Here is an 11″ x 18″ piece featuring one of my favorite super heroes, Marvel Comics’ Amazing Spider-Man fighting one of my personal favorites of Spidey’s bad guys… the original, mysterious Hobgoblin!
I’ve mentioned before that Spider-Man was one of my favorite super-heroes as a kid. (Sorry, Spidey. The Silver to Bronze Age Superman unquestionably holds the top spot.) I first discovered Spider-Man through the 1967 Spider-Man cartoon which in my home area of northern New Jersey where I grew up aired often on our channel 5. By the time, I discovered him in comic books, the cartoons had already made Spidey familiar and comfortable for me. There was no guessing and no unknowns. I didn’t know the X-Men. They didn’t have a cartoon, but Spidey, Peter, J. Jonah, Aunt May, Doctor Octopus, Sandman, Electro (my personal favorite!) and the rest I’d already gotten to know on the cartoon. If I jumped into one of Spidey’s comics there wasn’t that “lost” period where I had to hang in there while I tried to figure out who everyone was. (This always required a minimum effort when I was a kid. Usually after an issue or two, you were all caught up and you knew enough of the main players to get by. I have NO idea how a kid is supposed to figure out who’s who in a book nowadays. This of course is just ONE symptom of why the comic book industry is where it unfortunately is today!)
My very first Spider-Man comic book was The Amazing Spider-Man #219 which drew me in because of the very graphic and striking cover featuring a raggedy and angry Peter Parker behind bars with the large translucent figure of Spider-Man crying out in dramatic rage behind him. Being a kid who still hadn’t learned to pay attention to the credits, I had no idea that was a Frank Miller cover. Something about Peter Parker being in jail hooked me and I picked up that issue. Oddly enough, that same month, Marvel also had an issue of Captain America where Cap was behind bars on the cover too and that one became my first Captain America. I wasn’t yet a regular reader, but The Amazing Spider-Man #220 guest starred Moon Knight who had just become a favorite so I had to get that issue.
After that, I bought The Amazing Spider-Man sporadically until the late #’s 220’s to the early #’s 230’s. Around there, I started becoming hooked on Peter Parker’s problems and before I knew it, I coming back every month. I don’t know when the team of writer Roger Stern and artist John Romita Jr started, but it was their run that definitely nailed me down as a regular reader.
In the legendary The Amazing Spider-Man #238, Stern and Romita introduced us to a brand new bad guy, the Hobgoblin. Although an obvious heir to the role of Norman Osborn’s Green Goblin, Hobby almost immediately proved himself to be more than as one letter writer noted “a Green Goblin IV.” He had the same bag of tricks as Norman and the same glider and he even had the same shtick the original Green Goblin had in his earliest days where he always managed to get away at the end of his stories and his identity was always kept hidden even from the reader. It may have been an old ploy, but since I was too young to have read those early Goblin stories as they had originally rolled out, the mystery of the Hobgoblin was deliciously fresh to me. I loved him. I loved his look with the snappy blue and orange complimentary color scheme. I loved his sinister, cool, calculating demeanor. He wasn’t the mad man Norman was. He wasn’t going to be just a green “Joker” on a bat glider. He was his own villain with his own agenda: To amass Norman’s power by raiding all of Norman’s old secret hideouts. It was great and I excitedly looked forward to each new Hobgoblin appearance. Unlike Venom, Marvel seemed to show restraint with the Hobgoblin. Maybe he didn’t make the loud splash that Venom did, but Hobby wasn’t trotted out every issue. He was used sparingly… which was also in the tradition of Norman Osborn. If one goes back and counts up the original Green Goblin’s appearances, there probably aren’t more than eight or so before he killed Gwen and them …albeit unintentionally… himself!
Despite a spectacular start, the saga of the Hobgoblin unfolded into one of the greatest disappointments I ever had as a comic book fan. Sadly, writer and Hobgoblin creator Roger Stern left The Amazing Spider-Man before he concluded his Hobgoblin story arc. In fact, he left even before he ever disclosed who the Hobgoblin really was! Unfortunately, Hobby went on to get caught up in a behind the scenes feud that would leave him permanently damaged. Articles have been written about this so I won’t go into it here. I’ll just say that Hobgoblin’s story left me very dissatisfied. He was revealed… very randomly to have been Peter Parker’s one-time rival Ned Leeds and then he was just as arbitrarily killed off in a horribly unspectacular way. What a let-down!
Years later, Roger Stern did return to set the record straight in the mini series The Hobgoblin Lives but sadly that wasn’t enough to cleanse years of disappointment and Stern’s revelation of his true intention for the Hobgoblin’s secret identity was almost as unsatisfying as the Ned Leeds revelation. Stern intended for Hobgoblin to have been revealed as cranky fashion designer, Roderick Kingsley. Ugh. I know. Who cares? His fashion design background might explain the cool Hobgoblin costume, but little else of it really delivered.
To me, the REAL Hobgoblin is still out there and is still unmasked. As he’d done before with Lefty Donovan and even Flash Thompson, the Hobgoblin liked to use red herrings to throw Spidey off his trail. I’d like to think that the Roderick Kingsley revelation was another such ploy. The REAL Hobby is out there cunningly laying low and plotting his next move.
Maybe that move will look something like my drawing above!