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American Son: The Essential Osborn

Marvel creators from Mark Waid to Greg Pak pick their favorite stories featuring Norman and Harry Osborn

By Jim Beard When the massive tale of "American Son" rolls out in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #595 through #599, the newest wrinkles in the Osborn family tapestry will stand revealed. But that lineage's beginnings stretch far back, back into the earliest days of Peter Parker's career as Spider-Man and his first contacts with Harry Osborn and his father, Norman. In celebration of "American Son" we've asked a passel of Marvel's luminaries to spotlight past tales of the Osborns that not only speak to the characters' natures but illuminate the impact they've made on others. So settle in—they're not often pretty but they rank among some of Marvel's best.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #14 (1964) Stan Lee, Steve Ditko, the first appearance of the Green Goblin and the Hulk thrown in for good measure—what more could you want? "I love everything about this story," says WAR MACHINE writer Greg Pak. "From the hilariously ornate plot wherein the Goblin nefariously schemes to get Spidey to star in a movie out West, because it's apparently easier to kill someone on a New Mexico movie set than the streets of New York, to that fact that the Goblin's goons are really intimidated by the sparks that fly from his finger to the surprise appearance of the Hulk to the brilliant penultimate panel in which the Goblin, now in civilian clothes, ties his tie, his face hidden behind the door of some giant iron vault that apparently doubles as a dresser. "We have no idea who this guy is—other than the fact that he's crazy! And that's awesome."

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #39-40 (1966) Norman Osborn: revealed as the Green Goblin! Peter Parker: revealed as Spider-Man! Executive Editor Tom Brevoort: revealed as a fan of this story! Norman got down and dirty with his war on Spidey and after he relates his secret origin everything goes ka-blooey in his face—literally. The aftermath meant a reprieve for Pete and an all-too brief coming-together for a muddle-brained Norman and his son.

SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #2 (1968) Yes, Spidey once held his very own black-and-white magazine in the late 1960's—for two issues, but what a run it was! "[Issue #2] is the longest standalone Silver Age clash between Spidey and Norman, and the first one to take place after the Goblin had learned Spidey's true identity, and he the Goblin's," Brevoort explains. "It's the classic cat-and-mouse between Peter and Norman that inspired the dinner scene in the first 'Spider-Man' movie and is Norman at his most evil." adds AMAZING SPIDER-MAN writer Mark Waid. "It's the real essential."

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #96-98 (1971) While a deranged Norman Osborn as the Goblin battled Spider-Man to the death, Harry sold his soul to drugs on the mean streets below. Brevoort also holds up this particular story arc as one that further developed Harry Osborn and set him on the path to becoming the second Green Goblin.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #121-122 (1974) The big one? Yes! The return of both Norman as the Goblin and Harry's addiction—and the shocking death of Peter Parker's first true love, the beautiful Gwen Stacy. The impact of this story on Marveldom Assembled cannot easily be diminished. "I think the most important [story] would be the death of Gwen Stacy," notes AVENGERS: THE INITIATIVE writer Christos Gage. "You can't go wrong with Gil Kane and John Romita Sr. drawing, not to mention Harry flipping out on dope! That story had it all."

SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #200 (1993) Harry once again donned the mantle of the Green Goblin to gain revenge for his father's death and defeat, but it took his own young son in harm's way to buy his way out of it with his own life as payment. Mark Waid calls it "a fitting coda to an era of Goblin history!" And in the interest of Honorable Mentions, we allowed MARVEL ZOMBIES 4, INCREDIBLE HERCULES and former MARVEL ADVENTURES SPIDER-MAN writer Fred Van Lente to chime in with a, ahem, personal choice of Pete and Harry's childhood—who says this isn't the Marvel Age of Magnanimity?

MARVEL ADVENTURES SPIDER-MAN #34 (2007) "Not that I'm not biased or anything, but this is a personal favorite in which Peter Parker becomes the star shortstop of his high school baseball team, and so Norman decides to kill him so his son Harry can win the big game," says Van Lente. "Talk about your overbearing 'Sports Dad.'" There's many more such tales in the Osborn canon, all of them deserving mention, but we hope you've enjoyed these picks by some of Marvel's greatest creative stars. "American Son," kicking off this month on May 27 and wrapping up in July, will surely find its deserving place among these stories as an important chapter in the ongoing Spider-Man saga. Not a subscriber to Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited yet? Join now! Check out the official Marvel Shop for everything Spider-Man! Download episodes of "X-Men: Evolution" and "Wolverine and the X-Men" now on iTunes!

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