Stock and Trade: OsCorp

Often when the protagonist of a speculative narrative must struggle against an unfeeling world, that world is represented by a faceless conglomerate, a near-governmental corporation which seems to control facets of society wherever the character looks. 

So in Stock and Trade, our latest genre fiction feature series, we’re looking at fictional corporations. Today, we’re featuring OsCorp.

In the Marvel Universe, the story-world in which the Marvel Comics take place, OsCorp is the company owned an chaired by Spider-Man’s first great nemesis the Green Goblin. The company supplies Green Goblin with his weapons and toys, but seems to have little other purpose, appearing a little flat in the story. This is partly because this corporation is less faceless than many others in genre fiction.

Norman Osborn was the son of a great industrialist, and grew up with surrounded by wealth until his father lost control of his company.

Norman apparently suffered many abuses as the hands of his father, who eventually simply abandoned the rest of the family. This drove Norman to strive for his family’s past successes. He used his advanced degrees to open a new Research and Technology firm with a friend, and this company was OsCorp.

After the death of his wife, while their son Harry was still a baby, his striving turned to obsession. Years later, he had his partner arrested for embezzlement – he had been borrowing money from the company for a long time, but Norman Finally decided to use that to get rid of him – and took full control of the corporation, which he turned to focus fully on weapons research.

It was then, while looking through the projects his partner had been working on that he found the Goblin Project, a super-soldier program based on a special strength and intelligence enhancing serum, which had been cancelled due to the danger that participants would lose their sanity. In an attempt to learn more about the Serum, Norman accidentally caused one of the vials to explode, and catch him in its blast.

This gave Norman supernatural strength and intelligence, but as warned, it also took the last of his sanity from him, creating a maniacal villain for the City of New York.

Norman continued to run the corporation, but his decisions became erratic, and his madness infected the company, and not in a funny way, like Aperture, but in a totally non-funny, crazy way. The whole company seemed to devote itself to creating weapons for Norman’s alter ego, the Green Goblin.

How no one noticed that the Green Goblin was decked out in all OsCorp products is a mystery, but it seems almost as if Norman was doing all the research and development himself, despite the huge company.

When Norman attacks the city, it’s Spider-Man who stops him every time, so his obsession shifts to Spider-Man’s destruction, and much of the early Spider-Man comics focus on this rivalry, with other villains falling into secondary roles. Norman finally destroys himself in combat with Spider-Man, but not before killing Spider-Man’s first girlfriend, Gwen Stacy, who had been having a secret affair with Norman.

Norman’s son Harry takes over OsCorp, and thanks to the Goblin Serum, he takes over the role of the Green Goblin as well. Under Harry, the company suffers and declines, as he hasn’t the business acumen of his father. He too is soon killed in battle.

In the more recent Spider-Man stories the fate of OsCorp is unknown. With Norman and Harry both legally dead – no one is ever permanently dead in comicbooks – the company has faded from the story.

In the animated continuity, the OsCorp building gets destroyed in a battle with Spider-Man, and afterwards the company is apparently dissolved.

OsCorp is really about Norman and Harry. Norman, who was abused and abandoned by his father, allows his obsession with industry allow him to abandon his own son emotionally, if not geographically, and perpetuates a cycle of abuse. This plays heavily into the themes of Fatherhood and father/son relationships which are present all through the Spider-Man story.

While Peter shows a young man deprived of his parent turning virtuous and kind, Harry, the more privileged boy, also deprived of parents becomes nasty and evil, and eventually must be defeated by Peter, even though, the resurrected Norman is eventually able to find forgiveness and a new, better place in the world.

Come back tomorrow, when we’ll be taking a look at US Robots and Mechanical Men. If you have an idea for a corporation we could feature in this series, let us know in the comments.