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The Writer's Commentary

The Writer's Commentary: Osborn

Kelly Sue DeConnick guides us through the first three issues of her wickedly entertaining limited series

By Chris Arrant

What happened to Norman Osborn after he got his comeuppance at the end of Siege? What could the authorities possibly do to a man that essentially ran the super hero community and knew all the dirty little secrets that the government never wants out? In OSBORN, writer Kelly Sue DeConnick and artist Emma Rios explore the fall of Norman Osborn from his lofty perch to a shadowy prison for criminals who can’t be put on trial.

In the three issues of OSBORN been released so far, we’ve seen the former Green Goblin get to know the insides of this structure and find out he has friends behind bars—and under the frock. Shortly after being inducted into the prison, he’s on is way to ruling it the same way he gained the upper hand in Dark Reign. In addition to the view from inside, we’ve followed Daily Bugle reporter Norah Winters facing her fears and the politicians in Washington debating what to do with Norman when the idea of a public trail could turn into a circus.

With two more issues to go, DeConnick  joined us to go in-depth on this riveting series.

OSBORN #1 art by Emma Rios


Marvel.com: The first page starts off with Norman contemplating on a spider that shares a cell with him, which alludes to his eternal nemesis Spider-man. How'd you figure out this scene and using the spider?

Kelly Sue DeConnick: I'm trying to remember exactly how this came about, and I wouldn't swear to it, but I'm pretty sure this came from an e-mail exchange with Emma…ah yes. I just went and looked it up, yes.  So I think I had written Emma, introducing myself and said that I had two kids, two cats, two dogs and two frogs—the frogs, I'm sorry to say, are no longer with us. Emma responded that she has three cats and asked if I was considering a pet for Norman. I thought the suggestion was delightful as it was absurd.  

What kind of a pet could you have in prison?  It would have to be something you could hide—hey, wait a minute!  

And that was pretty much that.  

The whole book has come together like that. 

Marvel.com: We first saw Norah Walters in the pages of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN written by Joe Kelly, but you seem to get her from her first dialogue balloon. How'd you come to know the character and be able to get inside her head to write her dialogue?

Kelly Sue DeConnick: I don't know.  I mean, I have a long-standing fondness for the Girl Reporter archetype, but Norah feels more specific than that to me.  I think I like her as much as I do precisely because she is so unfamiliar.  She's not got it together like Pepper Potts or Lois Lane or Hildy Johnson; she's a train wreck.  Ethically, personally—she's a spiteful, selfish mess.  I love that.  

And Emma just takes her to a whole other level.  The bazillion post it notes in her cubicle?  That's genius. 

OSBORN #1 art by Emma Rios

Marvel.com: In the scene with the subcommittee, the senators go through a conversation talking about what to do with Osborn and the potential quagmire that a trial could lead to. I see this shadowing a lot of public events in our own world, with our government trying to hold people but afraid of a trial. How'd you come into this idea and make it work in the Marvel Universe?

Kelly Sue DeConnick: Well the whole book started on my end with a story I read about a "special detainment center" off the coast of Washington state that holds sex offenders who have already completed their sentences.  I was enthralled by this story.  On the one hand, I'm a card-carrying member of the ACLU and I take a pretty clear position when it comes to the bill of rights.  Detaining individuals who have completed their sentences sounds indisputably heinous to me.  

On the other hand, I'm the mother of two beautiful treasures.  I'm not shedding too many tears for predatory sex offenders and I won't be picketing to put them back on the street.  

It was a disorienting place for me to be.  I still don't know how I feel about it.  

Things like that, things you can't quite work out for yourself, those are the perfect starting points for fiction. 

Marvel.com: As we get inside the prison, you lay out a host of new villains that, correct me if I'm wrong, are completely new to the book. Can you tell us about developing them?

Kelly Sue DeConnick: Yeah, I went through archetypes and things that I was afraid of, or things that horrified me.  

Ai Apaec takes us back to spiders—I am, as it happens, terrified of spiders.  Originally I wanted him to be covered in eyes, but I started researching and I got this reference to Ai Apaec, who really was called "the decapitator," and that seemed like, well, a gift.  

June is my mad scientist.  She's hubris.  "Doxie" comes from my favorite episode of the A&E “Nero Wolfe” series.  

Carl "Carny" Rives...well, anything about stalkers scares the crap out of me.  And carnivals are creepy.  And did you catch the Kennedy bit in his bio?

OSBORN #1 art by Emma Rios

Now, [editor] Steve Wacker called me the other day to ask if I'd named him Carny Rives "on purpose."  I swear to you, I don't remember where the name came from. I thought I picked it because, well, he was a carnival worker.  Wacker informs me that the actor playing Spider-Man on Broadway is named Reeve Carney.  It's too good.  I must have done it on purpose, right?  Well, you'd think.  But I don't remember ever seeing the name.  I don't know.  It was either subconscious or it's one hell of a coincidence.  

There've been a whole bunch of those in my life recently.  Enough to freak me out and take my every day into Grant Morrison-esque magical realism territory.  

I'd expound, but I'm pretty sure you'd think I was lying or crazy.  

Anyway.  Back to your Third Wing inhabitants…

Xirdal was my 1950’s horror tribute.  But then I realized she had to die. Not much of a tribute.  

Pryor Cashman is my Rasputin and my love of the old Marvel horror demon world. The name came from a list of law firms—I love law firm names more than baby name books.

Sondra Muffoletto and Bill Morrison are named for two of my friends from 4th grade. Chris Muffoletto is the author of a vampire book called “The Sun Will Find You.” He recently got back in touch after he saw my name on SIF.  


Marvel.com: I know it's not until the middle of the issue, but I've got to jump to it now: the scene where the guard is in the cell block trying to deal with the alarm is amazing. How did you and Emma work together to come out so well? I can't imagine how you'd script something like that.

Kelly Sue DeConnick: That was Emma.  I scripted that for panels and she wrote to say she "had an idea."  If Emma Rios ever writes to tell you that she has "an idea," go with it.

OSBORN #2 art by Emma Rios

I am so smitten with Emma it's embarrassing to both of us.  

Speaking of embarrassing, I teared up when I scripted the guard's death.  Even though he was a horrible man, the way they were making fun of him got to me.  I meant to humanize him a bit and I guess it worked. 

Marvel.com: In this issue the prison goes on lockdown as a riot in a neighboring cell block puts everyone on edge. Luckily Norman was in a meeting with the priest—a priest who it turns out worships Norman. That aspect of Norman as some sort of religious figure, how'd that come about?

Kelly Sue DeConnick: I don't remember whose idea it was to make the Goblin gang a cult.  I think it was mine, but I'm not 100% sure of that.  I think it started with an image I found of a shiv that was made to hide in a crucifix.  

Marvel.com: Meanwhile, Norah's in New York trying to track down Norman's whereabouts, showing some keen reporting skill that's hard to come by in comics. How'd you approach trying to know her profession for this book?

Kelly Sue DeConnick: Totally faking it.  I've, you know, seen “All The President's Men.”  And “Shattered Glass.”  And “Zodiac.”  And “The Wire.”  And a bazillion other movies and shows about reporters.  

I did a little reading about the prison system, but I'm not sure how much of that actually made its way into the book.  


Marvel.com: At the beginning of this issue we really get into the politics of dealing with a hot topic like Norman Osborn, especially for one Senator. This story could have easily played out as just a prison story, but bringing in this political back-and-forth really adds another dimension to the story. Was this something hard to get into the comic? And can you talk about doing this in a "super hero" comic?

OSBORN #3 art by Emma Rios

Kelly Sue DeConnick: Not hard at all.  Steve Wacker and I talked about it from the very beginning.  

As far as the super hero thing goes, I guess I haven't done enough super hero comics to feel limited by the genre.  I'm finding my way through, so it feels very open to me still. Wacker said something to me early on about my structure being "weird."  He never really clarified except—when I got defensive—to say he didn't mean it as a bad thing.  So I don't know.  I guess I'm weird.  I suspect that's because I don't know the rules so I'm making them up as I go along.  No one told me not to bring politics into it, you know? 

Marvel.com: Once this issue gets underway, Norman and his cellmates wade into the full-scale prison riot going on in the adjoining wing. I'm struck by your decision to use completely new characters and not familiar people from Marvel's rogues gallery. Why was that?

Kelly Sue DeConnick: It had to be all new guys.  The idea was that this prison was long-standing and that everyone down there had been forgotten. So, you know, if it turned out The Mandrill was down there, it just wouldn't make sense.  

The two-page spread that is Norman Osborn's fight.  Did you catch this

Marvel.com: “Cool Hand Luke”—Nice!

June is on the receiving end of a vicious attack from an inmate—an attack you or I would surely not survive. But for June, it reveals the updates—or "plug-ins"—she's made for herself. [Writer] Warren [Ellis] goes into this more in-depth in the back-up story in OSBORN #1, but this gives me a chance to ask you about this character specifically: just how did she come up?

Kelly Sue DeConnick: I got into this a little earlier on, but she was my mad scientist. She's also a wee bit inspired by my friend Ariana Osborne, who is a tinkerer and has that kind of distance thing about her that makes her seem to be Observing Silly Humans sometimes.  

OSBORN #3 art by Emma Rios

She's probably going to kill me in my sleep now.  

So...that's not good.  

Marvel.com: At the end of this issue we have Norah holed up in the prison after her informant brought her here for this prize story. I know she's a journalist and you're a fiction writer, but what's the furthest you've gone for a good story?

Kelly Sue DeConnick: Ha! I cannot think of an actual anecdote with which to answer your question that wouldn't get me at least an R-rating.  The swear-to-God true answer to this question involves a bikini wax and a dead dog, but I don't think it's appropriate for Marvel.com, alas. You'll have to ask me about it in person.  

Instead I will say that I have, on several occasions, muted my better judgment for the sake of a good story—and I can't think of a single instance that I regret. 

Look for the penultimate issue of OSBORN to hit comic shelves on March 16 and an exclusive preview here tomorrow on Marvel.com!

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