norman osborn

Sins Past didn’t “ruin” Gwen

So the infamous Spider-Man story Sins Past is about to be retconned, according to some leaks that have just come out about the end of Nick Spencer’s Spider-Man run. I’m… not looking forward to it. (You’re bound to hear all about it on harryosborn.net.) For a start I suspect it’s not going to deal with the actual sin.

In the years after Sins Past came out there was so much complaining about how the story “ruined” or “tainted” Gwen. But let’s look at what she actually does in the story, shall we? Not much, because the story doesn’t seem nearly as interested in her as it is in her uterus, but-

Gwen finds herself attracted to Norman after he (during one of his spates of non-villainy) helps rescue her and her dad. Okay, fair enough. Gwen actually wasn’t technically Peter’s girlfriend at the time, and even when she was it didn’t seem completely exclusive, since Harry and MJ were in the mix there too. So she was really free to pursue whoever she wanted. Norman is, uh, an odd choice but his design was based on Tommy Lee Jones around this time and I’m sure Tommy Lee Jones had his share of female admirers, so whatever.

Now let’s look at what Norman does in the story!

He has a girl young enough to be his daughter turn up at his house and fawn over him. Norman must have known Gwen as a teenager at least a little, surely, since she and Harry were close friends since high school. He must have some idea of her personality, that her mother was dead and she was devoted to her father. And then…

What exactly passed between them to make them instantly fall into bed together? We don’t know, but we do know that it’s heavily implied this is the first time Gwen had sex with anyone

-that Norman wielded quite a lot of power and influence at the time, even without bringing his superhero alter-ego into things-

-and that, this is rather crucial I always thought, they didn’t use protection! That’s where the twins came from!


Does any of this sound like a regular “affair”? No! You know what a decent man does if a girl so much younger makes a pass at him? He SAYS NO!

But that’s not what happened. Gwen soon found out what sort of man Norman was and found herself pregnant. (You’ve got to wonder if she considered getting an abortion, but the story isn’t interested in that.) She gave birth to the twins and then Norman murdered her. The Death of Gwen Stacy was written long before Sins Past came out but one thing SP didn’t retcon was that Gwen meant less than nothing to Norman.

Oh, and eventually he then proceeded to creepily hit on her alternate self too.

….Where there was an even bigger age gap, I’m assuming.

Long story short, Norman is a misogynist who took advantage of a younger woman, and Sins Past just never really acknowledges it. The Gwen/Norman encounter is treated like a regular affair, albeit one where superpowered sperm is involved (ugh) but it wasn’t. Yes it was between two consenting adults, but oh god the power dynamics. It’s a story that plays out time and time again in real life and yep, always ends badly for the woman.

Gwen was Norman’s victim in all of this but was treated like his collaborator. That’s the real sin of Sins Past.

Harry Osborn’s Comic Appearances: Amazing Spider-Man #47 (1967)

[You can read this post here or on harryosborn.net!]

Lots of things happen in this issue!

Harry and Peter chat 60s-style, except of course thanks to the sliding timeline none of this ever happened in the 60s! So we’ll have to imagine what era-appropriate sex symbol Harry “really” referenced at this point.

Ah this is all so sad to read fifty years on, knowing what will be changed and retconned.

Harry and Peter flirt with Gwen, Harry somewhat more successfully than Peter.

Oh here’s Kraven! (He was introduced in ASM #15 if I remember correctly so readers of the time would’ve already known him.) But more importantly: romantic entanglements! I still don’t know what the relationship between Harry and Gwen really was at this point because dating just seemed to be different in the 60s? I think these days we’d call it like, a non-exclusive casual relationship I guess.

Whether or not they ever hooked up hooked up is up to you really but honestly I imagine they probably did.

In these panels! Harry reminds us he’s rich, the boys are awestruck by the girls dressed up, Gwen looks jealous of MJ in the background there and wow there used to be a time where women could hang out wearing short skirts in the middle of the street and not get sexually harassed so much they went back inside?

Uh, one way in which the early Marvelverse differs from ours I guess.

Flash is on his way to the Vietnam war, a subject we’ve already tackled.

MJ and Gwen participate in a dance-off which the boys, ur, appreciate. Then in bursts a man wearing a dead animal and he wants Harry!

Flash attempts, with endearing bravado, to save Harry. Harry gets in a few punches but to no avail.

Ah, the days before Harry’s hatred for Spider-Man set in. Also awww, that panel of Gwen and Flash helping Harry is sweet. The Flash-Harry friendship is almost completely forgotten about these days but it was a nice one.

Huh Norman sure got there quickly.

Ahh if only Peter had tried that same technique with Gwen. (Too soon?)

Annnd there ya go, back in the days where Marvel could tell a story in one issue instead of six.

I have a feeling this story was given a retelling of sorts at some point in a much later comic, but we’ll deal with that when we get to it.

Harry Osborn’s Comic Appearances: Amazing Spider-Man #40 (1966)

[You can read this post here or on harryosborn.net!]

Here we are, the fallout from last week! The Green Goblin took his mask off and revealed himself to be… Peter’s high-school bully’s friend’s dad. Not exactly a “No, I am your father” level revelation… well, not yet anyway…

Peter begins by slagging off Harry, even though they’re teetering more to being almost-friends at this point. Oh sure he’s stalling for time! But I suspect in-universe Peter regretted those words once he came to love Harry.

Reading some of these lines in the present day, knowing the rest of the story, you just gotta go

or is that just me?

Here’s baby Harry, wearing the Spider-Man colours to boot. Norman tells this story as if he was a perfectly good father temporarily sidetracked, and maybe that’s what Stan Lee planned back then, but in the modern day comics this is… very much not the case.

See that red bike there? That bike will many years later play a starring role in a story detailing Norman’s abuse of Harry during this period.

“I couldn’t be bothered with him” could be the tagline for a heavy book titled “Norman Osborn’s Guide To Parenting.”

Many years later it would be retconned so Harry was responsible for the explosion in question. Which makes his thought bubble here kinda make no sense, except for the “It’s all my fault” bit.

“How did someone like me ever have a sniveling weaking of a son like you?” is the other, probably even more accurate tagline for Norman Osborn’s Guide To Parenting.

Poor Harry. It feels like that nurse in the background is looking on like, “hmm maybe someone should intervene to help that kid.” (ur, yeah.)

Norman just casually designing his supervillain suit to match that one pink satchel he already has.


One fight later:

He has… AMNESIA! This would be a get-out-of-jail card deployed by Spidey writers for quite a while.

“It would break his heart!” Told you Peter was SUCH A LOVELY KID, he barely knows Harry at this point and his initial impressions were nothing but negative.

It was not.

Harry Osborn’s Comic Appearances: Amazing Spider-Man #34 – #38

[You can read this post here or on harryosborn.net!]

Welcome back, true believers! Okay so the other day this happened in the spideycomicsverse and it reminded me to kick this little project back into gear.

So! Last post we met Harry for the very first time and he was, to be honest, incredibly meh. But only SO FAR! Because the man who would end up being the Big Bad of the Spiderverse is coming and Harry just so happens to be his son and heir.

But before any of that takes place, here’s ASM #34, in which Harry continues to be Flash Thompson’s rather uninteresting henchman.

In case you’re wondering who Mao Tse-Tung is, that would be Chairman Mao. In the year this comic was written, 1966, he started the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. So… uh… yeah.

Harry thinks Peter is a snob, which is kinda weird seeing as Harry is the son of a wealthy businessman and Peter is a broke orphan. You’d think it’d be the other way around. (I suppose he means intellectual snobbery.) Geez you’d never expect them to end up with one of the most enduring friendships in all Spider-Man media would you?

On to ASM #37 and this is the VERY FIRST TIME (I think) Norman Osborn is ever named. Humble beginnings and all that.

But first we meet Gwen’s Giant Hand.

Original Pre-Death Gwen is almost completely forgotten but she was hella cool. In amongst all the giggle-worthy Sixties slang you get the idea that geez it must really have sucked being a female science student in that era so no wonder she’s angry all the time.

Hereeeeee’s Norman!

And he’s a PRICK!

Even taking the very different approved fatherhood qualities of the ’60s into account Norman’s just a kinda a dick to his son here. Of course, we’ve barely scratched the surface of that yet, we have many issues and many increasingly disturbing modern-day retcons to go.

Now, in ASM #38 we’ve got Norman being more affable to his kid, and then dressing as the guy from Breaking Bad before Breaking Bad existed.

But this is primarily about Harry so what’s going on over at the college? Well, there’s a protest it seems.

This little scene remains a complete and utter mystery to me. What are they protesting about!? Based on the dialogue given to the student protestors Stan Lee does not seem to like them? For some reason? But there were SURE AS HELL things to protest about in the ’60s so this bit just comes off as really uncomfortable and Old Man Yells At Cloud.

(This is Lawrence Welk, by the way, and I don’t know what that insult is supposed to mean either.)

Man you sure can be clueless about a lot of history via comics! (No I’m not American.)

Anyway Harry in this issue is just a regular old weaselly coward, nothing’s changed there-

-but things are ABOUT TO! Stuff happens next issue which shaped ALL of Spider-Man comics to come!

The next MCU spideyfilm

Apparently the next Spider-Man film in the MCU will definitely have “Home” in the title, which I guess is not surprising, and now I’m wondering if they’ll use “No Place Like Home” after all. (It’s a popular fan title.) So if they go full-on Wizard of Oz, they could introduce Norman Osborn – OZborn – in a very thematically appropriate way, casting him as the false Wizard in the story. A figure of apparent good, living in a beautiful green city, before the curtain falls away.

And if so I will be FURIOUS, because I used that idea in a fanfic ten years ago.

Casting Norman Osborn

There’s gonna be a lot of Spider-Man over the next few years. Obviously he’ll be getting more MCU screentime and hey! Apparently a new live-action series as well maybe!

So it is perhaps inevitable that Spider-Man’s greatest enemy, the Green Goblin, will pop up at some point. Lemme tell you about him. GG is much more frightening when he’s Norman Osborn. Norman Osborn is a power-hungry abusive misogynist with weird hair, almost like… you know… someone else. (Yes, Marvel really did kindasorta call it. It’d be funny if it wasn’t so depressing.) Woman-hating is built into his character, and was ever since he threw Gwen Stacy off that bridge.

So, what actors can pull off the Goblin’s particular brand of villainy? Obviously Willem Dafoe did it first and he did a great job. But try as I might I can’t quite see him as the casually demonic Norman of the 21st century Spider-Man comics. This ultra-manipulative bastard right here.

But you know who I think could pull it off? Bradley Whitford.

I’ve been watching him every Sunday in The Handmaid’s Tale and I’m constantly impressed by him. I keep seeing him in things now and damn, he is really good at being evil. But perhaps more importantly he’s good at being quietly evil. The sort of evil you don’t fully understand until it has its hands around your neck, which is exactly what Norman is.

But, I hear you say, Bradley Whitford doesn’t… actually look like that anymore. He got older and the Osborn-like red hair is gone. Well, yes. That’s true, and it’s rather unfortunate that it’s true because West Wing-era Whitford would have been pretty close to the character physically.

Obviously that’s not neccessarily a problem since Marvel is spookily good at de-aging their actors via CGI, but I reckon that 59-year-old Whitford could still do an incredibly good job. I mean I don’t know about you but to me this picture alone has major “I’m totally going to kill Spider-Man” vibes.

And if all the above hasn’t convinced you here are 20 seconds of Whitford being completely pissing terrifying in Get Out (a film I haven’t actually seen because I’m too scared, but I have at this point seen enough clips of it to be able to hold a conversation about the plot:)

Which leads in neatly to the other thing about Norman: his privilege. Dude is privileged on almost every axis: race, class, wealth. And boy, does he know it and boy is he not interested in discussing it.

And that’s something else Whitford can act very well.

So that’s my pitch! And don’t worry, I have considered the question, “No matter how good an actor he is, isn’t Bradley Whitford going to look pretty silly in a bright green goblin mask?” The answer is, if current events have proved anything, I don’t think the character really needs a mask anymore.

(no subject)

If you’ve been around my fanfiction for long enough, you might remember Faith In Humanity, my 30-odd chapter ode to the Spider-Man verse and the original trilogy in particular. Among the main characters was Emily, Harry’s late mother. Back then (this was the ’00s) she didn’t have a surname or much characterisation at all really. She was essentially the founding member of my Dead Fictional Mothers Club. I was fascinated by how heroes and protagonists never had mothers. Why were they always the ones to die?

So imagine how gleeful I was to realise that in the comics she is now not dead! It happened ages ago, but I only heard about it now. It’s funny, she looks exactly how I imagined her.

And the dyamic between her and Norman (he’s red now, whattya know) is pretty much how I always thought it would be.  I love this panel here:

She’s finally got a last name, Lyman. Harry has it too now! And all the Osborn-Lymans (Norman 100% does not count) have gotten to be together:

And I don’t know what happens after this particular story. I know Harry, rather understandably, refuses to call her ‘mom’. But hey! She’s alive!

I’ll always love Harry and the Osborn story. This new (uh, new-ish) development is so pleasing to me, you have no idea. (Emily also features quite a lot in the new Spider-Man game, which is also very pleasing to me, although she’s definitely dead in that one.)

Anyway! I put Faith in Humanity up on AO3 today.

wackd:

cephalotodd:

cephalotodd:

villain origin stories are so fucking funny. like oh i accidentally got lizard genes in my me guess i should get a sick hoverboard and fly around throwing bombs at people and screeching. my name is green goblin now. it’s the next logical step

image

thats a good point actually we’re all just a genetics lab accident away from cackling in the rooftops like nature intended

obligatory

My Big Take on Norman is that he’s much, much scarier without the goblin suit and the bombs.