By William Engel
The rebirth will be in the form of a comic relaunch and a new live-action series. The series takes place in a dystopian future, where the world is being ravaged by a global “Hacker War” and transmitting data securely is a life-threatening task. At the center of the war is the titular OMEGA 1, a genetically enhanced human hired to keep her clients’ data safe – using her superpowers and proficiency with multiple weapons to do so.
I sat down with Lewis recently and asked him a few questions about the genesis of the series and its relation to modern gender politics.
WILLIAM ENGEL: I’ve read a bit about OMEGA 1, and one of the things I’ve read about it was that it was created to fill a void, to counteract the dearth of female superheroes. Was that something you noticed growing up, as a comics fan?
MARK EDWARD LEWIS: I actually wasn’t able to read comics growing up. My parents didn’t let me have any. I think I had one Han Solo comic that somebody had given me and my parents thought that was okay, but I didn’t get into comic books at all until we investigated the possibility of turning OMEGA 1 into a comic book. That was around 2006.
We had originally made it as a television movie of the week, and we were told when we were pitching it that the script was good enough to be a series pilot, so we did that.
This was at a time when the Bionic Woman reboot and Painkiller Jane were on, and they were just not going anywhere. Just terrible ratings. They weren’t done in a way that we would imagine them being done now, where female empowered superheroes are just so very commonplace and wanted. But back then, nobody thought it was a good idea, especially after those shows didn’t do very well. So we decided to hold on the television show and turn it into a comic book, and that was the first time I had any connection with comic books at all.
ENGEL: In that case, what was it like delving into a medium that you were unfamiliar with prior? Were there any challenges?
LEWIS: Well, the biggest challenge was finding an artist. Nobody wants to see my artwork; I’m a good writer, but nobody wants to see what I draw. And one of the great ways of doing that is going to comic conventions and finding artists, who are easy to spot because they’re walking around with their portfolios.
We actually lucked out. My partner at the time had somebody show her a comic book, and we were like, “Wow, that looks amazing! Who is this guy?!” And we were connected with our now-artist, Emmanuel Xerx Javier. He’s sort of a beautiful synthesis of old school line-drawn arc with modern technology. He hand-draws all of his pencils and inks and then puts them into the computer and does his coloring. It’s one of the reason why people love OMEGA 1 so much; it’s such a beautiful amalgamation of styles.
So that was the hardest part. The next hardest part was, as a filmmaker, finding the aesthetic for telling the story in freeze-frame, which is what comic books are. It was really difficult finding a way to take a hundred-page screenplay and turn it into a comic book play for the artist: because Emmanuel, the way he works, he doesn’t really want to make dramatic creative choices, like where in the scene a shot should happen.
I took my inspiration with my experience with storyboarding. We went about creating the comic book as though it were a storyboard for the series, which made it really amazing and dramatic looking, because camera angles are a lot more creative than how most comic books are drawn. And it also made a great pitch device for us, because we’d show up at a pitch meeting and throw a comic book at the table, and executives like that a lot more than a paragraph they have to read.
Emmanuel had never done this before, and while working on the first issue, he’d kind of fight me sometimes. He’d be like, “Why are we looking from the floor up? Why are we looking from the ceiling down?” and I’d say, “Just do it. This is the way we do it in Hollywood.”
By Issue 2, he got it. And now he’s drawing for Boom, DC, all kinds of companies, because we’ve been able to collaborate in such a way that his style has moved much more into that cinematic realm.
ENGEL: What do you think it means to be a female superhero in a field that’s mostly male-dominated? Do they have certain standards that they have to uphold?
LEWIS: We just finished a pilot for a series called “Blade of Honor”. We were praised for it because our cast is so diverse – and that’s important, you know? The inclusion of all colors and styles. But what’s far more important, to me, is gender representation.
Not to bash D.C. versus Marvel, but one of the reasons Marvel is seeing such a great renaissance is because they’re using a lot of female characters. And with Marvel, those characters are tormented: personally tormented by their own inner demons. And what we see, what we love, is the redemption of those. Like you see in Iron Man; sure, he’s a rich philanthropist and genius, but what we love in every Iron Man movie is when he overcomes his own demons. We see this with the X-Men, as well, with Storm and Phoenix, especially. Like Iron Man, they’ve got some issues, and they overcome those demons. [TAOM]