The Variant Art of Olympus

"Olympus" #1 on sale now

Created by Nathan Edmondson and Christian Ward, "Olympus" is a new Image Comics miniseries that debuts today. The book 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 - three thousand years later.

"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," writer Edmondson told CBR in April. "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."

To help promote "Olympus," Edmondson recruited a host of guest artists to produce variant covers and pinup art, which CBR presents to you now along with commentary by Edmondson and the artists.

For more on "Olympus," be sure to check out CBR's interview with writer Nathan Edmondson.

Art by Alan Robinson (Website)

NATHAN EDMONDSON: I see in this piece a dynamic white knuckle moment, drawn straight out of issue #1 perhaps. I really appreciate the old-school pulp feel of the hands in the foreground, the shading and line style. That effect is enhanced by the piece being black and white.

Seeing these pinups come in, I was thrilled at how artists like Alan looked into the world of "Olympus" and our story and brought moments to life with their own imagination. This isn't one of my and Christian's panels just reproduced, this is an original action shot, but I enjoy it and it fits. Alan is obviously a talented storyteller, and one I wouldn't mind working with. I think he needs a talented colorist who will allow his linework to shine through. But this piece... I like it just like this!

Art by Brett Weldele (Website)

BRETT WELDELE: I staged the brothers in a ready-for-anything pose, but also that they're not afraid of anything. They're immortal. 

As per my usual technique, the drawing is all pencil with some Photoshop button pushing to blacken it. Then everything else (tone, color, texture) is all Photoshop wizardry. 

I tried to match the colorful vibe of the book with splashes of color I wouldn't normally do, but seemed to fit well.

NATHAN EDMONDSON: Brett has a unique voice and I was thrilled when he -- in less than a day -- sent us this piece. Regardless of which of his many books you're looking at, you can't help but be soaked up by Brett's work, like his panels are sponges, and you're the water. They're instant mood setters.

Here we get the cunning, we-mean-business looks from the Gemini, Castor leaning forward to do some damage and Pollux backing him up. The colors here are masterful. I like the spotlight-like blending of autumn tones, moving your eye from light to light on the page, and then the glow between the brothers as if their love itself is burning between them, wherever they are. Or it's a halo from Olympus, putting Castor's eyes into heavy shadows. I like this side of Castor. When it comes to doing his job, he's someone to be reckoned with. And if you somehow happen to jump over him, the imposing boxer, his brother, towers behind, a wall, a debonair steel trap.

Art by Jonathon Lam

JONATHAN LAM: I had done at least three or four drafts before arriving at this idea. At first I had played around with the idea of making a dynamic pin-up splash of the two main characters doing what they do best. However, after looking at some of the beautiful pages I was inspired to do a street scene since that is where most of the story takes place. I also thought it would be different to show Castor and Pollux searching for a demon rather than fighting it.

I also wanted the people in the background to look busy and just going about their daily lives, so initially I used Hong Kong for reference, or I should say the people of Hong Kong. Also, having been in Hong Kong numerous times I know how busy it can be over there, with crowds of people going about their own business. I wanted to play with the idea that even if something supernatural or bizarre were to happen in a typical day, people wouldn't be able to recognize or notice it because everybody's so closed off from their surroundings with their own lives, personal music devices or gaming systems.

I like to think that even though Castor and Pollux are out in the open they still go about unnoticed.

NATHAN EDMONDSON: I've known Jon a while now, and we have a project stirring. A young artist, he's got more talent that even he realizes, I think. Much like Christian, Jon's got a style very unique; you can't mistake one of his pieces for anyone else. I've recently seen some kick-ass pages he's been doing for a WWII book, and he's getting better and better.

This pinup shows off some of his imagination, too. Jon has sweeping ideas; epic backgrounds and complex worlds abound in his sketches and paintings. With this "Olympus" piece you can see him thinking outside the box, so to speak. Again, this isn't a scene from anywhere in the comic. But it surely represents the story. And I personally get the feel from it that there is a very large world that the Gemini have to move through on their missions, one blissfully unaware of the horror that has crawled through the cracks of the earth and that now walks among them.

Art by Nils Hamm (Website)

NILS HAMM: I quickly responded to Pelops. He seemed perfect to be presented in a kind of dramatic way. My version shows him still in or about to ascend from Hades; in the story he escaped - physically -  but mentally with what he's at he still seems stuck in there.

This is mostly Painter X over an abstract traditional underpainting.

NATHAN EDMONDSON: All I can say is, I get chills every time I look at this piece. I can feel the underworld, the primordial mixture of gasses, yellow sulfur, rose ash; and here, Pelops rises like a demonic Phoenix.

Part of what makes this pinup so beautiful to me is that it hints at the mystery of the afterlife: the underworld swirls around him, it's ethereal, it doesn't 'compute' with our world. But Pelops here is as real as the pavement he crawls out onto in issue 1, his blood pulsing through his veins with every beat of his tortured heart.

Art by Michael Ryan (Website)

NATHAN EDMONDSON: I can't tell you how excited I was to get a painting from Mike Ryan. This guy is awesome. Fine arts is my background, and I see Mike's oils gracing the comics medium and I'm very pleased with the crossover. He's fast and he's edgy and he's just one hell of a painter. Puts my own painting to shame, and reminds me of why I should keep writing!

Art by Frank Zigarelli (Website)

FRANK ZIGARELLI: Christian's style gives "Olympus" such a unique visual attitude. How do you follow that?!?

NATHAN EDMONDSON: A very different, but very pleasing take on our series. I find Spring's (or is it Autumn's?) expression perfect.

What I like most here is that the Gemini are implied. We don't see Castor, or Pollux, except in the blur of the motorcycle. But we have the villain they are meant to hunt, the daughter they must protect, the mentor they must follow, and floating above them is the word "Olympus," the Temple they must serve.

And at an angle against the images, zooming in, Castor comes to meet all of these duties head on.

Art by Riley Rossimo (Website)

NATHAN EDMONDSON: Riley's piece is very emotional. It grates on me, in a "good" way, or rather, effective way. I feel a "Blade Runner"-like ambience in the scattered lines and pink highlights. Like the streets of that film, and the soundtrack behind it, I always feel a little uneasy, sure that something frightening and gross is lurking in every back alley.

As this pinup shows us, in "Olympus," that's very true.

Art by Dominic Reagan (Website)

NATHAN EDMONDSON: When colorists draw, we get lovely pieces and strong compositions.

"Finally, someone is using the temple of Castor and Pollux!" I said to myself when I saw this. Standing in Rome, only these three corinthian orders stand, linked by a crumbling lintel. Between the three pillars, two spaces: like doors for the Gemini.

Being a colorist, it's easy to see that Dominic knows how to catch one's eye. Once again, we have a light source, a glow that comes from the Gemini. Once again, they are the heart of this story.

Art by Matteo Scalera (Website)

NATHAN EDMONDSON: Man, what a fun image! It's a bit mind-boggling, trying to grasp the movement and figure out where these guys are going to land. The colors are subtle enough to not overwhelm the layout and design but in the chain hook flying toward us, the broken red pieces and the shift from red to blue, the colors do jump out.

I'll reiterate something I've said previously: the chain, or the "anchor," was never meant to be a prominent part of this story in my mind. But Christian, Tommy Lee Edwards, and now these fantastic pinups artists like Matteo have shown me: the visual hook (no pun intended) is just too good and fun. So it's become a part of the Gemini, one of their main tools. And, now, it's integral to the first arc of "Olympus." I gotta say, I do love what these artists -- Matteo especially -- have done with it.

Art by Anthony Hope Smith (Website)

NATHAN EDMONDSON: I think this piece rocks. I love the style. I feel like Anthony has worked with Alan Moore in a former life. Which is a way of saying that I want to work with him!

He's accomplished here a very difficult feat: making a dynamic scene with dramatically altered angles. Hermes, holding Pol, stands out brilliantly in the V-formation of negative space. The coloring is subtle, but perfect. There is a stillness and peace in this drawing, but some rock-and-roll action, too. Very pleased with how this came out, and how it is clearly another demonstration of someone who really "gets" what Christian and I are working toward.

Art by Niki Lopez (Website)

NIKI LOPEZ: What first drew me into "Olympus" was, without a doubt, the stunning, unique artwork and brilliant colors by Christian Ward. However, after reading through it, I was pleasantly surprised by the great interaction between the characters and the developing plot. I wanted to make sure I could emphasize Castor and Pollux's immortal life and their eternal service to Zeus in this piece. It seemed appropriate for me to use one of their more godly weapons, the hook and chain, to form the infinity symbol around their portraits.

NATHAN EDMONDSON: I really adore this image. It's very different from everything else, which is great to me. I was so happy of the wide variety of styles that came into my inbox for this promotion. It's flattering and humbling to have so many talented artists attacking our characters in their own ways!

Niki gives a very earthy and storybook feel to the main characters here. I can see this being an illustration in an old manuscript of Greek mythology somewhere, describing the legendary Gemini, hinting that just maybe, they are real (hmmm....might have to work that in somewhere!) I would really like to do an illustrated novella with Niki, based on this image. Her tones and line style evoke a very particular style, appropriate for Spanish literature pages, or a new illustrated Sherlock Holmes addition, where the clever, quirky, and classic come together....does that makes sense to anyone but me?

Art by Jeik Dion (Website)

NATHAN EDMONDSON: I saw Jeik's story in "Popgun" Volume 3, and found him online and specifically asked him to do something for us. A subtle element here that is nothing short of lovely are the storm clouds underlit, visible between Hermes' wings. It feels like we're in the Matrix, where there is possibly no end to the doom. And here is Hermes after his fall: he is a fallen messenger, once winged and beloved in heaven.

That is what a demon is.

And wielding the staff, he is not only powerful but endowed, holding the keys to the kingdom. Yet now pitted against the god of gods -- and his servants -- Hermes possesses what very few gods have: Hubris.

Art by Nate Van Dyke

NATE VAN DYKE: I worked with Nathan Edmondson on coming up with an image. I had run into a creative roadblock and he shot me a few ideas. Once I heard a few I just went wild with this one. I inked it up and did some really simple colors in Photoshop. The book has a very loose and colorful style to it so I thought I would go the opposite with tight inks and a very simple palette.

NATHAN EDMONDSON: Well, his parents named him after me, so I had to include him! No, we were very glad to have Nate give us his time and talent.

Nate is one talented and scary guy. Scary because his mind lets him go places in his art that would make most folks just not the kind of guys you'd want to be friends with. But Nate's about as personable and cool a cat as is out there. The effect is, quality, urban artwork with a real serious toothy edge. The composition of this piece is fantastic, and is begging to be on a t-shirt! Of course, it's begging to be on my wall, too.

I've seen some of Mr. Van Dyke's free-hand murals on brick walls, seen him transform surfaces into these high-contrast, tight, visually addictive scenes and designs. Of course, he does it to paper with pen, too, so we get to see it here.

I told Nate that not many of the artists were including the Harpies in their pieces, and I'd especially like to see his take on them. The harpies are very appropriate for his style: beautiful but a the same time very frightening. That's something Nate achieves in spades.

Art by JM Ken Niimura (Website)

JM KEN NIMURA: I chose to portray a comical situation out based on "Olympus," which is a mainly serious series as far as I've read. Knowing the second chapter of the story would take partly place in Paris (where I currently live), I thought it funny to show how Castor and Pollux, exhausted after looking for Pellops all over Paris, take a coffee break... only to be served by Pellops himself!

The superb illustrations by french artist Sempe were in a way an inspiration for this one. The image was done through my usual process, which includes a quick sketch for composition, a pencil drawing which is afterwards inked with a Japanese brush and pen. Coloring's done with Photoshop.

I'm looking foward to seeing more issues of "Olympus!"

Art by Valerie Nunez (Website)

VALERIE NUNEZ: Anytime I'm ready to create a piece of art, all I do is ask myself, "Okay, in my heart... I feel... this!!!" and I just get right to it. Great thing about "Olympus," or what attracted me rather, was how much I felt the artist felt the same as I when I work. It's truly an attractive style! I let the art draw itself mostly, let it decide what it wants to be. I especially enjoy it when I am given the freedom to do what I please. That's all I know to do anyhow! The results always vary this way, and it makes me happy - always - to do something different.

NATHAN EDMONDSON: Personally, I adore this pinup. Makes me think of Dickens stories, Riki Tiki Tavi, or something else that I should have one my shelf, illustrated in full color. Another very distinctive image and style, to be certain. Valerie draws striking but subtle hints of emotion in the brothers by arranging their glances. You see both business and love being express. And looming over them, the foe, the villain, but I feel like, hey, they'll get to him when they're good and ready. There's the chain again, but here, draped over the brothers and held by each; a bond between them. Their duty, this piece implies, is their bond.

Art by Nathan Edmondson, colors by JD Mettler

NATHAN EDMONDSON: I won't say anything about this piece, except that JD is the man and it was an honor to have him try to fix my art with his seasoned hand.

Art by Carlos Pedro

CARLOS PEDRO: I'm a 22-year-old architecture student and aspiring comic book illustrator. I live in Lisbon, Portugal and so far I have three comic book published under the editorial seal of Kingpin of Comics.

I wanted to participate with a piece for "Olympus" for three main reasons: The first is because it's for a comic book published in America, those opportunities are rare. Denying one would be stupid of my part.

The second is because I knew Christian from Millarworld. He used to post some of his art in the creative forum and I remember really enjoying it. So when he asked what was necessary for us to buy the single I joked that if he bought my stuff I would buy his, I even sent him a sample. He enjoyed it and one thing led to other.

The third reason is because apart from all of this I really enjoyed the preview. The story seemed nice, like Supernatural but in superpowers and in a full throttle mode. And since it was a number one from two guys who seemed talented and needed the support I thought, why the heck not?

Art by John Paul Leon

NATHAN EDMONDSON: JP is simply one of my favorite artists working. His artistic style is the perfect balance between painterly and descriptive; he captures mood and storytelling in the same stroke.

This rather somber-colored piece makes me think of the early days of "Olympus's" conception. Castor and Pollux being who they are, it's possible to set an "Olympus" story at any time in history, and at any place. I feel that this represents them at some point in history outside of our current story arc: 1980s Soviet Union, maybe, or 19th/20th century London, maybe on a ship sailing across the North Atlantic. And it could very well be that here they are today, ready for some action against Hermes. Or maybe they're about to take on a totally different foe, one I haven't considered yet (could the masked figures behind be, for example, the Spartoi, warriors grown from dragon's teeth?).

However this piece strikes you, it's 100% JP and his illustration genius is on full display here.

"Olympus" #3 is on sale now from Image Comics.

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