Wednesday, May 15, 2019


I chat with the fine folks at The Amazing Spider-Talk podcast about...well, Spider-Man.  Specifically the tortured relationship between Peter Parker and Harry Osborn.  Enjoy!


  1. I always liked Harry (and the original Hobgoblin) more than Norman as a villain.

    I also never really thought Pete and Harry were really that good of friends. Don't get me wrong, I like the dynamic, I just always felt that Pete's best friend, his only true friend was MJ.

    I always felt that they liked each other, but both had believed the friendship was more than it was.

    Pete is such a loner, I wonder if he really could have friends, or at least a best friend, Spider-powers or no.

    Pete was a loner who felt a person should have a friend. Harry needed a friend, but just never really had any true ones... or at least ones he could really talk to in depth about things.

    I always thought of the framed photo in Spec. Spider-Man #200 was in someways symbolic of that. That they were posing at being best friends (but not at liking each other).

    Pete walked away from him when he was going through a bad drug problem. Even after Norman died, never really checked up on him. After that he seemed to spend more time with Flash (Thompson).. in most of the 80s.

    Even before she revealed that she knew he was Spider-man, and even when they were not dating, MJ is who Peter confided in, and talked things out with.

    Also, Spider-Man: Life Story did its own version of Kraven's Last Hunt.


  2. Interesting thoughts about the friendship. My feelings about Pete and Harry are pretty clear in the interview, so I don't need to restate them here.

    Their own version of KLH? What, exactly, does that mean?

    1. Well, I didn't want to bring up the interview, but since you already did, you were primed and ready you mention the most important time you followed Conway... and yet you didn't.

      I of course speak of at Motor City Comic Con when you added a writing sample to a notebook... can't remember who... clearly the most impressive.

      Of course, as far as the natures of Spidey and Harry's palship, and the interpretation, I suppose the separating of the ways comes from a primal place.

      I don't agree with your belief that everyone NEEDS a friend.I believe that is a false absolute that too many people try to make a universal truth.

      But, hey, that is what makes horse racing.

      Although declaring absolutes seems like a better way to get to cat herding.

      AS for the KLH...

      The book, now in the 80s, and Pete near 40, had Kraven bury Spider-Man and dress up as him... but not in that order.

      Kraven also had a different rational.

      My computer was being a jerk, and wouldn't type the part about how you should be knocking on MArvel's door, demanding you money.

      That was why I brought it up, as far as I am concerned anytime Kraven is in SPider-Man's costume you should get some money.

      And what the Hell, so should I. I mean I don't have as much of a claim, but there are plenty of people who get paid for nothing.


    2. Of course (I hope the other message went through, or that is a bad opening), the question is what is a "best" friend?

      The "best" seat in a car crash, is still involved ina car crash.

      If a man has never eaten anything but beans, the best piece of chicken can be pretty poorly prepared.

      I wonder, how much should that sliding scale be introduced.

      I mean Peter started hanging out with Harry because he was a high school fiend of Gwen, and Pete was interested in getting into Gwen'

      The relationship lasted after GWEN'S DEATH, but Harry was not in the books (any of them) much in the 80s... r the late 70s.

      Of course Flash waned after he graduated as well.

      Perhaps the true answer is a middle ground between the two views of HArry and Pete. That Peter isn't much for people, but if he must Harry is the option... sort of.

      I STILL maintain that MJ is Pete's best friend. Even when they were not involved romantically.


    3. You may be right about MJ, Jack. So let's just call Harry Pete's best MALE pal.

    4. If you get any KRAVEN-related checks from Marvel, Jack, I hope you'll give me my 10%!

    5. I haven't had a chance to listen to the podcast yet, but will hopefully do so later tonight.

      In terms of general usage, I think most people have no problem saying their spouse is their best friend but also calling their closest friend who they're not romantically linked with their best friend as well.

      I think Pete and Harry were best friends, and sometimes they failed each other just like all people in close relationships do. Peter had just lost Gwen when he pushed Harry away, and it was absolutely the wrong thing to do and created all kinds of hell for both of them down the road, but it was ultimately their shared bond that saved them both in SSM #200. They couldn't have found their best selves in that moment without finding each other.

      Harry's my favorite Goblin for that reason. He's such a complicated figure, and the end of his story is both tragic and triumphant. And I've always thought Norman was a better villain dead than alive, an anti-Uncle Ben whose twisted legacy warped everything it touched from beyond the grave. Comics need more villains you can't punch in the face, and dead ones usually fit the bill nicely.


    6. "They couldn't have found their best selves in that moment without finding each other." Beautifully said, David. Your insights, as always, are deep and valuable. I also love the idea of Norman as a kind of anti-Uncle Ben. Wonderful!

    7. "In terms of general usage, I think most people have no problem saying their spouse is their best friend but also calling their closest friend who they're not romantically linked with their best friend as well. "

      Okay... but I specifically included when they weren't romantically involved. IN fact, the weren't even involved when they got engaged.

      When they became true confidants, was when MJ told Pete not to get any big ideas about becoming an item, and stressed being just friends.

      And she comforted him when Gwen died... many issues before they became a thing. Like 40 issues... which in the comic world admittedly is not so long, but still.

      It was the friendship that LED to the marriage. Both in the comics, and in the real world. That friendship is probably what what made fans so invested in the relationship.

      As for Harry and Pete, I would say the best you could go for is Fair-Weather friends, with brand loyalty.

      I mean, can you actually think of any point were they are actually acting like friends and not acquaintances?

      That video cites Harry's Drug problem as the beginning of them being best friends. Why? Why wouldn't it just be genuine compassion?

      And it was not that far after the drug issue that Gwen died, and HArry went nuts. About teh same length that MJ was worried about what Harry would think about their new relationship.

      I think Pete's lack of worry SHOWS that they are not best friends in the conventional sense. But that would mean there is almost the same time between their friendship officially starting, and it falling apart.

      If I remember correctly, Flash wa PAete's best man in his wedding. I mean he chose teh guy who tormented him for four years over HArry.

      Which is something I want to address in a tangent. Dematteis, I don't think Peter thought himself superior. I think he just didn't much care to be around the people who mocked and insulted him. If that is an ego, color me Dr. Doom.

      But back to the point.

      If you want to think three dimensionally, and add real world logic (and really what about a guy swinging around on webs, fighting man-lizards, and able to afford rent in Manhattan and student loans on a freelance photographer's salary...a job he frequently neglected while in grad school.. suggest otherwise?), there is plenty to inform on this.

      It is not uncommon for children to have relationships connected to their upbringing.

      Children of parents who are miserable or angry frequently will effect their kids. Yes, sometimes passing it on, but also having other ill effects.

      These kids will feel uncomfortable forming deep relationships, because they view deep emotions as bad. Or wnating to save people from it.

      Now that isn't Peter's upbringing, but it certainly sounds like Harry's. IN fact a Spec. Spider-Man annual written by none other than J.M. Dematteis and Ann Nocenti showed that the Osborn legacy is a cycle of abuse.

      Peter however did have unusual parenting, in that he had very old parental figures.


    8. Children of older parents often are more adept at self amusement, because they pick up cues from adults, who have become more singular in their activities (As most people do).

      They also have less physical game play with their parents given their age and possible physical limitations.

      This is why studies often show that children of older parents are more likely to be readers, it is a singular activity, and it is based on the mind... which their parents are more easily able to engage with them about.

      It isn't that they don't like people, or can't connect, they just don't view it as much of a necessity in life.

      As some one who was born to parents in their early 40s, I can say, yes these observations are at least true in a certain percentage of that population. Of course not all, just enough to form a trend. Individuals will always be more complex than that.

      And Pete does already show the excess convrn for health of parental figures that often comes along with the situation.

      If you want to think FIFTH dimensionally...

      Spider-Man has also been adopted by many comic readers with clinical depression or bipolar disorder as their comic book representative.

      The doubt, self-loathing, constant angst, and well... sadness are all things Peter shares with Depression havers. It is also hidden behind jovalation, which could be viewed as a metaphor for how many feel a need to hide such feelings.

      Peter Parker as Pete and Spidey, being such different personalities... mimicking both depressive and manic states, is where the bipolar points come in.

      Why not Hank Pym, who was diagnosed in the comics? I don't know, but if I had to hazard a guess it is because it was used as justification for beating his wife.
      Anyway. Depression sufferers often have deep emotion, but Can have trouble with friendships. The feeling of isolation that comes naturally, not wanting to burden, and struggles with self-worth effect this.

      Bipolar depression deos similar things, BUT manic stages can cause trouble focusing.

      of course, all of this is hardly justification, but does show overlapping patterns.

      Not to mention, am Ia the only one that remembers having trouble playing with others is a staple of spider-man? HE told Iron Man in the 80s that Captain America was the only one of the Avengers he liked.

      He's the ultimate loner. The outcast. It like a big part of the charm.

      I will grant you, Peter Parker is a man with many weaknesses, and flaws, but a NEED for people is not one of them. Before this goes to far, I am not saying liking people is a weakness or flaw, or enjoying them, or having lots of friends. Just the NEED for it.

      Harry conversely, I think did have that issue. I think he had a lot of problems, and desperately needed a friend. Needed. get by in life.

      Unfortunately, he got Peter Parker, the the guy who shows up in the dictionary under loner.


    9. Fascinating as always, Jack.

      I really do believe that EVERYONE needs friends. We're on this planet to connect and the more isolated we are, the more we potential to sink into dark places. I love being alone, my entire career is about me spending hours and hours every day by myself, but my life would be very empty without human connection. That's my experience anyway. Other people's mileage may vary and there are always exceptions As you note, we're all pretty complex individuals and no one sweeping statement can cover everyone..

      I never said Peter felt superior. That's not my view of him at all. He's the last person on Earth I'd think walked around feeling superior to other people. (There was an exchange in the interview where I was talking about Harry but I think the interviewers were asking about Peter...and our wires crossed.)

    10. Well, if wire got crossed, wires got crossed. I blame the Irish Republican Army of the 1940s. Its easy to blame them for anything really... with their acts of terrorism killing innocent people at public toilets and movie theaters, diverting needed resources from the blitz, while planning to help the Nazis with n occupation (caring little about the 1500 Jews in their borders), and allowing them to use their waters but barring any allies while claiming to be "neutral." All while having consent, and even acknowledgement from the official Irish government.

      That is clearly who is to blame for the miscommunication. Also, the IRA killed more innocent people in the Easter uprising than the English... and the plan was for the English to kill innocent people to galvanize the populace.

      Oh, and the Irish Slaves thing was Confederate propaganda during the Civil War... Irish historians beg AMericans to stop spreading that lie.

      I'm sorry, terrorism and bad history just bug me. Its why i can't read Slaughterhouse Five again... no matter how well written it is.

      I admit I got a bit of topic. I can admit that.

      But the point remains valid that the clearly the miscommunication was the fault of terrorists who were active 80 years ago and are all but certainly all dead.

      AS for everybody NEEDING friends...


    11. I listened to the first half during my lunch break yesterday and really enjoyed it. I haven't gotten to the meat of the interview yet, just the parts at the beginning.

      I love what you said about best friends being valued because they know how to hurt us and choose not to. I think that's mostly true, though I'd add that younger friends occasionally DO hurt each other, which is why Peter and Harry's troubled relationship resonates. It's a sort of back and forth between a youthful, high school kind of friendship and a more mature one, though obviously heightened to fantastical levels. The great thing is that the Harry Osborn saga works from both angles. I first read it as a kid and now I'm coming at the question of friendship from an adult perspective, so it's like there were still all these buried riches there waiting for me to find later in life.

      Anyway, that's just a minor addition I'd make to your point, which I think is absolutely correct. Ultimately there's a line that neither Peter nor Harry ever cross. Even when Harry's at his worst, his heart arguably isn't in it, hence his plans generally having that Bond escapability thing going for them.

      At the end of the day, I'd argue that the thing Harry is really looking for (and ultimately finds) is unconditional love. Peter fills a void that Harry's father never could. And Harry offers Peter the gift of closure. He's able to express to Peter what Uncle Ben never could, that he forgives him for the failures that led up to his death.


    12. These two characters, and their relationship, are endlessly fascinating. Thanks for adding your always-valuable insights, David!

    13. In all fairness, when friends hurt each other, it isn't usually with attempted murder, but seriously...

      The look at an adult friendship,m I feel just drives my point home further.

      When Harry becomes Green Goblin originally, Peter doesn't know that is what he is doing. SO presumably, Pete thinks that Harry is mourning the loss of his father.

      Also keep in mind, Peter has some history with mourning a father figure.

      He decided to show up at his door with his ex-girlfriend, and announce he was dating her in that period.

      Something I actually forgot until this interview was that MJ noticed that impropriety.

      That is not just being insensitive or hurting someone, if they were REALLY friends that is being a dick. Like a genuinely bad person.

      However, going into the adult friendship aspect, men in large have fewer close friends (which a best friend would have to be)as they get older. And Peter Parker was starting pretty far from home on that one.

      Again, I have to ask, what are the examples of them even being friends. Because they were roommates?

      I dated a chick once who liked her roommate, who she shared a railroad apartment with, but I wouldn't call them friends.

      They git along, even did stuff together occasionally, but there was somewhat of a distance.

      Interestingly there is a Spider-man related story that goes along with her... but that is a story for another day if ever.

      I would say that costume or not, that is all of Peter Parker's "friendships" minus MJ are described by that word... distance.

    14. I'd absolutely agree that there's a certain amount of distance Peter puts between himself and pretty much anybody except Mary Jane. But even that came about largely because she revealed she'd known who he was all along, not because he decided to reveal his secrets to her. It's yet another reason why MJ is such a great fit for Peter.

      But I don't think Peter's inclination toward distance is mutually exclusive with him having a close friendship with Harry. People often bridge distances in subtle, unspoken ways. The important thing, I think, is that Peter and Harry clearly had a connection.

      I don't think it's necessary for Stan Lee to have intended for Peter and Harry to be best friends for that to come to pass. We, as the audience, often read into things that aren't explicitly stated, the same way we infer action between panels.

      Sometimes, for whatever reason, a particular understanding of a character relationship comes about because readers will it into existence, as it were, either individually or communally. Stan Lee, for instance, vastly preferred Gwen to MJ, but readers seemed to have connected more with the latter.

      Writers are of course readers and they can eventually make their reading of a relationship 'official' until the next reset or retcon. Gerry Conway pushed MJ to the forefront and the rest is, as they say, history.

      Sam Raimi certainly interpreted Peter and Harry as best friends, and given the opportunity, developed their relationship at an earlier stage and more clearly defined it than Stan Lee and Gerry Conway had.

      In canon, SSM#200 provided a stronger context to read Peter and Harry's backstory with. So even if one didn't see Peter and Harry as being that close up to that point, the story makes it official that they were. But I always got the impression they were best friends. I remember Harry confiding in Peter when he had been blackmailed by the Hobgoblin, which is a pretty strong testament to their bond. That's not the kind of thing one shares with someone they consider more of an acquaintance.

      At any rate, I'm not arguing for a definitive interpretation, though I have my preference. One of the greatest things about serial storytelling is the way readers fill in the gaps themselves.

      It's almost mystical how some interpretations find their way into the communal consciousness and other's don't...until they do, that is!




    15. Beautifully said, David. Why am I not surprised? : )

  3. I will be at Heroes Con next month with a small film crew, shooting a season's worth of episodes of a streaming show called "Issues With...." Think of it as an Inside The Actors Studio type interview show but with comic book creators.

    We are exclusively signed with Shelton at Heroes to shoot the entire first season of interviews at the Con (and more seasons each summer moving forward).

    The show is a candid chat with creators about their work, and their lives. We hope to show the people behind the comics, if you will.

    Your name is on the top of my list to have on the show.

    I would love to pencil you in for an interview, and we can schedule accordingly. My ideal would be to have you, Keith and Kevin on together and have a fun, free-wheeling conversation about your lives, careers and collaborations. It would be a an awesome episode to film.

    It will happen in a room at Heroes, and take no more than 45 minutes one of the three days of the con.

    Let me know if you would be up for the interview.

    Thanks so much

    Jeff Messer
    Issues With... A Panel Discussion

    1. Hi, Jeff. Hop over to the "workshops" section of this website and use the email address over there. Shoot me an email and we'll talk about it!

  4. Ciao Mr Dematteis, I am from Italy, I did read this evening an old issue of x-factor (n. 101 and 102)maybe it can seem strange but I did buy these comics 22 years ago but i didint remember about them.
    I did cry reading, I don't know why, maybe a dejavu nostalgia effect, or maybe the emotional loss of Madrox in the team, or maybe I did recognized that same emotion crying reading your spectacular spider man, or clone's saga.
    Mr. Dematteis I have a big love for you, thanks for this emotion:)))
    Alessandro Casaletta
    From Napoli

    1. Thank you, Alessandro, for you kind words of appreciation.

      My wife and I were just talking today about our trip to Italy last June, one of the most wonderful trips we've ever had. Hearing from Napoli today made the memory all the sweeter!

      All the best to you and all the Italian fans!