Friday, January 18, 2019

Amazing Spider-Man #39/#40

How Green Was My Goblin?

Norman Osborn / Green Goblin

Supporting Cast:
Dr Bromwell, Gwen Stacey, Flash Thompson, Harry Osborn, Ned Leeds, J.Jonah Jameson, Aunt May, Mrs Watson, Betty Brant.

Peter Parker's Financial Situation
Peter sells J.J.J. four pictures of Spider-Man fighting some crooks, and guesses that he is only getting half what they are worth.

In #33, he sold Jonah pictures of the Master Planner for $100 each, although Jonah admitted that they were worth twice that. So it appears that Peter Parker underestimates the value of his work, selling pictures for $50 a print, while believing them to be worth $100 even though their true value to Jonah is $200. If this is correct, he still gets $200 for the four pictures: not bad for an hour's work.

Peter has enough money to see a doctor with a simple cold; perhaps he has acquired comprehensive medical insurance as part of his college scholarship.

"A few weeks" have passed since Spider-Man's encounter with Prof. Stromm.

We have dated #38 to October 19th 1965; #37 (the Stromm story) took place only a few days earlier, which would place this #39
 in the second week of November 1965. 

However when Aunt May mistakes the smoke from the Goblin's glider for fog she says "It was a clear spring night not a few minutes ago!"

Amazing Spider-Man #39 has an August 1966 cover date, probably equating to June 1966 publication, in which case Lee was probably writing it in April of that year. (He announced Ditko's departure to a student audience in March 1966.) So although it will be published in the summer, and must logically be happening in the winter, Lee is writing it in the spring. 

The Goblin's Bag of Tricks
a: The Goblin glider produces a choking smoke screen
b: "Goblin blasts" in his gloves or fingers
c: Pumpkin shaped "stun bombs"
d: A bat that goes "whirr", function unknown.
e: Battery operated bats which disrupt Spidey's field of vision
f: A ghost shaped asphyxiation grenade; specifically said to be the same kind that put the Human Torch out of action in #14.



Title: How Green Was My Goblin 
A play on the 1941 John Ford movie How Green Was My Valley. The title has no bearing on the story apart from the colour "green": it could just as well have been called "There is a Green Goblin Far Away" or "The Green Green Goblin of Home". 

p2 "I've modified my rocket powered flying broomstick..." 
The Goblin's flying device has been referred to as a "glider" since the comics code ruled that broomsticks were a bit too witchy. 

p2 "If I didn't despise that miserable misanthrope so much, I'd almost pity him." 
A misanthrope is one who hates is fellow man. Spider-Man is if anything a philanthrope; he loves his fellow man and altruistically puts his life on the line for them. The Goblin is projecting his own feelings onto others -- accusing Spider-Man of being what he himself is. Or, possibly, Stan Lee has had another vocabulary malfunction. 

p3 "I'll leave my Spidey costume in my brief case."
The costume would quite easily fit into the little case he has been carrying on his back; but it is quite hard to see how it contained shirt, trousers, waistcoat, shoes, socks and (presumably) underwear.

p3 "Of course, it could just be an allergy"  
The idea that Marvel Heroes are so realistic they even suffer from allergies is something of a proverb: but this is one of the few occasions when it is literally referred to in a story. 

p4 "You've got a whopper of a cold, son..but some anti-histamine pills and a B12 shot will have you good as new again." 
Bromwell diagnoses Peter as having a cold, rather than an allergy, but then prescribes him anti-histamines (an allergy treatment) and vitamin B12 (usually a treatment for anemia or exhaustion.) 

p6 "You mean, you're an orphan? I didn't know that about you..." 
Harry seems to be using the word "orphan" in an old-fashioned sense of "fatherless", rather than in the more common sense of someone who has lost both his parents. Peter certainly hasn't told Harry that he has no living mother. 

p7 "Who's been giving you your boxing lessons lately — Woody Allen?" 
In 1966 Woody Allen was known primarily as a stand-up comic with a nerdy persona; his first movie came out in 1965. It isn't clear why he would instantly spring to mind as a bad boxing coach. 

p 9 "What would Soupy Sales say if he heard you." 
Soupy Sales was a children's entertainer and comedian; his regular kids TV show had just come to an end. 

p9 "There's something not kosher about all this..." 
"Kosher" was widely used to mean "OK" or "above board" and probably isn't a specifically Jewish reference — despite two Jewish comedians having just been mentioned.

p9 "What a sap I am" 
"Sap" = "fool". It may possibly be military slang for "sad and pathetic" or possibly even "sad-ass prick". 

p12 "I wonder if I'll get kicked out of the superhero union for not using a phone booth." 

Clark Kent proverbially changes to Superman in a public phone box, although examples of him doing so in actual comics are suspiciously hard to come by. Note that earlier this issue Peter Parker swapped clothes in a broom closet. 

p13 "My cold seems to have gotten better" 
On page 8 Spider-Man was still speaking wid a blocked up dose. ("I've a feel'g you looked id those glasses without payi'g your dime") but 4 pages later it is all clear. Powerful stuff, vitamin B12. 

p14 "Returning home from a late date" 
Not that late. Peter went into action as Spidey right after school; there were kids in the bank; and the Bugle offices were still open. If the fight really only took an hour, it can scarcely be later than 4.30pm 

p15 "The Green Goblin! You've found me!" 
Bad form, Peter. You could at least have said "My God! I knew that dressing up as Spidey for that costume party would land me in hot water" or "Where am I? Did that rat Spider-Man drug me" or "I was only rehearsing the lines for a play.." 


p3 "That's okay Dad, I understand" 
Harry told Peter that he and his Dad were great pals until a few years ago: but the flashback scenes show that Norman was a neglectful father long before he became the Green Goblin. 

p4 "Dad have you forgotten? It's parents night at school." 
Spider-Man first encountered the Goblin about two years ago, when he was in high school, presumably aged about 16. This is consistent with Harry Osborn looking about 15 when Norman becomes the Green Goblin. 

p5  "All sorts of scientific devices in my chemical company that I could use". 
In #37, he was said to run an electronics company. 

p6: "Now for my first victim..." 
Note that the Goblin is riding his bat-winged glider, even though the early Goblin rode a broomstick. 

p17 "I must see my son. I have to help him with his bio... "
Harry needed help with his biology homework months or years before Norman became the Goblin: it would have been more logical to say "where is Harry — I promised to go to his parents evening."

Amazing Spider-Man #41 was something of a reboot. The long absent Betty Brant comes home, and promptly walks away into the sunset with Ned Leeds. Peter Parker sulks for a whole panel before falling head-over-heels in love with the still demon-horned Gwen Stacey and simultaneously agreeing to the long delayed blind date with Mary-Jane. He morphs into a hipster and buys a motorbike. ("Lady, there's a lot you don't know about me!"). A new villain, the Rhino, crashes into the story; and a new sub-plot is introduced concerning J.J.J's long-forgotten astronaut son. Stan is quite up-front about what is happening. 

"BEGINNING: A great NEW ERA in the ever-changing life of the world's most amazing web-spinner: 
SEE the return of Betty Brant and the startling result that follows! 
SEE the surprise appearance of J. Jonah Jameson's astronaut son! 
SEE the most exciting new purchase Peter Parker ever made!" 

And of course, SEE some kid called John Romita trying to draw as much like Ditko as possible. 

But Amazing Spider-Man #41 is two months in the future. John Romita arrived, with relatively little fanfare, in issue #39. Why did Stan Lee not herald that issue as the beginning of the exciting new era? 

Presumably, because Ditko had left unfinished business; business that Lee wanted to clear up as quickly and simply as possible. Amazing Spider-Man #39 and #40 are interim, transitional issues. #41 is the relaunch.

As has been noted previously: Steve Ditko nearly always put the "next issue" box at the bottom of the final panel; even if that panel was only one ninth of the page. This is also how Kirby did things; and it will be how Romita generally works. When the "next issue" box is placed on a quarter or half page spread -- as with Amazing Spider-Man #27 and #32, and indeed Fantastic Four #48 -- I will always suspect that this was not where the comic was originally supposed to end. When the first page of part 2 is simply the last panel of part 1 redrawn on a larger scale, I become even more suspicious. And when the "next issue" text partially covers the face of one of the main characters, my suspicions are totally confirmed. 

Amazing Spider-Man #39 and #40 must have been created as a single comic and then split in two. If you doubt me, read them consecutively, ignoring the "next issue" call out and skipping the splash page, and see how much more sense they make. 

"It's the real face of the Green Goblin...the face of Norman Osborn."

"Those features! That name! Of course -- you're related to one of my own classmates!! You're Harry Osborn's father!"

"You shouldn't have mentioned Harry! Why do you remind me of him?"

Did Stan Lee, at some point, intend to wrap up the dangling Ditko plot threads in an annual or a special; and introduce Romita with a big splash starting on #39? Is it even possible that Romita was brought in to redraw #39/#40 after Stan Lee rejected Ditko's version, and was asked to stay on as the regular illustrator when Ditko walked out?

We don't know. It is another part of the intractable enigma of Ditko's departure.

The ending of Spider-Man 39 and the opening of Spider-Man 40, placed side by side. Was this orginally mean as a double issue?

I will say this for Amazing Spider-Man #39: it has a wonderful cover. It hits us in the face with three sensational developments, and teases us with a fourth. The Green Goblin is back; the Green Goblin has defeated Spider-Man and the Green Goblin knows that Spider-Man is Peter Parker. A very small line of text, at the bottom of the page, promises us a fourth surprise: we are going to finally find out who the Green Goblin is. 

It is hard to convey just how shocking this cover is when your grandfather hands it to you on a Saturday evening, along with your weekly ration of mint humbugs. In latter days, quite a lot of people found out who Spider-Man really was -- in the movies he is happy to rip off his mask in front of anyone and everyone. But in those days it was still the ultimate taboo. In this single image the Goblin is transfigured from the one villain whose identity Spider-Man does not know to the one villain who knows Spider-Man's identity.

But, sadly, very little comes of this sensational set-up. The Green Goblin discovers Spider-Man's true identity but within a few pages he forgets it. And until 1968, there the matter rests.

There are three components to any Spider-Man story: the pictures, the dialog, and the plot.

No-one need have any complaint about John Romita's pictures. He does his best to invoke Steve Ditko's iconography. His college scenes and Daily Bugle scenes could pass for Ditko if you weren't paying close attention. But that particular New York back street noir that Ditko excelled at is gone for good: Romita's New York is pretty much just a collection of gray skyscrapers, a painted backdrop for a student production of West Side Story. Ditko's thrilling aerial ballets have also departed: Spidey nonchalantly dangles on his webs with no particular sense of momentum. On the other hand, Romita is pretty good at crowd scenes: the civilians who watch Spider-Man fight the bank robbers have consistent faces and definite personalities.

The dialog is quintessential Stan Lee. There is an awful lot of it, and it is nearly all snappy; swinging between the melodramatically tragic and the tragically hip. There isn't that much Spider-repartee: the stakes are so high that the Goblin mostly talks like a James Bond villain while Spider-Man has an internal monologue about how much trouble he is in. 

"My compliments, Spider-Man. Too bad your power is not the equal to your courage." 

"He's toying with me! He feels so confident that he's warning me advance!" 

Ditko used to draw stuff that wasn't in Stan Lee's plot synopsis; but we should remember that Stan Lee often writes stuff which isn't in the pictures. This issue feels exceptionally dense in that regard. Romita hasn't bothered to keep up the running joke of giving J.J.J. a new secretary every month, so Lee drops in a little speech bubble where he references an off-stage "Miss Brown". Romita shows a mother and child in the crowd during the bank robbery, and Lee uses text to create a tiny little sub-plot for them. 

"Don't look at them Selwyn... you're too young for such an awful sight."

"Aww Ma...that fight's tame next to the kiddie shows on TV"

And in the next panel

"Wait ma... lemmee stay! It's just starting to get good!" 

"Selwyn! What would Soupy Sales say if he heard you?" 

(There seems to be quite a laboured in-joke going on here. The first season of Adam West's Batman TV series, with its famously camp fight scenes, had just finished its first run; and Marvel was gearing up to release The Marvel Superheroes cartoon series in the autumn. There were inevitable complaints about TV violence -- the UK version of Batman had to carry warnings telling kids not to try and emulate Batman's stunts. Selwyn's Mum considers Soupy Sales -- and old fashioned pie-in-the-face children's comedian -- to be a much more wholesome TV star. But the previous year, Sales had himself been accused of being a bad influence on children when he jokingly suggested that they should steal money from their parents and send it to him.)

Perhaps the best example of words and pictures working in conjunction comes during the Goblin's long monologue in issue #40. As Osborn, he repeatedly insists that he was an excellent father to Harry, while the pictures tell a different story: he was a neglectful father even before he became the Goblin. (Stan Lee makes it quite clear that Osborn is an unreliable narrator: could we legitimately infer that Prof. Stromm's exploding green potion had nothing to do with the Goblin's genesis? Osborn was a bastard before the flask blew up in his face, and he remained a bastard afterwards.)

But the actual story -- the plot -- is feeble, internally inconsistent, and padded. Peter Parker has a cold; the doctor gives him some pills; but warns him to protect Aunt May from any shocks or surprises. He goes to college: Harry Osborn is uncharacteristically pleasant and tells him how distant his father has become lately. Spider-Man fights some crooks, who turn out to be in the pay of the Green Goblin: they spray him with an incredibly contrived McGuffin (literally described as "The Gimmick") which deactivates his Spider-Sense. The Goblin follows him to the Daily Bugle and back to his house. At the Bugle, Ned Leeds is uncharacteristically pleasant, and Peter agrees to step aside and let Ned marry Betty if and when she comes home. There is a medium sized fight outside Aunt May's house, which ends with the Goblin knocking Spider-Man out with a special knocky-out-Spider-Man weapon. Why he didn't use it in the first place, no-one knows. Everything which has happened in the issue is a mechanical set up for the final page. The only reason that Peter Parker has a cold is to establish that Aunt May will die if she discovers Peter Parker's secret. ("Now, more than ever, I must see to it that she never learns my secret identity!") The cold magically goes away once Doc Bromwell has dispensed his plot point. The only reason for the college scene is to remind us that Harry has a father and that his father is not very nice. And the only reason for the bank robbery is so the thugs can use The Gimmick. There was a time when Spider-Man could beat up six criminals in a couple of panels; but this fight is padded out to five pages. It takes Peter another whole page to get out of his Spider-Man suit and into his street clothes. 

The reason for this is not hard to guess. For a year at the very least, Stan Lee has not been writing Spider-Plots; and from the very beginning, all the legwork was being done by Ditko. Romita is a perfectly fine illustrator, but he is not a writer. Lee has, I suppose, presented Romita with a Marvel Method outline and Romita has illustrated that outline. But he is not Ditko. He doesn't put stuff into the story which Stan hadn't even thought of. He just draws what Stan gives him. And Stan has given him so little that he has to take everything very slowly. A trip to the doctor's takes two pages and a routine fight with some thugs takes six. Stan Lee can see what everyone else can see: that it looks very pretty -- maybe prettier, in any conventional sense, than Ditko -- but it's very thin stuff. So he goes all out with the dialog; with adjectives and subplots and digressions. Look at the first panel on page 8: I make it four different NPCs who speak; on top of two bubbles worth of internal monologue from Spider-Man.

The Green Goblin's whole personality has been subsumed in his hatred for Spider-Man. Back in #28, he swore that he would never rest until Spider-Man was defeated; he is now ranting that "merely destroying him....simply crushing him like a worm...will not give me enough satisfaction." 

There is really no way to reconcile this with Norman Osborn's rather cold blooded monologue in issue #37: "Spider-Man almost ruined everything...Now his suspicions are aroused he must be disposed of" and again in #38 "I'm prepared to pay handsomely to insure that Spider-Man never interferes with me again." Osborn regarded killing Spider-Man as a means to an end; the Goblin regards defeating him as an end in itself. (In #38, Osborn was disguising himself with a false beard and dark glasses before meeting the mob; but sometime in the intervening period he has openly met with the bank robbers as the Goblin to give them the special Spider-Man-Defeating-Gimmick.)

I do not say that these different stories cannot be harmonized: any two contradictory stories can be harmonized. It helps that the Goblin is mad, maybe even schizophrenic. Perhaps the Osborn of Once Upon a Time There Was a Robot is not consciously aware of his Goblin persona. I do say that I wouldn't be trying to think up harmonizations if I wasn't looking at two texts which obviously contradict each other. 

In future installments Stan Lee will extract a large amount of suspense from the fact that Osborn knows who Parker is. But in this issue the Goblin, having discovered Peter Parker's name, his address, and his place of work follows him home and starts a fight with him. Think of all the horrid things he could have done. Gone to his friend Jonah and sold him the secret for a billion dollars. Told Spider-Man that if he didn't help him become Kingpin of Crime he'd tell Aunt May on him. Murdered one of his best friends. (Gwen Stacey, to take a random example.) But no. They have a fight.

Having captured Spider-Man, the Goblin goes full Republic Serial Villain. He decides that he might as well tell Spider-Man the whole story since he will never be able to share it with anyone else. The whole story is not very interesting: Norman Osborn was a nasty businessman; while working on an experiment some Green chemicals blew up in his face. He went mad and decided he might as well become a gangster. While he is talking, Spider-Man is trying to get free; but the Goblin decides to free him anyway. They have another fight. Parker is a bit stuck: he can't kill the Goblin in cold blood, particularly not now he knows he is Harry's dad; but if he doesn't kill him, he will reveal his identity to the police. Fortunately his adversary falls into a pile of chemicals which explode, and he forgets having been the Goblin altogether. 

Can you say "deus ex machina"

Romita spends a whole page showing us Spider-Man changing back to Peter Parker after the fight. Stan Lee has to give Peter Parker something to say during that clothes-change, and it can't very well be "Gotta grab my yellow shirt. Left arm, right arm, now the buttons..." So he starts to whinge. And whine. And waffle. 

"I've got to get to my room through the back window and change up there! Poor Aunt May! If..if anything HAPPENS I'll never FORGIVE myself! It will be because she was worried about ME! Why must I HURT everything I touch?? Uncle Ben! Betty Brant!! And now...Aunt May! Betty's female intuition must have made her leave me! She must have FELT that I'd bring nothing but HEARTACHE to those I love! The Amazing Spider-Man! ! Able to climb FIGHT, to RUN to THINK better and faster than any dozen ordinary men! Even those who HATE me envy my powers! My POWERS! What a JOKE! I sometimes think they've proven to be nothing but a CURSE! I'd change place with almost ANY normal everyday man! At least AUNT MAY wouldn't have to suffer for my secret!" 

This really makes no sense in terms of what has just happened. Peter Parker hasn't done anything wrong; he didn't phone home because he was unconscious and tied up by a psychopath who wanted to murder him. It might be that Doc Bromwell's warning about not giving Aunt May any shocks should have caused him to quit being Spider-Man (again) but if that isn't possible then there is no point in going off on a self-accusatory aria about a curse. Ditko ended the story of Spider-Man with him casting off his guilt, literally and metaphorically; but Stan Lee has redefined him as the character who whinges and whines and is guilty about anything everything. The Master Planner Trilogy basically never happened. 

In a sense, this isn't Stan Lee's fault. It was always going to be the case that the Master Planner trilogy would have been scribbled out, erased and overwritten. By 1966 Spider-Man was no-longer an experimental graphic novel: it was Marvel Comics biggest meal ticket, an ongoing saga that would clock up fifty, a hundred, five hundred more issues. And if there is one thing which an ongoing saga can never have, it's a Final Chapter.

A Close Reading of the First Great Graphic Novel in American Literature
Andrew Rilstone

Andrew Rilstone is a writer and critic from Bristol, England. This essay forms part of his critical study of Stan Lee and Steve Ditko's original Spider-Man comic book. 

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Amazing Spider-Man was written and drawn by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko and is copyright Marvel Comics. All quotes and illustrations are use for the purpose of criticism under the principle of fair dealing and fair use, and remain the property of the copyright holder.

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And come back in a weeks time for the very, very final installment of the Spider-Project.


Site Owner said...

Surely Woody Allen's "nerdy persona" is exactly why he would be thought of as a poor boxing coach. You seem to have explained precisely what you say is unexplained?

All the rest excellent as usual.

Simon Bucher-Jones

Andrew Rilstone said...

I was wondering why a not-yet-very-famous comedian and film maker would be the first example of a nerd to come to Lee/Spidey's mind. But maybe I am underestimating how well-known Woody Allen already was in '66?

Mike Taylor said...

Really interesting this time — strange how the least good isues often have the most capacity for analysis. A few things:

I wonder if I'll get kicked out of the superhero union for not using a phone booth.

I think this is rather good. It back-handedly establishes that Spider-Man lives not in Superman's universe, but in a universe where there are Superman comics. In doing so, it casts DC's stories as less real, with impressive efficiency.

There is really no way to reconcile this with Norman Osborn's rather cold blooded monologue in issue #37 … Osborn regarded killing Spider-Man as a means to an end; the Goblin regards defeating him as an end in itself.

Sorry, I'm not seeing any inconsistency at all here. Isn't that all part of the Jekyll-and-Hyde thing that Osborne has going on? Even if the industrialist and the supervillain share all the same memories, they have different personalities. (For that matter, Peter Parker and Spider-Man have noticeably different personalities, too:" the former always complaining about his luck, the latter continually wisecracking.)

Having captured Spider-Man, the Goblin goes full Republic Serial Villain. He decides that he might as well tell Spider-Man the whole story.

Haha, nice.

Andrew Rilstone said...

I am going to talk more about this next time; but have a look at Osborn's monologues in #37 and #38

"Spider-Man - why did he have to butt in now? If he defeats the robot, he could ruin my plan to get rid of Stromm forever!"

"Spider-Man should have known better than to but into something that doesn't concern him. I hope this robot finishes him off. He's becoming dangerous to my plans."

"Spider-Man almost ruined everything for me! But it won't happen again! Now that his suspicions have been aroused he must be disposed of"

If you didn't know the ending, would these sound to you as if Osborn was being foreshadowed as an old enemy with a long term grudge against Spider-Man?

Compare it with the last time we saw the Goblin, in #27

"Once again my brilliant plans have been thwarted by Spider-Man. He has proven to be my greatest most dangerous enemy. I'll never rest till I've destroyed him."

and his introductory rant in #39

"By now that web crawling weasel must have forgotten all about me...therefore it is the perfect time for me to strike and to get the revenge my soul is hungering for."

#39 follows on naturally after #27: the Goblin has been planning revenge on Spidey for some time. But the Goblin in #39 doesn't say "Once again, Spider-Man has interfered with my brilliant plans, so I must destroying sooner than I planned" or "Damn that weasal! He has interfered with my plans for the last time" or anything to connect with with the Osborn of #37. And if Stan Lee had been playing fair, when Spider-Man showed up at Osborn's factory, he should have thought "Spider-Man! Not again...!" or "Why is Spider-Man interfering...but fortunately he doesn't know who I really am."

I agree that if you think that Osborn and the Goblin are two sides of a split personality you can reconcile the two issues. But I think the idea that the Goblin is crazy was brought in to specifically to reconcile the the Osborn from the Osborn/Stromm story with the Osborn from all subsequent Green Goblin stories.

The fan theory that Galactus wiped the Silver Surfer's memory is now, I think, official Marvel Lore: when he fell in love with Alicia, brawled with the Thing and got duped by Doctor Doom, the Surfer had no memory of Zenn La or the lovely Shalla Bal. This works perfectly we as a continuity hack. But it is continuity hack that was necessary because the Surfer of the Stan Lee/John Buscema series had basically nothing to do with the Surfer of the Lee/Kirby F.F issues. See also: Anakin Skywalker.

Mike Taylor said...

To me the Silver Surfer case represents a much more blunt instrument than we're seeing with Osborne/the Goblin. In the latter case, we don't need to think anyone has forgotten about anything, just that the two facets of the Osborn/Goblin persona, with their very different personalities, have different emotional responses to the same person. If you don't like that, then I think for consistency's sake you also have to criticise the Goblin for not having a thought-bubble saying "There's that disapointing son of mine again, how I wish he was a higher achiever" when he sees Harry.

SK said...

Sorry, I'm not seeing any inconsistency at all here. Isn't that all part of the Jekyll-and-Hyde thing that Osborne has going on? Even if the industrialist and the supervillain share all the same memories, they have different personalities.

The question being addressed is whether that was the intent at the time, or a post-hoc justification. If you want to make the case it was the intent at the time, contra the essays, then I think you need more than an absence of evidence to the contrary given how much poistive, if necessarily circumstantial, evidence is provided in the essays for the opposing view.

I mean I know that some people claim that intent doesn't matter, but you'd have to wonder why someone like that was still reading a series of very interesting essays which are entirely about speculating how two persons operating with warring intents could have produced a particular work.

[I hope nobody minds me using the verb 'speculating', but I think when both principals are dead and there is no surviving primary documentation other than the results, speculation is all it can ever be — well-informed and painstakingly-researched speculation is still technically speculation, and it being speculation doesn't stop it being interesting]

Mike Taylor said...

Interesting thoughts, SK. I suppose I am not really arguing that Stan and/or Steve did plan for Norman Osborne to be the Green Goblin from the outset — that is, I am not arguing that this was authorial intent — I am just commenting on the text itself, in that "il n'y a pas de hors-texte" way.

That isn't to say that authorial intent isn't interesting — just that its not what I (though I) was arguing about.

SK said...

I am just commenting on the text itself

You're not though: 'the Silver Surfer case represents a much more blunt instrument' is not a comment on the text itself (or if it is, who within the text is wielding this blunt instrument?).

Mike Taylor said...

'the Silver Surfer case represents a much more blunt instrument' is not a comment on the text itself.

Of course it is! The text itself contains "… and the Galactus conveniently wiped his memory", the bluntest of all blunt instruments.

SK said...

The text itself contains "… and the Galactus conveniently wiped his memory", the bluntest of all blunt instruments.

Yes, but Galactus didn't wipe his memory in order to reconcile two totally different characters that just happened to have the same name and be drawn the same into one, which was the point of 'This works perfectly we as a continuity hack. But it is continuity hack that was necessary because the Surfer of the Stan Lee/John Buscema series had basically nothing to do with the Surfer of the Lee/Kirby F.F issues.'

Unless you think Galactus was thinking, 'Gosh, this guy looks like in the future he might have some advantures that would be totally impossible if he remembered what just happene to him, so I better wipe his memory as a continuity hack.'

Is there any such thing as a diegetic continuty hack? Maybe in Trave[l]lers. But apart from that, I think a continuity hack basically has to come from outside the continuity, doesn't it?

Mike Taylor said...

Sure, Galactus's continuity hack was imposed by the writers (as indeed was everything he has ever done). The point here is that such a hack was needed because of the writing that had gone before; whereas none was needed in the case of the Goblin.

SK said...

The point here is that such a hack was needed because of the writing that had gone before; whereas none was needed in the case of the Goblin.

Um, yes it was. Characters in fiction can usually be presumed to act consistently; anything else is usually either a deliberate choice or bad writing (and while — this is all from the essays, I don't really read comic books myself and never read American ones much as a child, I preferred Eagle — Mr Leee seems to have had many flaws as a writer, characters acting inconsistently is not one of them: Peter Parker is always whiney, Mr Jameson is always boastful, et cetera cet cetera).

So if you have two characters who act differently then they can be presumed to be different characters, unless some explanation (such as a split personality) in intended. If such an explanation is not intended (because they were supposed to be in fact two different characters) then the introcution of such is (in the terms used here) a continuity hack and imposed post-hoc by the writer(s).

Otherwise I don't see what you think is the qualitative difference between the memory-wipe case and the split-personality case. In both cases you have something which wasn't explicitly ruled out by the previous events imposed on them later in order to explain a change of intention.

Maybe you're being misled by split personalities being a thing which sometimes happens in real life but memories being wiped by purple giants less so? but that's not really relevant to whether something is a continuity hack. The crucial question when deciding 'was it a continuity hack?' is , 'was it always intended that these be a single character suffering from a split personality, or was it intended that they be two separate characters and they were only joined retrospectively, like the two surfers d'argent?'

What makes this case more interesting than most is that rather than what usually happens to make these sorts of things necessary, which is changing minds over years (eg that's usually the source of most of the continuity hacks in Doctor Who) but the fact you quite possibly have two intentions battling it out in real time. Or one intention and one person making it up as he went along. I don't know. I am awaiting the final installment to find out.

Mike Taylor said...

Well, I guess I have nothing more to say on this subject that I've not already said.

Andrew Rilstone said...

1: I am very happy with the word "speculation". I think it is entirely possible that before too long I will describe what I am doing as "fan metafiction".

Andrew Rilstone said...

2: Quite often, "a continuity hack" becomes an accepted part of canon, and what you are left with is more interesting than what you had before. William Burnside and Jack Munroe are part of the rich folk mythology of Captain America; Brubaker's splendid run on Cap ended perfectly with Steve Rogers visiting Burnside in his old folks' home. You an I know that Burnside was originally a fairly blunt instrument to solve a continuity problem: "If Captain America was frozen at the end of World War II, then what about all those Captain American stories set in the 1950s? Oh, that was an IMPOSTER Captain America, William Burnside...." But if I were writing about comics of the 1950s, I naturally wouldn't say "And, of course, this isn't really Steve Rogers, it's Wililam Burnside stealing his identity". That idea was thought up by Steve Englehart in the 1970s. See also Winter Soldiers, the Superman of Earth-2, others too numerous to mention.

Andrew Rilstone said...

3: The ending of "Spidey Saves The Day" makes it very clear that Osborn has no longer got any knowledge of having been the Goblin. He's just Norman. (But weirdly, he's a Norman who wants to help Harry with his homework, even though he had no interest of doing that even before he was Goblinized.) When his memory comes back in "The Goblin Lives" he is fully the Goblin even when he's wearing Normans' clothes: there is a great scene where he taunts Pete Parker in front of Harry and Gwen. ("I really shouldn't pry. We all have our secrets. Strange secrets we hide from the rest of the world. Wouldn't you agree Parker?" Previous Ditko episodes have shown the Goblin in his civilian clothes, still thinking and plotting as the Goblin. If Lee understood that he was already a multiple personality in Amazing Spider-Man #38, he doesn't make it at all clear.

Andrew Rilstone said...

4: The mad / schizophrenic Goblin of post Ditko lore works perfectly well, and yields several excellent stories. But I think that the mad / schizophrenic Goblin had to be introduced to explain why there are so few clues and foreshadowing in #38 and preceding issues. (The Ditko Goblin is not particularly crazy: he wears an superficially comical costume, but is relatively shrewd and cunning, manipulating other gangs and gangsters as part of a plan to fill the still vacant role of Kingpin Of Crime.