The Top Ten Best Harry Osborn Stories

Yeah yeah, the ol’ “Top Ten Best Spider-Man Stories,” we’ve all seen it. But have you ever seen a ranking of the top ten best Harry Osborn stories? No?

Well, how about this one?

10. “24 Hours”

Date: 1987
Issue: Spectacular Spider-Man #130
Writer: Bob Layton
Artist: Jim Fern
Buy it: Like a lot of Spectacular, it doesn’t seem to be available anywhere, unfortunately.

A sweet and simple tale where Spider-Man has, you guessed it, 24 hours to save Harry from the poison of the Hobgoblin. Reading it after you’ve read some of these other stories is a fascinating experience because it’s packed with unintentional foreshadowing and irony. Spider-Man is quite easily able to save Harry from this poisoning but he will tragically fail to save him from the next one.

9. “A Matter of Trust”

Date: 2009
Issue: Amazing Spider-Man Family #4
Writer: J.M. DeMatteis
Artist: Val Semeiks
Buy it: Here

A Harry story that’s so good not even a retcon can touch it. Here, Peter learns that Harry is “back from the dead” and sets out to uncover if this is the real Harry or a cruel trick. In the end, after thinking back on his long friendship with Harry and the way it ended, he realizes the person before him can only be the real one. And so it is, convoluted clone nonsense be damned.

8. “American Son”

Date: 2009
Issues: Amazing Spider-Man #595-599
Writer: Joe Kelly
Artist: Phil Jimenez
Buy it: Here

And ditto for this one. This was a really good story that, I gather, simply had the misfortune to land in a bad era. But for hardcore Harry fans… 2009 was a really good year.

This story sees Harry go up against Norman in the fight of a lifetime and well, spoiler alert, he wins. But not without a cost. This story takes in the Peter-Harry friendship, Harry and Norman and their respective takes on fatherhood, and Norman being a massive sleazebag but with a different girlfriend of Harry’s this time. In other words, it has everything!

Interestingly this got a four-part sequel series in 2010, also called American Son, which featured Gabriel Stacy of all people but also provided a great showcase for Harry. These days both stories are more or less completely forgotten about but hey, this was all great while it lasted.

7. “Old Acquaintances”

Date: 2000
Issues: Amazing Spider-Man Annual 2000
Writer: Howard Mackie
Artist: Klaus Janson
Buy it: Here

One night Peter runs into his long-dead friend Harry Osborn. Is he real, a cleverly constructed hologram or a ghost? Well, he certainly acts like the real thing, and he’s terribly concerned about his son, who’s been kidnapped. Peter and Harry go after young Normie and it results in a sudden death and a couple of touching farewells.

This is another one that’s been pretty much forgotten, which is fair enough because a lot was going on in the Spider-franchise back then, but I love it. You can read my full run-down of it here!

6. “The Night Gwen Stacy Died”

Date: 1973
Issues: The Amazing Spider-Man #121-122
Writer: Gerry Conway
Artist: Gil Kane
Buy it: Here

Probably the most famous story in the history of Spider-Man. It’s about Gwen and Peter much more than it’s about Harry, of course, but arguably it’s his struggles that kick off the plot in the first place. This story starts with his being diagnosed with schizophrenia and ends with him losing his friend, his father, and arguably Peter as well all over the course of one night. All the characters in this story suffer so much it’s still quite a hard read even decades on.

5. “Birthday Boy”

Date: 2008
Issues: The Amazing Spider-Man Extra! #1
Writer: Zeb Wells
Artist: Pat Olliffe
Buy it: Here

This was, I believe, the very first post-Brand New Day story to feature Harry in a major role! No-one even knew how and why he was back from the dead. But this story neatly summed up all the reasons why there were good reasons for bringing him back: the Peter-Harry friendship, the opening up of Peter’s social circle, and the representation of characters with mental health issues. This story actually touches on mental health-based ableism which very few Harry stories actually do.

You can read more about this one here!

4. “Nice Things”

Date: 2009
Issues: The Amazing Spider-Man Extra! #3
Writer: Joe Kelly
Artist: Dale Eaglesham
Buy it: Here

Told you 2009 was a good year for Harry fans. That year we also got this little gem of a story in the “Extra” comics, a sad tale about… well, about child abuse really, and the horrifying concept that Harry can still consider his childhood “not all bad.” By the end of the story he’s clearly making good strides forward but there’s still a lot to overcome.

This is perhaps the only Harry comic in history that the big Mephisto-related part of the retcon last year arguably improved, so I really want to do a write-up about it soon.

3. “Edge of Spider-Geddon”

Date: 2018
Issues: Edge of Spider-Geddon #4
Writer: Aaron Kuder
Artist: Aaron Kuder, Will Robson
Buy it: Here

A quick sideswipe into another universe. Remember that comment Andrew Garfield made a while back about, “why can’t Spider-Man be into dudes?” Well… this comic very heavily implies that at in one universe, at least, Harry and Peter were in fact into each other. Course, it’s never said outright, but… well, take a look and see what you think.

Even aside from that this is just a really good Harry story, and it introduces my favourite of all his alter-egos, Kobold. Who was never seen again. Oh well.

2. “The Child Within”

Date: 1991
Issues: The Spectacular Spider-Man #178-184
Writer: J.M. DeMatteis
Artist: Sal Buscema
Buy it: Nope! It was never released in book format, to the best of my knowledge, anywhere.

Not just one of the best Harry stories but one of the best Spider-Man stories ever written if you ask me. It deals with suffering, loss, abuse, revenge and more, and does it so well. I can’t sing the praises of this story enough and seemingly neither can anybody else, which makes it all the weirder that it never got a proper release. Luckily you can find it online, but still.

This story sees Harry, haunted by hallucinations of his father, lose control and descend into madness. As everyone around him fights their own battles, he goes on a quest for revenge against Peter, pushing his own family away as he does so. Yet no matter how far he falls, it’s clear there’s still good in him, and that leads on to…

1. “Best of Enemies”

Date: 1993
Issues: The Spectacular Spider-Man #200
Writer: J.M. DeMatteis
Artist: Sal Buscema
Buy it: In the “Son of the Goblin” collection

Everything J.M. DeMatteis established in The Child Within pays off in Best of Enemies, the story that ends with Harry’s death and pretty much cemented that as his fate in all other Spider-Man media. It’s an incredibly tragic story but I always saw it as very uplifting as well. One of this story’s most punch-you-in-the-teeth lines is Harry’s “It’s too late for love,” but by the time the tale reaches its tragic, inevitable conclusion we all know that isn’t true.

Best of Enemies is also, quite rightly, generally ranked very high on “Top Ten Best Spider-Man Stories” lists.

2 thoughts on “The Top Ten Best Harry Osborn Stories

  1. Wonderful. I’d add New ways to die too, cuz it’s always a pleasure seeing Harry facing his father, and Peter nicking the crap out of Norman in order to protect his friend 👍

    Liked by 1 person

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