Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

Script: Bob Layton
Pencils: Jim Fern

The Hobgoblin is dead, killed in the climax to recent storylines in other Spider-titles.

So what better time than now to print a one-off caper in which Spider-Man battles the Hobgoblin?

Answer: any time.

A narration-box on the opening splash-page offers all the explanation that the editor seems able to be confident of:

This issue takes place before the events in Amazing Spider-Man #289

Thanks. That's great. But when before??

There are a few pointers. It's sometime after baby Osborn's hospital-stay of Amazing Spider-Man #265, and sometime before the Hobgoblin's death. (circa the above noted #289) Given Spidey's silence on the subject, it's probably before Flash Thompson's framing as Hobby too. (ASM#276)

Oh yes, and there's one other subtle clue:

The Hobgoblin ends the strip with a sling on his left arm, a cast on his right leg, a neck-brace and confined to a wheelchair.

Humm, now let's see, in which earlier issues did we also see Hobgoblin so attired? Oh that's right, in none of them.

So, given all the athletic fights that Hobby and Spidey have routinely engaged-in, exactly when would this story best fit?

I guess the answer is, as long as possible before one of those battles. Y'know, to give the Hobgoblin the maximum amount of time in which to so fully heal.

Encouragingly, both science and magic are somewhat advanced in the Marvel Universe, so the treatment of which the Hobgoblin speaks in this issue might not require that long to take effect.

However, before we start spreading our comics collections all over the floor, ASM#289 throws us another retroactive curveball.

It asserts that the Hobgoblin's secret identity all along has been Peter's colleague at the Daily Bugle Ned Leeds, who has generally been seen to be in reasonable health too. Spare a thought then, for Ned's poor unsuspecting wife Betty. She must have really wondered about those weeks when her increasingly-estranged husband refused to even stand-up.

One promising time-frame is just before Secret Wars II #7, in which Mephisto rounds-up several Marvel villains offering a different deal to each of them in exchange for their group-attack on the Beyonder. Though we see Hobby's involvement, we are not privy to the terms of his employment. Maybe it was for the restoration of his health after receiving these injuries. Those covenants were all reversed at the end of that issue though.

I haven't reached a definitive answer to this question, I guess because, without any official word that I am aware of from the writer or editor, it will always be a subjective one. However without pouring-over all the issues, I think I'd plump for straight after the above-mentioned ASM#265.

There were quite a few one-off stories getting published around that point, which suggests to me a longer period of time passing in the narrative. I know the Osborn kid looks a bit too old to be a newborn in this, but thanks to varying artists, I reckon that fluctuations in physical age are an accepted convention of the comicbook format.

Otherwise this is a perfectly decent story with clear artwork and an unusually manipulated hero. Hobby's dialogue is sheer pantomime, which could be fine, but for the character's much greater depth in his other appearances. Maybe he's just happy from taking all those painkillers. Or maybe it's all just a prank.

Or maybe it's a completely different Hobgoblin from Spidey's future...


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