By Chris Arrant
On Monday, Marvel hosted a conference call in which writer Kelly Sue DeConnick and editor Alejandro Arbona spoke in-depth about the upcoming limited series OSBORN. Debuting November 17, the story finds Norman Osborn behind bars in a top-secret prison after instigating Dark Reign and the siege of Asgard. For years, Osborn has kept his Green Goblin persona under lock-and-key within his own mind, but now things begin to break.
|OSBORN #1 preview art by Emma Rios|
This prison, dubbed the FCC Special Containment Center, holds within its walls global threats so dire that the government never let the world know, and they've never even been seen before.
"In Osborn's wing there is also June Covington, our mad scientist icon," DeConnick explains. "Then there's Zirdal, who is a big momma alien, like a mama bear. She's actually the one who is the most empathic of the group, even if she thinks the human species are a threat to her race and that's why humans have to die."
DeConnick also described another inmate as a demon with the ability to change people's memories, but with a nasty side-effect of making those victims bitter and angry. Rounding out the group in Osborn's wing will be a Peruvian jaguar god nicknamed "The Decapitator," and the writer applauded series' artist Emma Rios depiction of him as "fantastic and creepy, with giant teeth I adore."
Though these four never-before-seen villains make up a good chunk of Osborn's new supporting cast, some familiar faces from Norman's past will also put in cameos.
"Peter Parker makes a brief appearance, as does Ben Urich," promises DeConnick.
A character having a more substantial role: Nora Winters, last seen interacting with Norman during the 'American Son' arc of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN.
"Nora's involvement was a happy accident, honestly," DeConnick reveals. "When I first pitched OSBORN, I wanted to use Ben Urich, but it made more sense to use Nora. And now I love her; she's so great, and has an insane energy about her [so she] can't shut her mouth or keep from causing trouble. Norman got under her skin, and made it so she couldn't do her job. That made her crazy, so she's trying to make that right.
"There are things coming directly from ["American Son"], especially the Nora Winters part, which feeds directly into our story. OSBORN is almost as much Nora's story as it is Norman's."
But Nora's on the outside, and Norman's on the inside, housed with four other global-scale troublemakers. While the inmates may be kept apart, they're able to get to know one another nonetheless.
|OSBORN #1 preview art by Emma Rios|
"This prison is based roughly off a prison I read about off the coast of Seattle," she continues. "This place has criminals who have completed their sentences, but they're still there. When I read that, I couldn't wrap my brain around it because it seemed so Un-American and un-constitutional. When I asked a friend how this sort of thing could exist, they pointed out to me that the ACLU has argued it all the way to the Supreme Court, who deemed it legal. The people held there are deemed too dangerous to be released, even though they have completed their sentence.
"As a young parent though, I'm more okay with dangerous predatory criminals being locked up, more than I was as a younger woman. But at the same time, I feel guilty about saying that out loud."
Osborn finds himself in a prison so secret that not only will comics readers be seeing it for the first time, but not many denizens of the Marvel Universe know about it either.
"It's the type of thing where the President would know, but the Vice President wouldn't," DeConnick elaborates. "The legal justifications of it are a little sketchy, so it's privately run."
When asked, DeConnick points out that not even the U.S.'s new top cop, Steve Rogers, knows of this prison's existence.
"This isn't the kind of place he would condone. There's something decidedly un-American about this facility, honestly. Cap would object."
And Norman Osborn, the man Steve Rogers replaced, objects to the prison-and not only because he's the prisoner.
"Norman views himself as a political prisoner, because that's the only way it makes sense for him," explains DeConnick. "There's an element of extraordinary rendition in this as far as he's concerned."
With Osborn locked away, the ever-present Green Goblin haunts him more than ever. This aspect of Norman's psyche bubbled up over the course of Dark Reign and broke free in the finale of Siege.
|OSBORN #1 preview art by Emma Rios|
Editor Alejandro Arbona adds, "I think we'll see a lot of Norman as the charmer and the manipulator [in this series]. He's confined, so we won't see him in costume; not in the first issue at least, and not necessarily in the entire series."
"The Goblin isn't forgotten," DeConnick promises. "It's a part of him that Norman protects and values. He doesn't like it when other people bring it up though; he treats it as though it's a condition he has."
"He doesn't like talking about the time he painted his face green and attacked a country," chimes in Arbona.
Although they couldn't speak too definitively on the details of Norman's incarceration and future plans, the team happily revealed the behind-the-scenes origins of OSBORN.
"The idea sprung out of a creative retreat we had, and an 'Oz' joke that turned into a running gag between Tom Brevoort and Joe Quesada," reveals Arbona. "Sometimes things like these escalate rapidly, and we turned to Kelly Sue to see if she wanted to flesh it out."
"I had been working on another idea with editor Steve Wacker that didn't end up going through, and he ran this by me as an idea," the writer says. "I couldn't tell if he was kidding, but he asked if I'd be interested in pitching for it. I was super psyched about it because I love Norman Osborn and what Warren Ellis and Brian Michael Bendis had done with him, particularly Ellis' run on THUNDERBOLTS. That Seattle prison story I read stuck in my mind, and when I threw that into a phone conversation with Steve we spun it into a pitch which became the book."
After the pitch had been approved, Marvel went in search of an artist and found Emma Rios.
"I've worked with her twice," says Arbona. "Once on AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, which was really beautiful, and she also did SHADOWLAND: ELEKTRA. I first saw her work when I was in Barcelona several years ago, and what impressed me was how diverse her portfolio of work was. In the comics she's done, it mostly takes place in everyday settings but with really extreme, violent areas. As soon as we started talking to Emma about OSBORN, she was drawing out ideas and exploring the ambience of the prison and the characters. I think she has been a really great choice."
|OSBORN #1 cover by Ben Oliver|
"Emma and I bonded over our love for Japanese film actress Meiko Kaji, especially the film series 'Female Convict 701: Scorpion'," shares DeConnick. "Emma has been fearless and giddy about the dark aspects and has brought in some of the pulpy stuff involved with the prison films."
The bonding that DeConnick feels over this project extends not only to the series' artist, but also the writers who have made their mark on Norman Osborn in the recent past.
"I think the most sympathetic thing about Norman is that he's funny," she says. "Even though he has megalomaniacal qualities that are frightening to me, the thing that leapt out to me is his sense of humor. The way that Warren and Brian wrote Norman is by mixing the scary and the humor.
"I can't say Norman is exactly sympathetic, but it's that humor that acts as a door for me to get inside his head."
Indeed, Warren Ellis will be contributing a back-up story in the series' first issue concerning one of Osborn's fellow inmates.
"The story of June Covington is that she is a really nutters geneticist who could have done the world a lot of good had she not been a homicidal maniac, and Warren does a fantastic job of setting her up, giving her history, and actually a little bit of Norman as well," DeConnick says.
"You can see OSBORN as where Norman's chickens finally come to roost.," concludes Arbona. "What he did to Nora in "American Son" and what he did to the country and world as head of H.A.M.M.E.R. in Siege are finally coming back around. While maybe it's not direct plot elements, all he's facing now is due to all that he's done in the past [several years]."
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