This is a bit of a strange one…
During the mid-90s, when I was in my mid-teens, I was an avid reader of comic books. Mostly, the works of Marvel; and specifically the X-titles (Uncanny X-Men, X-Force, X-Factor, Generation X, etc.) and Spider-man.
This was the time of the Onslaught Saga, a companywide cross-over event that united all the major characters of the Marvel Universe (including the Avengers, Fantastic Four and the X-men) against one villain: Onslaught, a psychic and physical manifestation of the worst elements of both Professor Charles Xavier (Professor X) and Erik Lehnsherr (Magneto).
The character of the Green Goblin has gone through many iterations. Most people know him only as the classic Spider-man villain, as seen in comics, on TV and in movies (most notably portrayed by Willem Dafoe in 2002’s ‘Spider-Man’, directed by Sam Raimi). But, in truth, more than one man has donned the green…
Phil was the fourth Green Goblin, and accidental heir to the character’s convoluted legacy. While accompanying his uncle, the famous Daily Bugle reporter Ben Urich, on an investigation, he stumbles across the secret lab of Harry Osborn, the second Green Goblin, and is bathed in a version of the “super-soldier serum” that gave Harry and his father Norman their powers. Equipped with a re-vamped costume and an arsenal of goblin-themed weapons, Phil manages to save his uncle from a group of thugs and thereafter embarks on a career as a masked vigilante, albeit an often half-hearted one.
The interesting thing about Phil is that he spends most of his time as the Goblin questioning his courage and purpose. Unlike Spider-man, he suffers no great tragedy that prompts him to evaluate his motives. In fact, he admits at one point (in issue #3 of Green Goblin from December, 1995) that he’s in it, principally, for “the laughs”.
He also uses his new-found powers to try and gain the attention of the career-obsessed journalism-intern Lynn Walsh, with limited success; and even surrenders himself to (and subsequently escapes from) a supervillain so he can claim a ten-thousand dollar reward!
In many ways, Phil’s story is an alternate re-telling of the Peter Parker/Spider-man origin tale, with obvious parallels and explorations of “what might have been”. What’s different this time is that Phil is a “90s kind-of-guy”, and represents what most people thought of Generation X (the generation, not the same-named superhero group!): directionless/adrift, morally questionable, sometimes lazy, obsessed with pop culture/money/fame, and without a righteous cause to provide motivation.
Dreamed-up by writer/editor Tom DeFalco, Phil and his version of the Green Goblin (the only “good” version the Marvel Universe has ever seen) lasted only thirteen issues. The conclusion of the long-running Spider-man Clone Saga and the return of Norman Osborn (the first Green Goblin) as a central villain meant that there was no room for Phil, and so he was shuffled off the super-hero roster (in a not-unkind manner, thankfully).
He later returned (in 2011), this time as a full-fledged villain, a character development I don’t exactly agree with. It’s the 90s Phil Urich that has stayed with me. I can’t exactly say why: maybe it’s because I identify with his outlook (having grown up in the same period)? Although the over-use of 90s buzz-words can be a little grating at times.
Or maybe it’s that he represents all of us who wished we could be superheroes, but never found the means (or the ability to overcome the fact that superheroes are fictional)!
The writing might not have been exceptional, and the quality of the artwork varied widely – but I’m glad I got to spend some time with this “costumed dude”.
And now you can too: http://www.amazon.com/Green-Goblin-Lighter-Shade/dp/0785157573