It was only a few years ago that a small book named "Powers" was launched from Image Comics under the watchful eyes of writer Brian Bendis and artist Mike Oeming. In that time, both creators have made quite a name for themselves, not only with their award-winning work on "Powers," but with their side projects as well. In terms of creator-owned projects, it's been Oeming whose been making a lot of noise recently and CBR News caught up with the busy artist to talk about those projects in addition to "Powers," the series that he just can't stop enjoying.
For those not in the know, "Powers" is about two homicide detectives, Deena and Walker, who deal with super-powered related crimes and the series by extension is a commentary on the super hero genre. Oeming explains that he has a very specific picture of both characters in his mind and he tries to bring that across in his artwork. "Deena is the smart ass and has a more dangerous unpredictable side. I try to bring that across in her dress, her hair, her general style. Her body language is very street, very 'fuck off' in her attitude. She is a rebel with a cause sort of. Walker is more of a mystery, he has a past, he's been through a lot. I have him often looking like he has a weight on his shoulders. I've also added a small scar on his head from when Zora was killed. It's a scar drawn from emotional trauma so I wont let it heal, so look for that on the rest of the series. Very small."
Oeming says the appeal of working on "Powers" was simple and can be summed up in two words: Brian Bendis. "I loved Brians crime work and I wanted to do some crime comics. I knew him from the con circuit. It was really that easy. He has such a great sense of design and story telling ability as well as his writing. He really raises the bar for me that way, I dont want to slack and be the weak link in the chain, so I do my best."
This commitment to producing his best work has led to a lot of personal growth and spiritual contentment, something that Oeming said he hadn't expected but welcomes. "Its made me a happier more complete person. Real success for the first time in my creative and professional life. Its a big deal for me."
When "Powers" first launched, comparisons were made to the Bruce Timm visual style found on "Batman: The Animated Series," but Oeming explains that his influences are a little more old school. "Toth and Noir. Noir films, German expressionism, film pacing. I love black on the page," admits the artist and when asked about his current inspiration, adds, "It was Toth and Timm, but I think by now it's just become enough of my own groove that the things that inspire me get me to work, not inspire an actual style. Reading '100 Bullets' gets me going every time. Risso and Azzarello are amazing."
It's also no secret that except for a few deadline hiccups, Oeming has been quite good with the deadlines for "Powers" each month and in today's comic book market, where comic book artists are notorious for being late, that work ethic is even more admirable. "First, I learned how to draw fast," explains Oeming of how he's able to deliver such high quality work on such a consistent basis. "Then, I learned how to draw good. Most artists learn to draw well first and learn to deal with speed later. I can't say one is better than the other. Also, my style is much more simple than most. Most of my drawing time is spent in the layout stage. The actual drawing and inks happen very fast. In a full, uninterrupted day, I can do three complete pages. My deadline hiccups came from taking on too much at once. That's pretty much cleared up now, if 'Powers' is late now, it's due to printing stuff. We're on time now. I'm almost four issues ahead now. I want to get up to 7-8 issues ahead and should be there by Feb or so."
One of the criticisms often leveled against "Powers" writer Brian Bendis is that he writes too many "talking heads" sequences or that there aren't enough flashy action scenes, but Oeming doesn't feel Bendis is guilty of either. In fact, he feels that Bendis has a good handle on all of them and cites his favorite issue of "Powers" as proof of that fact. "My favorite issue to draw was issue 7. A good mix of pacing, talking heads and creepy action. I don't like drawing much action. I like the talking heads and I like having people act. My favorite thing to do is slow moving continuing panels, almost animation. In the end, issue # 7 was my favorite, but I think #18 is my best."
The synergy between Bendis and Oeming has allowed the artist to contribute to the plotting of the book quite freely, though he says there isn't much he really ever wants to change. "I can add as much as I want, really. Brian is using some ideas, just the basic nuts and bolts for future stories. Sometimes I give him feedback on some dialogue bits, but really minor and very rare. I love what he does, so story wise, I'm just enjoying myself. Brian lets me draw what I want, he'll make suggestions and give me feedback, but generally I do what I want. Brian and I are so on the same page creatively (not just figuratively) that there's rarely need for change on either side."
And there isn't any pressure working with Bendis (AKA arguably the most popular writer in comic books today) either, says Oeming, who explains that, "I know Brian too well, we both think the hype is funny. I mean, we're just these two short, bald and balding geeks."
As previously mentioned, the success of Oeming's work on "Powers" has allowed for him to aggressively pursue more creator-owned comic book options and he has done so in the last year. "HELL YEAH! I love the interest in my work," says Oeming of the attention being paid to properties of his, like "Bulletproof Monk," which is being made into a movie. "After years of failure in comics, it's a nice change of pace! As long as I keep 'Powers' on time, I plan on doing more creator-owned work for the next few years. After that period, I'm just going to do 'Powers' and some 'Hammer,' clearing my schedule to enjoy life more outside of the drawing board."
The "Hammer" that Oeming refers to is the cult-favorite "Hammer of The Gods," which he plans to follow-up on quite soon with a new mini-series. "Hammer is a Norse Mythology book about a Viking who is cursed and cant use weapons. His family is killed by giants and he goes on a revenge trip to punish the gods. The original series was in black and white, but we are reprinting it in color at Image as a trade. We also have a new mini-series coming out in color. Hammer is pure fun. I mean, big guys, chicks with swords, giants and monsters! I'm just playing on the page, with a decent story behind it. I think that's what makes it such a fun read for people. 'Hammer Hits China' is a three issue mini about Modi (the main character) going too far east! He meets up with a Chinese spirit and we get to see some martial arts and hear and exchange of culture between Norse and China."
There's also the highly-anticipated one-shot "Parliament of Justice," also from Image Comics," which Oeming is writing and can't wait to see hitting the stands. "'Parliament' is a one shot, self contained story. It's basically about a vigilante and the price paid by being one. Its starts out in you traditional Batman storytelling mode, but falls pretty quickly into the darker side and consequences of such a life style. Parliament is an older man, probably in his early 60s and has been at this quite awhile, he is an icon of the city, its loan protector. The city itself is a throwback to Fritz Lang's turn of the century Metropolis, yet it feels much older. We'll explore the themes of class, class war and judgment in society. Neil Vokes has done an amazing job on the art: he's blown himself away artistically. We worked together on the story, but Neil's art is what truly makes the book special."
While Oeming's work is mostly seen gracing the pages of creator owned pages and rarely those of Marvel and DC's properties, though the "Catwoman Secret Files & Origins" story was an exception, he does admit he has a few dream projects at those companies in mind. "I'm mostly into creator owned works, but Id love to work on DareDevil and Batman some day. Superman doesn't interest me in the same way. I don't know why, I mean I like Superman, but Batman is much more appealing, maybe because he's more relatable."
As the busy artist heads back to his drawing board to work on his multiple projects, he does have some closing words for fans of his work:
"Thanks for all the support! You can join my email newsletter by e-mailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org"