George O'Connor

ComicsVerse talks to George O’Connor about THE OLYMPIANS at New York Comic Con 2017.

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ComicsVerse: Welcome to New York Comic Con 2017. My name is Rachel Davis, with me is the scribe of the Gods himself, Olympians creator, George O’Connor.

George O’Connor: Hi.

CV: And you are watching ComicsVerse. How’s your Con going so far, George?

George O’Connor: It’s been pretty good so far, it’s just only started. Today’s Thursday, so you know, I’m not tired and hating life yet.

CV: Keyword, yet.

George O’Connor: Yet, yet, it’ll be soon enough.

CV: Yes, so as I said before, you are the creator of THE OLYMPIANS series?

George O’Connor: Yes.

CV: So if I may first ask, why Greek mythology, as opposed to Egyptian or Norse?

George O’Connor: A couple of reasons. Alright, so like, I mean, Greek mythology is the coolest mythology. I say that because there’s the most of it. You know, people like, Norse mythology’s really great, but there’s basically two sources for it. There’s the Poetic Edda and the Prose Edda, that’s it, we know like 24 stories. Egyptian mythology, there’s even less sources. Greek mythology, I have a stack of materials I can choose from.

George O’Connor: Also the thing with Greek mythology, is the Gods were super hot. The Norse mythology, the Gods, they’re kind of maybe ugly, you know, like some of the descriptions you get. Like Thor’s really thick and his hair is bright red, that’s probably not a great look; Loki’s got scars on his face, that’s not good looking. But, you know, Zeus, he’s a hunk, you know, Aphrodite, she’s gorgeous, all these Gods are really cool. So that’s another reason I guess I just relate to those Gods is what I’m getting at, ’cause I’m so gorgeous, you know.

CV: Of course.

George O’Connor: Of course.

CV: Yes, of course and one of the reasons I love your series, out of many, is that it’s so great for both adult and children. There’s such a wide audience ’cause there’s such relatability and the characterization and the artwork is so appealing. Like I’ve shared this book with children and my adult friends and they’ve been well received by either, all of them.

George O’Connor: Cool.

CV: So how do you go about translating all these Greek sources, as you were saying before, all these many sources and not always child-friendly sources, or child-friendly material. How do you translate that for such a wide, contemporary audience?

George O’Connor: Oh, that’s a great question. I don’t think I really do anything that goes, like, so, I’m really careful not to use something super explicit. Comics, you can really get a sense of a comic, just by looking at it, ’cause there’s pictures. It’s very immediate so some of the more violent things, I still keep it in there, but maybe I won’t show blood spurting out of a wound. And there’s always like, I always think of like Ridley Scott’s ALIEN. You never see the alien really, it’s what’s hinted that gets so much more scary. So I kind of dance around these things and showing this stuff. One of the examples I use, can I be a little explicit talking for your podcast?

CV: Absolutely.

George O’Connor: Okay, so like the castration of Cronus. I mean, Cronus’s castration of Uranus, the sky. I’ve seen comics, there’s literally a comic, where it’s like a picture of a guy hitting another guy in the groin with a sickle, it looks silly. I went with the idea, where Uranus, which means sky is the sky, he’s just, you know, the stars and when Cronus castrates him, he’s just slicing open the sky. Light’s pouring through and there’s the term there like I had the dialogue reading, Uranus was rendered impotent, his power bled away. So adults get what I’m talking about that, without, like you know, being so explicit, a kid can’t enjoy it at the same time.

CV: Absolutely. And another thing about your Greek Gods is they’re not all portrayed as white or Caucasian or even olive toned. Like take Aphrodite, for example, she has brown skin,

George O’Connor: Yeah.

CV: And, yet, she has a child, Eros, who has paler skin than her and I was just wondering, is this a conscious decision on your part to have such varying coloring for the race, like different racial portrayals and have you seen any backlash for that?

George O’Connor: That’s a great question. It is, it was very much a very conscious decision. Like what we think of as ancient Greek society was not a homogenous culture and particularly in the case of Aphrodite, she’s the only Olympian who’s not a blood relation, she marries into that family. And she was viewed by the ancient Greeks as being very exotic and having moved in from the Far East somewhere, so I wanted to give her an Indian complexion to something. I mean, personally, I just think she looks beautiful that way too.

George O’Connor: Some of the other Gods, my version of Heracles, he’s also very dark skinned, because as we know, he is a descendant of the Princess Andromeda, who was the Princess of Ethiopia. So I wanted to bring in a wider variety of complexions to it, ’cause I feel like it really reflects a family and the Olympians are a family.

George O’Connor: As far as backlash, you know, I feel like I’ve been sheltered maybe. I’m lucky, there hasn’t been too much. Sometimes I’ll get like a kid, who’s like, “Hey, why’s this Aphrodite? “Aphrodite’s blond,” I’m like, where, where’s it say Aphrodite’s blond? And the kid will be like, “I guess nowhere.” I’m yeah, it doesn’t, and the only detail we know of her physicality is she had eyes the same color of the sea. And so once you give her blue-green eyes, you’re set and it’s just kind of a cool teaching moment.

CV: Absolutely and you were saying family before. One of the amazing things again about your portrayal of the Olympians is that they have these real moments of humanity. I’m thinking of Aphrodite and Athena after the judging of Paris, that scene, or even Hades and Persephone’s relationship. There’s so much humanity behind these Gods. So I want to ask you what is a God to you?

George O’Connor: Oh, I mean, okay, if we’re going to go Greek style, a God, I mean, they’ve got to have the parentage of the Gods, they’ve got to be fully immortal. So if that’s me getting really geeky, right, what I think you’re getting at, which I think is like a truer thing, a God is a reflection, like in the Greek sense, they’re reflections of people and the reason why the Olympian pantheon resonates so well with us now; that most people don’t worship them is they’re abstractions of a dysfunctional family and everybody knows that family, like, not specifically, most families don’t have as much cannibalism in it as they do, but like there’s some do.

George O’Connor: But you know, it’s all just like these aspects of the way people really relate to each other. And that’s one of the things I love about reading these original sources, going back to these stories and seeing these really human moments captured in the way that the Gods and the heroes relate to each other. Like this is stuff that was put down on papyrus or paper or whatever like 3,000 years ago and it still speaks to the way that humans react now. So the Gods are like reflections of humans, that just don’t have the limitations of having to die, how’s that?

CV: That was really good, that was really cool.

George O’Connor: Long winded to get there, too.

CV: But well said and very well thought out, thank you for that. So, on your website or the series website, OlympiansRule.com.

George O’Connor: Also, check out GeorgeOconnorBooks.com, it’s more up to date.

CV: Wink, wink, yes. But going back real quick to OlympiansRule.com, you have a lot of behind the scenes and interviews with, you’ve got a lot of questions for after the reading,

George O’Connor: Yeah.

CV: So what do you hope that your readers learn from these Greek characters and your stories? What’s the learning aspect, are there any morals, that you want to take away from this?

George O’Connor: Oh man, I don’t know that you want to talk about the Olympians in terms of morals, ’cause they’re mostly pretty terrible. But it’s, I wanted, I kind of like, I put those questions in, ’cause a lot of the times, those are questions I thought about myself while writing it. I kind of have these ideas, like when I ask about what makes the person. Like I’m working on Hephaestus right now, Hephaestus is always characterized as an ugly God, but he’s also characterized as a shape changer. Why is a God, who can look like anything he wants, ugly? So I start asking myself these questions about the character. For him I’m like, he probably has a bad self-esteem ’cause his mother threw him off Mount Olympus when he was a baby. You know, he’s got some issues and stuff.

George O’Connor: So it’s like I come up with these lists of questions, based on the kind of things that I think of, and I put them in there to inspire. I don’t know if I want to teach them as much as get them to think about the elements of the story. Like graphic novels, the cool thing about them is they’re designed to be read multiple times. You know, you read it once, like just glancing through, then you read it slower, going through the different things. I kind of want these books to be pored over multiple times and there’s different levels of intricacy and story in there to pick up on multiple readings and a lot of space for a reader to bring their own experiences to.

CV: Thank you, absolutely and one more question, before the end. Why do you think us, as a Western culture, keep continuing to go back to the Greek Gods? ‘Cause they’ve been so prolific throughout all sorts of media throughout human history.

George O’Connor: Oh, okay, I mean, I kind of hit on that.

CV: You did.

George O’Connor: It’s the, but there are more reasons than that too, dysfunctional family. Also I mean, for so much of the period, we basically like, for so much of the period of art history, you can basically depict scenes from the Bible or scenes from like Ovid, you know, the Metamorphoses and stuff and the Bible.

George O’Connor: You know, it’s kind of like, it’s not as spicy, there’s a lot of these stories, they’re like, people sometimes say to me, “Greek myth can be so boring.” I’m like, no, they really aren’t, they’re full of decapitations and sex and violence and all kinds of stuff. It’s just like the stories, you’re just bouncing off the depiction of it. I feel like these stories are kind of timeless because they speak to the way humans really are, but they’re also filled with all this kind of crazy stuff, so I guess that’s why.

CV: I can see it, decapitation, that always gets me every time, that gets me going to the bookstore.

George O’Connor: I mean, yeah, if you get a choice between a book with the head being cut off and not, you’re going to go with the head being cut off every time.

CV: Obviously, yes. So I lied, last last question now.

George O’Connor: Okay.

CV: What are your upcoming projects that we get to look forward to?

George O’Connor: Okay, so Book nine was Artemis, that came out. Book 10 is Hermes, that comes out in a couple of months, well, I guess in January. I’m working on Book 11, which is Hephaestus. And then Olympians is going to wrap up in Book 12, which is going to be a combination of Hestia and Dionysus. I know.

CV: I’m sorry, I’m so excited.

George O’Connor: Me too, it’s going to be so weird. I’ve been working on this series now for about 10 years, so you know, a decade of doing these books. It’s going to be, I’m going to take a nap when I’m done, big, long nap.

CV: You have earned it, sir.

George O’Connor: Thank you.

CV: Thank you so much, George.

George O’Connor: Thank you.

CV: For more interviews, reviews, analyses, and podcasts, check out our website, ComicsVerse.com. I’m Rachel Davis and we’ll see you next time.

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