Interview - Michael Avon Oeming

Michael Avon Oeming is one of those up and coming types. Well, he's really already got both parts of the trajectory down and is now justs reveling in being an awesome artist and writer. His latest work--The Victories from Dark Horse--has garnered even more attention and Oeming was gracious enough to sit down with Omnicomic to talk about it, Powers and a few other things.

Omnicomic: Where did the concept for The Victories come from?

Michael Avon Oeming: Some concepts come to you all at once, others build slowly. I think for The Victories, I had the character of Faustus first, I didn't have a team thing in mind. He even had a staff when I first designed him. Finding a name was tough because so many names are already taken in comics.

Things really congealed as I made some observations during a period of heavy therapy. I found out a lot about my obsessive behavior when it comes to art and creating, a sort of personal origin. Everything from character to setting became a metaphor for something. Once I had that, the character and world started to fall together pretty quickly.

Omnicomic: Faustus in particular is shown going through some intense personal issues. Are those rooted in anything you've experienced?

Oeming: Mostly yes, of course this is fiction, so some things started out as therapy on paper and other things had to grow from the story. I'm really close with my mother who was a hardcore alcoholic for the first half of my life and she'd been through a lot more than most people. In The Victories and especially The Wild Rover I pull a lot from those experiences. Anxiety was a big issue as I was writing the first arc of The Victories. It's still something I deal with but things have gotten better on that front.

Omnicomic: In this first volume, it looks like the arc is all about Faustus and Jackal and their past. Are they the center of The Victories universe? That is, will future volumes focus on them or spend more time with other members of the team?

Oeming: We'll be spinning the chamber with who we focus on in future stories, but obviously Faustus will always play a part. Characters past and who they are now because of that that past is the main focus of the book. One thing I've learned as I've grown up is that everyone is who they are because of their past experiences. There are very few people who can break away from that and remake themselves.

Omnicomic: Jackal looks like slightly unhinged to say the least. What was it like writing him?

Oeming: Bad guys can be more fun to write when they are pure ID like Jackal. He has no filter, no subtext. Actually, I don't see him as a bad guy because he lives by his own code and he's not conflicted about it. He knows he's an animal so he's embraced it. He's very matter of fact about it.

I had to do a lot of rethinking about him during the Aurora shootings. Violence in society and the part the artists play is a complicated thing and I think if we are really honest about it we see we play a part of a much larger puzzle. Art, movies and games don't cause violence in society or in psychopaths, but we've created a climate that nurtures it.

We accept violence, but not sex or certain kinds of love, we shun emotional weakness but celebrate physical prowess. It isn't enough for me to say "we live in a violent society so my stories are violent" anymore. I'm looking for more than that to say, but it is going to take some time. Let's see how I do.

Omnicomic: You're pulling both writing and art duties on the book. Did the concept for The Victories derive from an idea or a rough sketch?

Oeming: Long story short, yes, it started with the drawing. The story came later. Sometimes things are like that, they start with a sketch or even a name or just a title and grow from there.

Omnicomic: Do you find it easier to both write and illustrate?

Oeming: No, for me, it's much harder but much more rewarding. I write loose enough for myself to diverge and discover new things while I'm drawing it. But then I have to write around that later and dialogue, panel descriptions are the last thing I do. In the end, the art is done first, the scripts are oddly a few days late. It's much easier when I write for someone else or draw from a Bendis or Glass script on Powers and Mice Templar.

Omnicomic: There is a really interesting panel layout in the third issue that focuses on Faustus' heartbreak by literally showing his heart in various states of health. How did you come up with that layout?

Oeming: I was trying to show what a panic/anxiety attack is like. It's a mixture of fear, illness, paranoia and adrenaline all at once. It feels like your heart is beating way too fast and is going to burst out of your chest while skipping beats and your throat is closing up. At least that's what it is like for me.

Anything can trigger it; for me it's mundane stuff- slow moving traffic, dinner get together, talking one on one with people or elevators. Friends have often seen me take six flights of stairs instead of getting in a cramped elevator.

I'm glad that panel stood out, I hope it got some of that across.

Omnicomic: Are there any other projects you're working on right now?

Oeming: Right now, it's The Victories, Powers and wrapping up my covers on Mice Templar for its final arc. Bendis and I pushed back Powers The Bureau a bit because of the TV show.

Omnicomic: Can you give a quick update on Powers on FX? Last I heard it was a go and is in the process of being filmed.

Oeming: We filmed a pilot, it was good but had issues. FX is still behind it and ordered four more scripts to get a better feel of the show. There has been new movement but I'm not sure what I can say or not. Let's just don't believe anything unless you hear it directly from Bendis.

Some crazy story was out there about a second pilot being filmed and rejected. It never happened. Just wait until Brian or FX has something official to say. That said, it is an active project that Brian is on the phone about daily with writers and producers.

Omnicomic: What are your thoughts on the print/digital divide?

Oeming: I can't wait for that gap to close. I know retailers might hate to hear that but I truly believe that retailers can change with it. I really hope that most of the digital sales we are getting are from people who stopped going to comic book stores as they began to have families and schedules that no longer allowed for that luxury and for those who like comics but never had a store to go to. I constantly hear about people who dont know that comics still come out!

Stores who make their shop a place you WANT TO GO to will always do well and always have. Kindle books are huge but print is alive and well. I hate when people say print is dead. Yes, it is changing dramatically but so does the rest of the world.

As an artist, it's the same thing. Artists coming up now have way more tools than I ever did that raises the bar in draftsmanship. There are no more creative secrets now, it's all out there in books and blogs. Just to find out what kind of ink or paper comic book artists used in the 80's was tough to find out. These days artists step into the field with everything they need except experience. It's a changing world for all of us. Imagine being a publisher now? I think the companies are actually doing a great job on the digital front, we are far ahead of what most magazines are doing. It is pretty shocking actually.

We are all struggling with changes. I think stores need to create social environment that makes people want to be there and spend their money and time. I've seen stores do things like Game nights, art classes, Live Cosplay Life drawing classes, and reading clubs. Companies are learning to do similar things and even readers.

The main thing I love about the digital frontier is the creative freedom.

Omnicomic: What's your upcoming convention schedule like?

Oeming: I always do Emerald City because it's local and one of my favorite shows run by one of my favorite people, Jim Demonakos. I'm doing Bill Willinghams Fable Con which celebrates fantasy based comics. I keep my con time pretty light because I'd rather be drawing comics. I used to live at Cons so maybe I burned out a little on them. However, I am getting out a bit more again...

Omnicomic: Anything you want to plug while you have the floor?

Oeming: The Victories finishes our first volume soon, we have three new installments in DHP, and we have plans for more Victories after that. In issue 17 of DHP I have a short story I've written for Mice Templar artist Victor Santos. Powers is out in February, double shipping an issue and the final Mice Templar arc begins this spring. All of this can be followed on my twitter feed @oeming or