The Green Goblin is considered by many to be Spider-Man‘s worst enemy, and for good reason. The feud between these two characters has played out over the decades in the comics, on television, in movies, and in novels. Despite these numerous clashes, there is still the question of who would really win in a straight-up one-on-one fight. No tricks, no interference, just a good ol’ fashioned dual. For the sake of answering this question, we’re going to compare the Peter Parker version of Spider-Man to the Norman Osborn version of the Green Goblin, since this is the main rivalry fans have come to know and love. We’ll go over their powers, abilities, skills, and other factors to find out once and for all who would win in a fight, Spider-Man, or Green Goblin!
Peter Parker was your average dorky teenager until he was bitten by a radioactive spider that gave him his spider powers. Initially using his powers to try and make money as a pro wrestler, Peter let a thief escape thinking it wasn’t his problem. Later that evening the same thief would kill Peter’s Uncle Ben. This tragedy caused the webhead to rethink his selfish ways, and ultimately dedicate his life to using his powers for the good of all.
Over the years Spider-Man would engage in a variety of battles with powerful foes such as the Vulture, Doctor Octopus, Venom, and of course the Green Goblin. Despite doing his best to separate his personal life and his superhero life, Peter’s loved ones always seemed to find themselves in the line of fire, such as when Norman Osborn killed Peter’s girlfriend Gwen Stacy as the Green Goblin.
Other notable storylines include Peter retiring briefly while a clone of him took over the Spider-Man persona, making a deal with the devil to save Aunt May’s life, and his defeat at the hands of Kraven the Hunter which ultimately led to Kraven’s suicide.
Green Goblin Biography
Norman Osborn was the son of a failed businessman that took out his frustrations on his son. Vowing to never be a failure like his father, Norman studied hard in school and became an expert in chemistry and electrical engineering. Founding Oscorp with one of his college professors, Mendel Stromm, Norman accomplished everything his father couldn’t.
Norman’s wife apparently died shortly after giving birth to their son, Harry Osborn, causing him to suffer emotionally and go into debt. In danger of losing his share of Oscorp, Norman was approached by the devil, Mephisto. Mephisto offered to give him great financial success in exchange for his son’s soul. Norman agreed because apparently sacrificing someone else’s soul for your own benefit is an actual thing you can do in Marvel Comics.
Years later Norman would take full control of Oscorp before being exposed to chemicals that gave him superhuman abilities at the cost of his sanity. With a new goal of taking over New York’s criminal empire, Normal took on the persona of the Green Goblin and made killing Spider-Man his top priority. Quickly figuring out Spider-Man’s true identity, the two characters would engage in a feud that would last for decades in the comics. Norman would also become responsible for some of Peter’s most horrific tragedies such as the aforementioned death of Peter’s girlfriend Gwen Stacy, the loss of Peter and Marry Jane’s child, and brain damage to Peter’s close friend Flash Thompson.
Spider-Man: Powers & Abilities
Spider-Man may be a “street-level” superhero, but he has a very strong set of powers and abilities. Here’s a quick list:
- Wall crawling
- Superhuman strength
- Superhuman speed
- Superhuman stamina
- Superhuman agility & reflexes
- Superhuman durability
- Low-level healing factor
- Enhanced immune system
- Gifted intellect
- Expert mechanical engineer
- Strong will power
- Skilled photographer
- Master acrobat
- Master martial artist
Spider-Man’s physical abilities make up the main bulk of his powerset. His superhuman strength, combined with his speed, agility, and reflexes make him an extremely formidable foe in singles combat. This combined with his spider-sense and his special “Way of the Web” fighting style makes it difficult for many opponents to even land a single blow on the webhead. In fact, some writers completely ignore his spider-sense and martial prowess just to make the battles more even.
In addition to his physical abilities, Spider-Man’s web-shooters give him an extremely versatile ranged attack. While they are non-lethal, his web-shooters can be used to bind opponents, deflect projectiles, enhance his mobility, and even shield Peter from attacks. Spider-Man also has superhuman accuracy when using his web-shooters, able to disarm attackers with ease such as in hostage situations.
It’s also worth mentioning that Spider-Man has a low-grade healing factor. While it’s nowhere near as potent as the regenerative abilities of Wolverine or Deadpool, Spider-Man has been shown to heal rapidly over time. Examples of this would be regenerating third-degree burns over a couple of days, or the time he healed a broken arm overnight.
Green Gobling: Powers & Abilities
While Norman Osborn’s physical abilities are a bit lacking compared to Peters, he makes up for it with a wide variety of weapons and armaments. Here’s a list of Green Goblin’s powers and abilities:
- Superhuman strength
- Superhuman stamina
- Superhuman speed
- Superhuman durability
- Superhuman agility & reflexes
- Low-grade healing factor
- Goblin armor
- Goblin glider
- Pumpkin bombs
- Razor bats
- Sparkle beam
- Gifted intelligence
- Master media manipulator
- Criminal mastermind
- Strong leadership skills
- Powerful connections
- Expert chemist/electrical engineer
- Expert marksman
- Skilled combatant
- Strong willpower
- Powerful charisma
As you can see, a lot of Normal’s physical abilities overlap with Spider-Man’s. However, it should be noted that only his super strength is on par with the webhead’s. Despite possessing superhuman speed, reflexes, and agility, they are not on Spider-Man’s level, leaving him at a major disadvantage in a straight-up brawl with the web-slinger.
To make up for this, Norman uses a variety of weapons and gadgets, such as his goblin glider that gives him superior aerial speed and mobility, his sparkle beams for a quick and deadly ranged attack, and of course his trademark pumpkin bombs. It should be noted that his pumpkin bombs come in several varieties including flash/bangs, incendiary, and smoke/gas.
While all of this makes Norman a threat to Peter in a face-to-face battle, what really makes him Peter’s worst enemy are his non-combat abilities. Using his uncanny knack for manipulating the media, he has consistently portrayed himself as an upstanding citizen and Spider-Man as a criminal. At one point this made Peter a fugitive from both the law and his fellow superhero.
Norman has also used his connections to powerful people to weasel his way into positions of power such as when he was appointed as the director of S.H.I.E.L.D. (renamed H.A.M.M.E.R.) or the time he formed a team of villainous Avengers, the Dark Avengers, but used the media to portray them as heroes. He even managed to get the President of the United States to give him the role of running the Superhero Registration Act, and the Avengers Initiative.
Spider-Man doesn’t have many direct weaknesses, but there are a few. Most notable is the fact that some of his powers can be nullified under the right circumstances. In fact, Norman Osborn has created chemicals that can take away Spider-Man’s spider-sense and his wall-crawling abilities, leaving the webhead at a significant disadvantage.
A lesser-known weakness is that Spider-Man is vulnerable to the pesticide ethyl chloride. Fortunately for Peter, the Spider Slayers are the only villains that regularly make use of this weakness.
Another weakness that doesn’t come into play in most cases, but is absolutely devastating when it does, is Peter’s friends and loved ones. Villains who know Spider-Man’s secret identity have oftentimes targeted those close to Peter in an attempt to wage psychological warfare against him. Norman is once again the main culprit here, and as mentioned previously, has done many horrible things to Peter to wear him down mentally.
Green Goblin: Weaknesses
Like Spider-Man, the Green Goblin doesn’t have many direct weaknesses. However, what could be considered a major weakness is his mental instability. Originally driven mad by exposure to the chemicals that gave him superhuman abilities, Norman has gone through many fluctuating mental states over the years, in some cases being reformed completely. However, the Goblin persona always returns, plunging Norman into the depths of insanity time and time again.
This mental instability is what prevents Norman from being able to carry most of his plans to completion in many cases. If Norman could stay focused and bring all of his resources to bear in a sustained effort, there’s almost nothing he wouldn’t be capable of. Unfortunately, he gets sidetracked easily by his feud with Spider-Man and other odd decisions such as the time he was obsessed with destroying Thor’s home realm of Asguard.
Spider-Man vs Green Gobling: Who Would Win in a Dual?
As mentioned before, Norman Osborn’s most threatening abilities are his non-combat ones. However, if we ignored that and put the Green Goblin in a head-to-head battle with Spider-Man, no tricks, no hostages, no psychological warfare, no backup, who would win?
While Spider-Man’s superior speed, reflexes, and agility give him a major advantage in a straight-up fistfight, the Green Goblin prefers to engage at range using pumpkin bombs, razor bats, and sparkle beams. With his goblin glider, Norman even has vastly superior aerial mobility and speed as well. This, combined with his ability to literally take away Spider-Man’s spider-sense and wall-crawling abilities, make him an incredibly difficult foe for the webhead.
Another advantage that Norman has is his pumpkin bombs. Against a foe that can dodge almost anything, a bomb is an excellent weapon. “Almost” only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades, right? With their blast radius, Norman’s pumpkin bombs don’t need to score a direct hit to do damage. He can also use them to stun Spider-Man with a flash/bang, or even use them to deliver his chemicals that take away Spider-Man’s powers in the form of a gas.
So how can Spider-Man possibly win against Green Goblin in a fight? This lies in two factors, Spider-Man’s vastly superior fighting skill, and his years of battle experience. Peter has been engaging in life or death battles on a near-daily basis for many years giving him a wealth of combat experience that Norman simply doesn’t have. This experience allows Spider-Man to make split-second decisions that turn the tide of battle to his favour while Norman is more likely to make mistakes.
On top of this, Spider-Man’s web-shooters are the perfect counter for Norman’s superior speed and manoeuvrability in the air. Not only can the webhead potentially disarm Norman by using his webs to snatch away his satchel, but he can also use them to snag Norman’s glider, or even yank him off of it. Peter can also use his webs defensively, forming shields to protect him from Norman’s razor bats and sparkle beams, or simply using his superhuman accuracy to shoot Norman’s pumpkin bombs out of the air before they get to him.
In the end, Spider-Man wins. He has all the tools he needs to get the Green Goblin off his glider, and into a brawl where he has the upper hand. The only chance Norman has of defeating Peter is through psychological warfare, though this too has backfired in some cases. To be honest though, if Norman is such a skilled chemist that he can create formulas that take away Spider-Man’s spider-sense and wall-crawling, why not try to develop a formula that can nullify his entire powerset and leave him as helpless as a normal human? Just a thought.