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Spider-Man Classic
by yo go re

Marvel Comics had a real problem when they killed the Green Goblin in Amazing Spider-Man #122. Yes, the story was a classic, but Spider-Man lost his biggest foe. They tried rolling out a few replacement Goblins, but they were all second-stringers, at best. Spider-Man needed a worthy Goblin to fight, and Roger Stern recognized that when he took over writing chores for Amazing Spider-Man with issue #224. Of course, it wouldn't do to introduce yet another third-rate Norman Osborn clone, so Stern got inventive, paying homage to the Green Goblin and his origins while creating something new.

Fleeing from Spider-Man, a bank robber stumbles into the hideout of the notorious criminal Green Goblin. Discovering much of his weaponry, equipment, notes and private journals, the bank robber notifies a fellow criminal of the hidden lair. Betraying the bank robber, the power-mad man uses the Green Goblin's equipment and knowledge, along with an altered version of the original costume, to become the Hobgoblin, a dangerous foe for Spider-Man.

The hook behind the Hobgoblin story was that his identity was actually a secret - he appeared in shadow, he employed doubles, he framed people... you didn't know who he actually was, and neither did Spider-Man. It was a great mystery, but it also proved to be the character's undoing.

We've already had one Hobgoblin in this non-Classics Spider-Man line, but that was waaay back in Series 2, so an update may well have been due. However, this isn't just a retread: as evidenced by the last figure's demonic visage, that was Jason Macendale, the fourth (or fifth) guy to use the identity; this, meanwhile, is the original version, which means it's... well, we'll get to that.

Roger Stern was the writer who created the Hobgoblin, but he was fired from the gig before he revealed who was behind the mask. Tom DeFalco took over and, not knowing what the original plan was, started laying his own clues as to who this mystery villain was. He also stretched the mystery out way too long, and was fired for running chronically late (though that was really the fault of Editor-In-Chief Jim Shooter, who kept giving DeFalco more and more work). The new Spider-Editor looked at DeFalco's clues and decreed that the Hobgoblin was secretly Daily Bugle reporter Ned Leeds. Yay! Mystery solved, right? Nope.

In his original plans, DeFalco intended Hobgoblin to be Richard Fisk, the Kingpin's son; instead, he was eventually revealed to be The Rose, the masked man who had partnered with Hobgoblin to take down the Kingpin's empire. Who would DeFalco have made The Rose? Tell you in a minute.

he stole Captain America's pants The sculpt is very nice, particularly on the blue sections of the costume. The orange all looks like slightly rumpled cloth, but the diamond scale pattern on his arms and legs is most impressive. The face is superb, however. While this is ostensibly supposed to be a Green Goblin mask in a new color, it always had noticeable differences, primarily the big ridges around his eyes. He's still got the wicked grin with the little fangs - I always wondered if the mouth on masks like this was supposed to line up with the man wearing it, or if he opened and closed his mouth independently behind it.

So anyway, Ned Leeds, supporting character since 1964's Amazing Spider-Man #18, is the wall-crawler's newest lethal foe. Jim Owsley (now Christopher Priest), the previous Spider-Editor, knew this wasn't the plan - which is why he wrote a story a few months before in which Ned Leeds was killed by terrorists. So anyway, Jim Salicrup, the new editor, mistook the red herrings for the final solution. Ned Leeds wasn't the Hobgoblin, he'd actually been doing his job as an investigative reporter, checking into KGB assassinations in New York City. It's that story that led him to Germany (in Spider-Man vs. Wolverine), which is where he died. Four months before he was revealed to be Hobgoblin. Oops.

Hobgoblin has a few accessories of varying quality. First is the Goblin-standard manpurse, the satchel in which he stores all his pumpkin bombs. It's never really been clear how a pumpkin the size of a softball could be stored in a bag that's flat as a briefcase, but if that's your biggest problem with the logic of the character, then you don't really have any problem at all. One of said bombs is included with the figure, but it's glued firmly to a peg on his hand. You can remove it, but you're going to have to be pretty damned determined to do so.

By the time Hobgoblin stood to be revealed in ASM #289, Peter David was given the assignment, so the task of explaining all this fell to him, and he actually did a good job. Sure, Ned Leeds had been the Hobgoblin, but Jason Macendale, a perennial loser who went by the costumed alias Jack O'Lantern and already had a beef with Hobby, put out a hit on him. With Ned dead, Jack O'Lantern switched identities, becoming the new Hobgoblin and leading an entirely craptacular career that, among other things, saw him bonded with a demon. So now is the mystery solved? You only wish!

The figure includes his modified Goblin Glider, which is much more traditional than the Demogoblin's was. It's basically Green Goblin's glider with a purple paint job and a few added details, which is exactly what it should be. The glider is attached to a wheeled grey cloud that lets you roll Hobgoblin around. Even better than that, though, the glider is removable! It's not permanently stuck to that smoke, and the exhaust trail actually serves as a decent handle if you want to have him fly around, or as a brace if you just want it sitting on a shelf. The glider has a 5⅞" wingspan and two big loops to lock the figure's feet in.

Peter David did a good job with the clues he'd inherited, but the solution still had more holes than OJ's alibi. Years later, creator Roger Stern was invited back to write a story that finally revealed the truth: Ned Leeds was just a patsy for the real mastermind, Roderick Kingsley. Wait, who?

Kingsley was a highly successful (if morally dark) fashion designer who first appeared in Spectacular Spider-Man #43, where he was attacked by a competitor whose business he'd ruined to further his own goals. It was Kingsley that was shown the Green Goblin's stash of weapons and tech, and killed the man who found it. He used his older brother Daniel as a cover for his public life, and Ned Leeds as a cover for his costumed identity, but he'd been the man all along. It took three years from his introduction for Hobgoblin to debut, four more years for Hobby to be unmasked as Ned Leeds, and nearly a decade more for the truth to be revealed.

The figure is just over 6¾" tall, plagued by the same gigantism as a lot of Spider-Man's foes. This line is ostensibly in a 6" scale - all the Spider-Men manage to be the right size, so why are the villains always pumped up? I suppose you could attribute the boost to the formula that gave him his powers, or maybe the boots have lifts, but come on! Hobby moves at the toes, ankles, boots, knees, hips, waist, torso, shoulders, biceps, elbows, gloves, wrists, fingers and neck. Unlike Taskmaster, Hobgoblin's hood is a separate piece from his cape, so it will turn with the head, rather than impeding it.

Paint apps have been handled well. The biggest difference between Green Goblin and Hobgoblin was always their color schemes, so color is important. There's a slight wash on the orange to bring out the detail, and the blue is dark enough to contrast nicely. His silver buckles are crisp and the detail on his face - yellow skin, deep red eyes, white teeth - is all great. They even painted the stem of his pumpkin bomb green.

Fortunately, Kingsley was such a minor character (Stern had barely begun to develop him when he left the books) that no subsequent writers had bothered to pay any attention to him, leaving him entirely unchanged and able to be retconned into the role he'd always been intended to play, but that almost wasn't the case. Remember how Tom DeFalco wanted someone other than Richard Fisk to be the suave, erudite and fashionable Rose? He'd pegged Roderick Kingsley, which would have removed him from the Hobgoblin game entirely.

With four years and dozens of creators involved in the unwieldy, piecemeal story between its beginning and its original "end," the mystery of Hobgoblin's identity was the "Clone Saga" of the '80s: confusing, over-long and, ultimately, poorly executed. The original idea - to create a new, threatening Goblin for Spidey to fight - was sound. It was just editorial interference and the changes in creative teams that made it so bad. Now that we know the whole story, though, Roderick Kingsley has the potential to live up to his promise. Someday. Maybe. Unless it all gets changed again.

Whoever's behind the mask, this Hobgoblin is a really great toy. The Jason Macendale version of Hobby was the first worthwhile figure in the reborn Spider-Man line, so it's fitting that the man he replaced gets a worthwhile figure near the end. Get it while you can!

-- 04/19/06

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