The Alpha and the Omega. The beginning and the end. The circle of life. However, when it comes to Canada and its national superhero team, Alpha Flight, the metamorphosis to Omega Flight has been anything but the usual business. With much of Alpha Flight's membership killed off-panel in "New Avengers," fans were in an uproar as the once popular Marvel Comics team was seemingly disrespected. Editor-In-Chief Joe Quesada assured fans that the Great White North would not be ignored and fans were excited to learn exactly how Quesada would follow through on that promise. At a recent convention in Toronto, Marvel announced "Omega Flight," a new ongoing series debuting in 2007 featuring a brand new team of heroes in Canada. To learn more, CBR News spoke with writer Mike Oeming (of "Powers" and "Thor" fame) and editor Andy Schmidt.
"'Omega Flight' takes off where Alpha Flight left- a well loved team dies, there's a demand to see them back, but there's also a lot of baggage and hurtles to get over- hence the new name and team," explained Oeming. "If you had never read 'Alpha Flight' before, you might not want to read it now, so the new name sends a signal out this isn't the last series, or the second series or even the first series. Marvel could have brought back the original team and go classic style, but sadly that would hurt the launch and Marvel wants it to go big. Our intention is to do that and to please that small, but hardcore fanbase as well. There will be plenty of original (surviving) Alpha Flight cast popping up."
The return of familiar faces is surely reassuring to fans who've been examining that piece of teaser art released earlier this month, wondering about the cast choices (more on that later), but something else has stuck out to the 'Flight faithful: the name of the new team. The name Omega Flight was once used by a group of villains who fought Alpha Flight, which isn't a coincidence. Oeming said we'll see that addressed "a bit," and added, "Only your real Alpha Flight fans would know that though, as the average reader never heard of Omega Flight or even know they were a villain team. I didn't until I read it myself. The idea is that in many ways, both the real world and the Marvel World, this is the "Last" chance for Flight... Omega Flight."
Like many Marvel Fans from the eighties, Oeming grew up reading the classic John Byrne run of "Alpha Flight" and while he may not have memorized every detail of the book, he carried his passion with him straight to the Marvel offices, where he was met with an interesting reaction. "I simply asked if Marvel wanted to see an Alpha Flight pitch and was looked at as if I farted really badly in an elevator – so that meant no," explained the scribe. "But then, Bendis goes and kills them off panel and people freak out with Hawkeye like craziness and suddenly anyone who once loved Flight (even if they haven't bought an issue in a decade) started to scream for Alpha Flight. Mark Millar had a thought about spinning the new Flight out of 'Civil War' and was nice enough to toss my name in the hat. Marvel made it clear to us that this was going to get the big push, so the pressure is on!
"Many of the hard core fans are upset this isn't the original Flight in any way, but the cold hard fact is that would corner the book as a nostalgia series, so it might as well be a limited that comes and goes. No one wants that, especially fans of the classic book. I promise if they can stick out the first few issues, it will be worth the wait, and past the first arc, even more so."
Previous attempts at bringing Alpha Flight back to the forefront of the Marvel Universe have met with mixed results, but with "Civil War" behind "Omega Flight," it seems like Canada's superhero future has never looked brighter. In fact, Oeming promises that this book will be different than previous 'Flight books because Canada is more than just window dressing in the series, as he explained, "In a way, it will be 'more Canadian' because we will have American characters to play off that, to contrast the differences between Americans and Canadians. Some members will have a great time with the change, others will struggle with it. Also, there are lots of Flight members still alive, just because they aren't on the team doesn't mean we wont see them."
And that membership is definitely unique. While Beta Ray Bill and a (new?) Guardian/Vindicator are the only confirmed members, fans have speculated that the other members include Spider-Woman, USAgent and perhaps Talisman. Editor Andy Schmidt wouldn't confirm the cast of the book, but was quick to add that if fans gave them a chance, they'd be happily surprised. "'Omega Flight' has probably the most distinct cast of any book I've helped put together. At first glance, when I rolled onto the project, I thought we were in trouble. I was totally baffled as to why these guys would ever be together. Much less, be together in Canada. Then I started reading through the notes from Mike Oeming and Mike Marts and it all started to materialize. It was a real 'Ah-ha' moment for me when it all just clicked into place."
While it's natural that Oeming would tackle Beta Ray Bill again, as his writing of the alien in "Stormbreaker" earned the scribe a lot of praise, it's been unclear as to why he's a member of Omega Flight. "I love Orange Horse Skulls from space," explained Oeming. "That, and he kicked Thor's butt in a fair fight! He's one of Marvels powerhouses and has gotten the short straw. I'm hoping to change that. Also, there are two events from the last series that will tie directly into Omega Flight. At the time, I knew I wanted to bring Bill back, so I created an event that I knew was very open ended, that I could use in the future to bring Bill into almost any story."
The announcement of Oeming, with "Omega Flight" artist Scott Kolins, writing a short USAgent story in the upcoming "Civil War: Choosing Sides" has some wondering if that's confirmation of John Walker joining the team. "I'm guessing it probably is," smiled Oeming. "It is a 'Civil War' story and 'Omega Flight' spins out of 'Civil War.' Agent is just fun because he's an ass and he's practically Cap's equal."
Still, for a Canadian team, the membership doesn't seem too geared towards the Don Cherry loving segment of North America, though Schmidt explained the reason for that situation. "Well, the only thing Mike and Scott said they don't like about it being set in Canada is the Canadians. So they took them out," the editor laughed. "But everything else is totally authentic-Canadian. I kid, I kid. I can't go into the cast, but needless to say there are Canadians on the team. I get the very distinct impression that Canada laughs at how seriously we US citizens take ourselves. I think that will be an element in the book for sure. Honestly, without knowing who's even in the cast, how could someone even begin to determine the level of 'Canadianism' in it?"
Oeming was also quick to add, "In the long run, I think Canadians will love it because the contrast between Americans and Canadians is the best way to explore both cultures. I understand the knee-jerk reaction to the cast, but I think a few issues in will clear that all up. Why so few Canadians? At this point, there are three on or working with the team, although in the promo image we only see one."
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In previous interviews, Oeming has said that the inclusion of American members will allow for an interesting commentary on America's foreign policy and image abroad, though you need not worry about Oeming and Kolins preaching from the pulpit. To keep from alienating readers Oeming has discovered that, "Not mentioning Bush, republicans or democrats will help [laughs]. What I will do is show how we are seen by others – it doesn't mean they are right, I want to simply shine a light on how we are perceived. I've been to Europe a bunch of times and have a few Canadian, Asian and Middle Eastern friends and it's interesting to learn how they see us. My arc in learning about Canada will be reflected in the characters. The biggest problem is going to be figuring out the French Canadian thing. I think it best to not deal with that so much until I learn much more. Better to not touch on it than to screw it up or toss in a few words that really don't fit"
With all the emotional fallout from Alpha Flight's death, Oeming has a lot of play off, but is also happy to be working with penciller Scott Kolins again. "Scott and I have a working history, we get along great and he's a hardcore fan of the original book, reading it from the start, so he's a great asset both as a storyteller and as point of reference," said the scribe.
When it comes to editing "Omega Flight," Schmidt is happy to be working with veteran talents such as Kolins and Oeming. "It requires little to no effort. Hey, when a project is spot-on, I just get out of the way. We've got two great creators – so I let them go to it!" he exclaimed.
While "Omega Flight" doesn't debut till 2007, Oeming is hoping you'll keep a place for it on your monthly pull list. "I'm hoping it will help American readers understand how important Canada is to our survival – we get almost 20% of our oil from Canada and a huge portion of our electricity and power comes from there and they have huge water supplies," explained the writer. "I don't think the average American knows how much we lean on them. Fans should read 'Omega Flight' simply because its going to be a good book, a great cast of interesting characters and a running commentary on the Marvel U."
While he's got a lot of exciting books coming up, editor Andy Schmidt (who edits "Annhilation" and "X-Factor") has a lot of fondness for Canada's coolest superhero team. "I'll give you three good reasons to pick it up," he said.
"1. The creators are great and they're at the top of their game.
"2. The core-concept of the book is very cool."3. The dynamic between the cast of characters is unlike any other team book in comics."
Check back with us tomorrow, when we chat with "Omega Flight" artist Scott Kolins all about his work on the new book and why he loves the USAgent.