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CSBG Archive

The Abandoned An’ Forsaked – Was the Green Goblin Involved in Aunt May’s Return or What?

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.

Today we look at how Marvel ever expanded their retconning when it comes to Norman Osborn and his involvement in Spider-Man’s life, including the “death” of Aunt May.

In Amazing Spider-Man #400, Aunt May dies…

Check out this previous Abandoned an’ Forsaked to see how they brought Aunt May back.

This happened during the Clone Saga, where they eventually revealed that Peter Parker was a clone and the “real” Peter Parker, Ben Reilly, took over. When Marvel decided to bring Peter Parker back, they figured that they needed to have a really good reveal as the big bad guy behind the whole thing. They came up with Norman Osborn, the seemingly dead Green Goblin.

Click here for the Abandoned an’ Forsaked on the reveal of how Ben WASN’T the real Peter Parker.

So Green Goblin is revealed to be still alive (click here for the Abandoned an’ Forsaked on THAT story – a lot of abandoning and forsaking going on in the Spider-Man titles in the 1990s!) and behind the Clone Saga.

So there’s a comic book called the Osborn Journal where we see what Norman Osborn was up to and how he manipulated Spider-Man’s life while he was away.

However, once you’ve introduced ONE major retcon, it is hard not to just go back to the well.

So, for instance, check out this page of the Osborn Journal…

As I noted in this Abandoned an’ Forsaked, that page was retconned awhile back when it was revealed that Norman knew that Harry Osborn HADN’T died.

In this next page, we see Osborn reflect on Aunt May’s death and how he had nothing to do with it…

However, that was before the Spider-Man titles made a change. John Byrne was brought in to reboot the books with Howard Mackie and one of the things they wanted to do was bring Aunt May back. So, as I’ve noted before, once you introduce one major retcon, why not go back to the well?

So in Peter Parker: Spider-Man #97, we learn that the Osborn Journal was FAKED!

And at the end of the issue, Aunt May is alive!!

And the following issue, we learn that Norman Osborn WAS involved!

It is pretty funny that there was a comic designed specifically to address continuity and it, itself, was retconned twice already!

That’s it for this week!

If YOU have a suggestion for a future installment, e-mail me at bcronin@comicbookresources.com!


As much good work as has been done with Norman Osborn in recent years by Brian Micheal Bendis, Warren Ellis, and Matt Fraction, stuff like this is a good reminder that the whole “Green Goblin vs. Spider-Man” thing has become the silliest and least interesting aspect of the character.

If I had been charged with bringing May back, I would have tried a lot harder to do it in a way that didn’t shit all over such a powerfully moving death scene.

THIS was the story that finally made me stop following the Spidey books all together until Slott’s Big Time, and you have now actually made me hate it more because sweet shitting Jesus, I have never seen that page with the journal changing before and that is so awful that I want to remove my own brain through my eyes.

I just love how Aunt May keeps breaking vases over Spidey’s head. It’s like she buys these thing in bulk so that she can deal with superheroes. That Peter hasn’t learn to watch his back in presence of his auntie worries me.

The real pathos of that scene comes from the fact that Peter was desperately searching for his newborn daughter who had been kidnapped by a nurse in the employ of Osborn. He was on a rampage through Osborn’s compound and then finds May instead of the baby. At the time, it was a shocking and unexpected move. In retrospect, it seems like yet another attempt to lock Spider-Man in some imagined status quo.

It’s weird: After the blog redesign, links don’t stand out as links anymore, at least not in Chrome. If I look very carefully I can see that they’re dark blue instead of black, with an incredibly faint underlining, but that’s only if I squint to see them because I know from context that they’re there. Thankfully, your phrasing of “click here” lets me know that there must be something to click on around there somewhere if I hunt for it.

Brian , in your taaf columns you site right here, is all the baddest things comics can give readers .

– Do a good death story , and invalidate it some mounth later ( aunt may dying did bring some maturity to pete)
– Bring back some character you killed 30 years ago (IMHO norman should have stayed dead, i felt real screwed by having him brought back … ” you know what you read those last 30 years.. forget them,.. comics dont grow up .. nor does the people that write them … ” )
– was it too hard to create some interesting chatracter to be the new nemesis to peter parker?

need i say that i practically stopped reading Spier-man with those issues?? ( must have read 10 issues after the death of ben reilly … )

Absolutely agree, I didn’t even know there WERE links in this article until I saw that pointed out. Please change the color.

The ends may have justified the means, but the idea of having an actress actually die playing the role of Aunt May to fool Peter will never not sound stupid.

@Max- it might have worked but the problem is that the dialogue makes it clear that at least fifteen minutes passed between “May” realizing she was dying and “May” dying. If she realized that she was dying, and probably suspected Norman was responsible, then why not reveal the truth to Peter?

I seem to break out in cold sweats every time the latter Clone Saga or the Mackie/Byrne Spider-Man comics are featured; I must be allergic to them.

I’m in exactly the same boat as Chris McFeely. Left at this point, returned at Big Time. The only difference is that I hung around for a couple of Byrne issues. Frustratingly awful comics. I still won’t read anything with Byrne’s name on it to this day.

It would be better to describe Norman Osborn as arch nemesis to readers than to Spider-Man. Unfortunately, after it finally looked like he would be going away for a while, Slott and co seem poised to bring Norman back into Spidey’s world. The character has been toxic ever since his resurrection, and while I know Dark Reign has its fans, I would argue that nothing good has been done with Norman since his “death” in Amazing #122. For whatever reason, his schtick has become that he must always do something more outrageously repellant with each new appearance. You don’t try to top the murder of Gwen Stacy; that’s why Norman was killed off in the first place.

The only thing that would have made it worse was if he’d killed May with an exploding communion wafer.

The beginning of David Michelinie’s run on “Amazing” and all of JM DeMatteis’ run on “Spectacular” had such promise of being classic Spider-Man runs. But Marvel in the mid-’90s was full of so much editorial interference that the end of Michelinie’s run (the robot parents) and DeMatteis’ “Amazing” run (the beginning of the clone saga) were almost unsalvageable. And don’t even get me started on what Mackie and especially Kavanagh were doing at this time period. DeMatteis and DeFalco were probably the least offensive of the ’90s Spider-wriiters.

interesting for knew norman had planned revenge on spider man for harrys death but never knew not only did marvel have the story make his journal fake. but he actully stooped so low as to kidnap may while his actress who fans thought was actully may die. thus once again marvel screws up something really touching in the spider man universe aunt may finaly getting to be reunited with ben. all due to norman

Maybe the whole “Spidey vs. Green Goblin” aspect of Norman Osborn was what you described it–in the context of this story. In all honesty, I hated what they did with Osborn as time went on. The dynamic of Norman’s Jekyll-and-Hyde Green Goblin is what really made him one of the best villains for the Web-Head. But making him so super-conspiracy-y just ruined it. He’s not Lex Luthor, sheesh! It’s why I prefer the Marvel Animated Universe Norman Osborn more.

Yeah, I can barely see enough contrast between the regular text and the links either. And I have decent eyes and a big computer screen!

Ellis’s crazy-ass Norman in Thunderbolts was really fun. I can’t say much about him elsewhere, but boy, when he went off the deep end there….

Osborn Journal: probably some of the worst lettering I’ve ever seen in a name-brand comic! I know, I know, it was the nineties, and people had just discovered fonts, but that’s really hard to read.

Yeah, Ellis’s Thunderbolts was the only post-return Norman stuff that I liked. But it’s not enough for me to not to wish the Osborns had just stayed dead.

buttler’s double negatives make-a my haid hurt. ow!

At the time, I think I was too young to see these comics as much more than people hitting each other on colorful paper, so I didn’t realize I was reading an eternal recurrence so contrived that it would make Friedrich Nietzche balk.

The beginning of David Michelinie’s run on “Amazing” and all of JM DeMatteis’ run on “Spectacular” had such promise of being classic Spider-Man runs

Michelinie’s run at no point showed any potential of being a classic run. Is was pure banality from beginning to end, with the only thing memorable about it to me being the sheer amount of stuttering his Spider-Man did, even in thought bubbles. People bash the Clone Saga, but I honestly believe that if not for the near-decade of utter banality under Michelinie’s run, the editors would not have felt the need to resort to such drastic measures in the first place.

A Horde of Evil Hipsters

February 18, 2013 at 3:57 am

“Acer” said “He’s not Lex Luthor, sheesh!”

To be honest, that is one reason I rather like the Ellis > Bendis > whoever else version of Osborn. He is, indeed, a Lex Luthor who happens to have a split personality that is more like the Joker. It’s certainly more than a bit derivative, but makes for quite an interesting character in a “his own worst enemy” sense.

That being said, when I was a kid and actively reading Spider-Man, Harry was the Goblin and Norman was Most Definitely Dead, so it’s not like I have all that much emotional investment in his original incarnation.

John Byrne was brought in to reboot the books with Howard Mackie and one of the things they wanted to do was bring Aunt May back.

I seem to recall at the time this one was blamed on Bob Harras ordering her restoration as he thought she was an “essential” element of the series.

How on earth can you keep all of this straight? My head hurts trying to make sense of it all.

The thing that is funny — or sad/frustrating — is that we all look at these terrible storylines from 90’s Marvel here and shake our heads, “How could this happen? How did nobody see how awful it all was?” And who was in charge then? The man now leading DC’s New52. And look at all of the editorial interference and boneheaded decisions we’ve seen out of that corner of the comic universe in the past 6-12 months. It’s deja vu all over again, and according to DC that continuity has only existed five years. Yet they’re still mucking it up already.

I don’t understand how anyone looks at Marvel’s editorial output from the 1990’s and says, “Yes, that is the man I want running my ambitious new publishing initiative.” I will concede that many of those books sold well (X-Men and Spider-Man specifically), but very, very little of it is well regarded now, and a lot of those sales were because of the collector mentality that dominated the industry at the time. Classic case of snatching failure out of the jaws of success.

Since I don’t follow the New52 closely, how is continuity getting screwed up? I’m not questioning that it is, just curious.

I don’t think anyone mentioned this yet, but I don’t see any reason why the ‘journal’ from The Osborn Journal one-shot would be the EXACT SAME journal that Norman intended to use as a plant to fool Peter. If there’s one thing you can say about Norman Osborn, it would be that he is a prolific journal writer (from the Hobgoblin days to the Clone Saga and beyond) and that he must have stacks upon stacks of journals in his possession (similar to the John Doe character in the movie Seven). The journal with disappearing/reappearing ink from PPSpid97 was planted in Osborn’s office around the time Peter broke in (Spec250), with the aim of getting Peter into deep sh@# with the authorities. I don’t see any reason to connect the two other than they are both journals written by Osborn, like I said there are likely to be many more where that came from. The Osborn Journal ‘journal’ contained a step-by-step recount of how Norman executed the Clone Saga, there’s no way he would put that in to Peter’s hands even if the info was suspect. I believe these are two separate journals and that, ultimately, it doesn’t matter b/c the flawed continuity is present regardless of them being same book. Norman claimed no responsibility for Aunt May’s death in the Osborn Journal, then claimed to have been responsible for it in Spec263.

If there’s any one aspect of The Osborn Journal one-shot that could be considered orthogonal to the current established continuity it would be the fact that the inner monologue he issues throughout The Osborn Journal one-shot shouldve acknowledged Harry’s fake death (mentioned by Brian in this article). Yet Mysterio instructed Norman to ‘sell this (faked death)’…why would Norman need to ‘sell’ Harry’s death to himself during a soliloqy?? Oh yeah, and that doesn’t even cover the most offensive continuity flub/retcon…how Norman’s whole return from the dead was predicated upon the notion of taking Peter’s child (in return for Peter taking Harry’s life)…does baby May even exist in the Spiderverse continuity any more??

I’m sure they wish they didn’t. The way Peter and Gwen completely forgot they’d ever had a baby, judging from how little grieving figured into their lives after Aunt May returned, was just wrong. I realize that the baby was part of the Clone Saga and they probably wanted to sweep little May under the rug, but it was a serious botch nonetheless.

And frankly Norman’s scheme with the journal was pretty feeble. I don’t question that in the MU it’s possible to come up with a transforming journal, but what are the odds it’s going to work the way he wants it to? Whatever the trigger–X number of people touch it, X number of times it’s opened–the plot collapses if Peter doesn’t touch it exactly X number of times. Any plot that has that little flexibility is stupid by definition.
It’s a nitpick, but with anything this crappy, I’m not inclined to be forgiving.

@Eric – It goes back even further. As early as 1983 Dazzler #30 (from Assistant Editors’ Month) showed power going to Harras’s head:

“And I’m going to do what *I* want… what *I* want!”

Life imitating art?

And then you have that Hulk story with Betty Banner losing her baby. Peter David had a whole story for that baby that he ended telling in the novel “What savage beast”, since Harras went in the opposite direction, with Betty having an abortion, because a baby makes characters “look old”. We all know what happened years later, and now Hulk has not one but two children.

Bob Harras is one of the worst things to ever happen to comics.


The disappearing/reappearing ink bit (a la Roger Rabbit) was absolutely silly, no doubt. But I always thought of it working via Norman using some tracking device (to confirm that it is in Peter’s possession), then some sort of trigger to set off the text change. iirc, the journal would have also implicated Peter in Aunt May’s death…which would have been an interesting twist if Norman had pulled that off publicly, but i’m not sure what evidence (other than the journal) he would have planted to get Peter framed for that as well.

Ultimately, Norman’s video survellience paid off, a solid video cassette beats a convoluted ‘text-swapping-journal’ any day of the week!! :)

You know this all raises another question, though I guess it maybe has to do with the whole one more day thing…When Did Norman Osborn forget that Peter Parker Was Spiderman? Because he didn’t know it when he took over Hammer, but obviously he did know it before Spiderman revealed himself during Civil War. I can get that people forgot they knew who Spiderman was ( I think the Fantastic Four covered this) but did they ever explain what Osborn think he did during his whole thing? Or is the whole mess completely written away with the mephto deal, in otherwords, was Aunt May’s death now never an occurance, and there for never faked, and so on and so on with everyone else. Have never really read Spiderman, but it all seems pretty confusing from the outside here.

He forgot it when the rest of the world did, at a point in between “One More Day” and “Brand New Day.” Joe Quesada later did a flashback story that revealed that Dr. Strange, Reed Richards, and Tony Stark pooled their resources to essentially mindwipe the planet. The spell affected everyone who has ever known the truth, period. (Notice that Aunt Mya no longer knows, and she knew before Civil War as well.

Only Spider-Man himself and Mary Jane — through Spidey’s intervention — remembered the secret initially. The spell altered all records and data as well as memories, and it even prevented people from acknowledging any clues to the truth they might stumble upon. Only seeing Peter unmasked *after* the spell was in effect could reveal the ID, and that would restore all the associated memories.

The New Avengers, many of the “main” Avengers, and the Fantastic Four know the truth currently because Peter has told them directly, and once the spell was weakened in Spider Island, it became possible for people to put the pieces together on their own. (That’s how Carlie Cooper learned the ID.) The Jackal regained his knowledge because he clones Spider-Man as a hobby and saw “his” unmasked face anew as the clones grew. Kaine knows because in a sense he *is* Peter, and so shares Peter’s immunity to the mindwipe. Among those once knew but who are in the dark now due to the spell are Norman Osborn, Eddie Brock, the Venom symbiote, Harry Osborn, Iron Man/Tony Stark (who Peter still won’t tell because of Civil War), and Puma. Mysterio recently learned the secret in the Spider-Men miniseries because he accessed the Ultimate Universe, where that Peter Parker’s secret became public knowledge after he perished.

Oh, did 616’s Mysterio go to the Ultimate universe too? I remember it starting with Ultimate Mysterio coming to 616, but I only read the first issue, and not much ever happens in a single issue anymore.

JJJ forgot too. I only bring it up because I recall enjoying the pre-spell issue that focused on him knowing (where Peter let JJJ take a swing at him and get rid of all the pent up BS). One of the few Spidey issues around that time that I really dug.


I wondered if you would comment on the Michelinie comment. He is not one of my favorites either. Looking back on ASM runs since I started reading the book (the classic 270!), I am a bit surprised on how many I consider not good or bad.

Closer to the subject, does anyone else wish that Norman had been revealed as a clone created after he was killed? I think that might have been a good way to end the Gathering of the Five story. I am with the folks who thing Norman was better off dead and that not much good has been done with him (as a Spider Man villian) since he came back.


Norman should have never been the main villain they intended to make of him. It was clear than he was a mad man, not an strategist. Even before killing Gwen he was usually shown as a weak man slave of a twisted mind. To me, making him the force behind the Clone saga and everything that they tried afterwards with him was completely out of character.

This is when the Spider-man books really started to go off the rails for me. It never got it’s mojo back. Now it’s like a freak show.

Ooooookay, as bad as all this is (except the original May death, which is so classic that all this retconning of it is outright blasphemy), there’s a really huge continuity gaffe that no one’s mentioned, perhaps because it’s so obvious there’s no point, or maybe because there’s no point discussing any of this at all.

As best I can read the godawful lettering in the Osborn Journal, May suffered a stroke “earlier this year” and then “finally” died. That means there’s, at absolute most, twelve months in between her stroke and death, and I’m going to have to assume she didn’t have a stroke on January 1 and die on December 31, so it was likely shorter than that by at least a couple of months. I don’t know when this Osborne Journal takes place in the context of the Clone Fias–I mean, Saga, but it looks like at least some of that mess had already transpired by the time this book came out, trimming a few more weeks, at the very least, from the time May could have “survived” after the stroke.

In the last page, Norman says he infused an actress (whom I doubt he hired the very next day) with May’s DNA after May’s stroke, and “over time” (which sounds like it’s probably not a day or two) she looked like May. THEN she studied May “over months” before replacing her at some unspecified point.

That’s an awful lot happening in the short time that could have elapsed between May’s stroke and her “death.” So how the hell long was this actress pretending to be Aunt May before she died, an hour?

Freyes, one of the Clone Saga writers had the same objection (as do I)–that if Norman wanted revenge he’d take it mano-a-mano instead of all the backstage scheming. The decision to watch and see if Harry would prove himself as the Goblin was how they rationalized that.
Ritchard, I hadn’t thought of that but good point.


It was DeFalco, wasn´t it? He is the only writer at the time who understands how each Spidey character works (yep, I´m not a big fan of DeMatteis).

I’m honestly not sure. I spent more time than I should poring over the Clone Saga website (which is where I read it) and the individuals involved all ran together.


Found it!:

“I clearly remember Tom DeFalco’s response to Harras. Tom bluntly stated that he didn’t buy for one second that Norman Osborn would ever be satisfied with operating in the shadows, hiding, secretly manipulating everyone and everything over such a long period of time. Tom felt that this would be way out of character for Norman. “Norman deals with his problems directly,” Tom argued. “He doesn’t mind getting his hands dirty. He’s a guy who addresses his problems by putting on a Green Goblin costume, flying across the city on a bat-glider, and destroying any obstacles with his own hands. He knows he has power, and he likes to use it. He’s not a master manipulator who likes to stay hidden.”

That’s the quote I remember–and yeah, he clearly gets Norman.

@buttler: It turned out that there *was* no Ultimate Mysterio. It was a robot drone controlled by 616 Mysterio the whole time.

Didn’t all this master manipulation by Norman start in Untold Tales of Spider-Man? ISTR he was behind quite a few of the foes in that series.

I don’t think so, Tim. He was employing villains but with specific goals in mind–and this was before he put on the Goblin costume. The early issues are really an origin arc, showing Norman shift from employing a front man like the Headsman to realizing he can do better than any of these criminal flunkies if he takes the field himself.

Remaining in the shadows served a larger purpose for Norman, namely the expansion of his capabilities/enterprises. Having the world believe him dead gave him an opportunity that he would not have had whilst simply being a corrupt busniessman/Goblin villain. And he certainly got his hands dirty within the Scrier organization as he killed numerous people on the way to the top.

Being consistently defeated by Spidey would have caused even the most relentless villain to rethink his strategy, if you’re sitting there with a glider in your chest you may want to rethink just how effective your (current) tactics are.

Even if I didn’t like a lot the whole concept of “Peter was the clone”, I appreciated the bold idea of resuming an old thread and bursting it out back years later. I could accept some flaws (as the different time laps between comics and real world) but I dreaded from the start the possibility of repeated and continued retcons. And, of course, an uniterrupted sequence of abandoning an’forsaking. Which is what finally happened, it’s still haunting the Spider-Man franchise today and that evenctually made me abandon and forsake a comic I used to love deeply.
If you have bold ideas, you have to commit to them down to the end, you may plan an exit strategy, but nothing more. Instead, they started to change course every, like, six months coming up to a complete mess in what was a pretty linear timeline as Spider-Man’s. Too much for me.

@K.P. Moore: That works if we assume that Norman is basically rational, but every story since his return has hinged on the fact that he *isn’t*, and he throws out all his rational scheming the minute the opportunity to run around attacking people in person becomes a bit too irresistible. Both Dark Reign and the recent “New Dark Avengers” stuff had both the superheroes and the other villains Norman was working with bank on Norman inevitably going mental and screwing the pooch for himself…which he did in relatively short order both times.

“That works if we assume that Norman is basically rational, but every story since his return has hinged on the fact that he *isn’t*”

I usually like to steer clear of a broad-stroke analysis on whether a character is “irrational” or not, the term itself can be a vague as well as relative. Moreover, for every example which depicts an “irrational” Osborn, there can always be another example in which he does something rational.

Couldn’t his theft of Deadpool’s ‘Skrull secrets’, which inevitably led to his meteroic rise to the top, be considered a move of rational (and cunning) thinking? How about his siding with SHIELD in order to get out of jail (and thus run the T-bolts)? How long did he keep the Stacy twins in hiding before unleashing their fury on Peter (it would take some rational thinking to bide your time there as well)?

At the same time, when Norman was losing his grip on reality and thus ready to go on a murderous rampage (throughout DR and Siege as well as ‘Caged Angels’ arc from Tbolts) he was under the direct influence of a telepath (Loki or Mindwave et al). He’s got a damaged psyche for sure, but those instances were manipulated by others moreso than being his doing. Obviously Norman does not require mental manipulation to go on a rampage, but those instances can not be contributed 100% to Norman’s irrationality and desire to get his hands dirty.

During the Clone Saga, Norman was biding his time, waiting for the moment to strike (you can make the argument that that moment was ‘point at which attacking people in person became too iresistible’) at Peter…he knew it was going to happen and it was a matter of when not if. In the end, Norman attacked Peter and caved in to his impulse to do so instead remaining safely in hiding…but I don’t think its unreasonable to assume that he could have had some rational processes working for him at the time (even staved off his impulses by strangling a few Scriers along the way…hell, he probably dressed a few of them up as Spidey before he killed them :) )

I’ll concede that Norman will eventually cave in to his tendencies, but I do think its safe to say that he can keep his demons at bay for a limited period of time whilst behaving rationally. He’s more like a cat playing with a mouse before killing it, he knows the endgame and it’s a matter of time.

I’m not trying to be argumentative, I really enjoy this type of debate almost as much as I enjoy the character of Norman Osborn.

“I’ll concede that Norman will eventually cave in to his tendencies, but I do think its safe to say that he can keep his demons at bay for a limited period of time whilst behaving rationally. He’s more like a cat playing with a mouse before killing it, he knows the endgame and it’s a matter of time.”

That is five years, without considering that Jackal was working for him way before the first original close saga. That’s not a “limited period of time”. That is too much planning, too much foreseeing for a schizophrenic guy.

The question isn’t whether or not Norman was the PERFECT villain for the Clone Saga mastermind, rather, is it POSSIBLE for him to have engineered the whole thing. I think it is possible that he could have done so.

We know from PPSpider(V2)#25 that he did come back, don the Goblin costume and witness the birth of Normie Osborn, so it was not a full 5years without getting some Goblin time. He even mentions his desire to return in the Osborn Journal on a handful of occasions (namely, the arrival of Roderick). So he was chomping at the bit, which is why i made the assertion that Norman probably dressed a few Scriers up as Spidey and then killed them to get his fix :). All the while knowing that his confrontation with Peter was inevitable.

So, yeah, i think the timeline for the Clone Saga was not ‘too long’ for Norman’s tendencies. Ultimately it comes down to your opinion, if you don’t want to think it possible, than you’re not gonna buy any of my explanations.

The finale to the Clone Saga was definitely not perfect, I’m just arguing that it was possible.

Of course it is possible (a character not seen since the early 70’s can be whatever the writers want him to be), and quite frankly by the time whole thing ended this is the best they could’ve come up with. That doesn’t make the opinion of DeFalco less worthy: “Revelations” not only contradicts years of Norman Osborn stories, it even contradicts the start of the Clone Saga, wherein the “mastermind” behind it all was Miles Warren (a couple of years earlier, the “mastermind” was a dead Harry Osbon, and so on: each time a bad plot made necessary a retcon). By the early 2000’s, the “it was a Norman Osborn plan” turned out ridiculous and absolutely everything that was happening (and had happened) to Peter had something to do with him (the whole “dead Aunt May was an actress” may be one of the lowest points). So, you are basically accepting the retcon and the characterization, after the same was made and now we know “what Normas is capable of”, but this was not always the case.

Well, one of the stories I';d coutn would *be* the Clone Saga, where after years of rational scheming, Norman throws it all away at the end so he can try to blow up a bunch of people whom he insanely blames for Harry’s “death.” Revelations doesn’t end with Norman ensconced in his office, it ends with him going down in flames with a dozen pumpkin bombs glued to him.

Similarly, the “Return of Norman” stuff that started shortly after the Cline Saga ended with Norman gambling everything on a 20% chance at ultimate power vs. an 80% chance at very bad consequences, which he unsurprisingly lost. No telepaths or Lokis needed there. And even after that, he became quasi-suicidal when Spider-Man refused to keep playing his sick game (Spectacular Spider-Man v.2 #44-7) and finally wound up publicly exposed after he started killing his own employees out of boredom, in Pulse #1-5.

The problem with Norman as Clone mastermind is that it relies on his going *years on end* without having a similar sort of irrational flip-out, when *every other story, before and since* has shown him flipping out in relatively short order. Even Dark Reign started by showing us Norman going bonkers and killing the Swordsman with his bare hands, then realizing he couldn’t keep the ruse of sanity up for even a single day.

Heck, surely thinking he could keep a lid on Loki, Doctor Doom, the White Queen, and Namor was already evidence of a stupid, irrational decision stemming from Norman’s well-established narcissism — and hey, every single one of them betrayed him in relatively short order, leading pretty directly to his downfall in Siege! Doom may have a cosmic-scale ego, but he’s actually done some stuff on a cosmic scale. Norman owes most of what he has to stealing a formula from Mendel Stromm and spends a lot of time trying and faling at breaking the spirit of a guy who’s already a neurotic mess.

Norman has a pattern of getting what he wants, and then being undone because he’s too unstable to really maintain any sort of success for very long. “shadowy European manipulator” Norman, coincidentally the one version who was never much on-panel, doesn’t fit with the guy we actually see — even the version who’s not under anyone else’s influence.

I remember at the start of one of those plotline, White Queen and Namor are discussing how they’ll take advantage of Norman’s scheme when he inevitably steers off the rails.

Listing the irrational acts of a man who willingly dresses up as a Green Goblin and terrorizes people can be a little redundant, I definitely agree he’s capable of doing irrational things. My point is that he is also capable of doing some rational things.

There is even some precedent for a ‘shadowy manipulator’ aspect to Norman’s character as far back as Stan’s run. The Green Goblin’s reward of $20K paid to Kraven led directly to Kraven’s attack on Spidey in ASM #34 (also explored in the ASM ’96 Annual), he didn’t need to get his hands dirty then. Not to mention his bribery in ASM# 38 to have Spider-Man killed by people other than himself (he wasn’t under any amnesia at that point, he was certainly well awarel that he could have continued to attack Peter as the Green Goblin at that time).

Also, Osborn’s extortion of his partner Stromm could be viewed as an act of well-orchestrated manipulation. If he wanted Stromm out of the way, why not just kill him (the way he ‘killed’ him in ASM#37)…why go through the trouble of getting him arrested?

In some ways Norman can be viewed as a villain who will attack from every angle, direct and indirect.

As far as waiting in the shadows during the Clone Saga for the perfect time to strike, I view it as an expansion of Osborn’s tactic during ASM#17, where he’s practicing his assault on Spidey-replicas until he’s convinced himself he’s prepared to face him. If you extrapolate that out, after his ‘death’ via the Goblin Glider, perhaps he felt he needed practice on faux-Euro-Spidey’s until the time was right for his return.

Even prior to Norman essentially becoming a Marvel U villain during Dark Reign (as opposed to strictly a Spiderverse villain), there was evidence that Norman can focus his villainy on more than just Spider-Man (Tony Stark and Luke Cage come to mind). If Norman can treat people other than Spidey as targets of his madness during DR, then why couldn’t he have done that whilst in Europe? Its perfectly reasonable for me to assume that while Europe, Osborn found another person to temporarily focus his hatred on, all the while scheming against Peter/Jonah and everyone else he’d left behind in the states. That type of conflict would have temporarily staved off any propensity to hop on a jet back to the U.S.

There’s no story out that contradicts that, and since much of what Norman did during his tenure in Europe is unknown at this point, I think it opens the door for a new Marvel ongoing “Norman Osborn: The European Years”…

K.P., no one is saying that Norman isn’t capable of rational actions now and again. What we’re showing –with evidence from the stories– is that he’s not capable of remaining rational long enough to carry out a years-long scheme. Every time he actually is in a story, his rational phases don’t last much beyond a few months of “Marvel Time” or a year or two of publishing time. Telling us that he somehow kept things going and even managed suppress the blaring egotism of the more rational “Norman Osborn, Cool Exec with a Heart of Steel” persona and stay int he shadows doesn’t work.

Norman’s central flaw, as we have now been reminded by dozens of writers and dozens of stories, from Stan Lee and John Romita to Brian Bendis and Mike Deodato, is that he cannot keep himself under control even when he’s got every reason in the world to do so. As was pointed out, even during DR Norman started out making bad moves, and these bad moves destroyed his “reign” before he could really achieve much. Even during the Dark Reign, his fixation on Luke Cage ended with him blowing up his own mansion by mistake, and his fixation on Deadpool nearly got both him and Bullseye killed. Norman’s European years are hard to buy from the sort of guy who makes those sorts of mistakes *every single time we see him, ever*. He’s pretty much always been a distinctly self-destructing super-villain.

Omar-I think its incorrect when fans make the two blanket statements (made in earlier posts, not necessarily by you) which assert that Norman could not ‘mastermind from within the shadows’ and that he must always ‘get his hands dirty’. I think I’ve listed adequate examples of instances which contradict those ideas.

I cannot argue against the notion that he tends toward self-destruction. I guess we have to agree to disagree as to what happened in Europe with Osborn and how it could have redirected his self-destructive behavior. My main point was not against the fact that he’s self-destructive, rather how that self-destrutive behavior could have been contained within Europe (ie, off-panel) whilst still preserving his plot against Peter.

KP, I don’t think Strohm is a good example. He took Strohm out before he’d been dipped in Goblin juice, so at that point he was just a grasping CEO. So he took a CEO solution.

In my opinion, the Goblin Formula enhanced a set of behavioral patterns/psychological problems that were already existent in the pre-Goblin Formula Osborn. In other words, the Goblin Formula didn’t change who Norman is, so examples on both sides of the Goblin Formula exposure should count.

But i was using it as an example of Norman being fine with not ‘getting his hands dirty’ and sending others to do his bidding. But if you want more examples of that, you can look to the Untold Tales mentioned earlier in this thread or both times Norman sent Thunderbolts after Spidey (Titania/Absorbing Man as Thunder Girl/Lightning Bolt and the real Thunderbolts in NWTD).

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