Harry Osborn, Where Have You Been?
A look at the long and strange journey of Peter Parker's best friend.
Warning! This article contains spoilers for the current AMAZING SPIDER-MAN series, so read on at your own risk, True Believers!
For decades of storylines, Spider-Man’s biggest threat was Norman Osborn, AKA the Green Goblin. But during the ongoing run of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, the demonic entity known as Kindred has proven to be a powerful enemy of both the Green Goblin and Spidey. As of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #50, Kindred’s identity may have been revealed. At the end of that issue, Norman believes that Kindred is none other than his wayward son, Harry Osborn.
Harry also happens to be one of Peter Parker’s best friends...except when they’re bitter rivals. It’s fair to say that there have been some ups and downs in their relationship. But the emergence of Kindred marks an unexpected escalation. How on Earth could an ordinary man like Harry Osborn become capable of raising the dead, even getting the Kingpin to bow before him?
Perhaps we can have a better understanding of these events if we look back at Harry’s history.
The Good Friend
Harry and Peter weren’t always a part of each other's lives. That changed in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN (1963) #31, when Peter and Harry met in college. Initially, Harry thought Peter was standoffish. But after Green Goblin’s defeat in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN (1963) #40, a thaw emerged between them. As seen in SPIDER-MAN: BLUE (2002) #1, Harry was genuinely touched when Peter went to the hospital to check up on Norman and him.
That led to Harry and Peter becoming close friends. Eventually, they were even roommates, and going on double dates with Gwen Stacy and Mary Jane Watson. But the good times couldn’t last forever.
Like Father, Like Son
After the apparent demise of Norman Osborn, Harry found his father's body and began planning his revenge. In AMAZING SPIDER-MAN (1963) #135-137, Harry confirmed that Peter was Spider-Man and attempted to strike back as the new Green Goblin. Peter narrowly defeated Harry, and he was taken away to receive psychiatric treatment. For a few years, it worked like a charm. Harry didn’t remember that he was the Green Goblin, or that his best friend was Spidey.
The Married Life
Harry eventually found love with Liz Allen, and married her. Together, they were able to briefly escape the Osborn curse. They even had a son, Normie, whom Harry named after his father. After a few years away, the Osborns reentered Spider-Man’s orbit. Unfortunately for Harry, the Hobgoblin’s reemergence in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN (1963) #260-261 dug up some family secrets that he had been trying to avoid.
A Different Shade of Green
Hobgoblin’s threats against Harry’s family reawakened his lost memories of being the Green Goblin. In AMAZING SPIDER-MAN (1963) #312, in the midst of INFERNO, Harry once again became the Green Goblin and attempted to take on Hobgoblin by himself; he only survived thanks to Spidey’s intervention. In the aftermath, Harry didn’t initially seem interested in becoming the Goblin again. But in WEB OF SPIDER-MAN (1985) #66-67, Harry was invested in being a new heroic Green Goblin.
Spider-Man forced Harry to reconsider that decision with some very tough love. Spidey’s ploy worked, but it also jogged Harry’s memory that Peter Parker and Spider-Man are one and the same...
Death of a Friend
Harry’s sanity slipped away shortly after he remembered the truth about Peter. He also found Norman’s lost Goblin formula and used it to give himself super strength. Harry became increasingly dangerous and unstable. The conflict came to a head in PETER PARKER, THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN (1976) #200, when Harry nearly killed Peter. However, Mary Jane was able to reach Harry’s innate humanity, which inspired him to save Peter’s life. But the stress on Harry’s body was too much, and he died soon after.
Back From the Dead...or Europe
For years, Harry was thought to be dead. And perhaps he was. But thanks to Peter Parker and Mary Jane’s deal with Mephisto, a "Brand New Day" began in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN (1963) #546. Harry was welcomed back after spending several years in Europe getting treatment. He also formed a relationship with Lily Hollister. Unfortunately for Harry, Lily found Norman’s old Goblin formula and used it to turn herself into Menace. This revelation shattered their romance, but not before Lily found out she was pregnant with Harry’s son.
In AMAZING SPIDER-MAN (1999) #595-599, Harry was deceived by his father—and by Lily—into joining the Dark Avengers as the armored hero called American Son. Harry wanted to cure Lily and their child from the Goblin serum’s effects. But he soon discovered that it was all a ruse designed to get Norman sympathy when his son died a hero. Lily also claimed that Norman was the true father of her baby, not Harry.
The Lyman Rules
Regardless of their past, Harry tried to help Lily save her son when she gave birth in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN (1999) #642. Super Villains wanted the child because they believed he would have a sample of Osborn’s Goblin formula in his body. However, a DNA test confirmed that Harry was the real father, not Norman.
Harry resolved to raise young Stanley on his own, and changed his last name to Lyman, after his mother’s maiden name. Harry subsequently lived in hiding to keep himself and his son out of Norman’s reach.
Reclaiming the Osborn Name
Eventually, Harry resurfaced and kept the Lyman family name when he moved back to New York. He even rekindled his romance with Liz Allen before Norman Osborn became the Red Goblin in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN (2015) #797-800.
But in the midst of that crisis, Harry stood up to his father. And rather than hide any longer, Harry reclaimed his last name and vowed to make the Osborn legacy his own.
We’re missing a few steps from Harry’s moment of triumph to his transformation into the demonic Kindred. How could this happen? And why does Kindred blame Peter for his ultimate fall from grace...?
The answers are currently unfolding in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN!
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