In Superior Spider-Man #26, the Goblins go to war when a Green Goblin (whose identity we don't know yet) takes on the Hobgoblin (the original, Roderick Kingsley). Today's issue will be yet another note in the long history between the two themed villains. So for those not aware of this history, consider this a cliff-notes version to understand the “Goblin War”.
It begins with Amazing Spider-Man #238, the very first appearance of the original Hobgoblin. In an effort to make a new goblin fresher to readers (given the role of the Green Goblin had already been used by three people: Norman Osborn, Harry Osborn, and Bart Hamilton), Amazing Spider-Man writer Roger Stern devised a way to bring a new Goblin into the Spider-Man Universe without resorting to using the Green Goblin identity. The villain was a hit with readers and a new rogue for Spider-Man was added.
Ah, but this is comics after all, and the return of the Green Goblin was inevitable. The first shot fired between Goblins as it were happened in Amazing Spider-Man #261. Since his debut, the Hobgoblin had made life hell for Harry Osborn. He was stealing from his company, blackmailing him with the knowledge that Norman was a vile/cruel being, and the latest rub was him kidnapping Harry's pregnant wife (at the time), Liz Allen.
So with this issue, Harry had enough of the Hobgoblin and donned several Goblin gadgets to take on this bully. Unfortunately, it had been A LONG time since Harry was a Green Goblin and the Hobgoblin kicked his ass before going right back to fighting Spider-Man. The issue ended with everyone saved, little Normie Osborn born during the battle, and the Hobgoblin while defeated, escaped. Still, the first shot was fired, and readers would have to wait fifty more issues to see a “true” Goblin War.
The first actual in-costume meeting between a Green Goblin and Hobgoblin took place in Amazing Spider-Man #312 aka a crossover with the X-Men event, “Inferno”. Again, Harry was being blackmailed by a Hobgoblin (just not the original this time, Jason Macendale, who at the time had the original “killed” and replaced him). The reason, was a bit different this time, with this Hobgoblin craving the power of the Stromm Formula (that gives all Goblins their strength and other powers) and figuring to muscle Harry out of it. Harry, still in the, “screw you Hobgoblin” phase of his life, decides to gear up and don his old Green Goblin duds. The two then battle it out at the Osborn Chemical Plant, which has also been warped into a catacomb due the demonic effects of said X-Men event going on. Again, Harry was on the ropes against a more experienced Goblin, until Spider-Man intervenes. The two friends then begin whuppin Hobgoblin's butt, forcing the hellfiend to flee. So the Green Goblin wins with an assist from Spider-Man? I know, lame. You want the two fiends going at their full strength?
Well flashforward a few years later to Green Goblin #4 (hey it was the 90s everyone was getting an ongoing. But at the very least, this book was criminally underrated and gone way too soon), with Hobgoblin (Macendale again) taking on the newest Green Goblin (Phil Urich). The cause this time was quite different then the usual catalyst: the Hobgoblin was set for a big score, a subway train (with the side effect it would ruin the career of his ex-wife's current husband), with the heroic Green Goblin stepping in to thwart him.
At the time, both Goblins now had powers: Macendale through a modified version of the serum that gave Kraven the Hunter his powers, and Urich with a modified form of the Stromm Formula that enabled the usual stuff but also included a sonic scream when wearing a mask. After besting his henchmen, Hobgoblin takes on the Green Goblin in the underground subway tunnels in a very close-quartered glider combat. The fight tilts to Hobgoblin's side, until the sight of Greenie's backup plan rears it's head: namely the blue-eyed ever loving THING marching his way toward the pair (earlier in the issue Urich called the Fantastic Four, with the Thing answering, dismissing it at first as a crank call). So obviously, when seeing Aunt Petiuna's great nephew charging toward him with fire in his eyes, the Hobgoblin is terrified beyond belief and leaves. Again, a Green Goblin notches another victory thanks to a timely assist by a Marvel hero.
Yeah, it's getting disgusting watching a hero come in and stop these two goblins go pumpkin bomb-to-razor bat and beat the heck out of each other. Not long after, both goblins, Urich and Macendale, quit (losing all his toys in the “Onslaught” megaevent forced Phil to retire. Shortly thereafter, Norman Osborn returned) or were “forced out” (the original Hobgoblin wasn't so dead, and decided to murder his successor for ruining the Hobgoblin name). Enter Spectacular Spider-Man #259-261 “The Goblins at the Gate” the first (and quite possibly the only) confrontation (thus far) of the original Green Goblin (Norman Osborn) and Hobgoblin (Roderick Kingsley).
With his return, Norman Osborn set his life and reputation back in order, making the world believe he wasn't the Green Goblin (in a event prior to this). Ironically, he chose the Hobgoblin way of doing this: using a stand-in (whose identity was supposed to be revealed in this arc as Phil Urich, but put off until the Howard Mackie/John Bryne run on the book. The identity was then switched to it being a no-name clone. I know.. LAME!!!) to ensure the world thought he had nothing to do with the villainous identity. Enter: Roderick Kingsley, who was recently caught and revealed to be the actual Hobgoblin. This man had access to all of Osborn's tech and journals, and Kingsley revealed he might still have one of the later tucked away. Kingsley had to be set free and the location of that journal had to be discovered.
Before I go back into the plot when both returned to comics, a lot was made of what the other felt of the current goings on. For Norman (as we learned in Spider-Man: The Osborn Journal #1), he loathed that someone was using his methods and the goblin-motif for their own gain. He always wanted to settle and put that “pretender” to shame. For Roderick, as we've known throughout the entire original Hobgoblin Saga by Roger Stern and even in his return in Spider-Man: Hobgoblin Lives #1-3, he respected Osborn's brilliance and career, though wanted to avoid the pratfalls being a goblin took. Namely, having things become personal and the eventual madness that brings about the ultimate defeat of any Green Goblin.
So of course, when these two original Goblins went at it of course, the first battle would be via psychological fare. One trying to out do the other, or the other paying brief respect for the man who did it all, before stepping from the shadow of the other Goblin. That of course led to the inevitable fist fight between the two Goblins. Surprisingly, the fight was fair, perhaps because Norman wasn't in the Goblin suit (instead power-suit), and Kingsley didn't have his bag of tricks. In the end, the original Goblins went at it with a firey blaze behind them, just as wild and unpredictable as the two men. When the dust settled, both decided to split for their respective welfare. As to who won the fight, well, you could say Norman did, in gaining another company and the satisfaction that the journal story was just Kingsley lying. On the other hand, Kingsley did succeed in his goals too. He had escaped custody and all his enemies and wasnnow living the high life in the Caribbean. So the winner depends on how you interpret it: Osborn gets the current win, but Kingsley gets to enjoy the longer game.
Cue this issue, Superior Spider-Man #26 as the next act of this feud. Will the mysterious Green Goblin stand truimphant since the next arc is called “Goblin Nation” and features neither hide-nor-hair of the Hobgoblin? Or will the Hobgoblin prevail?! Only one way to find out - read Superior Spider-Man #26 and enjoy the GOBLIN WAR!!!