Wednesday, June 15, 2011

It Begins - Who's Who?

Okay, now I’m just spoiling you guys!
Yes, I’m back again with more cool Ominous Press stuff to reveal to you all.

In this post, we shall be turning our Searsian eyes to Ominous Press’ first published comic, ‘...It Begins...,’ which has an indicia release date of July 1994, and I believe it came out on the 27th of that month, to be exact.
Any Searsian worth their salt will know that ‘It Begins’ came in the form of 8 separate 6” x 9.5” boards, which were held within a dust jacket-styled board that had the cover, spine text and back cover on the outside. On the inside of this board are the credits, story synopsis, indicia and a forthcoming Ominous Press release schedule.
All of these boards were held in a clear plastic case that opened at the top and bottom, and looked rather expensive to produce. No comic had previously, nor since, been given this treatment or formatting, and it was only the first of what was to be a selection of issues to be given this almost reverent treatment. I, personally, love the packaging and feel of this comic, but it doesn’t really fit into a comic collector’s usual storage procedure. I have long since laminated the individual boards and put the plastic case in a box with other unusual Bart Sears items.

But I have digressed somewhat.

The 8 interior boards feature the first introduction to several of the worlds that are part of the Ominous Universe. On the first 8 pages (the fronts of the boards), we are introduced to Mael, Auoro, a Dog of Dramaurg (pages 3, 4 & 7), Viere, Moon, Snake and Dramaurg himself. But that isn’t what I’m here to talk about today. Pages 9 through 16 (the backs of the boards) show, in pin-up form, some of the other characters inhabiting the various worlds of the OU. In order, they are, Arkon, Intrepid, Armorgedden, Pheros, Tirrus, MegaMen (now called Prometheans), Insidious and Nightbeast. All but the Tirrus and Insidious splashes feature the single character in question, and are pretty self-explanatory. What I want to look at are the Tirrus and Insidious ones.

These two pieces share several key points that are worth noting. Firstly, all of the characters in these two pages are from the same world. This world is the closest that the Ominous Universe comes to a traditional superhero world like that of DC, Marvel, and all the rest.
Secondly, these two groups of powered beings are in opposition to each other on a regular basis, the Tirrus ‘group’ being the good guys, whilst Insidious’ band are the baddies.
Each group has a designated leader. For the Tirrus group it is Steele, and Insidious commands his own.

So let’s first look at the Tirrus page (here it is in its inked form):

B&B '... It Begins...' page 13 inks
The names of these characters (apart from good ol’ Sunder and Steele) do not appear anywhere in any of the published Ominous Press material, nor much of the behind-the-scenes literature either, for that matter. So a lot of the proceeding information had to be coaxed out of Bart’s somewhat hazy memory. Some characters are still fresh in his mind, and have been written into other stories of his, while others are less so.

1. Steele
Easily recognisable due to that big, shiny golden dagger on his forehead. The dagger itself is a significant item, worn as something of a badge of office. The fact that Bart has drawn Steele in heavy shadow is quite symbolic of the character himself. While very powerful, he much prefers the shadows. He’s a man of intrigue, deception, manipulation and stealth. He runs Tirrus, a company, from the top of Tirrus Tower.

2. Ram
Bart has little memory of this particular character, we’re not even sure if that is his actual name! But Bart does recall using the word ‘ram’ as his design brief, hence the metallic headgear that would certainly work as both a battering device and gives him a fancy appearance.

3. Lord Sterling
Yes, the name is LORD Sterling and she is quite clearly a woman. But Bart assures me there are no hidden dangly bits anywhere. But historically, the title ‘Lord’ can be used by a woman too, the Queen of England is herself the Lord of Mann.
As for Lord Sterling, the important thing to pay attention to (apart from the platinum hair and rather revealing outfit) are those large gauntlets she is wearing. They are significant because they are one pair of a set of four pairs, worn by four heroes. Four pairs, four heroes. The gauntlets themselves are powerful relics, regal and highly prized.
This character has since been visually re-designed by Bart.

4. Grey
A tough s.o.b. from what I’ve read. Grey is an incredibly capable close-quarters fighter; his hands move so quick that they become a grey blur and his attacks seem to extend from this grey blur. That is to say that if his fist is a foot away from you as it strikes, you will still get hit because of the grey blur.
Grey has private quarters within Tirrus Tower, and seems to have a heightened sense of hearing or awareness of his surroundings than us mere mortals.

5. Sunder
Having written about our old friend in the previous two Who’s Who articles, I’m just going to print here what it says on the Creator’s Universe card featuring him:
Height : 6’7”
Weight : Estimate 325 lbs.
Powers : The sceptre/mace Sunder carries appears to generate tremendous amounts of energy which suffuse his body with power and unbelievable vitality. It appears that he can redirect this power back through the sceptre, firing wildly coruscating bolts of force, in rapid succession, which are capable of reducing almost anything (so far) to rubble. His physical abilities appear to mimic the power of the sceptre, powerful but most effective when he can strike repeatedly.
Origin : Unknown
Note : Sunder normally is very tight lipped, but when he speaks, he appears to slur his words, almost stuttering at times… there has been some speculation in the tabloids on this but little is actually proven.
Affiliation & Associations : Sunder has been occasionally spotted with the QUANTUM GROUP, but it is unknown if his association is permanent or not. Sunder’s actions appear to be beneficial, though so little is known of him, and his manner is at best suspicious, we recommend keeping close surveillance indefinitely.

6. Mr. Fury
Bart likes this guy still. So do I. Mr. Fury features in a later screenplay Bart wrote that also includes Intrepid and X-Wave. Mr. Fury, as his name suggests, can be a very angry man at times. And when he’s angry, he screams really loud, sending out a concussive wave of energy over the immediate surroundings, or can be channelled directly to a single opponent. He has the ability to violently vibrate, which can enable him to move through the air somehow.
He’s a wealthy fellow, and hides a dark and potentially devastating secret behind those glasses, so he fights the good fight to combat that secret, which may well engulf him yet.

There’s the Tirrus group for you in a little more detail than the previous posts. They’re a motley group, no doubting it. But that is what, to me, is so appealing about Bart’s invented mythos – nothing is black and white, and each bit of light has a hint of dark to it. These superheroes, if I can call them that, are certainly fantastical beings, but they live in a world where evil is incarnate, merciless and prevalent. It would be very difficult for even the most pure and moral superhero to not get their hands dirty every now and then. And with an evil that is so corruptive and sinister, tough measures are required to combat it. So somebody like Superman, with his clean outfit and willingness to show compassion and forgiveness, wouldn’t last long in this world, not in that form anyway. There is simply no room for compassion when a villain is not so much interested in world domination, but rather is hell-bent on ripping your heart out with their bare hands. This world is gritty and violent, heroes have to adapt, or die.

And here are some of the baddies responsible for the evil in this world:

B&B '... It Begins...' page 15 inks
 1. Cur (originally called Melee)
Cur appears in 3 places throughout the published OP material – on this page, as a design by Michael J. Morrissey at the back of Mael’s Rage and there’s also an image of him by Andy Smith at the back of Infinity, on the Michael J. Morrissey Bio page. Cur also features in a back-up story titled ‘Masks’ that was going to appear in the Death of Pheros issue. The image of Cur in Infinity is actually taken from this story, which I believe was fairly close to completion, with Andy drawing it, Tim Tobolski on inks and Brad Perkins colouring. Bart wrote it, of course.
From what appears in that back-up story, Cur is a pretty twisted and wicked character. He has two chainsaw blades that run along the side of his forearm when retracted, and flip out like hand extensions when in battle. He does the bidding of Insidious willingly and with sadistic glee, killing heroes as he goes. He’s 6’5”, thick as a plank and a bit crazy.

2. Duemzgaet (not to be mistaken for Chakall, who would kick her ass)
Also appears briefly in the Masks story. Duemzgaet is also very evil and malicious, and works alongside Cur closely. But where Cur is slow of wit, Duemzgaet is exceedingly smart. Her power comes from entrancing people with her body movement and allure, her potent sexuality is her weapon. She has almost ivory coloured skin and is a little bit crazy too.

3. X-Wave
X-Wave is awesome. He’s just cool looking and is an interestingly convoluted character. He is a creation of Insidious’ scientific design, but seems to have a free will, and though he is naturally bent toward evil, and has racked up a sizable amount of hero killings, he does seem to know when he’s fighting a losing battle and when his allegiances are of a negative effect to his own survival.
He has big, nasty looking claws and several hollowed out tubes that run down the sides of his body, that are filled with some sort of liquid that seems to boil when his aggression rises. But these claws and tubes are actually pretty useless, and are more of a diversion from his actual powers which are many and mostly only known to himself.
Like I said, X-Wave is awesome.

4. Hydra
Hydra likes Twinkies. Well, he looks like he does anyway. Hydra is massively obese, to the point where he has leg braces to support his mass. He has some weird growths sprouting from his shoulders with all kinds of freaky stuff emanating from them, including extra little heads. Lovely. Hydra is apparently as nasty on the inside as he is on the outside, but as far as his actual powers go, Bart is keeping that a secret.

5. Insidious
Last of all is Insidious. He’s the most powerful villain in this world, mainly because he has created the above band of baddies to do his bidding for him. Insidious himself is powerful enough, but his real strength is in his almost immeasurably high intelligence. He’s a scientific genius of unsurpassed skill and invention. But he was once a man, who, through dismantling his own body, has merged himself with his armoured exterior. Sounds unpleasant.

And there you have it. Bart and I have been talking about the Ominous Universe quite a lot lately, and I have many ideas for future posts dealing with what we have discussed. But we have one more Who’s Who article to come, and it’s one I’m really looking forward to, as it’s the Infinity Who’s Who. We’ll look at all of the bad guys who beat up on poor old Mael, and I’ll reveal who all of those folks are on the last page, you know, where they’re all saying “the same.”

Should be fun!


Darrin said...

Awesome stuff!

PsychosisPC said...

I remember this vividly when it came out. I was very excited about all this stuff.

Insidious always reminded me of Lord Havok from Bart's JLE days.

Jay Penn said...

Yep, there's no getting around the fact that Insidious looks like Lord Havoc. But I wonder if Insidious was around before Lord Havoc and influenced HIS look. Hmmm... must ask Bart that.