Friday, January 21, 2011

WEB OF SPIDER-MAN #67 - August 1990

With Friends like These!

Credits: Gerry Conway (plot), Ben Trovato (script), Alex Saviuk (penciler), Keith Williams (inker), Rick Parker (letterer), Bob Sharen (colorist)

The Plot: Spider-Man follows Harry Osborn and tries to talk him out of reassuming the Green Goblin identity. Harry refuses to listen, maintaining that he’s restoring the Osborn legacy by acting as a hero. Later, Spider-Man tracks Harry to his secret headquarters and initiates a fight, hoping to teach him a lesson about the dangers of costumed crimefighting. Harry relents, and discreetly thanks “Peter” as Spider-Man swings away.

The Subplots: Tombstone emerges from the chamber with enhanced strength and invulnerability. He travels to Hammerhead’s home and declares that he’s the new crimeboss.

Web of Continuity: Tombstone no longer speaks with this trademark whisper, which is supposed to be a sign that the experimental gas has even strengthened his voice. This idea is quickly ignored (it was never established if Tombstone chooses to speak with a whisper or has weak vocal chords, anyway), as the whisper returns next issue.

Production Note: Some people have speculated that “Ben Trovato” is a pen name for John Byrne, but I’ve never heard any confirmation, nor do I know how the rumor started. Ben Trovato is actually an Italian term, so this is presumably someone's pen name.

Review: It’s funny how you can perceive ongoing continuity as a kid. I missed this issue when it was released, but I did read #66 and #68. Based simply on those comics, I assumed that Harry Osborn had revived the Green Goblin persona as a hero and that this was his new status quo. As far as I knew, Green Goblin would be teaming up with Spider-Man on a regular basis, and perhaps Spidey would be showing Harry the ropes while he adjusted to crimefighting. I also thought Harry suddenly remembering Spider-Man’s secret ID was a quickie plot convenience from a later issue of Spectacular Spider-Man. Oops. As it turns out, that missing issue in my collection swiftly put an end to Harry’s hero career, and it’s also the end of Harry’s very long, and very convenient, bout of amnesia.

I’m probably in the minority, but I’ve always liked the idea of Harry as a slightly inept superhero. He already has the Green Goblin technology, so perhaps a part of him feels the same obligation to put it to good use that motivates heroes like Iron Man. Plus, he’s always felt a need to redeem his father’s name. Why shouldn’t he make amends by retaking the identity and using it for good? Making him a villain again is too obvious a move, and since Harry doesn’t have any inherently villainous traits, he usually doesn’t even come across as that great of a threat. Of course, it was only a matter of time before Marvel turned Harry villainous again, with a cover that even mocked the idea of him ever going straight. I’m certainly not saying the DeMatteis/Buscema Spectacular Spider-Man arc was poorly done, I’ve just never seen the overall benefit of turning Harry bad again and then killing him off.

Speaking of obvious, this issue has Spider-Man picking a fight with the Green Goblin under the questionable motive of “teaching him a lesson.” You would think that perhaps Spider-Man would realize at some point he’s acting like a jerk (and a hypocrite, since he has a family as well, but he’s scolding Harry for not thinking about his), but that moment never comes. It’s a fight for a fight’s sake that eats up a few pages while the Tombstone storyline continues in the background. I understand Spider-Man has to confront Harry over his decision, and I don’t even mind his refusal to support Harry, but the execution is a disappointment.


The Estate of Tim O'Neil said...

I recall missing this issue too, back in the day. Maybe the printing plant got flooded and the print run was ridiculously small or something? Weird.

Matt said...

I agree with you that turning Harry "permanently" bad and then killing him was not the best idea, though I also wasn't a fan of him as a "heroic" Green Goblin. I just liked him as plain old Harry Osborn!

In fact, if I'm remembering correctly, part of the reason for the creation of the Hobgoblin was that Roger Stern wanted Harry to have a normal life, rather than becoming the Goblin again. Of course, Marvel killed off the real Hobgoblin a few years before this (later retcons notwithstanding), and replaced him with the somewhat inept Jason Macendale.

And then by this point, Macendale had become more of a threat with his demon powers, but had gotten so far away from the original Hobgoblin concept, that in a way a new Green Goblin was needed -- but why did it have to be Harry again?

I guess it added that "personal" touch to the Spidey/Goblin rivalry, which had been missing since Norman died, but I really don't think that was enough of a justification to do it -- unless they started using Harry in the same way his father had been used before, where his amnesia returned at the end of every encounter.

I think that would've been a better idea for handling the character long-tem, but then I guess you run the risk of re-treading a lot of old ground.

(Sorry for the length of this comment! Goblins are a subject near and dear to my heart!)

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