Every hero has their inverse, their opposing force, their cactus suppository—the thing whose sole purpose is to ruin their life: the nemesis. The animosity that forms between these two can be legendary and for Spider-Man that nemesis is Norman Osborn. Did you see that? You might have missed it, it was very subtle. Let me say it again and see if you catch it. Spider-Man’s nemesis is Norman Osborn—not Green Goblin. People who are Sam Raimi Spider-Man fans might be confused.
“But Patrick, Norman Osborn is Green Goblin.”
Yes and no. It’s more appropriate to say that they’re two separate people because when Green Goblin is at the wheel Norman Osborn is just a spectator. Even though Green Goblin wants what’s best for Norman, he doesn’t always do it in ways that Norman likes. In that way, Green Goblin is like a manifestation of Norman’s ID, all of his desires and ambitions without any of the inhibitions or moral integrity—not that Norman is too moral to begin with but even he has his compunctions. Maybe I’m not illustrating this vividly enough.
Imagine this scenario: you go to a house party. There you find a whole bunch of people, some are new and some you’ve known since high school—especially this one guy. He’s been there your entire school career and he knows all the embarrassing things that have happened to you. But before you have enough time to worry about him, there’s a lady that catches your eye. So you go over and talk to her, you get in some good jokes and kinda hit it off. Then, just as it seems you two should find some privacy, boom, that guy shows up. He swoops in and charms the crap out of this lady—and the worst part is you’re standing right there!
So night one is a bust but that’s okay because there’s another party in a couple of days. No sweat. You get there and sure enough there’s that guy! Though you try to ignore him, as you’re chatting up another lady he swoops right in. Not only that but he retells this embarrassing story about you and a jar of pickles from the sixth grade. Sure enough, your mojo is dead. A week later you go to a barbeque and that fucking guy is there. You just can’t get away from him! There’s a lady drinking some wine by the fence and you figure you can Google some interesting wine info so you have an in and when you look up the fucking guy is leaning over her and talking about his trip to an Australian vineyard. No matter what you do, where you go, this guy shows up to step on you—like it’s just you.
That’s why Norman is Spider-Man’s greatest enemy. He has this massive intelligence and this incredible business acumen but he’s incredibly petty. Plans of his will sometimes take months to come to fruition, intricate traps that close in around Peter and seem impossible to escape. Norman causes more damage than Meth because he’ll dedicate half his material wealth to making Peter Parker miserable and the consequences are practically unavoidable. However, this is Peter Parker we’re talking about, the perpetual scrappy underdog. Even when it seems he’s out, he’ll get that second wind and come out swinging. Which brings me to the second part of my scenario.
Imagine you go to another house party but this time you’ve got this. Your clothes and hair may have been a little grungy, you’re feeling a little down on yourself, and yet you’ve found a lady who shares your keen interest in old Saturday Night Live. While you’re both quoting the nineties back to each other like you’re Sandler and Farley that fucking guy shows up. He mentions that he hung out with Adam Sandler like a week ago but something amazing happens, he gets shut down. As he trudges away a rejected failure, your heart soars because after all that time you finally got a win. It feels so good that forty five minutes breeze by.
However, at the forty five minute mark you realize there’s a huge commotion coming from the front of the house. You and the rest of the party congregate to see what it’s all about and your heart flat lines. It’s that fucking guy and he’s wasted. Not only that but he is using his liquid courage to turn the nice house party into a rager. People are going crazy, but more importantly, they’re making a lot of noise. You look across the street and sure enough the neighbors are peeking out the window. Any minute now there’s gonna be—and there’s a police car. In about five minutes this party is gonna be done. And in all the commotion you completely forgot to get that lady’s number.
That’s why Green Goblin is dangerous. Because if Norman can’t get what he wants, Green Goblin burns down the building. People seem to believe Green Goblin is an unbeatable foe in Spider-Man’s rogue gallery. That’s not it at all, that’s Norman. Green Goblin shows up and Spider-Man just has to make sure he doesn’t kill everyone with nerve gas. When he was the leader of Thunderbolts, some psychics made the mistake of trying to attack Norman’s brain—and they succeeded, his paranoia and ego got the better of him. So then Green Goblin came out and started indiscriminately killing which was definitely not what they were going for.
There’s times when Norman is a maniacal genius like when he sued The Daily Bugle for libel when they ran a story that called him Green Goblin. And the only reason it worked? Because the only witness the courts could call to testify was Spider-Man and only if he removed the mask. So I hope when Marvel is coming up with a new script for the Spider-Man movie they remember this: Norman Osborn has been in two of them and both times he was nothing more than a Joker wannabe on a flying snowboard. Let’s fear Norman Osborn again.