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Death is Not the End – How Did the Green Goblin Survive Being Impaled In the Heart By His Own Glider?

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In this feature, we spotlight the outlandish explanations for comic book characters (mostly super-villains) surviving seeming certain death.

Today, we look at a death I looked at a few years ago in Abandoned an’ Forsaked, but it works here, as well – how did Norman Osborn, the Green Goblin, survive getting impaled in the heart?

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.

So how did he survive? Go to the next page to find out!

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51 Comments

Of course he could survive being staked through the heart. He’s not a vampire.

I just wonder if enough people were paid off to not notice that the guy on the slab *wasn’t* a famous industrialist.

Has anyone ever explained why Norman (and Harry) Osborn’s hair looks like corduroy?

@cool arrow It was just meant to be short curly hair. Google John Oxendine to see a real life human being who has the same hair that the Osborne’s sport. It’s one of those things like Jughead’s hat that become a stylized caricature of a real life thing because the modern artists don’t really get what it is that they are portraying.

Not that good, either. I suppose it’s the counterpart of all the “original” heroes who come back and displace the leagcies.

I never read Osborn Journal. How was it explained that he never came out of retirement when for example the Hobgoblin arrived on the scene and stole all his stuff? And how did he know the Jackal?

Cully –

It was just meant to be short curly hair. Google John Oxendine to see a real life human being who has the same hair that the Osborne’s sport. It’s one of those things like Jughead’s hat that become a stylized caricature of a real life thing because the modern artists don’t really get what it is that they are portraying.

I’m not sure that’s the case. Ditko himself called it a “distinctive hair style” unique enough to show Norman and Harry were related:
http://goodcomics.comicbookresources.com/2013/01/04/comic-book-legends-revealed-400-part-1/

Fisk: he left for Europe to give Harry a chance to be a man/goblin (goblin-man?), where he set up wheels within wheels within wheels to ruin Parker’s life and finally get revenge, and couldn’t disrupt them just for the Hobgoblin. It’s summed up here, if you don’t mind spoilers:

http://www.thegreengoblinshideout.com/norman-s-european-exploits

I like how on the bottom of the page where the Goblin flumps to the floor dead we have that line which says “He’s back from the dead!”

Yeahhhhh… it’s referring to another character, but in retrospect it’s almost like a meta-message. ;-)

And here I thought the answer to why Osborns suddenly stopped being dead was just “Oh, did I say dead? I meant he’s in Europe.”

Spoilers: DC’s Rebirth is just everybody dying and pushing blue sheets off their misidentified corpses.

Why did the press blame Spidey for Osborn’s death? Was there web fluid around or something?

Also, while it was kind of fun to have Osborn become the Marvel U’s Lex Luthor, I do wish he’d stayed dead (Aunt May too.) I feel like Wilson Fisk could’ve filled that role if they wanted him to do so.

If I was in charge of Spider-Man, I would reveal that Norman did die in ASM 122, and that the Norman seen since the 90s Clone Saga was a clone who only thought he was the original.

And of course, there was an Avengers annual in the late 80s/early 90s where we got another “Legion of the Unliving” that included, among other characters, the Green Goblin (and Bucky!). You can always fall back on the idea that the Grandmaster resurrected that psychiatrist who temporarily became the Goblin, but at the time of publication it was obviously intended to be Norman.

Anyway, anyone who appears in a Legion of the Unliving probably isn’t going to be dead for long.

I always thought Norman and his hairstyle were derived from Joseph Cotten circa Citizen Kane.

Considering the state of Spidey’s Rogue’s Gallery in the mid-90s, Marvel’s hand was forced to bring back Norman. It’s one of those things that the purist fan in me disagrees with (the GG’s death capped off one of the most famous superhero stories ever), but the pragmatist “I want to keep reading entertaining Spider-Man stories” fan in me accepts the resurrection as a necessary evil. Otherwise, we would have just been getting more and more stories with Jackal, Judas Traveller and Scrier.

Mark –

“Otherwise, we would have just been getting more and more stories with Jackal, Judas Traveller and Scrier.”

They created the Hobgoblin so that they wouldn’t need to bring Norman back from the dead.

I’m not sure that’s the case. Ditko himself called it a “distinctive hair style” unique enough to show Norman and Harry were related:
http://goodcomics.comicbookresources.com/2013/01/04/comic-book-legends-revealed-400-part-1/

I don’t see how that contradicts what he said. It can both be a distinctive hair style unique enough to show they’re related and be a stylized version of John Oxendine’s hair texture. Hair like John Oxendine in real ife is still pretty distinctive and unique.

Considering the state of Spidey’s Rogue’s Gallery in the mid-90s, Marvel’s hand was forced to bring back Norman. It’s one of those things that the purist fan in me disagrees with (the GG’s death capped off one of the most famous superhero stories ever), but the pragmatist “I want to keep reading entertaining Spider-Man stories” fan in me accepts the resurrection as a necessary evil. Otherwise, we would have just been getting more and more stories with Jackal, Judas Traveller and Scrier.

I disagree. There will still many good Spider-Man villains left, and they could always have brought back Harry, who in reality became a far more effective and better supervillain than Norman was. In the 90s under JM DeMatteis they really upped Harry’s threat level before killing him off.

Spider-Man has one of the most robust rogues’ galleries of any character in comics, certainly right up there with Batman and more so than the Flash. Did all of them just go missing in the 90s, only to return in the 21st century? I don’t get the need for the Goblin at all, but then he’s never been one of my favorites and I get tired of his overuse.

I’m not a fan of this particular resurrection, but it’s one of the “cleaner” ones they’ve concocted. Formula gives super-strength, and yes, he heals fast. It’s a pretty logical extrapolation from super-strength — cellular regeneration and regrowth.

Thanks for the favorable comments about THE OSBORN JOURNAL. I was proud of the way it turned out, and the fact that so much of it has been kept as part of the canon all these years later.

What’s with that scarring in The Osborn Journal? It looks more like he took a flamethrower to the chest than a couple of tin stakes.

Glenn – I got into Spider-Man/comics years after the clone saga happened and I read the event in retrospect. I loved it. To me, it always worked very well, as if the eventual outcome was planned from the start (even if I knew it wasn’t). The Osborn Journal especially worked to that extent: both as glue to properly tie everything together & as lubricant to smoothen the seeming contradictions.into sense, and a great read by itself as well. It was really well done, one of my favourite one-shots. You’ve all right to feel proud!

I’ve said it so in other threads, but the reason I really dislike Norman’s return is because I believe villains that manage to permanently kill or maim a central character, like Norman did with Gwen Stacy, should be dealt with permanently. The guys at Marvel in the 1970s correctly recognize this need when they offed Norman.

I don’t like it when nihilistic despair enters mainstream superhero stories. Having the killer of Gwen Stacy walking around healthy, happy, and free as a bird, with the heroes unable to do anything about it makes me sick. This is Spider-Man, not the Hannibal Lecter Hour.

There never would have been a need to bring Norman back if they hadn’t destroyed the Hobgoblin in all that editorial back biting at the time. The Hobgoblin was actually cooler than Green Goblin ever was, who became more of Spidey arch-enemy in death than he was in life. Then they “killed” him, replaced him with lame Jack O Lantern, and did things like Demogoblin and stuff. Ugh. At that point it hardly mattered if they brought Norman back. But he was better dead. If we did a greatest Goblin stories every, how many post death featuring Norman would make the top ten? (Though it may not have saved us from him boinking Gwen Stacy).

And I thought one of these posts had the Joseph Cotton hair thing spelled out too.

Frankly, I always preferred to think of Doctor Octopus as Spider-Man’s arch-enemy. The Goblin was always one of those villains where, for me, the overall story line (including the various successors) was more interesting than the actual character. In that sense, the character’s return kinda bugs me. Having said that, given how much the Marvel universe has changed over the years, it’s almost fun to see a character who seems so completely “silver age” make such a big comeback. It does make me worry, though- both the Green Goblin and Bucky have come back from the dead- death really doesn’t seem to mean much in the Marvel Universe anymore. The writers are both too ready to kill characters and too ready to bring them back.

I’ve said it so in other threads, but the reason I really dislike Norman’s return is because I believe villains that manage to permanently kill or maim a central character, like Norman did with Gwen Stacy, should be dealt with permanently. The guys at Marvel in the 1970s correctly recognize this need when they offed Norman.

I don’t like it when nihilistic despair enters mainstream superhero stories. Having the killer of Gwen Stacy walking around healthy, happy, and free as a bird, with the heroes unable to do anything about it makes me sick. This is Spider-Man, not the Hannibal Lecter Hour.

Exactly. It makes the heroes seem impotent. If I wanted to read about an impotent hero who lets serial killers who have maimed and injured friends and lovers run around free and unbothered, I’d read modern Batman stories.

And I thought one of these posts had the Joseph Cotton hair thing spelled out too.

I don’t think so, I think there is just one poster who keeps repeating that theory in the comments.

The problem I see here is: if they missed the Green Goblin, why bother bringing back Norman Osborn back if he wasn’t going to be the Goblin, but instead a –as Wizard Magazine said– a “Kingpin wannabe”?

(And he had a contingency plan which would include a fake I.D. and a huge ammount of money transferred to this fake I.D. without anybody in the Oscorp financial department noticing? –I mean, settling in Europe and backing up a cloning facility cost a lot, doesn’t it?)

“Spider-Man has one of the most robust rogues’ galleries of any character in comics, certainly right up there with Batman and more so than the Flash. Did all of them just go missing in the 90s, only to return in the 21st century?”

Spider-Man has a lot of rogues, but how many of them could conceivably execute a plan on this level? If The Lizard or Electro or Sandman or Vulture started working like that, it would be a huge shift. (And Sandman was still a sometimes hero and Electro was being retooled anyway, and Vulture had just had a big relaunch as a young dude that just didn’t work at all.)

So who could it be? Doctor Octopus had been killed in the Clone Saga *and* replaced by a woman. Harry was at least as dead as Norman and far less focused on being evil; it would raise a lot of “Wait, how?” questions to fit into his continuity.

I don’t think Norman was a good decision, but I can see how it was the least bad one.

He came back because the Spidey comics were in the toilet due to the 246 part Clone saga.

Glenn-

The Osborn Journal feels like something we’d never get nowadays and I’ve always appreciated the deft weaving of continuity in it. Thank YOU!

Except that the Journal was admitted by Norman to be fake and part of some strange plot to get peter to bring it to the police where the ink would have disappeared and all the meanwhile norman would be holding aunt may in his townhouse for reasons

Spider-Man has a lot of rogues, but how many of them could conceivably execute a plan on this level? If The Lizard or Electro or Sandman or Vulture started working like that, it would be a huge shift.

I probably just skipped over something, but I have no idea what plan you’re talking about, so I can’t really address specifics. I don’t know what story people may have felt they needed Norman for.

That said, for grand master plan stuff, if Dock Ock was out of action, that would leave Kingpin, Mysterio, the aforementioned Jackal… and some other people who I guess were also dead at the time, and others who came along later.

Electro, by the way, is working a very grand master plan right now in the Web Warriors comic, but it’s a multiverse thing so it’s not “our” Electro but a whole bunch of Electros working in concert.

Bringing Norman back ruined a classic story. They successfully introduced the Hobgoblin as a worthy successor but ended up ruining him. If Gwen Stacy is ever brought back I won’t ever buy another Marvel comic.

Agreed with Valentijn and Mike P. I remember reading that one-shot years ago (now I feel old) and while the art looks a bit ’90s these days, reading through those scans wasn’t a chore.

JP: er… have you been keeping up with Spider-verse comics?

My big problem with his return is they had an interesting situation going for a while: Norman was dead and yet his evil was still causing problems for Spider-Man. How do you stop someone’s who’s dead from continuing to ruin lives? Having him be alive makes him a threat that can be punched, which is less interesting to me.

Wait… Why wasn’t there an open casket at the funeral? The wounds wouldn’t have prevented it from happening, and surely… Oh hell. I give up.

Did I miss something ? Or doesn’t anybody mention Norman Osborn’s involvement in Gwen Stacy and the twins? Yeeesh what’s up with that storyline? is it still canon?

Andy Nystrom, I like your thinking.

Some people say that the Death and Return of Superman killed death in comics forever, but I think this is really where comic books jumped the shark.

Jean Grey… hey, she’s called Phoenix. What do you expect?
Superman… he’s Superman.

But Norman Osborn? A guy who had been dead for decades brought back as the mastermind behind the Clone Saga… AND Aunt May’s death/non-death. Too much.

I came to Spider-man late in the game. By the time I read, all that stuff with the Green Goblins and Hobgoblin had already gone on. I didn’t know the difference, to tell you the truth. Except Harry Osborne was once the Goblin and I guess his dad was. Harry had a psychotic episode (or something) and forgot that Spider-man was Peter Parker. About that time he put on the suit again and then a short time later he died in Spectacular Spider-man #200. I really had no emotional attachment to the Norman Osborne character. Gwen Stacy was just someone I heard about that was Peter’s girlfriend at one time. It was just Marvel trying to bring back some glory to the book and I don’t think that ever got it back. I was bummed Ben Reilly died. I was getting used to the idea of him being Spider-man. :)

My first comics ever were the Green Goblin / Bart Hamilton issues. I didn’t start actually collecting until the Hobgoblin issues. When Hobgoblin used the serum to gain super strength, I thought that the Green Goblin had always had super strength too! That how the story reads from the ’80’s. It was an article here that pointed that out less than a year ago I think.

Until then (Spectacular Spider-Man 85?) none of the Green Goblins had had any super powers at all. Just tech.

When Norman died, he didn’t have super strength or regenerative powers. It wasn’t until a retcon ten years later that he “gained” those powers. Then that retcon was used to create another retcon where he never died at all. Which served to retcon another story where Aunt May never died.

I wonder which new powers he’ll gain that allowed him to fake Uncle Ben’s death?

Teek –

Except, Jean didn’t come back to life. She was retconned as never dying in the first place. That was not in keeping with the superhero name and did more damage to a classic storyline than an straight resurrection, IMO. Also, I wonder how many people would react well to Iron Fist’s hand being turned into actual iron, or Cyclops losing an eye, or Daredevil being possessed by Evel Knievel, because of their superhero names… Jean’s return caused great damage by setting the precedent of discarding one of Marvel’s better stories for the sake of shock and sales.

Superman’s return did irreparable damage by making death and resurrection into a cynically planned stunt.

Norman’s return just used the bad precedent set by Jean’s.

I loved how John Byrne revealed that Sandman was related to the Osborns in CHAPTER ONE. Of course they must have been related–they had the same hair!

Andy Nystrom, not everyone has the body at the funeral. My father’s memorial was 100% corpse free.

Delarsco, are you replying to the right person / thread? Andy’s only comment here that I can find has nothing to do with whether the body was at the funeral?

Well, it’s hard for me to take the death of Superman seriously as some kind of broken contract with the reader, because despite the hype (and unlike Phoenix and the Goblin) it was never plausible that it was going to last long. The seeds for his return were sown immediately.

Buttler –

I dislike the Death of Superman not because I felt “cheated” (I knew he would be back, everyone above a certain age and knowledgeable about comics knew Superman would be back), but because it started the trend of Marvel/DC structuring their stories, marketing, and publishing schedules around empty events. Death of Superman was not the first event, but I think it was the first event that I knew from the get go that it was much ado about nothing. With Crisis, Legends, or even Secret Wars I felt that they were more like stories with real consequences (okay, real in a fictional context…).

I agree with Freedy, Bryan, and Alaric.

That said, it was one of the better resurrections that fictional narratives have. Yet, (again) weakened by the clone saga overlap.

Despite all that, Spidey needs his own “Joker.”

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