Michael Avon Oeming has worked on titles such as Ninjak and Judge Dredd. Here he talks about his Daredevil work during the Fall From Grace arc, and also his upcoming projects.
Kuljit Mithra: Was there any specific event in your past that pointed you towards a career in comics? What was your initial interest in it?
Michael Oeming: Yep. Boredom. I always had an attraction to art, but it wasn't until I moved to Texas when I was real young that I really started drawing and reading comics. Being from Jersey, I felt really out of place and didn't allow myself to make friends or any of that. Then, at a market of some sort, I saw some Spidey comics. It was actually from the Rich Buckler run of Spidey. After reading it, I traced and traced and couldn't get enough. So it sort of snowballed from there. I owe it all to boredom!
Mithra: It seems now that getting a job in comics is very tough for a newcomer. How was your experience starting out and what company gave you your first break?
Oeming: I basically hooked up with an indie publisher called Comic Zone, and did lots of bad comics! It was fun, a great learning experience. One of the books I did there was called Lycra Woman and Spandex Girl with future Ship of Fools collaboratar Bryan J. L. Glass. It's real tough to get in now. Editors are afraid of new stuff, but attracted to "fad" type art. I'd suggest making a living in another art field, do your own indie books, and try the mainstream stuff, but don't break your skull trying to work for Marvel and DC. We're in a low swing in comics, and who knows what the future holds. Also, very few comics artists can retire off of their career, so you'll want to get into other fields as well. I still have trouble getting work. I havn't had a regular gig since inking Ninjak for Valiant, and my last regular pencil job was way back in Judge Dredd!!
Mithra: What kind of inking training do you have? Were you self-taught or did you go to any schools? Who do you think is the best inker in the industry?
Oeming: Simply lots of practice with different styles, tools etc. I'm mostly self-taught, but had help from some pro friends. There is no best inker as far as I'm concerned. Each job, each penciller calls for something different.
Mithra: What has been the hardest thing for you to master with your inking?
Oeming: Creating the right texture and depth with line weights. That takes forever. Anyone can do a clean sharp line, but it takes a pro to know when and how to use it. Some guys are so controlling and smooth that the inks have no life.
Mithra: Your work on Daredevil includes a full issue (#320) and a partial issue (#324). How did that job come about for you? Were you brought on board to help out Hector Collazo?
Oeming: Actually, I think I did more than that, but I don't know where my collection is. Mainly, it was assistant editor Pat Garrahy who took me in to help Hector on deadlines. My favorite part was actually finishing pencils over Scott McDaniel. That was great. It was a dinner scene I think. Love those shapes!
Mithra: Can you describe what kind of technique was involved with the inking during Fall From Grace? McDaniel described it as a 'Chiaroscuro' technique, which experimented with light and darkness. How much input did McDaniel have with the inking you did?
Oeming: Yea, it was mostly graphic shapes. Like a super clean Miller or Toth. I love shapes. Sometimes I try to do no lines, only shapes. With McDaniel's finished pencils, I stayed true to his work, but had leeway on the finishes I did.
Mithra: What did you think of the new armoured DD costume?
Oeming: It was fine for a short while, but not as a permanent change. I think when editors play with costumes, it usually means they don't have enough story. STORY is the base of all good comics. Without a story, who cares about what's going on? Just do pinups for that. It was neat for a few issues, but thats it.
Mithra: Can you also go into how the DD radar sense was inked? Did McDaniel pencil outlines and you had to get the basic shape out of that with your inks? Who came up with that way of representing what DD 'sees'?
Oeming: It's called a color hold or Burn. It's either done in red ink or on overlay. It's a standard technique, so I don't think we can say it was new when we used it.
Mithra: Do you prefer to ink using a 'line' method, or a more 'graphic' method like you used in DD?
Oeming: It depends on the project. On DD, I'd say graphic fits. DD is Crime NOIR as far as Im concerned.
Mithra: Before you worked on Daredevil, what was your opinion on the character?
Oeming: Loved him. DD, Captain America and Conan are the main Marvel guys I want to work on.
Mithra: What did you think of Elektra coming back?
Oeming: Didn't read it to be honest. She's dead, I don't know who that chick dressed like her was!!!!
Mithra: Kevin Smith has just ended his run, and David Mack's first issue was released a few weeks ago. Is there anyone in the comics industry who you feel would bring something extra special to a Daredevil issue?
Oeming: Brian Bendis. He's a crime writer, currently writing Sam and Twitch at Image. Like I said, DD is like a street crime book to me. Spidey is more super hero types. DD is right out of a pulp novel. Plus, Brian and I have a new series from Image coming out called POWERS. Heres a link... POWERS
Mithra: What did you think of Mack's first issue? How about Smith's arc?
Oeming: Dave is a pal. When you know someone close enough, you know what their pool of inspiration is, how they think etc. and it's tougher for them to impress you after awhile. Dave blew me away. Just wait, when this is done, I'm betting this will be comparable to Miller's run. No kidding. Smith is a film writer and it shows in his comics. Comic writers have to use less words to do a story. Look at Eisner's stuff. Hardly anything there in words, but TONS in meaning. I think Kevin needs limitations, it would bring out the best in him. Kevin needs room for his dialogue, room not available in comics. I read the first few of his, but lost interest. It seemed like he was doing something outside of his field. But like I said, I didn't finish reading it, so I can't have a valid opinion.
Mithra: When you worked on Daredevil, the circulation was in the hundreds of thousands. Now most comic titles ship in the tens of thousands. What do you think has gone wrong with the industry and what do you think could get more readers?
Oeming: Distribution. Competition from other entertainment. Could simply be a dying media, like radio serials. Lots of reasons. But I think if we keep doing good work, and this lull will hopefully get rid of the bad stuff, we can survive off of quality. Who knows?
Mithra: Is there any particular reason you sign your work 'Avon' instead of your full name?
Oeming: That's my middle name. Oeming is too obscure and forgettable. Avon is memorable, and short, nice to look at compared to OEMING. I have bad handwriting (and spelling) so the less I write on my art the better!!!
Mithra: And finally, what projects are you working on and when can we expect them in stores?
Oeming: Like I said, POWERS with Bendis is out in April. It's a crime superhero thing. Like NYPD with superheros in the background, but heroes are not the focus. Powers will also appear in CSN for 8 weeks. It's very different, trust me! Also about the same time is HAMMER OF THE GODS. My first writing attempt, with scripting by Mark Wheatly. Here's a link... HOGheaven3 The logo is in the works. I'm also pencilling a YOUNG JUSTICE LEAGUE fifth week book for DC.
(c) Kuljit Mithra 1999
Daredevil:The Man Without Fear
Jose Guns Alves
Black and White
Roberto De La Torre
Carmine Di Giandomenico
Tommy Lee Edwards
Elektra Hand Devil
Fall From Grace
Justin F. Gabrie
Devin K. Grayson
John Patrick Hayden
Alex Irvine & Tomm Coker
Mark Steven Johnson
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