Organizing Crime: Where Osborn Failed

from War Machine #9 by Greg Pak, Allan Jefferson, Nelson Pereira and Jay David Ramos
from War Machine #9 by Greg Pak, Allan Jefferson, Nelson Pereira and Jay David Ramos

The Dulles Brothers lead the fight against communism. They lead the presidents to the targets at Allen Dulles was the Director of the CIA and his brother John Foster Dulles was the Secretary of State. Two men had the power, connections and belief that shaped the world during the Cold War leading us into Vietnam and the Middle East and without them, the entire world would be vastly different.

Norman Osborn had the power, he had the connections and the beliefs but what ultimately lead to his downfall through the events of Dark Reign and Siege are what made him a fascinating figure.

Osborn became the director of HAMMER after using his Thunderbolts (and information he stole from Deadpool) to stop the Skrull Invasion. He was able to completely oust the former administration, he was able to turn those would would oppose him into pariahs and outlaws and with his public support he could have ruled indefinitely except for one thing – his partners – The Cabal and The Dark Avengers.

The Cabal:

Norman created The Cabal, a group of like-minded individuals who were more or less evil but in his mind controllable or at least copacetic to his cause – namely establishing more power for himself so he could control the United States and destroy anyone who got in his way. The group consisted of Namor, Emma Frost, Doctor Doom, Loki, The Hood and eventually Taskmaster. Unfortunately his biggest flaw with picking his Cabal was they were neither controllable nor copacetic with different goals. Unlike the Dulles brothers who were united by literally being brothers raised with the same ideals, The Cabal was a group of power hunger leaders with bigger plans than Norman ever account for, even if he delivered on his promises.

Norman promised support to Namor in getting back Atlantis, he promised Emma protection for the mutants, he promised to get Latveria back for Doom, he promised Loki the control of Asgard and he promised The Hood control of organized crime in NYC (Taskmaster meanwhile was given the spot as a promotion for his service with The Initiative). All Norman expected in return was fealty. All promises for things of varying values – and this is ultimately what lead to the destruction of the Cabal and Norman’s career.

Except for The Hood, every single one of the original Cabal members had bigger plans than Norman did, they had bigger causes and they had no reason to stay with Norman after because he was not a threat.

Namor turned on Norman to team up with Emma and the X-men and all Norman could do in retribution was to turn Namor’s ex-wife into an Atlantean-eating death serpent.

When Emma cheated on Norman, he could do nothing about the newly formed mutant nation of Utopia. He has nothing he can use besides nukes and meanwhile Emma had tricked him into coming out in support of the mutants which he could not rescind.

Doom gained his kingdom back but Doom owes nothing to any man (unless you have a contract as seen in Damage Control (unless that was a Doombot (which it probably was a Doombot))). And when Norman tried to use The Sentry to stand up against Doom, he turned out to be a Doombot who exploded into killer robo-wasps.

Loki meanwhile was always one step ahead of Norman, leading the way, using Norman as a tool for his own means. See Volstagg blowing up a sports stadium on accident that gave probable cause to invade Asgard.

The only people who actually worked well with Norman were people working on a smaller scale than he was, people who were actually working with Norman and who were not simply using him.

The Hood needed amnesty for his criminals and in return Norman has a fourth secret force (the first three being his own Dark Avengers, the Shadow Initiative and then the Thunderbolts) from the criminals working under the Hood. And this paid off because when the Hood had everything go south for him when Dormammu was exorcised, Norman didn’t turn his back on The Hood. The closest step to a betrayal in the relationship was accepting that Mr. Negative would control China Town in NYC and that was Norman being smart and accepting there were factors he couldn’t control and responding intelligently (unlike when he faced Zodiac and ignored the events around him).

As for Taskmaster, he was on the fence, he was never fully drinking the Kool-Aid that Norman was serving but he feared retribution (and Dr Doom) so he stayed in line. Norman’s issue was picking too many large allies who were bigger forces than he was.


The Dark Avengers

The problem with the Dark Avengers was two-fold: one – the majority of his Dark Avengers knew Norman was evil and that he was crazy and two – the only two members believed that Norman was doing good – Noh-Varr aka Marvel Boy and Bob Reynolds the Sentry, were faced with contrary evidence to his plot. Every other member of the team – Ms. Marvel/Moonstone, Hawkeye/Bullseye, Spider-man/Venom, Wolverine/Daken and Ares was brutally aware of the fact that Norman was pretending to be good and that ultimately he was crazy and broken.

The members frequently fought or sexed with one another (and sometimes both #Daken/BullseyeOTP) whuch meant the team was not working effectively. When Noh-Varr discovered that Norman was playing him, Noh-Varr left the team because he had ideals and honestly believed that he was doing good – and the same thing happened on his Dark X-men team with the fake mutants Cloak and Dagger. Nobody on the team besides Sentry truly believed in Norman.

Meanwhile the Avengers ultimately increased his stress by killing, looting and generally doing what villains are bound to do. Had Norman had a team of people who believe he was doing actual good instead of posing – because the PR made the average person believe in Norman, if he hadn’t been stressed out by his team then Siege would have not occurred or at least it would have likely been his downfall. Of course, Norman had started preparing a team of young heroes who eventually became Avengers Academy but they were rescued before it was too late for redemption.

Without a team of people Norman could actually work with, without people who were pledged to his idea and without people who believe in the ideas themselves, Norman was bound to fail. Norman needed to pick people who were willing to follow him instead of equals, people who believed in the ideal he was selling and people who were not Daken to make his plan work (because Daken is the worst).  Throughout Dark Reign, you had the common people believing in Osborn’s story. You had them cheering him on and supporting him. If he had just staffed more effectively things would have been different, though on that note his Goblin War that is currently shaping up in Superior Spider-man seems to reflect that he has learned his lesson. He has clear subordinates, they have a unified vision and ultimately they are poised for success. Osborn may be mad but it’s not from trying the same thing over and over while expecting different results because he is smart and his Green Goblin legacy may rival that of the Dulles Brothers.

Luke Herr

Luke is a writer and an aspiring professional comic writer who is also the editor in chief of Nerdcenaries. He currently is working on a graphic novel called Prison Spaceship.