Who is the Green Goblin? Spider-Man: No Way Home swung into theatres in 2021, and Peter Parker had his hands full. Thanks to Doctor Strange’s magic (and Peter’s interference) the multiverse collapsed in on itself, allowing villains from parallel dimensions to enter the Marvel Cinematic universe.
This is Spider-Man bread and butter, and is the kind of adventure you’d find in the depths of many a comic book. One of the brilliant Spider-Man villains in No Way Home (reprising his role from the Raimi movie) is the devilish industrialist Norman Osborn, better known as the Green Goblin. Widely considered Spider-Man’s arch-nemesis (although some would argue Doctor Octopus deserves that title), the Green Goblin is one of the deadliest foes the Wallcrawler has ever had to face.
But the Green Goblin has had a long and storied history both in and out of the comics, so how much do you really know about this emerald elf? Well, don’t worry whether you’re an MCU scholar or a complete newbie; we here at The Digital Fix have done the hard work for you, documenting everything you need to know about this vile villain. Oh, and for the record, we’re only talking about the Norman Osborn version of the MCU character; we don’t have time to get into Harry Osborn and the other pretenders to the goblin throne.
Green Goblin in the movies
First introduced in Sam Raimi’s wonderful 2002 adventure movie Spider-Man, Norman Osborn (Willem Dafoe) is the father of Peter Parker’s best friend Harry and the CEO of Oscorp.
While all seems well at the company, we soon learn that Oscorp is facing bankruptcy and needs to secure a military contract before their rivals Quest Aerospace.
Desperate to prove that his performance-enhancement serum works, Norman injects himself with the formula. While the serum does greatly enhance his physical attributes, it also creates a split personality. This new persona then steals Oscorp’s experimental glider and weapons, later named the Green Goblin by Jameson, flying off to seek revenge on those who wronged Osborn.
While Norman at first seems unaware of the Goblin, a confrontation with Spider-Man (Tobey Maguire) further fractures his psyche, and the two begin having full-on conversations. The pair agree they need to recruit Spider-Man to their cause, recognising he could be a powerful ally.
When Spider-Man proves incorruptible, the Goblin lashes out, injuring the hero’s arm in the process before fleeing. Later at a Thanksgiving gathering, Norman spots the same injury on Peter’s arm and realises his most hated foe is his son’s roommate.
Armed with the knowledge of Peter’s secret identity, the Goblin attacks Aunt May (Rosemary Harris), hospitalising her and later kidnaps Mary Jane Watson (Kristen Dunst). Using Mary jane as bait, the Goblin lures Spider-Man to the Roosevelt Bridge, where the two engage in one final confrontation.
When Peter gets the better of him, Norman unmasks, momentarily surprising the Wallcrawler and giving the Goblin the advantage. Summoning his glider, Osborn attempts to have it skewer Peter, but our hero flips out of the way, and it instead strikes the Goblin, killing him.
Or so it seems in the Spider-Man movie No Way Home, we learn that at the exact moment, he was about to die, he was transported to the MCU where there’s a new Spider-Man to torment and the possibility of a new life.
Green Goblin in the comics
First introduced in The Amazing Spider-Man #14, the Green Goblin was created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko. A relatively minor foe in his first few appearances, the character’s main gimmick was that his identity was kept a mystery.
Eventually, the Goblin learned Spider-Man’s secret identity and attacked Peter in public, kidnapping him and taking him to the Goblin’s lair. There he revealed, as in the Raimi films, that he was, in fact, Norman Osborn, the father of Peter’s friend Harry empowered by a special formula that had driven him mad.
Peter managed to escape, and Norman developed a convenient case of amnesia, which kept the Goblin persona at bay. Every now and again, the Goblin would reemerge, but time and time again, Spidey bested his foe.
That was until the Goblin’s greatest triumph when he kidnapped Peter’s girlfriend Gwen Stacy and threw her from the top of the George Washington Bridge, killing her. Besides himself with rage, Spider-Man pummels the Goblin until the villain summons his glider, and yes, you’ve guessed it, accidentally stabs himself with it.
Norman and the Goblin were thought dead for decades; however in reality, the serum that gave him his powers restored him to life. From his new base in Europe, Norman schemed and plotted to destroy Peter Parker’s life from afar. These schemes mostly involved clones and tricking Peter into thinking he wasn’t the original Spider-Man.
Eventually, Norman returned proper and, using his vast fortune, managed to have his criminal record expunged (and they say comics are unrealistic). Norman briefly returned to his respectable position, but it wasn’t long before his activities as the Goblin saw him carted away to prison once again.
From there, he was forced to join a government-sanctioned superhero team and eventually manipulated himself into the position where it seemed he had saved the world from an invasion of shape-shifting Skrulls.
This led to Osborn being made into the new Nick Fury in charge of world security. This went as well as you might expect, putting a sociopath in charge would, and it wasn’t long before the Avengers were forced to oust him. Since then, he’s remained a thorn in Peter’s side, returning every few years to remind the Wallcrawler that you can’t keep a good movie villain down.