Like many other comic books, “Omega Men” features heroes and villains. The major difference is that nobody, including the series’ creators, really knows which characters are good and which ones are bad.
Well, except for Kyle Rayner — writer Tom King is certain that he’s a hero. And while it may not seem like it, even after reading the first three critically acclaimed issues, King tells CBR News that Kyle is also the main character.
Set in the Vega System, DC Comics‘ “Omega Men” features the titular band of rebels battling against the Citadel Empire. But with both sides willing to do terrible, unthinkable things to each other, choosing sides is not so black and white.
In developing the series based on characters and concepts created by living legends Marv Wolfman and Joe Staton, King connected with Wolfman before relaunching the series. As a result, he and artist Barnaby Bagenda have been mining directly from what was originally planned for the Omega Men back in the 1980s, resulting in an epic cosmic adventure that he promises will permeate the entire DC Universe by the time “Omega Men” #12 arrives in mid-2016.
Plus, DC Comics has provided CBR with an exclusive look at “Omega Men” #4, illustrated by guest artist Toby Cypress, who has been producing killer variant covers for the series since its launch.
CBR News: I say this with complete sincerity and with all due respect to everything and everyone else at DC Comics, but is Omega Men even set in the DC Universe? It’s like nothing else being made right now, and I love it.
Tom King: Thanks, and yes — it is absolutely set in the DCU. This is a DC cosmic story. On the last page of my original pitch, I said that I wanted to take back the cosmic story for DC. All of these other companies are doing these fantastic cosmic stories, but a lot of them are based on concepts introduced by DC. I wanted to take back DC’s role as the leader in producing awesome, amazing cosmic stories, and we’ll see the integration going ahead. There are big plans in how this “Omega Men” continuity plays into the rest of the DCU.
I think the best way to describe it is that “Omega Men” is a series that’s like a ticking time bomb set off in the entire DCU. By “Omega Men” #12, you are going to see it go off, and there are going to be big repercussions.
Awesome. I just couldn’t imagine the Harley Quinn guest appearance.
[Laughs] I’m trying to figure out a way to get Grayson in there, but if you put Dick Grayson and Kyle Rayner on the same page, it’s just too much handsome. People will go blind.
We’ve talked about “Grayson” a number of times, and whether or not it’s a superhero comic. Is “Omega Men”?
Yes. Someone asked me what genre I preferred writing in comics, and I honestly don’t feel like I am writing a particular genre. I don’t see comic books as putting themselves in one genre. When I write “Omega Men,” sometimes I’m writing stuff I get from westerns, sometimes I get stuff from superheroes, and sometimes I get stuff from sci-fi and action-adventure. That’s what’s cool about comics. You don’t have to deal with TV budgets and 52 executive producers. We don’t have to put ourselves in tiny boxes that are marketable. We can draw from a bunch of different places, and one of the places that this story draws from is definitely superheroes because I love superheroes and I want to write them.
But are the Omega Men actually superheroes? Based on the events to date, it could be argued that they are supervillains.
I do not know honestly if the Omega Men are good guys or bad guys. [Laughs] I haven’t made up my mind. I feel that if I do, the reader will figure it out, too. I don’t really have a conception of them in that way. I know the Omega Men do things that Superman and Batman would not do. And I think they wouldn’t do things that Slade Wilson would do. But I think that they are fighting for a cause that is huge and, in their eyes, is worth every sacrifice that they’ve made.
I know the Citadel does things that Lex Luthor and Darkseid would do. But they’re also doing things that the Guardians of the Universe would do. I think it cuts both ways. They are neither good guys nor bad guys.
Kyle Rayner is a good guy. I can clarify that.
Considered terrorists by some, the Omega Men are fighting for what they believe is right. That belief, combined with the fact that you are a former CIA operative — this story and plotline could just as easily be a political thriller set in the real world like “Homeland” or “24.”
I think that’s what science fiction and comics can do. By taking the truth of what we see in our everyday lives and exaggerating it and making it dramatic, you can find a more essential truth. It’s almost like telling a fable. That’s what myths are. They tell these fantastic stories, but underneath them are these essential truths. That’s what this story tries to do. It’s very much tied to when you see two religions clashing, or people who should easily come together and find peace not able to find peace, and taking those events and setting them in a comic environment in order to explore those themes. So yes, it’s definitely tied to real word themes.
Did you go back and read the original run by Marv Wolfman and Joe Staton? If so, what did you take away from it and infuse in this new series?
I am haunted by both of those men [Laughs] because Joe Staton co-created Helena, who I write in “Grayson,” and Marv Wolfman wrote “Nightwing,” which, of course, features Dick Grayson as the central figure. I actually got the insane pleasure of talking to Marv Wolfman about “Omega Men,” and we discussed his original intentions and ideas. I don’t want to give it away, but I am drawing directly from what he originally planned, years ago.
“Omega Men” isn’t so much a take-off of the original. Its basic concept is rebels against an empire — but they are rebels that are savage and cool, and the empire is the same.
Three issues into the series ,and the story that has been presented to date is, shall we say, fractured. There’s a lot of jumping around, and there are definitely more questions than answers. It reads very much like we’re getting information at the same time and pace as the characters. Am I reading “Omega Men” right, or am I just not very bright?
[Laughs] You’re dead on. But wouldn’t it be horrible if I said, “No. You’re not bright. You’re not getting it.”
I struggle with revealing too much versus revealing too little. Sometimes I get it right, and sometimes I get it wrong. I hate writing exposition, and I hate writing explanations of what’s going on. In normal life, people don’t explain things to us. You have to figure it out as you go, so exposition feels very false. On the other side of that, I don’t want anybody to be lost just because I don’t really care as much about the background exposition as I do about the characters and the dramatic moments. I try to balance those two things out and give you something that will surprise you but also not confuse you.
I obviously want to dig into Kyle Rayner, but first, for readers unfamiliar with or not reading “Omega Men” — and shame on you if you’re not — I wanted to ask you about the core members: Primus, Kalista, Tigorr, Broot and Scrapps. Is there one character, in particular, that you have really tapped into as a writer?
“Omega Men” is the easiest comic book to write in the world because every character has such a distinct voice. I incredibly love Scrapps because I based her on my daughter. Scrapps is the one that doesn’t take it all seriously but is the one that is more bad ass than anyone else, which is exactly how I would describe my daughter.
Also, I am writing this book that is about all of these heavy, dark characters, and I don’t want to write comics that don’t have joy in them because I feel that the main purpose of comics is to take you away. Life is hard enough! I want to bring the audience joy, so I like to write characters that bring joy and I think that’s what Scrapps does.
This first story arc, especially following the events of “Omega Men” #3, could really have been called Primus and the Princess.
[Laughs] Where were you when I was putting this together? I love that.
Their relationship, especially for new readers, was obviously a major twist revealed in “Omega Men” #3, as the story read like a kidnapping. Kalista’s introduction through her actions was really well done. I think Kalista may be even more bad ass than Scrapps, and Primus is very much a thinking man’s tactician. What makes the series’ power couple tick?
They represent two ways of thinking about things in the Vega system, which is under control of the Citadel Empire, just like America was once under control of the British. Primus is sort of like the Martin Luther King or Ghandi figure of this world. He preaches non-violence. Kalista, as we’ve now discovered, was raised on violence. Every single morning of her life, since she was six years old, her father woke her up and told her that she had to kill somebody because that’s how you prove that you’re superior to the other people on this planet. She was raised on violence, so she sees violence as the only way to respond to what the Citadel is doing.
When you feature Kalista and Primus as a power couple, it’s a true meeting of the minds. It’s a Magneto and Professor X kind of relationship. And now they’re deciding what to do next.
For a large number of readers, Kyle Rayner is their Green Lantern. Was there any apprehension in dropping him in this story, fearing that readers would want to see him as Green Lantern and not a hostage, and perhaps, eventually, a member of the Omega Men?
That was the hardest part of the launch in that everyone thought we were killing Kyle Rayner and didn’t respect the character when, in fact, we were launching a book that was an epic Kyle Rayner story. This is Kyle Rayner’s chance to be at the center of an insane cosmic adventure.
Kyle is the main character. He is the lead, and he is the hero. He’s your way into the story. Kyle is a fantastic character, and what makes him different from all other Lanterns — what makes him one of the greatest Lanterns of all-time — is the fact that he wasn’t chosen. He was picked at random. He was walking out of the club, and he got a ring. He’s like you and me. He had to decide that he was going to do it, and keep doing it. This isn’t someone like Hal or Guy that has no fear. He’s just a guy on the street. Can you imagine that? Kyle is amazing.
Not to mention that he is sexy as hell, and he is a character of color — probably the most prominent Hispanic character in the DCU. We’re going to elevate him and treat him with the respect that a character of that gravitas deserves.
The storytelling and dialog in “Omega Men” has been really well done, as we’ve discussed at length, but the art has really taken the series to another level. It’s so different. Everyone may not have known Barnaby Bagenda before this launch, but he is sure making a name for himself now.
Barnaby really grounds the book — he makes this fantastic, cosmic adventure seem real. This is a book that could totally become lost in all of the potential exposition and how much stuff there is going on. It could totally feel like something way far away that you don’t care about. It’s just a bunch of people in silly costumes having silly adventures. Barnaby makes it feel like you could turn on your TV and watch it happening in the next town over. It feels very real, the way that he draws it, by the emotion on the faces and the designs of the characters that he’s doing. Barnaby connects these incredible concepts with the real world through his art.
And then there’s Toby Cypress, who has been delivering awesome variant covers for “Omega Men,” and is guest illustrating the next issue. As we can see in the exclusive interior pages accompanying this interview, he offers another really unique vision of what a comic book can be.
I am insanely excited about “Omega Men” #4. It’s up on my computer right now, and I am going over every single word to make sure everything is in the right place and make sure it has the impact. “Omega Men” #4 is basically the re-telling of Kyle’s origin and how he fits into the Omega Men’s plan. The key theme for this series is the plan that the Omega Men have for Kyle.
Because we are going to tell a big picture story of where Kyle is coming from and where the Omega Men are coming from, we wanted to completely break the format. “Omega Men” is a very tightly plotted series, and the format is equally tight. Everything is on this nine-panel grid, and every grid is paneled out. For “Omega Men” #4 and #9, we are going to break the grid. The grid blows up. For those issues, we tell the story in a different kind of style, and the art will match the theme.
Toby Cypress is a genius. He is one of the inheritors of this amazing style that empathizes creativity and emotion over strict realism. He is able to do layouts and design unlike anybody in comics. He could be the next MÅ“bius. That’s the kind of guy he is. You’ve seen him on the covers, and now you get to see him inside this issue. It won’t look like anything on the shelf that DC has put out. We’re taking a huge risk with this one, but I think that’s why people come to “Omega Men,” because we’re going to take those kinds of risks.
“Omega Men” #4 by Tom King and featuring interiors by guest artist Toby Cypress is slated for September 2.
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