Zeb Wells and John Romita Jr’s Amazing Spider-Man run continues, as Spider-Man faces the Hobgoblin, one of the most dangerous villains from his past. Romita Jr helped create the character back in 1982, now 40 years later the iconic artist is penciling the Hobgoblin again. But who is behind the mask this time? The answer was revealed today in Amazing Spider-Man #12, but there’s a twist.Warning: Spoilers ahead for Amazing Spider-Man #12!
What’s been going on with the Hobgoblin?
If you’ve been away from Spider-Man books for a while, let’s bring you up to speed. In Amazing Spider-Man #67 (2021) Peter Parker was shocked to discover his friend Ned Leeds was alive, after Leeds had been presumed dead for years. Ned Leeds had been framed for the Hobgoblin's crimes, and was seemingly killed by assassins tracking the Hobgoblin back in Amazing Spider-Man #289 (1987). Ned revealed that while brainwashed into believing he was the Hobgoblin by Roderick Kingsley using the Winkler Device, he had ingested some of the Green Goblin’s formula, giving him enhanced abilities.
This allowed Ned to survive his assassination attempt, causing him to wake up in his own grave. Ned reconnected with his wife Betty Brant, and a pregnancy soon followed. This storyline was picked up earlier this month in Amazing Spider-Man #11 (2022), with Ned returning to his life as a reporter. His wife Betty has given birth to a son named Winston, but their happily ever after has been interrupted by the reemergence of the Hobgoblin.
One night, Betty is shocked to find the Hobgoblin in Winston’s room, cradling the young baby. Later, the Hobgoblin attacks Roderick Kingsley (the original Hobgoblin, and in recent years the one behind the mask in most stories) and Norman Osborn. However, the recent attack seems to prove that Hobgoblin’s not Kingsley this time around. Does this mean Ned Leeds is the Hobgoblin again? The truth isn’t so simple.
Who is the current Hobgoblin?
Amazing Spider-Man #12 (2022) is in stores today, and it answers the question of who is under the Hobgoblin’s mask, but the answer only raises more questions. In this issue, Peter confronts Betty, who confesses that Ned has been coming home wearing the Hobgoblin costume. That seems to clinch things for Peter, so he suits up as Spider-Man to confront Ned.
Spidey finds Ned, and just when Spider-Man thinks he has things figured out, the Hobgoblin strikes, throwing a pumpkin bomb at Ned and Spidey-- this would seemingly eliminate Ned as a suspect. Spider-Man battles the Hobgoblin, and unmasks him as Roderick Kingsley. Spidey is shocked, since he saw the Hobgoblin attack Kingsley last issue. Before Spider-Man can fully process this revelation, a second Hobgoblin attacks him. Kingsley then explains that he has used the Winkler Device on Ned, brainwashing the reporter into acting as the Hobgoblin again. The final page cliffhanger depicts Spider-Man wounded and at the mercy of two Hobgoblins, closing in for the kill.
The history of the Hobgoblin mystery
The mystery surrounding the Hobgoblin’s identity has a convoluted history full off fake-outs, retcons, and evil twins. When the Hobgoblin first appeared in Amazing Spider-Man #238 (1982), his identity was a mystery. Writer Roger Stern intended the Hobgoblin to be revealed as fashion mogul Roderick Kingsley, but he left the title before resolving the storyline. When Tom DeFalco took over, he plotted to reveal that the Hobgoblin was the Kingpin’s son Richard Fisk. DeFalco kept the plans secret, and used reporter Ned Leeds as a red herring.
DeFalco even told his editor Christopher Priest that Leeds was the Hobgoblin, not wanting to reveal his Richard Fisk twist. Like Stern, DeFalco’s time on Amazing Spider-Man ended before he could reveal the Hobgoblin’s identity. Around that time Christopher Priest killed off Ned Leeds in the Spider-Man vs. Wolverine one-shot. All these ingredients led to a big mess for Peter David when he was tasked with revealing the Hobgoblin’s identity in Amazing Spider-Man #289 (1987). By then, the Hobgoblin mystery had been going on for five years, and fans were ready for a resolution.
Realizing that too many clues pointed to Ned Leeds, Peter David reasoned that Ned was the only reveal that made sense from a narrative standpoint. The problem was Leeds had been killed, which robbed Spider-Man and the readers of a dramatic unmasking moment. David decided to get around this problem by posthumously revealing that Ned had been the Hobgoblin before being killed on his European trip. David also reasoned that this was a fun way to subvert expectations, since nobody would suspect Ned after he died.
Amazing Spider-Man #289 was published revealing Ned Leeds had been the Hobgoblin before being killed by agents of a villain called the Foreigner. Jason Macendale, a villain known as Jack O’Lantern, became the new Hobgoblin from that point on, allowing the villainous mantle to outlive Leeds. The reveal never sat right with Hobgoblin’s co-creator Roger Stern, who noted that the villain’s super-strength would have easily allowed him to outfight the Foreigner’s assassins.
In 1996, Stern was given a chance to complete his original story with the mini-series Hobgoblin Lives. The mini-series revealed that Roderick Kingsley had brainwashed Ned Leeds with the Winkler Device, using the reporter as a patsy. The comic also revealed that Kingsley had a twin brother named Daniel, who would sometimes stand in for him. Clues to the Kingsley twin twist can be seen in Stern’s original Hobgoblin issues.
Thankfully the Hobgoblin mystery seems to have been resolved a bit quicker this time around, but there are still some unanswered questions. Ned Leeds believes that Osborn or someone else is after his son Winston, due to the Goblin formula in his blood. Is this paranoia being caused by the Winkler Device, or is there truth behind Ned’s words? There’s also the possibility of another twist forthcoming, since things with Kingsley are never quite what they seem.
Earlier in the story, Kingsley expressed confusion when Spider-Man noted that he had seen the Hobgoblin attack him earlier. Was this a ploy to distract Spider-Man, or was the Kingsley that was attacked last issue really someone else? Roderick Kingsley’s twin brother Daniel was beheaded by Phil Urich in Amazing Spider-Man #649 (2010), so we probably won’t be getting another twin brother fake-out.
Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean Kingsley doesn’t have more tricks up his sleeve. Plus, Spider-Man still has to deal with two Hobgoblins when the story continues next issue. He just got his friend Ned Leeds back, and now he’ll be forced to fight him. The mystery of the Hobgoblin might be solved, but the battle has only begun.
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