Marvel are the best at being the worst. It's a phrase that we've used often here on What Were They Thinking (the series where we look at all the stupidest, most ill-advised things in comic book history). Whether it's terrible storylines (usually involving a respected female character being abused in some form or another), awful farmed out reboots or being assholes to creators, it's amazing that Marvel actually function. Oh and lets not forget the crossovers, which, if they had physical form, would look like something out of Resident Evil they're so messed up. And the resurrections of course, I mean, we covered those enough on the last two lists, but when you can't even let Barney Barton stay dead after over 40 years, you know you've got a problem.
So, as I'm sure you've all guessed by now, this week we're talking about Marvel, but which stupid incident is it this week. Which screwy storyline are we going to laugh at? Well, how about a storyline that actually shouldn't have been screwy, but then the editors got involved. Ladies and gentle-mutants, I give you; The Hobgoblin Saga.
First, a little backstory to this.
Green Goblin was introduced back in July of 1964 in The Amazing Spider-Man #14. As I'm sure everyone is aware, he very quickly became somewhat of a classic villain, but his secret identity was not revealed until issue #39, some two whole years later, when he was revealed to be Norman Osborn, father to Peters best friend Harry Osborn. Of course, it was a shocking reveal and made Green Goblin even more iconic, a status which was further cemented in the 1973 when Goblin killed Peters girlfriend Gwen Stacy. The two part storyline ended with Osborn impaled on his own Goblin Glider (a scene familiar to anyone who saw the original Sam Rami Spider-Man film) and presumed dead.
So, why is that all important? Well, in the 80's Marvel started to get antsy about wanting Spider-Man to fight Green Goblin again, and put pressure on a number of writers to do so. However, because it was the 80's and Marvel hadn't started resurrecting every single character they'd ever killed off, bringing back the original Goblin was somewhat problematic. However, the creative team behind The Amazing Spider-Man at the time, Roger Stern (writer) and John Romita Jr. (artist), came up with a novel solution. Why not create a new character for Spider-Man to fight who was inspired by Green Goblin, but wasn't actually Green Goblin. Neither man wanted to bring Osborn back from the dead nor make Harry Osborn the Green Goblin again, so they felt that making this new character was the best way out. Fortunately, the guys upstairs liked it and it was greenlit. The new character was called Hobgoblin and he debuted in The Amazing Spider-Men #238 (March '83) using all of Green Goblins toys but had a much more medieval looking costume thanks to Romita Jr. The creative team didn't reveal this new Goblin's identity, aiming to keep the mystery running for one issue longer than the mystery of the original Green Goblin's identity, 26 issues, meaning his identity would be revealed in TASM #264 in May 1985. That's where the problems started.
The plan by Stern and Romita Jr. was always to have Hobgoblin turn out to be Roderick Kingsley, a wealthy businessman whom they had introduced in the first issue of The Spectacular Spider-Man (TASM's sister publication), even going as far as giving Kingsley a look-a-like brother who sometimes impersonated him so as to make some sort of duplicity obvious. And then both men left the title, Stern leaving after issue #250 due to (surprise surprise) difficulty working with his new Editor (what is it with Spider-Man and having editors who can't work with the creative team?) and Romita Jr. moving over to work on the X-Men with Chris Claremount, which was a good thing because that run was awesome. So, with the two gone, the creative duties fell to Tom DeFalco and Ron Frenz. And now things take a tumble down the BS tree.
DeFalco, disagreed with Stern's original idea to have Kingsley be Hobgoblin, feeling that the identical brothers scheme was a cheat on the readers. He instead planned to make Hobgoblin Richard Fisk, son of the Kingpin of Crime Wilson Fisk and have Kingsley instead be revealed as the crime lord The Rose. Now, anyone who knows a bit about Spider-Man history will be rightfully confused by this because it's the wrong way round. Guess what happened. Yup, DeFalco fell out with his editor, because of course he did (and it was the same guy who fell out with all the guys who went on to form Image in the 90's btw, James Owsley). This whole thing gets really strange at this point because at a creators conference meeting Owsley asked DeFalco who he intended for Hobgoblin to be and DeFalco told him that he intended for it to be Ned Leeds (a reporter for the Daily Bugle), which was a lie. However, Owsley then wrote a one shot comic, Spider-Man vs. Wolverine, in which Leeds was killed and then instructed the writer of The Spectacular Spider-Man, Peter David, to reveal Hobgoblin's identity as the mercenary/ assassin The Foreigner. David refused to do this as he wanted to follow what he thought was DeFalco's original plan of having Leeds be the culprit and so the Hobgoblin's identity was revealed, posthumously, to be Ned Leeds (which was not exactly popular with the fans) and then a new Hobgoblin was created and his identity revealed to be a character called Jason Macendale, meaning DeFalco was forced to make Richard Fisk The Rose instead, rather than going with his original plan. Following me so far? So, the current story is that the original writer left, the second writer changed who the character was meant to be then lied to his editor who killed of the character who he thought it was to piss off the writer and then that change was made cannon by a different writer thus screwing over the second writers original story. And it gets messier.
So, this new Hobgoblin stuck around for a while, going through the 90's and gaining actual demonic powers and then becoming a cyborg because 90's. And then Roger Stern came back into the picture. As you might expect, he was not best pleased with how his character had been handled, as you would be when you character was used as a prop in what was basically a dick swinging contest between the creative team and the editors. He then went on to retcon all of the stupidity with the Hobgoblin Lives storyline that revealed that Ned Leeds was never the Hobgoblin in the first place and that he'd been brainwashed. Who was he brainwashed by? That would be Roderick Kingsley, the guy who was meant to be Hobgoblin all along. And you know what the best part about this all is? The reveal of the Hobgoblins identity didn't happen until 1997. By that point Marvel had brought back Norman Osborn and no-one could care less about the now inferior rip-off that the editorial and creative teams had spent the best part of the last decade trying to ruin because they just couldn't get on. Even the "fake" reveal of Ned Leeds didn't happen until 1987 in issue #289 of TASM, a full 25 issues later that it was originally planned (to put that into perspective, the same amount of issues as the original Green Goblin reveal). All because of editorial idiocy. Hobgoblin went from being a character fans thought of as one of the greatest Spider-Man villains ever to a joke and not even a needed retcon could save him. And it's not like Marvel haven't managed to do a villain that span off another established and beloved Spider-Man villain otherwise is it? I mean, it's not like Carnage (Venom) exists at all, or Kraven The Hunter (Chameleon), or the any different variations of mob boss that want to take Kingpin's place as top crime lord of New York (see Silvermane, Hammerhead, The Rose etc.). This was practically a slam dunk for classic storyline that would make a classic villain, but because of editorial dicking around we got a confused mess of a story and a villain who is now C-List at best in Spider-Man's overflowing classic rogues gallery and Z-List at best in the wider scheme of things. So, if there's a lesson to learn from this it's that Jim Owsley should not have been allowed to be editor for Spider-Man, because he can't play nice with the other children.
Honestly, sometimes I think comic book companies should just hire a guy whose job it is to stand around in the office and every time someone does something stupid or suggests a stupid storyline or the editorial team/ publishers get arsy with the staff, they take a big wet fish, preferably something sizeable like a whole Tuna, a slap them round the back of the head and say "No. No you cannot do that, sit down, shut up, do your job and make a decent comic." I'll volunteer for the position if there's a vacancy, but I'm sure there are plenty of people who'd be lining up at the chance to give Geoff Johns, Dan Didio, Joe Quesada and Axel Alonso a good stiff smack round the head.
And with that