We’re having our first truly grim, gray October day here in the Bay Area, which makes it the perfect time to continue the pre-Halloween theme we began with last week’s Comic Art Friday. Since our post on “Spectres” covered the traditional All Hallows’ Eve trope of ghosts, we’ll turn today to another staple of the season — goblins.
Even the most casual comics fan will recognize the fellow about to get clobbered in the scrap depicted here. That’s the Green Goblin (a.k.a. Norman Osborn, although several other individuals, most notably Norman’s son Harry, have donned the costume), probably Spider-Man’s best-known foe. The Goblin and the Web-Slinger share a lengthy history, going all the way to the former’s debut appearance in The Amazing Spider-Man #14 (July 1964). Over the years, the Green Goblin has become to Spider-Man what the Joker is to Batman — his most frightening opponent, both because he’s the most mentally unhinged (and thus the least predictable) and because he’s the one who seems to know and understand his superheroic nemesis the most intimately.
The guy wielding the razor-spiked bat, however, is likely less identifiable, even to hardcore comics aficionados. He’s Kobalt, antihero and star of an eponymous series published by Milestone Media (under the auspices of DC Comics) in the mid-1990s. (Ah, the ’90s. A time when everyone in comics had a grimace on his or her face, a huge gun in his or her hand, and lots and lots of pouches on his or her costume.)
Typical of ’90s characters, Kobalt was a vicious, violent tough guy with attitude to burn. He was also a man of mystery — his true name was never revealed during his book’s 16-issue run, although readers did discover that he was of Cuban ancestry. (Milestone made a name for itself by developing an ethnically diverse range of characters. Its most successful creation was the teenage African-American hero Static, who went on to star in the popular animated TV series Static Shock.) Despite his aggressively antisocial personality, Kobalt often shared his adventures with a sidekick/partner, first a woman code-named Clover, then later a Robinesque boy wonder known as Page.
In case you’ve not yet tumbled to the Common Elements connection between Kobalt and the Goblin, it’ll help to know that the word cobalt (as in the chemical element most recognized for its vivid blue color) derives from the German kobold, meaning “goblin” (as veteran Dungeons & Dragons players are well aware).
Don’t feel badly if you missed that. I even had to remind Kobalt’s co-creator and the author of today’s featured artwork, Arvell Jones, where the name came from. (Arvell’s most familiar co-creation is super-detective Misty Knight, currently being brought to life by actress Simone Missick in the Marvel/Netflix series Luke Cage.) Arvell got a kick from revisiting his old friend in this commissioned drawing — it had probably been a couple of decades since he’d last drawn Kobalt. When I proposed this scenario to him at San Francisco Comic-Con 2016, Arvell grinned and said, “You know who’s going to get the best of that fight, now don’t you?”
I wouldn’t have planned it any other way.
And that’s your Comic Art Friday.