Interview: Michael Avon Oeming Talks ‘The After Realm!’

Michael Avon Oeming, After Realm

(Courtesy of

In an exclusive interview with Villain Media, writer/artist Michael Avon Oeming talks about his epic fantasy drama in the weekly webcomic, The After Realm. Created by Oeming (The Victories) and Taki Soma (Rapture), readers are in for a true coming-of-age tale wrapped inside an amazing adventure.

The After Realm follows a young elf named Oona Lightfoot, who’s trapped in her own safety net and shielded from the outside world. Dreaming of becoming a Ranger, Oona seeks for her best friend in the apocalyptic landscape of Ragnarok. She will discover that becoming a Ranger will turn her into a worthy hero.

Before the webcomic delivers a new must-see page this Monday, December 18th 2017, Oeming discusses the creative process behind The After Realm, working with Soma, and his upcoming projects.

VILLAIN MEDIA: Tell me how the concept behind The After Realm came about.

MIKE AVON OEMING: I’ve been sitting on and developing a version of The After Realm since around 2014, maybe a little earlier around 2012, with some sketches of a male character; very much a mopey Elric kind-of-character. Since then, I started drawing a traditional comic around 2014 in my “spare time,” hoping to build a body of pages, so when I decide to release issue #1, I might have 4-5 issues in the can.

I was calling it, ELVONIC, but several people said that it was too obscure, like niche within a niche; uninviting to those who are not hardcore fantasy nerds like me. So I changed it to The After World.

I was really just drawing it for myself, no immediate plans on publishing. It was just for me. I had about 48 pages finished when other opportunities just kept coming up — a graphic novel about Aleister Crowley and the occult, the Powers TV show lasted two seasons — and I was still producing issues of Powers and Takio at the same time.

For those unfamiliar with my work, Powers is a crime/noir series I’ve been doing with Brian [Michael] Bendis since 2000, and United States of Murder Inc. (colored by Taki Soma) and Takio was an all-ages series we recently did as well. So a lot of factors kept this at bay, but the work and development continued.

VM: What was the motivation behind The After Realm as a webcomic? Was it about pushing boundaries or finding a new storytelling technique?

MAO: It first became a webcomic when I was approached by Stela, a digital comic company designing a pages in an “infinite scroll” style specifically for phones and Tumblr-style reading. It was promising!

I decided to create a sort of prequel to After Realm for Stela, thinking it would be a great way to build an audience before the print book came out. And it would allow me to build a better understanding of my characters and world.

During this time, fantasy comics had really blown up both in print and web comics, but in print, there is only so much room on the shelves. And it felt like I waited too long. So the webcomic felt like it would be the way to go; there is a lot more elbow room on the internet than comic shelves.

However, while working on After Realm, the Stela thing didn’t work out. So now, I had 48 pages of a print comic of grown-up Oona, and about 40 pages of this younger version of Oona just sitting there. At the same time, I had grown more and more interested in webcomics as a way to publish work, without the typical concerns of print comics. Like “who will publish this, who has a good deal, is the market flooded with fantasy” etc.

I’ve also drawn webcomics before, once in the late ’90s called Doctor Cyborg and Team Fortress, Portal and Left 4 Dead when I worked at Valve Corp. When we [were] looking into how to launch this, I discovered there was already an After World webcomic, so Taki [Soma] came up with After Realm.

(Here are some links for readers to Portal 2: Lab Rat, Left 4 Dead: The Sacrifice and Team Fortress 2) 

Michael Avon Oeming, The After Realm
Courtesy of Michael Avon Oeming,

VM: Tell me about the inspiration behind Oona Lightfoot. Her coming-of-tage tale, her rebelliousness and desire to become a Ranger, drives the story.

MAO: Well, some of those themes are obvious and universal. Kids not fitting in is widely told because it is so relatable. I was really drawn to that idea here because I began this knowing I wanted to draw an Elf character. When I think of Elves, I think of a level of perfection and rules that would drive me nuts. I also have been deeply influenced by Alice in Wonderland.

I had a rough childhood, often dreaming to escape reality to some fantasy world. I have a surprise backstory for Oona that also feeds into that; so that drove me to a coming-of-age story. But I promise the twist is good! And I’m looking forward to flipping the story on its head! It’s always good when a character weakness becomes their strength, and strength [becomes their] weakness.

VM: Tell me about collaborating with Taki Soma. Because you are both artists, does each page start with an image? Or does it start with dialogue?

MAO: Taki is coloring After Realm, but I give her full credit as co-creator, because not only is she a sounding board for my writing — as you know, putting together a webcomic, Patreon, and promotions is a lot more work than it seems.

She began coloring on United States of Murder Inc. having never colored before, which is how she developed such a unique style; where colors are not literal but expressive.  Besides coloring, she keeps me on track with work, my schedule, all while juggling her own.

But I also do my part; we are good at measuring who needs the most help that day. We are a real team of mutual support both in work and housework.

Story-wise, I start with the plot, then the character reveals itself to me. Then I bend the plot to what the character needs once I figure them out. Dialogue is always last. I’ve also had to learn to letter. It’s not great, but I enjoy learning. And it’s also taught me a lot about dialogue and writing.

VM: What I love about The After Realm is how you dive into your own Tolkien-esque mythology, especially with The Elf Lords and the books Oona carries in her arms. Tell me about how you and Taki Soma started world-building the setting.

MAO: It’s tough! I love Tolkien and mythology. I’ve written Thor  and Ares for Marvel, Red Sonja, my own Norse mythology called Hammer of the Gods, and Mice Templar with Bryan J.L. Glass and Victor Santos. Mice Templar has been optioned for an animated series. You can get the books at your LCS (local comic shop) or click here! I delved deep into that stuff for those works, especially in finding a balance of fantasy/dialogue with something relatable.

I thought I would do the same here, but instead I found myself not pushing that side of fantasy as much. I’ve really stripped it down to character motivations and fun, open, mostly modern dialogue and have held back from naming every inanimate object. I might push that more when I return to the print version, but as I developed this younger character, it felt right to be more straightforward and fun; keep it simple.

I also have a tendency to write, and draw dark and disturbing work. So I’ve really reveled in creating something so fun, lacking in any blood, language, or nudity. I typically work filter-free, but After Realm called for its own rules and I followed. That’s when you know you have something good, when it dictates the rules to you.

VM: Tell me about your Patreon page for The After Realm.

MAO: [Laughs] I’m hardly telling anyone! Until January, we are still in soft release mode. So I’ve not posted once about Patreon to my Twitter or social media audience. You only see it if you read closely on the After Realm page.

The reason is we’ve never run our own webcomic page before. Even though it’s very simple, just using a basic WordPress page. There is a lot to learn for a newbie; the same with Patreon. I want to really become educated in how to best use it and what incentives work best for both me and the audience. It’s why we are only running a page a week at this point.

So I’m hoping sometime in late January, I’ll be confident we have our model down, as well has having options for other crowdfunding possibilities. I wanted to do that even before this latest Patreon news hit. I really want to serve our audience, to give back plenty, not just take.

VM: Because this is a webcomic, when should readers look for new pages of The After Realm?

MAO: Every Monday! I try to post my incentives every week, not just once a month, with the exception of my longer videos which just take more time. We are still figuring things out so please, if anyone has constructive feedback, please leave a comment!

VM: What other projects are you working on now?

MAO: Lots! I draw Cave Carson monthly at DC comics, under Young Animal, which is curated by Gerard Way. That is monthly and takes up most of my time. We are still doing Powers and United States of Murder Inc. with Bendis. And there is always some new TV or film deal threatening to happen.

I like having too much to work on. I’m really hoping that After Realm can take off so I can spend more time on it, and eventually bring it to print. You can keep up with my projects either at my Patreon site, my personal website or following me on Twitter where I mostly post my art and retweet art I love.

Writer’s Note: Links are highlighted in bold. Second time’s a charm:

Twitter: @Oeming

– By Jorge Solis

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