There was a time when superheroes came in two flavors: costumed crime fighters or masked vigilantes. But of course, as the readers grew up, so did the superheroes. And with that maturation came a whole treasure trove of complexities. The Victories is rife with them.
Michael Avon Oeming has recently released his fourth issue of The Victories, and it’s obvious rich complexity isn’t the exception but the rule. He’s created a dark world with original heroes with an intriguing backdrop to go along with it. We recently talked with him to discuss that world, inspirations and who would play him in a movie.
AiPT: Let’s get started!
Oeming: Sounds great!
AiPT: Thanks for taking the time to talk to us. We’re four issues deep into your ongoing The Victories series after completing the five part miniseries of the same name last year. Let’s say you run into someone in an elevator grumbling about how there aren’t any edgy superhero comics worth reading. What’s your pitch… in that elevator? I swear this isn’t a general elevator pitch question…
Oeming: The Victories take on all the conspiracies we may or may not have in the real world — but the biggest conspiracy is played out in the character’s own psyche. Some of the violence is physical, but most of it is emotional.
AiPT: When you sit down to write and draw your book how much time do you spend making the work accessible to people who may not have caught the previous issue?
Oeming: I try and keep a good balance of recapping without it being a recap page, thats always a challenge to not let that fall into exposition. I also have to assume anyone picking up an issue that didn’t read, say #1 or #3, that they are smart enough to know they’ve missed stuff and have to fill in the blanks themselves. It’s a long tradition in reading comics before the Internet. I used to get random issues of X-Men or New Mutants without really knowing what was going on that issue. But these days I guess it’s easy enough to Hoogle characters, plot lines and story arcs.
Panel from The Victories #2. Bloody good.
AiPT: To anyone who says, “Oh there is swearing, gore and nudity simply to be audacious” what would you say?
Oeming: If you are an adult, well that’s life, so suck it the fuck up. I don’t get why people get shocked or offended at these things; why are “swear words” so shocking to some people? Especially in my books, there’s a 13 year history of it in Powers alone. These comics aren’t a public school, a church or even broadcast TV, they are mature comics, so what are you expecting? I say “shit” 4-5 times a day a least, “fuck” at least twice, so now I’m suddenly supposed to leave that out of dialogue? That misplaced sense of righteousness is more offensive to me than any word. Maybe it’s just because I’m from New Jersey.
Panel from The Victories #1. Take it or leave it, this is a book with adult themes.
AiPT: How has it been different plotting, writing and drawing a series that may not have a definitive end in sight as the first miniseries had, or have you always plotted this out as arcs?
Oeming: I really took my time in the first series, maybe too much getting to the point. It took until issue #4 to really reveal the secret conflict/twist of the first series, I think I lost a few people by then, especially if they found it too dark. In the end I’m really happy how it came together. In the ongoing series I can take just as much time, but now I have more space to plant seeds and spread out clues and information so I can take my time without rushing or feeling like I’m leaving anyone hanging.
AiPT: One reason I’ve enjoyed your series so much is how you’ve tackled real life issues but through the lens of a superhero. For instance, D.D. Mau has self image issues and unfortunately for her, her powers use up the fat on her body, only to wake up the next morning fat again. It’s a strong way to connect these characters to their humanity. Tell me if I’m wrong but, the first miniseries seemed to be a critique of antiheroes where as this second arc reads more into vulnerability, even when you’re superpowered. Would you say that’s true?
Oeming: I think so. The first series dealt with a lot of my own feelings especially around stress, an anxieties. So Touched was really more specifically about that, but now that I have room to explore the other characters I get to tell other types of stories of the psyche. To me, its more about character struggles and character arcs than story plot or story arcs. I also get to explore the conspiracy culture, which I look at as an extension of society’s anxieties.
D.D. Mau from a panel in The Victories #1.
AiPT: Seeing as the miniseries focused mainly on Faustus, while this series has branched out to more characters, has the writing process changed at all?
Oeming: I write a much more open style of script in the ongoing series. It’s very Marvel-style, but possibly even lighter. I break it down by page and each page has a one or two line description. I draw it from there and script after.
AiPT: I liken comic book creators who write and draw their own books to someone like Woody Allen or Quentin Tarantino. They’re able to express their vision more thoroughly from script to screen, or in your case, from script to page. Of course, critics will argue some flicks by both could have used another set of eyes on them. How would you say the process of creating The Victories has been different in relation to stuff like Powers?
Oeming: Even though I’m writing and drawing Victories, I work really close with editor-in-chief of Dark Horse, Scott Allie. He keeps things focused so I’m not too self indulgent and that I can communicate my ideas clearly. I need that. On Powers, I’m co-writing with Brian [Michael Bendis], but it’s more of a blind case study there. Once we talk about it in vague terms, I draw it and hand it over with a very light descriptive script, no dialogue. Brian remixes it like a DJ and dialogues it, not always knowing what I was going for, but taking it into new surprising terms. I think it’s why his dialogue on Powers is the freshest and most exciting of all of his works, even he’s not sure whats going to happen.
EPIC double page spread from The Victories Volume 1 TPB.
AiPT: Where did the Jackal character come from? Literally and maybe metaphorically, what was the inspiration for him? He seems kind of like Rorschach, Joker and the Punisher had a baby.
Oeming: When I was a kid, someone had shown me a trick to drawing a character, a sort of football shaped dog head. I’m not sure why I was thinking of that when I drew the Jackal, but the mouth shape wrapping up and around was the central piece. He was also originally supposed to have his penis (or maybe a prop penis) flopping around as an extra visual threat. His character is base and animistic so it seemed to fit until editor Scott Allie mentioned we might have to bag it. I hate bagged comics so I opted out of that, but you can see a sketch in the trade. Since Faustus was sort of living a life that was a lie — meaning he was not acknowledging the things that were driving him insane, I wanted an insane character who lived way too honestly, who took honesty to a level of extremity.
AiPT: I love the MK Ultra, trans-humanism, and conspiratorial bent the world has in these books. That lore adds a lot of depth, intrigue and conflict into this universe, in a really surreal way. What was your process in deciding to shape this world around these themes?
Oeming: Because I love that stuff, it was easy. I had been watching lots of crazy stuff on YouTube about MK Ultra, mind control, UFOs, Illuminati conspiracies, and Ancient Alien lore, so it was really easy to have this a back story in the first series and then let that take a step up in the ongoing. It all sort of connects in a maddening, fascinating way. I think all of that stuff is a sociological reaction to the traumas we have experienced (especially in America) since WW2, even before.
AiPT: The fight scene in front of the mural was an excellent touch in issue #4. It appears you’re using a lot of famous conspiratorial landmarks in this book (Denver airport, Georgia Guidestones). Can we expect to see more in the future issues?
Oeming: Yes, there is a large set piece that takes place beneath the DIA. I’m convinced that even if there isn’t some crazy hints left by conspiritors there, the DIA is playing up to that legend. They just added a giant statue of the Egyptian God Anubis to the collection of esoteric images, murals, statues and occult layouts of the place. It’s so nuts. I can’t wait to visit. I mean, the giant blue horse with gaping anus and penis actually killed its creator before it was displayed with its evil glowing red eyes in front of the airport, and the place is filled with images of death and concentration camp themes. So nuts.
The cover art for The Victories #5 out September 4th.
AiPT: It seems the first two story arcs focused on specific characters. Who might we see more of in the coming months?
Oeming: I’d like to get a spotlight on everyone. They aren’t all as damaged as DD or Faustus, but each character has their own history I’d like to get to.
AiPT: Rapid fire time. What talent or superpower would you like to have (not including flight or invisibility)?
Oeming: Making money by snapping my fingers!
AiPT: What’s your favorite method of procrastination? Temptation? Vice?
Oeming: Sleep! I love a good sleep so much.
AiPT: If Hollywood made a movie about your life, whom would you like to see play the lead role as you?
Oeming: Morgan Freeman, but it would only be his voice and a blank screen.
AiPT: Yes! Probably the most unique answer yet as far as actors go. Hey, thanks for taking the time Mike!
Oeming: Thanks man!