SDCC 2010 Exclusive: Let's Go To Prison with OSBORN

Serving Hard Time with OSBORN

Norman Osborn went from being maniacal super-villain the Green Goblin to the most powerful man in the Marvel Universe as the director of H.A.M.M.E.R. and Iron Patriot, leader of the Dark Avengers. Then he pushed his power a little too far during Siege, and ended up in The Raft, Marvel’s maximum-maximum security prison. But being locked up isn’t going to stop someone like him, as readers will find out in five-issue miniseries Osborn, starting in November from writer Kelly Sue DeConnick and artist Emma Rios, with covers by Ben Oliver. Osborn may be incarcerated with the worst of the worst, but it turns out they’re fans of his work.

Newsarama talked exclusively with DeConnick and Rios on what Osborn’s mindset is behind bars, the character of the prison itself, and, duh, that always puzzling hairstyle.

Newsarama: Kelly Sue, your Marvel credits are growing, and this is your first big, in-continuity Marvel Comics miniseries — what drew you to this project?

Kelly Sue DeConnick: Steve Wacker brought it to me — he asked if I wanted to pitch on an Osborn in prison book.

I maybe thought about for half a second. It's Norman Osborn. So … yeah. Hell yeah.

Nrama: What type of things inspired or influenced you when writing Osborn? Oz? Shawshank Redemption? Um, other prison-related mass media?

DeConnick: I've actually never seen Shawshank Redemption. Can you believe that? It's not something I deliberately avoided, it's just not something I've seen.

I'd cite instead Cool Hand Luke, Female Prisoner #701: Scorpion and In the Belly of the Beast: Letters from Prison. (Plus Warren Ellis' run on Thunderbolts and Brian Bendis' Norman Osborn.)

Nrama: What's Norman's demeanor in prison? He seemed to remain pretty defiant at the end of Dark Avengers. Is he feeling defeated, or planning his next move, even if it's from behind bars?

DeConnick: He’s not penitent. His ego doesn’t permit that kind of evolution. But he is a bit more introspective. Norman believes with a religious fervor in his own destiny; he believes he's not merely entitled to power, but consecrated to it. And like He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, Norman believes if he does it, it is not wrong.

He's a Machiavellian figure, constantly strategizing, constantly angling for power. The man will be planning his next move from the grave.

Nrama: From what we know so far about the series, it sounds like Norman's fellow prisoners are actually happy that he's in there with them. Is there an alliance forming, and if so, to what end?

DeConnick: Yeah, he'll align himself with whomever if he thinks there's something in it for him.

To what end? C'mon. Like I'm gonna tell you that.

Nrama: Which other familiar Marvel characters can we expect to see in Osborn?

DeConnick: Norah Winters … and Spider-Man.

Nrama: Since the information we have on Osborn is still pretty vague, what can you tell us about the overall plot and main conflict of the comic? Norman's in prison — is he trying to get out? Is he trying to accomplish whatever power grabs he can from within his cell?

DeConnick: Norman is transferred to a super-secret quasi-legal prison that's home to criminals who, it has been decided, pose a dire threat to our nation and "our way of life." The five individuals housed in the hellhole known as the Third Wing make up the cream of this particularly nasty crop and they are Osborn's new neighbors. They're also long-forgotten by the world outside. If there's one thing Osborn can't bear it's the prospect of being forgotten. So. He's going to have to find a way out — and if that means taking the devil with him, so be it.

Nrama: How do you characterize the prison itself? How rough does it get in there?

DeConnick: A year or so ago I stumbled on a mention of a detainment facility on McNeil island has a couple of unusual distinctions — the most fascinating of which is that it "indefinitely confines" predatory sex offenders who have completed their sentences but are deemed too dangerous to be released into society. I couldn't wrap my brain around how it was legal or why the ACLU wasn't all over it. (If you're interested in researching it, the ACLU has been there, done that and the legal maneuvers that allow it to exist are fascinating on their own. Or at least they are to me, but I'm a bit of a nerd for that sort of thing). I had such mixed feelings about this place that I couldn't shake it from my brain.

On the one hand, this goes against some of my core values and seems to me a gross manipulation of the law. On the other hand … I've got kids. I'm a lot less indignant about the rights of convicted predators than I used to be.

When I come across issues like this — things that I'm genuinely torn on, gray areas that make me question whether or not I'm living my values and what my values actually are … well, those are the seeds of fiction.

So … How rough does it get in Osborn's new digs? Well … these inmates are only kept alive in case the government decides they need them and this privately-run institution has no oversight, no one to answer to. How bad would you imagine that gets?

Nrama: Emma, how are you rendering the prison in Osborn, which seems to be a character in itself?

Emma Rios: Exactly like that, the prison has to be another character indeed. It will accompany Osborn and emphasize all the changes and feelings he is going to experience through the series. I’ll try hard to work with the space making the characters involved interact with the oppressiveness this kind of architecture and situation involve. In general, backgrounds are very important to me and I always tend to treat them carefully, trying to avoid generic solutions. Working with this particular setting is not going to be easy but it´s going to make me explore different visual posibilities wich is pretty interesting to any artist.

My first idea for this is mixing some typology of old dark installations with high technology in order to capture different atmospheres depending on the context: fearful, antiseptic, darker, colder …

Nrama: It seems like Osborn mostly, and maybe completely, takes place in one setting. Is that a challenge for you as an artist, to keep that interesting, working within the same confines that the characters are in?

Rios: Even if it happens just in one place it has a lot of different locations to play with, so it doesn’t need to turn into something tedious at all. You can play a lot with the angles, lighting, details … and moreover, although being the same place, each situation can change the atmosphere and look totally different. Shadows and light will play a very significant role and the fact of Norman´s psychopathy could allow me to make things look normal, dark or completely insane.

I love the "prison" genre, there are a lot movies and series on that subject that I really like, my head is full of visual references. It’s a pretty evocative setting, it will definitely be a challenge but I’m really excited about that.

Nrama: Kelly Sue, your Marvel Comics work thus far includes the Sif and Rescue one-shots, plus Girl Comics. Is it maybe sort of a relief to be able to work on a book like Osborn, obviously starring a male and featuring “dudes in prison,” just so there's no chance you might get pigeon-holed within your Marvel work as a female comic book writer who writes about female comic book characters?

DeConnick: Type-casting is a thing. I'm an outspoken feminist as well--so, yeah, if I'm not careful I could easily become the "Lady lady."

The thing about the Year of the Woman is this: it ends. I'm still going to need to bring in an income in the Year of the Blue-Eyed or the Year of the Capitalist or whatever, so it's pretty important that I make it clear that while I do have strong opinions about bringing women into the spotlight, I have other interests as well.

So, yeah, I love that Wacker thought of me for this. I'm coming in with something to prove.

Nrama: How has working with Emma Rios been thus far?

DeConnick: Man … Personally, we seem to have complimentary sensibilities. So that's nice. And professionally, I could not be more thrilled. Honestly, you have no idea what this woman is capable of. You don't even have to wait for our book to know what I'm talking about. The [Shadowland: Elektra] one-shot is going to change everything for Emma. Mark my words.

Nrama: Emma, obligatory question — what's your take on Norman Osborn's hair?

Rios: I´m as obssessed with this as everybody seems to be. I’m still working on Elektra so, I haven’t been able to give it a try yet, but I promise I’ll try to do something about it.

I’m planning to recover the ‘50s gentleman’s look, wave style, avoiding that pseudo-rasta thing that appears from time to time. He will be able to gesticulate, touch it with his fingers and do all the normal things people can do with their own hair.

Norman is a mastermind. Charming but dangerous, an egomaniac, a misanthrope, a sociopath … but definitely a gentleman and nobody is safe from falling for him and his logic.

Being behind bars is not going to make him stand still. He has time and a new playground, making jokes about his hair will not save you …

Would you want Norman Osborn for a cellmate?

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