Olympus #1Before there were superheroes, there were gods. And in the upcoming Image series Olympus, gods walk again. Castor and Pollox were two brothers granted eternal life by the Greek god Zeus, and now 3,000 years later they continue to be in his service. In this modern day and age they’re hunting an exiled god.
Oh yes, gods do exist.
Scheduled to debut on May 20th, the four issue Olympus miniseries is from two newcomers in the comics cadre: writer Nathan Edmondson and artist Christian Ward. This modern take on classic mythology has garnered considerable acclaim even prior to its release, and Newsarama gathered the pair prior to the book’s release.
Newsarama: Nathan, how would you describe this book?
Nathan Edmondson: LSD rich in vitamins. Christian's art will take you places you've never been in a graphic story, and the story itself is grounded in the mythology that has been passed down to us over the millennia. It's weighted with as much "truth" from the myths as we have been able to include, yet the story is original and forthright in its action and intrigue.
The story here is a tight arc in which the two characters we've pulled from the annals of history become alive; the reader will see them, their relationship, their nature and duty and their interaction with the gods and demigods. Olympus is about Castor and Pollux, and how they are, in effect, the hands of Olympus in the modern age.NRAMA: Let's talk about Castor and Pollux. How'd they get involved with Zeus, and what do they do for him?
NE: Castor, one afternoon, three thousand years ago, got in a fight with a farmer, who stabbed Castor, killing him. Pollux arrived to find his brother bled to death, and cried to Zeus, who was so moved by the display of passion that he granted the brothers eternal life--even immortalizing them in the stars. They were, however, to spend part of their time on Earth, and part in the Underworld, and part on Olympus. All the while, they would be in Zeus' service.
Initially they were "[s]aviors of the swift-going ships when the storm winds rage/ Over the ruthless sea" (quoting Ovid).
In our story, as time has passed, the Olympians have grown silent and removed themselves from direct contact with the Earth (the reasons for that will be explained eventually if we move forward with Olympus). And so the duties of Castor and Pollux have grown beyond their oceanic service to become, as the two of the few immortal non-gods, again, the hands of Olympus on earth.NRAMA: We know what they do – but who are Castor and Pollux as individuals?
NE: To quote the ancient writer Hesiod, they are "[t]he great Twin Brethren to whom all Dorians pray." They were sometimes described by the Hellenic poets as twins, other times as an elder and younger brother (that is the version that we have adapted). They were the "sons of Leda," the wife of King Tyndareus of Sparta, and some accounts give that Pollux was fathered by Zeus himself. They are brothers to Helen of Troy. They are known as the Gemini and the Dioscuri.
They sailed with Jason on the Argo, hunting the Golden Fleece. The Romans erected a temple to them at the Forum, in a victory celebration, which still stands today. To us they are the brothers Gemini, the servants of Olympus, two brothers with incredible histories, a sense of humor, and a time-honed ability to kick some ass.
NRAMA: What do you say, Christian – who are Castor and Pollux?
Christian Ward: Well, they're what the comic is ultimately about. They're what I fell in love with, because for all the comics flash special effects adventure the story is a simple one...about brothers. The more we travel into the story the more rounded they become, we have Pol he's the serious one, focused and determined where as Cas is the sunshine of the two, he's the one you'd go drinking with but keep an eye where your girlfriend is around. He's a real ladies man. The two are very much opposite , almost in the grand tradition of every buddy movie, only here their love for each other is always apparent despite the bickering. I find that really refreshing.
NRAMA: And what are they up against in this book?
NE: At first they hunt a Jekyll-like monster haunting the streets of London, a fierce creature whose identity is known only to Zeus and the brothers. Their fight to capture this beast, however, causes a far more fearsome prisoner of Hades to escape onto earth, and this newly released creature holds a millennia-old thirst for vengeance that threatens one of the most basic foundations of life. The brothers Gemini must summon a will beyond the service they are bound to and face even some of their own past mistakes.
NRAMA: Greek gods reflected their times – -- since you're the artist Christian, can you tell us how they look like in these modern times?CW: The characters in the book are very much designed to look modern, but I'm using something that I'm referring to as God Activity. Much of my art has a psychedelic edge to it, where I let loose with elements of design and kinetic energy. A friend of mine once described my art as having God Bubbles. He talked about how often in medieval art, there would be these bubbles of light and that these represented God. It always stuck with me and perhaps now it's quite apt. I'm using this when there is 'God Activity', filling the page with more color, more light, more 'god bubbles' and characters that are themselves Gods often have more design elements appearing either on them or around them where they are on page.
NRAMA: Where did the idea for Olympus originally come from?NE: Reading the mythology. Something about Castor and Pollux stuck with me; I immediately saw them as endearing characters and in my mind I could see them acting out their brotherhood through different epochs in history. I thought, after three thousand years of life they would have some pretty incredible fighting skills, they would have seen more than any living human could ever hope to see. They would understand history beyond the best scholar and their perspective on life would fit accordingly. But still, I saw them as very human: I jotted down once that I should show that Pollux, for example, has still never been able to figure out a Rubix cube--though he keeps trying. So there was an unending and wonderfully rich tapestry I could weave from the very brief descriptions of the brothers that is found in the texts.
The actual arc for this mini I came up with in some form or another, but then Christian helped me to shape it into what it is now. That and some trial and error and editor's feedback with it brought it to be what it is today.
But my interest in mythology runs deeper; I became interested through my study of art history and after I had the immense opportunity to study under a professor who had been part of the team that discovered Odysseus' palace on the island of Ithaca. But mythology is a fantastic subject matter for art, especially in the Neo-Classical, Romantic, and Renaissance periods (at least, those are my favorites for the material).
Olympus hasn't yet been "hatched" as an idea--it is constantly "hatching." That is, we have this first arc but I'm constantly getting new ideas for where the universe can go. Hence the broad title, I suppose.
NRAMA: Will this focus on just Greek gods, or could we see other pantheons down the road?NE: In this book, I wanted to embrace the Greek myths exclusively. There is enough in the Hellenic texts to make 100 comics, and with Olympus there is no need to mix the mythology with that of other cultures and epochs. That said, however, and a brief read through Joseph Campbell will show how nearly identical myths have recurred from age to age, and that is a fact I have in mind to possibly develop, if only in the subtext, in the future.
I have seen many books that reach out and take myths from everywhere, ideas as they fit the story. I wanted to write a story that adhered to the "rules" of a mythology, that followed the writings and traditions as if we were actually living there and then--or rather, if they were living here, and now. I also feel a sense of "Who am I?" when shifting around the rules of a mythology that has survived for 3-4 thousand years. Although...we have made some of our own changes, so perhaps I'm due for a lightening strike from Zeus at some point. (Hey, that gives me an idea for marketing...)
NRAMA: Before we go, let's gaze into the future. Olympus charts in at four issues --- if it goes well, could you do more?
NE: Yes, it's four issues...to start with. It's a great story and if it's a shotgun blast, we have plenty of shells left.