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"But you, Parker... How does it feel to once again, let a friend down? You seem to have quite a history of failing your friends and loved ones. Dear, sweet Gwendolyn, your deceased girlfriend who died so young. Your beloved aunt May, who asked for so little of you and received exactly that until she was taken from you. My son, Harry. You claimed to be his friend, his confidant, and when he needed you most, you failed him as you do everyone else who gets close to you."
—Peter Parker Spider-Man #95
Norman Osborn, also known as The Green Goblin, is a character appearing in Marvel comic books. The Arch Enemy of popular Marvel superhero Spider-Man, Norman is most closely associated with Spidey, though in more recent years Osborn has become more active in story arcs outside of the Spiderverse. He became increasingly prominent in Civil War, an importance which led to his biggest role to date: the Big Bad of the Marvel Crisis Crossover event Dark Reign.
The Green Goblin first appeared in "Amazing Spider-Man" vol. 1 #14 (July, 1964), created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko. The face of Norman Osborn first appeared in cameos in issues #23, and #25-26 (April, 1965, and June-July, 1965). The previously unnamed character received his name in issue #37 (June, 1966). In issue #40 (September, 1966), Norman and the Goblin were revealed to be the same person, concluding a mystery storyline. The idea is attributed to Lee. Ditko quit the title a couple of issues prior to that point, reportedly disagreeing with the direction the series was taking.
Norman Virgil Osborn was born to a respected and rich family of Osborns. When Normie was a child, his father Amberson ruined the business and became bankrupt. As an adult, Norman worked to regain the family's power and money, vowing never to become the failure his father was. He married, but a year after his son Harry was born his wife Emily died, leaving Norman a widower and single father. He soon proved to be a neglectful parent, ignoring Harry in favor of his main goal: getting more power and money. Eventually he gained control of Oscorp corporation by framing his business partner Mendel Stromm. In Stromm's papers were notes on a serum he had discovered, which Norman tried to replicate for his own use. He failed. (Ironically, not entirely of his own fault, but Harry, angry that his father was neglecting him, switched some chemicals before the experiment)
The formula altered Norman's body. He became a super human: stronger, faster, more intelligent. Yet the serum also turned Osborn, who had never been entirely stable, into a total psychopath. Norman took on a double life: by night, a grotesque super-villain mastermind; by day a respected businessman. In his new persona as The Green Goblin, Osborn terrorized New York City with a bat-shaped jet glider, pumpkin bombs, razor bats, and insane laughter, thwarted from taking over the New York underworld only by repeated interference from Spider-Man. Soon, Osborn's interest in becoming the crime-lord of New York diminished; he had become obsessed with Spider-Man and his desire to get revenge upon him. Green Goblin was the first villain to discover Spidey's secret identity, which knowledge he used to attack and capture Peter, but it ended in defeat for Norman, who subsequently lost his memories of being the Green Goblin. After some time he remembered everything and returned to battle Spider-Man, only to be defeated and lose his memories once again. Yet their last clash was marked by tragedy, for it took place in Amazing Spider-Man #121-122 (June-July, 1973), an event which changed comic books history forever.
For 23 years, Osborn vanished and was believed dead. However his evil legacy lived on with several goblin-themed villains, including his own son Harry. At the conclusion of The Clone Saga, Norman was shown to be alive, having been orchestrating events from somewhere in Europe, and that it was he who had been behind the Clone Saga. He returned to his campaign of tormenting Peter Parker, through legal and illegal acts, until he was finally caught -- and released by Iron Man to help him in the Civil War. This ended badly. Very badly.
After his day in the spotlight as the Top Cop of Marvel Universe, Norman Osborn was put into prison yet again, only to break out mere months later to unite the Goblin Cult, HYDRA, A.I.M, Hand and HAMMER into his own new organization. He revived the Dark Avengers and defeated not one but two teams of Avengers (directly with the Avengers; indirectly with the New Avengers) before his pride cost him everything yet again.
Osborn has two identities, which diverged into two distinct personalities as a result of Osborn coming up short in the Gathering of Five. To elaborate, the Gathering of Five was a mystical ceremony that bestows the five people gathered with power, insanity, immortality, knowledge, or death. Osborn set it up aiming to get power, but wound up with insanity instead. Mattie Franklin got power, Cassandra Webb (Madame Web) got immortality, and the other two schmucks were unimportant one-shots. One of his identities is the crazy mass murderer Green Goblin, who is one of the best examples of a deadly lunatic. The other is Norman Osborn, the Corrupt Corporate Executive and sociopathic chess master. Sometimes these personalities merge together and cooperate, but other times they fight.
His comics appearances are mainly in the pages of Amazing Spider-Man, Peter Parker Spider-Man, Civil War, Dark Reign, New Avengers, and others. He starred in his own miniseries, Osborn: Evil Incarcerated, showing his time in jail after Dark Reign. Norman Osborn has appeared in other media, including the Spider-Man films (played by Willem Dafoe Dafoooeee), Spider-Man: The Animated Series, The Spectacular Spider-Man and The Ultimate Spider-Man animated series. He was also a playable character in Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2.
Norman Osborn is the Trope Namer for:
- Abusive Father: Had one, and was one to Harry.
- Ambition Is Evil: Reason he became what he became.
- Arch Enemy: One of them for Spidey. Though, since his return in the 90's, he has eclipsed the other two.
- Ascended Fanboy: Apparently he was a big fan of comic books as a child.
- Ax Crazy
- Badass in a Nice Suit
- Bad Boss: To the Thunderbolts and the Dark Avengers.
- Oscorp employees, too. During "The Final Chapter" arc, he uses several employees as unknowing test subjects for his DNA weapon. The first Pulse storyline also demonstrated his habit of murdering his employees to satisfy his urges.
- Being Tortured Makes You Evil: Attempted to invoke this with Peter. Nearly succeeded. Added a lot of points to Peter's woobie factor.
- Big Bad: For a lot of Spidey's recent existence. And of Dark Reign.
- Blue Blood: Comes from old robber baron money. His father squandered the family fortune and Norman built it back up.
- Board to Death
- Broken Ace
- Canon Immigrant: Thematic example. In Revenge of the Green Goblin, Osborn, his son Harry then long dead, started to realize that Peter himself was everything he ever wanted in a son and heir -- smart, resourceful, tough, and able to live through everything life throws at him. This was since retconned out of existence (partly because Harry is back, partly because Norman no longer knows who Spidey is), but it was well received and became an integral part of his character in other media, such as the movie and the The Spectacular Spider Man cartoon. So successful some more recent fans thought it was an integral part of the character.
- Character Development
- Color Coded for Your Convenience
- Cool Glider
- Corrupt Corporate Executive: Despite a common belief, he predates Lex Luthor in this department. (That is, Luthor is an older character, but wasn't portrayed in a corporate position until the 1980's.)
- To be fair, he wasn't so much corrupt as ruthless. He became more corrupt in his Norman personality AFTER he had become a super-villain (not taking retcons into account).
- The Corrupter: Osborn used his own past as the Green Goblin to manipulate the emotionally unstable Sentry into denying the existence of the Void, the Golden Avenger's evil side. After the Sentry drinks more of the serum that gave him his powers, the Void takes complete control of their shared body, becoming Osborn's "secret weapon."
- Tries and fails to act as this to Peter, and somewhat more successfully does it with Harry.
- Crazy Prepared: Mac Gargan once described one of Norman's hideouts as a "cornucopia of plans and counter-plans."
- Cut Lex Luthor a Check: Frequently Lampshaded, though also inverted. The Hobgoblin only turned to crime becase he wasn't as smart as Norman, and thought Osborn had to be insane to use his amazing tech in the same way when he could easily make a fortune out of it. That said, Osborn is already a successful corporate millionare and his superbrain has only made him more money and power (ironically enough, he ended up buying out the Hobgoblin's own company when the latter tried to blackmail him). Nonetheless, he is still too messed up to use his mind to its fullest potential.
- Death Seeker: In one storyline (in which he Mind Rapes Spider-Man in an attempt to get Spidey to kill him.)
- Depending on the Writer: Mark Millar's version of the character is noticeably smarter -- bordering on Omnidisciplinary Scientist -- compared to most other takes on the character.
- Disproportionate Retribution: Probably two thirds of his plots are convoluted and incredibly nasty revenge schemes, usually involving a lot of Revenge by Proxy ever since he knocked Gwen Stacy off that bridge. But the real qualifier is his beef with Spider-Man in the first place- he originally wanted to kill him to get street cred in the criminal underworld; after two or three failed attempts at that, he then wanted to kill Spider-Man for foiling his previous attempts at killing Spider-Man.
- Don't Tell Mama
- Easy Amnesia: Formerly. Now mostly averted.
- Evil Counterpart: To Peter. Also to Tony Stark (including, but not limited to the Iron Patriot).
- Evil Genius
- Evil Has a Bad Sense of Humor: Type 2 at times as the Green Goblin. He can rival The Joker in this trope.
- Evil Is Petty: In his first appearance, he tried to kill Spidey in order to get respect in the New York underworld which he planned to take over. In his second appearance, he simply wanted to kill Spidey to get even, resulting in a 40 plus year rivalry where all of his plans revolved around messing with Peter Parker in some fashion. He really didn't do much villainy outside of that. If he put as much effort in taking over the world as he did in the Clone Saga, he would've been a Doctor Doom-level threat. Averted during Dark Reign in which he (kinda) moved on from simple "I wanna screw with Peter Parker" plans and joined the big leagues.
- Actually, he got up to a bucket load of evil stuff outside messing with Peter; most of it just happened to be Offstage Villainy. In-between his Killed Off for Real and Not Quite Dead phases (and for a time after that), he spent time in Europe taking over the Scrier organization and becoming a major crime lord, so he was involved in a lot of illegal and no doubt murderous activities (though admittedly he still used these resources to screw with Spidey). Shortly after A Death in the Family (when Peter says he's tired of their games) he was finally arrested- the reason being he'd switched to getting his jollies to murdering his employees and nosy journalists For the Evulz. And in Marvel Knights there is the infamous story he tells of the prison guard who came to him for medical advice about his sick wife... Her agonizing death was For the Evulz as well.
- Evil Laugh
- Evil Mentor: Once tried to be this to Peter. Nearly succeeded.
- Evil Redhead
- Evil Sounds Deep
- Oddly inverted in his pre-Spectacular cartoon appearances, where the Goblin had a high, screeching voice and laugh. (In fact, a later Goblin, Phil Urich, weaponized the laugh.)
- Faux Affably Evil
- For the Evulz: Green Goblin's motivation in all situations; and Norman Osborn's motivation in many.
- Gadgeteer Genius
- Gollum Made Me Do It: In The Movie
- Good Parents: In Spider-Man: The Animated Series.
- Hand Blast: His seldom-used finger lasers, called "Sparkle Blasts".
- Healing Factor: How he came Back From the Dead (or rather how he was Not Quite Dead). Though no-one seems to remember it and a lot of the time it's implied he can be killed in the normal way.
- He-Man Woman Hater: Gwen Stacy, Songbird, Mary Jane, Black Widow and other women are treated in a sexist way by Norman.
- Hero-Killer: In The Ultimate Universe, he manages to kill Spider Man, but seemingly dies as a result of being repeatedly clobbered with a truck.
- Hoist by His Own Petard
- I Know Your True Name: Was the first of Spider-Man's rogues gallery to learn his civilian identity, and put it to good use.
- Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: By his own glider.
- Impossibly Cool Weapons: The razor bats and the pumpkin bombs, especially in the movie.
- It's Personal: His conflict with Spider-Man
- Jekyll and Hyde: Subverted. Norman is (relatively) sane and the Goblin is crazy, but they're both evil.
- Kick the Dog: This is what Osborn lives for.
- Large Ham: At least in the movies (it's easy to see the fun Willem Dafoe is having), I'm a Marvel, and I'm a DC (where the Goblin even idolizes Dafoooeee) and Spider Man Turn Off the Dark (widely considered the most entertaining part of the show).
- Legacy Character: He was the first Green Goblin but his son and a few other people took up the mantle over the years. On top of that, the various Hobgoblins, the Demo-Goblin, the many Jack O' Lanterns, and other Spider-Man villains have taken their cues from Osborn as well.
- Living with the Villain
- Manipulative Bastard: Has taken several levels in this since his resurrection.
- The Mentally Disturbed: Has been consistently depicted with a range of mental illnesses, in addition to his psychopathic nature. He is a manic depressive, prone to violent mood swings and, untreated, paranoia, hallucinations and occasionally a Split Personality. This is in addition to his textbook sadism, egomania and antisocial personality, and they tend to make each other worse. It's very common for these to bite him in the ass particularly since he denies or covers up the fact that he has such "weaknesses". It especially threatens his attempts to be a Villain with Good Publicity, usually because he finds himself unable to control his homicidal urges.
- Ironically enough he's WORSE when he's relatively sane than when the Goblin is in control.
- When the Goblin is in control he is The Unfettered, so he doesn't really have to worry about all those mental issues as he no longer gives a damn. It's not really that he's worse as Osborn; it's just that, as Osborn, he swings between struggling with his problems and being in total denial about them, so they are less predictable and expected. As the Goblin, it's his bouts of mental health that are unusual.
- When Green Goblin is in control, he is much more dangerous physically because his endurance, crazy factor and his strength are at maximum. The weakness of Green Goblin is his inability to think clearly and focus. Osborn is physically weaker but much more dangerous because he can control his sadism directly: he can be cruel in cunning and efficient ways. For Spider-Man Green Goblin is more dangerous; for Peter Parker it is Norman Osborn.
- Ironically enough he's WORSE when he's relatively sane than when the Goblin is in control.
- Morality Pet: Harry; once in the 1970's Peter defeated the Goblin by showing him his overdosed son, causing the Goblin to actually cry and snap back to Norman's side. Was retconned. And now subverted to hell and back, as Norman has tried to murder his own son. For ratings.
- Also the Ultimate version, who asked to be killed after seeing what he did to Harry.
- Not So Different: The Hannibal Lecture in The Movie. Occasionally in the comics. He really does have a lot in common with Peter.
- Victoria Hand tries to give Spider-Man a "not-so-different" by proxy in New Avengers, but Spidey's not buying it.
- Offscreen Villain Dark Matter
- The Omniscient Council of Vagueness: The Cult of Scryer.
- Politically-Incorrect Villain
- Powered Armor: Iron Patriot.
- Putting on the Reich: During the Dark Reign storyline, oh so much. Gets Lampshaded in the Dark X-Men series, in a moment of dark comedy, where Nate Grey is telling the Dark X-Men how he could have made their futures better. Norman's response? "Tomorrow belongs to me"
- Retcon: In the 1960's and 1970's he was portrayed as being a decent guy before becoming the Goblin, however since his return it's been established that even before he became the Goblin he was quite a bastard.
- Secret Circle of Secrets: The Cult of Scryer, Cabal, Goblin Cult.
- Secret Identity Identity: Rare villainous example, in that it continues long after the audience and the hero, and eventually the in-universe public, find out about it, meaning he can be examined in a similar way to superheroes who struggle with these issues. Basically there are three or four Norman Osborns- the first two are the angry, embittered, insecure and crooked businessman from the 1960's and the Ax Crazy, unfettered, Mad Bomber Green Goblin alter-ego; the third, the smug, confident, monstrous billionaire industrialist and diabolical genius that blends the two personalities after he came Back From the Dead in the 1990's. The division between the three is blurred by Osborn's untreated mental illnesses like his schizophrenia and manic depression, and the third Osborn is currently in the middle of a Villainous BSOD that seems to be the Goblin re-emerging, though whether the Goblin has Taken A Level In Badass like Norman remains to be seen. Whether or not any or all of these different sides to Norman constitute Split Personality or are just a result of Norman being an extremely unstable Mood Swinger who suffers from delusions and hallucinations is Depending on the Writer.
- Self-Made Man: He comes from a rich family, but his father squandered their fortune, forcing Norman to build it back up himself.
- Smug Snake: Arrogant, misogynistic, and condescending, Norman is a very competent schemer, but is unable to roll with the unexpected and is frequently sabotaged by his own mental instability.
- Social Darwinist
- The Sociopath
- Stuffed in The Fridge: The classic example; the Goblin's killing of Gwen Stacy.
- Split Personality Takeover: Throughout the Dark Reign it was not a question of if the Green Goblin persona would take over Osborn, but when - helped along by the fact that his underlings kept sabotaging his anti-psychotic medication. The Goblin persona briefly won out just before Iron Man KO'd him, and Norman has been back in control since.
- Super-Powered Evil Side: Subverted. Played straight in the early stories when he got amnesia and lost his powers, but now his powers are permanent regardless of who is in control (though the Goblin has not actually been in control since he came back - although it succeeds in re-emerging just before Norman's defeat in Siege).
- Super Strength
- Tautological Templar: Is willing to murder his own son for ratings...all for the Greater Good, of course. If he hadn't spent the last 50 odd years being a Mad Bomber and Diabolical Mastermind who shamelessly gloated about his selfish quest for money and power, and had an obsessive and homicidal grudge against a well known superhero that extended to everyone who shook the hero's hand because said hero didn't let Osborn murder him years ago so Osborn could get enough street cred to become the dominant crime lord of New York City...you'd almost be inclined to believe him.
- Throw Down the Bomblet: His signature pumpkin bombs.
- Took a Level In Badass/Took a Level In Jerkass: He is several magnitudes more dangerous, calculating and sadistic than he was in his early appearances since he came Back From the Dead. The main reason for this is that though Osborn survived being Hoist by His Own Petard back in the 1970's, The Goblin seems to have been largely suppressed. The result though was that Norman retained his memories as the Goblin for once and evolved into a much more rational psychopath who was able to take advantage of his considerable strength, intelligence and resources, and since he decided that Evil Tastes Good he now frequently Kicks The Dog For the Evulz.
- He apparently did this again while forming the New Dark Avengers, to the point of stopping Luke Cage's punch with a single raised hand and then throwing him out to sea.
- Ubermensch: Got shades of this in The Movie. Also admired Hitler in one of the comics.
- Villainous Breakdown: Osborn's veneer of civility can only withstand so much, for so long.
- Villain with Good Publicity: Most of the time he presents himself as an ordinary citizen and businessman. Was arrested for crimes as Green Goblin and revealed to be a super-villain. Became popular again in Dark Reign.
- Voluntary Shapeshifting: Ultimate Goblin.
- We Can Rule Together: To Spidey, mainly in the movie but briefly in the comics.
- Well-Intentioned Extremist: In Dark Reign. Or rather, he thought he was one of these.
- Xanatos Roulette: The Clone Saga