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The Massive Hobgoblin Mistake That Sony And Marvel Studios Need To Avoid

Spider-Man has a pretty massive list of villains, but let's face it, the Marvel Cinematic Universe version of Peter Parker (Tom Holland) has done a pretty good job at exhausting the A-listers in his rogues gallery. Between Vulture (Michael Keaton), Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal) and all key baddies from the various pre-MCU Spider-films, there are precious few classic Spider-Man villains who are yet to face this Spidey — especially since he's now operating as a low-budget, street-level hero. A high-tech Rhino suit might be a pretty jarring element in that particular mix. 

Sure, the inevitable next Spider-Man movie might have a Kingpin (Vincent D'Onofrio) up its sleeve. Perhaps it'll focus on the Sony side of things by placing some version of Peter against the likes of Venom (Tom Hardy), Morbius (Jared Leto), or Kraven the Hunter (Aaron Taylor-Johnson). However, there's one hitherto unseen, yet incredibly fitting candidate for the next major Spider-Man villain: The Hobgoblin. 

Any self-respecting Spider-Man needs a Goblin to call his own, but taking the regular Green Goblin route once again would only be boring. Besides, the MCU Peter has already fought the Willem Dafoe version, so things would get reduntant in a hurry. Since the Hobgoblin is a similar yet distinct character, he would be a cool solution to the Goblin Problem. He's also virtually guaranteed to make his live-action debut at some point down the line, because it's pretty clear by now that there will be new Spider-Man movies until the heat death of the universe. 

To make the most of this great villain when he inevitably appears, the MCU and Sony just need to avoid making one easy, but potentially catastrophic mistake. They absolutely, positively can't allow Ned Leeds (Jacob Batalon) to become the Hobgoblin.

Ned isn't the Hobgoblin in the comics, either

"Spider-Man: No Way Home" doesn't shy away from sprinkling hints about potential villain turns for supporting Spider-Man characters. Apart from casually introducing the Venom symbiote in a universe where Flash Thompson (Tony Revolori) exists, the movie provides a sobering moment for Ned when he finds out that being Spider-Man's friend can be a fast track to supervillainy. Though this is largely played as comedy, Batalon himself recently teased a possible dark future for Spider-Man's best friend with an Instagram post that showed him posing with a Hobgoblin action figure.

In case the House of Mouse is running stealthy tests for potential Nedgoblin hype, this is as good a moment as any to discuss two things that speak against any and all villainous developments for the character. First of them is the fact that Batalon's Ned is one of the most likeable characters in the MCU. Though sequel heel turns are a tried and tested superhero franchise tradition, it would be a shame to lose such a fully formed character to a trick like that — amazing as Batalon might be as a villain. 

There's also the not insignificant point that Ned Leeds has never really been the Hobgoblin in the comics. In fact, a good decade after Ned's grand villain reveal in 1987, it turned out that the character's supposed supervillain career was actually just an in-universe misdirection created by the real Hobgoblin.

There's still a way to connect Ned to the Hobgoblin

The reason the Hobgoblin is such a thematically appropriate MCU spider-villain is that it would be easy to introduce him in a way that continues the "Home" movies' trend of salvage-themed supervillains. Keaton's Vulture is obviously the most cut-and-dry example, but Mysterio also uses tech that was either cast away or grossly underappreciated by Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.). Meanwhile, "Spider-Man: No Way Home" takes the meta approach, and salvages its entire rogues gallery from previous Spider-Man movies. 

The Hobgoblin could easily be someone who somehow comes across footage of the Green Goblin's rampage in the MCU, or perhaps even acquires some tech he left behind in this universe. For a supervillain-minded person, a clip of Dafoe's Goblin fighting Spider-Man — especially during their first battle, where he absolutely demolishes Peter — would almost certainly serve as an inspiration. If the MCU wants to get really extra, it could even eschew the Hobgoblin's Roderick Kingsley, Jason Macendale and Phil Urich versions in favor of Peter Parker's classic frenemy Harry Osborn, who'd bring a whole new can of worms in the situation. 

 That's not to say Ned needs to be entirely absent from the Hobgoblin plot line, though. Since the comic book Ned is essentially brainwashed to believe that he's the Hobgoblin, an MCU version of the villain might do the same to this Ned. After all, if the Hobgoblin is even somewhat aware of the events of "No Way Home," he probably knows that Ned is somehow connected to Spider-Man, even if young Leeds himself has forgotten it. This might be a pretty handy way to bring Ned back in Peter Parker's life ... and perhaps even resume his role as "the man in the chair" at some point down the line.