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A Superhero, Cop and Mouse Walk into a Comic Book

by msuarts on February 23, 2011

Alan Vallee

He’s drawn the world’s best police procedural, he’s drawn fantastic mice, he’s had a movie adapted from his work. Is there anything this man can’t do? The Montclarion recently sat down with Michael Avon Oeming via phone to find out.

A&E: “Powers” is probably the work that brought you to most people’s attention first. Can you talk a little about that?

Oeming: “Powers” was a bit of an overnight success. It happened about 10 years into my career. I started at 14 as an inker for a strip called “Newsltralia” for a small company and spent a number of years doing little stuff here and there. Eventually I got my break by doing a “Judge Dredd” comic for DC, or at least as much of one as I could.

In the mid-90s, the market crashed and I had to find new ways to work. I met Dave Mack and Brian Bendis and worked on their stuff in my own style for a while. Eventually Brian sent me a pitch for what would become “Powers.” His career was just starting up and we got immensely lucky and got started in the right time and place. By issue three I was able to finally quit my job as a security guard. It was a tough time and I wound up drawing the first few issues of “Powers” in a cramped booth there.

A&E: So what are you doing now?

Oeming: I work in Seattle now for Valve Software. I’m a Jersey boy at heart but it’s good to be here. The pizza is terrible, but you can’t beat the sushi here for freshness. It’s very different from working with comics; these are people that work on games. I’ve been involved in the “Team Fortress 2” comics that get released with the updates and a lot of work goes into them, even by the programmers. Then we released a full-length graphic novel bridging “Left 4 Dead” one and two called “The Sacrifice.” It was a lot of fun to do a videogame comic that wasn’t terrible.

A&E: Another one of your big-name projects is “Mice Templar.” How did that one happen?

Oeming: I’ve actually been working on it for about the same time as “Powers,” maybe even a month or two more. I’ve always been a fan of the epic fantasy stories and I wanted to do one myself, bigger than I was able to draw comfortably. Brian Glass, who I’ve known since the early 90s was a good friend of mine. We did a seminar one time which led to “Mice Templar.” We got a spine of six issues done and then it became this huge epic that it is now.

A&E: One thing I’ve noticed is that having children changes one’s creative process a lot. How did your kids change yours?

Oeming: When my son was born, I had a lot less time to work. My wife had a full-time job and I was drawing comics so I was the stay at home father. At that point though, there wasn’t enough work to feed my family and I knew that if I wanted to do comics that I would need to find a simpler way to make pages. I definitely was influenced by Kevin Nolan – he had a simpler style that I stole and used to make my pages quicker so I could spend more time with my son. It also forced me to cut all the time-wasting out of my style, like revving myself up with movies and books. Now I sit down to draw and I draw. Having a child has been the best thing for my career—it made me better.

A&E: You have a new project coming up, “Takio.” Want to tell me about it?

Oeming: “Takio” is a creator-owned project by me and Brian Bendis. It’s about the relationship between my wife Taki and her daughter Olivia. There’s a very natural bond between them to the extent that they would joke about being sisters. They would always be talking about comics or videogames or anything else and it was like they were sisters.

The comic was actually Olivia’s idea, and we’re running with it. Bendis came up with the story, since both he and Taki were adopted and had that bond. Instead of drawing and writing something we’ve created, we’re writing and drawing the people we know. It’s a departure from our normal style and it’s been a fun romp.

A&E: Who’s been your favorite person to work with?

Oeming: I’ve worked with Brian Bendis a lot, it’s where I got my big break. I’ve also done a lot of work with Dan Burman and my wife, Taki Soma. Obviously, I’ve done a lot of work with Brian Glass on “Mice Templar” and it’s been fantastic. I’m sorry Wife, but I have to give it to Bendis. We can read each other’s minds and we’re at a very strange place where we can write the vaguest of outlines and know all the details.

A&E: This is a slightly evil question, but what is your single favorite issue you’ve worked on?

Oeming: This is actually easy. I once did an issue of “The Spirit” for DC that had a Kevin Nolan cover. It’s the only thing I’ve worked on that I’ve written and drawn myself. I’m immensely proud of “Takio” and “Powers,” but this is something I worked on entirely by myself, and it was an honor to work on “The Spirit” since I’m a huge fan of Will Eisner. You might not know it, but I hate most of my work.

Michael’s newest project, “Takio,” is currently available in a comic book store near you.

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