Climbing Mount Olympus

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Nathan Edmondson will be the first to admit that he’s somewhat new to the whole world of sequential art. However, he’s a fast learner and is now not only a recent fan, but a creator, with an impressive list of titles with his name on them coming our way. First and foremost is a unique series from Image entitled Olympus which centres on two brothers granted eternal life from Zeus who find themselves in the modern world and on a gripping hunt for a god in exile.

BROKEN FRONTIER: You’ve admitted that you’re a comics newbie. Is that an asset as a writer?

NATHAN EDMONDSON: It's an asset in as much as I use it as one. For certain projects, it would not be a strength, but for the sorts of things I'm attempting to tackle I draw from outside of comics, hopefully bringing something fresh in. This doesn't always work out--it's like a fish swimming into a reef from the ocean: either I'll find that my ocean strengths give me an edge on the other reef fish, or I'll be eaten. So far it seems to be working out, though.

As is true with any artistic medium, however, originality, novelty and raw talent only take one so far. It is therefore necessary that I apply myself to understand and study the comics medium as best as I can, because there exists in comics a set of rules, if they be only loose and obscure lines often redrawn.

One place that my foreign nature has, in my own view at least, given me an edge into the industry has been that I don't know what projects are already out there, so I wasn't burdened with their consideration when developing ideas. Of course, I at times hit walls and realize that I'm treading new ground, but it's an adventure and at some point you do land on untrodden ground, and plant, and bloom.

BF: How does your Art History Degree help you when you’re writing?

NE: In every way imaginable. In regards to visual arts, I can certainly understand the power, impact, and meaning of the images I'm looking for in the page panels. I understand too the process. But in Art History, one learns about everything: history, philosophy, politics, religion, anthropology, psychology, music, literature--there is no end to what is revealed through the lens of art history. All of those subjects arise in my writing, but often the struggle is to limit the message so that you get a purer story--mixed greens rather than one of those salads with carrots, fish, nuts, steak and ice cream in it. In other words, something that people can taste easily, yet is substantial and lasting.

Another very significant way that art history impacts my storytelling is that by studying the course of history through art I have been able to constantly put events and figures into context, and relate times to transitions and the evolution of styles to thought and politics--art history shows one the over-arching view, the panorama, as well as the focused microbes, the bits of information that are the threads making up the fabric. That helps me at least desire the right thing when telling a story: that it be universally appealing and meaningful without limitation. Art history is a strong cure for historical naivete, in my opinion, and a lack of awareness about history is readily visible in storytelling, especially as a story is filtered through the passage of time.

BF: How has Brian Vaughan helped you get your bearings in this sometimes overwhelming industry?

NE: To be clear, Brian has not consciously helped me to "get my bearings." But he has had a direct impact on my writing, to be sure. Being that his work was my first exposure, as an adult, to the comics industry, my thinking as to how a comic should function was forged quickly based on his own writing, down to how many panels to write in per page, even. I was immediately thrown the message, in reading Ex Machina, that comics is a wider ocean of subject matter than I had in mind--suddenly I thought of the medium as one rich with opportunities for me.

I haven't, yet, felt overwhelmed by the industry, fortunately. That's something I've been fortunate enough to never had suffered from--trepidation in the face of ridiculous odds. I'm somewhat Quixotean in that respect (even to the point of having delusions of my own grandeur, I'm sure some will be ready to tell you.) But as far as comics go, having direct connections with and exposure to some of the big names in the business early on led me to never doubt that such success was possible. Christian has given me some fantastic encouragement along the way, too.

BF: Is Olympus the product of ideas you’ve had for a while?

NE: It is and it isn't (isn't that the worst lead answer ever?) I had for some time been thinking about how to rein in my growing knowledge of Greek mythology and turn that into a palatable story.  I had a number of ideas that I scrapped before I decided to approach it in a non-abstract way, vivifying the characters in modern times. From there emerged my interest in to the two lead characters, and I developed them in my head for a while, imagining scenes, moments in their past, character traits.

The current arc, and all its glory (chuckle) came from Christian and I both out of a number of ideas I threw at him. And of course once his art caused my writing to light up in a fiery display of dazzling color (you think I'm joking--wait 'til you see all the interiors) I saw the idea in a whole new light, like seeing an empty house be filled with furniture and a family. At some point, and this is true of all good stories, I stopped writing it and it started writing itself, and I followed dutifully, pen in hand.

BF: How did the series end up at Image?

NE: My fantastic lawyer, Harris Miller had something to do with it (wink). Christian and I shopped it around a bit but it didn't catch--we realized over time that we needed to do some honing and shaping up. Once we had something worth selling, the rest took care of itself. For the most part. Since they took it on, Image has been a fantastic host for the idea and we're excited about a continuing relationship. Eric Stephenson, Joe Keatinge, Drew Gill and the rest have all lent us patience and helped to lead us through the gates to where we're going.

BF: Did you find working with Christian Ward fulfilling?

NE: Christian will be the first to tell you that it's not been the easiest road, as we have very different ways of thinking and very different backgrounds, but at no point has our partnership been unfulfilling. "As iron sharpens iron" the good book says, and yeah, that's exactly how it's been.  I've learned a great deal from him, and from me, he's learned...well I'll leave that to him to tell.  Probably just how to put up with me.

Receiving Christian's pages I never get what I thought I would, but I always end up liking it more that way. He's no simple illustrator, he attacks pages in his own way and I have had to learn to let my vision go a little bit, to let him take over some of the steering. I can honestly say that I'm thrilled with his work and there's no one I would rather have done Olympus with. (Okay, Christian, now you owe me ten bucks.)

BF: You’ve got a host of series coming out from quite a few publishers. Can you give us the lowdown on those?

NE: I can say a few things.  I have a book I'm co-writing with Tony Harris that Greg Scott is drawing, which is hush-hush but involves Native American mythology and one very scary dude.  Shepherd Hendrix just finished a fantastic first issue for a 19th century period piece we're doing...a period piece with a very real sci-fi edge. Jonathon Lam is another artist extraordinaire with whom I'm pushing a space adventure, and finally, CP Smith and Harris and I are in the beginning stages of a very ambitious, and very bad-ass new project--more on all of these as they're announced. And I'll be sure to send some teaser art the way of Broken Frontier when we're ready to deliver. All of these are unique and exciting in their own way; Olympus will hopefully pave the way for the kind of reception we're hoping for with each.

BF: So are you a comic book addict now? Do you find yourself discovering new jewels in the sequential art crown?

NE: An addict?  Not sure addict is the word. I still feel like I'm a bit of an outsider, with one eye cocked at all times, looking over the industry with sideways glances. But I've made some good friends at the cons, studios, and various publishers, and with each interview, page, and PREVIEWS solicitation I'm a little closer to being at home "here."

As far as reading goes, I pick up a book at a time and pour through it.  I'm very selective in my reading, and I have at all times a stack of at least five books (right now I have Sherlock Holmes, A Good Man is Hard to Find, The Brothers Karamazov and the Theology of the Body to get through) brooding for my attention.  I'm turning into my dad (a published non-fiction author and notable political science and ethics professor) more and more daily in that regard.

Yet I'm finding time, and very much enjoying the issues, trades and graphic novels I get with each visit to my local comic shop.  And as I learn more about the industry, its history, the creators and legends I am more interested with each book I open.  So yes, I'm finding jewels.  And realizing that the mine goes deeper and deeper---and that there are plenty of gems left to be formed, which is good news for new creators like Christian and myself.

Olympus #1 is out now from Image Comics priced $2.99 

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