The Hobgoblin Lives! – 2015 Writer Challenge: Roger Stern (Part 2)
52 weeks. 52 different writers. 2 trade paperbacks or hardcovers a week. Each week I’ll take a look at a different writer and read two different collected editions from within that person’s repertoire to help in the examination of their work.
Roger Stern introduced the world to the Hobgoblin back in the 80’s with his introduction in Amazing Spider-Man #238. It’s perhaps what Stern is most well-known for, providing an interesting member to Spider-Man’s already endless list of villains. Stern had a plan in place to reveal the Hobgoblin’s identity but inevitably left the Amazing Spider-Man title before it could be revealed due to disagreements with the editor at the time. Stern’s plan was to wait one issue longer that Stan Lee did to reveal the Green Goblin’s identity and then drop the bomb of who the Hobgoblin was. The Hobgoblin’s true identity was revealed to be Ned Leeds after Roger Stern had left the comic, with Stern disagreeing with that reveal. Over a decade later Stern would get his chance to right the wrong and establish who the REAL Hobgoblin was with the storyline “The Hobgoblin Lives”.
Spider-Man: The Hobgoblin Lives
When the current Hobgoblin, Jason Macendale is on his way to trail after being captured by Spider-Man, he reveals to the world that Betty Brant used to be married to Ned Leeds, the “original” Hobgoblin. A media frenzy ensues as Betty Brant becomes one of the most sought after interviews in New York. In light of this revelation, Spider-Man works hard to protect Brant from the media. Meanwhile, in a jail cell across town, Macendale is visited by a mysterious figure claiming to be the true Hobgoblin shortly before he is killed by him. The truth reaches the rest of the world that Ned Leeds wasn’t truly the original Hobgoblin and that the man who was is still at large. Spider-Man must work quickly to understand the mystery unfolding around him, discovering why Ned Leeds was framed as well as who this real Hobgoblin truly is!
So when looking through the Big B Comics Hamilton shelves I realized that we lacked the one Avengers story I wanted to do for Roger Stern, Under Siege. Widely considered one of the best Avengers stories of all time (and a personal favourite of mine), Under Siege followed The Masters of Evil as they dismantled the Avengers from the inside out for a thrilling storyline. But enough about that story. Short on options I decided to do something I hadn’t done yet for this challenge; review a sequel! I picked up “The Hobgoblin Lives”, considered a direct sequel to Stern’s earlier work in “The Origin Of The Hobgoblin” (of which I took a look at on Tuesday), a story that reveals the answer to a question a decade in the making “Who was the real, original Hobgoblin?”. With a decades worth of Spidey related stories between Stern’s classic introduction of the Hobgoblin and Hobgoblin Lives, there had been many changes made to the character, namely the fact that multiple men had taken up the mantle since then. With this series, Roger Stern answers the question only he knew the answer to, completing his work with the character he first created back in the 80’s.
I think it’s most important to state that the “Hobgoblin Lives” is more of a timeline story than it is a mystery. In that I mean it highlights what’s happened in the decade between Stern’s stories and neatly fits together the seemingly jagged pieces of the puzzle from back when Stern first wrote Spider-Man to give you a clear image. You can break down this collection into two parts, with the first three issues being the story “The Hobgoblin Lives” and the last three issues being the “Goblins at the Gate” story. Wherein the Hobgoblin Lives is about the mystery of who the original Hobgoblin is, Goblins at the Gate is a fun story that pays tribute to both the Hobgoblin and the Green Goblin, throwing the two characters together to see how they would clash due to their egos. Stern is the primary writer on the Hobgoblin Lives story but becomes just a co-plotter by the time Goblins at the Gate comes around.
With the primary story in “The Hobgoblin Lives”, you get much more of a sense that the tale is a Hobgoblin story as opposed to being a Spider-Man story about the Hobgoblin. The swirling and bizarre mystery of who he truly is consumes the entire narrative, teeming with misdirection at every turn until it gets to the point where you sick of the misdirection and just want a clean answer. When Stern finally coughs up the answer to the reader, it does make sense although it just feels cheesy and definitely reads like it’s a story out of a comic from the 90’s. That’s not to say that the story isn’t interesting nor that it lacks Spider-Man, because this story has both of those things, it’s just that the plot doesn’t feel too cohesive throughout the entire comic and it the entire thing read almost like a history textbook instead. With that in mind, Stern still plays up plenty of interesting aspects to Peter Parker’s life during this time period and still gives everyone’s favourite wall crawler plenty of chances to shine.
When you make the jump into the Goblins at the Gate storyline after finding out Hobgoblin’s true identity, the narrative picks up a short time after and becomes immediately more interesting. This story details the return of Norman Osborn to the land of the living and shows the great lengths he’s gone through to disprove the allegations that he was the Green Goblin. Suddenly, Norman Osborn is the golden boy, having saved the Daily Bugle from bankruptcy and even becoming Peter Parker’s “boss”. Things gets interesting for Osborn when he discovers that the man who is the original Hobgoblin (no spoilers, I promise) reveals from within a jail cell that he has one of Norman Osborn’s journals that reveal he was in fact the Hobgoblin. This forces Osborn to draw the man out of prison and use him to find the journal. Everything at play here makes for an entertaining Spider-Man story, one that is definitely worth the read and does a fantastic job of connecting threads to Stern’s “Origin Of The Hobgoblin” story. The best part of the entire volume actually ends up being the interactions shared between the Hobgoblin and the original Green Goblin, showing how different yet similar these characters can be. It all leads to a climatic showdown between the two goblins and Spider-Man that is surprisingly rewarding after only a few short issues.
Collects: The Hobgoblin Lives #1-3, Spectacular Spider-Man #259-261
Best Character: Peter Parker/Spider-Man
Best Line Of Dialogue/Caption: “Who says marriage kills all the romance, huh?” – Billy Walters
Best Scene/Moment: The truth stands revealed – The Hobgoblin Lives #3
Best Issue: Spectacular Spider-Man #261. This is the conclusion to the entire collection as well as the “Goblins at the Gate” story, giving you a showdown between Hobgoblin, Green Goblin, and Spider-Man. It’s an issue that answers a few questions, sets up some new mysteries and still places all the involved parties in appropriate places come the conclusion. It’s simply a fun issue that any Spider-Man fan is sure to enjoy.
Why You Should Read It: You should read this simply because it provides a chapter of closure on the story of the original Hobgoblin, with the identity of the villain being revealed, keeping him as a great and charismatic addition to Spider-Man’s “rogues gallery”. There’s no denying that the plotting in this one is a little rough, to say the least, but it still works as a strong sequel to “The Origin Of The Hobgoblin”. In all honesty, the “Goblins at the Gate” storyline is far more compelling and worth your time than the “Hobgoblin Lives” storyline. If there was a single reason to read this collection “Goblins at the Gate” would be that reason.