Marvel held its latest “Next Big Thing” press conference call Monday afternoon, with writer Kelly Sue DeConnick and editor Alejandro Arbona along with moderator James Viscardi, Marvel’s Junior Sales Administrator, on hand to reveal the details behind “Osborn,” a five-issue miniseries illustrated by Emma Rios beginning in November. After a staggering rise to power throughout “Dark Reign,” “Siege” saw former Green Goblin (and Iron Patriot) Norman Osborn laid low as never before; the new miniseries will follow Osborn through the next stage in his evolution, this time in the role of a prisoner in the Special Containment Center (SCC).
The project started as an “Oz” joke at a Marvel retreat, Arbona said, “and sometimes these things escalate very quickly.”
“I had been working with Steve [Wacker] on another pitch that didn’t end up selling,” DeConnick said, at which point Wacker mentioned “Osborn.” “At first I wasn’t sure if he was joking,” DeConnick said, but added that she was very excited about the prospects. Her take on the series is based on Warren Ellis’s “Thunderbolts” and her own reading about a certain remote prison located off the coast of Seattle.
Regarding Osborn’s status at the outset, DeConnick said that the series takes place after his appearance in “Avengers Academy.” “He’s cool about it,” she said, regarding his incarceration, but this doesn’t mean he’s accepted his station.
“This is a super-secret spot where the worst of the worst are kept,” DeConnick said of the prison. “He’s on the third wing, of three.”
“There’s June Covington, who is our mad scientist icon. There’s Zirdal,” DeConnick said of other inmates, the latter of whom is meant to be more sympathetic as she believes humans are a threat to her species and, for that reason only, must be destroyed. Other inmates have the ability to recreate memories and make them more angry, “he creates dictators,” and a Peruvian jaguar god referred to as “the Decapitator,” whom DeConnick said was particularly gruesome with Emma Rios’s designs.
“There’s a hushing quality about the prison itself,” DeConnick said, adding that it “cements prisoners being forgotten.” “It’s the sort of thing the president would know about, but the vice president would not.”
She also said that there’s “an extraordinary rendition aspect to it,” and Norman views himself as a political prisoner.
“The Nora Winters aspect’ of the recent “Amazing Spider-Man” arc will play heavily into this miniseries. “It’s almost as much Nora’s story as it is Norman’s.”
“Norman scared her to death and she didn’t do her job. And that is driving her crazy,” DeConnick said.
“I think it’s a matter between what he did to Nora during the American Son storyline, and what he did to the country … is all going to inform Norman in a way,” Arbona said. “It’s time to pay the piper.”
Steve Rogers, who took over HAMMER/SHIELD after Norman’s fall, will not be appearing in the series. “There’s something quite un-American about this prison,” DeConnick said. “He would object.”
DeConnick said that the prison she’s based the story on, which exists off the coast of Seattle, contains prisoners who have already served their sentences but have been deemed too dangerous to be released. Though the ACLU has taken this issue to the Supreme Court, it’s been deemed legal. “I’m a parent, and I’m ok with dangerous predators being locked up in a way I wouldn’t have been when I was younger. But at the same time I feel guilty saying that out loud, and it goes against my value structure.”
Arbona added that the prisoners at the Marvel SCC prison “don’t have sentences, they’re just there.”
“I tend to think of the Goblin as a part of his personality that he tries to suppress, but is also his greatest asset–amplified. Even if he didn’t have that, he’d still be a villain,” DeConnick said when asked about the relationship between Osborn and his other personality.
Arbona added that, since Norman is incarcerated, he won’t be in costume. Both agreed that he doesn’t like other people to talk about the Goblin. “It’s like that time you painted your face green and tried to take over the country.”
DeConnick said that Osborn sees power as his destiny, and is not necessarily out to hurt people.
“Even Norman Osborn is a little sympathetic” in this series, Arbona said, “but you still sort of think he should be there for everybody’s benefit.”
In this prison, the prisoners are individually confined but can speak to whoever is in a central space. “There is no central rec room where they can go and watch daytime television-they’re too dangerous. But they can talk to each other in their cells.
“We’re just talking about the status quo,” DeConnick added coyly. “If something were to happen and those bars were to be lifted, that could change.”
DeConnick credited Rios’ architectural sensibilities in creating the prison. “There is a claustrophobic quality about it, which I think is appropriate to a prison. And there are some challenges to the location-I don’t want to give away too much here, but there are ways we’ve hinted at where it’s located to give way to a later reveal.”
Arbona said Rios is “extremely versatile” in response to a question about the artist’s more bright and colorful projects. “The thing that impressed me about Emma Rios is the diversity in her portfolio,” Arbona said, which encompassed darker styles, as well.
DeConnick noted similarities to “Female Prisoner #7 – Scorpion,” a film by Meiko Kaji, and that both she and Rios enjoyed these type of projects.
Despite the extraordinary rendition and perpetual imprisonment angles, DeConnick said this series would not primarily focus on controversial practices. “I’m not trying to make any political statements, it’s not about Guantanamo. What I wanted to talk about was power, and when even power in the hands of good guys is misused, and protecting security over liberty-I wanted to capture those ideas and the mixed feelings about those events,” DeConnick said. “Though who wouldn’t want to see Norman Osborn waterboarded after all those events?”
She praised Warren Ellis as “a comedy writer,” and said that he had made Osborn very funny during his reign on “Thunderbolts.”
Speaking of Ellis, his backup features will give the background of mad scientist June Covington. “She’s a really nutters geneticist who could have done the world a lot of good, had she not been a homicidal maniac. [Ellis] does a fantastic job of setting her up and giving us her history.”
“That story is being drawn by Jamie McKelvie, who is an incredible artist and a human kitten,” Arbona said.
Peter Parker will appear, DeConnick said, with Arbona adding that Urich will also show his face.
Asked about getting advice or tips from friends like Warren Ellis or her husband Matt Fraction, DeConnick said that “he doesn’t have time to read my scripts and more than I have time to read his scripts,” but added that she has received help from Brian Michael Bendis, who told her that Osborn was “most menacing when he’s grounded.”
“Osborn” #1 will be on sale November 17.