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CSBG Archive

The Abandoned An’ Forsaked – So Who Was the Hobgoblin Anyways?

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, inspired by this week’s Comic Book Legends Revealed (where Peter David had the reveal of Goblin 2099 changed on him) we take a look at the back and forth history of who the Hobgoblin really was…

The mysterious Hobgoblin was introduced in Amazing Spider-Man #238, with writer Roger Stern keeping his identity a mystery from the readers. Stern left with issue #250. Incoming writer Tom DeFalco had his OWN views on who the Hobgoblin was. However, he, too, left the book before the honors fell to Peter David to tell the reveal, where the answer turned out to be Ned Leeds, who had been killed recently in a Spider-Man/Wolverine one-shot. Amazing Spider-Man #289 (drawn by Alan Kupperberg, Tom Morgan and Jim Fern) tells the tale, as the Kingpin gives Spider-Man proof…

And that was the status quo for years until Spider-Man: Hobgoblin Lives #1 (art by Ron Frenz and George Perez) in 1997, where Hobgoblin creator Roger Stern was able to reveal the Hobgoblin to REALLY be the person he originally meant it to be.

First, he shows how it couldn’t be Ned…

And in #3, he has the Hobgoblin explain how he used Ned and how all the evidence was faked…

So that was how Ned Leeds as the Hobgoblin was abandoned and forsaken.

By the way, in #3, we finally learn that the Hobgoblin was really a minor supporting character from back in the 1980s, Roderick Kingsley…

Kingsley had a brother who would impersonate him and/or the Hobgoblin as the need arose, but since Stern left the book before he could further establish that, all we got were hints, like Kingsley saying…

Since Daniel had not yet been introduced, incoming writer Tom DeFalco felt it was a bit of a cheat to use a not-yet-shown twin to explain how Kingsley was present at the same time as the Hobgoblin, so he went another direction. I believe he intended for the Kingpin’s son, Richard Fisk, to be the Hobgoblin.

That’s it for this week!

If YOU have a suggestion for a notable comic book retcon, let me know at bcronin@comicbookresources.com

56 Comments

There’s always something fun/funny about creators retconning each others stuff…

both stories were pretty good….maybe later tonight I’ll bust out and read some mid-80s Spidey…

Brian: DeFalco created the Rose and the Rose was revealed as Richard Fisk. How could DeFalco intend that Hobgoblin would be Richard Fisk?

How often does this happen in comics? Writer A intends something, Writer B resolves it a different way, and then Writer A eventually revisits the concept and undoes Writer B’s work, restoring the original concept. I’d like to think that this happens a lot, but I’m at a loss to think of other examples.

Anyway, I still want to know who F.A.C.A.D.E. was. He’s got to have exceeded the Hobgoblin for “how long an identity has been unresolved” by now.

Freyes 2011-It was Priest that actually showed the Rose was Richard Fisk. Defalco merely had the Kingpin state
that if the Rose is who I *think* he is, then I fear a war erupting between us. It’s possible that DeFalco was planning to do a scene where the Kingpin knocks out the Rose, realizes he isn’t Richard and then realize the Hobgoblin is Richard.

I liked Hobgoblin Lives, but unfortunately subsequent stories really didn’t do much with Roderick Kingsley, probably because by the time he was revealed to be Hobgoblin, Norman Osborn was already back from the dead and acting as the official evil mastermind of the Spider-Man comic books. Tom DeFalco is probably the only wrriter to use Hobgoblin extensively, and that was in the pages of Spider-Girl.

Ben, I was about to mention Spider-Girl.
“I’m going to become a supervillain because Spider-Man made my wife cry” is pretty flimsy as a motivation (admittedly I’ve heard worse). And rationalizing all the post-Ned appearances as Jack O’Lantern just makes the whole thing more tangled.
Okay, in the scene you show, it’s Hobgoblin as robot–were there other scenes where he and Kingsley were in the same place at the same time? Otherwise I can’t see why there’s any issue with them being the same person.
Adam, I’d say it happens quite a bit–I’m sure Brain’s listed other examples. I’ve been rereading Green Lantern and I just got to the introduction of the Predator–I don’t know what Len Wein intended, but I believe Steve Englehart’s Big Reveal (having him turn out to be a manifestation of Carol’s latest Star Sapphire powers) was not what Wein had in mind. To give just one example.

I beleive Tom DeFalco wanted to reveal Ned Leeds as the Rose, and Richard Fisk as the Hobgoblin.

Ultimately, the reverse happened.

It certainly happens quite often. The original Skull the Slayer stories were one of the best examples.

I really liked the Hobgoblin as a kid, but he was kind of ruined when he was revealed to be Ned and then replaced by Jack-O-Lantern. I was quite happy when Hobgoblin Lives came out.

fraser, I think the only ‘issue’ later writers and editors had with Hobgoblin being Kingsley was that Kingsley was such a minor character.

One thing I do not get is the Rose?Hobgoblin relationship. Above we see Leedsgoblin inspiring Richard Fisk to become the Rose, but in between ASM 256-261, which I re-read last month, Rose and Hobgoblin meet for the first time. Were they later revealed to have been pretending to just meet in that meeting?

I was ok with Ned Leeds being the Hobgoblin when I found out it was Rodrick Kingsley I said…”Who”. I thought is was a nother “Deux Ex Machina” situation.

Also why couldn’t “The Rose” have been the Hobgoblin”?

@Diarra: The Rose was shown conversing with the Hobgoblin at least a half dozen different times. Pretty hard to explain that away.

I also like Ned Leeds better as the Hobgoblin. If I recall correctly, Roger Stern was dissatisfied with the reveal of Leeds as the Hobgoblin because he thought it was too contrived to have yet another member of the supporting cast gain super powers. So he instead made the Hobgoblin a guy who would use his identical twin brother as a stand-in.

The scene with the goon breaking Ned’s arm really bugged me when I first saw it. How was that even possible, given the superhuman strength that he would have possessed as the Hobgoblin? Frankly, it seemed like another case of a writer lowering a character’s power level for the sake of a story.

There was also a throwaway mention by Roderick Kingsley in one issue of “too bad my brother’s out of town right now”, so Stern had the full solution in mind all along, he just didn’t get a chance to set it up properly before he left the book.

Big disappointment when the Hobgoblin turned out to be Ned Leeds and then Roderick Kingsley! Both never left me going “Oh my god, how could it be? What a shock!” It was more of a “Whoopie! That’s it?”

I found the Knobgoblin to be a “big whoop” from start to finish, but then I’ve never been much into the Goblins to begin with.

Stern wrote the first (and certainly best) Hobgoblin stories,so it didn’t feel overbearing when he did that mini-series. In fact, it’s pretty amazing to think of the story he told across those 20 years.

Check out the site “Spidey Kicks Butt” for a very thorough look at the whole thing.

The real problem wasn’t PAD’s conclusion that Leeds was the Hobgoblin, it was the existence of SPIDER-MAN VERSUS WOLVERINE and the (likely) editorial insistence that the story was in regular continuity. The easiest solution for PAD (IMO, and hindsight is always 20/20) would have been to ignore SMvW and just push on with his Leeds-as-Hobgoblin storyline. SMvW could have been easily written off as a one-shot graphic novel like HOOKY that had nothing to do with the regular Spider-man titles.

Then someone insisted that Peter have a follow up chat with Logan in Web of Spider-man about the Berlin trip and suddenly SMvW is in continuity and has to be tip-toed around. Oops!

Incidentally, SMvW was written by Owsley (Priest) who also shoehorned Richard Fisk into being The Rose. It’s like a free for all between Stern, deFalco, David and Priest!

I always thought that the Hobgoblin was going to be Uncle Ben back from the dead! No one would have anticipated that

The writers involved can’t even seem to agree on who was responsible for what – DeFalco has claimed Priest was responsible for making Leeds the Hobgoblin, but Priest denies the charge. Like the origin of Shatterstar, it’s the credit no one wants!

Peter David has actually taken credit/blame for this one but pleads the defence of having inherited the plotline messes and only having one double-sized issue to solve it all in. He seems to have assumed that DeFalco intended the Hobgoblin to be Ned Leeds, rather than a red herring, and couldn’t find any other suspect who would fit the available clues. He also found Owsley/Priest was already killing off Leeds, apparently to kill the prospect of him being the Hobgoblin and it was too late to change the story. So he opted to go for this route.

DeFalco also states that he and Ron Frenz were trying to set up Richard Fisk as the actual identity, but Owsley kept taking the attempts out. Owsley was also the author of Web of Spider-Man 30 in which Richard Fisk goes into a confession booth and gives the origin of both the Hobgoblin and Rose to try and wrap up all the outstanding questions, but it wasn’t consistent with the way Stern had written the Hobgoblin and Kingpin and this just added to the mess.

It had to be Priest (though this is my assumption given the evidence presented), since he was the one who wrote the two part epilogue in Web of Spider-Man #29-30 and laid the ground work for PAD (in the later half of the Gang War arc).. The particular issues from Web though took place behind the scenes of Amazing #289 filling in the gaps of how Richard Fisk became the Rose and how Ned Leeds became the Hobgoblin. The thing is though if you read Stern’s Amazing #238 and then these pair of issues then the plot holes are so apparent since the original Hobgoblin’s motives were never to ever bring down the Kingpin but to gain more power and influence amongst the criminal masses.

If you’re to say DeFalco was the one who was the one who laid the groundwork for Leeds as the Hobgoblin he did nothing of the sort. The only time he put a hint of evidence toward Leeds was near the end of his run (around the Gang War arc). Though by then he was about to be ousted from the book. Who’s to say it was inserted into the books by Priest?

However, I will say that Priest’s bits with the Rose are far superior pieces of a man struggling to deny becoming what he hates most and life just not giving him the path he wants. Though the whole Hobgoblin affair is a heated matter. DeFalco lost Amazing due to it and Priest lost being the Spider-Man editor due to it.

Dan Slott was the writer who’s now brought back Kingsley currently and has continued to build onto Stern’s with Kingsley now enterprising super villains in parts of the world not heavily populated with super heroes thus gaining a good chunk of profit.

always thought marvel ruined such a unique and cool spider man rogue like the hobgoblin who not only found a way to use the green goblin stuff in ways norman would only dream about. but marvel messed him up by playing musical chairs with his i.d he is ned no he is rodrick . no he was now suppose to be richard fisk and ned the rose. nope ned and flash and lefty and jason macendale were set up by roderick. back and fourth marvel kind of made a mess of hobgoblin with who he is suppose to have been under the mask.

Essential reading for any discussion on this topic:

http://www.peterdavid.net/2004/11/18/foolish-consistencies-and/

So Brian, is Peter David’s piece consistent with what other writers have said? From your past comments, I gather everyone has a different take.
(No offense or accusation about David intended).

I have the four issue ‘Spider-Man Saga’ miniseries from the early 90s, retelling Spidey’s entire history stashed somewhere (I think back at my mom’s house).

This makes me wonder just how much of what’s in there has been retconned since it came out.

I love me some Spider-Man, but the one thing that bothered me about the Hobgoblin stuff was: Why did it even matter who the Hobgoblin was? It never mattered who Electro or Shocker or Rhino or any number of villains really was. He was a guy in a costume committing crimes, that to me seemed to be reason enough for Spider-Man to tackle him. Oh well.

I’m surprised there has not been a further retcon explaining the Hobgoblin to be Norman Osborn, or a proxy.

The problem with Priest’s explanation (and PAD’s) was that according to them, Ned became the Hobgoblin to stop the Kingpin/avenge Ned’s brother-in-law’s death/whatever. The problem is, in the Hobgoblin’s first appearance, he kills the goon who showed him where the Goblin stash was a few hours after finding the stash. It makes no sense for Ned to magically become a killer a few hours after finding the stash.
Zechs- DeFalco dropped hints earlier. He had Ned encounter Sha Shan, get mad at Flash and then just later the Hobgoblin kidnaps Sha Shan.

@Zechs

DeFalco certainly laid ground work that suggested it could be Ned Leeds, even if he was in fact dropping red herrings. He dropped a number of hints that Ned was up to something from about issue #260 onwards, and the big one is #275 where Ned had a fierce confrontation with Flash Thompson, and shortly afterward the Hobgoblin was having to calm down. Then during an attack on a bus station the Hobgoblin recognised Sha Shan, Flash’s girlfriend who was in the process of leaving him, and took her as a perfect hostage. Then in the following issue Flash was set up – and once again there were hints that for the Hobgoblin this was a very personal choice. That storyline probably more than any other, pushed a lot of people (including Peter David) into assuming the Hobgoblin was meant to be Ned. It didn’t help that attempts to set up the genuine identity were repeatedly thwarted by editing.

@fraser

There was an indepth article on the Hobgoblin in Back Issue #35, with comments by Rogr Stern, Tom DeFalco, Peter David, John Romita J, Ron Frenz and Jim Shooter. The main absentee was Jim Owsley/Christopher Priest though parts of his essay “Oswald: Why I Never Discuss Spider-Man” from his website were quoted.

Broadly PAD’s account on his own site is in line with the recollections of Tom DeFalco and Ron Frenz in terms of what the understanding was in the Spider-Man office in 1985/6 and also in terms of who actually edited the revelation issue. (Jim Salicrup is credited as editor and Priest has said in past discussions that he himself *may* have commissioned the issue but more likely it was Salicrup, and that it wasn’t his [Priest's] idea to go with Ned and replace him with Maccendale.) But the crucial additional point that clears up some of the mess is that DeFalco was actually bluffing Priest with the declaration that it was Ned Leeds, and PAD and others were caught in the bluff without realising this. PAD also quotes Priest’s given reason for killing off Leeds as “To piss off DeFalco” by mucking up the planned Hobgoblin storyline. (In fact it wouldn’t have because DeFalco planned otherwise. However Priest did write the revelation that Richard Fisk was the Rose, which would have been a bigger problem to surmount.)

It’s fairly easy to reconcile any differences in recollection between DeFalco, Frenz and PAD. It’s Priest’s accounts that are the main standout.

Kingpin: “Jack O’Lantern’s base of operation is mobile.”

Spider-Man: “Alabama?”

I never really thought of those as hints more red herrings. Hobby was anxious to confront Spider-Man. Plus later on he remarks to Sha-Shan that he picked her since she was to him an ugly easily disposable woman who know one would miss if he killed her. Indeed #276 made things personal, and Stern used those scenes to cement Kingsley as the Hobgoblin in Hobgoblin Lives (during the lengthy monologue Hobby refers Flash’s outburst on live TV and we see Hobby’s perspective who in turn was someone who we the reader saw watching the telecast).

Plus again as Stern would widely use again for Lives has Flash explaining the scene with him decking Ned as another excuse why the later could never have been the Hobgoblin. Really for me the first real evidence if anything from DeFalco was Ned setting off Pete’s Spider-Sense in #279 or #280.

For me the definitive Hobgoblin reading was this:

http://www.spideykicksbutt.com/SquanderedLegacy/SquanderedLegacyPart1.html

@Jeff: “Why did it even matter who the Hobgoblin was? It never mattered who Electro or Shocker or Rhino or any number of villains really was.”

Ah, but it mattered who Green Goblin was — indeed, there’s a longstanding rumor that one of the reasons Ditko left the book was he wanted to reveal the Green Goblin as just some random guy, while Stan wanted him to be Harry’s dad. (I’ve also heard that Ditko’s denied this, and the rumors of disagreements over the MJ reveal, and just flat-out stated that he didn’t have any creative disagreements with Stan at that point because he and Stan weren’t even discussing plots in advance and Stan didn’t know what was going to be in any given issue until the pages arrived on his desk. So take that for what it’s worth, too.)

Wasn’t the evil Xavier the villain of the X-Men/Micronauts limited series?

And now the whole thing is rendered pointless after Phil Urich killed Kingsley and assumed the Hobgoblin mantle. (I do like the new Hobbie though)

He killed a Kingsley, but not the Kingsley.

“after Phil Urich killed Kingsley and assumed the Hobgoblin mantle”

That death of Kingsley has also been retconned recently in Amazing just before the Octopus/Superior switch.
Kingsley was revealed to still be alive and running a supervillain network of some kind, and he allowed Urich to remain Hobgoblin because it serves his purposes.

I don’t think it was retconned. I believe Slott always intended it to be Daniel Kingsley who Phil killed. This is Slott we’re talking about. He knows his Spider-Man history well, so he clearly was aware of the whole “brother filling in” angle of the original Hobgoblin and I believe he was using it here all along. He just took awhile to reveal it (there was no hurry since he was allowing the new Hobgoblin to establish himself).

My bad. I’ve only read Spidey up to the end of Spider Island. I should have seen the Daniel thing coming, really.

There’s an issue of Back Issue magazine that has a roundtable interview with editors, artists, and writers about the Hobgoblin. I believe DeFalco says in that interview that he intended to have Kingsley as the Rose, and Richard Fisk as the Hobgoblin. It’s been a while since I read it though.

Tim, thanks.
Thad, Brian discussed that legend in a recent column (don’t have a link though) and concludes no, Ditko didn’t quit over that.

I haven’t read the issues themselves, just the huge-ass Spidey Kicks Butt article and others like this, so I might be off base, but I just think it’s really cool that even if DeFalco didn’t wan’t to use the brothers bit and Kingsley as Hobgoblin, he still wanted him as The Rose, and therefore kept establishing that Kingsley’s a criminal with ties to other masked villains. I feel that it all made Stern’s work much easier when he wrote Hobgoblin Lives.

I was kind of resistant to this retcon at first as I’d recently read and loved the entire Hobgoblin saga when Lives came out. Now that I know Kingsley was the original intention (and can see the hints in the early issues), I think Stern did a fantastic job of resolving a tangled mess without contradicting anything that had come before. I wasn’t aware Slott had resurrected Kingsley, but that’s great news and makes me dislike Slott’s run a little less.

One thing I’ve never understood about the whole Hobgoblin mess was, why didn’t DeFalco or the Spider-Man editors simply ask Stern who he was supposed to be? Even though Stern had left Spider-Man, you’d think he would still be happy to tell them who he intended Hobgoblin to be, so they would use his idea instead of coming up with something of their own. Or did they actually ask Stern, but weren’t satisfied with his solution, so they decided to use another one?

Bernard the Poet

March 18, 2013 at 7:25 am

I blame Tom DeFalco for this mess. If he didn’t want Roderick Kingsley as the Hobgoblin because he was such a minor character, then he could have given him a much larger role in the series. If he wanted to make Richard Fisk the Hobgoblin, then he should have created a scenario where that would have been a rational and satisfying conclusion. Instead he did neither.

I once read an academic study of Agatha Christie novels. This argued that each of her books had at least nine separate stories running concurrently. This has the effect of obscuring the identity of the murderer and baffling the reader. DeFalco went in a completely different direction. When he took over the Hobgoblin story. There were three realistic suspects – Lance Bannon, Ned Leeds and Flash Thompson. It was obvious that he needed to add to the list of suspects. Instead, he dropped Lance from the series and eliminated Flash as a potential suspect. There was literally no one else it could be, but Ned Leeds.

In the circumstances, I thought Peter David’s solution was about as good as it was possible to be.

Gah! Retcons are like reading a message board flame war. Writers going in behind other writers to “clean” up their stories. “What a foolish solution you’ve arrived at! Well, forget that, here’s how it would really have happened!”

@Bernard the Poet

DeFalco and Frenz have both said they tried to put Richard Fisk into the series so the character would be recognisable when a revelation came (he hadn’t appeared since the #160s) but Priest kept cutting those subplots out. The problem with Kinglsey (whom it seems DeFalco did know was Stern’s choice) was that he had already been seen in the same room as the Hobgoblin and his brother hadn’t actually been introduced. DeFalco felt it would be a cheat to go with such a route, and may also have felt he couldn’t successfully pull off such a suckerpunch.

The article in Back Issue does its best to be neutral but the impression that emerges from all the various statements by DeFalco, Shooter, Frenz and David is that Priest was at the root of much of the problem and the editing was very dysfunctional. The Hobgoblin wasn’t the only mess in the period with the Amazing schedule being disruptive by Priest constantly changing it and dropping in fill-in issues needlessly, whilst Web of Spider-Man started just as Priest arrived and that in its early years book was a total creative mess, unable to retain any regular writer or artist for longer than about five issues until #50. And the less said about the IRA issues of Web the better.

One thing I’ve never understood about the whole Hobgoblin mess was, why didn’t DeFalco or the Spider-Man editors simply ask Stern who he was supposed to be? Even though Stern had left Spider-Man, you’d think he would still be happy to tell them who he intended Hobgoblin to be, so they would use his idea instead of coming up with something of their own. Or did they actually ask Stern, but weren’t satisfied with his solution, so they decided to use another one?

Yeah, as Tim notes, they asked and DeFalco didn’t like Stern’s answer because he thought that the “brother we have not yet met filling in for Kingsley” idea was not a good one.

Luis was the switch in Skull the Slayer from general Lost Land adventure to robot invasders and Slitherogue what you’re talking about? Or was there more going on behind the scenes?

I don’t recall the specifics out of the blue, but it had lots of guest stars that turned out to be robots when the writer changed.

It was “everything you knew about ___ is false” to a high level, _way_ before John Byrne.

Interesting, I’ve been walking around for years wondering why Stern didn’t just tell DeFalco as well. Seems like every time Stern leaves a book mysteries abound. I’m a little disappointed it was something as mundane as them just not liking Kingsley as the bad guy.

IAM FeAR- I have that Spidery-Saga four issue series too, it came out not long after I started collecting and I found it very essential in Spidey background. It’s buried in longboxes and I haven’t quite been interested enough to search it out. Now maybe I will, it was rather well done as I recall, but I don’t know by whom.

And I just realized now that more time has passed since ‘Hobgoblin Lives’ than passed between the death of Ned and ‘Hobgoblin Lives.’ I just blew my own mind, and I feel very old.

Phred, Dan Jurgens did a story during his Teen Titans run that flashed back to the Mr. Jupiter days (and did so very well). It struck me then that for someone who was the same age reading Jurgens that I was reading the original Mr. Jupiter era, this was as far behind them as the Golden Age was for me. i felt very old.

PietroMaximoff

April 14, 2013 at 7:54 pm

oh my god, there are so many hobgoblins.. it’s impossible to keep track of them (or care, for the matter)

I can take that David made the best of a bad situation with what he had, but it’s really one of his most poorly written pieces. It props up a character he created (The Foreigner) while completely neutering the Hobgoblin. I mean, it’s just thugs of the bad guy taking him out, not even the head bad guy. He’s trashing a better villain to save his creation. Which then makes MJ proxy for the fans in saying so (how did four regular guys take him out?). And the whole “Spider-man! HELP!!!” …where does that come from? I mean, as others have pointed out, not only does Hobgoblin kill someone in his first appearance, we can see his thought balloons! Was he lying to himself? That’s just sloppy.

And the motivation they give the new Hobgoblin is “It made perfect sense. Jack O’Lantern was scared of Hobby and had gotten the snot kicked out of himself the last time they’d faced off.” (as per David in the linked column). Is THAT how you want to create a bad guy? Someone who’s scared and gotten the snot kicked out of him? That’ll set up a fearsome adversary.

At the time I remember everyone not thinking it was Ned Leeds because they made it so obvious, he had to be a red herring. And I was one of the few who thought it was Kingsley. He fit the mentality of the Hobgoblin, and certainly had appeared enough to be a suspect. But even if it was someone else, the idea of taking the only good bad guy created for Spider-man since when…Stan Lee….and having him killed off and embarrassed to only replace him with a loser is just painfully dumb. Even Owlsley says it was dumb to David. And it undercuts the whole Spiderman/Wolverine story which was great on its own merits, because you don’t really care that Ned was killed, and the shocker of it WAS that they bumped off a big suspect in a side story.

It has to go down as one of the all time biggest wastes of a character in comic book history.

Bill Williamson

April 10, 2014 at 2:09 pm

See, if only Stern had stayed on the book…

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