Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Spectacular Spider-Man #2. The Goblin Lives

(Cover from November 1968.)

"The Goblin Lives!"

Written by Stan Lee.
Drawn by John Romita/Jim Mooney.
Inked by Frank Giacoia.
Lettering by Sam Rosen.


OK, so the big news I’ve been trumpeting about the site isn’t that big at all but it does mean the one glaring omission from its pages is finally filled as I’ve managed to get my hands on the one comic I hadn’t reviewed but always knew I needed to.

Long before the launch of 1976’s Spectacular Spider-Man, there was another comic of that title. Launched in 1968, it was one of Stan Lee’s early forays into larger format comics aimed at a slightly older (and wealthier) age group.

As it only lasted two issues, we have to conclude the world wasn’t yet ready for larger format comics aimed at a slightly older and wealthier age group. Still, no good deed is wasted. The story from issue #1 was recycled to create Amazing Spider-Man #116-118, and the second at least gave us the return of Spider-Man’s deadliest foe.


Spectacular Spider-Man #2 gives us a mammoth fifty-eight page epic as the Green Goblin makes his first comeback since his memory loss.

Attending a George Stacy slide show about the Green Goblin, Norman Osborn starts to get distinctly uncomfortable.


Then he gets sweaty.

Then he gets unconscious.

Next thing you know, his memories stirred, he’s back in full-on psycho mode and out to get his revenge on everyone’s favourite web-slinger.

For me, the tale has three highlights. The first being the scene where Norman Osborn’s tormented by his own half-memories, in hospital, before suddenly realising he’s the Goblin. You can practically hear thunder and lightning crashing around you as he suddenly sits bolt upright in bed, the Goblin's image looming maniacally behind him.

Second highlight’s the dinner party Osborn then throws, at which he taunts and teases Peter Parker in front of his closest friends. I seem to remember the scene being recycled in the original Spider-Man movie but this does it better, as Osborn seethes, scowls and leers his way through it. His insanity virtually a physical force thrusting itself out of the pages at you.

The third highlight’s the one that lets us know the strip’s well and truly arrived in the late 1960s, by having the Goblin use a psychedelic pumpkin on our hero. This sequence is terrific as Spider-Man’s tormented by visions of the Goblin, monsters, his own friends and finally gigantic versions of his main enemies. The double-page spread Romita and Mooney gives us here’s a wonder to behold and reminds us of Romita's mastery of the art of visual story-telling.

But what can be a threat can be a salvation as it gives Spider-Man a solution to the problem of how to get rid of the Goblin without killing Norman Osborn.

Turning the tables, Spidey uses a psychedelic pumpkin on its creator, reasoning that inflicting such a device on a mind with an already weakened grip on the cliff-face of sanity will send it plummeting and force Osborn to return to normal. It’s strong stuff, both visually and spiritually. Had any super-hero ever before set out to defeat a foe by snapping his mind?

This story’s fab. Unlike the Richard Raleigh tale, which was pretty routine, it’s like a pure distillation of all that made Spider-Man tales of this era great, with Peter Parker’s personal and heroic lives so hopelessly entangled on every level. I don’t know if it’s the best Spider-Man tale of its era but it’s certainly one of them and, perhaps as much as any other tale, it captures the very essence of what Spider-Man was about in those days. It’s also something of a tour de force by Romita and Mooney who, given the larger format, really do seem to have been inspired to give their all.


Great Thought Balloons Of Our Time: "How can I subject this gorgeous creature to the Green Goblin?" (Peter Parker, of Gwen Stacy.)

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