Over the last few months, artist Michael O’Hare has quickly become my new best friend.
If the name sounds a bit familiar, it’s likely because I’ve mentioned his name a time or two, in regards to the Tales of the Thing mini we’ve been doing together for Marvel. Three issues already in stores, with the final out May 11, and the digest close on its heels in early June, for those keeping track. But anyway, as the man responsible for bringing my Word documents to vibrant life recently, I’ve come to greatly appreciate his own personal style, and the contributions he’s offered, in the interests of making us both look good. So, when I found out he had an Image book launching this summer, I did a little more digging, with the results as follows [and, as always, click on the pictures to see them in their full glory]…
Brandon Thomas: Okay, think it’s best to start at the beginning. Now, a lot of books out there can easily be defined by their titles alone, but the name of your book definitely raises some questions about its true meaning and scope. So, in the interests of offering a proper start…what exactly is Flak Riot?
Michael O’Hare: Well, to help clarify, without giving away too much, the word Flak is the name of a bounty hunter training school, and Riot is the name of the doorway into a parallel dimension called The O.D. Place it together, and it becomes Flak Riot.
Thomas: Your main character here is Zoe Nixxon. What makes her the perfect viewpoint into this world you’ve created?
O’Hare: Zoe is a bored file clerk who has found herself stuck in a rut in life. She has dreams of adventure, but has never taken the steps to really live…until now, when she answers an ad in a newspaper for a bounty hunter training school, which becomes the point where everything really takes off.
Zoe is someone the audience can easily relate to, and is fairly down to earth, which I think are some of the best qualities for a character you’re going to follow throughout a story.
Thomas: Even with Zoe leading us through all this, having a strong supporting cast to anchor both her and us into the story is just as important. What kind of personalities end up surrounding Zoe, once she reaches Flak?
O’Hare: Zoe has a diary named AI, who is really her only friend in the beginning, but eventually she runs into Max, a former bounty hunter, who is now in charge the training center, and his employees. This includes Dr. Chang, a mechanic/engineer mad scientist, and her sidekick android. Also a big part of the series is an outlaw named Jack Omega, whose story eventually crosses paths with Zoe.
Thomas: So, what kind of world are we talkin’ about here, if someone could answer an ad to become an inter-dimensional bounty hunter? Is this a place with its own superheroes, is magic real, etc.? Give us a lay of the land where everything takes place…
O’Hare: There is the Earth we know, set slightly in the future, and parallel to it, you have a dimension called The O.D. That place is where all things fantastic can and do happen. It has a bit of everything, from dinosaurs to sumos, psychotic biker gangs, gunslingers, etc. The O.D. is a melting pot of different eras and cultures, made up with all kinds of creatures and monsters.
Thomas: Getting back to your lead, are you feeling any additional pressure or concern in having a female lead character, who on first glance, looks to be wearing a great majority of her clothing?
Thomas: Right, right, but you know how comics get sometimes when it comes to our female characters. What do you think ultimately sets Zoe apart, and are you finding yourself walking a tightrope between being respectful of the character, and giving her some believable obstacles to overcome for the sake of the story?
O’Hare: What I think sets Zoe apart, is her modesty, as I’m consciously avoiding making her into a sex object. Now, don’t get me wrong, Zoe is attractive, but that’s not her whole deal, and she has strengths and an ingenuity that you watch her truly discover as the story moves along.
Thomas: With any independent release, part of the initial challenge is getting the word out, and building some forward momentum that’ll sustain your project in the long run. How are you trying to ensure that Flak Riot gets a fair shake in the current market?
O’Hare: Doing interviews like this, dropping in on message boards and trying to spread the word online. I sent out a bunch of ashcans to retailers, to hopefully spark their interest. I am sort of a recluse, so it’s been a real growing experience, but the response thus far has been very strong and encouraging.
Thomas: What led to the creation of the book, and how long have you been waiting to put this out there?
O’Hare: The book’s origins are actually from way back in 1999, when it was called Gearbox, and was very different, with a much more serious tone. The art style was really different as well, at that point, but I salvaged a lot from that initial story, and then mixed in new elements. It has been a long journey, but I think it is ultimately worth the wait, and there really is nothing like getting your own stuff out there.
Thomas: Colorist Michael Garcia really adds an entire new dimension to your artwork, that gives it a very different look from the stuff you did on FF Tales. From your standpoint, what is he offering in regards to the overall look of the artwork?
O’Hare: The pencils on Flak look different, because I can walk it through production step by step and Mike colors it straight from the pencils, while FF Tales stuff had very specific guidelines that I had to follow in regard to page layout and style.
Mike Garcia, to say the least, is invaluable to Flak Riot, and brings so much to the table. Every time he sends me finished pages, I am just completely blown away, and his understanding of lighting and mood is off the charts.
Thomas: Is Mike O’Hare one of those truly rare beasts in the industry, that can both write and draw, and is there a big adjustment to handling both sides of the process?
O’Hare: Maybe you can answer that after you read the series 😉
The process itself is a little smoother, because I have had time to really get to know the material and characters, and with the help of co-writer Robert Napton, we’ve really dug into the details this series, which ultimately benefits the final product.
Thomas: Cool deal, man. Bringing things to a close, is there anything else you think the people need to know about your book?
O’Hare: I’m appealing to any of the readers out there who want to take a risk and step out to try something new. Or who enjoy things like Spaghetti Westerns, City of Lost Children, or the anime series Giant Robo. The book really has it all, shootouts, giant T-Rex’s, gunslingers, psychotic biker gangs, fantastic worlds, and much more. We’re just hoping people will jump on board and enjoy the ride! I know we are having an absolute blast putting it all together.
Thomas: Like to thank Mike for taking time out of a very busy production schedule to answer these questions, and wish him the best of luck in getting his title off to a strong start. I’ll definitely be mentioning this again in the coming weeks, as the release date speeds upon us, so watch this space.
Only other thing I wanted to put out there this week is a little preview of Shatterstar’s third issue, which hits stores this Wednesday. Had an idea about doing an entire piece on the creation of the issue, but changed my mind and will “wait for the trade” to hit you with more behind the scenes commentary than you can stand. Until then, check out the first few pages here.
Back in seven.