(CBR) In the lead-up to the recently released "Superior Spider-Man" #26, Marvel Comics promised a "goblin fight like no other" as the Green Goblin and the "original" Hobgoblin squared off in the prologue of the hyped "Goblin Nation" arc. But while there's still an air of mystery as to who is under the Green Goblin mask, many of you may need a reminder of the "original" identity of the one, true Hobgoblin.
Introduced by Roger Stern and John Romita Jr. in 1983's "Amazing Spider-Man" (ASM) #238, the Hobgoblin has one of the most complicated and convoluted histories of any supervillain in the Marvel Universe. The mystery initially surrounding the character's identity made the Hobgoblin an instant phenomenon for Marvel and the rightful villainous successor to the Green Goblin -- a character that had been reinvented two times over with middling results after the original, Norman Osborn, was killed by Gerry Conway and Gil Kane in the iconic ASM #122.
"ASM #238 has a great hook," says Glenn Greenberg, former "Spectacular Spider-Man" writer who co-edited 1999's "Hobgoblin Lives" miniseries with Tom Brevoort. "I remember reading that issue for the first time and thinking they were introducing the true successor to the Green Goblin. With the second and third Goblins [Harry Osborn, Norman's son, and Bart Fink, Harry's shrink, respectively], Peter Parker never broke a sweat in dispatching them."
Further adding to the character's allure, Stern's Hobgoblin was considerably more calculating and manipulative than Norman Osborn's Green Goblin. The Hobgoblin was unquestionably a cold-blooded sociopath, killing off a number of subordinates on the off chance that they were getting close to uncovering his secret identity, showing was a method to his madness, unlike Osborn, who would spontaneously revert to his villainous alter-ego at the drop of a hat.
In conversations with then-Spider-Man group editor Tom DeFalco, Stern said he intended to string the mystery of the Hobgoblin along for about as long as it took Stan Lee to reveal the identity of the Green Goblin, who was first introduced by Lee and Steve Ditko in ASM #14 and was unmasked as Norman by Lee and John Romita Sr. in ASM #39.
DeFalco, who has a "small connection to mystery books and novels in 'another world,'" told Stern that he was "going to keep a list of suspects, and I'm going to cross them off as they're gone, to see if whether or not I agree with you."

But after scripting six Hobgoblin-starring issues, Stern and Romita Jr. left the title with Issue #250, turning the reins over to DeFalco and artist Ron Frenz. Stern contributed the plot to issue #251, the third part of his final Hobgoblin arc, which ends with the villain mysteriously disappearing after his van crashes in the water, leaving behind nothing but his mask. In the two previous issues, Stern was clearly laying the groundwork for who he intended to be revealed as the Hobgoblin -- putting a peculiar amount of focus on the skittish businessman Roderick Kingsley, a character Stern had introduced a few years earlier in "Spectacular Spider-Man" #43 as an effeminate fashion mogul.

Given that Kingsley was portrayed more as a punchline than a legitimate threat to Spider-Man -- shouting things like, "Oh, my gahwd" when his fashion samples were replaced by a rival with burlap sacks -- Stern developed a twist to his big reveal. Roderick would have a brother, Daniel, a character that had not been formally introduced in the comic book universe outside of a brief mention in a scene in ASM #250, when Kingsley questions where his brother disappeared to. While the brothers weren't twins, Stern argued that Daniel looked enough like Roderick that, with the help of a hairpiece, he could imitate him at business meetings and social events, while the Hobgoblin dropped pumpkin bombs on Spider-Man and raided Osborn's secret hideouts.

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"Roderick was a manipulator, a totally amoral businessman who used people and then tossed them to the side," Stern said. "As I was scripting ASM #238, I realized that the voice I was developing for the man who was about to become the Hobgoblin, was the same as Kingsley's voice. That was when I realized that he was my ideal choice."

DeFalco disagreed, however, and went in his own direction with the character once he became the lead writer for ASM. To this day, DeFalco dismisses Stern's plan as "Roderick Kingsley's evil twin."

Even Frenz, who went on to provide pencils for Stern on the "Hobgoblin Lives" miniseries, which puts forward Stern's original plan, remains incredulous about the not-twins-who-look-alike narrative.

"Come on, Rog! I love you dearly, and I respect the hell out of you, but how are you going to fool people if they're not identical twins?" Frenz said. "They have to at least be twins."

Danny Fingeroth, who succeeded DeFalco as Spider-book group editor, said he and DeFalco sat down to discuss the Hobgoblin's future and decided to take things in a new direction, in part, "out of respect for Roger."

So, with Stern's ideas officially in Marvel's rear view mirror, DeFalco and Frenz moved forward in charting new waters for the Hobgoblin. If DeFalco had been able to carry his plans to fruition, Richard Fisk, son of the nefarious "Kingpin" of crime, Wilson Fisk, would have eventually been revealed as the Hobgoblin, while, as a nod to Stern, Roderick Kingsley -- sans brother -- would be the Rose, the purple mask-wearing, well-coiffed crime boss who was introduced by DeFalco and Frenz in ASM #253.

Meanwhile, longtime Daily Bugle reporter Ned Leeds, a character introduced during the Lee/Ditko era of ASM, would be used as a red herring by DeFalco. During the DeFalco/Frenz run, Leeds's marriage with Betty Brant was on the rocks after Betty was caught by her husband canoodling with Flash Thompson, Peter Parker's high school bully-turned-war hero. When Flash is framed as the Hobgoblin in ASM #276, DeFalco's master plans of misdirection appeared to be working out perfectly.

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