"But you, Parker... How does it feel to once again, let a friend down? You seem to have quite a history of failing your friends and loved ones. Dear, sweet Gwendolyn, your deceased girlfriend who died so young. Your beloved aunt May, who asked for so little of you and received exactly that until she was taken from you. My son, Harry. You claimed to be his friend, his confidant, and when he needed you most, you failed him as you do everyone else who gets close to you."
—Peter Parker Spider-Man #95
Norman Osborn, also known as The Green Goblin, is a character appearing in Marvel comic books. The Archenemy of popular Marvel superhero Spider-Man, Norman is most closely associated with Spidey, though in more recent years Osborn has become more active in story arcs outside of the Spiderverse. He became increasingly prominent in Civil War, an importance which led to his biggest role to date: the Big Bad of the Marvel Crisis Crossover event Dark Reign.The Green Goblin first appeared in "Amazing Spider-Man" vol. 1 #14 (July, 1964), created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko. The face of Norman Osborn first appeared in cameos in issues #23, and #25-26 (April, 1965, and June-July, 1965). The previously unnamed character received his name in issue #37 (June, 1966). In issue #40 (September, 1966), Norman and the Goblin were revealed to be the same person, concluding a mystery storyline. The idea is attributed to Lee. Ditko quit the title a couple of issues prior to that point, reportedly disagreeing with the direction the series was taking.Norman Virgil Osborn was born to a respected and rich family of Osborns. When Normie was a child, his father Amberson ruined the business and became bankrupt. As an adult, Norman worked to regain the family's power and money, vowing never to become the failure his father was. He married, but a year after his son Harry was born his wife Emily died, leaving Norman a widower and single father. He soon proved to be a neglectful parent, ignoring Harry in favor of his main goal: getting more power and money. Eventually he gained control of Oscorp Industries by framing his business partner Mendel Stromm. In Stromm's papers were notes on a serum he had discovered, which Norman tried to replicate for his own use. He failed. (Ironically, not entirely of his own fault, but Harry, angry that his father was neglecting him, switched some chemicals before the experiment... Or maybe he didn't?)The formula altered Norman's body. He became a super human: stronger, faster, more intelligent. Yet the serum also turned Osborn, who had never been entirely stable, into a total psychopath. Norman took on a double life: by day, a respected businessman; by night, a grotesque super-villain mastermind. In his new persona as The Green Goblin, Osborn terrorized New York City with a bat-shaped jet glider, pumpkin bombs, razor bats, and insane laughter, thwarted from taking over the New York underworld only by repeated interference from Spider-Man. Soon, Osborn's interest in becoming the crime-lord of New York diminished; he had become obsessed with Spider-Man and his desire to get revenge upon him. Green Goblin was the first villain to discover Spidey's secret identity, knowledge he used to attack and capture Peter, but it ended in defeat for Norman, who subsequently lost his memories of being the Green Goblin. After some time he remembered everything and returned to battle Spider-Man, only to be defeated and lose his memories once again. Yet their last clash was marked by tragedy, for it took place in Amazing Spider-Man #121-122 (June-July, 1973), an event which changed comic books history forever.For 23 years, Osborn vanished and was believed dead. However his evil legacy lived on with several goblin-themed villains, including his own son Harry. At the conclusion of The Clone Saga, Norman was shown to be alive, having been orchestrating events from somewhere in Europe, and that it was he who had been behind the Clone Saga. He returned to his campaign of tormenting Peter Parker, through legal and illegal acts, until he was finally caught — and released by Iron Man to help him in the Civil War. This ended badly. Very badly.After his day in the spotlight as the Top Cop of Marvel Universe, Norman Osborn was put into prison yet again, only to break out mere months later to unite the Goblin Cult, HYDRA, A.I.M, Hand and HAMMER into his own new organization. He revived the Dark Avengers and defeated not one but two teams of Avengers (directly with the Avengers; indirectly with the New Avengers) before his pride cost him everything yet again. Following his defeat, Osborn escapes from the hospital and resumes the identity of the Green Goblin, vowing to defeat the new Spider-Man. To this end he dubs himself the "Goblin King" and takes over New York's criminal underworld, enlisting the help of Menace, Monster (Carlie Cooper after being splashed with the Gobin Formula), and Hobgoblin VII (renamed the Goblin Knight).Osborn has two identities, which diverged into two distinct personalities as a result of Osborn coming up short in the Gathering of Five. To elaborate, the Gathering of Five was a mystical ceremony that bestows the five people gathered with power, insanity, immortality, knowledge, or death. Osborn set it up aiming to get power, but wound up with insanity instead. Mattie Franklin got power, Cassandra Webb (Madame Web) got immortality, and the other two schmucks were unimportant one-shots. One of his identities is the crazy mass murderer Green Goblin. The other is Norman Osborn, the Corrupt Corporate Executive and sociopathic chess master. Sometimes these personalities merge together and cooperate, but other times they fight.His comics appearances are mainly in the pages of Amazing Spider-Man, Peter Parker Spider-Man, Civil War, Dark Reign, New Avengers, and others. He starred in his own miniseries, Osborn: Evil Incarcerated, showing his time in jail after Dark Reign. Norman Osborn has appeared in other media, including the Spider-Man trilogy (played by Willem Dafoe) and the upcoming sequel to The Amazing Spider-Man (played by Chris Cooper), Spider-Man: The Animated Series, The Spectacular Spider-Man and The Ultimate Spider-Man animated series. He was also a playable character in Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2.
Oscorp employees, too. During "The Final Chapter" arc, he uses several employees as unknowing test subjects for his DNA weapon. The first Pulse storyline also demonstrated his habit of murdering his employees to satisfy his urges.
Corrupt Corporate Executive: Despite a common belief, he predates Lex Luthor in this department. (That is, Luthor is an older character, but wasn't portrayed in a corporate position until the 1980's.)
To be fair, he wasn't so much corrupt as ruthless. He became more corrupt in his Norman personality AFTER he had become a super-villain (not taking retcons into account).
Even before any retcons, Osborn had his mentor and partner Mendell Stromm (who actually developed the Goblin formula) railroaded into prison to get his hands on Stromm's inventions. Spidey had to save Osborn's ass when Stromm came back for revenge. This was Norman Osborn's first appearance, and Word of God states that Osborn hadn't yet been drafted as the Green Goblin's secret identity.
The Corrupter: Osborn used his own past as the Green Goblin to manipulate the emotionally unstable Sentry into denying the existence of the Void, the Golden Avenger's evil side. After the Sentry drinks more of the serum that gave him his powers, the Void takes complete control of their shared body, becoming Osborn's "secret weapon."
Tries and fails to act as this to Peter, and somewhat more successfully does it with Harry.
Crazy-Prepared: Mac Gargan once described one of Norman's hideouts as a "cornucopia of plans and counter-plans."
Cut Lex Luthor a Check: Frequently Lampshaded, though also inverted. The Hobgoblin only turned to crime because he wasn't as smart as Norman, and thought Osborn had to be insane to use his amazing tech in the same way when he could easily make a fortune out of it. That said, Osborn is already a successful corporate millionaire and his superbrain has only made him more money and power (ironically enough, he ended up buying out the Hobgoblin's own company when the latter tried to blackmail him). Nonetheless, he is still too messed up to use his mind to its fullest potential.
Depending on the Writer: Mark Millar's version of the character is noticeably smarter — bordering on Omnidisciplinary Scientist — compared to most other takes on the character. In some versions, notably the film and animated series, he is almost more of a Jekyll & Hyde figure, the Norman side being a well-meaning but stressed businessman who is taken over or lead by the Goblin persona.
Disproportionate Retribution: Probably two thirds of his plots are convoluted and incredibly nasty revenge schemes, usually involving a lot of Revenge by Proxy ever since he knocked Gwen Stacy off that bridge. But the real qualifier is his beef with Spider-Man in the first place- he originally wanted to kill him to get street cred in the criminal underworld; after two or three failed attempts at that, he then wanted to kill Spider-Man for foiling his previous attempts at killing Spider-Man.
Expy: Osborn the 'corporate raider' was a conscious move on Marvel's part to introduce their own Lex Luthor, who in turn was inspired by Daredevil's arch-foe, The Kingpin. This new Osborn eventually grew to be a threat to the MCU at large, since battling omniscient, all-powerful villains isn't exactly Spidey's wheelhouse.
Evil Is Petty: In his first appearance, he tried to kill Spidey in order to get respect in the New York underworld which he planned to take over. In his second appearance, he simply wanted to kill Spidey to get even, resulting in a 40 plus year rivalry where all of his plans revolved around messing with Peter Parker in some fashion. He really didn't do much villainy outside of that. If he put as much effort in taking over the world as he did in The Clone Saga, he would've been a Doctor Doom-level threat. Averted during Dark Reign in which he (kinda) moved on from simple "I wanna screw with Peter Parker" plans and joined the big leagues.
Actually, he got up to a bucketload of evil stuff outside messing with Peter; most of it just happened to be Offstage Villainy. In-between his Killed Off for Real and Not Quite Dead phases (and for a time after that), he spent time in Europe taking over the Scrier organization and becoming a major crime lord, so he was involved in a lot of illegal and no doubt murderous activities (though admittedly he still used these resources to screw with Spidey). Shortly after A Death in the Family (when Peter says he's tired of their games) he was finally arrested- the reason being he'd switched to getting his jollies by murdering his employees and nosy journalists For the Evulz. And in Marvel Knights there is the infamous story he tells of the prison guard who came to him for medical advice about his sick wife... Her agonizing death was For the Evulz as well.
Faux Affably Evil: In the early days, and in some versions, he veers closer to Affably Evil , but has since become a completely crazed nutjob as the writers decided Norman was not such a nice guy after all.
For the Evulz: Green Goblin's motivation in all situations; and Norman Osborn's motivation in many.
Genius Bruiser: Arguably subverted. He's incredibly intelligent, he's super strong, but he often can't do both at the same time because of his mental instability.
Gollum Made Me Do It: In the 90s cartoon and the Raimi movies, the Goblin is a manifestation of his repressed desires, lashing out at those he considers a threat to him / his company / family. Both universes feature the two personalities Talking to Themself through a mirror.
Legacy Character: He was the first Green Goblin but his son and a few other people took up the mantle over the years. On top of that, the various Hobgoblins (another legacy character), the Demo-Goblin, the many Jack O' Lanterns (also legacy character in their own rights), and other Spider-Man villains have taken their cues from Osborn as well.
The Mentally Disturbed: Has been consistently depicted with a range of mental illnesses, in addition to his psychopathic nature. He is a manic depressive, prone to violent mood swings, untreated paranoia, hallucinations, and dissociative identity disorder. This is in addition to his textbook sadism, egomania and antisocial personality, and they tend to make each other worse. It's very common for these to bite him in the ass particularly since he denies or covers up the fact that he has such "weaknesses". It especially threatens his attempts to be a Villain with Good Publicity, usually because he finds himself unable to control his homicidal urges.
Ironically enough he's WORSE when he's relatively sane than when the Goblin is in control.
When the Goblin is in control he is The Unfettered, so he doesn't really have to worry about all those mental issues as he no longer gives a damn. It's not really that he's worse as Osborn; it's just that, as Osborn, he swings between struggling with his problems and being in total denial about them, so they are less predictable and expected. As the Goblin, it's his bouts of mental health that are unusual.
When Green Goblin is in control, he is much more dangerous physically because his endurance, crazy factor and his strength are at maximum. The weakness of Green Goblin is his inability to think clearly and focus. Osborn is physically weaker but much more dangerous because he can control his sadism directly: he can be cruel in cunning and efficient ways. For Spider-Man Green Goblin is more dangerous; for Peter Parker it is Norman Osborn.
Morality Pet: Harry; once in the 1970's Peter defeated the Goblin by showing him his overdosed son, causing the Goblin to actually cry and snap back to Norman's side. Was retconned. And now subverted to hell and back, as Norman has tried to murder his own son. For ratings.
Also the Ultimate version, who asked to be killed after seeing what he did to Harry.
Motive Decay: Norman went from wanting to take over New York's criminal underworld to being obsessed with either killing or corrupting Spider-Man. He did become head of SHIELD during the Dark Reign, but after breaking free from prison he's returned to his original goal.
Never My Fault: Apparently being a billionaire and genius makes you immune to responsibility or blame.
Victoria Hand tries to give Spider-Man a "not-so-different" by proxy in New Avengers, but Spidey's not buying it.
Not-So-Harmless Villain: Not that he was ever "harmless", but since he usually has trouble beating Spider-Man alone, he wouldn't seem like a threat to the Marvel Universe at large. But, as Dark Reign proved, it's because he focussed so much of his efforts on destroying Spider-Man that he's usually not on the same level as guys like Doctor Doom and Magneto.
Pride: His main flaw (besides mental illness, that is).
Putting on the Reich: During the Dark Reign storyline, oh so much. Gets Lampshaded in the Dark X-Men series, in a moment of dark comedy, where Nate Grey is telling the Dark X-Men how he could have made their futures better. Norman's response? "Tomorrow belongs to me"
Retcon: In the 1960's and 1970's he was portrayed as being a decent guy before becoming the Goblin, however since his return it's been established that even before he became the Goblin he was quite a bastard.
Sadistic Choice: A frequent tactic of his. He even used the term by name once.
Secret Identity Identity: Rare villainous example, in that it continues long after the audience and the hero, and eventually the in-universe public, find out about it, meaning he can be examined in a similar way to superheroes who struggle with these issues. Basically there are three Norman Osborns- the first two are the angry, embittered, insecure and crooked businessman from the 1960's and the Ax-Crazy, unfettered, Mad Bomber Green Goblin alter-ego; the third, the smug, confident, monstrous billionaire industrialist and diabolicalgenius that blends the two personalities after he came Back from the Dead in the 1990's. The division between the three is blurred by Osborn's untreated mental illnesses like his schizophrenia and manic depression, and the third Osborn is currently in the middle of a Villainous BSOD that seems to be the Goblin re-emerging, though whether the Goblin has Taken A Level In Badass like Norman remains to be seen. Whether or not any or all of these different sides to Norman constitute Split Personality or are just a result of Norman being an extremely unstable Mood-Swinger who suffers from delusions and hallucinations is Depending on the Writer.
Self-Made Man: He comes from a rich family, but his father squandered their fortune, forcing Norman to build it back up himself.
Smug Snake: Arrogant, misogynistic, and condescending, Norman is a very competent schemer, but is unable to roll with the unexpected and is frequently sabotaged by his own mental instability and/or pride.
In some versions, notably the film and the 90's animated series, Norman is a relatively stable, friendly (if slightly stressed out) figure who is tormented by his alter-ego. In both these cases, the Goblin personality eventually takes over for good.
Superpowered Evil Side: Subverted. Played straight in the early stories when he got amnesia and lost his powers, but now his powers are permanent regardless of who is in control (though the Goblin has not actually been in control since he came back - although it succeeds in re-emerging just before Norman's defeat in Siege).
While forming the New Dark Avengers, he went to HYDRA to take part in their super-adaptoid program. He then goaded Luke Cage into attacking him, stole his super-strength, and then threw him out to sea.
Villain with Good Publicity: Most of the time he presents himself as an ordinary citizen and businessman. Was arrested for crimes as Green Goblin and revealed to be a super-villain. Became popular again in Dark Reign. Even after being exposed for his villainy during the Dark Reign, he still managed to stir up public support with his charisma and publicity skills when he began a smear campaign against the Avengers.
Would Hurt a Child: In Fantastic Four: Dark Reign #4, Mr.Fantastic and Susan Storm's kids, Franklin and Valeria, try to hold off Osborn from inspecting the FF building and shutting the FF down while the FF are lost in time & space. What does Osborn do? He takes out his gun, and shoots straight at the kids without any hesitation. Thankfully, the whole FF gets back just in time to save their kids, and kick Osborn out.