He's thrown a teenage girl off a bridge, kidnapped and threatened an elderly woman, and tried to murder Spider-Man countless times. Now in the wake of Secret Invasion, he's one of the most powerful men in the Marvel Universe. His name is Norman Osborn and his Dark Reign has only begun.
In an effort to give our readers a better feel of what Norman's ascendancy means for the Marvel U, CBR News kicks off THE OSBORN SUPREMACY, a new feature wherein we talk with Marvel Comics creators about how Norman Osborn will impact their separate titles. In our first installment, writer Matt Fraction gives us the scoop on Osborn's nefarious plans for Tony Stark, which will be brought to life in the pages of "Invincible Iron Man," illustrated by Salvador Larroca.
At the end of "Secret Invasion," Tony Stark was removed from his positions as director of S.H.I.E.L.D. and head of The Initiative -- the U.S. government's superhuman army. Norman Osborn was made his replacement, and in "Invincible Iron Man" #8, in stores now, readers saw Stark do his best to welcome his successor.
"Public opinion is against Tony, but he still wants to put on a brave face and a good show for the rest of the world and hope for the best," Matt Fraction told CBR. "As the former preeminent superhuman lawmaker and law enforcer, he wants to be seen as obeying the law. So Tony really tries to play by the rules and long story short, Osborn makes it clear that there's no place for him and then goes after the superhero identity database that kicked off Civil War. Tony realizes that Norman is not pretending at all to be law abiding and that in fact the keys to the kingdom have just been handed over to a madman. So Tony kicks off his plan . . . his doomsday plan."
Fraction couldn't yet reveal what Tony Stark's doomsday plan actually is, but to implement it plan, Tony will have to go on the run from Osborn and all the various forces under his control. Tony becoming a fugitive complicates matters for Osborn, but is not entirely unbeneficial to his agenda. "It makes Tony look like a lawbreaker and it puts him on the run, which is a victory right away," Fraction explained. "When the best option Tony has is to go on the lamb it's an implicit victory for Norman. That said Tony has a lot of answers Norman wants. So Norman needs him alive. I know a lot has come out in solicits and Secret Invasion, but there's still a couple of cards that I'm keeping close to my chest. Tony has things that Norman needs direly and it becomes extraordinarily important that be brought in.
"Tony is effectively 'The Fugitive,'" Fraction continued. "Osborn is a guy who just isn't incredibly rich and powerful, he's also in charge of a massive intelligence and law enforcement agency [H.A.M.M.E.R., the organization that replaced S.H.I.E.L.D.] Everyone and every traffic, ATM and convenience store camera is looking for Tony Stark. Anything that used to be Stark tech is now looking for Tony and reporting to Norman. It's very hard for Tony to be Tony right now."
Hunting down Iron Man isn't enough for Osborn. He's out for blood and plans on attacking Stark with one of the most devastating weapons in modern society: the media. "Norman starts to try Tony in the court of public opinion, in the way that we've seen happen in our country," Fraction remarked. "He starts playing these games in the press and says to Tony, 'Just turn yourself in. We have questions-you have answers. Just come in and we'll talk about it. That will be a great step towards proving your innocence.' But of course, Tony can't do that. It would be certain death. Osborn knows it and plays the game to the hilt."
Osborn isn't about to let a little thing like the truth get in the way of what he wants to tell the public about Iron Man. "Once it becomes clear that Tony isn't going to cooperate, Norman's coup de grace comes in the form of a manufactured memo that makes it appear that Tony and Maria Hill sought to collude with the Skrulls in a Neville Chamberlain-style policy of appeasement," Fraction revealed. "It's fabricated, but Norman says he has it and it's his proof that Tony sought to cut a deal with the Skrulls. This makes him look like a traitor against the people of Earth. So everybody wants him."
Osborn's power base may be America, but he's still not going to let Tony Stark escape his reach by fleeing the country. "This is a global manhunt and Norman was in a room with a lot of interesting people who have a lot of interesting resources [in 'Secret Invasion: Dark Reign']. And all of them are going to be put to task to find Tony," Fraction stated. "His friends, his family, everything is a weapon that can be used against him. Norman needs Tony Stark."
By defying Osborn and becoming a fugitive, Iron Man has also inadvertently put his company in the line of fire. "It's bad. There was the attack by Ezekiel Stane before Secret Invasion and then the Skrull virus, which wiped out almost every piece of technology during Secret Invasion. So with their public perception after the invasion and with Tony becoming the fall guy for all the difficulties faced during the invasion, Stark Industries is effectively gutted," Fraction explained. "Pepper Potts is made acting CEO in the company's dying days. It's being sold off, shut down, or just plain abandoned. She's been made captain of a sinking ship."
Tony Stark knows Norman Osborn is an utterly ruthless opponent, so he expects no quarter from the former Green Goblin, but what Tony might not be aware of is that Osborn is pursuing him with a level of wrath usually reserved for someone like Spider-Man. "I think Norman always had a general sweep of contempt that became much more acute as he found himself leading the Thunderbolts and as the Skrull invasion went on," Fraction said. "For Norman to find himself a subordinate to Stark was really an insult that became an injury and then became a grievously infected injury. So now that it's time to strike, he's got a lot of payback on his mind.
"It was either that slow burn towards hate or maybe Norman always hated him. Maybe it was just the difference of going from one to one hundred on the hate scale. I'm not entirely certain."
Matt Fraction is greatly enjoying the chance to write Norman Osborn in the pages of "Invincible Iron Man." "I love writing scenes with Norman and his girl Friday, Victoria Hand, is incredible to write too," he said. "You have to credit Warren Ellis's treatment of him in 'Thunderbolts' for this modern take on who he is. The psychotic schizoid business executive is a terrific playground to work with. This is Norman's endgame and it's a lot of fun to write. The bad guys have never won this well before."
Norman Osborn has for all intents and purposes declared war on Tony Stark, so while the villain may not show up in every issue of "Invincible Iron Man," his presence and hand will be felt. "We're not going to see the Tony and Norman slug-fest that audiences have been demanding, but Norman is pulling the strings and bringing the, god pardon the pun, hammer down on Tony," Fraction confirmed. "I said from the beginning that my Iron Man run, this first part of it anyway, is very much about a reckoning coming for Tony. The reckoning is here."
"Invincible Iron Man" #9 is in stores January 7 from Marvel Comics.