Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

The Untold Truth Of Harry Osborn

Life can be tough for the children of super villains. They usually lack a strong family structure and have a warped moral compass coming from their unusual home life. And of course, you may also have to deal with emotional manipulation, scientific experimentation, and the occasional deal with the devil. Even if you survive all that to become a well-developed, rational adult, you still have a strangely high chance of following in your parent's villainous footsteps. At least that's the case with Harry Osborn, the son of Norman, otherwise known as the Green Goblin.

Growing up with just his dad in a wildly affluent lifestyle did not seem to negatively effect the boy too much. In college, after being antagonistic towards one another, he became friends with Peter Parker. The two became very close pals and roommates, going to parties and on double dates. However, the whole time, Parker's alter ego Spider-Man was dealing with Harry's dad as one of his mortal enemies. Harry found himself dealing with his own drug addiction, betrayal, and a string of tragic deaths that eventually lead him to take his dad's Goblin Formula, which had disastrous effects on his psyche and the rest of his life.

Given that Harry Osborn has been around for just shy of 60 years, there's a lot that you might not know about him.

His father bartered his soul to the devil

The Green Goblin has long been one of Spider-Man's greatest foes. He has carved a swathe of destruction through New York City and beyond, not caring who he hurt, especially if they happen to be related to Peter Parker and Spider-Man. Most assumed he began losing it after taking on his villainous alter ego, but as reader's learned in 2021's "Amazing Spider-Man" #72 Norman had been bad for quite a while before that.

In fact, to save himself and his company he made a deal with Mephisto, one of Marvel's most nefarious devils, and sells his son's soul to regain his success. This not only set the stage for the elder Osborn to become a major villain in the Marvel Universe — whose actions caused a lot of death, pain and suffering which fuel Mephisto's vast power — but also laid the groundwork for Harry's own troubled existence.

Harry Osborn was a jerk to Peter Parker at first

Spider-Man was swinging around taking on bad guys for about three years before he met Harry Osborn in 1965's "Amazing Spider-Man" #31. At that point, he was making the transition from high school to college life, while his Aunt May was going through some health problems. Parker's high school bully Flash Thompson met Harry and Gwen Stacy first and begrudgingly tried introducing them to Peter, but he was too wrapped up in his own thoughts to notice.

After a few other misunderstandings, Osborn began to think that Parker thought too well of himself and wanted to knock him down a few pegs by messing with him during a science class, which lead to a minor explosion. It's interesting that, in a variety of the adaptations, this relationship has been greatly altered so that Harry saw the genius in Peter before others.

Harry and Peter only became good friends after Green Goblin almost died

Thanks to all of the adaptations, just about everyone now knows that Norman Osborn is the original Green Goblin. However, during the initial run of comics, Green Goblin debuted in "Amazing Spider-Man" #14, but his secret identity was not revealed until #39. And even then, it wasn't always going to be Norman under the mask. That issue also just so happens to be the one in which Harry and Peter began to shift from adversaries to friends.

Unfortunately for Parker, all of this also coincided with the Goblin discovering his secret identity and scheming to destroy everything the young man knew and loved. Ultimately, the hero bested the villain and Norman wound up with amnesia, forgetting what he had learned. At that point, Parker did everything he could to hid the Goblin's true identity. Though Peter and Harry would grow to become close friends and even roommates, Harry would eventually develop a hatred towards Spider-Man.

Harry dated Peter's future wife Mary Jane Watson

Peter, Harry, and Gwen all continued to hang out during their college years — and then came Mary Jane Watson, a family friend who was a big fan of Spider-Man's. The four of them went on a number of group dates, resulting in Peter and Gwen pairing off while Harry and MJ did the same.

These relationships had their rough patches, but evolved naturally, though Gwen often wondered where Peter was constantly running off to. Meanwhile, Mary Jane witnessed the rocky relationship between her boyfriend and his dad. Their own union would come to an end during a trying time and then another tragedy lead to the dissolution of the other coupling. Making matters potentially more awkward between Peter and Harry, Mary Jane realized her love for Parker and they paired off. Harry saw this during a particularly bad time and it wreaked havoc on his already fragile mind. MJ and Peter would later get married.

He struggles with addiction

These days, comics tackle just about any subject you can think of, but in the '70s, Marvel kept things grounded yet relatively clean. Much of that came from the industry's compliance to the Comics Code Authority, which usually resulted in their seal of approval ending up on the cover. However, with "Amazing Spider-Man" #96-98, the seal did not appear because Stan Lee and Gil Kane tackled the subject of drug addiction. First, the hero saved a guy on a bad trip falling off of a building. Then Norman regained his memories and became the Green Goblin once more.

One evening, both roommates returned to their apartment and Peter noticed that Harry was tossing back a surprising number of pills to fall asleep. He was unsure about his relationship with MJ at the time and tried something new. He later appeared to overdose just as his own father attacked the apartment as Green Goblin sought to destroy Spider-Man. Luckily, the hero managed to get his friend to the hospital and got the villain to literally face his son in his hospital bed. All of this also lead to the end of Harry's relationship with Mary Jane because she could not deal. Harry would struggle with his attraction to certain chemicals from then on.

He became the Green Goblin after Gwen Stacy's death

Harry's life would come crashing down thanks to his father's actions in "Amazing Spider-Man" #121-122, though he would not fully understand that until much later. Upon remembering that Peter Parker was Spider-Man, Norman Osborn donned his iconic villain togs, kidnapped Gwen Stacy, and threw her off a bridge. Spider-Man attempted to save his falling love, but her neck broke in the process. He fiercely fought the Green Goblin who made an escape. Peter then visited Harry who was still tripping on some acid he had taken the day before.

Norman died on the wrong end of his own glider during his next fight with Spider-Man. The news hit Harry hard and he grew distant from his roommate. This was also the time when Peter and Mary Jane began growing even more closely to each another. The younger Osborn's downward spiral continued as he connected the dots and realized that his best friend was also the person he blamed for his father's death. From there, he dove into Goblin mode and fully threatened those close to Parker. Spidey won the day and had Harry locked up, even though Osborn tried revealing his secret identity to the police. He experienced amnesia like his father and forgot the events of that week. Harry would become the Green Goblin more than a few times over the ensuing years.

Harry Osborn got married and had a kid

Harry began to get his life back in order and started going to therapy. While attending a friend's wedding, he met a woman named Liz Allan who had known Peter since high school. Osborn and Liz dated, got married, and had a son named Normie. Things seemed to be going well for a time, but this is comics and that can't last for long.

Once more losing grip, Harry became the Green Goblin and developed a plan to kidnap his own wife, son, and brother-in-law, holing up in his childhood home. Spider-Man swung in and freed the captives before defeating his best friend in "Spectacular Spider-Man" #189. Harry managed to avoid jail time, but continued to slide deeper towards madness. His return home had severely negative effects on Liz, who desperately tried to ignore the whole thing, and Normie began developing his own intense hatred of Spider-Man.

Harry Osborn died saving his son ... from himself

Suffering from the effects of a new version of the Goblin Formula, Harry decided that he needed to end the hero-villain dynamic between him and Spider-Man once and for all by drugging the hero and blowing up the house they were both in. However, when Osborn realized that both Mary Jane and Normie were still inside, he managed to glide them to safety and then went back for Spidey before the building exploded as seen in 1993's "Spectacular Spider-Man" #200.

However, the whole experience proved too much for Osborn, as the experimental Goblin Formula took its toll and he perished that night ... but only after telling Peter he was his best friend. Though it would seem like the true Harry Osborn returned several years later, that turned out to be a clone. In reality, the younger Osborn's soul went directly to Mephisto's hell realm where he was tortured by demons taking on the visage of his father.

He developed a nasty plan to torture Peter Parker

Before flying off for what would be his final confrontation with Spider-Man, Harry developed the Osborn Artificial Intelligence, which was based on both his and Norman's minds. He also set into motion several plans intricately designed to torture his former roommate, including the one where he made it seem like Parker's parents had come back to life ... only to have them die again. The program also enlisted the help of some other villains to fake a whole story about Norman Osborn having a secret affair with Gwen Stacy, which resulted in children Gabriel and Sarah Stacy.

The set-up also developed a variety of other clones, including one of Harry who thought he was the real deal and even had a son named Stanley with another woman. Meanwhile, the Osborn AI kept making Gabriel and Sarah clones using DNA from Norman and Gwen that were used to manipulate the original Green Goblin, Spider-Man and many others. The twins eventually became supervillains called the Kindred. Their exploits eventually revealed the truth of the Osborn AI, which had also been manipulated by Mephisto leading to Clone Harry coming face to face with the corpse of his progenitor. Still, Clone Harry flew into action to help fight the Kindred and even sacrificed himself to save Norman Osborn. 

While a quality tale in and of itself, this storyline — which comes about in "Sinister War" #1-4 and "Amazing Spider-Man" #70-74 from 2021 — was used to clean up a lot of less-than-loved stories like "Sins Past," which introduced the idea of adult businessman Norman Osborn having an affair with college student Gwen Stacy. 

He benefited from another devilish deal

The true Harry Osborn was still in Hell being tortured by Norman-looking demons when all of this business with the Kindred came to a head. Spider-Man wound up overcoming the rage he felt at his friend's death (even if it was a clone) and defeated the villains without going over the edge.

What neither Harry nor Peter knew was that this whole ordeal was being overseen by Mephisto and Doctor Strange who had made a bet about the outcome. If Spider-Man lost his way, Mephisto would get Strange's soul. However, if he maintained his strong moral compass, the devil would free Harry's soul. Since the hero overcame the odds, Harry was freed, though what that exactly means has not yet been revealed. All of this was also revealed in "Amazing Spider-Man" #74 from 2021.

His mom faked her death

You may have noticed that there's a lot of talk about Harry's dad, but not his mom. That's because, for years, it was believed that she died giving birth to her son. Way down the line after Clone Harry got back together with Liz and brought Stanley along to live with them and Normie, they hired a nanny named Emma who did a few unusual things like taking blood samples and, well, kidnapping them.

All of that made a little more sense when Emma revealed that she was actually Emily Lyman, Harry's mother in "Amazing Spider-Man" #799! She had grown worried that her ex-husband would go after their grandkids and she was absolutely right. When Norman merged with the Carnage symbiote and became the Red King, he did exactly that, even turning Normie into a mini menace with his own symbiote. Still, she did managed to keep Stanley out of the fray.

Harry of the Raimi trilogy

Though the character of Harry Osborn had been seen on a variety of animated shows, he made his big screen debut in 2002's "Spider-Man" directed by Sam Raimi. In the first film, James Franco's Harry Osborn is pals with Tobey Maguire's Peter Parker. In that first film, Willem Dafoe's Norman Osborn becomes the Green Goblin after testing a formula on himself and he goes on to fight the newly minted Spider-Man. After the elder Osborn is killed fighting the hero, Spider-Man does his best to keep the truth about Norman's alter ego from Harry, even delivering the body to the family home. The younger Osborn witnessed this and began hating the Wall-Crawler. 

In 2004's "Spider-Man 2" Harry took over his father's company and his animosity towards Spider-Man had only grown. He backed Alfred Molina's Doctor Octopus on the condition that the scientist deliver the Web-Slinger to Harry. When the metal-armed villain delivered, Osborn intended to stab his foe, but stopped after pulling the hero's mask off and being shocked by Peter's face underneath. Harry could not go through with it and later accidentally uncovered his father's equipment. 

That lead into "Spider-Man 3" from 2007 wherein Harry took on a Goblin identity of his own, but with a very different look and a more streamlined glider. He and Spider-Man fought each other brutally several times, however, by the end Harry switched sides and helped the Web-Head go up against Sandman (Thomas Haden Church) and Venom (Topher Grace), ultimately perishing in the confrontation. Over the course of those three films, Raimi and company managed to hit a good deal of the beats from the comics.

The second silver screen Harry played with the formula

The next live action version of Harry Osborn came about in 2014's "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" helmed by Marc Webb. Played by Dane DeHaan, this version of the character took control of Oscorp after his father passed away from a genetic disorder that he had been trying to cure. Upon hearing that he also had the affliction, Harry asked Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) for help, hoping that Spider-Man blood might be useful in coming up with a cure. In his hero guise, Parker refused, worried about what his mutated blood might do. Osborn went off the deep end and began working with Electro (Jamie Foxx). That duo worked with spider venom that was injected into Harry and wreaked havoc on his system. He saved himself by putting on a specially designed exoskeleton, becoming the Green Goblin. 

It's very interesting that the filmmakers decided to take the Green Goblin idea and play with it in this way. This is one of the few takes on Spidey wherein Norman Osborn does not become the masked villain first. However, from there, it still hits many of the same beats, including the Goblin's attacks leading to the death of Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone). Though there were hints at more to come, that would be the end of DeHaan's take on the character, at least for now. 

With "Spider-Man: No Way Home," the gateway has been opened up for more characters to reappear. It seems unlikely that Franco will return, given the sexual misconduct allegations against him. Meeanwhile, DeHaan was likely not brought back because the filmmakers managed to convince Dafoe to return as the OG Green Goblin. So, it's possible that DeHaan might return or that the architects of the Marvel Cinematic Universe might introduce an all-new version of the character.