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CSBG Archive

The Abandoned An’ Forsaked (Death is Not the End) – Being Impaled In the Heart Isn’t Fatal, Right?

Every week, we will be examining comic book stories and ideas that were not only abandoned, but also had the stories/plots specifically “overturned” by a later writer (as if they were a legal precedent). Click here for an archive of all the previous editions of The Abandoned An’ Forsaked. Feel free to e-mail me at bcronin@comicbookresources.com if you have any suggestions for future editions of this feature.

This is the first of a series of special Abadoned an’ Forsaked editions specifically spotlighting notable overturned comic book deaths. I call it “Death is Not the End.” We begin with one of the most outlandish examples, the death (and life) of Norman Osborn!

After fighting Spider-Man for years, Norman “Green Goblin” Osborn finally went one step too far in his battle with Spider-Man when he killed Spider-Man’s girlfriend, Gwen Stacy in Amazing Spider-Man #121.

In #122, he and Spider-Man have what appears to be their final battle…

That is why this one stands out. You don’t get much deader than that.

The mysterious fellow removes Green Goblin’s costume, so the next issue it looks like Spidey killed just plain ol’ Nroman Osborn…

And the issue after that, Spidey notes how much that costume removal messed him over…

In Amazing Spider-Man #136, Harry Osborn takes over as Green Goblin (temporarily) and explains that it was HE who removed the costume…

Norman Osborn is dead for years. Not only is he dead, but his death becomes an almost important aspect of the series, especially how the Hobgoblin is introduced as a new villain using Norman Osborn’s unused hideouts (and his Goblin serum).

However, in the late 1990s, Norman Osborn’s death is abandoned an’ forsaked as he returned to reveal that he was behind the Clone Saga, all as a way just to mess with Peter.

In the pages of the one-shot Osborn Journal, we learn how he survived his seeming death…

As far as these things go, that’s really not that bad.

Feel free to suggest which notable overturned comic book death you’d like to see me feature by e-mailing me at bcronin@comicbookresources.com (remember, it has to be a clear death and the death has to be specifically overturned as not happening (so no resurrections). Oh, and of course, the death has to be someone whose death was an actual big deal).


And then came the days where “NORMAN OSBORN WAS BEHIND IT ALL!” to the point that if Spidey stubbed his toe, Norman was probably involved.

Yes, much like how the Joker is now behind everything in the current “Death of the Family” story arc.

Batman was impaled through the gut and then went on to beat up the guy that had previously beat HIM up while he was healthy in Snyder’s Batman. So, a small stab in the heart isn’t much for a guy with super-healing, right?

Osborn behind the clone saga is hard to believe. How could Miles Warren work with the man who raped and was at least partially reponsible for Gwen’s death is unbelievable.

You know, Pete, if you had webbed it over to the nearest payphone to ring up the police INSTEAD OF LEAVING OSBORN’S CORPSE MOULDERING IN A FILTHY ALLEY, none of this would have happened. You’d think Spider-Man, of all people, would know better than to do a half-assed job when it comes to apprehending criminals.

Well at least this gives the return of Phil Coulson a legal precedent.

What I really like is the irony of the page showing the Goblin dying & the promo on the bottom of the page saying, “He’s back from the dead!”

Yeah, okay, it was for a completely different character, but still it almost seems like a spoiler.

Thjere’s a name typo under the #122 pages

… says he making a spelling error himself!

The Death of the Green Goblin is a pretty amazing use of comics as a medium.

Conway and Kane pretty clearly wanted the revenge aspect to be deflating, but it could have gone wrong in a hundred different ways. Imagine how differently it would have read with the obvious full page splash. However, the seven panels on that page are nearly perfect. They are probably over-dialoged, but that was the era as much as anything.

Panel 1 opens with a Green Goblin POV shot establishing the glider behind Spidey. Panel 2 gives us Goblin’s deranged reaction to the glider. Panel 3 gives us Spidey realizing what is happening. Panel 4 gives us Spidey dodging the glider. Then, panels 5-7 are the glider grinding seemingly endlessly into Goblin’s chest. There is no gore, but the dude is really, really dead. I think that it is the sense of timing that is established in panels 1-4 that make the death scene so definitive.

The collapse of the Green Goblin on the page turn is especially brutal and, therefore, sad.

When something is as well done as ASM #122, it always makes me a little sad when it gets reversed. The Osborn Journal stuff was well thought out and was at least stealing from a good place in its Sandman-ish look & feel. Still, that aspect of comics always bums me out.

It was only a flesh wound.

Bringing Osborne back was the beginning of the end for Spidey, if not Marvel. They were trying to create their version of Byrne’s Lex Luthor. But now, as others have noted, it’s just a huge cliche: anything bad in the Marvel U is Osborne’s fault. Furthermore, Marvel didn’t need to create their own version of Luthor. They already had perfectly serviceable, and arguably superior “super genius puppet master,” in Victor Von Doom.

Man, I’d forgotten how hard it was to read that Osborn returns one-shot.

After reading the recent I Love You But You’re Strange… Razorback, http://goodcomics.comicbookresources.com/2013/01/07/i-love-ya-but-youre-strange-spider-mans-greatest-ally-razorback/
the clone saga should have had Osborne pull off a mask to reveal himself as the Man-Beast, then yell his own name and shout “I AM EVIL!!!”

This was one of my least favourite returns. The thing about Norman is, he was actually a more interesting villain dead than alive. His death kept having a snowball effect, causing multiple new Goblins, ruining his son’s life and then killing him (remember Harry’s return was a much more recent development), ruining the life of and then killing a decent reporter (Ned Leeds/Hobgoblin), putting an innocent man in prison (Flash as Hobgoblin), etc. Meanwhile Norman, himself, being dead, was untouchable. No amount of punching him would stop the evil he set in motion. But if Norman’s alive you can, to a degree, stop him.

I thought Marvel did a lot of cool stuff with Norman Osborn starting with Ellis’ Thunderbolts. But by that time, the character had already been alive for a decade. The resurrection itself was stupid.

The worst part of Norman’s resurrection was that he was just another step up the ladder of “man-behind-the-man” reveals. First it was the Jackel behind it all… but wait! Who’s this Gaunt fellow pulling the strings? The Robot Master! … who is now dead because Norman was the mastermind all along! Not only did it lessen the impact, but they completely wasted a potentially cool revival of the Robot Master. Who, last I checked, is still pretty dead.

Wait, if The Herald-Star gives Spider-Man a fair shake in the headlines, why does Peter keep selling his pictures to The Daily Bugle?

While you’re at it, you might as well have done how Harry died In Spectacular Spidey #200 but is now back as of Brand New Day.

How does getting impaled by the glider somehow give Osborn what looks to be giant burn scars on both his chest AND back? Is that supposed to be the effect of the goblin serum healing him?

Resurrecting Norman and the Jackal were both very bad ideas.

The worst plot twist after reviving Gwen? Her secret children.

Resurrecting Norman and the Jackal were both very bad ideas.

The revival of Norman Osborn itself was directly a result of reviving the Jackal, so it just makes the revival of the Jackal especially bad. Heck, I’d argue that even creating the Jackal in the first place was a bad idea. Then again if it wasn’t for the Death of Gwen Stacy storyline, Norman Osborn would never have died and the Jackal would never have been created in the first place, so I’d go as far as to just blame The Death of Gwen Stacy for all of it. No single Spider-Man story has birthed as many clunker ideas as that one, either directly or a few degrees of separation removed.

This was one of my least favourite returns. The thing about Norman is, he was actually a more interesting villain dead than alive. His death kept having a snowball effect, causing multiple new Goblins, ruining his son’s life and then killing him (remember Harry’s return was a much more recent development), ruining the life of and then killing a decent reporter (Ned Leeds/Hobgoblin), putting an innocent man in prison (Flash as Hobgoblin), etc.

Ironically, I’d list all of those as bad things. Even when one of those ideas would start out good, they would often end up underwhelming in execution. The Roger Stern Hobgoblin really had all the makings of being a classic but that got derailed once Stern left. All the pseudo-Goblins were terrible to me, although JM DeMatteis did do a good job with the Harry Osborn Goblin in the storyline leading to his death. I think Harry Osborn was actualy an objectively better Green Goblin than Norman until Norman was retconned into being far more effective and impactful than he actually was.

No one noticed an important business mans body disapeared? what did they bury?

Norman back, Gwen’s kids, Gwen WILLINGLY giving up her virginity to Norman?….that ended monthly Marvel comics for me. And I don’t miss them at all. In my world…Gwen never died, Harry never did drugs….and Pete, Harry, Gwen, MJ and that Rat Flash still make weekly appearances at the Coffee Bean. And you know? You can’ t imagine how much easier that made it being a comic fan.

So…in the 1st Spidey movie…why did the Goblin “die” when he took the glider to his Goblin Junk? I mean…it had to hurt a TON and all that…but I’m just saying….

No one noticed an important business mans body disapeared? what did they bury?

Reread the post. It’s all in there. It’s incredibly ugly to look at, even the font, but it’s all there. Be forewarned, it’s dumb.

kind of figured that given how one of the things the goblin formula gave norman and harry who took it was a healing factor that maybe spider man way back when should have thought what if norman is not dead even being impaled. plus hard to believe given the jackals love for gwen he would help norman during the clone saga. or want any thing to do with the man who took gwen from him.

This above everything else that happened in the clone saga led me to quitting Spider-Man comics. I was pretty into the storyline at the time and when it was revealed that Norman Osbourne was the mastermind behind pretty much every big plot in the books at the time just reeked of bs. Given the nature of Harry Osbourne’s death he was a far more ideal choice and in my opinion more interesting for to stand across from Peter Parker.

And I think if there is any comic series where dead should stay dead, it’s Spider-Man.

I also agree that Norman Osborn was a much more interesting archenemy when he was dead, but his legacy kept resurfacing to plague Spidey.

This probably doesn’t apply to this category, since the dead person turned up alive the very next issue, but I, like many, read Ben Urich getting impaled with Elektra’s sai at the end of the AMAZING Daredevil #179 as his death scene.

Had Miller planned on him being alive from the start, ’cause it was written as such a powerful death scene, it feels like someone suddenly changed their mind before the next issue came out. He’s been such a great character that it’s for the best he didn’t die, but it does kind of cheapen the end of that DD issue.

To be fair, getting stabbed in the heart is not always a deathsetence. If you get treatment you will come out ok half of the time, and even if you dont you can still pull it off with a bit of luck..


To have a healing factor ups those odds too i guess.

If Osborn had a healing factor, why did he have to steal Wolverine’s healing factor in a recent Avengeres story arc?

That’s Kelley Jones art in the Osborn Journal, right? Damn. “I did issues of Sandman, dammit! Leave me alone, I gotta eat too!”

Travis, I checked–it’s Kyle Hotz, but he certainly has a Jones-look to him. I’m pretty sure Jones was preoccupied with the main Batman title by this point.

Oh, cool, thanks, Adam. I know Jones had done a Venom mini, though, so I thought he might have done this. Yeah, Hotz was definitely one with a Jones look. And I’d say they both have Corben as an influence.

Comic-Reader Lad

January 13, 2013 at 12:11 am

I love that Goblin death issue, but let’s face it, it betrays one of the weaknesses of comics as a silent medium. Writers sometimes forget that the characters should be able to hear what’s going on around them.

Therefore, Spider-Man should not have needed his spider-sense to detect the glider; he should have heard it coming straight for him.

I wonder if Osborne gave the drifter a haircut.

@Comic-Reader Lad, and anyone else who mentioned how Spidey should have taken care of Norman’s body:

to be fair, he’s still in shock from the death of Gwen here, and at the start of the bit shown here, he’s hellbent on taking Norman to jail, so not hearing the glider isn’t so outrageous. His focus was elsewhere.

To put it lightly. Even remembering the story all those years past leaves me with no doubt that, at that moment, there was no other thing existing in Peter’s mind but Norman Osborn and his own desire to punish him.

I wasn’t a big fan of Conway’s run, but that’s a very effective death, particularly the anti-climactic angle.

The original story when the Goblin died was a classic. All the nonsense since Osborne was brought back to life has been terrible and the plotline in which Osborne has kids with Gwen Stacy is the very bottom of a dirty barrel.

Personaly I started reading comics in the 90s so the return of the Green Goblin was a big issue for me. After I grew up a little I still think that it was a god story, and it created several interesting posibilities. Gwen’s kids was not one of them, however this could also have been done without him being resurected. And I think that this does not cheapen ASM #122, on the contrary for me it makes it even more of an important issue.

One thing to point out is that the surname is Osborn. It probably should have been Osborne because that seems to be more intuitive when typed out, but it’s Osborn.

Expanding on what I wrote earlier is that the death created this general sense of unease: Peter seemed to realize that he was going to have to continue to deal with Osborn’s messes and I think that made for some nice dramatic tension, no matter how you may feel about a particular bit of execution.

I also think it’s one of those resurrections that because of how well the death was done and how long he was dead, bringing him back reduced the level of suspense Marvel stories have. Obviously Marvel was never going to kill Captain America but even with the death of supporting characters too many reversing good deaths creates a bit of malaise. I recall with one Ka-Zar series, I wasn’t reading it at the time but I knew Zabu had been killed. I decided out of idle curiousity to flip through the then-current issue in a store and see if Zabu was back yet and it actually proved to be that issue Zabu returned. And that’s a problem: it’s hard to feel any emotion regarding a character’s death when their death just starts the “when’s the resurrection” clock.

@Marcus- the story made it clear that Warren never KNEW Osborn was aiding him because he only dealt with intermediaries and he never considered it was Osborn because Norman was believed to be dead. (Although considering the MU, he probably should have.)

I remember, how greatly at the time, fans had turned against both the spidy book, and marvel, because of trying to pass the clone off as the true spidy.Fans were walking big time.They needed something BIG to get them back, and bringing Osborn was it.I picked it up, and I was one of those who had quit spidy.Thing of it is, what followed later was so bad, i quit it again,more then once.Yes, the book that can get so damn good, then do such a fantastic job in jumping the shark!

That Osborn diary one-shot was the first comic i remember reading while I was old enough to appreciate comics. I was 9 or 10 I believe.

Bah. Gwen and Norman never had sex. That story, like Byrne’s year one, is so bad it just never happened. Someday, probably soon, it will be retconned away anyway, I’m not even going to get upset. Spidey selling his soul to the devil, that one is harder to get around.

Wait, so he took a bum off the street and used him to replace him in the morgue? What kind of storytelling is that? Did he find someone who looked just like him with the same kind of Brillo hair style? Or did I miss something here?

The Norman Osborn that’s been featured by Bendis the past five years or so is so far removed from what the character was like pre-resurrection, that it almost feels like they are two entirely seperate and distinct characters.

I’m waiting for the day that they reveal that Norman Osborn is still dead, and the character that returned as “Norman Osborn” is some imposter that took over the identity to get his hands on Osborn’s unclaimed wealth and power. Maybe Bart Hamilton never died…?

Not saying it’s a good story/idea… but [much] stranger things have happened in [Marvel] comics…

Osborns never die. They just go to Europe.

I’ve had zero interest in either Norman or Harry since they came back, which is tough because they keep getting shoved in our faces. Norm especially, of course. Enough with the Osborns, already!

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Man with No Face

January 18, 2013 at 1:42 pm

Very glad Brian featured this one. In addition to the many reasons articulated here as to why reviving Norman was a bad idea, I always felt it was stupid. Even in the “dead never means dead” medium of comics, having a three-foot wide, rocket-powered iron stake plow straight through your entire chest and out the other side ought to kill you…no matter WHAT kind of “healing factor” you have.

Are we just completely glossing over the fact that upon seeing his father’s corpse, Harrys first thought is to strip the clothes off of him. Also, a prominent businessman is found dead in a warehouse with no clothes and then ,,, the body goes missing.

Does any one know why any one thought Spiderman was even involved with the death of Norman?

To me the real Norman Osborn is still dead. The current Norman Osborn looks very Skrull-ish to me. His ears often look like a Skrull’s. If they retcon it into being something like a Skrull being the current Norman Osborn I’d love it. Also if they wipe out pretty much everything in the Spider-Man books post-Todd McFarlane’s run until JDM too over (not including his editorially mandated ending for OMD) I’d be happy. No Clone Saga, No OMD or BND. No Doc Ock as Spider-Man. Yeah, despite those that hate on the Peter Parker/Mary Jane marriage I’d have them be married and have a damn good writer think up interesting stories with their marriage. Ya know? Like JDM did. I liked how Peter was insecure about MJ living in the same building with an obvious womanizer like Tony Stark. Also please someone kill Aunt May. I mean wipe her out of existence. Have the Beyonder, all Celestials, Phoenix and any cosmic being wipe out every existing Aunt May in every reality/universe. This character is such a crutch for lazy writers, and a better ending to OMD would have been with Aunt May dying for good unlike her other million+ deaths and for her death to reinforce Peter’s guilt and belief in being responsible for it. Uncle Ben was such a long time ago that it would have refreshened it for newer audiences

The only come-backs from death was Jean Grey’s original return as it was revealed her body was underwater being healed over the years. It led to X-Factor’s formation and a damn fun time in the comics as I had found the period without Jean to be depressing in the comics. Brubaker’s bringing back Bucky Barnes at first came off as such a stupid thing. I remember thinking “WTF are they thinking?” But when I read the whole thing Winter Soldier ended up being one of the best creations/comebacks from death in ages. Superman, Batman and Captain America were more “relief” comebacks for me. I never found the return to life stories in those books (even Brubaker’s with Captain America) to have been done well enough to suspend disbelief.

Why did Batman’s and Captain America’s death storylines mirror one another so closely? I mean both seemed to travel through time etc. I still don’t understand their returns or Superman’s (he just woke up?). I just accepted they were back because it was such a relief they didn’t do something stupid ala the Clone Saga, OMD, Gwen willingly having an affair with Norman Osborn of all people and later Doc Ock’s turn at being Peter Parker/Spider-Man. If young Jean Grey being in the present prevents her from dying about 1,000,000 times in the Marvel Universe I’ll include her “permenant” return to be up there with her 1st and Bucky Barnes’s. To me Norman Osborn remains dead and this is just Skrull enhanced with powers “fake” Norman Osborn like he’s the greatest Skrull ever outside of Super Skrull…. Sometimes it’s just good to lie to yourself and make it YOUR reality because comic-book continuity WILL drive you crazy if you let it! lol

I think the tie between Spidey and Norman’s death existed almost entirely in Jonah’s witch-hunt. It got little enough traction with the cops that he paid Luke Cage to take Spider-Man down. Makes me think of one of the Marvel novels in the 1990s which asserted Jonah’s anti-Spider-man campaigns are considered such a joke to New Yorkers they parody him regularly on Saturday Night Live (I could so see that).
Joe, I thought Jean’s resurrection was a mess. It had no purpose other than someone wanted the original X-Men together (Shooter, was it?) and so hey, let’s bring her back to life! The ridiculous “Hey, let’s whip up anti-mutant hysteria as a way to help mutants everywhere” premise of X-Factor didn’t help.

Fraser – Yeah it might have been a bit forced but I tend to go by the Avengers Annual that John Byrne did with them finding Jean. Being a fan of those involved in the resurrection and what came later helped me buying into her resurrection. But if Shooter gets the blame for her resurrection he should also get the credit for mandating that she die in the first place helping create one of the best comic-book storylines of all-time. For me I easily bought into her coming back because one of the guys who originally “killed” her was involved in resurrecting her with John Byrne doing the honors there and Shooter also being involved however he was involved (actually I think Dazzler was going to be a part of X-Factor and it was more John Byrne who stepped in and wanted to bring back Jean cause he knew Claremont ironically didn’t want her back at the time). I think Byrne loved the fact that Jean was going to be written by someone other than Claremont because he knew CC would hate the idea of her being in someone else’s hands. (You can read the whole thing in Marvel: the Untold Story…a fascinating book about the company and creators). It’s the whole anger issue Byrne had with Claremont at that time and both had with Shooter It was like a big middle finger by Byrne to both guys. Maybe I just accepted it so easily because the explanation that Phoenix put Jean into a cocoon to heal over time was simple and not overdone enough to easily buy into (plus I really wanted her back). All Phoenix did was basically take Jean’s form and clone her existing powers. Ironic that she lost her telepathy for quite awhile after she came out of the cocoon as she had it pre-Phoenix. I think it was later explained that she lost her telepathy because she was brought out of the cocoon too soon so she didn’t fully heal thus taking a lot longer for her telepathy to come back.

Eh, Batwoman survived it…

Another case of a genre that can’t leave something done well untouched. This type of regurgitation is precisely why super-hero comics are still disposable pop culture rather than examples of mature story-telling that they could be if they tried.

Yes, the return of Norman Osborn REALLY stretched my ability to suspend disbelief to the point of breaking. His death scene looked final because it was MEANT to be final.

I recall Glenn Greenberg’s discussion of the return of Norman Osborn in the ‘Life of Reilly’ columns. It was Bob Harras who came up with the idea, and according to Greenberg, a LOT of people didn’t like the idea. They felt that bringing Norman Osborn back would betray the trust of the readers. But Harras was the boss and his word was law. He didn’t care how they did it — he just told them to make it happen because he felt only Norman Osborn could be the mastermind behind the Clone Saga.

Of course, this paved the way for the even more atrocious return of Aunt May, after her moving and emotional death scene in Amazing Spider-Man #400. The explanation given THERE makes the explanation for Norman Osborn’s return look like a work of genius by comparison.

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