You once said "Harry Osborn is the backbone of the Spider-Man franchise", mind elaborate cause I kinda feel the same
I’d love to elaborate!
Harry’s character adds a whole new dimension to Spider-Man’s core theme of power and responsibility. He is part of a trifecta of characters that have been at the center of many a Spider-Man story both in- and outside of the comics. This trio - Peter, Norman and Harry himself - represent that philosophy in different ways, and I think in a sense, Harry is the most important link.
We have Peter, the hero. Peter suffers continuously because of his power. He is burdened by it, because of the enormous moral task that is knowing how to handle it responsibly, when to use it and when not to.
Then there’s Norman, the villain. A man who more than anyone else in the story represents the idea of power as an aspiration, a dream, a reward for those who are strong enough to claim it. A man who enacts selfish violence.
And then there’s Harry. A foil to both Peter and Norman. Caught up between the influences of his father and his best friend. The core of Harry’s character is his struggle with the expectation to reject vulnerability and perform strength. Conventional, aggressive, stoic, masculine strength. Yet when he does achieve that strength he sought after, it only destroys him further. I think to Harry, the Green Goblin does not simply represent hatred or malice - multiple times he has donned the costume to do good. To Harry, the Goblin above all else represents power.
However he’s not cut out for gleefully indulging in power like Norman, nor responsibly wielding it like Peter. Not because he is inherently a good or bad person, but because he’s a fragile person, who feels fulfilled by softness and stability. And therefore, power in itself is a source of corruption, of distortion for Harry. It puts him under pressure, and by attaining it he’s forcing himself to be someone he isn’t. (It’s no coincidence that the thing that ends up literally killing Harry is his father’s strength-enchancing formula.)
I think Harry’s angle is a an incredibly, incredibly valuable addition to the narrative because it shows once again that great power is not something to glorify, but a burden not everyone should, or can carry. It should not be strived for as a means of proving yourself, it is not a virtue in and of itself. It’s a tool to improve the world around you, one that comes at a cost, one that is dangerous to both those it’s used against and those using it.
When I read Harry’s arc
excluding later character assassinations the message I take away is that it’s fine to be fragile. It’s a form of strength to let your guard down, to put your trust in others rather than crumble on your own. A strength that Peter often struggles to find, and Norman denounces as weakness. I believe it’s necessary to remind the audience that bullheaded stoicism, self isolation, and overreliance on one’s own real or perceived toughness are forms of self destruction. Whether you are doing it because you don’t want to burden others or because of your own ego. True strength comes not from power, but from caring about other people, from letting them in.
And this leads me into another major theme of the series that Harry also represents: Love. I think at its core, every good Spider-Man story is about love in some form. Peter’s not a hero because he can climb up walls and throw a truck, he’s a hero because he uses those skills to help others. And while he feels it is his responsibility either way, he has definitely developed a strong sense of compassion as Spider-Man. He cares for his fellow man, not in the same way that he cares for those close to him, but in a way that is directly inspired by them. Time and time again, the people he loves have kept him going when he was at his limit. As for Harry - He may not be strong in a traditional sense, but he is an incredibly loving person. When he permits himself to be authentic, he’s deeply caring, loyal, and generous. His upbringing has conditioned him to view those traits as weaknesses, as ground for attack and exploitation. It is moving and monumentally important that he eventually chooses love despite that shame and fear, chooses it over his father’s idea of who he should be.
So in my opinion, Harry is thematically integral to Spider-Man. But furthermore, I also think he makes Peter and Norman’s relationship a million times more compelling, through both that thematic relevance and his personal ties to them. Harry is the link that turns things very, very personal. Peter and Norman are at war with each other not just physically but ideologically and nowhere is that as evident as in their opinion on and treatment of Harry. To Peter, he’s somebody to put hope into. Peter admires Harry for his softness, his “good heart” as he says, and wants to protect that genuine self. To Norman, he is a source of shame, of frustration. Norman sees his son as an extension of himself and watching Harry be the exact opposite of his expectations hurts both his inflated ego and his skewed world view immensely, which Norman then takes out on Harry.
Aside from the neverending conflict between those two, Harry simply plays a huge role in the closest thing the comics ever had to an overarching story. In my opinion, the “plot” of Spider-Man comics as a whole ended with Harry’s death. Not simply because I love the character, and not because I believe there have been no good/meaningful story arcs after (which I don’t), but because it was the conclusion to the chain of events that was kicked into gear the night Gwen Stacy died. To me, Spider-Man is the story of a young friend group being torn apart when one of their own is murdered, now forced to face the reality of how and why it happened and what the consequences of those facts entail, while they learn to see past their more or less surface level understandings of each other and end up both further apart and closer together than ever. Harry being part of the Coffee Bean Gang - especially Gwen’s and Peter’s friend - as well as Norman’s son ties him to this story with no exit and forces him to confront what those people truly mean to him, to decide who he is going to become through them. DeMatteis’ Green Goblin Junior arc is the final conflict in that story, and the final word of its narrative on power and responsibility, on love and fear, on growth and self recognition through the other. That final word is delivered through Harry.
Hey My People,
My sister is an ICU nurse in Texas. She’s having a rough time right now because *gestures to, well, EVERYTHING* and when I told her I hoped she had a good day at work and that everything went smoothly, she said nobody had told her that in a long time.
Reblog to wish my sister a good day at work and I’ll pass it on so she can get a look at how many people are in her corner.
I’ve got more important things to do than hold your hand.
The Amazing Spider-Man #122 (1973) by Gerry Conway, Gil Kane, John Romita, T. Mortellaro, Art Simek, and Andy Yanchus
The Spectacular Spider-Man #200 (1993) by J.M. DeMatteis, Sal Buscema, Joe Rosen, and Bob Sharen