OSSM Comics‘s latest series Monomyth is out this Wednesday. Writer of Monomyth and Editor-in-Chief at OSSM Comics Siike Donnely very kindly took the time to talk to us regarding his new series and OSSM Comics.
UTF: How did you get into the comic book industry?
Siike Donnelly: I’ve actually been trying to break in for over 10 years now. I got my foot in a few times, being an intern at places, helping friends ghost write a few stories, and going through various submissions processes with a bunch of close calls. I self published a novel back in 2007, which got me a writing gig at Arcana. Then after I recovered from my various health issues, I got a job at Golden Apple Comics, where I met Matt Hawkins.
Matt [Hawkins] was nice enough to give me a job at Top Cow, which was great because not only do I love their characters and the teams they get on their books, but I learned a lot. Rich Johnston at Bleeding Cool let me write some articles for them starting in 2011, then Hollywood Reporter let me do a few write-ups for them as well and it all started to trickle out from there. I get hired sometimes for consulting work, which I like. It’s nice to put all this “useless knowledge” as some would say to good use.
Long answer, short; I just never gave up. I want to be a part of this world, and even if it’s going to be a small part, I’m happy.
UTF: What comics or writers inspire you?
Siike Donnelly: I’m influenced by a lot. Comics, movies, cartoons, music, street art… everything. I would say that I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for Agatha Christie‘s work, James O’Barr, Geoff Johns, Archie Goodwin, Jim Shooter, Bob Wayne, Louise Simonson, Flint Dille, Kevin Eastman, bands like Sevendust, Ill Nino, & Nonpoint, songs like “Moonlight Sonata” and “Sway”, movies like The Crow, Dark City, Superman The Movie, Transformers The Movie (1986), The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) & Fight Club, and literally a list of every form of art and artist that are longer than my medical bills. Videogames, podcasts, people, everything. I find inspiration everywhere.
UTF: How did you get involved with OSSM Comics?
Siike Donnelly: I met Omar [Spahi] when I was working at Golden Apple Comics. He came in with his book Xenoglyphs, which we’ll be releasing in TPB soon, wanting to sell it in our store. The owner approved and we sold a good amount. It’s a fun book. Omar [Spahi] and I stayed in touch for over a year, and when I quit Top Cow, mainly because I wasn’t sure how my latest procedures were going to go, Omar [Spahi] came to me and offered me a job that I could do from bed, at my own pace. I wanted to go back to Top Cow, but Omar [Spahi] offered me a pretty sweet deal, and also told me I could edit the books and write one. It was a hard offer to turn down.
UTF: You’re writing OSSM‘s latest series Monomyth. What can you tell us about that?
Siike Donnelly: I can say that it’s my favorite thing I’ve written to date. Monomyth is the story of Michael and Lucifer told in reverse. Lucifer tells Adam & Eve NOT to eat the apple and Michael is the archangel that rebels against God and falls from Heaven. It’s a really epic story, and I basically didn’t hold anything back when it comes to the action, while also making sure it told a very real, human story with a lot of heart.
I can’t write a character, even a background character, unless I know where they’re coming from emotionally, and why they do the things they do. I’m hoping that insane attention to detail comes off well, because honestly, my artist, Eric Ninaltowski, is so good, I wouldn’t blame anyone for not reading the dialogue. Haha. If someone told me they were so blown away by the art that they still haven’t read the actual story yet, I wouldn’t be mad at all.
I worked hard on it and lost many nights of sleep, but Eric [Ninaltowski] is just that great.
UTF: How did you come up with the idea for Monomyth?
Siike Donnelly: I think it stems from me being a broken Catholic, for sure. Haha. But really, I’m just a big fan of the Bible. No joke. I’ve read it half a dozen times in my life and just find everything in it very interesting. Also, when creating an indie book, it’s hard to build an audience on a fresh idea because A) it’s probably not that fresh or new and B) because you’re writing about all new characters that some readers just don’t want to get to know from scratch.
Marvel, DC, and other companies have it a bit easy in that regard at times. Most likely you now know who Iron Man is before you pick up his latest issue, or you’re a fan of the writer/artist on the book. Me? I’m a nobody, finally getting a real break after 10 years. So I wanted to write a story that was an easy pitch, one where people already had an idea of the characters involved, but might be open to a more exaggerated, fictitious version of them.
I didn’t set out to offend anyone with this story, but I know in this day and age people will look at it that way, and say I hate God or I’m anti-religion, or whatever. I’m fine with them labeling me, because I know it’s not true. I just thought it would make a great story. Plus, I’m a big fan of stories like Gilgamesh and TV show’s like Supernatural, which is my favorite show ever. I wanted to mix those together but have fight scenes on the scale of something like Final Fantasy.
UTF: Has anything in particular inspired you whilst creating Monomyth?
Siike Donnelly: I think while writing it, Eric [Ninaltowski], my artist, and I, bounce a lot of ideas off each other. Eric [Ninaltowski]‘s a Christian, so he will let me know if we’re in danger of crossing any lines. If so, I don’t see it as a bad thing. I look at what line we might cross, and if I agree and see where he’s coming from, I’ll rewrite the scene, usually coming up with something more creative anyway.
So while writing and working on the book, my biggest inspirations have come from Eric [Ninaltowski], or talking ideas out with my editors Omar [Spahi] and Nathan McMahan, or even my best friend Gene in Florida. I’m inspired by people a lot, and since at it’s core, Monomyth is the story of humanity, I’m pulling from a good source pool.
UTF: The main character in Monomyth is called Enoch. Can you tell us a bit about him?
Siike Donnelly:Enoch is such a blast to write, because no one in his world has every experienced anything like him before. This is a world where everyone follows the rules. It’s peaceful. People disagree at times, but it never results in any kind of violence or acts of defiance. To Enoch, it’s boring. He’s like our world’s version of a teenager, or at least like me when I was a teenager. I hated authority, didn’t like the rules, questioned everything and believed I had all the answers to life. That’s Enoch.
So when you drop him into a peaceful world, he acts as the constant wrench in their spokes. He keeps jamming them up, causing them to lose their patience. He wants to live in an imperfect world. So his journey is kind of, “be careful what you wish for.” When imperfection comes, in the guise of violence and war, he, like me at that age, realized that he doesn’t have all of the answers.
His appearance, Eric [Ninaltowski] and I pulled a bit of inspiration from Young Justice’s Aqualad. He was my favorite character on the show, which says a lot considering how much I don’t like Aquaman and how much I love Dick Grayson. Plus, I think I had just seen that bad sci-fi movie with Will Smith and his son, so that probably played a subconscious factor in his design, especially him running around with a spear.
UTF: In Monomyth you’ve taken two well known religious characters in Lucifer and Michael and changed their roles. What spurred you to make this decision?
Siike Donnelly: I know I answered a bit of this already, but I’ll just add that to me, this version I’m writing almost seems more in keeping with who these two really are at their core. Lucifer loves God, so much that bowing to humanity hurt him, or her, since Lucifer is a woman in my story. Michael is a weapon, a force of nature that cleaves his way through anything. Where as Lucifer can be deceiving, Michael will just split your head open. It’s almost like Loki and Thor. So I thought, what if Loki was the hero and Thor was the villain. Deception vs muscle, but in reverse. Those are just the themes I wanted to play with, so it seemed to fit this story well to go in that direction.
UTF: How did you find working with Eric Ninaltowski to create this story and how do you find working with artists in general?
Siike Donnelly: Yeah, I will gush about Eric [Ninaltowski] a lot. He’s really great. We communicate daily, which I need. Comics are a collaboration, and since I have a background in working in movies and television, I’m used to that. I’m sure it’ll happen, but I don’t look forward to working with an artist who says “give me an outline and I’ll take it from here, then you can add dialogue later.” To me, that’s not a collaboration.
Eric [Ninaltowski] sends me thumbnails of each page. I pick one out of the 2-3 choices he gives me, then he starts drawing, emailing me questions if he has them. We go page by page and I think because we have that level of devotion to the detail and project, we have something special. It may not be the best thing on the shelf, or the most original, but I’d say it’s the best thing I’ve ever seen from a company as small as ours. Thaniel too of course. (Shameless plug, Thaniel is on shelves now, go buy it.)
UTF: Are there any other projects that you yourself or OSSM are working on that you’d like to discuss?
Siike Donnelly: I’m not sure we can talk about OSSM stuff right now. We have a new series starting in November and you’ll see some of our past and current stuff coming out in TPB form in October. Not Monomyth though. I want to see how the single issues do first.
For me, I’ve been working on my art book/graphic novel, Elan Vital. I was very fortunate that Dan Harmon let me be a guest on his podcast where I talked about my health and mentioned that I had the Elan VitalKickstarter going. I’m glad I mentioned it too, because it got funded in 36 hours. I was blown away. Still am.
So I’m working on that. It’s a graphic novel unlike any other, and is labeled as Trans Media, or cross media. It’s the story of a robot trying to find if it has a soul. The scientists that created the robot tell it to try finding it through art. Since art comes from emotion, the robot begins creating various pieces. As the robot, I created different styles of paintings, comic art, street art, rock balancing, documentary making, I wrote and perform a song, I choreograph a dance, learn photography, create a custom action figure, and each page will feature photos of these things. Also, you’ll be able to listen to the song, watch the documentary, or see the dance through videos in the digital version. It’s basically every form of art and me using every ounce of technology that exists today in order to tell one single story. It’s the most personal thing I’ve ever done and it’ll be on sale this Christmas.
UTF: Finally what advice would you give any aspiring writers about getting into the comic book industry?
Siike Donnelly: Don’t stop trying. It’s simple, but I can’t stress it enough. If you want it more than breathing, it’ll happen. Even if you self publish and work for yourself, making very little money, you’ll do it. In this day and age, nothing should be in your way, including yourself. If you have a story, you owe it to the world and future generations to tell it and share it.
A single book can open someone’s eyes to the wrongs of prejudice. A book can instill a moral compass that a neglectful parent didn’t. A book can tell you that it’s okay to be yourself when no one else will. A book can provide escape, ignite passion, and change a life. I’m not kidding. It’s happened to me, more than once.
Words are our most powerful weapons for change and innovation and books are full of them. Read, find out what you like, what kind of stories you want to tell, then go create. That’s my advice.
I’d like to thank Siike Donnelly for taking the time to answer my questions and hope him and OSSM Comics good luck with Monomyth and future ventures as I for one have been enjoying their work. Monomyth is out this Wednesday but until then you can find out what I thought off the first issue by checking out the ADVANCE REVIEW!
OSSM Comics also asked me to inform you that they’ll be at this years San Diego Comic-Con International in Artists’ Alley Table GG-12