When he was transformed into the Green Goblin, Norman Osborn was endowed with superhuman physical attributes and a healing factor that allowed him to survive even the most mortal wounds, while his already ruthless and antisocial personality was pushed over the edge into full-blown insanity. As his costumed alter ego, Osborn was also outfitted with a variety of dangerous weapons. Later, when his Dark Reign over the Marvel Universe began, he adopted the identity of the Iron Patriot and donned an armored battle suit similar to Iron Man’s. When you add all these factors, together you have a dangerous and highly capable opponent.
What most makes Osborn a truly terrifying foe to face, though, is his ability to seemingly come back from every defeat even more dangerous than ever. In an early battle with Spider-Man, it appeared that Osborn in his Green Goblin identity had been impaled on his own high tech glider, leading Spider-Man to believe that Osborn was out of his life for good. Unfortunately for Peter Parker, Norman returned years later to turn Spider-Man’s life upside down, revealing that he had been the mastermind behind “The Clone Saga,” which had both mentally and emotionally traumatized Peter. Several years after that, Norman was eventually brought down once more, this time finding himself in a jail cell.
Amazingly enough, Norman rebounded from that defeat and rose to his greatest heights of power yet. He started by taking control of the U.S. Government’s Thunderbolts program. Then, in the aftermath of the Skrull Empire’s Secret Invasion of Earth, he rode a wave of popularity to the position of the U.S. Government’s top super-human law enforcer. Osborn used this position to establish a Dark Reign over the Marvel Universe until he made the misstep of abusing his authority and invading the mythical city of Asgard. The Siege of Asgard was repelled by members of the Avengers and the Asgardian gods themselves, and at the end of it, Osborn was once again in a prison cell.
Norman Osborn has fallen once more, but will he recover and come back more powerful than ever? And if so, how will he accomplish it? Writer Kelly Sue DeConnick (“Sif,” “Rescue”) and artist Emma Rios (“Amazing Spider-Man,” “Heralds”) will answer those questions and more starting in November when their five issue miniseries “Osborn” begins. CBR News spoke with the creators about the project, which is being published as part of the new “Big Time” era of “Amazing Spider-Man” and was announced at Marvel’s Spider-Man panel during Comic-Con International in San Diego.
CBR News: Kelly Sue, “Osborn” is probably your highest profile Marvel project to date. How did this come about for you and what drew you to the project?
Kelly Sue DeConnick: As I understand it, the basic idea came from an “Oz” joke somebody made at one of the creative retreats. I guess it got lodged in [editor Stephen] Wacker’s head and he brought it to me later and asked if I’d like to pitch on Osborn in Prison.
For one thing, I’m a huge Meiko Kaji fan and you can’t be a Meiko Kaji fan without an untoward devotion to “Female Prisoner #701: Scorpion” – my most favoritest prison movie ever. (Hey, if anyone knows where I can find a copy of the manga by TÅru Shinohara, I’d be ever-so-grateful.)
Beyond that, it’s Norman Osborn. So…yeah. Hell yeah.
Emma, You helped out on the recent “Amazing Spider-Man” arc, “Shed,” you’re doing the “Shadowland: Elektra” one-shot and now you’re doing this miniseries starring one of the Marvel Universe’s most dangerous villains. It seems like you’re developing a passion for grittier, darker stories. Is that the case, orr is just sort of a coincidence?
Emma Rios: Honestly, most of the stories I’ve participated in had some creepy moments or uneasy situations. Not just “Hexed” or “Strange,” I’m not talking about magic or weird creatures, but the essence. Even in “Firestar,” despite being another kind of story, there is a subtly dark, sad tone. I had that passion from before, and think that it became more noticeable, gradually, so probably it’s not a coincidence.
In general, I love working with atmospheres and weird feelings…and dark stories are perfect for that. They encourage me to be nuanced developing the environment, working with shadows or enjoying background shots like the CSI one in “Shed” or Kraven’s cemetery. Moreover, dark or morally gray characters work to hold some inherent depth that allows you to play with all that is behind their surface. If the true nature of a character is hidden, being detailed with their body language and expression is even more necessary and I love that.
Besides, I like working with some action, violence and dynamics. Those factors make me look for other kind of aesthetic solutions and are very expressive.
What do you find most interesting about Norman Osborn? What do you feel are his most important character traits?
DeConnick: His hubris and his hubris. And the fact that he’s alllllmost smart enough to justify it. He’s Gordon Gekko on a far more majestic scale. He’s Machiavelli. And Norman has a code, you know? He’s not evil for evil’s sake. He craves power because he thinks he knows better what to do with it than anyone else.
He’s a familiar villain in that way.
Rios: He is a very twisted character. His double nature and personality are going to be a challenge, and I am very excited about the chance of working with a hell of a villain like he is. Smart, egomaniac, attractive, sick, dangerous…I hope we can provoke some kind fascination over the reader, a love/hate relationship, because he is a snake charmer after all.
Regarding physical aspects, ok, everybody seems to have some kind of obsession about Norman’s hair and so do I. I’m a little worried about that, [and I] have to think about it somehow. [Laughs] I want to keep him elegant, a gallant sociopath. He needs to be charming, solid and cool in order to make everybody fall for his “ends justify the means.”
At the end of “Siege,” Osborn suffered what was probably his greatest defeat ever, and was taken into custody by the government. Does he blame anyone but himself for his current predicament, and how is he taking this defeat when “Osborn” begins?
DeConnick: He’s not penitent. His ego doesn’t permit that kind of evolution. But he is – what? A bit more introspective, perhaps. Despite his references to same, I don’t think Norman truly believes in God – I dunno – but I’m certain he believes with a religious fervor in his own destiny; he believes he’s not merely entitled to power, but consecrated to it. And like a certain American President who came before him, Norman believes if he does it, it is not wrong.
So, that leaves only one satisfying explanation for his incarceration: Norman Osborn is being tested. And what is a test, really, but a contest? And what is the point of a contest if you don’t aim to win?
So do the events of “Osborn” unfold strictly in the super prison the Raft?
DeConnick: A year or so ago, I stumbled on a mention of detainment facility on McNeil island that has
a couple of unusual distinctions – the most fascinating of which is that it “indefinitely confines” predatory sex offenders who have completed their sentences but are deemed to dangerous to be released into society. I couldn’t wrap my brain around how that was legal (and if you’re interested in researching it, the legal maneuvers that allow it to exist are fascinating on their own. Or at least they are to me, but I’m a bit of a nerd for that sort of thing, so YMMV), how the ACLU was not all over it. I brought it up to my friend Ariana Osborne, who was all, “Oh yeah, Kel. The ACLU’s been there and done that,” and she sent me a few case citations to look up. I can feel you falling asleep right now, so I won’t go on, but I had such mixed feelings about this place. On the one hand, it goes against some of my core values and seems to me a gross manipulation of the law. On the other hand…I’ve got kids. I’m a lot less indignant about the rights of convicted predators than I used to be, you know? Is that a character defect on my part? I’m not sure.
When I come across issues like that – things that I’m genuinely torn on, gray areas that make me question whether or not I’m living my values and make me question what my values actually are…well, those thing get stuck in my head. Those are the seeds of fiction.
I think I’ve strayed off point, but no – it does not unfold strictly on the super-prison on the Raft. We open with Norman’s transfer to a Special Commitment Center in an undisclosed location. Aaaand I think I’ll leave it at that.
Emma, is it a challenge to work on a story with a setting like that, or is the setting part of the appeal of “Osborn?”
Rios: To me , the setting is awesome. My head is full of references from movies or series I love, since “The Great Escape,” “Alcatraz,” “Oz,” “Cell 211” to “Prison on Fire.” I love genre stories and can’t wait to start playing with all the visual aspects related to this. It’s not a problem at all, to me. I really dig the idea .
In terms of plot and themes, what is “Osborn” about and whose perspective is it told from?
DeConnick: Norman is the protagonist of this story. In terms of plot, Norman is transferred to a super-secret Special Commitment Center where he is housed with five other secret prisoners who are not there as part of a sentence, but rather because they have been deemed by the powers-that-be too dangerous to be free. While there, Norman discovers a network of supporters he wasn’t aware he had.
Thematically, it’s about power and the law and that gray place where you might actually find yourself agreeing with someone like, well, Norman Osborn.
Who are some of the obstacles and adversaries that you plan on pitting your protagonist against?
DeConnick: The System! The Man, man. Also five of the nastiest enemies of the State that you can imagine.
Interesting! What else can you tell us about these other prisoners?
DeConnick: The five other prisoners are the Demon, the God, the Scientist, the Alien and the Ghost.
It sounds like Norman will be a little outgunned going into “Osborn,” but I also hear that he’ll gain some allies?
DeConnick: More than a few, but I don’t want to play that card for you just yet.
How would you describe the tone of “Osborn?” It sounds like a supervillain style mash up of HBO’s “Oz” and the movie “Escape From Alcatraz?”
DeConnick: Hm. How about throwing in “Cool Hand Luke?”
Emma, what can you tell us about the style you plan on employing for this series? Is it similar to your recent work like “Heralds” or “Amazing Spider-Man?”
Rios: Of course I have to fully read the script first to make decisions, but, well, what I was doing in “Amazing” is the style I feel more comfortable with.
Norman Osborn may have been beaten in “Siege,” but he’s known as a man who comes back from his defeats a lot stronger and scarier than before. Exactly how important is “Osborn” in setting up the next stage of the title character’s life? Do you know if there are plans in place for Norman after this series?
DeConnick:This is a tough question for me to answer – in part because I’m not privy to all the info and in part because I’m not sure how much of what I do know I’m allowed to share.
Let me just say this, there are certain elements it was vital that I included in my pitch and there is a “get” at the conclusion of our tale. Osborn does not leave the story exactly as he begins it.
Rios: Since good old Osborn has lost his liberty but isn’t going to give up the Big Game, changing his modus operandi and plans while knowing the nature and use of his new pieces could be considered to be a big change in his status quo…And since he is not completely alone it may be a more dangerous situation for the whole world’s status.
They are losing. If you wouldn’t give a madman a loaded weapon, why would you give a mastermind enough time? Norman is counting the seconds and will not let your comments about his hair stop him…