We’ve talked about Norman Osborn, the villainous Green Goblin, and those who used his mantle after him. But Osborn’s legacy of evil has grown some interesting branches. It began when Roderick Kingsley, a businessman with a lust for power, used Osborn’s old weapons and technology to become a super-villain of a different color: the Hobgoblin.
In his new guise, Kingsley became a formidable enemy of Spider-Man’s, escaping the wall-crawler and the police even when his schemes were defeated. A few times, Spider-Man caught a person whom he believed to be his mysterious new enemy only to find out that they had been framed by the real Hobgoblin to act as a red herring. When another criminal named Jason Macendale attempted to have the Hobgoblin killed, Kingsley faked the death of his costumed alter ego and retired from the life. He convinced Macendale (and the world) that the original Hobgoblin had been journalist Ned Leeds, leading to the man’s assassination.
Macendale then stole the Hobgoblin identity to use for his own, continuing his work as a mercenary. But without Kingsley’s great strength or cunning intellect, he was not nearly the same kind of threat. His desperation to prove himself and increase his power led down different paths, including making deals with demons. Years later, Kingsley became insulted that the identity he had created had become synonymous with a “loser” and killed Macendale, taking back the role of the Hobgoblin.
Recently, Kingsley intended to make another dramatic comeback but his life took a tragic turn. Now Phil Urich, who once attempted to use the Green Goblin’s technology to act as a hero, has become a new kind of Hobgoblin, one unlike any who have come before.
Got it? Good. Let’s get on with the show then!
MARVEL’S FIRST HOBGOBLIN
Okay, this character has nothing to do with the Spider-Man foe I just mentioned who became much more famous, but none the less let’s talk about him for a second. Marvel’s first Hobgoblin character was an alien soldier of the alien Shi’ar Empire. Specifically, he served in the elite Shi’ar Imperial Guard, a group of super-powered beings who represented the different species that made up the empire. He wasn’t a very dynamic character, visually or story-wise. He was simply a shape-shifter and looked like some kind of forest elf with the kind of antennae that 1950s sci-fi comics told us all Martians had. Purple and green are typical villain costumes, which fit for the story since he and his comrades fought the X-Men several times.
But really, it’s impossible to talk about the Shi’ar soldier Hobgoblin without mentioning Chameleon Boy of the Legion of Super-Heroes, a very popular team published by DC Comics. In the DC Universe, the Legion is a team of super-powered young people from various worlds who protect the United Planets of the 30th (and later 31st) century. Marvel thought it would be fun to see what a battle between the X-Men (who were mostly young people at the time) and the Legion would be like, so the Shi’ar Imperial Guard was created to be analogues of DC’s team, with Hobgoblin standing in for Chameleon Boy. Hence the similar antennae and silhouette.
Now let’s move on to the REAL Hobgoblins…
MYSTERIOUS NEW FOE
The original Green Goblin, Norman Osborn, had been dead since 1973. For a few stories, his son Harry had picked up the mantle. And in one story, Harry’s own therapist, Dr. Bart Hamilton, used the identity of the Green Goblin as well. Years later, there was still pressure to bring back the Green Goblin in some way. He had been Spider-Man’s arch-enemy. At the time, it was believed that bringing Norman Osborn back from the dead would not be a good idea. And then-writer Roger Stern didn’t want to just give someone else the Green Goblin suit or have Harry take on the identity yet again. So he decided to give us a whole new take on the goblin identity and introduced the Hobgoblin in Amazing Spider-Man #238, published in 1982.
The Hobgoblin definitely has the same basic elements of the Green Goblin’s attire. Similar gloves and tunics. Each carries weapons in a special “bag of tricks.” But the head gear is vastly different and really gives a distinct impression for each one. The Green Goblin, with his long cap, looks like a trickster come to do mischief. The Hobgoblin, with his hooded cloak and old style military boots, seems more authoritative, as if he were some dark sorcerer. The fact that his mask seems more like pale skin and has two pupil-less eyes definitely adds to this intimidation factor.
Even the rocket sled looks more demonic. Osborn’s had a simple bat’s head, but the Hobgoblin has given his “goblin glider” a screaming face with demon horns. And while the Green Goblin adopted Halloween-style weapons, the Hobgoblin has actually gone further and taken the Halloween colors of orange and black.
Like Osborn’s costume, this suit is actually interwoven with circuitry that provides another weapon, namely the energy blasts that are fired from the gloves and are powered by battery units on the torso. So it provides a function, with the tunic providing an extra layer of protection for the main circuitry and batteries. The scale mail armor on the legs and arms protects the Hobgoblin from certain weapons while also lending scaley appearance, making him seem more monstrous.
Sometimes the suit would have the addition of a disc on the tunic. This disc activated an extra weapon that the Hobgoblin designed. From Osborn’s notes, Kingsley learned that Spider-Man is able to avoid attacks during battle due not only to his great agility but also thanks to a super-humanly intuitive “danger-sense” or “spider-sense.” To counter this, Kingsley would press the disc on his chest and the suit would force him to fire a series of rapid, random energy blasts. The speed and randomness of this attack made it far more difficult for Spider-Man to avoid getting hit. Clever play.
This is a pretty great costume and gives a very definite impression. Along with the goblin rocket sled he used, the basic design references that the Hobgoblin’s roots are with the Green Goblin. But it still has a flavor all his own. He’s not just Green Goblin Lite, he’s a fearsome monster all on his own.
Jason Phillip Macendale, Jr. began his career as the large-helmeted costumed mercenary called Jack O’Lantern, debuting in Machine Man #19 in 1981. His helmet made it look like his head was a fiery pumpkin, which sounds creepier than it actually looked in action. No great fashion victory here.
But then he stole the Hobgoblin threads and took over the identity in Amazing Spider-Man #289, seven years after Kingsley’s costumed debut. And what worked for Kingsley definitely worked for Macendale, although our boy Jason decided to personalize it a little. He gave the costume a tattered look, as if indicating that he was a much more savage, primal Hobgoblin than his predecessor.
It’s not a bad touch, except that Macendale wasn’t actually more dangerous than Kingsley was. He was considerably less of a threat, less of a strategist, and he had no powers. So the tattered cloak became just that. And the other change made, altering the goblin glider to look purely mechanical rather than something demonic, just added to this idea that we were facing a lesser version of the villain we’d known before.
Eventually, Macendale returned to the traditional Hobgoblin look. But that was only after he made a deal with a demon and wound up, like so many have in that situation, getting far more, and far worse, than he’d ever imagined.
Macendale had intended for this bargain with Hell to give him demonic powers. He didn’t expect to actually be transformed into a demon. But in Spectacular Spider-Man #147 (published in 1989), that’s exactly what happened. Suddenly, he wasn’t wearing a mask. That was his face and it was more gruesome than the Hobgoblin mask had ever been. Razor-sharp teeth, a forked tongue, large reptilian eyes. And his clawed hands now fired Hell-born energies from his body.
The Hobgoblin now really was the monster he pretended to be. What’s more, he’s apparently been driven insane by the transformation. Suddenly cast in the role of a demon, he saw it as his responsibility to punish and save sinners through twisted and violent means. The tattered clothing now absolutely worked for the Hobgoblin’s new mindset.
Later on, however, Marvel decided to revise what this transformation meant. During the storyline “The Name of the Rose”, it was revealed that Macendale hadn’t actually become a demon, he’d become possessed by one. In Web of Spider-Man #86 (published in 1992), this demon was removed and now able to physically exist on its own. It was obsessed with continuing its mission of cleansing the world of sinners (which basically meant killing everyone except children and those belonging to religious orders), claiming it belonged to a group of demons called the Righteous who wished to atone for their crimes. This demon didn’t have a name, but Spidey called it the “Demogoblin” and the name (ridiculous even by comic book standards) wound up sticking.
The Demogoblin quickly got a new wardrobe now wearing a black and red version of the Hobgoblin outfit with trousers and several tears. He also added a couple of fun demon-face buckles to his belt and cloak. While the rest of the outfit works pretty well and has a nice contrast with the yellow skin, the buckles are a but silly to me. Did the Demogoblin decide to go shopping first so he could accessorize before taking down sinners? Aren’t two demonic face decorations rather repetitive when, as a demon, you already possess a much more fearsome demonic face?
Embracing his full range of demonic powers again, the Demogoblin did away with the technological rocket sled and now created his own goblin glider out of hellfire. Strangely, he didn’t get rid of his bag of tricks, despite the fact that he now created most of his weaponry from hellfire in his hands. In any event, the Demogoblin died a couple of years later, sacrificing his life to save a child.
BETTER LIVING THROUGH TECHNOLOGY
Macendale was still determined to prove himself. With effort, he acquired the strength-enhancement similar to what made Osborn and Kingsley so formidable themselves. Later on, he decided this still wasn’t enough and got cybernetic enhancements implanted into his body. Years before, the Hobgoblin had become a force of demonic magic. Now we were at the other end of the spectrum.
This seemed to be just another symptom of a trend in comic books during the 1990s that any character could be enhanced with cyborg body parts and enormous guns or blades. The Hobgoblin no longer looks like a goblin or a demon or a sorcerer or a trickster. He looks like a mess. This outfit is too busy and too haphazard. The cybernetic eye over the mask is especially silly. He looks like a villain who robbed an electronics store before raiding a costume shop. Sorry, doesn’t work. With this kind of outfit, it’s no wonder Roderick Kingsley finally got fed up enough to just come out of retirement and kill the guy.
This wasn’t the only techno-revamp we saw. In the mini-series Secret War, an unknown criminal was given high-tech armor by the villainous Tinkerer and was heralded as the new Hobgoblin. He was, however, quickly defeated along with many other high-tech villains and has never been seen nor heard from again. And frankly, I don’t miss him. This is just the Hobgoblin’s classic suit with added stuff that doesn’t need to be there. Glow in the dark shoulder pads, knee pads and gloves? Why, so he doesn’t freak out air traffic control? And he has a raised hood AND a high collar? Really? You needed BOTH of those?
During a team-up between Spider-Man and Miguel O’Hara, the Spider-Man of the year 2099, the two heroes encountered a time traveling female Hobgoblin from the year 2211. This isn’t a bad design, but it speaks more towards the Green Goblin rather than the Hobgoblin, so its seems like she’s wearing the wrong outfit.
In the game SPIDER-MAN: Shattered Dimensions, we found out that a Hobgoblin also existed in the year 2099. This was definitely a whole new take on the character. This guy really looks more like a technological demon more than a hobgoblin. It fits in with the technological wonders that made up the atmosphere of the 2099 Marvel comics, but I still would’ve liked at least one or two elements left over from the old Hobgoblin look.
Love the wings though.
Recently, Kingsley returned to the life of a super-villain. He was ready to make a huge comeback, working as the Kingpin’s enforcer. Once again, he would be a terror in New York and serve as one of Spider-Man’s greatest enemies. But then, he came across Phil Urich, who had once attempted to use the Green Goblin identity to be a hero. Phil was likewise desperate for a new chance at being somebody with power and importance.
Phil decided he would be the one making the comeback, not Kingsley. And after he shocked readers by taking down the original Hobgoblin, Phil decided to adopt the villain’s identity in Amazing Spider-Man #649 (published in 2010). But unlike Macendale, he wasn’t going to be someone who could be mistaken for his predecessor. He was going to be his own kind of Hobgoblin, someone completely different from those who came before, the same way Kingsley had been so different from Norman Osborn years before.
Look at this guy. No one’s telling Phil that he’s just the Green Goblin with a cape. Instead of one bag strapped over his shoulder, he has two on the belt. The tunic, boots and gloves are now a totally different design. This draws the reader’s attention because it’s telling you that this really IS a new Hobgoblin, not just the same old tricks with a different secret identity. The sword is a great touch as it’s a weapon that’s never been used by any of the previous goblins AND brings a sense of the old world, when people believed in hobgoblins and faerie folk. The buckles, chest armor and new distribution of the chain mail all bring a medieval appeal to the outfit.
And rocket sleds? Screw that. Our boy here has wings. And what a great change. Even Demogoblin, as different as he was, couldn’t avoid comparisons to the Green Goblin because of his goblin glider. It didn’t matter that it was made from hellfire, the visual of the Green Goblin’s unorthodox transport is firmly cemented in many minds, especially now that the live-action films have brought him greater fame in the public eye.
Now the Hobgoblin truly stands on his own. And the little touches such as the medieval armor and the larger ears make him look more like a trickster. That didn’t work for Kingsley, but it works wonderfully for Phil Urich. He’s not only the Kingpin’s new enforcer, he causes chaos in order to take advantage of other people being pitted against each other. He actually ACTS like the hobgoblins of myth and time will tell what other tricks he has up his sleeves and in his bags.
And that’s it for now, kiddies. Hope you enjoyed this week’s piece. Until next time, this is Alan Kistler, Agent of S.T.Y.L.E., signing off!