Highway to Hell: Oeming and Brandon talk "Cross Bronx"

Fans of supernatural stories featuring a revenge-driven ghost ruthlessly hunting the gang bangers responsible for her death are in for a great ride with "The Cross Bronx," Michael Oeming and Ivan Brandon's latest effort from Image Comics. Over the years, writer and artist Michael Oeming has created and co-created many memorable comic books such as the Eisner nominated "Powers," "Bulletproof Monk" and the newly released "Highlander." Now, Oeming has joined with co-writer Ivan Brandon, the prolific creator of "NYC Mech," "The Heavy" and "Homeland" to write and draw the thriller "The Cross Bronx." With Issue #1 already on the shelves and doing well, CBR news spoke with the creative duo to get all the supernatural details.

"The Cross Bronx" tells the story of Detective Raphael Aponte as he investigates the mysterious slayings of several gang members in the Bronx. The investigation quickly takes a turn to the bizarre and brings Aponte face to face with the supernatural world in the form of a revenge-seeking ghost called Santeria. The revelation that a ghost is responsible for the slayings forces Aponte to question his core beliefs and also threatens his very life. "Our main character is having a crisis of faith, both in justice and in God, and he's going to need at least both of these to get out of the situation he finds himself in," Oeming told CBR News.

Brandon agreed, "Rafael Aponte is an old cop who's seen too much over and over of the worst things that can happen in a city. Over the years he's sort of regressed as a functional person and has become this apathetic public servant, cold to his wife and his environment." Oeming elaborated further on the character of Aponte and said, "Rafael Aponte is a cop ready to retire. He's long lost his faith both in God and in the justice system. Seeing how both work or do not work has taken a toll on his spirit."

The genesis of this complex thriller was actually something very simple - a street sign Oeming saw on a trip to New York and the neighborhood that would eventually be the home of "The Cross Bronx" story. Oeming was inspired by what he saw around him and couldn't wait to start working. "My wife and in laws are from the Castle Hill area of the Bronx, that section of the highway is called the Cross Bronx. Every time I saw that sign visiting them, new ideas just popped into my head," said Oeming.

After the initial story began to take shape, the city continued to provide inspiration for Oeming. "A lot of the aesthetics of the Bronx are the influence," said Oeming. "It's a city of contrasts. Good and Bad areas, Catholics and Pagan, Santeria, community groups, gangs, cops, families, slums, trees, nice homes, buildings and parks. It's a small world unto itself."

On many of his projects, Oeming has collaborated with other writers and this project is no exception. When it came time to do "The Cross Bronx," he had no trouble deciding on a partner in crime to bring the series to life, Ivan Brandon. "I had met Ivan back in 2000 at a New York con, and we hit it off as friends pretty quickly. We were both in our early stages of writing for comics and I knew we could cull our powers together and make something special," said Oeming. "After reading one of his short crime stories I just asked him. He played it cool, but I know he was jumping up and down inside. Deep inside." Brandon was equally excited about collaborating with Oeming on "The Cross Bronx" for one simple reason. Said Brandon, "Who doesn't want to work with Mike Oeming?"

The working relationship between Oeming and Brandon on this project is somewhat typical in that they both share the writing chores while Oeming draws the book. However, there are some elements of their collaboration that are unique to Oeming and Brandon's talents and style. "Mike will make more changes in the actual art stage than you're likely to see from a more traditional collaboration… we're both constantly shifting things up til the end, whereas usually things are more firmly bolted down early on," said Brandon.

Oeming added, "After ping-ponging the script, I'll draw it and allow it to be very organic. I don't change scenes, but pacing will change and I'll do minor adjustments to the script because of that, and then Ivan does more changes now that there's new art and dialogue and (then) he takes over the entire production end."

With "The Cross Bronx" having such a supernatural element to it, are Oeming and Brandon believers in ghosts or the supernatural? "Sure," said Oeming. "Not with any specific rules in mind - I don't know if they are spirits, trapped souls, memories, unexplained energy or simply a creation of our own ID. While I've never had any hard-core experiences, I know people whom I trust with my life that have. People are experiencing something out there," said Oeming.

Brandon was able to sum up his feelings on ghosts and the supernatural much more simply, "For the right price, I'll believe anything."

So, whatever you may believe about God, revenge, ghosts or the supernatural, "The Cross Bronx" delivers a compelling story, interesting characters, fantastic visuals and shocking revelations sure to please the most demanding comic book fan.

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