This book was published in 2004 and it’s full of fascinating tidbits about the world of Spider-Man. And I’m guessing if you’re here, you want to see what the Spider-Man creators had to say about Harry! Well, he’s not discussed much (obviously, there is a LOT to cover in this book) but there’s some great snippets in there about his development.
So here we go, Comics Creators on Harry Osborn:
[in reference to the arc where Harry starts taking drugs]
How did you convince Martin Goodman to allow you to drop the Comics Code when you wanted to do the drug abuse story in Amazing Spider-Man #96-97?
I was very proud of Martin. When I told him I wanted to put the books out without the Code seal, he said go ahead and do it. It was a gutsy call. In those days, you wouldn’t be distributed and wouldn’t go to heaven if you didn’t have the Comics Code on your books. Martin felt we were doing the right thing by publishing these stories and I must say the stories got us some great publicity. The New York Times gave us a great write-up, and I got letters from parents and teachers and religious leaders who all commended us. It worked out very well.
Why did you decide to pair Harry Osborn up with Liz Allen?
Oddly enough – and some people will laugh at this, I know – for most of my professional career I have watched a television soap opera called Days of Our Lives. One of the most fascinating things about a soap opera is that there are normally something like twelve storylines going on at any given time, but you only see, say, six on any given day. You get the illusion that you’re following all twelve each day because the other six get mentioned. The writers have to juggle six balls every day, but give the illusion they’re juggling twelve. I love that, and I tried to bring that to Spider-Man in my subplots. The Harry and Liz thing started in the issue where Betty Brant finally married Ned Leeds. Harry suddenly comes forward as this heroic figure to Liz during a big fight in the catering hall.
[on J.M. DeMatteis, referred to as “Marc” here, that’s what the M stands for!]
I remember the way he described the scene where Harry Osborn died in Spectacular #200. I was so moved by what Marc wrote that I must have just poured everything I had into those pages. I was practically in tears and that never happened to me before. I was so blown away by the sense of tragedy that really came across in Marc’s words. I was surprised when the book came out because Marc did not write one word of dialogue on those pages. He must have thought these pages really worked and I don’t think I have ever been so flattered. The ideal story for a penciller to have to illustrate is one that doesn’t need any dialogue. That doesn’t happen very often
[on his favourite characters]
I guess my favourite supervillain is probably the Green Goblin. I just tried to make him as creepy-looking as I could, by really exaggerating his grin. I remember doing sketches at a comic book convention and I heard one of the kids talking to another kid and he’s saying, ‘Ask him to do the Green Goblin. He does a really mean Green Goblin.’ I got such a kick out of that.
[on what led him to create the Hobgoblin]
Once again, everyone wanted the old characters back and they kept requesting the Green Goblin. Norman Osborn was the Green Goblin and he was dead. Harry Osborn only thought he was the Green Goblin. He had been crazy at the time, but he was better now. Besides, Harry didn’t have Norman’s super-strength and he should have gotten a terrible groin strain the first time he tried to ride that bat-glider across town. A normal guy just couldn’t straddle a jet engine without disastrous consequences!
[on the original plan to not have Peter and MJ marry at all; not really about Harry but still interesting]
Pete would be out fighting supervillains, and barely get to the church on time. Harry Osborn would meet him on the steps, and we would have this silent sequence where he gives the wedding ring back to Pete. As Harry walks away, the ring drops out of Pete’s hand and the scene ends with a long shot of Pete standing all by himself.
[regarding the “parents” plotline, which tied back into Harry later]
My last year or two on Amazing were not my happiest years. Jim Salicrup was an editor who gave me a lot of freedom, and I enjoyed myself immensely. Then he left the Spider-Man titles and Danny Fingeroth came back to then. He’s the one who came up with the idea of bringing back Peter’s parents. I felt a little like I was writing his stories instead of mine. The whole parent thing was difficult because he couldn’t or wouldn’t tell me where it was going: he wouldn’t even tell me if they were really his parents or not. I didn’t know if they were robots, aliens or clones! Neither did Danny. He just hadn’t figured it out. So I had to tread water issue after issue, not knowing if these characters were really his parents or not. It was just very difficult.
[On ‘The Child Within’]
That also started as a Batman story, one that I planned to write for Legends of the Dark Knight. It was intended to explore deep psychological ground regarding Batman and his inner child, that wounded little boy who’d been traumatized by his parents’ murders. Same for the villain of the piece, Two-Face. Around the same time, though, a Batman graphic novel called Night Cries came out, and DC didn’t want to do another Batman story about child abuse. When Danny Fingeroth asked me to write Spectacular, I took the basic idea and used Peter Parker and Harry Osborn instead of Batman and Two-Face. The story actually became much more interesting, because Harry had this insane and abusive father. I also like the idea of the hero and the villain being best friends. ‘My best friend is also my most hated enemy, and he knows my secret identity and can strike at any time.’ You can’t ask for a better dramatic conflict. I’d never written Harry before “The Child Within” and I fell totally in love with the character. I remember getting so excited as Sal’s pages began to arrive. I was writing very tight plots, panel by panel, shot by shot, but as you know, ten different artists can take the same plot and do ten different things with it. They can totally capsize the story, but Sal is simply amazing. He responded to all the emotion I was putting down on paper, and translated it into extraordinary pictures. All our work climaxed with Harry’s death in Spectacular #200, which is one of the best Spider-Man stories I ever wrote. That was Sal at his best. It was my intention to write a lot of dialogue at the end that story, to sort of tie up Peter and Harry’s relationship. But I looked at the artwork and realised that it didn’t need any words. All the emotion was already there!
Did you actually write the copy and then decide against using it?
I’ve done that on occasion, but not in this case. I just looked at the art and it said everything that needed to be said, and didn’t need a damn word. Sometimes you plan a sequence to be silent, and the art demands copy. In this case, the artwork was so full of emotion and drama that I didn’t want to spoil it with words.