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The Interviewee: Mike Avon Oeming likes to draw cops that investigate super-powered people crimes and big burly vikings.
The Interviewer: Sal Cipriano likes to draw donuts, broken ones at that.
SAL CIPRIANO: Hi Mike! It's been a quite an insanely great year for you with the incredible success of POWERS and the release of HAMMER OF THE GODS. You've been nominated for multiple awards and made to Wizard's top 10 artists! How has this all made you feel?
MIKE OEMING: Like a complete Fraud! Something is wrong in the world, and somehow I'm benefiting from it. When the worm turns, I'm in big trouble!
SC: Ha! Oh come on man, you totally deserve all the accolades. The fans know it, creators know it, publishers know it, so spill some true emotion for all!
MO: Honestly, I couldn't be more appreciative. I had a good start to my mainstream career, starting out with JUDGE DREDD for DC. A big book, big money, big attention. Then I did some smaller books and slowly my career dwindled away. When I started POWERS, I hadn't been published in many months, and I was working my first real job ever as a security guard part time. The first four issues of POWERS was done in a glass security booth. I was shopping for half my food at the DOLLAR STORE (no joke) and times were really hard. I had to think about what I wanted from life. When it came down to it, I still wanted to be an artist, even if I couldn't make a living at it.
Now with POWERS being successful, I have a second chance. I'm working as hard as ever, but with a lot of hindsight and experience now. I honestly can't say how lucky I feel, and I view each day, each project, as it could the be last thing I do before my career goes dry again. It could happen for many reasons that are completely out of my control. So I'm happy for what I have, and grateful without boundaries for every article, sale, review and fan I get.
SC: I know what you're saying about being an artist no matter what. It's a love and passion that'll always stay with me and it sounds like the same holds true with you. The only thing that scares me is the thought of one day possibly burning out and not having the feeling of creativity, is this something that's ever scared you?
MO: Oh yea. I look at other artist who have long burned out and still hack out the work. I really admire a guy like Eisner, who is still doing important work. If I think I'm starting to burn out, or get stagnant, I'll take a step back and rework my art to make it fresh again.
SC: Speaking of reworking your art, for POWERS you changed up your style from your previous work, what sparked this decision?
MO: I didn't change it for POWERS. It was a growth I was going through. It started when I tried getting work on the Batman Adventures books, but I just couldn't stay on model. But I discovered I really liked the approach. Not so much the cartoonyness, but the simplicity. I'd long been a fan of Alex Toth, and doing stuff really allowed me to channel into that even more. Then I reread Bruce Timm and Paul Dini's MAD LOVE and the thing just clicked for me. HAMMER OF THE GODS was the first time I tried the style on my own stuff. Then I did BULLETPROOF MONK for Image, I wanted to stay in a mainstream kind of style but use the new simplicity I found along with some other designy things I wanted to try. Then the work went away, I contacted Brian, I started showing him this new stuff and told him I wanted to do crime books like this... and well, you know the rest.
SC: Ever plan on drawing a project with the older style?
MO: Not really. Sort of. See, part of the problem with the way I drew before is that I had no focus. I may try and draw "realistically" again at some point in the far future, but it will be with new knowledge. So although I may try something "like" the old style, it will never look like that again. There are certain elements that seem to stay the same though. Elements that make for a better cartoony or abstract (like BULLETPROOF MONK) style. We may actually do a compilation of BPM at Image.
SC: Sounds cool! For those that may have missed it what was BULLETPROOF MONK about?
MO: 3 issues. Thank you very much, I'll be here all week.
SC: Ha! So about that monk.....
MO: It was a martial arts book. Very KUNG FU the series, with some neat character stuff by the writer, very influenced by Wong Kar Wai films. Fun stuff. John Woo optioned it for a film.
SC: A compilation of it sounds great! You've actually had a couple of compilations come out this past year, POWERS and FOOT SOLDIERS, and there seems to be a big push for trade paperbacks in general. From a personal standpoint, do you enjoy tpbs or standard books better?
MO: I love them. I love buying them and reading them. Its better than having five row six issues strewn about (I often loose an issue) or sometimes I forget that I already bought an issue because so much time has passed between them. I know some people just see them as a marketing ploy, but for me, its really not. For me, its the truest form of the work. Unless its X-Men and its just a long never ending story.
SC: Cool. I love paperbacks myself, especially when the creators gives us so much extra stuff like you and Brian (Bendis) gave us on POWERS. Then it's almost like a dvd! Any plans on collecting HAMMER OF THE GODS when it's done in this fashion.
MO: We hope so. It's not as easy when your an indie black and white!
SC: And believe me i know all about that! Then lets make sure everyone knows about it! So the next obvious question is what's HAMMER OF THE GODS about? And where did the inspiration for it come from?
MO: A man not only looses faith in the Gods, but feels abandoned by them. So, being a Viking, he seeks revenge. He and his parents had spent their lives dedicated to the Gods, and when Modi returns from a far off journey and finds them dead from a giants attack, he's pretty upset that the gods didn't protect them. So he spends the first few issues kicking ass, finding a way into Asgard and meets some giants, valkaries, witches, trolls and all that fun stuff. The last two issues are giant Kirby like battles!
The inspiration came from Led Zepplin's tune the IMMIGRANT SONG. ZEPPLIN RULES!
SC: Awesome! HAMMER is really different from POWERS, do you approach each comic with a different mind set?
MO: Very much so. Everything I do in POWERS is pre thought. It's done for a specific reason. Planning is put into every panel, every gesture, especially the facial expression.
HAMMER is completely from the gut. I don't plan, I don't know, I just do. Sometimes, I make mistakes, but generally, I'm really happy with the spontaneous results.
SC: Do alot of these differences come from the way Brian Bendis and Mark Wheatley work?
MO: Sure. In POWERS, I get a full script, and I marry my vision with Brian's. In HAMMER, Mark is writing from my plot and breakdowns, so he leaves little or no description.
SC: Since we've begun talking about it, lets move to POWERS for abit. Your art is very cinematic on that title, are movies influential in the way you approach a page? And if so, what movies have you felt have had that affect?
MO: Film is a big part of it. Brian started me on a strict diet of Scorsese(TAXI DRIVER is one of my faves) films, Anthony Mann's early crime flicks like TMEN, CHINATOWN, stuff like that. I see and think of POWERS in film format. That's why I do the repeating panels, a single point of view camera. It wouldn't work in other comics, but something like POWERS, where the focus is the characters, what's being said and thought, it's completely needed here.
SC: So then it seems that POWERS maybe the perfect translation from comic to film. How do you feel about the upcoming movie and how much input have you had in it?
MO: SHOW ME THE MONEY! Sorry, I, uh mean, I'm really happy that a great company like Sony and a producer like Mace Neufeld MEN IN BLACK) are in charge of it. But it's a long, long road from deal to a finished movie, and tons of things can alter or change, for better or worse the concept. So I'm hopeful, but I'm keeping it out of my mind. Honestly, I have too much on my plate to even think about it.
SC: Speaking of plates, besides POWERS and HAMMER, you're working with Kevin Smith on BLUNTMAN AND CHRONIC. How's that going?
MO: Lots of penis'. Many peni. No kidding. It's the funniest, rudest most outlandish thing I've ever read or drawn! It's great fun. It's the kind of humor I usually reserve for my good pals, but here it is, all laid out in the open! Did I mention I'm drawing a lot of penis'?
SC: That's alot of penis! I'm sure the part of our audience is looking forward to that! Let me jump back abit now and ask you about musical inspiration, you said Zep's IMMIGRANT SONG is an inspiration for HAMMER, does music play a role in your creative process at all?
MO: Oh yea, I cant work in silence. The voices come over me. Sometimes I Iisten to stuff that fits the mood, other times to keep me awake, or to hypnotize me into thinking I'm awake. Also, new music is always good to keep me glued to my desk. Man, I just drew the biggest penis I've ever drawn. Jeesus.
SC: So what's the perfect penis drawing music?
MO: CHARLIE's ANGELS soundtrack. No joke. Baby Got Back- " my anaconda don't want none unless you got buns hun! whsh-crack!"
SC: Hahahaha. Other than that what else spins in your cd player while working?
MO: All kinds of craziness. Today, I had the soundtrack to a 60's Samurai TV series called ZATUICHI, I had the Robert McKee tapes on writing on, Soft hits of the 70's, Christopher Cross, Tito Peuente and unknown Tech stuff from Napster. Daft Punk is also good to draw penis' to.
SC: The writing tapes are interesting. I know you plot out HAMMER, but any plans on doing any scripting?
MO: Yep. I want to be a full on writer one day. I've been studying and practicing for about a year. There are certain things I can write fully now and feel good about it, but I hope to have the ability to write good solid all around work within two years. Just because I can draw, come up with interesting ideas and tell a story, doesn't mean I can write. That's a big difference that too many artist don't know.
SC: I absolutely agree Mike. That's some fantastic news for all though, care to share what kind of projects Mike Avon Oeming the writer would like to work on?
MO: More of my own stuff. I have one thing in the works now that I'm only writing and overseeing the art, like a producer. And two or three others concepts I'm building on. One is called MICE TEMPLAR which there are some links to on my old site.
SC: Cool and as far as art what projects lie ahead?
MO: POWERS continues as always. We will follow HAMMER up with another mini. I'll be doing one of the ULTIMATE TEAM UP's with Capt. America right after Jay and Bob is done.
SC: What about the penises?! Those don't sound like penis projects to me! Don't hold out on us buddy!
MO: Is it Penises or Penis'? Anyway, it's for BLUNTMAN AND CHRONIC. I've become the Farrely Bros of mainstream comics. :)
SC: OH! I wasn't sure if you were pulling my leg or not before, ha awesome! Anyway, I got one last question to close this up: What's the one question that interviewers never ask you?
MO: What's it like to pull up Brian Bendis out of writer obscurity? :)
SC: Ha! Thanks a lot for the interview Mike. We look forward to all your projects, penis' or not!