Here’s Part Nine of Spider-Man 1970s Classics. For Part One click HERE.
SPIDER-MAN Vol 1 #136 (September 1974)
Title: The Green Goblin Lives Again
Villain: Green Goblin II
Synopsis: This issue picks up an unspecified amount of time after the previous one. It is late afternoon and Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson are walking along after having spent the earlier part of the day, in their own words – “riding horses in Central Park, taking a boat to the Statue of Liberty, and catching a Kung Fu flick on Forty-Second Street.”
NOTE: Not only would that have been a Kung Fu flick from the still-flowing initial wave of Bruce Lee-inspired Martial Arts Mania here in the U.S. but it would also have been when Forty-Second Street theaters showed everything from grindhouse movies on up.
Peter and MJ have not fully started their romance yet, since Peter is still recovering from Gwen Stacy’s death, but Mary Jane is making it clear she wants it to go that way in her usual flirty way. As the couple approach the apartment that Peter shares with Harry Osborn, MJ expresses concern that things may get awkward if Harry is inside, since she and Harry used to date.
Peter mentions that he and Harry virtually never see each other since his father’s death, so the odds of him being home are pretty slim. NOTE: Peter does not yet know that Harry was the one who removed his dead father’s Green Goblin costume before his body was found by the police. Nor does he know that Harry also found documents and photos on his father’s person which proved that Peter Parker is really Spider-Man.)
Mary Jane then playfully grabs Peter’s apartment key from him and says that she’ll open the door for him, in a reverse of the way “male chauvinists” always open the door for women. NOTE: This was 1974, long before such exchanges of dialogue had became hopelessly tiresome and needless.
As she inserts the key in the lock, Peter’s Spider-Sense warns him of danger and as the turning key sets off an explosion he shields MJ with his body. That act saves her life but the explosion has still knocked her unconscious and injured her.
Peter is left reeling and wobbly from the explosion, too. He checks MJ’s heartbeat and breathing to make sure she’s okay, then finds part of the explosive device on the floor of his and Harry’s apartment. The apartment itself is mostly demolished from the explosion.
Peter wonders if this booby-trap means someone has learned about his secret identity. Soon he gets distracted by the sound of distant sirens and must move quickly to hide his Spider-Man costumes, web-shooters and web cartridges. He uses one of them to wrap everything up into a big ball of webbing and tosses it out his bedroom window to the roof of a nearby building.
Unknown to Peter, his apartment has been under surveillance by the Jackal, who sees him tossing out the webbed sack and vows to investigate it. NOTE: The Jackal has been staking out Peter and Harry’s apartment because of Peter’s known connection to Spider-Man, who sometimes “tips Peter off about where he’ll be so Peter can take photos of him in action.” (The standard excuse for years regarding why Peter Parker happens to get so many photos of Spidey.)
Next, Peter and MJ are taken to a hospital. Mary Jane is still unconscious and since Peter is shaken but stable he gets grilled by detectives about the explosion while waiting for word about how MJ is doing. Eventually, she comes to, but will need to stay hospitalized over internal injuries.
After Mary Jane’s aunt Anna Watson visits with her, Peter is allowed into her room. The two chat awhile until MJ drifts off to sleep. Now that he has some time to gather his thoughts, Peter finally starts putting things together and wonders if Harry has learned his secret and wants him dead.
He also flashes back to the events surrounding the original Green Goblin, Norman Osborn, killing Gwen Stacy to strike at Spider-Man. And to his final battle with Norman, in which the Goblin was killed by his own final bid to kill our hero.
NOTE: Such a synopsis would have been absolutely necessary back then for new readers, since in 1974 they couldn’t just go on the internet to look up back issues of Spider-Man.
Leaving the hospital, Peter changes into Spider-Man and swings over to the Osborn Family-owned warehouse that the Green Goblin was using as his headquarters during his final battle with our hero. At the sight of the place Peter is again stricken with grief over Gwen and fearful of what may happen if Harry really does know his secret.
Nevertheless, he casts a web and hides away in the warehouse’s hidden laboratory and stakes out the place despite the awful memories it brings him. Hours go by, and just after Midnight, we get a dramatic reveal as Harry returns to the warehouse in his father’s Green Goblin costume. An iconic albeit horrific moment for our hero’s fans, given all of the implications.
As the two battle, it is clear Harry is VERY unhinged by now from his ongoing drug use and encroaching insanity from his father’s death plus the shock of learning his best friend Peter Parker was the man whom he feels “killed his father.” He’s so unhinged, in fact, that he at first tries a lame attempt to convince Spider-Man that he’s really his father come back from the dead.
Spidey sees through that foolishness and tells Harry so, which embarrasses the latter and makes him even more maniacal. As the battle goes on, it becomes clear that while Harry has mastered the original Green Goblin’s bat-flier, pumpkin bombs and the Goblin Sparks (energy beams) that he can shoot from his fingers, he has NOT taken the Goblin Serum which increased his father’s strength to near Spider-Man levels. (Presumably because Harry doesn’t know how to make it.)
Spider-Man gets the upper hand in the battle, but has been pulling his punches to avoid killing Harry. He has been trying to make it clear to Harry that his father’s split personality – the Green Goblin persona – was a psychotic criminal and a murderer.
Too late, he realizes that Harry laced the fuel exhaust of his bat-flier with a knockout gas. His Green Goblin costume is filtering out the gas, but exposure to it now causes our hero to collapse onto the floor, weak and barely conscious. After a Villain Rant accusing Peter of killing his father in cold blood, he prepares to deliver the coup de grace to his fallen foe.
Harry made a beginner’s mistake, however, by not keeping track of how much electrical charge was left for his Goblin Sparks and belatedly realizes he can’t shoot any more of them since they’re out of power, thus preventing him from finishing off Spider-Man. Furious, he boards his bat-flier to escape since Peter is trying to force himself to his feet.
He taunts Spider-Man that he may have survived this night, but he is still at his (Harry’s) mercy. He reminds him he can try again some time to kill him in combat or destroy him at will by exposing his secret identity. Either way, he says Peter can only wait and wonder when he’ll render that final blow. He flies off into the night with Spidey still too groggy to stop him.
The next morning, the worried Peter Parker goes to the Daily Bugle offices to ask J Jonah Jameson for a week off to handle pressing personal matters. Naturally, Jonah refuses, causing Peter to insist he quits and storm out of his office. Jonah’s secretary Betty Brant tries to get Peter to talk about what is wrong but he loses his temper and waves off her concern before leaving the building.
SPIDER-MAN Vol 1 #137 (October 1974)
Title: The Green Goblin Strikes
Villain: Green Goblin II
Synopsis: This tale starts off two days later, as night is falling. On an interstate highway in New Jersey, Harry as the Green Goblin is flying along on his bat-flier to attack a passing truck from an explosive device company. He uses a pumpkin bomb full of knockout gas to take out the drivers, then blasts through the secured walls of the freight with his Goblin Sparks. Next he steals bomb-related materials and other supplies and flies off into the night.
Cut to Spider-Man swinging around New York City, stating he’s been searching for Harry the past two days and nights. He hasn’t slept, what with everything on the line now. Plus, with his and Harry’s apartment completely destroyed by the explosion last issue he couldn’t show up there even if he dared to.
Instead he swings over to the hospital where Mary Jane Watson is being held. As he switches to Peter Parker and walks to Mary Jane’s room he reflects to himself that, just like Gwen Stacy, MJ could have been killed just because he’s Spider-Man. He owes her for that and for helping him cope with Gwen’s death all these months.
His thoughts further tell us readers “She’s a fine lady, Mary Jane is. In fact I’m beginning to feel -” But that thought goes unfinished as Peter encounters Flash Thompson, Liz Allen, Joe “Robbie” Robertson and J Jonah Jameson visiting MJ in her hospital room.
Jonah, still steamed over his last meeting with Peter, sulks and looks out the window. The other characters interact with Peter and tell him they’re glad he’s okay, too. Aunt May is there as well and she hugs Peter and frets over how both he and Mary Jane might have been killed.
As for the others, Liz Allen puts down her magazine and reassures Peter that Mary Jane has not had a relapse or anything like that. Flash zings Peter by telling him that MJ has been asking for him “but what she sees in an egghead like you I’ll never know.”
Robbie, Jonah’s older, black City Editor, banters pleasantly with Peter since he’s always been much friendlier and more supportive for him than Jonah ever has. Next, Peter’s sharp wit and sense of humor entertain Aunt May to the point where she’s giggling and relishing his company. These characters were always consistently well written, largely because of the man behind them.
NOTE: As I’ve mentioned before, these Spider-Man stories I’ve been covering were written by Gerry Conway in his younger years. This is the same Gerry Conway who went on to write and produce for television shows like Law & Order, Law & Order Criminal Intent, plus many others, including Hercules the Legendary Journeys in the late 1990s.
That last show would have found him working with Renaissance Pictures, for Sam Raimi and Robert Tapert. Just a few years later Raimi would bring Spider-Man to the big screen, and basically redo the Green Goblin kills Gwen scene, but with Mary Jane instead. And with Spidey saving her from the villain instead of dying.
For years I joked that a cool bit of business on one of the Law & Order episodes would have been to have Gerry Conway in an uncredited role as a perp being led by in handcuffs while Vincent D’Onofrio would say something to his partner like “Excellent. They finally collared the man behind the Gwen Stacy murder.” Of course, it would only be funny enough and obscure enough if it had been done BEFORE the Spider-Man movies came out, not after. That way it would have seemed like just typical police station business talk.
Back to the story. Peter and Aunt May visit with the bedridden Mary Jane for awhile as she reassures them that, though she still has a ringing in her ears and some sprains she IS getting better. Eventually, a radio report mentions the apparent Green Goblin robbery of explosives as reported by the truck drivers.
MJ says the news has been full of nothing else for hours because of the dangerous materials involved. Peter hastily makes an excuse to leave, claiming that a news story like that means he might be able to get some interesting photos. (Only in the world of comic books would people NOT put two and two together at this point about Peter and his alter ego.)
Anyway, before Peter can leave the building, J Jonah Jameson corrals him in the hallway outside Mary Jane’s room and makes a big production of magnanimously overlooking Peter claiming to quit a few days earlier. While glad to still be employed, Peter, under the pressure of Harry still being on the loose, isn’t his usual gracious self and actually insults Jonah on his way out.
We readers are told an hour and 12 minutes passes as Spider-Man makes his way to the New Jersey site of the robbery, where the investigation is still going on. In the darkness he noses around the truck’s interior and overhears the drivers having to run through their account of the robbery for the umpteenth time. That, and some fragments of a pumpkin bomb convince our hero that it really was Harry with the Green Goblin gear who pulled off this robbery.
Authorities spot him poking around and he has to flee as they open fire on him since he is still wanted in regard to the deaths of Captain John Stacy and Norman Osborn. Another hour or so later and Spider-Man is back in New York City, forcing himself to look for Harry in a spot he fears he has subconsciously been avoiding.
That location is the late Norman Osborn’s ritzy townhouse which Harry supposedly sold after his father’s death. Guilt might have made Peter feel this way since it’s here that he angrily walked out on Harry the night of Gwen Stacy’s death despite the drug-tripping Harry’s pleas to stay and help him. (I drew attention to that several installments back.)
“Hating himself” the narration tells us, he enters and sure enough, Harry is there in his Green Goblin costume messing with some audio visual equipment. The two fight it out again, as Harry fills Peter in on all his actions from the night of his father’s death up til now. Our hero at first is trying to reason with Harry, but when that doesn’t work, Peter shrewdly switches to needling Harry about how he’s nowhere near as good as his father was at playing supervillain. So he’s a disappointment to his father AGAIN.
This does get under Harry’s skin and throws him off his game, so Spidey keeps it up, telling him that his father “may have been a madman and a murderer, but he was a professional” while Harry is just an amateur trying to cut it in the Big Leagues.
NOTE: In hindsight, one can’t help but detect in this mind game early rumblings of Vincent D’Onofrio’s psychological taunting of suspects to get them to confess or make a mistake.
Spider-Man has Harry beaten but still conscious, so Harry reveals his hole card. He turns on the viewscreens he was fiddling with when our hero entered and Peter sees Aunt May, Mary Jane Watson and Flash Thompson have all been kidnapped by Harry in the past 2 1/2 hours.
All three are hidden in three separate New York locations, which ones are obvious from the viewscreens. Harry points out that two of the hostages have fake bombs above them, and one has a REAL bomb above them, freshly stolen by him earlier this night.
The catch is that the bomb is set to go off in less than 10 minutes now, so Spider-Man will only have time to save one of the hostages. It’s Peter’s choice, Harry says, further stating that this will be his revenge on Peter for his father’s death. “And if you pick wrongly, the person most dear to you dies!”
Our hero angrily knocks Harry out with one punch, but as he points out for the benefit of us readers, he pulled his punch since Harry never used the Goblin Serum and therefore only has the strength of a normal man. Next he swings to a nearby rooftop, torn between which hostage he should go to, knowing that if he’s wrong he’s condemning one of the other two – as well as countless innocent bystanders – to death when the real bomb goes off.
Gambling that Harry’s “most dear” rant gave away that it’s Aunt May, he swings his way over to Grant’s Tomb in a race against time. He bursts through the huge door, webs the bomb from above the unconscious Aunt May and swings it into the nearby Hudson River. After several tense seconds, it explodes and our hero flops to the ground, filled with relief that he chose correctly.
Next he frees the unconscious Aunt May, then Mary Jane and Flash Thompson at their respective locations, phones the authorities to come get them and swings back to the Osborn Townhouse. When Harry finally comes to, Peter tells him Aunt May is still alive.
This freaks out Harry, who maniacally attacks Spider-Man. In the tussle, Harry gets knocked out against the viewscreens and mildly electrocuted. Police sirens are heard approaching, since the freed MJ, Flash and Aunt May have fingered Harry in his civilian clothes as their abductor.
Our main character quickly switches to Peter Parker, destroys Harry’s Green Goblin costume and equipment and dresses him in his civilian clothes. The police arrive to find Peter and the reviving Harry Osborn.
Harry is making all kinds of wild rants and accusations against Peter, which the cops ignore based on Harry’s known history of drug and violence problems. The police laugh off his claims of being the Green Goblin since he is so young and has no super-strength. They arrest him for the three kidnappings AND for setting the bomb at the apartment, mentioning to Peter that Harry obviously needs a lot of drug rehabilitation and psychiatric treatment.
So, with some rare good luck to offset his monumentally BAD luck most of the time, our hero is in the clear on all levels here, with his friend of the last few years being taken off for ultimate psychiatric commitment and drug rehab. In a poignant final line, Peter sadly watches Harry being taken away and tells the cops “Whatever help I can give him, he’s got. You see, officer … He’s a friend of mine.”
I’LL COVER THE NEXT CHAPTERS SOON. KEEP CHECKING BACK.
FOR CHAPTER LINKS IN THE AVENGERS/ MANTIS/ KANG/ CELESTIAL MADONNA STORY CLICK HERE.
FOR CHAPTER LINKS IN THE AVENGERS/ KREE-SKRULL WAR STORY CLICK HERE.
FOR CHAPTER LINKS TO THE 1970s ADAM WARLOCK/ GAMORA/ THANOS/ MAGUS STORY CLICK HERE.
FOR CHAPTER LINKS TO THE 1970s BLACK PANTHER VS KILLMONGER STORY CLICK HERE.