Giving More Notes on the Spider-Man Movie

As I talked about some months back, both longtime Marvel editor Ralph Macchio and I were enlisted as unofficial consultants by producer Avi Arad when he was first attempting to get a big budget live action Spider-Man movie off the ground. This amounted to us meeting irregularly to have conversations to talk about the character and also us reviewing different drafts of treatments and scripts and giving feedback. Said feedback wasn’t guaranteed to be listened to or even acknowledged, but in this small way, we were able to help guide the wall-crawler to big screen success.

I mentioned in the earlier piece that Ralph was almost single-handedly responsible for the villain in the first film being the Green Goblin. In the initial drafts that we read, the bad guys were going to be Electro and the Sandman for some reason–possibly because both of them could have been realized without needing garish and silly super villain costumes. In those days, the costumes and how they would look in real life were a recurring concern. But Ralph had overseen the return of the Green Goblin to life at the climax of the Clone Saga in the Spider-Man books, and he argued effectively in that soft-but-strong manner that he had that the Goblin was Spider-man’s number one arch-enemy, and ought to be who the web-slinger has to contend with in his initial movie outing.

So below is a set of notes that I was asked to put together following one of these marathon two-hour sessions–we never knew when they were going to happen, whenever Avi was in the Marvel offices he would just summon us upstairs and we would wind up talking with him for however long it took. Most of the key points in this came from Ralph, though some of it is Avi’s influence and a little bit originates with me. None of this is to take any of the credit for the final SPIDER-MAN film away from Sam Raimi or the performers, technicians and screenwriters who brought it all together–our involvement was minimal and minor. But I thought this was an interesting artifact to share regardless.






From meeting on 1/4/00


In the original comic books, Norman Osborn and Mendell Stromm were business partners. Stromm was the idea man, the true scientist, whereas Norman was the financial guy, the businessman. At a certain point, Norman framed Stromm for embezzlement, sending him to prison and giving Osborn sole control of the company they’d built together. While going through Stromm’s R & D, Osborn came across notes and prototypes for a number of weapons and gadgets, as well as an untested bio-genetic formula designed to increase the strength and stamina of the user. Attempting to recreate the formula from Stromm’s notes, Norman was instead caught in an explosion of the volatile chemical formula, which altered his genetic structure nonetheless, but also drove him to madness. From a driven but honest businessman, he became a corrupt, maniacal criminal, totally demented–the Green Goblin

One of the suggestions we came up with for the story of the movie was to replace Stromm in the above scenario (or a modified version of it, as I’ll detail shortly) with Otto Octavius, who’ll become Doctor Octopus. This would create a natural connection between the two characters as well as provide fodder for interesting interactions between them. More on this when we reach the segment on Doctor Octopus.

The now-crazed Osborn modified a number of Stromm’s inventions for his role as the Goblin. Among them, a jet-powered flying wing, which became his Goblin Glider. This glider was controlled by circuitry which lined the gargoyle-like mask Osborn had created for his criminal identity. Additionally, Osborn adapted several small explosive and gas-filled projectiles into pumpkin-bombs–some of which were small, high-powered explosives, some of which released a hallucinogenic gas, some of which provided an obscuring smokescreen, and some of which would burst into a blinding, dazzling display of light. Among the Goblin’s other weapons were razor-sharp throwing weapons in the shape of bats, and sparking electrical blasts which were produced via circuitry which lined the insides of his gloves. In addition, the bio-genetic formula which drove him mad granted him tremendous superhuman strength and stamina.

The Goblin’s motives revolved around power. Where Osborn had played his power games in the arena of the boardroom and the Corporation, the Goblin lusted for more. His primary goal was to unite the underworld into a single army of crime under his rule. As such, his primary enemies besides Spider-Man were the various crime families he hoped to subjugate and unite. The Goblin saw defeating and destroying Spider-Man publicly as a way to establish and enhance his reputation. The Goblin sees himself as intrinsically superior to everybody else, a complex that extends to his dealings as Osborn as well (though to a less flamboyant degree.)

Additionally, the Goblin was a way for Norman to do his own dirty work without it being linked back to him. If Osborn wanted to buy a certain city block, the Goblin could raze it to the ground, and then the philanthropic Osborn could buy it out, helping out the poor unfortunate people who’d been terrorized by the flying menace. Publicly, Osborn was still a Donald Trump-esque businessman–hard but honest. The public considered him a philanthropist, little realizing that he was also secretly a master criminal. He was also a good friend of Daily Bugle editor J. Jonah Jameson, with whom he attended the same club. He would often egg Jonah on in the newsman’s public crusade against both Spider-Man and the Green Goblin, secretly laughing at him behind his back.

In the comics, the element that made the Goblin Spider-Man’s most dangerous foe was that he was the only other person who had discovered that Peter Parker was Spider-Man, which allowed him to strike at Parker’s loved ones. And, once Spider-Man discovered that the Goblin was actually Osborn, he had a conflict himself, since Norman was the father of his best friend, Harry, so to expose him would be to ruin Harry’s life. In the end, Spider-Man exposed the defeated Goblin to his own hallucinogenic gasses, causing him to get amnesia and forget both Spider-Man’s true identity, and that he was ever the Green Goblin. Thereafter, Osborn would occasionally regain his memory, resume his Goblin persona, and come hunting for Spider-Man, losing his memory again after Spider-Man defeated him in every encounter. The feeling at the meeting was that the amnesia scenario is probably too unbelievable for the movie, particularly if the Goblin commits the kind of ruthless, homicidal crimes we envision–if he kills or injures hundreds of people, it seems wrong for Spider-Man to let him go even if he’s gained amnesia.

We envision the Goblin as almost a force of anarchy, targeting his enemies and striking with impunity without a care for innocent bystanders. His crimes should be spectacular, despicable, and public, with many civilians getting injured in the process (what Avi refers to as the Goblin’s “Ten Plagues”) He should be as menacing and terrifying to the criminals he hopes to unite as he is to the world at large. He’d kidnap or kill a child if it served his ends, and would think nothing of it. Completely cold-blooded and homicidal.  


Harry Osborn is Norman’s son, an Empire State University student in the same circle as Peter and Mary Jane. Even before Norman became the Green Goblin, he and Harry didn’t really get along, as Harry could never measure up to his father’s high standards. Norman felt that Harry should be smarter, stronger, more ruthless than he was, and took every opportunity to point out his son’s shortcomings. Norman was more fond of Harry’s roommate Peter Parker, who was a science whiz and a scholarship student, as opposed to Harry, who’d been given everything he had by his wealthy father.

In the comics, Harry ended up offering to be Pete’s roommate in the apartment that Norman financed for him. Depending on the particulars of the movie scenario, this could be done there as well (rather than having Peter live alone.) And both Peter and Harry were interested in Mary Jane.

As opposed to the comics, in which Harry and Mary Jane actively dated for a while, we suggest that, while Harry, Mary Jane and Peter all hang out and interact with each other, they’re not actually dating. Mary Jane sees Harry as a good friend, but not a romantic prospect, as much due to her own problems with intimacy stemming from her difficult family situation as anything. Mary Jane is infatuated with the mysterious Spider-Man, a figure who represents the freedom she desires from her life. And while Peter has his eye on Mary Jane, he considers her way out of his league–he doesn’t believe he has a chance with her. And Norman can’t understand why Harry is even competing with the likes of Peter Parker over this woman. From his point of view, if you want something, you take it–a lesson he’s tried to drum into Harry’s mind for years.


Our suggestion for the movie is to place Otto Octavius more-or-less in the Stromm role. Octavius worked for Osborn as the real idea man behind the innovations that Osborn’s company had marketed. But Octavius himself is in some ways similar to Peter Parker–a science geek. Even before he became the Goblin, Norman looked upon Octavius as someone to be used, rather than someone to be respected. Octavius needed Norman’s charm and business savvy to get him the financing he needed for his experiments.

Ultimately, Osborn fires Octavius, keeping everything Otto had developed on Oscorp time for himself. Discredited and out on the street, Octavius longed for vengeance on Osborn. Using the only jury-rigged equipment he could lay hands on, Octavius continued with his experiments. But he went further that he should have, and in a terrible accident, four mechanical tentacles were permanently grafted to his body and his nervous system. Now Octavius was more of a freak than ever before, and his anger towards the rest of the world bubbled forth. He would have revenge on all of them, particularly Osborn. And so, he became Doctor Octopus.

Doctor Octopus’s main targets, aside from Spider-Man and Norman Osborn, are the institutions that laughed at his theories and discredited him–the scientific community. If he needed money or equipment, he’d attack a university (perhaps Empire State University, which Peter, MJ and Harry attend) or a research firm.

We envision Doctor Octopus interceding in a battle between the Green Goblin and Spider-Man, after which the Goblin suggests that they form an alliance against Spidey. The Goblin knows who Octopus is, and of his agenda against the Goblin’s other identity, Norman Osborn. But just as when Octavius was his employee, he figures he can use him as a tool against Spider-Man and his other enemies, and then eliminate him once his usefulness is at an end.

Another element from the comics that might be useful is the fact that Doctor Octopus at one time boarded with Peter’s Aunt May. This may stretch coincidence to the breaking point in a two-hour movie, however.


Since there are three origins to be dealt with in the picture–Spider-Man’s, the Goblin’s and Octopus’s, we thought it would be best to open the picture with the Green Goblin as fait accompli. He’s already known as a mysterious underworld figure, though nobody knows much about him. We’d likely get a brief flashback to his origin at some point later on in the film.

As in the earlier treatments, we get Spider-Man’s origin first, as well as some background on Mary Jane. This comprises most of the first act, at the end of which Peter moves off to the city to attend college at Empire State University, where he’ll meet Harry.

The Goblin would become more public, committing his spectacular, ruthless crimes, and endangering innocent people. Spider-Man would try to stop him in a series of inconclusive battles. Along the way, we’d get the origin of Doctor Octopus, and he’d get embroiled in the battle between the Goblin and Spidey, eventually allying himself with the Goblin.

By the third act, the Goblin would discover that Spider-Man is really Peter Parker, his son’s friend, He would move to strike at Peter through his loved ones (Aunt May, Flash Thompson, Mary Jane.)

One scenario has Osborn discovering Mary Jane as Spider-Man’s girlfriend. The idea was that Peter would end up getting a picture of himself as Spidey with Mary Jane, but realizing that he couldn’t sell it to the Daily Bugle without endangering her life. But being infatuated with Mary Jane, and considering her out of his league as Pete, he can’t bring himself to destroy the photo, so he keeps it with in his apartment. Osborn finds the picture after rifling Pete’s apartment (either because he’s discovered that Pete is Spider-Man, or because Pete is the photographer who gets all of those photos of Spider-Man, so he may know who Spidey is or where he can be found.)

The Goblin kidnaps Mary Jane in order to force a showdown with Spider-Man. Spidey and the Goblin battle. The Goblin hurls Mary Jane towards the ground far below (in a move evoking the classic storyline wherein the Goblin kills long-time Spidey girlfriend Gwen Stacy by dropping her off a bridge) and Spidey must imperil himself by leaping after her to save her. In the end, the Goblin uses the remote control in his mask to send his damaged glider hurtling towards Spider-Man’s back. But Spider-Man dodges it (warned by his spider-sense, or in order to leap after the falling Mary Jane) and the glider ends up impaling the Goblin instead. Spidey ultimately peels away the Goblin’s mask, revealing him as Norman Osborn.

2 thoughts on “Giving More Notes on the Spider-Man Movie

  1. I really like the idea of Octavius in the Mendel Storm role.

    For that matter, I like the idea that the experiments that led to the Green Goblin also involved irradiating genetically-enhanced spiders as test subjects. You don’t want to hook everything together, but a few good hooks here and there create an interesting web (heh) of connections.


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