More signs are pointing at Ned Leeds (Jacob Batalon) becoming the MCU’s Hobgoblin in Spider-Man: No Way Home and here’s how it could happen. In the MCU, Ned has been portrayed thus far as the best friend and high school classmate of Tom Holland’s Peter Parker. His comic book counterpart, on the other hand, had a much different backstory. Ned, who was a journalist and the husband of Betty Brant, was revealed at one point to be the villainous Hobgoblin, a prominent figure in Spider-Man’s rogues’ gallery.
The MCU made so many significant changes to Ned Leeds in Spider-Man: Homecoming that the character eventually using the Hobgoblin costume felt like an unlikely outcome. However, it no longer seems like such a stretch. Early viral marketing for Spider-Man: No Way Home included artwork with Ned and an image of the orange Hobgoblin cap from the comics, which could have been a tease of what’s coming for the character in the movie. Plus, Jacob Batalon has lost a great deal of weight for the role, which has created further speculation about Ned suiting up as Hobgoblin.
There’s also the matter of the multiverse and how it’s being implemented in the movie. It had been apparent for a while now that parallel universes would be central to Spider-Man No Way Home. The first full trailer for the movie confirmed it, with multiple characters tied to past Spider-Man franchises coming back to fight the MCU’s Spider-Man. Jamie Foxx’s Electro, Alfred Molina’s Doctor Octopus, Willem Dafoe’s Green Goblin and more are all expected to return, despite the fact that not all are from the same cinematic universes. It’s believed that Marvel will make this work by bringing Sam Raimi’s trilogy and The Amazing Spider-Man movies into MCU canon by making them separate universes within a larger multiverse. The idea that there could be limitless parallel universes in existence is what makes Ned Leeds being utilized as the Hobgoblin a real possibility. There are a number of ways Marvel can use the multiverse to explain Ned’s Hobgoblin transformation.
Ned Leeds Can Steal The Green Goblin’s Gear & Formula
In Marvel Comics, Hobgoblin is directly linked to the legacy of Spider-Man’s greatest enemy, the Green Goblin. The original Hobgoblin, Roderick Kingsley, got his weapons and gear from the secret hideout of the then-deceased villain Norman Osborn. Instead of totally separating the characters and having Hobgoblin create his own weapons, Marvel could carry over that connection to Spider-Man 3. If so, it could be that in one of Spider-Man 3’s parallel universes, Ned is a criminal who comes across the Green Goblin’s cache of weapons. He could then outfit himself with a new costume and start a crime spree with Osborn’s Goblin Glider and bombs. Like Roderick Kingsley, he could get his hands on the same formula that enhanced Osborn’s physical capabilities and use it on himself.
Ned could be driven insane, which would result in him becoming a dangerous foe of his universe’s Spider-Man, whoever that may be. It could even be possible that his rival would be another iteration of Tom Holland’s Peter Parker. However, this storyline may feel too rushed with so many characters already present in Spider-Man: No Way Home. Although Ned Leed’s transformation into Hobgoblin is already one subplot too many, introducing an alternate-reality version of Ned would require the movie to either devote more runtime to his backstory from a different universe or completely gloss over his multiversal origin.
Ned Leeds Becomes Hobgoblin To Help Spider-Man
Ned doesn’t have to start out as evil to become the Hobgoblin. After all, Ned was never a true villain in the comics, either. It may be that somewhere in the multiverse is a universe with numerous similarities to the MCU in that Ned is Peter’s best friend and the person he trusts the most. He may also know that Peter and Spider-Man are one and the same. Depending on his level of scientific knowledge and resources, Ned could obtain access to Vulture’s salvaged alien technology and create the Goblin Glider with the intention of being an ally to Spider-Man. Though he may have planned on being a hero, tragic events in his life could take him down the path to being a villain.
He could also have developed a grudge against Spider-Man; it’s happened before. If that’s the case, he could take his vendetta out on the MCU’s wallcrawler when an incident in the multiverse leads to the movie’s Spider-Man characters colliding. It could even happen to the MCU’s Ned, depending on how the story unfolds. However, this scenario would be too similar to what happened with Dane Deehan’s Harry Osborn in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, where he stole Oscorp’s experimental gear and serum to become the Green Goblin before his father could do so. Therefore, the MCU could decide not to give the same origin story to Ned Leeds, considering how poorly the Green Goblin from The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was received by audiences.
Ned Leeds Can Be Brainwashed Into Becoming Hobgoblin
Perhaps the best approach for Marvel to take (and the one that would make the most sense) is for Marvel to simply adapt Ned Leeds’ Hobgoblin story from the 1980s. In the comic books, Ned was a good person Peter trusted, but his life changed for the worse when he discovered the hideout of the real villain Hobgoblin, Roderick Kingsley. Needing someone to take the fall for his crimes, Kingsley captured Ned and managed to brainwash him into thinking he was the Hobgoblin. This plan was initially effective for Kingsley, who was adamant that his secret identity remain hidden from the world. Even Spider-Man was fooled into falling for Kingsley’s lie. Problems arose when Ned’s brainwashing caused him to become mentally unstable. His marriage fell apart, and his life crumbled. Feeling that Ned had become a liability, Kingsley had him eliminated by an assassin. It wasn’t until years later that Spider-Man discovered that Ned was framed by Kingsley and he had never been the Hobgoblin at all.
Ned Leeds could go through a similar experience. He could be kidnapped and brainwashed by the MCU’s Roderick Kingsley, a new version of the Green Goblin. Not unlike the comic book Ned Leeds, the mental conditioning he’d endure could mold him into a useful pawn of a much bigger threat. This would make Ned’s Hobgoblin into a sympathetic, misunderstood villain forced to fight Spider-Man and possibly even Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch). The problem with this scenario, however, would be that there’s no Green Goblin technology in the MCU yet, as Norman Osborn hasn’t been introduced yet in the MCU’s main reality. So, the person who could kidnap and brainwash Ned Leed would be Willem Dafoe’s Norman Osborn. It’s a possibility that makes a lot of sense, considering how Norman refused to let go of his Green Goblin persona at the end of 2002’s Spider-Man. Without knowing that Harry took up his mantle after his death, Norman Osborn could try to emotionally manipulate Tom Holland’s Spider-Man by creating a new Green Goblin.
Since both the comic book version of Ned Leeds and the MCU character are both inherently good people, Spider-Man: No Way Home could theoretically use the same storyline as the comics with the Ned that audiences are already familiar with rather than pulling one from the multiverse. Since this option involves brainwashing, it wouldn’t conflict with his character development. There are other problems that would come with Marvel taking this route, with the biggest being that it would risk ruining Ned as a character. What Marvel did with Ned in the comics was arguably one of the most tragic ends it ever gave to one of its Spider-Man characters, due in large part to the fact that Ned’s life was ruined. He died with no one left believing in his innocence. It would be unfortunate if Marvel offered a similar, sad ending for such a fun character. That’s why it would be better for Ned’s rumored Hobgoblin arc in Spider-Man: No Way Home to be an exciting, one-off story set in an alternate timeline.
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- Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021)Release date: Dec 17, 2021
- Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022)Release date: Mar 25, 2022
- Thor: Love and Thunder (2022)Release date: May 06, 2022
- Black Panther: Wakanda Forever/Black Panther 2 (2022)Release date: Jul 08, 2022
- The Marvels/Captain Marvel 2 (2022)Release date: Nov 11, 2022
- Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania (2023)Release date: Feb 17, 2023
- Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (2023)Release date: May 05, 2023
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