Oeming nails Norse myth in 'Hammer of the Gods'

Tue, February 20th, 2001 at 12:00am PST

Comic Books
Beau Yarbrough, Columnist

[Hammer of the Gods]
Hammer of the Gods Preview
A couple, hungry and alone with a dying baby on a cold winter's night curses the uncaring gods. Then, a stranger appears at the door, warning them that the gods might be listening after all. The baby boy grows up to be a hero, before tragedy turns him into the man who would destroy the gods.

Sounds like an obscure myth, but it's Michael Avon Oeming's "Hammer of the Gods" miniseries.

"It's basic classical mythology," Oeming told the Comic Wire on Thursday. "Its roots are in the works of Joseph Campbell's book 'The Hero with a Thousand Faces.' It is the root of all mythology and even human psyche, it's a fascinating book. Specifically, it's Norse Mythology which I've always loved. Maybe because I love the snow, maybe I love the harsh view of the world, most likely because I'm a Led Zepplin fan! Robert Plant uses several Norse and Celtic references that haunt me along with Page's music ... that was very inspiring. Especially the 'Immigrant's Song.' Our story deals with man questioning god, but it's done with the balance of drama and comic book fun. I think that's what our strength is. Also, we don't dwell on the usual Norse Mythology, that is mostly a background, an atmosphere."

In other words, don't look to see a recounting of familiar Norse myths over the course of the rest of the four issue miniseries.

"We use the myths as an open template. This allows us freedom to do what we need to do, to place story and character before the map of mythology. We'll never see Ragnarok, and how could we, as [Walter] Simonson has already mastered it in comics" in the pages of Marvel Comcs' "Thor."

And thus, while the story of Modi -- who as an infant was too weak to live before being blessed by someone or something, and now has grown up to be as strong as a giant, but who labors under a horrible curse if he should ever use a weapon -- might feel like it was born in a chilly meadhall, it's actually all from the mind of Oeming and collaborator Mark Obie Wheatley.

"We make up a lot ourselves which I feel fine about since that's what pagans do! Also, so much was lost in translation, we'll never know exactly what Viking and pre-Viking Norsemen believed. There are lots of holes in their continuity."

Most readers are probably familiar with Oeming's name through his work on the Image Comics series "Powers."

"Well, this first issue predates 'Powers' by at least two years. I started 'Hammer' as a release. For years I have struggled with style, editors, companies etc. so I did this for me having no expectation out of it. I think that's why even though this work is older than 'Powers,' it's just as strong. Although when we get to issue three, that's more recent, and issue four is current. It will be interesting to see the transition."

And just as with "Powers," Oeming's work here is idiosyncratic and distinctively his. After "Powers" first debuted, some fans grumbled that the art style didn't seem to fit writer Brian Michael Bendis' noirish police-procedural-plus-superheroes writing.

"Well, I'm glad they noticed! the only response worse than saying it's CRAP is no response. We knew it would take getting used to and some would NEVER get it, which is fine. We knew the power of simple cartoony art against a realistic and even dark noir. It works great, like comedy played on violence in films, or silly music set against a sad scene in a movie, contrast, when done right is very powerful."

"Hammer of the Gods" won't just have Oeming's art on it, though: The first issue featured a cover by "Liberty Meadows" creator Frank Cho, and Adam Hughes has done one as well.

"We had others but scheduling conflicts and all," Oeming said. "But we had plenty of time to prepare and I did two of the best covers I've ever done, so we're happy."

There's also a possibility that Oeming's covers won't be used, if some other cover artists come through: "I don't want to name names yet, we like to wait to make sure we have the art in our hands ahead of time to avoid any problems. Right now, Frank and Adam are it. Not too shabby."

And for fans waiting for the second bimonthly issue in six weeks, Oeming has a daily comic strip "Hammer of the Gods" story up at SunnyFundays.com.

"It takes place between issues one and issue two somewhere, but it's not directly tied into the series," Oeming said. "We hope to print it one day. We did it to help promote the book, which seems to have worked!"

Oeming fans can also look forward to another project beyond "Powers" and "Hammer of the Gods."

"'Bluntman and Chronic' which ties into Kevin Smith's next film, 'Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back.' That's out this summer from Image. Lots of fun, I think this is Kevin's best script work yet for his View Askew characters."

 
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