Mafia, Murder and Mayhem with Michael Oeming and Taki Soma
From the creators of POWERS comes The United States of Murder Inc. and luck for us we got to speak with the art duo on this new series. Michael Oeming, who you might recognize from series like Mice Templar, Hammer of the Gods and, of course, Powers along with super talented colorist Taki Soma combine for some awesome visuals for this crazy vision for a very different America.
All-Comic.com: Let’s start with what this new series is about. For anyone who has not picked up issue one, how have you been describing The United States of Murder Inc?
Michael Oeming: “What if the Mafia never lost its power from the 60-70’s? What if it kept growing, what could America look like then?” What if the Mafia grew so big it found itself facing much larger and older criminal establishments—you know, like the banks!
Taki Soma: Modern day mafia story who kept climbing the power ladder and are now running parts of the US.
Michael, early on in the series, readers learn that something has changed the face of the country. It is an interesting premise that packs a lot in quite quickly. Where did the idea for Murder Inc come from?
Michael Oeming: I was asking Brian those questions above, each question just dominoed the concept, it unrolled itself in a few minutes, completely out of nowhere. All it was missing was characters who could fit into this new paradigm. We were so excited as we came up with it, were at a party with Matt Fraction and Kelly Sue, we had to rush up to them and make sure we weren’t nuts, that this was a good and fresh as it seemed!
In the back matter of issue 1, Brian says that this is a project that has been in the works for a while. How long have the two of your been developing this book?
Michael Oeming: I think this party was right after the first Takio came out. Maybe three years ago? Man time flies when you are old.
There are definitely some benefits to working on existing properties but it can be rather exhausting to reinvent the wheel with regard to building out an entirely new universe. When approaching a project like this compared to working on existing properties, is it more exciting or more daunting?
Michael Oeming: No, both have their benefits. Something pre-existing often has great touchstones for subtext where something new has to be explored to be found. With these scripts, Brian and I built the world together, but the characters are 100 % him, I’m as surprised in the scripts as the readers are when they come in. I think this is some of Brian’s best work, he is more refreshed in this project then I’ve ever seen. I can see how the last years of developing Powers as a TV show (and his other TV/Film work) has come into play here, the slow reveal of characters, turns and revelations feel like lessons from the constant development of shows—but it’s all comics, no one is sacrificing comic book language for that influence.
Is there a character that we have seen, or have yet to see that you designed for this series that you really enjoy drawing?
Michael Oeming: Man, Jagger Rose has become the visual star. We worked REALLY hard on her looks, especially finding a unique hair style for her. Taki and Brian did a LOT of back and forth on the colors for her.
In that same vein, who is a character you have drawn in your career that you have a lot of fun with?
I’d say the mice in Mice Templar. It taps into my inner childhood and sense of wonder. It also allows me to play up my inner Mignola fanboy.
With The United States of Murder Inc, is there any one plot point or piece that has you really excited for when it reaches the public?
Michael Oeming: YES But I’m not sure what Brian is prepared to let out as far as spoilers. It has a lot to do with our alternate history from the Kennedy Assassination on.
Taki Soma: Yeah, but, ya know, it would be spoiling! Let’s just say that Brian doesn’t shy away from thinking BIG. Yeah, be scared, because I am.
At this point in development, does the series have a natural end point in sight? Do you guys have an idea of how long you expect the run to be?
Michael Oeming: I don’t think so. I think Brian, Taki and I want to keep it going. Powers and Murder Inc would make me happy as ongoing books.
Taki, one of the most effective aspects to the book is the tone established by the coloring. Scenes are drenched in shadows and it feels as though almost nothing takes place in a well lit room. What factors into your color palette for this series?
Taki Soma: I think about what colors represent certain tones or emotion, even personalities tends to be associated with a color – so I go with that gut feeling. Brian also has a visual guidance to help out flesh it out as much as possible, because the writer understands the mood he wants to convey the best, yes?
It is not often that interviews or reviews spend a ton of time on coloring. What should people know about coloring, about how you approach the craft, which might provide a bit more clarity?
Taki Soma: Ask Dave Stewart, or Nick Filardi! Seriously, I always thought that colorists were considered unsung heroes of comics, but now that I am actually doing it, I GET IT. It’s a lot of technical work and I am seriously having a great time being able to ‘story-telling-through-colors’ I never got to do before. I am very proud to be coloring this book.
For both of you, what types of stories or work, be it television, film, books or other comics series, inspires you for this series?
Michael Oeming: For me, it’s the Neo-Noir films of Wong Kar-Wai. Like Fallen Angels. Taxi Driver is a huge influence as well. I’m also trying to do a lot of call-backs to the gangster films of the 30-40’s; you’ll notice a lot of the suits have an older feel to them.
Taki Soma: There are SO MANY inspirations out there that it would be unfair to only name a few. But I will tell you that Brian, Mike and I specifically watched a documentary on Wong Kar-Wai, a film director’s photography style to understand how to tell a story through colors. It helped. A lot.
Big thanks to both Michael Oeming and Taki Soma for taking the time to do this and for providing us with both a colored and uncolored versions of a few of the pages. Make sure you follow this series from Marvel Icon as well as follow both of these great creators, and people, on Twitter @Oeming / @takisoma . You might as well following Brian Michael Bendis too, while you’re at it. Couldn’t hurt, right?