'Omni' Interview: Devin Grayson Makes Comics Without Borders
Jul 11, 2019
Dr. Cecelia Cobbina is a lot of things. Gifted, vibrant, compassionate, a member of Doctors Without Borders, for starters. But once she's "ignited", her most defining trait - curiosity - becomes her greatest ability.
Writer Devin Grayson (Black Widow, Nightwing) answers every question we have about Omni. The latest title in the Humanoid's H1 line about a modern hero that can - funny enough - answer any question.
Read on. Let's get down to the truth behind the "Ignited"
The first issue of Omni #1 (JUN191784) goes on sale August 14, 2019.
PREVIEWSworld: What is it like, coming into a newly created universe and helping to build these new characters?
Devin Grayson: It’s an interesting challenge. Usually, you have either a direct hand and personal investment in creating the characters or a substantial history for that character from which to mine. In this case, there was neither, so it became a sort of an exercise in listening to what the editors were asking for and trying to invent a compelling through-line. The here’s-a-cover-write-a-story-to-go-with-it days of comics were before my time, but I thought of them fondly when I started this project. 😁
PREVIEWSworld: What is it about Omni that makes it unique?
Devin Grayson: We’ve seen characters in comics with super-intelligence before, but we tend to define intelligence in a very narrow way. It’s almost always logical, deductive intelligence. So with OMNI, I set two goals for myself: expand the definition of what intelligence can be, and make it visual. I started exploring different types of intelligence and came across a classification system from the early eighties--The theory of multiple intelligences by Dr. Howard Gardner—that delineates nine distinct types of intelligence: logical-mathematical, of course, but also naturalist, musical, existential, intra- and interpersonal, bodily-kinesthetic, linguistic and spatial. So instead of just having Cecelia able to infer things, I created an excuse to bring in emotional and social and philosophical rationales for her decisions. To make it visual, Alitha developed a distinct avatar for each intelligence type, and suddenly we have a character who can look at a problem from lots of different angles and even argue with herself over the best way to proceed.
Most of us are really good with three or four or these intelligence types, but Cecelia can access all of them at once. Sometimes this is incredibly helpful, and you see her using different kinds of insights to untangle complex problems, but other times it results in a kind of intellectual paralysis. Either way, I think it opens up an engaging conversation about how we use our brains.
PREVIEWSworld: What is it that makes Cecilia such a captivating protagonist?
Devin Grayson: When I first read the background material about Cecelia, which was written by the original H1 Architects, there were lots of notes about how compassionate and altruistic she was; there was a clear desire to make her someone who genuinely cared about the world and the people in it, someone who devoted her life to making things better. It also stated that Cecilia came from a very type-A family full of serious academic over-achievers. The editors, meanwhile, seemed to be thinking along the lines of brilliant but emotionally inaccessible characters like Sherlock and House. I actually love contradictions like that—we are all different people in different situations, so I decided that all of those things should be true of Cecelia and went from there. The result was a compellingly complex character who is very present for the people in her life but also keeps some of her cards close to her vest. Through the intelligence avatars, we get to experience parts of her thought process with her, but partly because of that, I didn’t want us to always know what was in her heart. So she is warm and thoughtful and altruistic and private all at once.
PREVIEWSworld: How did the first story arc of Omni develop?
Devin Grayson: One of the other notes I got about Omni was that the series was meant to be an exploration of contemporary America. I can’t think of anything more American than a road trip, so the framework for the story developed from there. We’re also in a universe where people are “igniting” – discovering incredible powers in times of intense stress – so it made sense to look at some of those ignitions and think about how real people in real situations unique to our current social climate might react to developing these abilities.
It also felt important to have the first arc build toward discovering what OMNI actually was, why it would be necessary, and how it would fit into Cecelia’s life.
Omni #1 (JUN191784) comes with two covers and goes on sale August 14, 2019.