Norman Osborn has a vision for the Marvel Universe. He went to great lengths to implement that vision – surviving impalement and imprisonment. He overcame his reputation as the dangerous and psychotic Super Villain, the Green Goblin. He even helped the heroes of the Marvel U foil an interstellar invasion of Earth by killing the queen of the Skrull Empire. Doing all these things won Norman the public's trust and he was put in a powerful government position where he could make the world into what he felt is should be.
But there were two things that Norman had yet to overcome: mental illness and obsession. These flaws lead to his downfall and imprisonment in last year’s “Siege” crossover. And Osborn's not about to let a little thing like being thrown in top secret government prison get in the way his goals…especially now that he's discovered a growing force of followers ready to believes his vision for the world is right. That's the premise of “Osborn” a five-issue mini-series by writer Kelly Sue DeConnick and artist Emma Rios. With the third issue of the series in stores this week, CBR News spoke with DeConnick about the story to date, and her plans for the rest of the series.
“What’s not to love about Norman Osborn? He's got that controlled menace and that cool intellect. Plus I think he's funny. I can't help it,” DeConnick laughed of her multi-part story for Marvel. “In issue #1 Norman was facing a setback. He'd gone from all of his dreams quite nearly being realized back to square one, or below square one. Rather than take that as a sign that maybe he should reconsider some of his life choices, Norman chose to view it as a test, like a... like a hero’s trial. He wasn’t being punished for having made a mistake. I don't know if Norman believes he makes mistakes. I’m not sure that he’s wired for that. But he does understand being denied.”
Osborn chose to deal with the setback by being patient and soon found himself in the bowels of a top-secret government prison known as the Special Containment Center. Shortly after being transferred there, the villain's patience was rewarded. In issue #2 he met the prison priest, Father Coulmier, who revealed his membership in an organization that believes Norman Osborn's vision of the world was right. The members of this “Goblin Cult” tattoo themselves with the image of Osborn's former villainous alter ego, the Green Goblin.
“I don't think he's shocked by the esteem in which he's held—unless it’s in a ‘took you long enough’ way. He’s convinced of his own righteousness, so if anything, it’s shocking to him when other people don’t see it too,” DeConnick explained. “Our first issue was about choosing your moment; being in that place where you don't know exactly what comes next and having the discipline to wait. That was the first. Then the second issue is about acting when the moment arises. This is his moment.”
Osborn made the most of it. In issue #2, the former Golbin attempted an escape, killing a guard and freeing other inmates in the process. Now he's on the lookout for a way out himself – which may prove hard if the psychotic Green Goblin personality dwelling in his subconscious mind rears its head.
“In issue #2 there's a line where Norman is talking to Coulmier, right after Coulmier reveals the existence of the Goblin Cult to him. Norman says, 'Be careful how you tread' when Coulmier brings up the Goblin. It’s a part of himself that he won't deny; he's both wary of it and protective of it. There's a tenuous peace between the two sides of his character at the moment, but Norman is too smart not to use all the tools at his disposal. He's not going to restrain that part of himself if he needs it,” DeConnick remarked. “In issue #3 you'll start to see some hints of the Goblin persona's presence. You see it sort of peek out every once in awhile.”
While he may be the title character of the series, Norman Osborn isn't the only protagonist of “Osborn.” The story also follows intrepid reporter Nora Winters's quest to uncover on what's going on with Osborn now that he's behind bars. The quest is extremely personal for Winters since the 2009 “Amazing Spider-Man” storyline “American Son” revealed how she obtained highly incriminating evidence on Osborn. Osborn intimidated her though, so she sat on the evidence and didn't run it in a story like she had planned.
“Nora isn't accustomed to feeling shame. It’s eating away at her. She doesn't know what to do with it. In some ways she's as arrogant as Norman. She just found out something about herself – she displayed a weakness of character she didn’t know she had. She let her fear take control,” DeConnick said. “I want to tell her what Peter Parker told her in our first issue: she's a human being and she was threatened by a maniac. Of course she was scared! So she let that fear get the better of her. Okay, well, that’s not ideally what we want from ourselves but she can't go back in time and she can't change it. So she’ll just have to try and learn from it and do better next time. That's not good enough for her though. She’s not just trying to make good on it, she’s trying to obliterate it. She's off to prove a point and Nora doesn't have the best judgment in the world. She's young, angry and impulsive. Edward R. Murrow she is not.”
In addition to Osborn and Winters there's a third main character in “Osborn.” DeConnick feels that U.S. Senator Sondra Muffoletto, who affected Osborn's transfer to the SCC is extremely important to the events of the series as well. “It may not be clear how important Sondra is to the story at the end of issue #2. Those three characters though: Sondra, Norman, and Nora are all dealing with lessons of hubris and power and they're all very different people. So they learn these things differently,” DeConnick said. “There’s an argument to be made that Norman is the most righteous of the three in this particular scenario.
“When Editor Steve Wacker and I first discussed the Goblin Cult and the various other reasons people might not condemn Osborn, Wacker said something about how ‘reasonable people might see Osborn’s heavy-handed approach as preferable to a sky full of Avengers’ and that line really stuck with me,” the writer continued. “It’s comforting to have someone at the helm who says 'I am in charge. You don't need to know what I'm doing. You just need to trust that it's for your own good and go about your business.' Norman is just an exaggerated version of that.”
When Norman made his break in “Osborn” #2, Coulmier was right alongside him. In that issue he also revealed that he's not the Catholic priest he appeared to be. So while he may have lied about his occupation and aided in Norman's violent break out, he's not necessarily an evil man. “To Coulmier, Norman isn't a religious figure like Jesus in that he thinks we should all endeavor to live our lives more like him. The phrase that Norman uses is, 'I am the messiah to your apocalyptic cult.' Coulmier believes the series of events that Norman had put into place signify how things were meant to be,” DeConnick explained. “I recently saw one of those ‘Obama is the Anti-Christ’ websites that talks about how The End Is Near and all of this was foretold. Beyond that it got--ugly. All I could think was 'Shouldn't you be happy about this?' I mean, if the end times are a-comin’ and you’re as righteous as you clearly believe, then you’re about to experience the rapture and head off to a big party in the sky. Get off the Internet and go pack a toothbrush or something, right?’
“Anyway, Coulmier doesn’t represent everyone in the movement but his personal beliefs are along those lines. He believes Norman's political rise and the war with Asgard were preordained. Coulmier feels that he's a soldier in a holy war. It's his responsibility to make sure that those events unfold as was intended. His position is one of self-sacrifice.”
In the first issue of “Osborn” DeConnick and Rios introduced readers to Norman’s four fellow prisoners that he would liberate in issue #2. These four new characters: the demonic Pryor Cashman AKA Kingmaker, the South American spider god Al Apaec AKA the Decapitator, the reptilian alien Xirdal, and the mad scientist June Covington were all new characters created by the series creative team. “I love all of them and getting to have Warren Ellis expound on June in the back up in issue #1 was like a dream come true,” the writer said. “When he took the gig he sent me a couple questions about her. Getting those it maybe the nerdiest thrill of my life.”
DeConnick and Rios also created a fifth inmate for the SCC: Carl “Carny” Rives, a man who used his power to phase through substances to stalk and murder the family members of some US Senators. “I had to change the story a bit and Carny was removed from his cell. So he was mentioned in the first issue but not seen. Maybe there’s something significant about that, maybe not,” DeConnick teased.
Each issue of “Osborn” has its own distinct theme. So the plot and themes of the remaining issue of the series will all be intrinsically linked. “As I mentioned before the theme of the first issue was patience and theme of the second was action,” DeConnick said. “Issue #3 is leadership. Issue #4 is faith. Then issue #5 is courage and back to patience.”
The action in the remaining issues of “Osborn” will be much more claustrophobic and complicated. That’s because in issue #2 it was revealed that the SCC is actually an underwater prison. “Unlike most prisons you can’t just go over a wall. You actually have to take a submarine to get there,” DeConnick stated. “Emma has an architecture background, which I think is really evident in her design. The backgrounds and the locations are so specific, so nicely done, and so ornate too, which I love. We had talked about how if you have this prison at the bottom of an ocean that it would be dank. It would be wet, and things would be sealed off. We used some aspects of submarine design for the doors.”
For DeConnick, collaborating with Rios has been another highly enjoyable aspect of “Osborn”. “She and I have talked about doing something else together and batted around ideas. She sent me an article on Sergio Leone and it was like, 'Okay! I love you!' She's totally my kind of girl. She's into Meiko Kaji, Japanese Pinky violence films, and spaghetti westerns. And really I just don't think it gets any better,” DeConnick said. “There is some stuff in issue #3 of ‘Osborn’ that I wasn't sure Emma and I were going to be able to get away with. I saw it in pencils and I saw it in inks though. So I guess it's going to happen. I don't think I'm giving too much away by revealing there's going to be a prison fight. You've got to have one of those. So there's a fight in there and it's--gross and awesome!”
“Osborn” is part of the newly launched “Big Time” era of “Amazing Spider-Man,” and so the finale of the series will impact both that book and several other Marvel titles as well. “The repercussions of the story will all be spelled out in issue #5,” DeConnick said. “The prison portion of the story ends with issue #4, and issue #5 is where everyone pays the piper.”
"Osborn" #3 is on sale this Wednesday from Marvel Comics. For more news on Spider-Man's world, check out CBR's Spider-Man Hub.