Joe Graham’s Omni

Recently I met a man by the name of Joe Graham through the modern wonder that is MySpace. Joe’s a 41 year old computer scientist married to a beautiful woman name Jana.  They have six children together and live in Grand Blanc, Michigan.  Joe reads comic books, watches TV, spends as much time as possible with his kids, and enjoys his wife’s cooking. A former military man as well as martial arts enthusiast, Joe wanted to meld these passions with his creative pursuits in describing combat scenes and large scale battle sequences. With his first, self-published novel, Omni – History Begins it looks like he’s achieved just that.

I always admire anyone that can follow their creative hopes while still living a so-called normal life. It takes determination and faith. Joe’s updates at the official Omni site are pretty helpful and encouraging for those wanting to see their name on the front cover of a book, and was kind enough to chat with me about the process of putting it all together.

OmniOkay the first obligatory question – what’s Omni all about?

Here is the synopsis that I used as a press release.  But, before all that the answer was a simple concept.  Time and time again superheroes are the epitome of self-sacrifice, heroism, truthfulness, and all the other characteristics that comic fans have come to love.  How did they get that way? In my superhero universe I wanted to show not the end result, but the process of becoming a superhero.  These are not the first superheroes to be training in this manner and the coaches that train them have done this before.  It’s how it’s done in my world, you find that out when you read it.  It’s more Jedi temple than your parents get killed and you just figure everything out.

620 pages is pretty impressive for a first novel, but do you see this as the first of many adventures in the Omni Universe?

620 large pages with trade paperback size text.  The book is 360,000 words. The largest Potter book was about 275,000 words.  It’s a monster book, but it was meant to setup the series and the war to follow.  I’ve had many people tell me to break it into smaller books, but this isn’t how the story should read.  It’s a complete epic the way it is.  Yes, this is the first of many.

Omni Back CoverCan you give us a breakdown of the main heroes and what they bring to the team?

In the book you meet hundreds of heroes and villains – ask me how many original superhero names I had to come up with!  The team with the main focus has six members and these are their names.

Darkspeed, leader – super speed, tough, smart, darkness powers; he’s a good problem solver and tactician.

Olympian, hitter – great invulnerability and strength, flight, speed; fighting is just another sport to him.

Shi, stealth – repel and attract fields, strength, agility, fighting skills, and invisibility; she was raised by heroes and has the advantage in skills.

Virtuoso, brain – mind reading, telepathy, illusions, and teleportation; raised by artists she takes a non tactical approach to problems.

Bioforce, healer – bio-manipulate herself and others, bio scan others, heal, very smart; her powers have her both fighting and taking care of the wounded.

Midas, anchor – matter transmutation; as the youngest and weakest, he seems underpowered for the team.  As the book goes on his true powers become evident.

logoWhat was the motivation for setting up Rejection Press?

This is an easy one.  I wanted to get my book out to as many people as possible and I’m impatient.  I spoke to someone on line about the publishing process.  They said and I quote, “Expect to send out 200 query letters over a two year period just to have someone read your work.”  I thought about being rejected 200 times and just thought to myself, “I am not into that kind of rejection.”  So, I founded Rejection Press and the book is available on Amazon US, Canada, UK, France, and Germany.  I’ve also got it on the Barnes and Nobles web site and I’m working on getting it on their shelves.  It’s much more work for me, but I didn’t have anyone reject me.

What were the milestones you faced along the way?

Self editing sucks, I couldn’t do it.  I had to line up 20 test readers and ask question after question.  In music terms, it would be more like a live album than a studio washed version.  In some ways it seems more real editing this way.  I know I feel much more confident with the plot after talking it out with so many people.

Joe and OmniWas there any step in the whole process that you weren’t quite ready for?

The patience needed as the project grew.  At first you think, “I’ll be done with this in a few months.”  Then 14 months later you have something you are very proud of, but you really wanted it done awhile back.

How did you stay focused during the time it took to complete the novel?

I would have been lost without two things.  One, I made a detailed 75 page outline at the start.  That way I knew what I was going to write about when I sat down.  Two, my kids enjoyed the book and kept asking for new pages to read as soon as they were done.

What’s your ultimate goal for Omni?

My ultimate goal is for there to be a full blown series of books for Omni.  I can’t think of anything that would be more rewarding than for this first work to help spawn that.

Omni Site

You can check out Omni – History Begins at the official site, or at Rejection Press and you can order it from Amazon.

Jackket Knightmare Review/Interview

I admire anyone who pursues their dream with reckless abandon. During July’s Comic-Con I was impressed by the multitude of creators in the small press section who just have a go. Especially in artistic endeavours, that kind of leap of faith is a very open one and a degree of humility and vulnerability are required. Your work is out there for the world to see, and that can be a scary place for anyone.

Cassandra Reyes decided that she too could be one of those brave creative minds. Jackket Knightmare is her debut comic book series. The first issue is out now, with hopefully more on the way. Cassandra has spent the last four years teaching herself to draw. That dedication shows in the first issue. Of course, it’s not as polished as other work on the stands, but for a newbie to the comics publishing world, it’s very impressive. It’s also heartfelt. With a story concerning the titular character as a trenchcoat clad defender of child abuse victims, Jacket appears to be a cross between X-Man Gambit and The Crow, but with a metrosexual vibe reminiscent of David Beckham. A scary combination, to be sure, but Jackket is the best looking piece of art in these few pages.

Not much happens here, so for those expecting kung-fu action, prepare to be disappointed. The dialogue is also sparse, but lays enough of a foundation that I can only assume will be built upon in future issues. The story is not as direct as it needs to be, with further facts from the Jackket web-site necessary to clear it up. But for a short story, and some interesting manga-inspired art my hat goes off to Cassandra. There is also a more Japanese influenced tale on the flip side of the ish, (and a page written entirley in Japanese) for manga fans that highlights the mirth that can happen with voices in your head. Basically the premise of both tales centres on young pastor Tomas Caballero as he deals not only with the death of his father, but also the emergence of the new Jackket personality within him.
Cassandra can only get better from here, as both a writer and artist. There is definite potential here, with the interesting black and white art, coupled with grey tones for certain sequences, well designed layouts and unusual subject matter . All this means that Jackket may just carve a niche for itself yet.

Did you grow up reading comics and fall in love with them straight away?

No, I’m pretty new to comics. I did watch all the comic related 90’s X-Men, and Spider-Man cartoons if that counts. But my first official comic book was the movie adaptation of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, and it was my brother who gave them to me.

What particular creators and characters are you a fan of?

To say that I love Gambit is a slight understatement! But yeah he’s my favorite aside from Rogue, so thank you Chris Claremont! As for artists that influenced me, Tetsuya Nomura (FinalFantasy7) is my favorite, along with Mark Bagley of Ultimate Spider-Man, and Salvador Larroca from Xtreme X-Men. People also assume James O’Barr because we get our characters compared a lot even though I never saw his work prior to JK. A little over a year I did get to meet him and show him my character, but once I did see his artwork I have come to really like his style too.

What made you dedicate yourself to creating comics over the last four years, rather than say music, or novel writing?

Actually, I pursued music for half my life at first. I really felt that God had called me into Christian music, but as I got older and I wasn’t recording albums or touring, I got discouraged and quit. For three years I brooded, feeling like I had failed God, but I also started writing stories and drawing too. Then I heard about Christian comics, and decided to try it. At first I just wanted to find an artist while I wrote the story but when I couldn’t find anyone I decided to do it myself.

Do you have any particular family members or friends that acted as your mentors and guided you through the process?

I come from an artistic family, so my mom, sister, and brother (all art majors) give me tips now and then, but a lot of my help also came from “how-to” books, and of course tons of comics!

Your Japanese influence is obvious in your art, and I know you’re also studying the language. What is it about the culture and art that comes from that country that appeals to you so much?

At first I decided to do a manga because the style is pretty simple compared to an American style comic, but that was more of a decision based on my artistic limitations at the time. But now there is a huge part of me that has grown to respect the Japanese people, and now I want to somehow use media to let them know that there is a God who loves, and died for, them. I know in my heart one day I’ll go there, but in the meantime God wants me to do something here first, and I think that’s Jackket.

The choice of child abuse as a central topic was an unusual one. Why did you choose
to focus on that issue?

When I started Jackket I wasn’t sure why he transformed, but around that time I heard the story of a child who had been starved to death while most of his family did nothing. He’s buried not too far from where I live. I pass by there still sometimes. That soon became the basis to Tom’s story, and I decided to show physical abuse rather than neglect because you can see the damage it does, and in a comic it’s important to show what’s happening.
It also was a scary decision because I didn’t know how people would take it, and it’s hard because you know what you’re drawing is really happening. So yeah I’ve broken down several times while drawing panels, but God helps me through.

How has the process of writing, drawing, printing and promoting been for you? Has it all been quite different from what you expected?

Yes, it’s crazy! I thought making a comic would be easy 5 or 6 year ago. Boy was I wrong! Coming from where I’m coming from, I had to start at the very bottom and work my way up. Jackket’s first issue today is actually the third version of it before I felt it was decent enough, and of course I’m going to keep pushing myself with each issue. The printing kind of fell into place, and God provided a great guy like Joey and the website to help me out. Promoting and selling issues hasn’t been too hard either. I really feel like God has given this project supernatural favor.

How has becoming a self-publisher changed you as a person?

I haven’t felt any different, then again I haven’t really thought about it. I guess if I did I’d probably get overwhelmed because there is a lot more to go.

You’re working on issue 2 of Jackket now. Is your dream to create comics for a living one day?

I’m not sure about being a comic book artist. All I know is that I have to finish this comic series. After that I just have to trust that God has everything else worked out for me, because I still have a lot of other story ideas too.

To purchase Jackket Knightmare, visit Cassandra’s official site here.

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