Norman Osborn Will Stain His Hands… With Your Blood

May 22nd, 2008 by | Tags: , , , , , , ,

It’s no secret that I’m a guy who loves the fighting genre of videogames, especially when you consider the kind of awful comics I’ve forced myself to read. With all the Street Fighters and Tekkens and Mortal Kombats out there, the one game I find unfortunate for never getting its own comic series is Fatal Fury. And I’m counting American comics here. None of that ridiculous Hong Kong shit.

The reason Street Fighter fails as a comic is because the main hero and the main villain have little to do with each other. Think of it like this. Marvel’s main hero is Spider-Man. Their main villain is Doctor Doom. Have they met and fought? Sure. But if you were to do a 12-issue comic that sums up Marvel’s history through the eyes of Spider-Man vs. Dr. Doom, it would be a major stretch, watered down by all the other important characters.

Fatal Fury had two things going for it that would keep it a readable comic book. One is that it’s a very simple story. It’s about one man (and his less important brother) trying to get revenge on the crime boss that murdered his father with his bare hands in broad daylight and was so well-protected due to police bribery that nobody could do anything about it. So he enters a fighting tournament held by this crime boss in an attempt to get close enough so he can finally get that revenge. Everyone other than those two characters is ultimately a supporting character. Like I said, it’s simple. You can write the whole thing in three to twelve issues depending on how you want to go about it, not to mention sequels and spin-offs.

The other thing that would make it readable is the villain in question: Geese Howard.

Geese Howard is a slick bad guy who’s both untouchable in the criminal sense and the physical sense. Much of his fighting style is based on him casually catching his opponent’s attacks and tossing them around like a rag doll. Geese has a unique aura of badass that never truly appeared in a comic book counterpart. The character closest to him would likely be the Kingpin, especially the Bendis version, and even then the similarities don’t match up completely.

There are a lot of little things that make him so likeable as a villain. As a crime boss, he has supervillain aspirations, but nothing as far as, say, world domination. It’s more that he’s just after power and, more specifically, immortality. In the big picture, he keeps a low profile.

Then there’s his relationship with his henchmen, most notably his right-hand man Billy Kane. Even though most villains treat their people like tissue paper, Geese has a more noble and human respect for his employees. In return, Billy respects Geese more so to the point that he’d do nearly anything for him. No scheming behind the boss’ back to take over or getting slapped around while hearing, “You’ve failed me for the last time!” It’s a dynamic you rarely see in comics. While Kingpin is shown to be respectful to his henchmen, there’s never been a stand-out among them. You could consider the relationship of Dr. Doom and Boris to be like this, though Boris doesn’t really do much other than carry out menial tasks.

It was only recently that Marvel finally hit this groove with Norman Osborn and Mac Gargan.

The whole idea of Mac Gargan working as Osborn’s lackey came from Mark Millar’s run in Marvel Knights Spider-Man. It was a good idea, since the Scorpion was a cool enough concept, but had nothing going for him for years. Either he was committing generic crime or he was trying to kill Jameson. More power to him on the latter, I say. This is the same story where Gargan had shed the Scorpion armor and inherited the Venom symbiote. Millar did some good with the initial Gargan-Venom storyline, but very rarely has anyone else done anything worthwhile with it until recently.

As Green Goblin, Osborn was pissed at Gargan at first for becoming Venom, since that strayed from his plans, despite the fact that being Venom makes him more powerful than being Scorpion. I found something almost poetic about the idea of Gargan being Osborn’s second banana. Gargan represents two different mainstay villains, each one trumped by the Green Goblin. The Scorpion is a green-wearing classic villain who went insane from drinking a serum that enhanced his physiology. Venom is a pest that regularly threatens Peter Parker’s home life. Green Goblin is the same as both of them, but carries himself better. Venom may have scared Mary Jane all those years ago, but that’s nothing compared to all that Gwen Stacy crap.

As a character, Osborn was in a pretty bad place for a few years. His aspirations were nothing more than “piss off Peter Parker” and he was involved with some rather unfortunate stories. The whole Civil War/Thunderbolts deal has revitalized the character and has made him a real force in the Marvel universe, different than he was before. Now, far more than Kingpin before him, he gives me the same badass businessman vibe as Geese Howard, albeit more maniacal.

Even without the Civil War: Choosing Sides story’s reasoning for why Venom would join the Thunderbolts, or the fact that Venom is a “please by me” stamp on any comic he appears on the cover of, it’s still a very natural fit. It continues the business relationship built up by Marvel Knights Spider-Man and makes the team roster seem slightly less random. Having Venom announced on a team run by Norman Osborn is just like what it was like when Iron Fist was announced as a member of Luke Cage’s Avengers team. Not so much surprising, but expected.

The way the Thunderbolts have been handled, both in terms of the team and the series, is certainly a unique one. Warren Ellis has been working on his own twelve-issue run, based on two decompressed and very much delayed story arcs. The Thunderbolts themselves have been getting inserted all over the place, appearing in Nova, Sub-Mariner, Avengers/Invaders and I’m sure other comics. There they exist mostly for the sake of action sequences. Finally, there is Christos Gage’s one-shots that keep the Thunderbolts in our minds as we wait for Ellis’ next issue. I’ll get back to that later.

Since the second six-issue story arc is his final one, Ellis goes straight from the team’s genesis to what we’ve all expected from the beginning: this incarnation of the Thunderbolts is destined to implode upon itself. Using a team of incarcerated psychics, each member of the Thunderbolts is unknowingly pushed towards corruption. So while Penance is off having some real character development with Doc Samson, Ellis is cutting to the chase with everyone. Venom? Going on a man-eating rampage. Swordsman? Giving into his megalomania. Norman Osborn? Heh. Well…

You see, ever since the Civil War, Osborn has stayed behind the desk. His character antics have been interesting, having him regularly depicted as a man dealing with his insane mood swings while competently controlling the political power he both craves and doesn’t deserve. Despite the party going on in his head, he’s played it straight most of the time and has come off as a smart businessman and team leader. I think it’s pretty awesome, but most people want more of that. They want vintage Green Goblin with an Ellis twist.

So those incarcerated psychics have done a number on Osborn and have pushed his insanity to the max. This leads to a lengthy, rambling monologue as Norman Osborn dons his Green Goblin costume for the first time in ages. I can’t do this speech justice and it’s too long to simply quote, so here are a couple choice lines from it:

“Can’t rely on anyone these days. All too busy reading about dying pop stars and Iron Man’s pants. You two! Report to the quartermaster and get yourselves a pair of dresses, on the double!”

“Aaaahhh. I’m so glad I never washed this particular costume. Smells like death, blondes and victory. Maybe this could be my presidential uniform. Do presidents have uniforms? I suppose not. Still, since I’d be the president, I could do what I like, really…”

“Note to self: give naked dictation more often. The ideas seem to flow more freely.”

“Swordsman, Swordsman… what shall we do with you? Aside from kill you, of course. Of course I have to kill you. It’s what the little people expect me to do. This is how I display my heroism.”

Isn’t he loveable?

A wise man named Yankovic once sang about how Norman Osborn is scarier without his mask on. Deodato’s above art aside, I’d like to think he’s right. Fortunately, we have Gage’s Thunderbolts: Reason in Madness one-shot to back this up. In-between Ellis’ issues, Gage has been releasing a series of one-shots that get into the minds of the different Thunderbolts members. He’s set to take over the main series once Ellis leaves and I certainly believe it’s in great hands.

This issue, which came out a week before the raving return of the Green Goblin, is about Venom’s frustration with being a Thunderbolt, constantly distrusted due to an incident where he ingested Steel Spider’s arm. A handful of villain regulars like Boomerang and Mr. Hyde get Venom’s attention. By coaxing him with the ability to temporarily leave the Thunderbolts base without risk of electrocution and giving him the first beer he’s had in months, they then try to get him to join them in their little scheme for money and power.

Being bad guys, blackmail is also involved. It seems that back before his Scorpion days, detective Mac Gargan did a job for Obadiah Stane that cost Norman Osborn a huge fortune. Unless he wants Osborn to find out about that, Gargan has to play ball.

Venom seemingly leads Osborn into the trap, where the lesser villains threaten Osborn for several million and enough secrets on him to use as potential blackmail for later. Osborn casually gives in and hands Boomerang a data stick for his computer that will give him all the information he needs.

“Really, I’m impressed. This is quite a farsighted plan for the likes of you. But you made the mistake a lot of people have been making lately. You thought the costume made the man. I can put bombs in other things besides pumpkins, you know.”


Norman and Venom leave the scene and it’s brought to light that Gargan told Osborn everything about the Stane business that the others were threatening to use against him. Osborn had no problem with it at all, considering it led to the creation of the Goblin Serum. Seeing Gargan’s loyalty to the brand convinces Osborn to give him a little more leeway and now Venom gets a free 24 hours a month where he can wander out into the world without the nanochain threatening to paralyze him.

There’s the Geese Howard and Billy Kane of Marvel. I hope they continue with this, since it helps both characters. In over the course of two weeks, Osborn has almost wiped away the memories of all the awful, awful storylines he’s been involved with in the last twelve years. He’s now a major power in the Marvel world and has an ominous dormancy in his current position.

Meanwhile, Gargan finally has some worth as Eddie Brock’s successor. For a while he was shown as being nothing other than two Spider-Man villains glued together to create a generic villain who simply hates Spider-Man. It made him seem pointless other than giving us a less ridiculous Venom visual design. Now I give a crap about him.

Welp. Here’s hoping Osborn isn’t a Skrull.

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24 comments to “Norman Osborn Will Stain His Hands… With Your Blood”

  1. A Fatal Fury series would be fun, since it could eventually branch into the other SNK properties that exist in the same world like Art of Fighting and King of Fighters (we’ll ignore that fact that it has Metal Slug characters and just focus on the main plots).

  2. @EndlessMike: Why ignore Metal Slug? :P

    @Norman: Yep, these last few issues of Thunderbolts have been pretty badass.

  3. I greatly enjoyed the summary. Hopefully monologuing Norman in the latest ish will turn some heads and set some standards on how the man gets the job done. I liked how his running commentary builds up in your head an image of a more street-level Dr Doom in some ways. A confusing concept, but the best I can use to describe

  4. It’s about one man (and his less important brother)

    Oh there you go. Now you’re going to get deluged with hatemail from the millions (thousands? hundred? dozens? four?) Andy Bogard fanboys who charge into message boards every time a new KoF game comes out to angrily demand to know “WHY ISN’T ANDY IN THIS ONE?”

    Who’dve thought that a dorky blonde white guy who plays ninja and is completely clueless to the fact that a bouncy kuniochi wants to schtupp him seven ways from Sunday and can generally be described as the “Frank Stallone” of the fighting game world would have such a passionate fan following?

    Anyway. Good article. Reminds me why I loved reading this blog. Ditching Eddie Brock is probably the best thing to happen to Venom.

  5. I don’t know, I don’t really see the comparison. I always got a father/son vibe off of Geese/Billy. Even after his fall Billy goes around beating the shit out of people who disrespect the Howard name. I just don’t see that kind of devotion from Gargan.

  6. Yeah, it hasn’t gone that far, but I could see the potential of it going that road eventually. In fact, that would be the saving grace to bringing Harry back.

  7. I’m not a big Ellis guy but I find it interesting that the next writer is already doing T-bolts work, but at the same time it should be pretty much impossible for him to do anything with the characters he’s currently writing because they’ll almost certainly have to be gone after this.

  8. I’m not so sure. Venom and Swordsman are the two biggest offenders of the current story arc and would make the most sense to be removed from the Thunderbolts by the time Ellis leaves. But Venom and Osborn are both involved with the upcoming Bizarnage Anti-Venom story in Amazing Spider-Man and Swordsman is shown as still being on the team during Secret Invasion.

  9. I enjoy reading your post, though I’m not a big fan of comics. I seldom read, but reading through your post I find it very interesting. :)

  10. Hey guys

    I just want to say that Geese is a good villian because when you get mad at him you can say “GEEEEEEEEEEEEESE!!” and that sounds cool

  11. I missed you, Burghy.

  12. Holy shit! It’s Burghy! How’s life as an office drone?

  13. @MarkPoa: Nothing against Metal Slug; I love the series. I just don’t think Mars People really fit into the street-level crime story and mystical whatever story that KoF, AoF, and FF have running through them. I suppose you could shove the characters in and just say they’re in Army or something.

  14. As long as Heavy D! and the rest of Team Sports USA is in it.

  15. Hey Gavok, have you ever seen the Donnie Yen & Sammo Hung movie Kill Zone? (Or S.P.L., as it is called outside of the US) Sammo plays the villain in that, a very Kingpin-esque crimeboss, and he has sort of a Geese / Billy relationship going on with his right hand man Jack.

  16. Again, I ask what the hell were the writers and editors on when they made Norman tough enough to take on villains like Mr. Hyde and Whirlwind and still be in one piece? Isn’t this the same Mr. Hyde that went toe to toe with the Hulk? Hyde would literally Norman’s head off and make his skull into an ashtray. Marvel needs to stop glorifying Norman up to the point of absurdity. It wasn’t anymore believable when they made villains like the Joker take out Mr. Myxzptlk or Lex Luthor one-upping Grodd after the latter kicked his ass, so why would it be believable that Norman could actually punch out someone almost as powerful as the Juggernaut? So what’s next? Is Norman going to take out Galactus and the Dark Phoenix now just to prove how bad he is? Marvel, get off Norman’s nutsack and stop trying to make him into something he will never be: An A-Level supervillain threat.

  17. Osborn, who is strong enough to trade punches with Spider-Man, beat up a guy that is normally beaten up by Daredevil after punching him in the nuts and filling his mouth with bombs. What’s the problem here?

  18. The problem here, Gavok, is that Mr. Hyde as I stated was able to trade punches with the Hulk-Did Norman ever do that? I don’t think so. As for the Daredevil thing, Matt primarily beat Mr. Hyde by using his brains and not duking it out with him like Norman did. Again if Hyde can take punches from the Hulk and have his head in tact, why would stuffing bombs in his mouth and then hitting him slow him down? Unless Mr. Hyde probably felt sorry for Norman and was holding back, a plausible storyline would have been if Norman had defeated Hyde by luring him into an intricate trap that render him immobile. Plus, this is the same Norman that got the crap beaten out of him by Luke Cage, who is in the same strength class as Mr. Hyde.
    Marvel is constantly glorify Norman as some A-Level bad guy that can now hang with some of the most dangerous villains in the Marvel Universe-such as the dark reign storyline where they are put him on equal footing with Dr. Doom, the White Queen, Namor and Loki-The only one who is more out of his league than Norman is a two bit punk like the Hood-and he threatens them with some anonymous ally if they cross him. Despite his mysterious ally, why would any of these people fear Norman? What’s to basically stop Dr. Doom, who once took down the Beyonder, Mephisto and Aaron the Rogue Watcher, from turning Norman into a bloody smear on the carpet or the White Queen from wiping his mind before he can blink, or Namor from punching Norman through a wall, or Loki from turning him into a frog?
    The point I’m trying to make is that a lot of the feats that Norman has pulled off starting with being Marvel’s fall guy for the clone saga fiasco is absurd and unconvincing and is compromising the integrity of other established characters to make him look good. Norman’s greatest act of infamy will always be killing Spiderman’s girlfriend and nothing more no matter how hard they try to convince us otherwise.

  19. Norman Osborn has traded punches with Spider-Man. That may not be Rhino strong, but that’s pretty damn strong. So the idea of Norman punching Hyde in the nuts, shoving a bunch of bombs in his mouth and finishing him off with a decent enough mix of super strength punches and adrenaline-filled insanity isn’t all that hard to accept.

    The reason Norman Osborn is being pushed into the A-list is because it’s long overdue. Spider-Man is supposed to be the mid-carder of Marvel and for years he’s been pushed into the front. Over the past couple years, he’s punked out Iron Man and Captain America. He’s stepped up and become an Avenger for longer than an issue. He was a major player in House of M and Civil War.

    And yet all of his villains are left in the dust during all of this. It’s only natural that Norman Osborn, his biggest villain, is now stepping up. It’s all about escalation.

    Besides, this isn’t the first time Norman’s been given the keys to the kingdom on this scale. Earth X gave us President Osborn.

  20. @draco: Basically, you have no problem with Daredevil taking him out with brains alone, but when someone uses a mixture of super strength, forward planning and pure dirty tricks, you cry foul? Osbourne taking on Mr Hyde is roughly equivalent to Batman taking on someone like Killer Croc or Blockbuster.

    Yes Mr Hyde has the kind of durability to take a punch from the Hulk, but he’s not invulnerable and the Hulk hasn’t really fought particularly dirty with him.

    Few things:

    1. Hulk has never, to the best of my admittedly limited knowledge, punched Mr Hyde in the mummy/daddy button. Probably a good thing too, because if a punch from a spiderman-level character can cause him pain, then the Hulk would probably prevent any more Daisy Johnsons permanently.

    2. Hulk has never taken advantage of an opening to throw three grenades into Hyde’s mouth. I don’t care how tough your skin, bones and muscle are, chances are you’d be reeling from that one. Not to mention the smoke from three explosives inside your skull. Last I checked, Hyde still breathed.

    3. Mr Hyde would never underestimate the Hulk like he did Norman Osborn. He was too busy flapping his jaws when he should have been putting Norman down.

  21. You have some good points, Gavok, but you are misunderstanding my arguments in regards to Norman. I don’t generally have a problem with Norman being portrayed as a dangererous and formidable adversary in the Marvelverse-it’s just the way that the writers are doing it that I have a problem with. To me it comes off as if they are giving Norman preferential treatment at the expense of other characters in order to make him look like good. And it’s more than just the Mr. Hyde fight, there are several examples I can think of in regards to this:

    1. The Clone Saga-The only reason why Norman was made the mastermind of this whole thing was to bail Marvel’s butts out of the mess they created when they lost 60% of their readers. Originally, they had planned on making Mephisto and Harry the masterminds of the whole thing but the editor at the time had a personal bias against Harry and didn’t like the Mephisto angle, so they decided to bring back Norman. Plus, what was really dumb, they made Ben Reilly look like a total pussy against Norman and made him into a sacrificial lamb to appease the angry fans. Doesn’t this come off as desperate writing to you? Would Norman really have been brought back if the Clone Saga hadn’t blown up in Marvel’s faces?
    2. Sins Past-The fact that Gwen and Norman slept together and had kids is not plausible due to the fact that Peter was intended to be the father of her kids originally. In another jump-the-shark moment Marvel decided to pin this on Norman because they didn’t the like the original concept. Do you really think that Gwen would have slept with a man she barely knew who was old enough to be her father?
    3. Norman holding Aunt May in stasis and replacing her with a genetically enhanced actress to fool Peter-Wouldn’t Peter’s senses have gone off around the fake Aunt May? To me, Marvel wanted an excuse to bring her back from the dead so they pinned this on Norman.
    4. Norman wanting to melt down the human race with the Jackal’s genetic bomb and rule the world-Norman has never expressed any interest in ruling the world or being a global terrorist so where did this angle come from?
    5. Norman being the director of Thunderbolts-Why would Tony Stark put someone who was recently exposed as a mentally unstable criminal mastermind in this position in public? Why didn’t Stark go with someone with more credibility such as James Rhodes, Valerie Cooper, Henry Peter Gyrich or Maria Hill in this position? All of these people have more experience with dealing with superhumans and are much more trustworthy than Norman, so I didn’t understand this angle.
    6. Norman given politic power after the Secret Invasion-Again, why would someone who was exposed as a dangerous criminal be given this kind of power when again there were much more qualified and credible people like the ones I mentioned? And don’t tell me that it’s just because he killed the Queen of the Skrulls on open camera-If someone like Roderick Kingsley, Wilson Fisk or Otto Octavius had done the same thing would they have gotten that kind of power? I can see Norman getting his sentence reduced for that one act of heroesy but not getting that type of power in return.
    7. The Hobgoblin-How come when they brought back the original Hobgoblin at the same as Norman that he hasn’t been used, save in Spider Girl? Isn’t he just as formidable and diabolical as Norman? Why didn’t he get equal attention? Because Marvel made up their minds who they prefered. Even that confrontation between the both of them was so half assed as Norman wasn’t in costume and they made Roderick Kingsley look like a groveling weasel, although he manned up and held his own against Norman. I theorized this is one of the reasons why they made Norman into a glorified egomaniacal douchebag was so that they wouldn’t have to bring back the Hobgoblin. In fact they gave some of the traits of the original Hobgoblin and the Jackal to Norman such as the use of decoys, clones and masterminding complex schemes. To me this comes off as biased writing-I think that Marvel hates the Hobgoblin and makes him look like a crappy version of the Green Goblin because they like one better than the other.
    Like I said, I don’t knock Norman as a villain but the way that he is being executed isn’t good. It’s as if whenever Marvel needs a mess they need cleaning up they resort to using Norman to bailing them out and furthermore, it’s gone beyond the point where it’s unreasonable for someone like Spiderman to not want to kill Norman or step aside and let someone else do it-Just like with Batman and the Joker. Marvel is going out of their way to constantly remind us of how much of a douchebag Norman is despite the fact that in his original incarnation, he had some redeeming qualities-even though he was no angel by any means. The original Norman may have been just a ruthless criminal and crappy father but now he is nothing more than a Lex Luthor ripoff with almost no redeeming qualities now-And yes I am aware that Norman was a tie/business suit villain before Lex but he was never portrayed as a glorified egomaniacal douchebag originally-Lex Luthor had those qualities way earlier than Norman.

  22. Good God that’s a big block of text.

    1) The latter half of Clone Saga was nothing BUT desperate writing. While I wouldn’t have minded the Harry or Mephisto endings, Norman still made the most sense. Say what you will about how badly handled the whole story was, the Osborn Journal stuff was really the best scenario in explaining away every little thing.

    But I do think that Norman would’ve been brought back regardless. By the release of the first movie at the latest.

    2) Oh, I agree. Sins Past was garbage all over.

    3) Also sucked. I remember the guy who wrote Osborn Journal went out of his way to say that Norman had nothing to do with Aunt May and got pissed when they made him responsible anyway. Honestly one of the worst retcons I have ever read.

    4) I haven’t read whatever story that’s from and can’t comment much. But the dude is both nuts and an evil businessman. Megalomania isn’t too far out here.

    5) I could have sworn Tony Stark had no say in making Norman the head of the Thunderbolts. I thought it was Norman using his information, dirt and wormy charisma to push his way up in response to whatever he was forced to do in Civil War.

    6) First, you have to remember that the public, especially the Marvel public, is made of very stupid people. You factor in cover-ups, the amount of villains who have become heroes and benefit of the doubt explanations (like the time Iron Man accidentally killed a guy on live TV) and you have more breathing room to get by than you think. Look at Iron Man! Remember that time he showed up drunk at the UN when he was Secretary of State? Sure, there were reasons why he acted like that, but the public was never told.

    Also, it wasn’t killing Veranke that did it for Norman. That was just the final icing on the cake. The Secret Invasion-based issues of Thunderbolts paint the picture of why the government would choose Norman Osborn over Stark.

    7) Like the rest of this argument, we’re going to have to agree to disagree here. I never liked the Hobgoblin in any form.

  23. Draco, paragaraph breaks are your – and everyone’s! – friends.

  24. Well I am surpised that you did agree with most of what I was saying and I do respect the fact that you had the courage to rebutt what I said. But I just wanted everyone to understand that I don’t hate Norman as a character, I just don’t like the direction he is heading in and that has more to do with the writers and editors at Marvel than him. I liked the original incarnation of Norman much better as a dangerous but tragic figure not as an stonecold evil SOB with no redeeming qualities as he is being portrayed now.

    Look at what that’s done to Joker and Lex Luthor over at DC. It’s gone way beyond the point for Batman to not want to snap the Joker’s neck or Superman to not want to incinerate Lex Luthor with his heat vision. But because of how popular they are, DC will never let that happen. Unfortunately, I think that’s the direction Norman is heading now. As for the Hobgoblin thing, I think that sentiment is shared by most of the writers and Marvel unfortunately.

    Sorry that I had to make the text so long. Sometimes I can be a very opinonative person.