Announced at last weekend’s Emerald City Comicon, “Powers” artist Michael Avon Oeming is writing and drawing a dark superhero epic unlike any other. The five-issue miniseries “Victories” debuts in August from Dark Horse and explores an unexpected dynamic between heroes, villains and antiheroes. Readers will be introduced to a world where Faustus, a member of the titular superteam, struggles against the Jackal, a brutal vigilante who wants to align the hero with a more permanent brand of justice, as well as his own inner demons.
Comic Book Resources spoke with Oeming about “Victories,” with the creator sharing and exclusive look at his latest project, shining light on its unexpected origins of a very personal nature and expressing his feelings about the untapped potential of the superhero genre.
CBR News: “Victories” is set in a world where superheroes and villains battle it out, but this is quite different from what we think of as a superhero story, and even unique from the “dark” superhero epics of recent years. How would you describe the story you’re telling here?
Michael Avon Oeming: This is actually a pretty personal story and I’m using superheroes as a vehicle to tell it. I think heroes are way under used in the vast possibility of stories that can be told with them. I could have very easily told this same story as a slice of life indie book replacing heroes and battles with people and daily conflicts. I was looking to do something that bridges a gap between books like David B.’s “Epileptic” and mainstream heroes. I was going through a year of pretty intense therapy to deal with anxiety attacks and depression when I started “Victories” and wanted to get it on paper as part of that therapy. It grew from that into superhero fantasy, so I like to think of “Victories” as “true fiction”
The conflict we see in issue one is between the Jackal, a vigilante who styles himself a hero but tortures and kills criminals, and Faustus, a bantering Batman-esque hero. What sort of history do these guys have as adversaries?
If we get to do more stories after these, we might get more into the specifics, but as it starts here, we learn that despite the book having a dark violent tone to it, our heroes here are Heroes — they do not kill. Jackal is a true vigilante, meaning he has no problem with killing. He admires the work that Faustus and the Victories do, but sees them as hypocrites, and he swears to Faustus that he’s going to get him to see the light, to take the full step into vigilantism and kill those who deserve it. In this world, the authorities are all corrupt, so Jackal sees arresting the criminals as another way of setting them free. He swears to Faustus that he’ll turn him into a killer, and by the end of the book, that just might happen –especially when Jackal learns about a secret that could destroy Faustus.
The Victories are the superteam of this world. Will we be meeting more of them throughout the series, or is this book focused more on the Faustus/Jackal dynamic?
We’ll see enough of the Victories to plant seeds for their stories should we do more after this first mini. Each character is designed to have a wide range of personalities I can explore while building up to a final story arc involving all them should we get there.
I think this arc will be the darkest, it’s a tone that I go to but don’t want to live in!
When the fighting’s done, we do get some interesting glimpses into each man’s character. Who is Faustus, beneath the mask? What makes him tick?
Of Faustus’ full life, we are only looking into this one moment. At this moment, Faustus is locked in self-conflict. He has growing anxiety attacks and a struggle with booze that he is living in under the mask. All of that is hidden from the Victories as he continues to parade as the wise-cracking crime fighter. Inside, his heart is beating like a hammer and the world is spinning around him. Thats what anxiety feels like, and I did my best to capture that on the page. When it’s happening in a public place, you have to hide that it’s happening to you even as you hold a conversation and you feel like you are going to die if you don’t get out of it. Sometimes, I would have to find an excuse to get out of a situation by faking a phone call or excusing myself to a restroom. For me, anxiety never happened in high stress situations like being on stage or doing a TV interview; it could happen at a dinner with friends or having a normal conversation. Those are the main moments that make up Faustus during this story. But he has his own issues, so this story is not about me, or him, it’s about us. Also, he’s so much Faustus, I’ve never given him a real name. He’s just Faustus right now.
And why does Jackal do what he does?
He’s motivated by pure ID. He’s all about his base instincts. He’s very animistic. His entire appearance is an affront to the senses — at one point, I even had him with his penis hanging out of his costume so that even his visuals were an attack, the subtext of a rape threat always in the air. Ultimately, we decided to change that and edit those pages. Otherwise retailers may have to bag it on the shelves and we didn’t want that.
â€¨His twisted sense of arrogance drives him to kill those he thinks deserves it while his moral compass is making him want to drive others like Faustus onto his path. His code may be twisted, but it’s much stronger than many heroes’ and certainly more than the world around him. The best part about a character like him is that part of him is right.
And that part of himself, Jackal wants to give to Faustus, as well. Why is this so important to him?
He sees potential in Faustus to make a difference in the city. The fact that the Victories won’t kill means anyone they get arrested will walk free if they have the most minimal of connections. It’s one of the reasons a judge is killed in the first issue. Jackal wants to put an end to the evil in the city and if killing is the only way to get it done, then that’s the way it has to be done. His moral superiority will also get a kick out of making Faustus a killer.
“Victories” arrives in comic stores this August from Dark Horse