself as the Green Goblin. Stan tells us that the "only acceptable reason for a true spidophile's copping out" and missing last issue is if "you were orbiting Earth on a space ship". I wish that was the only good reason back then. It wasn't like things are today, people, with comic shop owners holding the latest issues for you. It was hit or miss at the Drug Store where I was. You had to haunt the racks consistently to avoid missing things. Sometimes it didn't matter what you did, they just wouldn't show up. Fortunately we all got last issue, right? And we've got this one. So, let's start reading.

Norman is carrying on about how his face will be the last face Peter will see in his life. Peter is straining against the "steel alloy coils" with which he is tied. He decides he must stall for time so he barks out, "I should have known it would be you, Osborn! Anyone who'd have a son like Harry!" This gets exactly the response Peter wants. "Harry??" Norman says, "You know my son?!!"

Peter has hit more of a nerve than he knows. Norman starts sweating profusely again. "You shouldn't have mentioned Harry!" he says, "I mustn't think of him, do you hear! I must forget... forget! He thinks I'm just a simple businessman! He must never know the truth... never! And he won't!... That's another reason why you must die, Parker! Only you know who the Green Goblin is! Just as I know who Spider-Man really is!" This calls two things to mind. First, did anyone ever see the SCTV skit, Vic Adagio? Vic, played by Joe Flaherty, was a detective who moonlighted as a jazz musician and he never got anywhere in his cases because he always had to go to a gig. At the conclusion of the skit, the villain tells him everything that is going on and then says she must kill him because he knows too much. Vic protests that that's not far. "I didn't know anything", he says (or words to that effect), "until you just told me!" That's exactly what Peter should say. Second, Norman's sweating and confused speech about Harry ("I must forget... forget!") label him as a nut case veering toward amnesia right from the beginning. I can already see where this is heading and I suspect that Peter can too. For the moment, though, Pete is just as worried about Aunt May discovering his secret I.D. as Norman is about Harry discovering his. Bug-eyed, Norman tells Peter that he can see him struggling against his bonds. "How I enjoy watching your futile, tortured efforts!" he says, falling into super-villain trap #1: not killing your enemy immediately even when you can see that he is soon going to break free.

Realizing that "Osborn is obviously a psychopath", Peter decides that his only chance to continue stalling for time is to "play on his emotions". So he brings up Harry again, saying, "You don't give a hoot about Harry! He told me so himself! He told he how you've changed towards him these past few years!" Norman drops his head into his left hand and pronounces Pete's statements as "Lies! All lies!... Nobody really knows why I became the Green Goblin!" Just in case you still didn't get it, Pete tells himself, "I was right! He's a real mental case!" and decides that "my only chance is to keep taunting him". But he also reminds himself to tread carefully, since "one wrong word could make him violent". So, Pete plays hard to get. "Big deal!" he tells Norman, "Who cares why you became the Green Goblin! You probably lost an election bet or something! What does it matter?" Sweating more and more, Norman replies, "You fool! I'll show you what it matters! I'll make you listen! Then you'll understand!" falling into super-villain trap #2: bothering to explain yourself to your helpless opponent when that's exactly what he wants since he is playing for time.

Peter hopes it takes a while to tell the story. He's been tied so tightly that he can't exert any leverage. All he's managed to loosen is "one single finger so far". Sweaty Norman begins his tale by telling Pete "Harry's mother passed away when he was just a baby! I had to bring him up alone and I tried my best!" A sympathetic Pete says, "Sure, sure! They'll probably elect you Father of the Year before the Judge sends you away!" Norman insists that he was a good father but he was often busy with work. "I had a business to take care of! Money was the most important thing of all!" he says, "I had to get rich! I needed wealth for that was the key to power!" As Norman justifies his behavior, a flashback shows Norman walking young Harry to the school bus stop, telling him he'll have to "have dinner alone tonight". Another flashback shows Norman blowing off helping Harry with his Biology schoolwork ("I've an exam tomorrow!" says Harry) because he has to get back to the office. Further justifying his actions, Norman tells Pete that Harry had nothing to complain about since "the more money I made, the more presents I bought him" and "I even took him to ball games when I had a chance". But again the flashbacks show the truth behind these statements as Norman gives young Harry a bicycle because "it'll give you something to do while I'm out of town on business next month" as Harry, hands in pockets, seems less than thrilled with the gift. The ball game is also shown as Norman blows off Harry's wish to talk by giving priority to the game over his son's troubles.

Peter takes it all in and decides that Norman is "sicker than I thought!... He's almost forgotten me!" (Another plot point leading to the issue's conclusion.) But now he's hooked on the story. He has to find out how Norman became the Green Goblin. Norman continues, explaining that he "had to be ruthless in business" in order to get where he wanted. He explains that he had a partner, "a man named Professor Stromm". (Who, you will recall, appeared in ASM #37, June 1966 when he was released from prison, built a couple of robots, and sought revenge against Norman Osborn only to drop dead of a heart attack... although sometime later he gets better.) Now we see what started all that as Stromm storms into Norman's office, arguing that "most of the inventions are mine" and that, "I only borrowed that money from our account. You know I didn't mean to steal it!" But partners or no, Norman seizes the day and calls the police on Stromm for embezzlement". Now, Norman wonders if he was too hard on Stromm "but it was his own fault for being careless" and it gave him "complete control of [the] business". Back then he put the tips of his fingers together and turned away in his chair as the police hauled Stromm away. The Prof vowed revenge but "that little outburst" didn't impress Norman one bit. Now Peter understands why Stromm tried to kill Norman with his robot and why Norman responded by bopping Spider-Man on the back of the head. "What a joke!" says Peter, "Me, trying to save the Green Goblin!" Norman's reaction to this is to bow his head and sweat some more. Thinking Norman has gotten too quiet, Pete decides he has to get him talking again. "I still don't get it, Osborn!" he says, "You became wealthy, successful, you achieved your goal, so what made you turn to crime? What made you become the Green Goblin?" Norman figures he's said this much, so he might as well tell the rest. "After all" he says, "my secret will die with you!" falling into super-villain trap #3: thinking the secret will die with the opponent even though you're not getting around to killing the opponent.

As Peter gets another finger loose (actually, it looks like his thumb), he taunts Norman with "So? What happened? Did you win a green costume in a raffle, or something?" Norman chooses to ignore Pete's tone since it will be the last joke he'll ever enjoy. He explains that he found notes in Stromm's desk for "some new strange-looking formulas". He takes them, hoping they will be worth lots of money. Harry comes in just at that moment and reminds his dad that it's "parents' night at my school this evening" but Norman brushes him off. "You go on ahead" he says, "Maybe I'll get there before it's over!" This doesn't happen. After Harry leaves, Norman works through the night constructing the formula. "Just before dawn", the solution turns green, beginning to bubble and froth. "And that sound" Norman says, "it's steaming".

Can't wait to see what happens, right? Sorry. It's time for the "More Marvel Masterpieces" page. This one spotlights, Fantastic Four #54, September 1966 with the odd little story of the Human Torch's meeting with Prester John, though you'd never know it with the emphasis on the cover of the guest appearances of the Black Panther and the Inhumans. The other two issues plugged here are reprint books: Fantasy Masterpieces #4, August 1966 with reprints of Atlas monster stories as well as a couple of Golden Age Captain America appearances, and Marvel Tales #4, September 1966 for which there is a Lookback if you're interested in any details.

That didn't take long. Back to the bubbling, frothing, steaming green formula which, "a second later" explodes in a big green rush right into Norman Osborn's face. (One of Jazzy Johnny's most powerful panels in this issue, by the way.) He goes to the hospital where the "best surgeons in the state worked night and day to save [his] life". While operating, one of them notes that "the damage is deep within his brain but there's no way we can reach it". Still, they save his life and predict a rapid recovery. Norman scoffs at the notion that he has brain damage. Instead, he thinks "the accident made me more brilliant than I had ever been". (Note that there's no mention of the formula giving him increased strength, although at one point Norman does think that he's "stronger, smarter, tougher than anyone else". For the most part, that notion is retconned in much later.)

At the hospital, Harry is convinced that the accident is all his fault. He thinks his dad "must have been overworked, tired, trying to earn enough money to support me". When Harry visits him in the hospital, Norman has no use for him. All he wants to do is "to be alone, to think, to plan". So after enduring the hospital for a few days, he orders Harry to get a taxi. Also to "get that hangdog look off your face!" "How did someone like me ever have a sniveling weakling of a son like you?" he adds.

So Norman leaves the hospital, with Harry wondering what he did wrong now to incur his father's wrath. ("You haven't done anything! That's the trouble!" says Norman, "You're a spineless jellyfish like everyone else!") A plan starts to form in Norman's mind. He now believes himself above everyone else and he knows he has "all sorts of scientific devices in [his] chemical company". Just this gets him thinking that he "could become the greatest costumed criminal of all time".

And so the months go by and Norman works on his obsession, finally creating a mask in green, his favorite color. When the costume is done, he stands in the stirrups of his Goblin Glider and declares that his first victim will be Spider- Man. (All of those mentioned months have been pretty much filled in with retcons since this issue, much of it in various issues of Untold Tales of Spider-Man. If you really want details of the time from Norman's hospital stay to the birth of the Goblin, check out those stories. As for me, I never cared for shoehorning events into the continuity. I like the vagueness of this issue just fine, thank you. And, yes, I know that Gobby didn't have a glider in his first appearance. He had his flying broomstick. But let's allow JR a little creative leeway here, okay?)

Norman, still holding the Goblin mask by its red cap, tells Peter that he chose Spidey "because I knew the underworld would respect anyone who could defeat you". Pete tries to keep him talking because he still hasn't freed himself from the coils but now Norman, holding the mask out dramatically in front of him, declares "the time has come for the Green Goblin to achieve his greatest triumph" and puts the mask back on. "He was just a greedy, ruthless businessman before his accident" thinks Peter, "But the chemical changed him for the worse. Now, what do I do? How do you reason with a madman?" He still has plenty of time to work on that, however, because the Goblin shakes his fist at him and announces that the end will not be too easy. "First you must sit there helplessly and wonder how I shall strike and at what precise instant you'll perish!" which is sort of a variation on super-villain trap #1. Pete grimaces as he thinks about never seeing Betty Brant again and never being able to explain things to Aunt May. The Goblin thinks the grimace implies that Pete is afraid for his life. "Beg, Parker!" he bellows, "Plead for mercy! Why won't you beg??"

In Queens, Aunt May lets Anna Watson (who hasn't appeared since ASM #34, March 1966) into her house. She has been so worried about Peter staying "away so long without even calling" that she asked Anna to come over. May is convinced that something bad has happened to Peter and she starts to cry. Anna tells her to "get hold of yourself this very minute". She tells May that Peter is probably out on a date and lost track of the time. "Even my Mary Jane has come home late occasionally!" she says. (Hah!) Then Anna gets the bright idea that Peter may be at the Daily Bugle. She decides to call J. Jonah Jameson since "newspaper buildings stay open all night". Actually, I doubt that is true but even if it is you can't really expect JJJ to be there all night, can you? Well, it turns out he is but he isn't interested in hearing about Peter Parker. "No! Parker isn't here!" he tells Anna, "What am I supposed to be, a lost and found department? He's probably out stealing hubcaps somewhere! Empty-headed teenagers! They're all alike!" (Some classic JJJ dialogue there.) He slams the phone down in its cradle and calls for his secretary Miss Brown (Who we never do see. This is her only (non) appearance.) "I want to dictate an editorial about how the younger generation's going to the dogs! Then I'll do one about the older generation, too! Might as well blast everyone!" he says.

Anna tells May that Peter isn't at the Bugle, "as gently as possible". She assures May that there are plenty of other places he could be. But May doesn't buy it. She sits slumped in an armchair with her hands in her lap, telling Anna that Peter is "the most considerate boy in the world". If he hasn't gotten in touch with her, it's because something has happened to him. Anna gets so concerned with how wrought up May is that she decides May needs a sedative. She tells May she'll be right back and goes off (to the phone, I presume, rather than back to her own house) to call Dr. Bromwell.

At a Midwestern train station (which is probably Chicago if you can judge by the radio station), Betty Brant takes a pause between trains. She has been running away ever since she had that dream that Peter was Spider-Man back in ASM #34, March 1966. She's also been running from Ned Leeds' marriage proposal which sort of took place in ASM #30, November 1965, since it took place off-stage, as it were. Now, Betty (looking much cuter with JR drawing than with Ditko drawing) decides she must return to New York and face the music. While she stands around in the train station, she overhears a radio report from "Art Roberts at station WLS in Chicago". (Stan didn't make up Art Roberts, by the way or WLS in Chicago. Art is one of the disc jockeys touted in the Bullpen Bulletins of ASM #37, June 1966 as a "full-fledged Marvelite". I don't know why Art got the honor of being in this story over the other eleven listed. Maybe he bought Stan lunch.) Anyway, Art is reporting that Spider-Man hasn't been seen "these past few days" and Betty shudders at his very name. (But hold on a second. Spidey was last seen beating up those Goblin-hired thugs last issue and Gobby kidnapped him soon after. Does this mean that it has actually been several days since the Goblin kidnapped him? No wonder Aunt May is so worried! And, damn, but the Goblin must be long-winded! Only, no, that's not what it means at all. It is still the same day as the fight with the thugs. So either Art hasn't kept up on known Spidey activity or he can't keep track of the days. Maybe Stan didn't do Art a favor by using his name in this story after all!) To Betty, Spider-Man "represents everything I dread. Danger, uncertainty and fear!" But she doesn't want to worry about Spider-Man. She is more interested in whether Jameson will give her her job back if she returns to the Daily Bugle. She wonders what it would be like to see Peter and Ned Leeds again; whether there is still a place in their lives for her. She closes her eyes and conjures up images of Peter, J. Jonah Jameson and Ned. But the image of a web-swinging Spider-Man dominates over all the others and Betty can't figure out why. She puts a white-gloved hand to her cheek and wonders about Spider-Man. She's seen him and spoken to him many times but still has no idea who he is. Briefly she wonders if he is someone she knows and then hopes and prays that he isn't. "I couldn't stand it if he were someone close to me, someone whom I love", she thinks. Then as the conductor calls out, "All Aboarrrd!" Betty heads to the New York train, hoping that, once she sees Peter, she can "forget about Spider-Man forever". And so, Stan starts to rectify another Ditko decision that he apparently disagreed with: that of writing Betty Brant out of the story. We'll see more of Betty next ish.

How many super-villain traps has the Goblin now fallen into? Four, if you count the one that was a variation on #1. Here's another. Peter closes his eyes and turns away as if he's no longer interested in the Goblin's story. A little reverse psychology that works like a charm as Gobby tells him he won't be robbed of his satisfaction with such a tactic. Peter goads him again, saying, "You're a washout, man! I beat you every time we fought before and I'll find a way to beat you again!" Now, there might be plenty of murderous bad guys who would realize that this is true and murder the web-slinger right then and there before he finds a way to win. Not our Goblin! He just gets honked off at the notion that he ever lost any of their fights. And he just happens to have a "retroscope helmet", which is a big clunky machine that looks like the Living Brain painted gray and which has a headset Gobby wears that looks like a Walkman. This "retroscope" allows Norman to project his thoughts of their previous battles and prove that he was never beaten. This allows Peter more time. It also allows Stan a way to recap the previous Spider- Man/Goblin meetings.

The first image that comes out of the headset and is projected onto the wall is that of the Enforcers charging from out of a big cloud of smoke. (Enjoy this view of Montana, Fancy Dan and the Ox while you can! They haven't been seen since ASM #19, December 1964 and none of them will appear again for a very long while.) This scene supposedly comes from the Goblin/Enforcers team- up from ASM #14, July 1964 but Peter can't see the point. The image shows him pounding the stuffing out of Montana and the Ox while Fancy Dan seems to be sprawled out on his rear. "I was able to lick them all!" Peter points out, "There, you can see it!" But the Goblin clenches a fist and observes that "you didn't beat me!" He tells Peter that this battle "taught me that no one can do my fighting for me! No one is as great as the Green Goblin!" Defiantly, Peter tells him to "cut these steel coils from my wrists and it'll be the Goblin's last gobble!" The Goblin hasn't looked ahead to the following page so he mistakenly replies, "Never! You had your chance and you muffed it!"

The next scene from the retroscope is of the Human Torch zeroing in on the Goblin. (This flashback is Torchy's first appearance in a Spidey book since ASM #21, February 1965. He won't appear in one again until ASM Annual #4, November 1967.) As Gobby tells it, Spidey was saved from defeat by Torchy's arrival. Since he didn't consider the Torch his enemy, the Goblin fled. "But you didn't beat me, instead you were simply saved by the Torch", the Goblin finishes. Spidey doesn't buy it. "From where I sat, you ran like a scared rabbit!" Peter tells him. The truth from ASM #17, October 1964 is that Spidey almost snagged the Goblin with his webbing except that the Torch got in his way. But, overhearing a phone call for Peter Parker informing him that Aunt May suffered a heart attack, Spidey ran off to go to the hospital. The Goblin is the one who is correct here. He was not defeated by Spider-Man and he did not run like a scared rabbit. (And how would Spidey know anyway? He had already left for the hospital.) Rather, he distracted the Torch and flew away, feeling that he had scored a great victory. To all the bystanders, it was Spider-Man who turned chicken.

It is the Goblin who gets his facts mixed up in the next flashback. The retroscope shows Spidey shooting his webbing; covering Lucky Lobo and his gang with it. That almost happened... Spidey actually rigged a net of webbing on the ceiling from where it dropped at just the right time... but the Goblin shouldn't be able to project this mental image anyway. He wasn't even there! He also recalls "I made the mistake of allying myself with others! So it was that Lucky Lobo and his gang were more of a hindrance than a help" but the Goblin didn't ally himself with Lobo at all. A look at ASM #23, April 1965 shows us that Gobby tried to take over Lucky's gang and was rejected. Hoping to eliminate Lobo and muscle in afterwards, the Goblin attracted Spider- Man's attention and led him to the gang's hideout, hoping he would capture Lucky Lobo. The Goblin's plan backfired when the entire gang was caught and imprisoned. The recollection that Spidey was "lucky that [Gobby] let [him] escape with [his] life" after the web-slinger leaped and missed a fleeing Goblin is also flawed. The only reason Spidey was at all in danger of his life was because he had run out of web-fluid but the Goblin didn't know that. Not unless he looked over his shoulder and saw Spidey's acrobatics afterward.

Finally, the Goblin recalls his alliance with the Crime-Master from ASM #26- 27, July-August 1965. The retroscope shows the Goblin holding an unconscious Spider-Man while the Crime-Master confronts him. "During our most recent battle, I had you completely beaten! Even you cannot deny that! But once again you were saved by a stroke of fate, in the guise of the Crime- Master", says the Goblin and he is mostly right on this score, except that it was Spidey's own abilities rather than the Crime-Master that saved him. Gobby compounds his errors. First the retroscope shows a battle between Gobby and the Crime-Master that took place (in ASM #26) before Spidey is rendered unconscious. Then he claims that, in this battle, the Crime-Master attacked him, allowing Spidey to escape. That is just flat-out wrong but what do you expect from a super-villain? His last retroscope recollection is of fleeing the scene while firing a finger-blast at Spidey. "But as I flew off to safety on that fateful day", he says, "allowing you a few months more of life, I knew I would again return when you least expected me to finish the task I had set for myself, namely, the complete and undeniable destruction of the Amazing Spider-Man". And you've got to admit that, comparing Peter's "I beat you every time we fought" to Norman's "you never beat me", you pretty much have to go with Norman. (You've also got to admit that, skewed details aside, Stan does a very slick job of recapping all of the previous Goblin appearances in just a couple of pages.)

But all of this gabbing and retroscrope watching has been just what Peter has needed to free one hand from the steel coils. Seconds before he can rip the coils away, the Goblin makes the whole thing moot. "So! You're still struggling with your bonds, are you?" he says, as he sets his retroscope headset down. "Well, I'll make it easy for you, since you're already doomed!" Then, declaring that "It would have been an empty victory to defeat a foe who is helplessly shackled", the man who said he would never free Peter from the steel coils... frees Peter from the steel coils. (Falling into super-villain trap #5... or is it #6?) He pulls a lever that seems specifically designed to snap all the coils, freeing Peter instantly. (Because the coils now seem to be part of the chair when they were definitely coiled around the chair back on page 20, panel 1 of ASM #39. And, of course, if you build a metal chair with coils you have to include a lever that will snap the coils in an instant.) Peter doesn't buy any of the Goblin's bravado. "You fast-talking phony!" he says as he is freed, "You knew I was about to break loose anyway! That's why the grandstand play!"

The Goblin not only lets Peter get up from the chair but he insists that he change into his Spider-Man costume. "I want to defeat you as I've always fought you, as Spider-Man" he says. Quickly, Peter removes his tattered shirt. Off-panel he takes off his pants and puts on his mask and gloves. "This is the pay-off, you grinning gargoyle!" he declares, "This is for real!" The Goblin knows this too. He throws two stun bombs, driving Spider-Man onto his back. ("I should have known!" thinks Spidey, "He won't make it hand-to-hand if he can help it!") "Those were just warm-up stunners," says Gobby, as he flourishes a pumpkin bomb. "This is my special anti-Spider- Man explosive." Gobby throws the bomb but Spidey manages to whip up a net out of webbing and bounces the pumpkin right back at its creator. Unworried, the Goblin destroys the bomb with a blast from his fingertips. ("Have you so soon forgotten the peerless powers which the Green Goblin possesses?" says Gobby. "Sure! Just as I'd forgotten what a full-time economy-size cornball you really are", says Spidey.) The Goblin hops onto his glider, providing him more maneuverability. As Spidey gets to his feet, the Goblin turns his back on him and gives him a blast of fiery exhaust from his flyer. (Actually, Gobby says, "Let me caution you against trying to sneak up behind me unless you enjoy the full brunt of a rocket blast!" which implies that Spidey circled around and snuck up on him but since we last saw Spidey on his tuchas I find it hard to believe he got up and flanked the Goblin in between panels.) As Gobby flies around him in a circle, Spidey tries to face the situation. He is now battling someone who knows his secret identity. Just defeating him isn't enough for if Aunt May learns the truth it may do her in. The Goblin interprets this anxiety for confusion. Thinking that Spider-Man is groggy, he moves in close enough for Spidey to tag him with a solid punch. ("Thanks, Gobby!" says the web- slinger, "I hoped you'd come within reach if I acted helpless enough!" but I think this is a bluff since we saw him in the midst of thinking such helpless things as "I lose even though I may have won!" in the previous panel.) This punch knocks Gobby sprawling off what he still calls his "famous flying broomstick", which crashes into the wall and shatters. The Goblin himself is knocked to the floor. He moans and groans about the loss of his broomstick and then pauses on his hands and knees. (This is the scene represented on the cover, except that the fire doesn't come until much later.) Spidey stands over him and wonders if he has won. And if he has, "What do I do now? He still knows my secret and I'm not a murderer!" But the Goblin isn't defeated; he is just playing possum. Now, he grabs one of the live electrical wires that are lying around on the floor (don't ask me how they got there) and whips it at the web-slinger. The wire's end wraps around Spidey's ankle, jolting him with enough electricity to finish an ordinary man. The web-spinner frees himself from the wire and leaps to the ceiling as Gobby tosses weapon after weapon at him. ("He's throwing everything at me but the kitchen sink! And if he could ever fit that in his nutty bag of tricks, he would!") Gobby tries to coax Spidey down from the ceiling by taunting him for running from the fight. Spidey takes the bait and jumps down but just as the Goblin thinks he has him in his sights for a finger blast, the web-slinger rips the metal chair from where it was bolted to the floor and uses it as a shield. After successfully blocking the Goblin blast, Spidey throws the chair and sends Gobby tumbling head over heels with the impact. Now, finally, at long last, it occurs to the Goblin that he should have finished Spidey off before. "If only you hadn't kept me talking so long!" he says. "Kept you?? Nobody could have stopped you!" replies the web-slinger as he runs toward his foe. But Gobby reaches into his bag of tricks before Spidey gets there, pulls out about a half-dozen battery- powered bats and tosses them into the air. They fly around Spidey's head, distracting him, while Gobby makes his way to his Goblin Cannon! (Everything is Goblin-this and Goblin-that! Norman must have been watching a lot of Adam West at the time of this story.) "Even your accursed strength can't save you from its lethal blast ray!" he gloats but, as Spidey reminds him, he's forgotten about the spider-speed. Spidey leaps away from the cannon blast, rolls into a ball, and barrels into the Goblin. He follows this attack up with a kick to the Goblin's head, determined to end the fight now, no matter the aftermath. The Goblin loses his footing and falls into a tableful of chemical vials which shatter, allowing the chemicals to hit the live wires on the floor and setting up the old familiar "electro-chemical charge" like the one that gave Joe Smith his power in ASM #38, July 1966. But getting the full effect of this electro-chemical charge doesn't do the same thing for the Goblin. Instead he lies on the floor, unmoving. Spidey moves in cautiously. Once he realizes that the Goblin isn't playing possum, he steps up to find out if the Goblin is still alive.

Now this would be a good time to just kill off the Goblin and end it. Or better yet, leave the Goblin alive; still in command of his memory and intellect but helpless, giving Spidey one heck of a dilemma. Must he kill the Goblin in spite of his beliefs? Must he turn him over to the police, knowing this will ruin his secret identity and endanger Aunt May? Must he imprison him himself, hiding him away from the world so that no one will find him? Must he turn the Goblin over to Dr. Strange for a memory wipe much like what the JLA do to Dr. Light in Identity Crisis #2, September 2004? What a powerful moment this could be. What will Spidey decide? Unfortunately, he never has to decide anything as Stan pulls another old comic-book chestnut out of the fire and... well... let's take a look at how Stan finishes it.

Spidey kneels down and takes the Goblin by the wrist with one hand as he removes the Goblin's mask with his other hand. He feels a pulse in the wrist and notices that Norman is still breathing. Relieved that he didn't kill him, Spidey still wonders what happens next. "How can I prevent him from betraying my secret after I've turned him over to the police??" Then he notices that Norman is mumbling a name over and over. "Harry, my son Harry" says the weakened Norman and then looks up at Spidey and says, "You're not my boy! Where is Harry? Who are you?" Spidey realizes that Norman's memory is gone... or is it? "It's not hard to fake amnesia!" he thinks, "The Goblin is capable of anything!" And so Spidey lets Norman go since he isn't the Green Goblin anymore, right? And then it turns out he is faking amnesia after all and the Goblin comes to Pete's house the next day and blows away Aunt May before destroying the entire neighborhood, right? Well... no. Spidey knows that any faking of amnesia would set off his spider-sense because his sense would realize that he was still in danger from the Goblin. But his sense doesn't pick up a thing, meaning "the sudden, savage impact of his shock has actually affected his mind" and Norman has no recollection of being the Green Goblin. Which is... why not admit it?... kind of a rip-off. Although, granted, it sets up some nice suspense in future issues when Pete wonders off and on whether Norman's memory of the Goblin is returning.

Norman sits up and holds the back of his neck with his right hand. He looks at himself and wonders why he is wearing "this strange costume". He also wonders why he isn't with Harry. After all, he has to help him this evening with his biology homework. Spidey realizes that Norman is referring to the night that the explosion took place and the Green Goblin was born. Norman has no recollection of the years following and thinks Harry is still in High School. Interestingly enough, he not only forgets he is the Green Goblin but he seems to forget that he was a greedy, crooked businessman before that; a businessman who turned his partner over to the cops in order to get his hands on his partner's inventions. The shock has not only wiped Norman's memory but has turned him into a thoughtful parent and all around nice guy!

The combination of electricity and chemicals has churned up a lot of black smoke that soon erupts into a raging fire. The Fire Department is already outside, responding so fast they must be housed in the same building. Two firemen knock on the door to see if anyone is inside. A cop decides to shoot the lock off so they can all get in. Spidey must act fast. He decides that it isn't right for Norman to be punished for things he did when he wasn't really himself. (Of course, people ARE punished for this sort of thing all the time, though maybe not in cases as extreme as this.) He knows that Norman's arrest and exposure as the Green Goblin would break Harry's heart. And so he decides to conceal Norman's identity; a decision that will eventually cost Gwen Stacy and Harry Osborn their lives. Believe me, Pete, everyone would be a lot better off if you turned Norman over to the cops right now. But he doesn't. Instead he gets a hold of some of Norman's clothes... which he seems to pluck out of thin air. (All right, all right! He says he found the suit in a closet but just where is that closet?) With Norman still sitting there, holding a hand over his face, Spidey manages to get his Goblin costume off, get his pants on, get his shirt and jacket on, and get his tie on. He attributes this to his spider-speed but he must have yanked Norman around like a rag doll to do it.

The cop shoots the lock off but that still doesn't open the door. "Now put your shoulders to it, boys!" he calls out. (If they're going to knock the door down anyway, then why bother to shoot the lock at all?) With the fire raging right behind him, Spidey wonders what to do with the Goblin costume. Well, the answer is practically scorching him. He tosses the green suit into the fire where "the smoke is so thick, the fabric will be burned to cinders before anyone can see it". And then he says, "And so ends the sordid career of the Green Goblin... forever!" which is far too ironic to even make a joke about.

The firemen and cops enter as Spidey hoists Norman to his feet. The fire burns all around them as Spidey holds a hand out and tells the firemen to "Stay back! Everything's all right! I'm bringing him out! There's no more danger!" One fireman sees Spidey helping Norman and is surprised to see the wall-crawler playing hero. The cop doesn't even believe it. "How do we know what he really was up to?" he says, "He may have caused the fire!" (And, actually, in a way the cop is right.) Spidey drops Norman off with the cop and climbs a wall to get away. He not only conceals Norman's criminal identity but he tells the men that Norman is a hero who "helped me finish off the Green Goblin". The cop tries to get more info as Spidey web-swings away. "But where is the Goblin?" he asks. Spidey doesn't stop to explain but he does promise the cop that "the Green Goblin will never trouble you again". Then he leaves in a hurry; anxious to get back to Aunt May.

When he gets home, Spidey sees Dr. Bromwell's orange car in the driveway, confirming his fears. He's anxious to see his aunt but he doesn't have any clothes to wear. He must sneak into his room to get more. "I've got to be careful! Can't let anyone see me like this!" he thinks, and then he bounces off the roof of Dr. Bromwell's car before springing back up to perch on the wall outside his bedroom. (Yeah, that must have been nice and quiet.) As he enters his room through the window, he is already in full pout over his role in Aunt May's fate. "Why must I hurt everything I touch??" he thinks, "Uncle Ben! Betty Brant! And now... Aunt May!" (Betty Brant? All she did was leave town!) As he yanks some clothing out of his chest of drawers, he goes on about Betty, about how her "female intuition must have made her leave me" and so on and blah blah blah. As he puts on his shirt, he's really in self-pity overdrive. "The Amazing Spider-Man!" he thinks, "Able to climb walls, to fight, to run, to think better and faster than any dozen ordinary men! Even those who hate me envy my powers! My powers! What a joke! I sometimes think they've proven to be nothing but a curse! I'd trade places with almost any normal everyday man! At least Aunt May wouldn't have to suffer for my secret!"

Now that he's got all that done with, Peter swings down from his room, back out to the front door, and barges his way in. Seeing the Doctor, he asks how May is. Bromwell puts his finger to his lips and tells Peter that he placed May "under mild sedation". This is because May is such a worrywart that she couldn't let go of her obsessive control over Peter. Or, at least, that's my interpretation of it. Bromwell just says that "she was very concerned about you, Peter" and then gives Pete the business about staying out late. "I warned you that she must be spared from any serious, worry or shock!" he says. (He did this last issue.) Then he lays on the guilt with a trowel. "I never thought you'd be so unfeeling, so wrapped up only in yourself!" he tells Peter. (I have already said that I thought it would be cool if Bromwell instead of Norman had been revealed as the Goblin. Now we can see that it isn't necessary. He can already mess with Pete's head as much as Gobby can!) Bromwell grabs his hat and heads for the door. He tells Pete that he was called in fast enough this time to "prevent any serious ill effects! But if it happens again, it may be too late!"

After the Doctor leaves, Peter sits up in the living room, watching over May who is asleep in a chair with a blanket over her legs. She wakes up, sees him, shakes a finger at him and immediately wants to know where he was because "the city streets can be so cruel, so dangerous". Peter is forced to lie and tell her that he was studying with a classmate and just lost track of the time. May tells him that, much as he wants to remain at the head of the Dean's list, he must take time out for fresh air and exercise. Thinking he looks a bit flushed, she feels his forehead and finds it hot. "I do declare! You have a fever!" she says, not knowing that Peter feels hot because of his exposure to the fire at the Goblin's hideout. All perked up (feeling "like a new woman") with Peter's arrival, May puts him to bed and feeds him warm broth; holding the bowl under his chin with one hand while she spoonfeeds him with the other. (Does anyone else find this creepier than anything the Goblin did in this issue? And just what time is it at this point, anyway?) Peter feels ridiculous being put to bed but he decides "my best bet is to let her minister to me" since "it's good therapy for her". (Pete! Snap out of it! Don't let her do this to you! You'll never be free of the apron strings!)

And in a hospital on Manhattan's East Side, Harry Osborn leans over his bed- ridden father and assures him that everything will be all right. "I can't remember what happened, son" says Norman, "these past few years seem to be forever buried... but the future lies ahead and it will be a good one for both of us! Somehow, I know that now!" (Wrong, Norman! But that's a story for another Lookback.)

In the "Next Issue" panel, Stan tells us, "Don't miss Peter Parker's startling decision plus an all-new fantastically powerful super-foe for Spidey!" A nice tantalizing little blurb that, Ditko or no Ditko, Goblin or no Goblin, makes you want to come on back.

On the Bullpen Bulletins page ("Capricious Commentaries, Carefully Cooked-Up to Confuse and Confound You!"), Stan reveals that "Jay Gavin" is a pseudonym for artist Werner Roth, plugs two more DJs as Merry Marchers (Dick Robinson of WDRC in Hartford, Connecticut and Spence Allen of WKSN in Jamestown, New York), and gives a nice plug to Jack Kirby's writing: "You'll be amazing at learning that the King's writing style has the same power and punch as his spellbinding artwork!" He finishes up with, "So, even if you don't like our stories, even if you shudder at our artwork, we expect you to tune in again next month anyway, after all, SOMEONE'S gotta read these bulletins!" Don't worry, Stan. I'm reading them.

The 26 M.M.M.S. members this time are Chyrle Garrison of Mansfield, Ohio; Ron MacKellar of Sidney, Australia (an Aussie just for you, Spidermad!); Lee Johnson of British Columbia, Canada; Richard Benson of Rushville, Indiana; Jim Adams of Lafayette, Indiana; Pete Fieschko of Highland Park, New Jersey; Steven Herold of Rochester, New York; Steve Harch of Rochester, New York; Mike Clark of Fresno, California; Peter Canna of Cairo, New York; Ed Chambliss of Rockford, Illinois; Lloyd Komatsu of Waipaha, Hawaii (the first Hawaiian member, I think, listed in ASM); Kenneth Groves of Evansville, Indiana; Robert Boetter of Edison, New Jersey; Richard Knapp of New York, New York; Nicky Goldberg of Scott, Illinois; Freddie Buth of Buffalo, New York; Mike Jenson of Moses Lake, Washington; Pat Burns of San Antonio, Texas; Carl Jones of St. Louis, Missouri; Craig Feeney of Rochester, New York (that's three from Rochester this issue); Richard Barnett of Culver City, California; David Fong of Honolulu, Hawaii (and just like that, our second Hawaiian!); Jim Gordon of Kansas City, Kansas; Chris Foster of Wichita, Kansas; and Peter Bailey of Georgetown, Massachusetts. Now I'm sure I'm getting old. Not because I'm old enough to have read this issue when it first came out but because I'm having trouble reading the small print used for the M.M.M.S. members.

In the Spider's Web, Colin Spezio of Honolulu, Hawaii (another Hawaiian!) says, "I was shocked! I was stunned! I was stupefied when I heard Stan's voice on KPOI radio in Honolulu telling us merry Marvel-ous madmen to face front and listen to boss radio KPOI. One question, Stan-what in the world were you doing over here? I had thought for a moment that maybe you moved over to Hawaii. You should." Stan has to break it to Colin that he was never in Hawaii at all. "[I]t was a taped recording he had made for all his buddies at good ol'KPOI" he says, "and no one wishes more strongly than Smiley himself that the next time you hear him in heavenly Honolulu he'll be there in the flesh!"

Mark Campbell of Grand Rapids, Michigan thinks, "A type of foe like the Looter should definitely be brought back again" while Pete Windt, Jerry Vision, Louis Rogers, and William Whisner of the Department of Philosophy at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City think the Molten Man is "an evil creep like all the rest, but, gosh. Spidey hardly gives the poor guy a chance to do anything really dastardly. We hate to think of the old clunk rusting away in the clink without ever having a chance to make a name for himself in the annals of nastiness! Show a little heart, guys, and let old Leadhead escape soon-we want to see him really test old Spidey's metal-whoops, sorry...we meant mettle!" Stan replies, "As for malevolent Molty, you may just get your wish!" but I hope these guys weren't holding their breaths concerning Molty or the Looter. Stan has no intention of using either one ever again.

Michael Brisk of Santee, California writes "to inform you that the conflict in your Spider-Man mag is becoming gradually monotonous and wearisome (no offense meant, just positive criticism)". Yeah, Michael, sounds real positive to me! And Alan Friedenthal of Bayside, New York says, "I'll bet you a year's supply of Brand Echh that the Green Goblin is none other than Norman Osborn!" Stan gives him a no-prize for this guess since Alan's is "the first letter we've received with the correct identity of the Goblin! (We received quite a few others, from Marvelites everywhere, who guessed Gobby's identity also-but yours was the first!)" And why did Stan receive "quite a few" letters correctly guessing Norman Osborn? Because it was obvious, that's why! And why didn't Stan receive a letter with a correct guess before Alan's letter which had to have been written around the time of ASM #37, June 1966? (The letter mentions Tales of Suspense #78, June 1966, which came out the at the same time as ASM #37) Because before that time, for all intents and purposes, Norman Osborn didn't even exist, making the entire two year Green Goblin guessing game a complete sham! Ahhhhhhhh, don't get me started!

In the yellow Next Issue box, Sly Stan tells us, "A brand-new, grand-new super- villain tackles Spidey with the force of a rhino - and that comparison is more justified than you might guess!" Hmmm. The "force of a rhino". Nope, nope, I can't think of a thing.

Get along little dogies!

Although Stan tries to convince us that the Goblin is gone forever, he turns up again in only seven issues. Well, actually Norman Osborn returns in ASM #47, April 1967 while the Goblin only appears there in flashback, initiating one mess of a retcon... but we'll get to that when the time comes. The real Goblin doesn't return until Spectacular Spider-Man #2, November 1968 or maybe ASM #68, November 1968 in one mess of a continuity sequence... which we'll try to straighten out when the time comes.

Dr. Bromwell doesn't return until ASM #49, June 1967 but most of the other supporting characters will be back next issue.


As for all of those flashback people: Mendel Stromm returns (sort of) in Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man #68, July 1982, Montana and Fancy Dan return in Marvel Team-Up #39, November 1975. The Ox is killed in Daredevil #86, April 1972 only to get better in order to appear in Spider-Man #94, August 1998. And let's not forget the Ox's twin brother who joined up with the Enforcers in Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man #19, June 1978. On the other hand, maybe we should. The Human Torch appears in Fantastic Four #54, September 1966 at the same time as this issue but doesn't hook up with Spidey again until ASM Annual #4, November 1967. Lucky Lobo returns in retcon form in Untold Tales of Spider-Man #18, February 1997 and in "real" time in Amazing Spider-Man Annual 1997. The Crime-Master is as dead as anyone can get in comics but his son takes over the identity in Marvel Team-Up #39, November 1975.

And, in case you were wondering, that paycheck that Peter pocketed in ASM #39 is never mentioned again. Poor guy. It must have gone up in the fire.

General Comments

Milestones (Landmark events that take place in this story.)

  1. The Green Goblin's origin revealed.
  2. Only (non)appearance of Miss Brown.
  3. First (and only?) appearance of the retroscope helmet.
  4. Fond farewells to Mendel Stromm, the Enforcers, Lucky Lobo and the Crime- Master who are either dead or stay gone for so long, there's no point in even thinking about them.
  5. The Goblin loses his memory and reverts to a kinder, gentler Norman Osborn.
  6. Aunt May, on the verge of death, perks up and spoonfeeds Peter a warm broth.

The 1969 Marvelmania International Spider-Man Portfolio checklist entry for this story. Warts and all:

"The End of the Green Goblin" - G.G.'s history and origin told. Spidey escapes and Norman Osbern loses his memory of this G.G. identity.

Overall Rating

Now that I'm over the shock of a nobody like Norman Osborn being revealed as the Goblin, I have to admit that Stan does a remarkable job of wrapping it all up. And John Romita's artwork is pretty terrific too. The only fly in the ointment is that darn amnesia nonsense. I know it's an old comic book chestnut (see, for instance, Zarrko the Tomorrow Man's fate in Journey Into Mystery #86, November 1962, reprinted in Marvel Tales #4, September 1966 and appearing on the newsstands at the very same time as this issue) but it is just too convenient here. Better to have the Goblin bite the dust than to pull this cheap trick on us. Going to have to subtract a half a web for that, I'm afraid. That's right! Two classic Goblin issues and neither one gets five webs! I'm ready to hear from the guy who flamed me for making last issue four webs. Don't be shy, Glenn! Lay it on me!


Next: It's the Rhino! ASM #41.

 Posted: 2005
 Staff: Al Sjoerdsma (E-Mail)