"The Goblin And The Gangsters"
Written Stan Lee.
Drawn by Steve Ditko.
Inked by Steve Ditko.
Lettered by Artie Simek.
Lucky Lobo has to be the worst-named villain ever. If he's lucky I'd hate to see a villain who isn't. From the moment we see him, everything goes wrong for him, as the Goblin declares he's going to take over his gang, the police mark his cards and then one of his men hands "Lucky's" financial records over to the Goblin. That's not to mention Spider-Man turning up and sorting out his entire gang.
Meanwhile it pains me to say it but, on his third appearance, the Goblin's still an oddly dull villain. We tend to think of him as one of the great Spider-Man villains - possibly the great Spider-Man villain - but how much of that's really down to the Steve Ditko era and how much to the John Romita era and beyond?
I mean, in this tale, he looks good but, in all honesty, as with his previous two appearances, he's more an annoyance to Spidey than a genuine threat. Here, he's just a bizarrely dressed character trying, and failing, to take over a criminal gang, presumably so he can commit some run-of-the mill crimes. There's none of the madness or menace the Goblin would later come to possess.
There's a strong hint being dropped in this tale that the newly returned Fred Fosswell's the Green Goblin, although his recent time in jail would seem to preclude that.
Meanwhile, is that Norman Osborn in the last panel of page 6? It doesn't look entirely like him but that hairstyle looks familiar and he's hanging out in the same executives' club as J Jonah Jameson - as Norman Osborn would do in later issues. Could Ditko have snuck the character in on the sly long before anyone thought he did? And, if so, does that hole the theory that Ditko quite the strip in protest at Stan Lee's supposed plans to have Norman Osborn be revealed as the Goblin?
Officially Norman Osborn made his debut in Amazing Spider-Man #37 but, if Ditko introduced Osborn on the quiet in a story featuring speculation about the true identity of the Goblin, then maybe, despite the rumours, Ditko intended Osborn to be the Goblin all along.
According to Wikipedia, this is what Steve Ditko had to say on the Green Goblin's true identity:
So I had to have some definite ideas: who he was, his profession and how he fit into the Spider-Man story world. I was even going to use an earlier, planted character associated with J. Jonah Jameson: he [was to] be [revealed as] the Green Goblin. It was like a subplot working its way until it was ready to play an active role.
Well, this issue, the character who looks like Norman Osborn is stood there right next to J Jonah Jameson. Could it be....?