For years, artist Mike Oeming and writer Brian Michael Bendis have been collaborating on Powers, a comic that takes a look at the law enforcement unit that takes care of superpowered crime. But this month, Oeming and Bendis started a new project that couldn’t be more different from Powers: an all-ages graphic novel about two young girls – Taki and Olivia – who find they’ve gained incredible powers.
Okay, maybe the “powers” part is similar.
To find out more, we chatted with Mike Oeming about how the book came about, and how his process changed from working on one book to another.
MTV Geek: Even though you’ve probably done this a million times, can you just recap how Takio came about?
Mike Oeming: Takio came through our visits to Brian Bendis’ family in Portland. My wife and his oldest daughter, Olivia Bendis have a special bond. Olivia started to come up with ideas for a story about her and Taki and before we knew it, Olivia and Brian were plotting a project for us to work on. So we didn’t start off thinking we needed an all ages title or that we needed a book for girls or any of that. We were simply making a comic about our family, Brian’s daughter Olivia, and my wife, Taki Soma. My son Ethan and our friend and fellow comics pro Kelly Sue makes an appearance as the villain!
Geek: If you and Brian formed a superteam, would it be called Brike, or Mikian? Or just, “Two Michaels?”
MO: This interview is DONE!
Geek: You and Brian are… Kind of “dudes,” I think. Why an all ages book? About two girls? What was appealing about that?
MO: We honestly didn’t set out to do that. The all ages book that slants towards girls specifically was a side effect about writing a comic featuring our family. I’m very proud that this book fills a gap in the industry that is missing, but we didn’t set out to do that.
Geek: At this point, you guys have worked together for years… Was there anything different in the flow of ideas on this project, though, versus, say, Powers? And how do you guys generally work? What’s the process like?
MO: It was a lot like Powers really. The main difference is that I worked much more digitally with this. I think all of the backgrounds were drawn on my Cintiq with the help of photos and models. I wanted to keep all of my backgrounds on different layers so that colorist Nick Filardi could separate them much easier for the specific look we wanted for the book. And can we get a round of applause for Nick Filardi? How amazing are these colors?
Geek: I’m not going to get too much into spoilers, but there’s a bit of an absent parent vibe all over this thing. Why is that?
MO: That is a pretty common experience with comic creators, it’s almost instinctive for us to write about characters with a missing parental figure.
Geek: Similarly, you chose not to ever show Takio’s Mom’s face, Muppet Babies style… But we do get to see other adults. Why was this important?
MO: I like that question. I think we wanted to focus on the sisters, and not bring the dynamic of the mother into the relationship. She represents authority and responsibility, and the pressures of that will always leave some distance between children and their parents. It’s one of the things that bonds siblings.
Geek: Talking more generally, what’s your artistic approach to Taki and Olivia – how many iterations of the characters did you have? What changed over time?
MO: I had a clear picture in my mind from almost the start. I say almost because I knew I wanted to use a much cleaner, gentler style than in Powers. I was thinking of using something with more line variation than the monotone line I ended up using at first. Either way, I knew I wanted to use very little black. Glad I went with the flat open lines.
Geek: What’s different in your process when you were tackling Takio, versus, say, Powers?
MO: Powers is almost completely instinctive at this point, I just jump into a page and attack it. From time to time I’ll make sure I shake things up by challenging myself to do something extra different on Powers– try and find a layout I’ve not done before, that sort of thing. Takio was more calculated, especially since we needed to make it friendly reading for younger audiences. It’s one of the reasons I stopped doing any DPS after that first cafeteria scene.
Geek: One thing that threw me a little initially was to see guns and bullets in the book, mainly because they’re not allowed in most all-ages reads. Why were guns okay in your book?
MO: Why not? Especially because this is action/adventure with bad guys. Are we saying kids don’t know what guns are? They go through metal detectors to get into school. I remember them taking guns out of E.T. from the F.B.I hands. It’s stupid and kind of dangerous- lets hide gun imagery from kids- put our heads in the sand like they don’t exist and that will protect them. It’s a short cut to thinking. I do wish we actually emphasized the danger of guns more now that I look back on it. Guns are real, people kill people with them, they are dangerous tools and kids should know that.
Geek: Another interesting choice was to release it as a hardcover, rather than softcover – why is that, and will we see a softcover at some point?
MO: I don’t see us doing a softcover. This format was just magic, it’s just right. Wish I could explain better. Also, a softcover would have to be cheaper, and this is already only $10.
Geek: This first volume is a great, simple origin story set-up, with some nice set pieces, but definitely functions as the “pilot,” if you will. What are you plans for more Takio? Is it a “wait and see?”
MO: I’m pretty sure we will do more, the reaction was really strong. Lets see how it stands and go from there.
Geek: Let’s say someone picks up Takio for their kid and loves it. While they wait for volume two, what else should they pick up?
MO: BONE would be first on my list. Back in the 90’s there was an AMAZING book called Leave It to Chance by James Robinson and Paul Smith. Also, James Kochalka does amazing kids books like Monkey Vs Robot and Pinky and Stinky.
Geek: While we have you, briefly: what’s your involvement, if any, with the Powers pilot?
MO: I’m advising on visuals. What influenced the look of the series, what was thinking of when designing costumes, aesthetic stuff. Anything they need I’m here for. We are in good hands! The best thing I can do for the show is to continue getting Powers back out on a regular schedule.
Geek: And just to ask you about the last issue of Powers… Now that you’re killing off Gods, where do you go next? What could be bigger than that?
MO: Let me tell you- Powers 11 will blow people’s minds. When it ends, people will ask “how can Powers possibly go on?” Bigger than tackling Gods in Powers, issue 11 ends this arc and is a new benchmark in Powers history. I promise.
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