Spider-Man has a pretty extensive roster of villains, but let’s face it, the Marvel Cinematic Universe version of Peter Parker (Tom Holland) did a pretty good job of exhausting the A-listers in his villain gallery. Between Vulture (Michael Keaton), Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal), and all the main villains from the various Spider films before the MCU, there are few classic Spider-Man villains left to face this Spidey – especially since he now operates as a Low -Budget street level hero. A high tech rhino suit could be quite a disruptive element in this particular mix.
Sure, the inevitable next Spider-Man movie might have a kingpin (Vincent D’Onofrio) up its sleeve. Perhaps it will focus on the Sony side of things, pitting a version of Peter against the likes of Venom (Tom Hardy), Morbius (Jared Leto), or Kraven the Hunter (Aaron Taylor-Johnson). However, there is a previously unseen but incredibly apt candidate for the next big Spider-Man villain: the Hobgoblin.
Every self-respecting Spider-Man needs a goblin to call their own, but going down the regular Green Goblin path again would just be boring. Also, the MCU Peter has already fought the Willem Dafoe version, so things would quickly become redundant. Since the hobgoblin is a similar but distinct character, he would be a cool solution to the goblin problem. He’s also virtually guaranteed to make his live-action debut at some point, as it’s pretty clear by now that there will be new Spider-Man movies before the heat of the universe erupts.
To make the most of this awesome villain when he inevitably shows up, the MCU and Sony just need to avoid one simple but potentially catastrophic mistake. You absolutely cannot allow Ned Leeds (Jacob Batalon) to become the Hobgoblin.
Ned isn’t the hobgoblin in the comics either
Spider-Man: No Way Home isn’t shy about hinting at potential villain turns for supporting Spider-Man characters. Aside from the casual introduction of the Venom symbiote in a universe where Flash Thompson (Tony Revolori) exists, the film offers a sobering moment for Ned as he discovers it can be a fast track to becoming the supervillain, Spider-Man’s friend to be. Though this is largely played out as comedy, Batalon himself recently teased a possible dark future for Spider-Man’s best friend with an Instagram post that posed him with a Hobgoblin action figure.
If the House of Mouse is conducting clandestine testing for possible Nedgoblin hype, this is a good time to discuss two things that go against all rogue development for the character. The first of these is the fact that Batalon’s Ned is one of the most likable characters in the MCU. While sequel heel turns are a well-established superhero franchise tradition, it would be a shame to lose such a fully formed character to such a ruse – as amazing as Batalon as a villain might be.
Adding to that the not inconsiderable point that Ned Leeds was never actually the Hobgoblin in the comics. In fact, a good decade after Ned’s big villain reveal in 1987, it turned out that the character’s purported supervillain career was actually just a misdirection in the universe created by the real Hobgoblin.
There is still a way to connect Ned to the hobgoblin
The reason the Hobgoblin is such a thematically appropriate MCU spider-villain is that it would be easy to introduce him in a way that continues the trend of the “Home” films towards salvage-themed supervillains. Keaton’s Vulture is obviously the simplest example, but Mysterio also uses technology that was either discarded or grossly underappreciated by Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.). Meanwhile, Spider-Man: No Way Home takes the meta approach and salvages his entire villain gallery from previous Spider-Man films.
The Hobgoblin could easily be someone who somehow stumbles upon footage of the Green Goblin rampage in the MCU, or maybe even acquires some technology they left behind in this universe. For a super villain, a clip of Dafoe’s Goblin battling Spider-Man—especially during their first fight, where he absolutely destroys Peter—would almost certainly serve as inspiration. If the MCU really wants to get more, it might even forego the Roderick Kingsley, Jason Macendale, and Phil Urich versions of the Hobgoblin in favor of Peter Parker’s classic nemesis Harry Osborn, who would bring a whole new can of worms to the situation.
That doesn’t mean that Ned has to be completely absent from the Hobgoblin storyline, though. Since the comic book essentially brainwashes Ned into believing he’s the Hobgoblin, an MCU version of the villain could do the same to this Ned. If the hobgoblin has any knowledge of the events of No Way Home, he probably knows that Ned is somehow connected to Spider-Man, even if young Leeds himself has forgotten it. This could be a pretty handy way to bring Ned back into Peter Parker’s life… and maybe even reprise his role as “the man in the chair” at some point.