Nathan Edmondson is a name new to comics, but he's chosen to write about a pair of names as old as the stars. In fact, there's a pair of stars named for the heroes of his new book, "Olympus."
Along with artist Christian Ward, Edmondson's new Image Comics miniseries follows the two brothers of Hellenic myth, Castor and Pollux, who are described as having been granted immortality by Zeus and charged with protecting and serving mankind.
"'Olympus' is a book that stands at the bottom and looks up," Nathan Edmondson told CBR. "We see [the brothers] three thousand years later--today--and they are still bound to Zeus' service, yet as the world has changed and the Olympians have grown distant from mankind, Castor and Pollux have evolved to become the hands and feet of the God of Gods. When the rules of Olympus are broken, Castor and Pollux are sent to pick up the pieces. They live, walk and breathe on Earth, but each New Year's they must die and return to the Underworld, to be redeemed again.
"So we find them in issue one chasing a monstrously powerful fugitive through the streets of London, yet their hunt for this being inadvertently allows for the gates of Hades to be opened--only for an instant--but long enough for a bound prisoner of the Underworld to escape."
Edmondson took some time to talk about each of the two lead characters. "Castor wants...women. And then he wants them to turn into a cold pint after he's had some fun," the writer explained. "Pollux has more long-term goals, and looks out for his younger sibling. Together, their greatest fear is being torn apart--that one might die, and be lost for a year to Hades' grasp, or perhaps even lost to the Underworld forever. Their strength is when they are together. Their safety is in each other."
Additionally, "Olympus" will see the emergence of a villain in the second issue. "I don't yet want to reveal his goal, as that's part of the mystery of the story, but he's a deadly creature, too ravaged by hell and hatred to be called a man, who has a millennia-old grudge to satisfy, and the means to wreak an unspeakable havoc on the Earth," Edmonson said.
"The Olympians are there but they are not the key players," the writer continued. "We find them at various stages, indirectly for the most part, but in the end we will find that Zeus and the others have fears of their own. One can also find 'Didi,' who really comes into play in issue #2, but is present in the opening pages of the first issue. There are clues around him as to who Didi is, in the myths--it will be obvious to some.
"There are also the Harpies. Demonic woman-shaped winged beasts with insatiable appetites for blood and existing seemingly for the sole purpose of ravaging nice places and making them... less than nice. Imagine having a cadre of these cats to do your bidding. Oh, and there's some ladies. They all want revenge -- on Castor."
"Olympus" had previously been referred to as "Hellblazer" meets "The Boondock Saints," the writer said, and it's an assessment with which he agrees. "It's action packed, but the action is woven into a Jack-the-Ripperesque mystery/thriller angle. There's some humor in there, too, but it's part of the bond and characteristics that make Castor and Pollux endearing. My dad told me yesterday that 'Olympus' makes him think of 'Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.' I don't mind that comparison at all. Just, think less desert, and more dark streets and distant temples."
As one might expect with a series about ancient myth, Edmonson found his inspirations directly in the writings of the age. "In reading Hesiod and Appollonius I came across the descriptions of these two brothers who had been part of some of the most interesting stories in Hellenic myths. I started to apply their stories to modern day, and I thought, 'What about the story where part of the duty of the heroes is to die, again and again?' They'd be living a pseudo existence, one where they couldn't get married, raise kids, keep friends...they would have each other and the rest would be open to their frivolity--or discipline, depending on whether you're Castor or Pollux, respectively. Throw in that they still serve Zeus, and that in the walls that have been placed between Olympus and Earth there are cracks, where whispers, light, and even gods sometimes still come through. Castor and Pollux are therefore agents of Olympus, keeping order for Zeus as best they can, bringing something like 'cease and desist' orders from Olympus to those breaking the rules on earth."
"Through a prayer" is how Edmondson describes the assembly of the book's creative team. "I didn't know any comic book artists, or none but one, when I was hatching this idea, and so I just started surfing 'Concept Artists' on Google, looking for someone who would bring this project to life. I found a few guys--really talented guys--who were interested, but I saw in Christian's art something that I knew would make big waves and suit the dynamics of the story. I hadn't seen anything like his work before; it was alive, catchy, edgy, and vibrant. I wrote him and never heard back. And then one day, there's an email in my inbox, saying, 'Hey, when are we going to do this?' I didn't waste a minute."
"His art is electric," Edmondson continued. "In my initial pages, my descriptions were more detailed, my layouts defined. I've learned I've got to back off, because Christian's going to do what he wants regardless of what I say. Which, as it turns out, is not a bad thing at all. Christian thinks outside of the box. In fact, he's in a different building altogether. There's an innate roughness to his work, variation between characters, but one quickly realizes that this is part of the quality--with no reference, no tracing, no rulers, what you see is what Christian sees in his head. I know I have some vivid dreams, but Christian has visions of the gods.
"Christian helped me get this train on the tracks, and we went forward. We got Jeff Powell, who brings to the pages a further unique quality in his custom lettering. He and Christian had been in touch when Christian had done a backup teaser for 'Atomic Robo.' Jeff has since been a lifeline for us."
Edmondson doesn't have a narrow sense of his target audience. "Men and Women 12-90,"he said. "The idea here is so universally appealing, I believe, and the art so fresh that it's not hard to get into. The response has been overwhelming--I've had aunts and uncles and their friends and shop owners and neighbors--none of whom are regular comic readers--looking at this and ordering it up, just excited about the concept, seeing what I see in the brothers. I hope to see that occurring often. Professors I've known and classrooms of kids I've spoken to have unending questions and comments about how the universe functions, how appealing Castor and Pollux are. No one passes by without commenting on the art.
"There are a few reasons for this. One is that the story is simple and strong, the concept high and widely appealing. The universe invites the reader in readily, and whether you're a scholar of Hellenic myths or just someone who remembers a few stories from grammar school, the mythology we're pursuing should be recognizable in a way that makes the reading amicable. There's also something to be said for the fact that in embracing these myths, we are embracing something that, by its very definition, speaks to the humanity in everyone."
Edmondson enlisted some heavy hitters in comics to contribute variant covers for the series. "I got pictures of each of these guys doing some pretty embarrassing things at cons. Then I emailed the photos with a note saying, 'Send One Variant Cover Or This Goes To The Press.' Turned out, these guys all have embarrassing photos online already, so I had instead to rely on their incredible good graces to do work for us," Edmonson laughed. "Seriously, Tommy Lee Edwards, Frank Quitely, Nic Klein, Paul Pope, and Tony Harris have all been incredibly generous to put some of their own fire in our engines. Our book is certainly better for it. I love seeing how each of them sees the book, as well. It helps me to know what aspects of it they identify with. If I had the money right now, I'd own all of their pieces. I am a serious fan of each of their work, and Christian and I, well, we owe them one. "
"It's a miniseries, to start with," said Edmondson of "Olympus," but he hopes to be able to do more, sales willing. "Christian and I have some very exciting places to take this book if it looks like it's the thing to do. I have, in a small notebook, a host of 'Olympus' stories, spin-offs, backups, and a conclusion to the series that will make some gasp. Let's let this one ignite, and we'll see where we go from there."