Spider-Man: No Way Home has arrived and the world seems infatuated with Tom Holland’s next adventure as the famous web-slinger. This time around, Peter Parker must contend with not only his now-famous identity but also the threat of Multiversal villains, including the likes of Willem Dafoe’s Green Goblin and Alfred Molina’s Doc Ock.
Warning - the rest of this article contains spoilers for Spider-Man: No Way Home.
For those that have seen the film, the movie also teases the potential for a fairly big Marvel Comics villain in the MCU’s future. After all three Peter Parker’s have met up, the group, alongside Jacob Batalon’s Ned and Zendaya’s MJ, huddle together to work on cures for the Multiversal villains.
As the lot flexes their scientific skills, Ned goes up to Tobey Maguire’s Peter and asks if he had a best friend. Peter 2 reveals that he did; someone named Harry Osborn, who turned into a supervillain and tried to kill him.
Ned: "So, do you have a best friend too?"
Maguire's Peter: "I did."
Ned: "You did?"
Maguire's Peter: "He died in my arms. After he tried to kill me. It was heartbreaking."
Mortified, Ned later promises Tom Holland’s Peter how he’ll never turn evil on him: "And I promise you, I won't turn into a supervillain and try to kill you." But, the irony to it all, his character has the potential to do just that. So just who might Ned Leeds become?
Who is the Hobgoblin?
Ned Leeds is a name often associated with the Marvel Comics villain Hobgoblin, whose history is quite complicated. The villain has had various people beneath the hood, but the most infamous of them all was Robert Kingsley.
Kingsley acquired the Green Goblin’s original suit and equipment thanks to a bank robber; this score led him down the path of becoming one of Spidey’s biggest villains.
What makes Hobgoblin different from his parent green version, besides his complicated origins, is his connection with the criminal underworld. His goals are based on getting a footing in that underground criminal enterprise and making his way to the top.
As Hobgoblin, Kingsley uses blackmail to cripple all his major competitors. But, then, he goes on to find, steal, and enhance Norman Osborn’s Green Goblin formula––so he gets all the strength but none of the insanity.
Now, where’s the Ned Leeds connection? Well, Hobgoblin brainwashes the Daily Bugle reporter after Leeds finds the villain during an investigation for the outlet. This causes Leeds to truly believe he’s the Hobgoblin, while also serving as Kingsley’s scapegoat if anything starts going south.
Leeds, as Hobgoblin, ends up making some big moves of his own. One of those is orchestrating an alliance with Richard Fisk, Kingpin's son. This leads the two to create a criminal operation to overthrow Wilson Fisk.
Eventually, the whole gig starts goings wrong and Kingsley outs Leeds identity as the Hobgoblin, which gets him killed when he is on an assignment for the Bugle abroad.
If it isn’t already clear, the comic version of Ned Leeds is significantly different from what viewers have followed so far. So how could the MCU's version of the character end up being the infamous Hobgoblin?
One idea is that the story would lean heavily into the framing aspect of the character’s history. Of course, this means there would have to be a real Hobgoblin first, likely Robert Kingsley.
How would someone like that ever cross paths with Ned Leeds? Well, what if Ned starts to remember his past, just brief, shattered memories of his time with Peter. After all, they were best friends for most of their lives.
This could lead him to stick his nose in places where it shouldn’t be––potentially getting in the crosshairs of Spider-Man and Hobgoblin’s struggles. This would lead to Ned uncovering Robert Kingsley, which could put him on the path to becoming brainwashed in the same way that led to the comics’ Leeds becoming Hobgoblin.
This would mean that Peter will have two flying threats on his hands, one of them being his closest childhood friend from the life he sacrificed to save the Multiverse.
Ned’s Goblin Fate
Marvel Studios could also go with the angle that this Robert Kingsley finds out what Spider-Man cares about and puts those in his crosshairs.
While MJ and Ned may have forgotten about Peter, he hasn’t forgotten about them. So no doubt he will do the classic trope of watching over their shoulders from a distance without them noticing. But in this case, Hobgoblin might take note.
After all of the discussion about fate with Doctor Strange in Spider-Man: No Way Home, it could become clear that Ned may always be fated to get tangled up in Peter's web at some point or another.
Speaking of Strange, what would be really unique is if Marvel Studios chooses to continue focusing on Ned’s ability to use magic. Though there’s no precedent for that in the comics, who knows? His fans might take to that theatrical change to Hobgoblin, as drastic as it would be.
Another angle for Ned to put on the Goblin shoes would be if Norman Osborn (in his eventual debut) ends up purposely infecting people with his formula. If he finds out personal details about Spider-Man, which his villains end up doing most of the time, Leeds would be an easy target—as would Zendaya's MJ.
Will Hobgoblin Get a Chance to Fly?
The introduction of Kingpin, aka Wilson Fisk, in Hawkeye paves the way for a more significant focus on that street-level criminal underworld. If factions are to be introduced, such as the Tracksuit Mafia, Kingsley’s rise to the top could easily be a focus in the MCU’s future.
With the MCU making a particular effort to adapt storylines and characters differently than what has been done before, it’s hard to see how they might tackle the Green Goblin legacy. Could Hobgoblin come first?
Maybe Oscorp is introduced in the next Spider-Man film, and somebody ends up stealing untested formulas from their facilities; that someone being Robert Kingsley. Of course, this would mean he would end up taking the Goblin juice before it gets a chance to get to Norman or Harry.
Either way, the future of Spider-Man in the MCU is bright. Hopefully, the character of Hobgoblin gets his time to shine, even if Ned has to break his promise to Peter.
Spider-Man: No Way Home is now playing in theaters worldwide.