The Force Behind Freedom ForceA column article, Comics Bulletin Soapbox by: Michael Deeley
In 2000, Pittsburgh artist Tom Scioli received a Xeric grant to publish his comic book series The Myth of 8-Opus. 8-Opus starred an alien demi-god fighting the evil forces of Nashek, the serpent who was the universe. 8-Opus is aided by a mask that reveals truth, and Daedalus, friend and weapons maker. Tom is currently drawing the comic book adaptation of the computer game Freedom Force for Image comics, and recently I had the opportunity to ask Tom about his past, present and future work:
The Myth of 8-Opus portrays the known universe as a giant serpent bent on destroying all life within itself. Does this reflect your personal philosophy?
I think it's inherently dramatic to put a superhero in a world that's deeply flawed, that's in need of repair, rather than a well-ordered universe where superheroes keep the occasional troublemaker in check.
Cycles of creation and destruction are all a part of life.
Where did you get the idea for 8-Opus? How long did it take to create the characters, worlds, religion, etc.?
There was an animated movie I wanted to shoot. I had done one before for a film class. This was going to feature a trio of god-like heroes. They were moving up the levels of Nashek, to its head, where a fourth character was imprisoned. They met a giant face. Two of them became the eyes; one of them became the voice. I wanted something on 8-Opus's forehead. I thought maybe the letter "O" and name him O-dysius. 8, 8-Opus, Oedipus and the whole magic eightball future-prediction connection was too good to pass up.
Will Earth appear in a future ‘8-Opus’ book?
I've got an earth story that I've wanted to do for years. It's awesome, but it'll be a big change in tone for the series. I still think I need to do some more world building before I attempt something that tests the stories’ borders like that.
You’ve said in conversation how fiction for boys tends to be about patriotic heroes battling foreign enemies. Why do you think this is? What kinds of stories tend to be written for girls and women? Would these stories appeal to boys and men?
I don't know. Patriotic heroes who come to symbolize a nation go way back. Back to King Arthur. Back to King David.
Cast the live –action ‘8-Opus’ movie.
8-Opus: George Clooney. Daedalus: Brad Pitt. I guess another way to go would be Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson.
Now pick the animation studio and voice actors for the ‘8-Opus’ cartoon series.
Warner Bros., in the style of Bruce Timm & Paul Dini, or Genndy Tartakovsky’s Samurai Jack. For voices, Patrick McGoohan as 8-Opus, and David Bowie as Daedalus. Voices would have to heighten the drama.
How did you meet Erik Larsen?
I wanted to get into the Kirby-esque Fantastic Four mini-series he was doing. I sent him some of my comics. He called me up and asked if I was interested in drawing some pages for it.
What is the story behind Freedom Force?
A host of Aliens want to soften up the world for invasion by mutating earth's criminals into super-powered freaks. Freedom Force, who got their powers from this same "element-x" given to them by a rebel alien, are the only ones who can stop the invasion.
Why do you think the game’s designers set the game in the 1960’s, as opposed to the present day?
'Cause when you say comics, that's what people think of. 1960's Kirby was American superhero comics' defining era.
Freedom Force has the look of a Silver Age Kirby comic. Prior to this, you’re only other mainstream work was a contribution to Marvel’s World’s Greatest Comic, the tribute to the Lee/Kirby Fantastic Four. Are you worried about being stereotyped as a Kirby imitator?
Too late. I already am stereotyped. That's all I want to do in comics. Any other style would bore me. Drawing in that Kirby style is a blast. I think I've brought my own spin to it, and have taken it in different directions, but I believe deeply in the power and versatility of the Kirby style.
What character/series at "the Big 2" would you most like to work on?
I would say New Gods, but I think Walt Simonson already did the best New Gods that can be done by somebody who isn't Jack Kirby. I'd take on the Forever People. I think they were an awesome concept, and an awesome set of characters. Darkseid's best moments were in the pages of Forever People. They've been so thoroughly dismissed by the comics community that I think there'd be the most to gain from exploring the possibilities of that book.
I'd love to draw and write Superman, but I think I'd want to change so much about him that I might as well come up with a new character myself.
What advice would you give to new writers/artists about self-publishing?
What are you waiting for? Make your comic. Start small if you have to.
Any upcoming projects you can talk about?
There's another 8-Opus graphic novel called The Labyrinth. There's a comic Zombie Kamikaze that I'm doing with Scott Mills, although I had to put it on hold when I took on Freedom Force. Once FF is up and running, I'm going to try and finish the first issue of ZK so we can shop it around. I also have another comic I'm working on for Image, but it's way too early to start talking about it now.
Finally, if I gave you 1 million dollars to create your dream comic, what would you make?
Aw, dude, I already have it in mind. A color 8-Opus graphic novel the size of that Bone compilation.
Thank you, tom, for standing in the firing line.
8-Opus comics can be previewed and ordered from http://www.geocities.com/sciolit
Five issues and a graphic novel are now available. Freedom Force will ship in January.