I recently got to sit down with Plastic and Vinyl writer Doug Wagner and artist Tim Odland to talk about their upcoming absurdly fun and action-filled Norse-myth comic Beware The Eye Of Odin. It’s a blast of a read and the first issue hits shelves on June 22nd!
“VINYL and PLASTIC creator DOUG WAGNER returns with artist TIM ODLAND and colorist MICHELLE MADSEN to bring you a tale of Vikings, Trolls, Frost Giants, and Valkyries.
When a Viking prince finds the Eye of Odin, he must return it to its rightful owner or face a death of boils and decay. By his side are a one-armed warrior past his prime and a female warrior convinced she’s a Valkyrie. Monstrous mayhem ensues.”
MFR: Hey guys, thanks for taking the time to speak with me about the new book. It’s an absolute blast!
How did you come to settle on the idea behind Beware the Eye of Odin? Was playing around in the Norse mythology toybox something you both had always wanted to do, or was it a more ‘lightning strike” moment?
DOUG: It’s all Tim’s fault. I’m not gonna say he had this all planned out beforehand, but the second I asked if he’d like to work together on something, “Vikings and trolls” shot out of his mouth. No hesitation. No discussion. Just “Vikings and trolls!”
TIM: Yeah, that sounds about right. There might have been a few things floating around in my head but just for a fraction of a second. Vikings and Trolls interested me the most.
Doug is such a great collaborator that he just didn’t go away, write a script, and come back to say, “draw this.” He considered asking me what I was interested in. After knowing him for a while, I’d say he’s the type of writer that can find THE story in anything.
I thought the lore around the Norwegian trolls was a fertile ground to tell a story. I haven’t really seen too many comics or movies, here in the states, that explore that type of Troll. These guys have a little more spice than your typical giant or ogre. Like a vampire or werewolf, they have a specific set of rules to follow to best them. I thought they’d make a great villain and would be a great jumping off point to start a book. Then there’s Vikings… I mean do I need to explain myself there?
The Norse mythology thing was something I’ve always been interested in because my father is in fact Norwegian. I’m connected to it in that way.
MFR: How did you guys end up working together? What has your creative process behind this book been like?
TIM: We meet at a local “Draw Night” and discovered we lived like a mile apart. We would carpool down to Draw Night once a week and eventually we were like, “let’s work on something together.”
The creative process was great! There was a total back-and-forth dialogue we had going. Doug would bring something to the table and then I would add to it. Then I’d bring something to the table and Doug would add to it. There never seemed to be a moment for me where I got a, “No, let’s not do that.” It was always “Let’s see if this fits.” It seemed to me that we were on the same page during the whole process. We knew what would fit when we brought it.
When I’d go off to draw my pages Doug would always say, “Remember to have fun. That’s why we’re doing this!”
DOUG: That’s how I remember us gettting together as well. Two creatives carpooling to meet up with other creatives. I’ll add that the first time I saw Tim’s art I had immediate hopes we’d work together on something. I’m a huge fan of his style and his approach to story.
As far as the creative process, Tim was incredible to work with. You can tell just through his description that he’s all about delivering the best work we could over worrying about who created what or his ego. I had a fantastic time working with him, and as he said we simply tried to have as much fun coming up with something together as we could.
MFR: Tim, I’ve heard you described as a “newcomer” to the comics scene. I find that hard to believe because this book is STUNNING. What was the creative process like as an artist in terms of visually coming up with the look and feel of this mythology-based world?
TIM: Newcomer… Yeah, I’ve made my living as a designer doing illustration and graphics for products, but I’ve always loved comics. Doug was very gracious writing a script for me knowing I never really had done any comic work.
I learned so much with this book. It was literally like a thesis project for a degree in comics. I found out there where a lot more skills to consider than just drawing and uploading.
In terms of visually coming up with the look and feel of the world, I did my research and then ran it though my own visual filter. I looked at what was considered real Norse culture. I referenced the historical clothing, housing, and objects. I looked at design elements like Norse knots and runes. When it came to designing characters and environments, I had all that stuff in the back of my mind and could riff off it to create something with a familiar flavor.
For the trolls, I looked at Swedish artist John Bauer and Norwegian artist Theodor Kittelsen and threw in my own ample assortment of grotesqueries. Things like extra arms, double heads, multiple eyes to a socket made the Trolls a riot to draw. There was going to be a lot of them so that was also a great way to make each one unique.
MFR: Outside of the mythology itself, what were some of your biggest influences going into crafting and telling the story in Beware the Eye Of Odin?
DOUG: Oh gosh! That’s always a tough one to answer. For me, it was a mix of everything fantasy and sci-fi that I’ve engorged myself on over the years, but there are a few movies in particular that I think helped shape my approach – 13th Warrior, Clash of the Titans, and especially, the Norwegian film Trollhunter. It was fun to take what I enjoyed about those films and try to fit them into the story Tim and I wanted to tell. With all three of those movies, there’s a very everyday man confronted by the supernatural or otherworldly kind of vibe that I wanted to capture. With that said, I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that Tim’s initial troll drawings had a massive impact on my approach. They were unlike any trolls I’d ever seen before, and he put this grungy, headhunter, mystical touch on them that immediately had my head racing on how to properly incorporate it. Didn’t I say earlier this whole thing was all Tim’s fault?
TIM: At the beginning of this project, I remember talking about those three movies and they were definitely a common ground of interest we both had. That might be why our creative process went so smoothly. Love for those stories to set the tone for our book’s direction.
On my end, as a kid, I always loved a good adventure movie. Some of my favorites were the Ray Harryhausen ones: Clash of the Titans, The Sinbad movies, and Jason and the Argonauts. I’m not that old. These movies were already old when I first saw them. I was always enamored by the creatures and how comparatively tiny the heroes were. I remember drawing that cyclops a hundred times. It was always the monsters that got me into drawing. It wasn’t until later in this project that I realized a lot of that inspiration was coming out of me.
MFR: So Doug, judging by your writing in your other comics like Plastic and Vinyl, it’s safe to say you very much have your own style. How did you adjust that style, if at all, when approaching this sort of comic that has a very different subject matter compared to your most popular work?
DOUG: Ha! I have to admit this is definitely different from my latest serial killer-y style of books. To be honest, I’m not sure I consciously adjusted my style as much as adjusted the tone. I wanted this to be more pure fantasy with my weird storytelling sense and humor mixed in. With works like Plastic and Vinyl, I purposefully push the edge and try my best to keep the reader off-balance emotionally. To me, that’s what makes an enjoyable horror/dark comedy. With Beware the Eye of Odin, it was more about taking the classic mythology and morphing it to fit my story senses and what I’d want to read. At its base, Beware the Eye of Odin is still one of my horror stories but with a broader audience in mind. I simply wrapped it in witch doctor trolls, venomous tiny humanoids, Earthen Smiths, and Vikings instead of serial killers and cults.
MFR: Modern takes on ancient mythology have always been popular, but they are absolutely massive right now – especially in comics. This works so well because of how myths and folklore work almost like a game of telephone going back thousands of years, with so many different interpretations of these stories being crafted and welcomed. Did either of you feel like there was any obligation to hold to any sort of “classical” version of this lore? Or are your feelings more along the lines of “hey, let’s mess around with some old toys and have a great time!” ?
DOUG: Personally, I didn’t feel any obligation to hold on to any of the “classical” lore, but I did want to use some of those “classical” tales to help set up our world, to give the reader a common frame of reference from the very start. For instance, the Eye of Odin relic is based on the classic tale of Odin giving his right eye to the Frost Giant King Mimir in exchange for “true wisdom.” In todays’ world, almost everyone knows who Odin is, what Frost Giants are, and who the Vikings were, so we used that to establish our world so we wouldn’t have to spend all of our time retelling tales. Now after that, it was Tim and Doug playing in the sandbox with our toys. No holds barred.
TIM: You’ve got it right on. Mythology is always a great starting point for any adventure story. There is already a general knowledge or structure to the world to build off and we had a great time doing just that.
Be sure to pre-order Beware The Eye Of Odin from your local comic shop, and check out Wagner’s other comics like Plastic and Vinyl, available now!