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Tom Scioli Explores the Myth of 8-Opus

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Tom Scioli achieved prominence in the comics world through his Image Comics series Godland that he created together with Joe Casey. However, few know that this was not his first cosmic Kirby inspired tale. Years before that he dove into The Mystery of 8-Opus, a self styled space opera centered around the wearer of a mystical mask who is part of a pantheon of space gods inhabiting the living world of Urdu. Scioli has been releasing the early adventures of 8-Opus as a series of graphic novels and last October, the first all new original 8-Opus graphic novel reached the market entitled The Myth of 8-Opus: The Labyrinth dropping the protagonist in an all out war with the Sons of Nashek for the fate of the living planet Urdu.

BROKEN FRONTIER: Obviously, The Myth of 8-Opus is a labour of love for you. Where did this fascination with mythology and space gods come from?

TOM SCIOLI: I've had a deep fascination with mythology for as long as I can remember. It goes back to my love of fantasy in general. The Greek myths seemed like they were fantasy that got the stamp of approval of the grown-up world. Reading the D&D based fantasy book of the month was considered a waste of time, and was kind of frowned upon when I was a kid, but reading a book of mythology seemed more legit, like you were really going to learn something about the world, but it still hit all those fantasy/adventure notes.

I assume other kids have similar experiences, but when I first heard about characters like Hercules, I assumed these were actual historical figures. So I guess part of that initial mystique was the fact that these were real-life superheroes, that magical things happened in our world a long time ago.

There was a particular series of Greek myth storybooks that I was fond of. They had these soft focus watercolor illustrations that were just vague enough to allow you to project whatever you wanted to see into them.

When I discovered Chariots of the Gods, that was a revelation. It's awful scholarship, but as a kid seeing all the world's myths re-worked with a sci-fi makeover was very appealing and a little frightening. It's all territory that was very thoroughly mined by Kirby before and after.

I was a big Star Wars fan, and along with that came all the talk about the inspiration that came from various myths, so that re-enforced it. When I got into my teens, I started reading Joseph Campbell, and then that led to Carl Jung.

When I really got into Kirby, I saw that he was creating a fusion of all of these things on multiple levels, with The New Gods being the best example. Kirby's work was what, for me, transformed an interest into an obsession.

By the time I started to do my own comics, with my own mythology, I was fascinated by what myths say about the times and places they came from. I tried not to be too analytical about it, and let the dream imagery lead me where it was going to go, but you start seeing resonances within a story when you're creating it, so I tried to follow those resonances. The first few years of my comics work were done at a tremendous rate of speed, so a lot of it was very stream-of-consciousness, a lot of it came from the depths.

BF: I noticed there are a few different approaches to the art in this volume of 8-Opus. Was this done intentionaly? Could you elaborate on this?

TS: The biggest factor accounting for the different approaches is "The Labyrinth" was a volume with the greatest span of time in terms of its creation. "Prologue" was done from start to finish in a matter of months. "8-Opus Wrecks" took about a year when it came out in original serialized form. "Doomed Battalion" took about a year, too. "Labyrinth" spans about 5 years. Most of it was done a long time ago, before I started working on Godland, some of the pages were done very recently. My work's changed a lot in that time. The more ornate pages tend to be the earliest ones, the tighter, more stream-lined ones tend to be the ones done more recently.

The next installment, the one I'm currently working on, is the first one that is 100% post-Godland. So far it looks pretty different from what came before.

BF: Does 8-Opus have a definite ending in your mind or do you plan on continuing the adventures of the Gods from Urdu indefinitely?

TS: I have an ending in mind. As I work towards it things will undoubtedly change from my initial roadmap. I have a short term ending which will wrap up the major story elements currently in play. I'm hoping to wrap all that up in two or three more volumes. I also have a distant, long-term ending, that would take place several generations later, involving some on the surviving members of the cast and their descendants. I plan on working on 8-Opus as a decades-long project, similar to what Erik Larsen is doing with Savage Dragon, Kirby did with his Thor-to-Fourth World-to-Captain Victory-to-Hunger Dogs epic, Dave Sim with Cerebus, Wally Wood with The Wizard King, Jack Katz on First Kingdom and George Lucas with Star Wars. Who knows where it will lead me?

Kirby had the ability to do many lifetime's worth of work in his time, so if I come out of this life's journey with one story as accomplished as Kirby's FF run, or The Fourth World or Kamandi, but with an actual ending that pays off all the various story threads I'd be very happy.

BF: What is your view on the self publishing industry today, Tom? An original series of Graphic Novels is not something that is being tried too often.

TS: It's a difficult time right now for comics of any scale, but you have so many options at this moment in time, compared to when I first started at the beginning of the millennium. I've been fortunate enough to have had all my books distributed through Diamond, but I know that's not an option open to everybody. I don't do single issues, but to keep myself on-track, I've print a small number of ashcans for each segment of each volume that I bring to conventions. That's sort of a small-scale version of the serialization-to-trade-paperback model. Original graphic novels have just recently become a more difficult sell in the current economic climate. I still have copies of the early issues of 8-Opus. It seems to me, that if somebody wants to give the series a try, with relatively little risk, they can check those out. Once you've read those you'll know if it's something you'll want to follow along with me all the way to the end.

It's been ten years since I started 8-Opus. I can look back and I'm proud of what I've accomplished so far, but I'd definitely like to be further along with it than I am now. It's funny how life gets in the way.

BF: What's next in your schedule in terms of comics?

TS: Godland #30 comes out next week. I have a story in the next PopGun volume which comes out in February. It's another installment of "The Seneschal", which is my Arthurian Knight character. I've just finished the first segment of the next 8-Opus volume, which I'll have in ashcan form at my next convention, SPACE. I've just finished outlining a new series which will be my next major, post-Godland work. I don't want to say too much about it this early, but it'll be full-color and monthly. I'll be writing, drawing and coloring it.

The Myth of 8-Opus: The Labyrinth is a black and white OGN. It counts 120 pages and retails for $ 24.99. It is available online and at comics shops around the world. Check out A-Okay Comics and Tom Scioli at his website

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