You almost certainly haven’t heard of The Omega Men.
“I think ‘relatively obscure’ is understating it,” says Tom King, the writer of DC Entertainment’s new series “The Omega Men” after I suggest the protagonists of his book might be a bit unknown. “I think they’re horribly obscure.”
That’s a pretty fair assessment for a group of characters that have been around since 1981 but never really became a marquee team in the DC Universe.
For the new series — which released its first issue on June 3, with a story by King, pencils by Barnaby Bagenda and colours by Romulo Fajardo, Jr — you don’t really need to know a thing about them in order to follow along.
“The overall premise is that there’s this empire, the Citadel Empire. They’re sort of like the British Empire at the height of its power. They control a bunch of colonies, a solar system, and they have controlled them for 200 years. There have been rebellions, and these rebellions have been crushed very cruelly. But there’s six people who still fight on.”
Like Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy — who were far from popular before they starred in a blockbuster movie — King plans to use the fact that no no one knows a thing about The Omega Men as a strength. The Omega Men, however, have no movie on the way — and no real expectations in place for what is and isn’t off-limits, or what a story about them would even be about.
This was signalled in a big way last month, when DC released an “Omega Men” preview story where the titular team appear to execute former Green Lantern Kyle Rayner on live video.
“The stakes are high from day one,” says King. “Readers don’t need to know anything about The Omega Men or read the first run, that’s totally unnecessary. What this is is DC going big with a big, epic cosmic story. We’re telling a saga along the lines of ‘Star Wars.’ The basic premise is simple, that classic ‘rebels against the empire’ [setup] — but we twist it by grounding it in the reality and threats of today, and setting it in a world where those rebels will do anything to defeat the empire, and the empire will do anything to defeat those rebels.”
It’s science fiction via “Game of Thrones,” with a dash of contemporary relevance.
“I want to do two things with it: on one hand I want to do a story that you read and hits you on a gut level and you get up in your seat and you shout ‘yes!'” says King. “Underneath that, there are a lot of questions here about colonialism, asymmetrical warfare, questions about who we think our heroes our and who we think our enemies are. And these are questions that you read about in the paper every day.”
These ideas carry over into the art. The series’ covers, by artist Trevor Hutchinson, are done up to look like propaganda posters — King hints that there’s a bit of story significance to them, but says readers will have to wait and see exactly how they fit in.
For the main interior art, King can’t help but geek out a little.
“I am working with an amazing artist that nobody has ever heard of because this is his first book!” says King. “His name is Barnaby Bagenda, he’s out of Indonesia. What he can bring to it, living in a country with its own history of terrorism and empire, is amazing. We had six different artists try out for the book … he came in and did these versions of them that were very grounded. I mean, this is a series about people who believe in religion, people who come from someplace.”
King says the first 12 issues of “The Omega Men” will be a self-contained story that will fit nicely into a graphic novel further along the line.
“This is the comic I always wanted to write as a kid,” says King. “I wanted to write one of those things that could be contained in one graphic novel, that just took you out of the whole world and you just got sucked into it, where every little thought was thought of ahead of time, and every storytelling technique they could use they gave to you.”
“I feel like I got a fastball straight down the middle, and I hope my swing connects,” he adds.
“The Omega Men” #1 is on sale now in finer comics shops and on digital platforms like ComiXology.
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