In 2000, writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Michael Avon Oeming debuted Powers, a creator-owned series about a detective team investigating superpowered homicides.
Ten years later, Powers is still running, and Bendis and Oeming have established themselves as among the most influential talents in mainstream comics. Though both of their schedules are plenty full already, they're launching a new creator-owned project for Marvel Icon announced at New York Comic Con on Saturday called Takio.
Starting in February, it's entirely different than Powers — an all-ages graphic novel series about two superpowered teenage sisters. And it's one that hits close to home both creators.
Newsarama talked via e-mail with both Bendis and Oeming on Takio, the real-life inspirations of the comic including Bendis' daughter getting a co-creator credit, and the appeal of working with teenage characters.
Newsarama: Brian, Mike, curious to hear from both of you about the genesis of Takio — did one of you kind of come up with the seed of the idea, go to the other and flesh it out from there? Do you have sort of a "to do" list of possible shared projects?
Brian Michael Bendis: Mike and I do have a pile of projects we have been percolating over the years. Quite a few which we hope to get to the next year or two. This idea stems from a couple of conversations at my house. We definitely wanted something that was the complete opposite of powers in terms of tone... something that fans of our other books could actually share with the rest of the family but hopefully have the same honesty and storytelling surprises that people expect from us.
Like Ultimate Spider-Man, like Bone, we wanted to put something out in the market that could be enjoyed by anybody who picks it up no matter how old they are.
Over the years my house has been host to dozens of my comic book and graphic novel friends and the conversations at the dinner table are always lively and creative. Mike and I were talking about this project, still looking for that special something that made it different from the other superhero stories out there and all of a sudden my daughter Olivia threw out a couple of ideas that were so brilliant in their innocence, so creative, that we both looked at each other and Mike said: I'd totally draw that.
So that's why you will see my daughter has a co-created credit on the book. She added some amazing bits of craziness that we actually had never seen in another book. Once those pieces were put into these characters that we already cared a great deal about we knew it was time to launch this book.
Also, the success of Scarlet was very surprising and was a big reminder to me that I personally needed to do more creator-owned comics. I like that this book is not only the polar opposite of Powers it couldn't be more different than Scarlet in tone and content but made with the same level of craft. I'm very excited to put all these different flavors out.
Mike, on top of drawing a very dark and disturbing storyline for Powers, had just finished a very dark and disturbing Left 4 Dead comic book at his day job at Valve Entertainment. So he was more than ready for some all-ages fun.
Michael Avon Oeming: You know, honestly, this is unlike anything we've worked on before. Not just because of it being all ages, but because it generated out of being a family and extended family. I mean, we have our room at the Bendis’! So this started out of conversations with Brian’s daughter and my wife hanging out together and his daughter helping Brian with his stories. Brian tells her about his comics and she shoots back ideas with him. She's grown up in that environment, so it's what she does. So this is an incredibly organic project that grew out of our extended family unit.
Nrama: Having worked together on Powers for more than 10 years, how would you both describe your collaborative process at this point? Based on longevity alone, it must be pretty fluid and seamless by now.
Bendis: it really is. We trust each other so much. And I am his biggest fan in the world. I am aware of what Mike is capable of even more than he might be. I know how to write images that inspire him to go crazy.
Oeming: It's totally seamless. We've shifted the way we work together over the years, at times Brian did layouts, other times I just drew exactly what he wrote, sometimes I'd expand or collapse pages, sometimes I'm co-writing and now I'm working both digital and analog with the art. Usually, you do one thing and stick to it. I like that we've worked together this long and still find fresh ways to do things and it always works.
Nrama: The text released to press referred to Takio as a "graphic novel series." Obviously "graphic novel" is a term that can mean many things, but can we infer anything about the format from that? Might this see a manga-type release with collected editions coming first? Or am I taking things a little too literally?
Bendis: Nope. Because of our day jobs we are in a position to get a little more experimental with the format. Nothing too crazy. We are releasing the first storyline as a one shot graphic novel, regular size, that we hope will be a series of annual events.
Nrama: Moving on to the content of the book —Takio stars a multicultural family. What cultures will we see represented in the main characters? "Takio" sounds Japanese to me, but maybe just because it’s an anagram for "Taiko."
Bendis: It's a multicultural family with adoption. The older sister is adopted and her younger sister is not. I have a multicultural household with adoption, but my house is different from the one the sisters in Takio live in. But I have spent the last few years meeting literally hundreds of families of different shapes and sizes and I find it to be beautiful and amazing and wanted to represent it in my work somewhere. This was the perfect story to do that.
Oeming: My wife is Japanese and also comes from a multicultural house. Born in Japan, moved to Minnesota before she was a teen. My son is half Puerto Rican, I'm German (probably) and Brian's Jewish, I swear, we go to Brian's place and we're a United Colors of Benetton ad. Those experiences add a new level of energy to these stories and it definitely personalizes it more than other projects we've done. I mean, in this book, I'll be drawing Brian's daughter, my wife, my son, and several of Olivia's friends.
Nrama: Since character looks to be central to the book, what can you tell us about the personalities of the two sisters as the forefront of Takio?
Bendis: Taki, the older sister, is 13 and struggling with her identity and her responsibilities as the older sibling. Olivia is the youngest. She is seven and she is a hurricane of energy and silliness. Because they are living in a one parent household, Taki has a great deal of responsibility and is in charge of her a sister 24 hours a day. They are driving each other insane. But that, as they say, is where the story begins
Nrama: What can you tell us about their powers? Is the actual occurrence that gives them their powers significant, or is it just kind of the inciting event to get things going to where things need to be?
Bendis: I'm going to save that for the book because their power set is very original and that is one of the things my daughter added to the book. It’s so hard to come up with new powers. Sometimes you literally think everything has been done and then a seven-year-old comes at you with an idea that actually has not been done before.
Oeming: It's true. Olivia came up with the powers. So cute, so funny, so awesome.
Nrama: And since it's real world-based, are they going to be looking to put on costumes and the whole thing, or is the take on superheroes more grounded? What kind of threats are they facing?
Bendis: Our take on superheroes in this book is going to be based on what a 13 and 7-year-old would do if they got superpowers. Of course you would put a costume!! Of course you would become a superhero!! It's one of the fun parts of the book. They don't even question their place in the world. But the world doesn't have superheroes, they are the only ones.
But they live in a house that has already been victim to tragedy so they have to be very careful about what they do and how they do it. They also have very strict curfew, so there's that…
The accident that creates their powers also, as is the time-held tradition of the genre, creates the villainous situation they will find themselves in both the school and in the real world.
Nrama: Inevitably, fans are going to wonder how a new creator-owned project might affect the already irregular schedule of Powers, and you guys are both incredibly busy already — will Takio have any effects on the frequency of your original creator-owned book?
Bendis: Totally understandable. We were inspired by how Ed [Brubaker] and Sean [Phillips] handle going back and forth between Criminal and Incognito. But we are only taking a couple months off of Powers to do this every year, again hopefully, and then we will come back to Powers full force. Both Mike and I have notebooks of ideas for Powers and we are just days away from hearing the fate of our pilot at FX. Our enthusiasm for Powers is still very, very high, but we just have other things we want to do as well.
Oeming: I've got Takio scheduled in such a way it wont interfere with the already irregular schedule of Powers. I know that makes little sense, but it's true. Working at Valve is amazing. One of the best experiences in my life. I've learned to draw better, draw faster using digital and analog art. I contribute to work that millions of people see. I can color and paint now and have the kind of stability that most of us don't get in comics such as health care for my family. Which reminds me, support the Hero Initiative! Hell, I'm getting a flu shot today, I've not had a flu shot in 15 years!
Bendis In fact for those who haven't read Powers in a while, you should check it out. Issue six saw the return of Deena Pilgrim in a brand-new role.
Oeming: It's my favorite issue. Half-action, half-noir. It is also half-digital; the first section of the book is all on paper, the second is all-digital.
Nrama: Mike, you've been known to change up your art style pretty dramatically for different projects — how are you approaching the art for Takio?
Oeming: I'm using a monotone line style, like I did about 8 years ago on “Dragons of Fire,” a Martial Arts story I did with Ric Meyers for Inside Kung Fu magazine. It's fun, different, and challenging. It's much cartoonier than most of my work. Val Staples just handed in some amazing colors. I like this sort of animation cell style, Scott Kollins has done it for a long time, Samford Green and Sean Galloway are my favorites when it comes to this kind of thing. But Powers is all big, thick noir lines and shadows, and on Left 4 Dead I moved into a sharp pen style, allowing my Mignola influences to run wild.
Nrama: Brian, you've obviously worked extensively with teenage characters in Ultimate Spider-Man, and are now doing it again in Takio. What appeals to you about writing this demographic?
Bendis: There is absolutely nothing more fun than writing a character discovering things for the first time. It's the best. It's honest. It's pure. And that is absolutely what this book will share with Ultimate Spider-Man. In fact I told Mike that writing this felt like writing the first couple of years of Ultimate Spider-Man. I think people who like a Ultimate Spider-Man. will love this. I also think the people who don't like Ultimate Spider-Man. will love this. [Laughs]
Excited to see more all-ages material on the stands?