“I’m about to do some of the best work in my life… so the timing felt right to do a sort of retrospective.” Michael Avon Oeming discusses his new Oemnibus anthology
For his new Oemnibus collection, Powers co-creator Michael Avon Oeming is taking a look back at his 18+ year career and has assembled some of his best and rarest work into a career-spanning anthology. We caught up with the man behind Mice Templar and more, along with design Tara Rhymes to find out more about this pun-tastic retrospective.
Oemnibus features a mix of old and new, mainstream and one shots, what was the thinking behind this collection? Is it a career retrospective or just a collection of cool and obscure stuff for old and new fans?
MAO: I was reflecting on the fact that I’ve been working with Image Comics since the late 90’s on creator owned works. Roughly 18 years of creating comics there. I’m not only very thankful for this relationship but I feel that now I’m about to do some of the best work in my life, both on Powers and future creator owned works so the timing felt right to do a sort of retrospective. Also, most of this work is out of print, so here is a chance for new fans to find some older gems.
How did you pick the stories to include? Were there any you wanted to include but couldn’t?
MAO: We decided to keep these focused on short stories and one shots. Including the Cross Bronx or Hammer of the Gods would just make it too big. There is one huge story, Dragons On Fire which I did for Inside Kung Fu magazine with legendary Kung Fu film guru Rick Meyers which I wanted to include, it’s roughly 30 pages of story, but again, we were already hitting the 300 page mark so I had to pull back. There are some other short stories like the Nevermore comics I did in the back of Hammer that I wanted to include, but could not… so I’ll find homes for them in either another collection or other formats at Image. Tara and I did a lot of back and forth figuring out the content, along with designing, she played a big part in helping me figure out what fits and doesn’t. Eric Stephenson was also a big help in keeping this focused, I think I drove him nuts with about two years of planning for this.
TR: Mike has such a large body of work it was a real challenge to figure out which stories to include. At one point the Oemnibus was nearly 600 pages which was unfeasible so we really did have to do a lot of editing. My goal when helping with that process was to keep short stories that highlight Mike’s versatility in story-telling with both his art and his writing. I think being able to include some of his older out-of-print stories along with some of his more recent works will really give readers a glimpse of that. I really wish we could have included Bastard Samurai because it’s a great story with stunning art, but ultimately it didn’t fit with what we were trying to achieve in the Oemnibus because it is 120 pages by itself.
It’s a mix of your artwork and writing, can you tell us about how some of your less well known collaborations came about? Were they writers and artists you always wanted to work with or just friends who you felt you would collaborate with well?
M: Most of my collaborators were long time friends such as Bryan J.L. Glass and Mark Wheatley. Others were new friends I met at cons and locally such as Brian Quinn and Ethen Beavers. Everyone here is very talented and I loved working with them bouncing ideas and skills back and forth. Dan Berman is one of my best writing collaborators and we continued past SIX to God Complex with John Broglia and we have several unproduced works.
You’ve never been afraid of pushing the envelope of story-telling, especially when it comes to more adult themes, (and you can see that in Oemnibus) do you think being able to do this within the safer confines of indie and creator owned books has helped you to be more risky in your mainstream work?
M: I think of comics like a traditional artists: These are expressions of thoughts and ideas and putting a filter on that will crush those expressions. Of course, those filters are still on depending on the subject. The Oemnibus has one of my favorite stories I’ve ever done, shortly after my divorce, it was an expression of my feelings towards sex at the time, that it could be equally destructive and healing at the same time. But I think most people will just see a robot with a vagina gun.
The book has a great design from Tara Rhymes, how did this collaboration come about?
M: I’ve known Tara since she and her husband David Marquez (Ultimate Spiderman and Iron Man) they moved here to Portland. Tara is a great painter, designer and artist on her own terms. She designed and produced comics with David and has an amazing design eye. I knew he was the right person to ask and I was just blown away by what she came up with.
Tara, how did you come up with the triangle design, did you take any design clues from Michael’s work that informed your design for the book? Were there any particular challenges you had to overcome when creating the look and feel?
T: Mike gave me a lot of trust and creative control over the look and feel of the book design. The challenge was to make something that was fresh but also still resonated as being “Michael Avon Oeming.”
The pyramids by themselves didn’t have enough of Mike’s signature stylized look though which I felt was important for the cover to possess since this is a book celebrating over 18 years of his works so I searched for an image within all the stories contained in the Oemnibus to frame on the cover—one that looked iconic and intriguing to fit with the overall tone. I found the skull image from 86 Voltz: The Dead Girl. To me it kind of looks like a skull unlocking/“opening” it’s mind, something I hope some concepts touched upon in this book does for readers.
How are things going with the next season of the Powers TV series? Are you working on Season 2 now? Are you happy with the way season 1 came together and any plans to closer integrate comic book stories into future series?
M: Yes, I just returned from the Powers season two writers room with Bendis. We start filming soon, our new story arc is coming together nicely, and we’ll soon have casting for Supershock who readers of Powers will be familiar with. The first season came together nicely after an impossibly long 15 year development period. It was writer Charlie Huston who was able to break the code and design the first season. Without him, I’m not sure this would have ever happened. All first seasons are building blocks, where we just need to get our footing first. Now we’ve done that, it’s time to build something even bigger and better. We’ll have new visual FX and a new asthetic look, one that is much closer to the Noir feel of the comics, calling heavily on my use of black and Nick Filardi’s colors.
International distribution is slowly opening up, I know a lot of our international friends are upset, but I promise it’s being worked on. In the meantime, Powers season 1 is available anywhere you can stream, the Playstation Website, PS counsels, iTunes, Google Plus and more…. and the DVD with lots of extras just came out!
As the artist as well as co-creator how does it feel seeing your creations come to life and are there any elements or characters from the comic series you would really like to see come to life on screen in future series – for me your spreads of talking heads or your amazing shots of the police holding area with all kinds of motley criminals being arrested would be the ones I’d love to see?
M: We have a loose rule, if we need a character, we pull it from Powers instead of making up one. We are using all of the elements of the show but remixed so it has it’s own life. My biggest pleasure is seeing the actors bring these characters to life in their own way. The upside to this taking soooo long to develop is that I’m not overwhelmed by seeing my creations come to life, it’s been a slow burn so it keeps me grounded.I’m also very involved in the series, I’m not sure how many other creator artists get to be part of the writing process. I did co-write several arcs with Brian, Z, Gods, Deena getting into the FBI and some others, so it’s great to hear those arcs as touching points of the show. I do a lot of art for the show, but I get to do more than that. Being part of the process is one of the most exciting things for me, even more so than seeing the characters come to life. But let me tell you, making TV is HARD! I’ll never be a harsh judge of another show ever again. It’s easy to get lost in the weeds, to not see the forest for the trees and other arboreal metaphors. It’s all humbling, a daily reminder how blessed I am.
Finally, we love the title Oemnibus – a great bit of word play! Were there any others in the running or did you know that it was always going to be called that? Will there be a volume 2?
M: The second I thought of it as an Omnibus, it was almost a slip of the tongue right away so I just knew that was it. It’s not genius but it struck like lightning so I knew this was it. Maybe I will take the material that did not make it and do a Oemnibus Part 2. Image has given me a lot of freedom from the early Ship of Fools days to whatever is next, so I have a LOT of material both in the past…. and coming up!
The Oemnibus is available from Image Comics from August 5th.