Like many teenagers in the final days of high school, Jess thought she had it all figured out. With a college scholarship, a great boyfriend and a good family, the future seemed full of exciting prospects. But when Jess loses her virginity, things change more than she anticipated. Suddenly she can see that the world around her is inhabited with monsters disguised in familiar faces, feeding on the sin-spawned energy of humans. And she isn’t alone. Her father has the same abilities, although he’d prefer to start hunting monsters sooner than later, including one very close to Jess’ heart.
Can Jess come to terms with her gifts and still follow her dreams? Or will this discovery permanently alter the course of her life? The answers will come to light this November in the brand-new Image Comics series “Sinergy” from writer Taki Soma and artist Michael Avon Oeming.
Teenage girl fighting monsters? Yes, please! CBR News spoke with the husband-and-wife creative team to find out more about Jess and what lies ahead as the world of being a seer opens up to her.
CBR News: Let’s start with some back story — how did the two of you begin creating “Sinergy?”
Taki Soma: Years ago — Mike had a darker version of this story long ago — he wanted to do a serial killer mom/daughter story and I wanted it to be more fun, humor laced and have the mom be a dad. And voila, “Sinergy!”â€¨â€¨What is your working dynamic like?
Soma: I’d have to say in any working condition, ours is the most appealing. Not only is Mike my husband, but he’s also my muse, my soundboard, my support. When it comes to building a world and writing, our egos are checked and respect for each other. Yes, we’re groan-worthy when it comes to working together.
Michael Avon Oeming: It’s a lot of back and forth in the writing process. I think we work together well, because I don’t sweat the details and Taki is very thorough, so we come together well. When one of us is stuck, the other will come up with a breakthrough that makes us do a happy dance. We love what we do and we love each other, what could be better?
â€¨The artwork is so crisp and expressive — did you both have a clear aesthetic in mind when you were developing the story?
Soma: Mike’s style is very unique — so we definitely kept that in mind as we moved further into the story. I love that his style is recognizable even amongst a sea of wonderful and talented artists.
Oeming: I wanted to continue the look Taki, Bendis and I came up with on “United States of Murder Incorporated” — that being lots of black, solid shapes, little rendering and bright colors to push the contrasting elements. It works well with a dark book like “USMI” as well as something fun like “Sinergy.”
The series follows Jess, a teenage girl that develops powers coinciding with the loss of her virginity. What else can you tell us about Jess and her powers?
Soma: Well, the idea was that the ‘seer’ powers are dormant in very special redheads throughout the world, and hormones released during our growing years bring it out — with Jess, it happened when she lost her virginity. Her father has it, and now she has it — luckily, her dad can guide her through this traumatic changes and know that the monsters she’s seeing are real, and that she’s been chosen to hunt them.
Oeming: Yeah, she really doesn’t have powers… I like to think of it as her mind is now open to see the world as it truly is. But, she’s an accomplished hockey player, so she’s athletic and the height of her physical prowess, so she can put those skills to use on the street. And having a pan-dimensionalÂ demon dog on your side helps!
There are many stories that deal with young people coming into powers — what were some things you wanted to avoid repeating in “Sinergy?” And how are you adding newness to it?
Soma: I don’t know if there are any that we wanted to avoid per se — I wanted her to be smart, figure it out quickly and not anguish over it so much. There are plenty of opportunities for her to regret and resent her powers later, but I’d imagine if you’re 18, got a unique power, you’d be celebrating without concerning oneself with the consequences of responsibility it will bring.
Oeming: I think the first mistake in creating a comic is to worry too much about what other creators are doing or what has been done before. Sure you have to think about it some, but it could become a roadblock to creativity. I think “Sinergy” falls into a sub-genre that has been done a lot — demon hunting. I feel like ours is different because of the deep family dynamic, Jess’ new life can only tear the family apart since the mother isn’t a “seer,” the bond between father and daughter will grow stronger and the mother will feel more and more left out, which causes all kinds of troubles both on the streets with monsters and at home.
Coming of age as a woman is kind of supernatural all on its own (I speak as a woman who once, you know, became a woman. Things get weird.). What aspects of this change in Jess’ life were most important for you to show? What were some of the challenges?â€¨â€¨Soma: It’s important for me to show that she is goal oriented and the only thing that would be considered her weakness is her love for her boyfriend. With him, her focus blurs, and she becomes real. And her life derailing unexpectedly is the basis for the beginning of her journey as a seer.
Oeming: It’s obviously a ripe ground for metaphors, what it’s like once you have sex, the world changes. How you see it changes, how it sees you changes. Thankfully Taki can write this from a truly female point of view and get the minutiae right.
It sounds like an important part of the series are her relationships, both romantic and familial. Who are some other characters we will meet?
Soma: Her dad, Jesse is one who grounds the story. I really feel as if he’s the pillar of the story; he’s well-seasoned in being a seer, he’s a father, a husband, dog owner and self-employed. We visually designed him to look like Louis C.K. and I gotta say, he’s a badass, too.
There’s the family dog, who has a few tricks up his flesh sleeve — let’s just say he’s not the typical French Bulldog he appears to be. Her boyfriend, Leaf, is certainly a key player in the story too — he’s not from here, isn’t the person he appears to be and he has mysterious ways of showing Jess how he feels.
Oeming: I’m excited because we made sure all of the characters have a motivation and an arc- what do they want? What happens if they don’t get it? Why now? That sort of thing will allow our characters and story to have layers.
Tell me more about the monsters Jess can see — the first two are very close to her, one being part of her family. What type of monsters are they?
Soma: The monsters are inter-dimensional beings that squeezed themselves into our side to siphon energy source for their home dimension. Too bad for us that their energy is our sins — so they love to antagonize us into unsavory behaviors for their benefit. We can blame them for our addictions, thieves and murderers.
Oeming: I really wanted to have fun with them. Some are really scary, but with others, I wanted to open it up to fun stuff like big ears and weird stuff like you might see in a Hieronymus Bosch painting which I think were meant to be way more funny than how insanely creepy they are in those paintings.
â€¨Taki, tell me about your backup stories.
Soma: Backup stories focus on our monsters living in our side of the world — we get an inside look into how they conduct themselves and scheme around us! They’re rats, really. Awful beings doing awful things, who doesn’t want to read about that?
What has been the best part about the whole process so far?
Soma: The people I get to work with: My husband, Michael Oeming of course, but there’s Jim Valentino, the publisher who we work very tightly with. David Walker, who is talented in many other ways; especially in writing but has signed on to be our letterer. Daniel Berman who is also a writer has agreed to do color flats for me. These people are like family, great friends and are wonderfully talented. I feel blessed that this series is definitely being created with love, in every aspect of the comic because of these people.
Oeming: It’s kind of the joke here in Portland — “How local is it?” has become some kind of contest. Other than our covers by Mike Allred (and a host of other non-announced names) only our editor is non-local. Even the story takes place here in SE Portland. Clearly we need to spend more time at the food carts for more Portland research!
Soma & Oeming open your eyes to the truth with “Sinergy” #1 on November 19.
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