Although Kyle Rayner was allegedly killed in the early scenes from The Omega Men #1, writer Tom King now admits that his series is actually an "epic Kyle story," and the creative team's plans for Kyle are "what the whole series is about."
King, who's working with artist Barnaby Bagenda on The Omega Men, first introduced the characters as a band of terrorists who had recorded an assassination of former Green (and later White) Lantern Kyle Rayner. As a result, they're being hunted by most of the Vega system.
But in The Omega Men #2, the creative team revealed that Kyle's actually alive. And in the first three issues, King has been twisting the story of the DC space characters to the point where it's difficult to tell who's the good guys and who are villains. Weaving in the religions of all the cultures and characters involved — even referencing Kyle Rayner's own faith — the comic's been exploring the motivations of both sides of the war, bending readers' perceptions almost scene by scene.
With this week's publication of The Omega Men #3 and the introduction of Princess Kalista, King once again threw a new twist into the plot. Newsarama talked to the writer about The Omega Men and what readers can expect next.
Newsarama: Tom, how would you describe the structure you're using for The Omega Men? It feels like it's part "show me don't tell me," but also "show me just enough to pique my interest." Do you consciously think about the style in which you're writing this series and revealing the plot? Is it a conscious thought?
Tom King: I have so many conscious thoughts about it! I fret over it day and night!
I'm taking readers into a very complicated word. There are six planets in Vega, all of which have their own history. And there's different politics on each planet. And I only have 20 pages, which is so few pages — I envy those old writers who had 22 or 24. So I have to compress it, because there's so much going on underneath.
But what I want the reader to take away is not all that crap I have built into my outline, but an exciting story that has tension and release. I write all that background, but I have to find the thing that gets you excited and coming back for more.
Nrama: Let's talk about Kyle Rayner. We found out in The Omega Men #2 that Kyle's still alive. He's being forced to be part of the Omega Men. Why does it make sense to have Kyle as part of this comic book? Is it because he's from Earth, and therefore represents our culture and our point of view as readers?
King: There are three or four basic reasons I wanted to use Kyle Rayner. First of all, it's such an easy metaphor, because he was the White Lantern who fought against the Black Lanterns. And right was right and wrong was wrong. And here, I'm throwing him into a gray world. So he's just the perfect character for that.
I also love the character! People forget he's a character of color, and he has this rich history. He was the Green Lantern I read for 10 years. I write sexy Dick Grayson in Grayson, and I think Kyle's a sexy character, so I kind of like that part about him, so I wanted to bring that out.
Finally, I wanted to write an epic Kyle story that had Kyle at the center of it, because, again, this is a complicated world. And it needed the perspective of someone who's from Earth, who sort of got into this accidentally.
Unlike every other Lantern, that's what makes Kyle special, is that he wasn't chosen because he was special. He was randomly chosen. That's his origin. He's just coming out of a club and there was Ganthet, and he gave him the ring. He wasn't chosen because he doesn't have fear; he wasn't chosen because he hates someone or because he's scared or for any of the color reasons. He was just chosen because he was there.
And to have him in this environment, I think, really brings in the reader.
Nrama: That's interesting. OK, let's talk more about the "gray world" you're focusing on here. At any given moment, I'm not sure who the bad guys are, particularly now that Kalista has shown up. Is that part of the point?
King: Yeah, you're exactly right. That's part of the point. You should constantly be thinking, wait, is this the good guy? Is this the bad guy? Who am I supposed to be rooting for?
To be perfectly honest, I don't know who the good guys and bad guys are. I feel like, if I did and I told people, then you would sort of see my bias in it. I want you, the readers, to discover it the same way I am. I'm writing what the characters do. I'm trying not to judge them.
Because that's real life, right? You live in this environment. You try to be good. You try to have people who are good. But then the people you think are good are not. And the people you think are not good are the opposite. Life is more complicated than that. And comic books should, every chance they get, try to strive to mirror what we have in our reality every day.
Nrama: In the second issue, you showed Kyle Rayner praying, and so many of the characters in Omega Men refer to their deity. So along with the gray area of who's bad and who's good, you're also mixing these different faith systems into the comic. Not shying away from religion?
King: Absolutely. I'm half Jewish, half Christian. So I sort of grew up in a very mixed environment. My father because this California sort of Buddhist, so I was around Buddhist temples when I was a kid. So I had the church and Buddhism and temple.
And then I spent years abroad living in Muslim countries, having that routine.
So I feel like I've seen it from several perspectives. I don't dismiss religion. I don't have that attitude. I think it's a completely legitimate way to see the world.
And I think it's the way the majority of people see the world. And I think that should be part of the story.
Nrama: The inclusion of the quotes at the end of each issue — is this a peak into the perspective you just described?
King: Well, there are two reasons. Part of it is what you said — William James is famous as this pragmatist, and he's one of my favorite American thinkers, and he wrote about religion from the perspective of, OK, let's take this seriously and scientifically and respect what religion can do, but also be aware of how it can be bad — both at the same time, in this sort of magical way. He wrote about religious experience and how profound religious experience was.
And also, it comes from a personal place. It's very bizarre to say this, but my mother passed away, and I got from her bookshelf — after she died, I went to her house and I got a book, and it was a book of quotes. And just going through them was very comforting to me. It was her book of quotes.
And there were a ton of William James quotes, and those are the ones that stuck out to me. So it makes it personal to me to put these quotes in, because they really comforted me at a hard time.
Nrama: OK, let's talk about the situation now, after this week's Omega Men #3. Princess Kalista's introduction — and the cliffhanger about her relationship to the Omega Men — makes you question who's in power and who the good guys are. Can you talk about that character, why you wanted to approach her from this perspective, and how this is now part of Kyle's story within the organization?
King: Kyle's the center of this, and what their plans are for Kyle, which are still mysterious, is what the whole series is about.
Kalista's my new favorite character to write. This is the most fun I've had writing a comic, probably, ever. The Omega Men #3.
She comes from my daughter — I have a 5-year-old daughter and she's obsessed with princesses. I'm always like, "Princesses kick ass! They live in castles but they have swords and they're really cool!" And she's like, "No, they wear dresses and get married!"
So it was like, I want a kick-ass princess who has a sword and stabs people and can beat up the entire Omega Men. Then I was like, wait a minute, I'm a comic book writer! I can do that!
And Scrapps was based on my daughter. Having them talk to each other was like my favorite moment of the book.
Nrama: I have two daughters, so I recognized her during that scene!
King: Exactly, right? You know what I'm saying! I wanted to write a princess that was as cool as Wolverine was to me when I was a kid.
And give her the role in this book that she had in the first series, which was she was basically the heart of the first series. And she was almost a lead character. And so I wanted to give her that in Omega Men too.
Nrama: We haven't mentioned the art. What does Barnaby Bagenda bring to the book?
King: Well, first of all he brings style. He's not a classic sort of DC artist. He's not what you would expect.
He is able to sort of manipulate emotions with pencils. And he's from Indonesia, and Indonesia has such a complicated history. We've had conversations about religion versus communism and all that stuff. And so he's coming from a place from knowing this conflict from a whole other point of view than I know it. And he brings that to the table too.
And also, he's just frickin' patient, because the planning that goes into this book is amazing. And the fact that he doesn't tell me to go shove off every time I turn in a script is such a blessing. It's great to have him.
Nrama: Then as a final question, Tom, what can people expect coming up in the book?
King: In The Omega Men #4, and this was planned from the beginning — if you were a Starman fan, you know how Starman had those issues where they sort of set aside everything to do like a special issue? #4 is that issue for us.
And Toby Cypress, who's an amazing, almost avant grade artist — almost from the Paul Pope kind of school — is doing the issue. And the grid I usually use is going to blow up for an issue. And you're going to see the whole structure of the series sort of garble and then come back together.
We're using a comic trick I don't think I've ever seen before.
The first arc is 12 issues, and it's very tight. I think almost every panel is planned out. So you can look forward to this mysterious story that you see bubbling — it resolves itself in The Omega Men #12. It's almost like a complete novel in 12 issues.