Nels van Adder, better known to the public as Proto-Goblin is a former employee of OsCorp who allowed Norman Osborn (who would go on to become the first and most infamous Green Goblin) to use him as human guinea pig; however he turned into an insane, murderous red beast who blames Osborn for what he has become.
Despite having his former professor and business partner Mendel Stromm arrested for embezzlement, Norman Osborn of OsCorp only locates a portion of Stromm's serum, and knowing it is incomplete, tests it on one of his employees first, Nels van Adder. Van Adder is driven insane by the formula, which also causes him to undergo a radical transformation into a red-hued, almost demonic being who came to be known as "Proto-Goblin". Blaming Norman for his condition (which in all fairness, was Norman's doing) and killing several people, van Adder begins to harass Osborn and attempts to kill him before being knocked out of an OsCorp window by detectives Arthur and George Stacy, the parents of Gwen Stacy.
Hoping to claim innocence and thereby escape any conviction thrown at him for what he had done to van Adder, Norman convinces the police that van Adder had in fact been experimenting on himself, and that Norman had been only altruistic in his methods, attempting to help him.
Despite his hatred for Norman Osborn, Proto-Goblin was last seen fleeing into the wilderness, and never returned to claim revenge on the individual who would eventually transform himself into the first Green Goblin.
The prototypical Goblin serum that has infected van Adder has endowed him with super strength and agility as per regular Goblins, but also gave him claws, talons, fangs, glowing green eyes and near impenetrable red skin that is capable of withstanding several close range bullet shots.
- Originally, Proto-Goblin was intended to be an antagonist in the 2012 film, The Amazing Spider-Man, alongside Big Wheel. Unfortunately he was cut due to time and streamlining constraints. However, a character named Dr. Rajit Ratha still appears in the film who would have been Proto-Goblin's alter ego.
- The Proto-Goblin appears as a boss in Spider-Man: Battle for New York.