American Son: History of the Osborns

An inside look at the dysfunctional relationship that spawned two Green Goblins



By Jim Beard May 27 marks the beginning of the next pivotal chapter in the life of Spider-Man, as AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #595 kicks off the five-part "American Son," a saga that will rock Peter Parker, the Osborn family and the Marvel Universe with irrevocable change. In preparation for this family struggle of epic proportions will be presenting in-depth examinations, exclusive interviews and more, so get ready!

At its core of "American Son" lies the twisted triangle between Norman Osborn, his son Harry and Peter Parker—three souls caught in a vicious circle with nowhere to spiral but down. But before the Osborn men ever met Peter, their early relationship as father and son set the tone for years of dysfunction to follow. That familial breakdown leads to the ultimate Osborn conjunction of "American Son." The young Harry's childhood proved anything but idyllic; as a father Norman left much to be desired. A product of a broken home and a family fortune lost himself, Norman's drive to correct everything he felt trampled upon in his life meant another Osborn household sadly crushed underfoot. Mrs. Emily Osborn became its first casualty. "After Harry's mom died, I honestly think that Norman tried to close the gap between them, but just wasn't equipped to do so," muses "American Son" writer Joe Kelly. "The seeds that would ultimately give birth to the Goblin were taking root in Norman even then, and they'd choked out any worthwhile parental instinct." "Norman was your typical absentee dad, more concerned with building his company than paying a lot of attention to his son," agrees Marvel Executive Editor Tom Brevoort. "Harry grew up with a constant overriding drive to please his father and win his affection—but he was a more neurotic person

than Norman, and didn't inherit either his father's brilliance or his drive, so he could never quite measure up to Norman's expectations." The elder Osborn threw all his attention and resources into a chemical company, Oscorp, which he co-founded with his former professor, Mendel Stromm. A bad beginning led to a worse end for the two when Norman had Stromm arrested on trumped up embezzlement charges and then experimented with the professor's strength-enhancing elixir, the first so-called "Goblin formula." It exploded in Norman's face—literally. The accident's aftermath brought about a Norman Osborn of a different stripe. Now unhinged to an even greater degree he began to plan his greatest symphony yet: music to Green Goblin by. Directionless, Harry sat at his father's side in the hospital, not realizing he'd lost any possibly remaining crumb of the man who only played at being a parent. "Norman definitely tried to be a father, he was just terrible at it because his rage and ambition overwhelmed everything else," Kelly observes. "I don't think Norman ever stopped being a father; he stopped being a good father right after Harry was born." "The more driven he became, the more disappointed he became in Harry, feeling that the boy wasn't living up to his potential, the potential of the Osborn line," says Brevoort. "So he'd constantly be trying to shape Harry up, to make him tougher and harder and more aggressive, and all that did was undermine Harry's confidence in himself." From there Norman indulged a childhood fear—or respect—for a macabre goblin phantom he imagined hunted him. Now calling himself the Green Goblin he flung off the yoke of a mortal called Osborn and flew into the night to become one of the most heinous costumed criminals of all. Still grounded, Harry hadn't a clue, more concerned with the pressures of school and his peers—and a growing drug habit.

With his criminal ambitions, the Green Goblin managed to gain an eternal adversary in the person of Peter Parker's alter-ego Spider-Man. Their clashes eventually led to his discovering the secret connection between Peter and the web-slinger and a show-down that climaxed in electrocution for Norman and a subsequent loss of memory for his career as the Goblin. Suddenly, a sheepish and seemingly caring father peered out of Norman's eyes at his one and only child, Harry. "I think this was a Norman without that drive and ambition, which had been subsumed into his Goblin persona by that point," Brevoort offers. "And so, for a brief period of time, he connected better with Harry." "I have a feeling [this personality] was mostly false; the Norman that he subconsciously knew that he shoulds have been, but never was," says Kelly. Whatever its worth, whatever its mettle, that persona finally disappeared one day and in its place poured Norman's memories of the Green Goblin in flight and fury. That reawakening brought with it death for the love of Peter's life, Gwen Stacy, and also for the twisted mastermind himself.

#595 cover by
Phil Jimenez

That "death" for Spider-Man's most-hated foe proved to be false, like any smile Norman ever paid to Harry. But while Harry Osborn believed his father to be gone forever, his own life fell apart and the growing drug addiction coalesced into his receiving the Osborn family legacy: insanity. And the mantle of the Green Goblin. Next week, we examine the rivalry between Peter Parker and the Osborn men. In the mean time, check out more history of Norman Osborn on Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited. Check out the official Marvel Shop for everything Spider-Man! Download episodes of X-Men: Evolutionicon now on iTunes!

MORE IN Comics See All