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Fear Files

Fear Files: Norman Osborn

For the man who cast a Dark Reign over the Marvel Universe, his greatest fears come from within

By Ben Morse

In 2011, terror overtakes the Marvel Universe as Fear Itself envelops its heroes and villains.

To delve deeper into what lies at the root of this climactic event, each week in Fear Files we will speak with Marvel’s biggest creators about exactly what frightens the premiere heroes and villains whose lives they guide.

For over a year, the Marvel Universe found itself under a Dark Reign perpetrated by one of its most devious and disturbed denizens: Norman Osborn, aka The Green Goblin. This week, we speak with Kelly Sue DeConnick, writer of the recent wrapped OSBORN limited series, about the man, his use of fear, and how his own may have ultimate brought him down…

Marvel.com: What is Norman Osborn most afraid of?

Kelly Sue DeConnick: The opening sequence of OSBORN #5 actually addresses this, oddly enough. He says if you want to know what your enemy fears, look at what he uses to frighten you. Then we cut to a close up of his face with the Goblin starting to creep in to his features and the caption reads, "Boo."  

Norman's greatest fear is that he is not the man he purports to be—not big, [not] powerful, not a man of great destiny. He fears—maybe even suspects, in his most haunted moments—that he's a fraud; that he'll fail to live up to his own expectations, die penniless, powerless, pitiful [and] mad. That one day he'll wake to find he's more Goblin than Norman and there is nothing he can do.

Marvel.com: If we’re to think of Norman and the Goblin as two separate characters—as he seems to—how would you contrast one against the other?

Kelly Sue DeConnick: The easiest answer is probably id versus superego, though I'm certain there's a Freudian out there who'll be dying to explain to me how I've got that all wrong and I'm way over-simplifying.  

And, you know, he or she will be right. But I think as shorthand that works. I mean, we're talking about a comic book, not Psychology Today.

Marvel.com: Norman has certainly utilized fear as a weapon, both outwardly as the Green Goblin and more subtly during his time in power—does he have an intimate relationship with the emotion?

Kelly Sue DeConnick: Oh yeah. Definitely. Fear of the choke-it-back, always-on-your-peripheral variety, I think.

At one point when I was considering doing some flashbacks to Osborn as a young man in OSBORN, I read a scene in which Norman's father was both physically and emotionally abusive. The scene involved a bicycle and I can't remember where I read it—I don't suppose it matters, but, yes, I imagine growing up like that could scar you in a great many ways, one of which would have you always looking over your shoulder.

Marvel.com: How do you feel he has been able to flip the fear he felt to something he could harness for his own purposes?

Kelly Sue DeConnick: When I'm hurt, I want the world to hurt with me. I usually resist the urge to throw pumpkin bombs at people, but if I said it never occurred to me, I'd be a liar.  

I think that kind of 'I will answer your wrath tenfold' thing is natural. I'm a grown up, not a super villain, so I don't act on it but it's always my first impulse. You frighten me or embarrass me and as soon as I'm done shaking and crying I want to destroy you and everything you hold dear. I think that's just lizard brain. Or maybe I'm a bad person, I don't know—but aren't bullies usually little frightened people at their core?  

Marvel.com: How close are Norman’s own fears generally to the surface?

Kelly Sue DeConnick: I think they're always there, just below the surface, driving him.  

I mean, it's not like he's a physical coward—he's a scrapper, sinewy and powerful. He loves a good fight. The fears that drive him are more abstruse: powerlessness, madness, triviality—that sort of thing.

Marvel.com: Could Norman Osborn be the person he is without some fear driving him?

Kelly Sue DeConnick: I don't think so. I don't think anyone of us would be the same person without the things that drive us.  

Marvel.com: What is Norman Osborn’s worst nightmare?

Kelly Sue DeConnick: He dies slowly, medicated, insane and alone in a padded room somewhere. He has no fortune, no legacy and no one knows his name. Meanwhile, Tony Stark becomes President and Spider-Man is globally adored like a cross between Coca Cola and Muhammad Ali.  

Will Norman Osborn ever be able to break free of the inner demons that haunt him and regain his power? Check out the OSBORN: EVIL INCARCERATED collection, on sale June 1, for an idea.

For more information on Fear Itself, visit the official event page.

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