The super-hero genre is often used to tell stories about the intricacies of being a super-hero and being gifted (and sometimes cursed) with their powers, but the genre is also used by some to tell stories of humanity in the context of capes and crime-fighters. For cartoonist Michael Avon Oeming, he’s been telling stories using superheroes from his early 90s debut on the independent all the way to his hallmark collaboration with Brian Michael Bendis on Powers. And now, the prolific writer/artist is creating a new universe of heroes and villains to tell his most personal story yet: the story of The Victories.
Announced earlier this year at Emerald City Comicon, The Victories is a five-issue series published by Dark Horse that follows the raucous (and sometimes raunchy) super-heroic world guarded over by the titular super team and what happens when one of their own gets dragged down the path of anger, retribution and revenge. That hero is Faustus, a wise-cracking but moral hero whose methods are put into question when a rebellious vigilante named Jackal calls him out for what he perceives as Faustus only doing half the job in terms of fighting crime.
While some comic creators and fans look at the superhero genre as insular and a crutch to more personal storytelling, Oeming’s The Victories is comes from years of counseling and therapy for his own personal issues. With The Victories set to launch on August 15, Newsarama spoke with the 20+ year comic veteran about his own brand of super-heroes.Newsarama: Thanks for talking to us today, Mike. What is The Victories about?
Michael Avon Oeming: The Victories is a five issue mini series that blossomed out of a year of therapy. I had been experiencing panic attacks and severe anxiety for a long time. The therapy offered lots of insights into myself and my experiences that was really excited to get onto paper, I knew almost immediately they would make good stories, especially as a metaphor for super heroes.
Also, art therapy has always been good for the soul. I hope to do several other volumes that focus on different members of the Victories and culminates into one large final story.
This first arc is about Faustus, a wise cracking hero and his struggles with the origins of his powers that will bring him into direct conflict with his master. Meanwhile the city is being taken over by a power drug called the Float.I use the Victories to tell a lot of stories about myself, or people I know. My mother had an insanely hard life, full of some of the worst experiences I've ever heard and I saw those things slowly destroy her, along with her alcoholism and drug abuse. We were very close so I can relate to those things through her. I have my own demons to juggle, but as a writer, she is a deep well to draw stories and influence and motivations from. Most of the Wild Rover, a story I'm doing for Dark Horse Presents is about my mother’s fight with alcoholism. But I also know people who have been through horrible things so I'm drawing on the personal and external for these issues like drug and alcohol abuse, anxiety, paranoia, sexual and child abuse. These aren't all happening at the same time in The Victories, but they are internal and external experiences I want to bring to comics.
Nrama: What kind of hero is Faustus?
Oeming: He takes on a playful devil image as Faustus, though like many heroes, he is plagued by a past that he hinds behind his mask. His powers are from an energy in his hands that can cut through anything along with belt full of tricks and martial arts training. He and the other Victories have taken an oath to not kill, but surely this will be tested by the end of the series when he confronts his painful past and his mentor, the Mark.Nrama: And Jackal, what is he?
Oeming: He's the catalyst for our story. The Jackal is an animistic vigilante who has no trouble with killing when he see's fit and like the best villains he is true to his core beliefs and personal code. His moral compass is twisted, but more steady and true then most heroes. I think that's one of the things people love about villains like hitmen, Yakuza or classic Mafia- they have a code they live and die by. Something you can count on. He sees what he thinks is something hypocritical in Faustus, the fact that he won’t kill. Jackal doesn't believe you can fight crime in a crooked city and not be a killer. He's going to challenge Faustus’ beliefs on this and it all comes to a head in about issue 4.
Nrama: And how does Jackal see Faustus?Oeming: He wants to use Faustus to prove his point. Isn't that what all self righteous people want? "I’m right and you're wrong" is always a strong character motivation, just look around the world right now, be it in politics, religion and sadly, in most relationships.
Nrama: And flipping that, what does Faustus think of Jackal?
Oeming: He just sees him as a base creature, a madman who thinks he's making the world better through his insane actions. He knows Jackal has a specific motivation, a point of view. He's not going out to hurt and kill innocent people, he only wants to hurt and kill people he thinks deserves it.
Nrama: Another player in this is a character named Link. How is he influencing Faustus?
Oeming: Oh man, I think Link might be the saddest character I've ever written. I hope to do more with him. He's no hero or villain, if he wasn't born with powers, he'd just be some schmuck. But he has the power to read the minds/history of anyone he touches, and he uses this power for petty crime. We first see him where he is forced to go on a home invasion with some thugs. During the invasion, they are ambushed by Faustus and Link touches him, when he does, he "reads" Faustus' horrible past and accidentally triggers those memories in Faustus which really begin to tear him apart. In prison, Link knows he's rape bait, and quickly goes to the Jackal with this information for protection. Now Jackal has the information he needs to destroy Faustus, a way to manipulate him into becoming the killer he knows Faustus should be.Nrama: The title of the book, The Victories, is the name of the superhero team Faustus is a part of. Given their name’s on the book, how big a role do they play in this?
Oeming: While The Victories is about a team, this arc is not about the team as a hole. But I am planting seeds in this arc to pick up on as we do more stories, and each arc will focus on different characters as the larger story builds until all of the stories come together in the end for one final climatic story.
There is Sleeper, a mysterious man in wrappings who can knock people out. He's much older then he seems, but little is known about him.
Metatron is a two hundred year old power figure, and he spends most of his time fighting a mystery on the moon, a story that will be integral to future stories.
Sai uses two blades and a more philosophical outlook on life, there is a nice reveal about him I'm looking forward to playing with if we get to more stories.Lady Dragon has fire powers, she the more classy and mature of the two females on the team and the other is my favorite D.D. Mau.
D.D. is a "chunky" woman with super speed, and she is young, self centered and obnoxious. D.D. Mau is kind of a racist name, but the character knows it and uses that to be even more obnoxious.
Nrama: Stepping back at this story, this seems like you’re doing an analysis and critique of anti-heroes and their place in the superhero genre. How’d this thinking come about?
Oeming: Those are the stories that have always interested me the most. Daredevil during the Frank Miller years, the Watchmen (their psychological aspect more than the dark violent stuff) and Nexus especially have been a big influence on me. These are all characters and stories where the heroes struggle with themselves just as much as their environment... and that's been my life experience too, so I think that's why I’m drawn to them.