WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for The Amazing Spider-Man Annual #42, by Dan Slott, Cory Smith, Terry Pallot, Brian Reber and Joe Caramagna, on sale now.
When it comes to comic books, death – more often than not – is just a temporary condition. It's a tool used to create dramatic effect, to revitalize a stale character, or to merely set the stage for the ensuing hype surrounding their inevitable resurrection. There are few exceptions to this rule, and the few who manage to stay dead are typically those whose deaths are intrinsically tied to a hero’s origin story, a la Ben Parker, or Thomas and Martha Wayne.
That being said, when characters do die, the lengths of their stints in the afterlife tend to vary wildly; Captain America was gone for two years, while Bucky Barnes was placed on the back burner for a whopping 41. However, a hiatus of that length is practically unheard of in today’s mainstream comics, so it certainly comes as a surprise that in The Amazing Spider-Man Annual #42, Marvel brought back a familiar face that hasn’t been seen since 1987: Ned Leeds.
Debuting in November 1964’s The Amazing Spider-Man #18 by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, Ned Leeds was a reporter for the Daily Bugle who competed with Peter Parker to win the affection of Bugle secretary Betty Brant – a battle he would ultimately win. Nevertheless, Ned and Peter remained friends, and he even chose Peter to be his best man as his and Betty’s wedding.
Ned’s sweet life eventually began to turn sour when he’s tasked with investigating the mysterious new villain known as the Hobgoblin. Following him to his hideout, Ned is captured by the man whose real name is Roderick Kingsley and brainwashed into not only serving the Hobgoblin, but acting as his stand-in, which has a detrimental effect on Ned’s marriage.
Eventually, Kingsley decides he no longer has any use for Ned, and having spent a good deal of time turning him into the perfect scapegoat, he reveals his identity as the Hobgoblin to the criminal underworld. As a result, Ned is killed by associates working under the Foreigner in the gang war for Kingpin’s criminal empire, and his lifeless body is left strapped to a chair until it’s discovered by Peter. However, as Spider-Man, Peter is shocked when he obtains photos of Ned dressed as the Hobgoblin. It isn’t until years later that he begins to speculate that he must have been framed, and these suspicions are eventually confirmed when Spidey and Betty coerce Kingsley into a taped confession.