John Semper Discusses The Green Goblin From Spider-Man: The Animated Series

The Marvel Animation Age was able to catch up with Spider-Man: The Animated Series writer John Semper to discuss the animated interpretation of the Green Goblin.

"I think that the whole 'Green Goblin' saga was about as good as it got when Stan was writing the comic book series," said Semper. "It was intriguing, surprising, dramatic, exciting -- everything I wanted my Spider-Man series to be. I remember reading the whole thing breathlessly when I was a kid. It was incredible. Why wouldn't I want to recreate that? I'm not a big believer in messing with something that's already 100% right. My ego isn't so big that I'd want to tinker with it and make it 'better.' God save us from all the 'creative visionaries' in this business who want to make things better."

One major change that Spider-Man: The Animated Series featured was the introduction of the Hobgoblin two seasons before the Green Goblin. In the regular comic books, the Green Goblin was introduced almost twenty years before the Hobgoblin premiered.

"I, too, was upset that we had to introduce the Hobgoblin first," said Semper. "It was a dumb thing to do -- so it won't surprise you if I tell you that I had nothing whatsoever to with that decision. As I've mentioned before in interviews, I was not the first writer-producer hired to run Spider-Man. I was preceded by someone who had ultimately been fired before I got there."

"When I arrived on the show, very little creative work had been done and I threw out what little there was and started over from scratch," said Semper. "But there was only one creative decision which my predecessor had made that I had to live with. For some strange reason known only to him, he decided to use the Hobgoblin as Spidey's main villain instead of the Green Goblin! Of course, when I got there, I informed Avi Arad that this was a stupid idea. I explained why - the Hobgoblin is essentially a useless character - and he agreed with me."

Unfortunately it was too late to scrap the Hobgoblin from the first season of Spider-Man: The Animated Series. It wasn't due to the production of the series, but the production of a toyline tieing into the Hobgoblin character.

"Then, a few days later, Avi came back and rather sheepishly explained that because of my predecessor's choice, he had already made a decision to roll out a toy line around the Hobgoblin," said Semper. "Now it was too late to stop the toys from being mass-produced. All the while that Avi was telling me this, he was cursing the very existence of my predecessor, because even Avi now realized what a dumb decision it had been. So I had to do the Hobgoblin first, or else Avi would have lost millions of dollars on useless Hobgoblin toys that no kid wanted. As it was, there were still plenty of unsold Hobgoblin toys on the shelves at Toys R Us that Christmas. Even with our two-part episode, nobody really liked the character that much."

"However," Semper added. "I am proud of how I made the Hobgoblin and his Goblin technology naturally segue into the origin of the Green Goblin by having Norman Osborne be the one who made the technology in the first place. That made it all seem rather natural and less idiotic."

The episode "Turning Point" featured a Brooklyn Bridge showdown between Spider-Man and Green Goblin, with Mary Jane Watson's life in the balance. The sequence mirrored a classic sequence from the regular comics, but featured the character Gwen Stacy instead of Mary Jane Watson.

"You're right, it is an iconic scene in comic book hisory and I was lucky enough to be the first to get to bring it to animated life, "said Semper. "So I didn't want to blow it. Luckily, by that time, I was having a lot of control over what got on to the TV screen, so things went pretty smoothly. Basically I just wanted to make that episode as close to the comic book as possible, even with the obvious changes."

"I had to skirt around the issue of death, which we couldn't do on Saturday morning," said Semper. "But beyond that, I wanted to bring the comic book to life verbatim, changing it as little as possible. I think I did pretty well. It was an exciting challenge and I thought that if I didn't do it, it might never get done right."

The episode also contained one of Semper's favorite moments, on which stands out as a definitive highlight for the animated series.

"My favorite part is when, after Mary Jane's 'death,' Peter has his mask off and is standing on the bridge, thinking and looking down into the water," said Semper. "It's almost a full minute or more of just interior monologue - more like Japanese anime than anything American. No corny action, no villains, nothing. When was the last time you saw that on Saturday morning TV, huh?"

The Marvel Animation Age would like to thank Mr. Semper for taking the time to conduct this interview. Cheers John!

-Stu and James