Normally, it would be considered rude to tell someone that he has a god complex,Â but it’s actually true in the case of acclaimed comic book creator Michael Avon Oeming. The co-creator of “Powers,” “Mice Templar,” and “Rapture” is spearheading yet another creator-owned series at Image Comics in the form of “God Complex.” Oeming will co-write and provide cover art for the new ongoing series, which is co-written by Dan Berman and illustrated by newcomer John Broglia.
“‘God Complex’ follows one of my favorite themes–and admittedly, a well-trodden theme, especially in comics–that being the idea of gods living amongst us in our everyday lives,” Oeming told CBR News of “God Complex’s” central premise.
The story focuses on Apollo, the Greek god who’s been worshiped in connection with the sun, healing, music and even his proficiency as an archer, which presumably remains in place given Oeming’s cover for the first issue. But when we meet our protagonist in the first issue of the series, Apollo has taken on a decidedly less godly name and way of life.
“Apollo, now calling himself Paul, has stepped down from the board of gods who run a giant corporation called KRONOS and he ends up washing dishes in Little Italy,” said Oeming. “Our plan is to complement traditional mythology but with new twists. Apollo/Paul is a great hero and, like Walker from ‘Powers,’ has lived for a very, very long time, so defining this kind of hero will be lots of fun. The gods get pretty pissed at him for leaving the Pantheon and send a crap-load of curses at him, hoping he will revert to his godliness to save himself and those he loves.”
Even without his godly powers, Apollo could very easily hold his own against many opponents due to his massive physique. “I was thinking Sylvester Stallone,” the writer-artist said about Apollo’s design. “I remember there is a guy who does cons and, like a lot of art collectors, he has a theme. His is Sylvester Stallone, so I was thinking of him when I designed him. Also, the interior artist, John Broglia– whom I named a crime family after in the new ‘Powers’ volume–is from a strong Italian family. I went to his wedding, so I know this is very true! Even though Greeks and Italians are not the same culture, there are similarities that John is familiar enough with to bring to the visual plate.”
Apollo’s stature alone won’t be enough to hold off the other gods trying to lure him back into the Pantheon, however. Specifically, he’ll inevitably face the wrath of Zeus, his very own father. “Zeus is a business tycoon who thinks he runs the world and may be God–and he’s actually right,” said Oeming. “Apollo has spent a lot of time with humans, and that’s driven a wedge between him and the other gods. He just can’t relate to them anymore. Still, not only is he family, but he’s also Zeus’s son. It will take a lot to drive that family wedge into war–but one never knows with the gods.”
As for the other gods that will populate the world of “God Complex,” Oeming wouldn’t name names–mostly because he doesn’t have to. “It’s an ongoing series, so we have plans on using everyone and every Pantheon eventually,” he said. “It’s a connected multiverse and Dan has created a great back-story.”
While “God Complex” is filled with a seemingly endless amount of deities, the existence of these gods is largely unknown to the majority of the world. “[‘God Complex’] takes place in a world where superheroes openly exist, but the gods have kept themselves relatively secret from the rest of the world–and with the destruction of the heroes, I think that’s pretty easy,” said Oeming. “The old gods are more interested in industry now, less so than fighting or taking over the world by force. Industry, money and politics are the new form of worship. Think about how close branding is to worship: Mac fans love Mac products, they are loyal to them, there is a divide between Mac and PC fans, and both companies vie for their fans’ affections and loyalty. Modern gods and worship right there, hidden right in front of us.”
The modern update on mythology is certainly a major element of “God Complex,” but Oeming said that his appreciation for classic god-centric legends dates back to his childhood. “Before I was into comics, I was into mythology,” he said. “Maybe it started with watching ‘Clash of the Titans’ as a kid, I don’t know, but I remember going to the library and checking out mythology books as a kid. I even did a book report on a fake book I made up about a Greek god and his arrows. Why I didn’t just do a book report on actual Greek mythology, I’m not sure. I was a horrible student!”
Oeming’s childhood interest in mythology extended into other works of his such as “Ares” and “Hammer of the Gods.” Even “God Complex,” now on the cusp of arriving in stores, existed in his head some years ago. “‘God Complex’ started years ago under the name of ‘Gods of New York,'” he said of the project’s origin. “It spun out of Dan Berman and I working together on ‘Six,’ a comic that was optioned by Fox TV and became ‘Them.’ They shot the pilot and it was great, but the writers strike killed it. My agent at Circle of Confusion wanted me to pitch some other stuff, so I came up with ‘Gods of New York,’ but after I wrote up a very tight outline, it sat there. Last year, I talked to Dan about dusting it off and running with the series. We work great together. But when ‘Jersey Gods’ came out–a very cool book, by the way–we knew we had to change the name. So, ‘God Complex’ came about. I think it was David Mack who came up with the name, too. He knew we were thinking of names, and he just walked up to me and said, ‘God Complex.’ I thought he was accusing me, but it was just a great suggestion!”
Of course, “God Complex” isn’t the only god-centric comic book currently on the market, seen by Image’s own “Olympus” and the aforementioned “Jersey Gods.” “I don’t know why it is, but various people seem to be thinking of the same things at the same time,” Oeming said of the similarities between his project and others. “My wife Taki Soma and I have a post-apocalyptic superhero story out there called ‘Rapture,’ and there are several others too, and now there are a few movies coming out revitalizing the genre. And yes, several comics and films are also touching the same ground at the same time. ‘Mice Templar’ and ‘Mouse Guard,’ both similar but very different to the core, were developed almost at the same time.”
In addition to “God Complex,” Oeming’s plate is filled with a wide array of comic book projects including “The Mice Templar,” “Powers,” and “Rapture.” But according to the writer, juggling all of these titles is far from a Herculean task. “I love it,” he said of his workload. “I have trouble slowing down! Right now, ‘Powers’ is the center of my creative world and I’m bringing in a lot of my ideas into the series instead of creating new ones. The goal is to keep it monthly and not let my excitement pull me away from ‘Powers.’ So I love overseeing ‘Mice Templar’ after my first arc, and the same goes for ‘God Complex.’ Working at Valve during the week has given me the stability to make myself just chill out. I love working there and we have some huge plans I can’t really talk about, but I’m very excited about it. I see a bright future for comics, both in print and digital.”
But if one thing distinguishes “God Complex” from the rest of Oeming’s workload, it’s the book’s tone. “It’s fun,” he described of the series. “Most of my creative work is pretty heavy, but ‘God Complex’ mixes my usual mind-bending Joseph Campbell schooling with just plain fun.”
Beyond that, Oeming’s continued interest in “God Complex” stems largely from the output of writer Dan Berman and artist John Broglia, two of the other major players on the “God Complex” team. “I truly believe in these guys, enough that I am tying part of my future in with them, my reputation even,” said Oeming. “If I can do that, surely can’t readers of my work invest the interest to give the series a try? I truly hope so, because I love ‘God Complex.'”
“God Complex,” from Michael Avon Oeming, Dan Berman and John Broglia, hits comic book stores on December 2, 2009.
Art from “God Complex”