Castor and Pollux, the twins from Greek mythology who inspired the name of the Gemini constellation, come down to contemporary Earth to kick some ass in Olympus, a new comic book series illustrated by Christian Ward and written by Nathan Edmondson of Macon. A graduate of Mercer University, Edmondson, 23, will sign copies of Olympus #1 at its release party Wed., May 20, 4-7 p.m. at Criminal Records. Where most comic book artists are lifelong fans, Edmondson virtually backed into the medium.
Did you grow up reading comics and have ambitions to write them?
No and no. I was working on a novel and pursuing other avenues of writing, and I happened to meet some established comic book writers and artists. One was Tony Harris, a New York Times best-selling artist, since I happened to move down the street from him in Macon. I got to know Steve Niles, who wrote 30 Days of Night, and Mark Millar, who wrote Wanted and Kickass. I’d chat with them about non-comics things, and was able to step into the comics industry without an agenda.
What did you think of comic books before then?
I certainly respected them, but I think I had the same prejudice as a lot of people had: I thought it was limited to company-owned characters like Superman and Batman, and I had no interest in them. Through my new friends, I discovered that comics had a much broader spectrum of ideas.
Can you describe Olympus in a nutshell?
The first miniseries, making up the first four issues, centers on two brothers from Greek mythology, Castor and Pollux. They serve Olympus on Earth by trying to capture a god, and accidentally release a prisoner from Hades who’s more formidable than they expect. I began by reading Greek mythology in a Great Books program at Mercer University. I was very much entertained by the idea of the Gemini, of two brothers who loved each other so much they became immortal.
How did you learn to write comics and find an illustrator?
It’s kind of funny. The cover of Issue 40 of the comic book Ex Machina has a picture of writer Brian K. Vaughan, who’s best known for a book called Y: The Last Man and, until recently, being a writer on “Lost.” You can see me in that picture over his shoulder. I was able to read one of Brian Vaughan’s comic scripts, and that taught me how to do mine, because I had no idea how to go about them. I looked at being a comics writer as a start-up business, and I needed a partner. I wanted to find someone who wasn’t an established comics artist, so I looked for freelance illustrators on Google and found Christian. He loved the idea of Olympus and drew some spec pages that we sent to publishers. Within a year, we had a deal with Image Comics.
Does the finished art look different than the way you envisioned it in your head?
On just about every page. I’ve had to be willing to not be married to certain visuals. Christian has a strong voice and a strong pencil, you might say. It caused a little frustration at first, but I’ve realized that his ideas are often better than mine. Our creative process is very much back and forth, but not so much with the visuals as with the story. He has very stylistic art that’s different from usual comic book illustrations, and I’ve had to learn the mechanics of writing for him. We’re very much co-creators of this, and he has very much sculpted the book’s storyline and structure. In everything from the location to the tone of the book, he’s influenced me many times.
What kind of outreach are you doing with Olympus?
Since Christian and I are semi-unknown in [the] comics industry, we weren’t regular names. When you’re starting a small business, you need to find ways to break into the market. Comics aren’t sold on the airwaves — the lifeblood of comics is the word of mouth at comic book stores and the Internet. We wanted to open a dialogue with retailers, so we’ve invited them to send pictures of themselves holding copies of Olympus, and we’ll put them in print. That’ll benefit us in the short term and hopefully in the long term as we establish relationships with them.
Are we seeing a trend in remakes and revisionist takes on Greek mythology?
I wasn’t aware of any popular resurgence of myths until we entered talks with Hollywood about Olympus and heard about the remake of Clash of the Titans, the two versions of The Odyssey and others. I think partly it’s a cyclical thing, since genres have cyclical popularity. Also, when I talk to people about myths, I get the feeling that we’ve become a culture devoid of mythology. I think the tougher things get, the more people to turn to a mythos for the guidance it offers, if only on the subconscious level. But I don’t want to sound too much like Joseph Campbell.
Often advocates for comics describe superheroes as contemporary mythology. Do you agree with that?
Many characters in pop culture, from John Wayne to Superman, have become mythological to us, they have all the qualities of myth. But two things separate them: One is the power of belief in them. Unlike the Greek myths, there’s no doubt that they’re fictional. Also, they haven’t really withstood the test of time, and something needs time to seep into the subconscious of a culture. Superman is getting there — you don’t have to explain what Superman means to a kid or an adult. But overall, they haven’t quite reached the same level of the Greek myths.