[Interview] Michael Avon Oeming Talks ‘The Victories’

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When it comes to comic book super teams, everyone has their favorite. The one that should be on everyone’s radar these days is Michael Avon Oeming’s “The Victories”. The prolific artist of “Powers” and “Abe Sapien” has revitalized the team dynamic in his creation of flawed, but utterly fascinating assembly of heroes, villains, shadowy councils and what motivates and shapes them all.

Oeming sat down with Bloody-Disgusting to chat about his series, where it all came from, and where it’s going. Also be sure to check out the insane contest we have going on right now with Dark Horse Comics in which you can win the first two trades of “The Victories” as well as original artwork.

Bloody-disgusting: Where did all of this come from? How did The Victories come into existence and how long was it gestating before you felt it was ready to share?

Michael Avon Oeming: It came out of planting seeds in the first story arc of the Victories where the title was referring to Faustus’ personal Victories… I needed more of a world to fill out the universe for Faustus and a lot of it revolved around my love of weird conspiracies and esoterica. I started to populate the world with that, making references to Coast to Coast AM radio show, moon conspiracies and shadowy governmental nonsense. I continued to push the personal and emotional angles of the characters with this larger social anxiety of conspiracies and paranoia as a backdrop for it.

BD: Readers can no doubt recognize the archetypes of the heroes and villains depicted in The Victories. You’ve managed to pull a fresh take on the genre – how did you do it?

MAO: Well first of all, thank you. I think the superhero world is as open and full of fresh possibilities as any well run genre, all you have to do is find a POV on it. Notice in the Victories there aren’t many costumed villains? I figured even in a world of powers, regular humans are evil enough to still be the main threat that heroes would have to battle. That’s a nice metaphor for the heroes themselves too.

BD: Your characters seem more realistically flawed than in any other series that comes to mind. How did you decide who was messed up and in which way? Did someone like “Faustus” logically make sense to be a self-loathing alcoholic after his tarnished origin?

MAO: Hmm, sadly I’m just pulling issues either from myself or people I know. DD has a lot of body issues because honestly there isn’t a woman that I’ve known well who hasn’t. Society puts an insane amount of body issues on women…. men to, but obviously women get it way worse. Those issues are varied and specific to each person, but its as common as depression and anxiety. Not all of the characters are stricken so, some of them just have quirky personality traits. I’m getting a bit into that with Sai now, one of the characters we’ve seen the least of.

BD: I think what is compelling about the series to readers is the no-holes-barred approach to this world The Victories inhabit. There is no sugar-coating, it’s a hard R rated / HBO uncompromising creation you’ve come up with here. Was that important in bringing this series to life?

MAO: Well, because the first story was a very personal one, I knew looking at the rest of the heroes in Victories would require the same “realistic” treatment. I mean, it’s still way out there, but I want the characters to feel real. Every writer does and every writer handles it in a different way, mine was to look deeply into the characters flaws, get in there, set up camp and start a fire.

BD: Then there’s D.D. Mau, the breakout star of the first arc for me, personally. ”Look at me! I got ‘em!” “I’m awesome!” “Did anyone see me? I was kicking ass!” An adrenaline junkie with superpowers and self-image issues. Wow. You’ve really captured lightning in a bottle here. Tell us about the genesis of her.

MAO: DD is so fun, I love writing her. She is based on a type, I think we all know someone like DD, someone who can never get enough attention and isn’t afraid to ask for it. Writing her almost feels like cheating because she’s so easy to write. They real key is choosing an obnoxious trait and contrasting that with deeply heroic acts. That conflict is what makes an interesting character. Contrast, contrast, contrast.

BD: The first volume focused on Faustus. This current arc, Transhuman, focuses on D.D. Mau. Is this a conscious decision or happy accident? Will each story come through the eyes of a different character?

MAO: Yea I definitely wanted to focus on different characters for different arcs. I was hoping to do one per arc, but decided to mix it up. That change just came about in writing it organically and letting unpredictable things happen and dictate the story. Link was never meant to be a big part of the story, but he’s becoming a major character.

BD: The complexity and brevity of D.D. Mau is impressive to say the least. There is always an outcry for more female comic book characters as well as why their series don’t last. Where did she start for you?

MAO: I had her worked out pretty early on. I’m glad you like her, she’s def the break out character. Flaws always make characters (and art) better I think.

BD: There seems to be layers upon layers to her. Did you come up with the image first or have what the character is about and then chisel away until you find it?

MAO: She was an image first- when I needed a team for Faustus in the first arc, I think they all came immediately- and only Sleeper had a slightly different look. The rest of the Victories like DD look exactly as I drew them the very first time. It was like they were waiting for me.

BD: This world feels so lived in, with the scars to prove it. How do you create that sense of established setting so easily in a new series?

MAO: Hope. Hah, honestly, you try your best every time and sometimes you are more successful than others. I think using iconic character types and conspiracies you may have heard something about helps to create a subtext to this world before you even start and that helps. But I have to work fast and hard to show you this is a unique world and characters, not stenciled reality.

BD: Masks hiding deeper troubles are a recurring theme throughout the series. Is there something to hide behind everyone who wears a mask in The Victories?

MAO: Mostly. But I honestly think most people are like that, and that’s why the metaphor works so well with superheroes. I think most people are carrying some kind of pain, secret or nagging something that ghosts them with every step. Most people anyway.

BD: I particularly enjoy the multitude of heroes that pop up in a panel here and there. How many heroes and villains do you have waiting in the wings in the world of The Victories?

MAO: Lots. I like dropping in a character you only see for a moment and then having them come back many issues later to play a bigger part, it’s a great way to build a world. The thing is, you have to follow it up, it cant just be random. Sometimes these characters grow into something much larger than what you originally planned, and that’s always a pleasant surprise. At the same time, a story can call for a character that you’ve had lots of plans for to die or take a completely different path with.

BD: You can tell just by reading that this is a passion project for you. Are there any others that are coming soon? Any spinoffs? What can you tease us with to stay tuned?

MAO: We are having a blast. Scott and I love talking story on the Victories and I always love working with Nick Filardi on colors be it the Victories, Powers, or Takio. So far, we are just planning on telling one story, but who knows what the future will hold?

Interview by – Your Friendly Neighbourhood Brady