Interview: Michael Avon Oeming on IDW’s Dick Tracy Forever

Dick Tracy Forever #1

Dick Tracy Forever #1

Michael Avon Oeming is probably best known as the co-creator of Powers, but is also known for his work on United States vs. Murder Inc., Takio, Rapture, Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye, and much more. Now he sets his sights on one of comics legendary creations with IDW’s Dick Tracy Forever. Oeming gives Westfield’s Roger Ash the lowdown on this fantastic new series.

Westfield: How did Dick Tracy Forever come about?

Michael Avon Oeming: I was doing a series of covers for IDW; some Samurai Jack, Judge Dredd, and Star Wars over the past few years. When the Allred Dick Tracy series came about, editor Denton Tipton asked me to do a cover. At that point, I let him know I would be interested in any future Dick Tracy series that might come about. It was all very natural. Weirdly, Brian Bendis and I were almost on the series in the early 2000s but it didn’t work out. My only regret about this series is that Brian, Taki Soma, and I aren’t doing it together.

Dick Tracy Forever #1 page 1. Inked version and with Taki Soma's colors.

Dick Tracy Forever #1 page 1. Inked version and with Taki Soma’s colors.

Westfield: For you, who is Dick Tracy?

Oeming: After doing my deep research, he’s become many things, but ultimately Dick Tracy is about Chester Gould, about the world he created and the characters. My goal is to honor that world, the classic Dick Tracy, but also to find a way to show that he is a hero for all times, not just a retro pop culture hero from the past. I might fail horribly, but I’m swinging for the fences!

Dick Tracy Forever #1 page 2. Inked version and with Taki Soma's colors.

Dick Tracy Forever #1 page 2. Inked version and with Taki Soma’s colors.

Westfield: What can you tell us about the story in the series?

Oeming: The whole series is a concept. Each issue is 2-3 stories, each self contained but connected. The first two issues are “classic Dick Tracy” starting in 1931 and ending in 1951 which covers the pre-watch/coat time period and into the classic look we all know and love. Issues 1-2 will be lots of fun. 3 and 4 get more serious, but still hold on to the absurdity of the crime world. Issue 3 is where things break from tradition; it will be Dick Tracy TODAY. I’ll be doing what I think Chester would have created for today’s audience. He’ll go back to his pre-coat look, but will still have the watch and other gadgets. The challenge is now that the world has caught up with Dick Tracy’s technology, what tech and tricks will Dick use to stay one step ahead of all that? The challenge here is how to make Dick Tracy modern, but still feel like Dick Tracy to those who love “classic Dick Tracy.” I think there is a way, but we’ll have to see! Issue 4 takes place far into the future, one hundred years after Dick Tracy’s launch, and yet it will still tie into the overall story. No time travel involved; these are self contained stories that share themes and take a look at Dick Tracy from different contexts with different challenges for each time period.

Dick Tracy Forever #1 page 4

Dick Tracy Forever #1 page 4

Westfield: Dick Tracy has an impressive rogues gallery. Will you be introducing any new members to it?

Oeming: YES! But rest assured, I’m using lots of classic Dick Tracy bad guys (and allies) along the way. Coming up with absurd yet dangerous characters is fun. I’m from Jersey, so every time I see the vegetable broccoli rabe on some cooking show, I would yell out “Oh! It’s #@! Broccoli Rob over here!” in my Jersey accent to crack up my wife (and DT colorist, Taki Soma). Maybe you just had to be there, but we always laughed. Anyway, characters like that I can have more fun with because I want to be so true to any of the classic villains.

Westfield: Are there any classic Dick Tracy characters you’re especially enjoying working on?

Oeming: Man, I feel so unoriginal saying this, but Flat Top and the Brow are some of my faves to draw. The Prune. You know, all the heavy hitters. I’m also having fun drawing original versions of Pat Patton and Chief Brandon.

Dick Tracy by Michael Avon Oeming

Dick Tracy by Michael Avon Oeming

Westfield: You’re writing and drawing the series. What can you tell us about your process for putting together an issue?

Oeming: At first, I was just going to set it in the ‘30s-early ‘50s, classic Dick Tracy. To me, Dick only felt like Dick in those time periods. The way the Allred’s handled him in a retro-future world totally worked too. But I didn’t just want do something that wasn’t pushing Dick Tracy forward. What could do I that is NEW and yet also serve the classic Dick Tracy vibe I love? Through conversations with Taki, I came up with the different time periods. It felt like an extension of Dick Tracy’s challenge in life to battle crime. Crime and corruption, the major themes of Gould’s comics are timeless, a battle that will go on forever. Dick’s work will never be done. So once I figured out the time periods, I then began writing stories I thought would fit well in those periods. Some will be straight action, others leaning more on the detective work. I’m hoping to tackle all the major angles and themes on the character in one way or the other. Taki’s colors are also going to take that journey. Issues 1 and 2 are nothing like what we’ve done in Murder Inc., and issues 3 and 4 will veer off into a new coloring direction as the story tone changes as well. I can’t wait to see what she does!

Dick Tracy Forever #1 Kyle Baker variant cover

Dick Tracy Forever #1 Kyle Baker variant cover

Westfield: Any closing comments?

Oeming: It is an honor to work on a character like Dick Tracy. Even if I fail at the challenge I set for myself, I hope that Dick Tracy fans can find the love and respect I put in these stories and Chester Gould’s creation. Dick Tracy Forever!


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