When it comes to comic books in the 21st century, people are always looking for a new hook or angle that will draw attention from those who are fixated with the big names, and drive them toward independently-produced titles. Locally, we have Black Omen Comics, which just released a new series called Purge Worlds
, set up to be read as you listen to music produced by electro favorites Conquer Monster. Today, we chat with the duo behind the company to talk about the book and more releases they have on the way. (All pictures provided courtesy of Black Omen.
Chris Black and Joshua Oman
Gavin: Hey guys, first thing, tell us a bit about yourselves.
I am Chris Black and I'm an illustrator.
And I'm Joshua Oman, and I'm a writer. Together, we form Black Omen Comics. We both grew up in SLC and have always been into comics. I majored in Film at the University of Utah, and I work as a cinematographer. To scratch my writing itch, I write screenplays, and one day, I shared my sci-fi screenplay with my neighbor, Chris.
Yeah, I've been drawing for as long as I can remember, and even though I graduated from BYU in English, drawing is where my love is. When Josh shared the script to Purge Worlds
with me, I knew immediately I wanted to draw it.
When did you each become interested in comics, and what titles did you love growing up?
As a kid, I was really into Donald Duck and the original [Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
]. As a teen, I collected mostly Marvel Comics. My best friend collected DC, so together, we kind of covered the bases.
I was a huge X-Men
fan. Huge. I got into drawing X-Men
and Ninja Turtles
. Everyone was drawing Ninja Turtles
back then, but I started seeing that my drawings were actually pretty good. As I got older, I got more into indie comics, and that's almost all I collect now, or I go back and pick up classic series, like Grant Morrison's All-Star Superman
At what point did you start drawing and writing stories?
I've always enjoyed writing. I just found one of my old stories about time travel and elves and poison arrows. It was not bad (if I do say so myself) for a fifth grader. I still write screenplays, and a lot of them, I turn into comic scripts, because between me and Chris, we can tell the story with a fraction of the budget it would take to turn it into a movie.
Like I said, I can't ever remember not
drawing. I haven't always wanted to do it for a living, because it was always beaten into my head when I was a kid that I had to get a real job. I've always drawn, though. Even in the Army, when that sort of thing got me in trouble, I would always be doodling something.
How did the two of you first meet and eventually become friends?
We lived across the street from each other.
And our kids started hanging out, and dragged us into summer BBQs.
Prior to Black Omen, what other projects had you each worked on?
I had my own comic series, kind of a horror/noir called Wakener
In addition to my screenwriting, I was trying to draw Purge Worlds
How did the idea come about to start up your own comic series?
A local band, called Conquer Monster (featuring Josh Faulkner and Daniel Romero), approached me to draw and write a comic book for their new album. They wanted to do a concept album, and so we sat down and came up with an outline for the story of Purge Worlds
together. Then, they went off to write the music: themes for each character, songs for the major plot points, you know? I sat down and started to write out the details, then I started drawing it and it was SO. MUCH. WORK.
Yeah, I noticed the same thing on Wakener
. It is a ton of work to both write and draw (and ink, and color, and letter, and print) your own book. I don't think that a lot of people appreciate how much work goes into a single issue of a comic book and we were both trying to get by doing all of that stuff by ourselves.
Exactly. So when I saw the work Chris was doing, I asked him if he would draw, and I would just focus on the writing. We worked on the book for about a year—kind of as a test—before we knew we wanted to be in business together. When we formed the company, I think it was Chris's wife who actually came up with the name, Black Omen. I liked it. We went with the more common spelling of "Omen" (using an "e" instead of an "a" like my name). But, we think it's a cool name. Kind of scary, you know?
What was the process like in coming up with new content for you both?
It's a really cool collaboration. I usually write out a script. I'm pretty specific in terms of panels, and shots. I think my film background contributes to that a bit. I'm sure I overdo it because Chris takes that and makes his own changes.
Yeah. But that's one of the cool things about a collaborative art form, like comics. Sometimes Josh has too many panels, or I think a different angle or layout will work better, and he trusts me to run with it. I draw up some thumbnails, and send them to him for approval, just to make sure I'm getting the ideas across.
I rarely have any edits for him. Then he goes and pencils in the pages. We actually hired an inker and a colorist to finish the pages. Then I do the layouts and lettering, and send it to get printed.
How did you come up with the story for Purge Worlds?
The Purge Worlds
story really started with the outline I did with Conquer Monster. I built a lot of the mythos, backstory and technology around those initial ideas. We actually worked the music into the story. For example, because music is used by the powerful military corporations as a form of light-speed travel, it's been outlawed everywhere else. So, one of the characters leads an underground music revolution.
How was it for you creating that series and publishing the first issue?
Because I had completed a few issues of Wakener
on my own, I knew how much work it would be. When we decided we wanted to physically print Purge Worlds
, it just added that whole element of layouts, and fonts and finding a printer. It's expensive, but it costs as much for 250 issues as it does for a thousand.
So we have stacks of boxes all around the house.
For those who haven't read it, how does the music play into the comic itself?
So, Conquer Monster has titled their album Metatransit
, and that is actually the technology at play in the comic book that permits light-speed travel. In that world, it's possible to transfer your consciousness into different, kind of, blank, "pod" bodies. These are essentially empty templates, but once you put the information into them, they come alive. And that information about a person — their hopes, fears, dreams, the sum total of their physical trait, their abilities, and memories — all of those things are constantly recorded in a song. Playing that song back exactly, and sending that song via light speed radio waves to an awaiting pod body, allows light-speed travel. It's all explained in the book. Seriously, we think that it's a pretty cool concept. Plus, the Conquer Monster soundtrack actually takes you through the story, and you can find a download link for it in the comic book.
At the moment, you have two more series in development. Tell us about Valkyrie Falls and Don't Quit Your Day Job.
Joshua: Valkyrie Falls
is the story of three Viking women who set off on an adventure to rescue their kids when their village is attacked. Right now it's a weekly webcomic, so that format lends itself to a little bit more humor and tongue-in-cheek storytelling. It's really a feminist piece. I have a 9-year-old daughter, and I want the world to be awesome for her. So I try to explore ideas of misogyny, abuse and sexism. The Viking world seemed like an interesting setting for that. Plus, I wanted a main
character who was a mom. I think that series has hit a chord with some of our fans. We've been asked by a lot of people if there's more to Valkyrie Falls
. I actually wrote it out as a TV series, and we are working on casting for a pilot episode for that now. We've got a lot of support from the local film community to tell this story in that format. It's really exciting.
And I think Don't Quit Your Day Job
is the brain-child of my own twisted sense of humor. There's something inside me that needs to write poo jokes. I quit my job as a supervisor at UPS just to work on comics full time. That was over a year ago, and a move like that comes with a lot of unknown, and more than its fair share of questions. That comic strip is a way for me to explore those ideas, and laugh at myself, about just how crazy life is.
Are you looking for more artists and titles or focusing on your own for now?
Every comic convention we go to, we look for more people to collaborate with. We've done two here in SLC and one in Denver. We're also going to be at Salt Lake Comic Con this fall. We need more writers, artists, inkers and colorists.
Absolutely. We'd love for anyone interested in reaching out to us. Probably the best way to do that is to like us on Facebook
, and send us a message there.
What can we expect from both of you and Black Omen Comics over the rest of 2016?
Look for Issue #2 of Purge Worlds
. The book is in most of the local comic shops—ask for it by name. Also, check out our Facebook for updates on the Valkyrie Falls
film, and of course, the weekly comic strips.