Artist Farel Dalrymple talks "Omega: The Unknown"

Wed, November 7th, 2007 at 12:00am PST

Comic Books
Jeffrey Renaud, Staff Writer

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"Omega: The Unknown" #2 on sale now

If only life were always this easy.

When CBR News asked the uber hip, award-winning artist Farel Dalrymple how he hooked up with the equally lauded author and MacArthur Fellowship recipient Jonathan Lethem for Marvel Comics' "Omega: The Unknown" -- issue #2 of which is on sale now -- Dalrymple said it was as simple as hitting the "send" button.

"Jonathan sent me an e-mail and asked me to draw it," quipped Dalrymple, whose other credits include "Pop Gun War" and "Caper." "I think he was introduced to my work via Bob Fingerman. Jonathan liked the Flash story Paul Hornschemeier and I did with Dylan Horrocks for the second 'Bizarro World' anthology that DC put out.

"It was great news for me to be asked to draw ['Omega'] since I was already a big fan of Jonathan's books, 'Motherless Brooklyn' in particular."

While Dalrymple was a follower of Lethem's prose, he hadn't read the original Steve Guber & Mary Skrenes "Omega: The Unknown" series before signing on for Marvel's 10-issue re-imagination. "I was familiar with Steve Gerber's writing, though," said Dalrymple. "After reading those first five issues I felt very drawn to the characters. I dug the odd and quirky, strange nature of the story. It is a weird comic book in the best sense of the word.

Page from "Omega: The Unknown" #2
"Our version of the story I think is very much in the spirit of the original. Not necessarily all the details and names of characters are the same but we tried to keep the same vibe and honor the intentions behind Mr. Gerber's vision.

"It is an unusual story and has a cast of cool, intriguing characters. I like the mysterious connection the main character Alexander has with Omega character. Having been raised alone by robots, Alex has this advanced vocabulary and seems to have trouble connecting with people he meets in the city.

"The character Omega never talks which results in some serious problems in trying to save the world from the robot hordes. Alex has a streetwise friend named Amandla that he meets in high school. Amandla does a pretty good job in helping Alex get a grip on the way the things work in New York City. Over the course of drawing this book, I became pretty to attached to these guys.

"Like I said, I am a pretty big fan of Jonathan's writing so it's no wonder I got sucked into this strange world he created."

Page from "Omega: The Unknown" #2
Dalrymple says his great appreciation for Lethem, coupled with his own love of "fun and weird" projects makes their collaboration on "Omega: The Unknown" a match made in fanboy heaven. "Hopefully that love comes across in my art," explained Dalrymple. "I was excited by getting to work with one of my favorite fiction writers and wanted to do my best to convey the story Jonathan wanted to tell. It has been an excellent experience overall."

Despite the fact Dalrymple was unfamiliar with "Omega: The Unknown" before signing on to the project, he did do his homework and gained valuable insight into the characters and their depictions by studying the work of the series' original artist Jim Mooney. However, at the end of the day, this new Omega world is all Dalrymple.

"The books were an inspiration or a starting point for me but really I just drew how I know how to draw and put down on paper what is in the script the best way I know how," said Dalrymple. "I have a read a lot of superhero comics from the era of the original series so maybe all that rubbed off on me subconsciously.

Page from "Omega: The Unknown" #2
"The only direct correlation with Jim Mooney's art and mine is that I am aware of his and my interpretation of the look of some of the characters. I kept Omega's costume colors somewhat the same and gave Alex, Omega black hair, just like in the original. In the original series, Alex and Omega looked like the same guy at different ages. I also tried to keep that the same.

"Omega: The Unknown" has a very unique look and feel to it, something Dalrymple describes as unconventional. "I try to just make the kind of comics I would like to read," he said. "If people think my stuff looks unique, I'm like, 'bonus.' I take it as a compliment and I am also aware that a lot of the stuff I am influenced by is different than your average comic book artist. That probably has a lot to do with the comics I make looking unconventional."

Dalrymple also said it is extremely gratifying to work with someone like Lethem, who is genuinely passionate about the subject matter. "Jonathan was heavily involved creatively," said Dalrymple. "And I liked that he was. We had a lot of dialogue about what he wanted the book to look like and how he wanted it to feel. He recommended movies to watch and we even spent an afternoon walking around the Washington Heights and Inwood neighborhoods taking pictures. Jonathan pointed out a lot of specific things he wanted to be in the comic. I knew it was important for us to get the look of this book aligned with what Jonathan had in his head.

Pages from "Omega: The Unknown" #2
"He didn't fiddle with any of my concept drawings so much but there was a lot of creative input before I drew them. There were minor changes here and there but not too much. We seem to have similar taste in comics so I am glad I did a job he was happy with.

"Lethem's writing is very dense," Dalrymple continued. "He seems to bring a lot of his novel writing powers into his comic book scripts. Occasionally there has been a bit of hair pulling trying to come up with panel compositions that let me fit in all of the details. But the ride has been a fun one."

That magical ride will come to an end next summer with "Omega: The Unknown" #10. When asked if he sees more "Omega" on the horizon for the Marvel Team-Up of Lethem and Dalrymple, the artist remarked, "Maybe a long time down the road if Jonathan was writing it, but I think we be have both finished telling this tale.

"I really want to tell my own stories; I think working on this book has improved my comic making skills significantly," the artist added. "I have noticed some storytelling techniques from working on this series that have spilled over to my personal comics-making work."

Among such work currently in progress is a sequel to "Pop Gun War," and Dalrymple is also working on an original graphic novel called "The Wrenchies" for First Second.

"Omega: The Unknown" #2, penciled, inked and lettered by Dalrymple and penciled and colored by Hornschemeier, is on sale now.

Related:
JONATHAN LETHEM ENTERS THE UNKNOWN WITH "OMEGA"

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