Talking With Kyle Higgins About His Reincarnation, Myth Inspired Saga ‘Ordinary Gods’ From Image Comics
by Olly MacNamee
Writer Kyle Higgins debuted his newest series from Image Comics last month, Ordinary Gods, with Felipe Watanabe on art. A story of epic proportions mixing mythology with reincarnation and world history in a saga that spans the ages.
Olly MacNamee: Ordinary Gods #1 was certainly a huge debut issue in so many ways. The world building, the action, drama and the completely unexpected ending when our hero, 22 year old Christopher, is turned upon by his very own kid sister! Phew. I feel exhausted even writing that sentence. This feels like a gargantuan undertaking. So, where did it all begin with this epic-in-scope series?
Kyle Higgins: This one has been a long time in the making, dating back to 2011 I believe, when I was doing Deathstroke with Joe Bennett, Art Thibert and Jason Wright. We were having a blast working together, but were all going to be leaving the book. So, I started thinking about other concepts that could be fun to build out. Fast forward ten years, a few false starts and several variations on the idea later, and you have issue 1.
I’ve been talking about this a little bit since we’ve launched, but sometimes you can have the right idea at the wrong time. Ordinary Gods is something of a complicated premise, with a ton of important world building questions that need to be considered and answered, up front. Looking back, a lot of the false starts are due to me just not being ready, as a writer. But, I was always enamored with the premise, the scope, the ambition… and what I thought the series could be. I just needed to grow as a writer before I was able to truly tackle it.
OM: I really enjoyed the mythological world and it’s rich geography and history you and your artistic partner, Felipe Watanabe, have created. The concept of reincarnation is a cornerstone in this series, but what other points in human history will the story touch upon? I’ve been fortunate enough to read the forthcoming second issue and it’s another shocker, that’s for sure.
KH: Thanks. Honestly, there’s quite a bit centered on the human experience that we’ll be touching on through different avenues of world building as well as the former lives that each of our Five will start to come back in touch with.
Not to hang too bright of a lantern on it, but I’m always fascinated by our systems and structures. Why are things the way they are? Why and how does the prison work the way it does? How do the territories in the Immortal realm operate? And in the case of the central premise, where we posit that all that we are on Earth can be traced back to these five Immortal archetypes and the realm from which they come, why are we the way that we are? And how is it all connected?
OM: Speaking of Felipe, what a talent and what a perfect fit for this kind of story. Which came first, your partnership, or the plot?
KH: Felipe is amazing. I’d built a good deal before Felipe came on board, including the final script for issue 1, but as with any book I work on, it changed in certain ways once Felipe came on board. I really pride myself on writing to my collaborators strengths and interests. So, from designs to action to pacing, this version of Ordinary Gods is very much a mixture between Felipe and myself. As it should be. What’s so exciting about working with him, is that he’s an artist who can shift between small, intimate moments with really subtle character acting, to big, grand action spreads in crazy environments on worlds beyond our own. He has such artistic dexterity, it’s definitely shaped our scope. In a really good way.
OM: And what of your particular pantheon of gods? If we take the One King, for example, it feels like you’re not drawing from any particular mythology but rather the archetypes to be found all round the world.
KH: This will make more sense as we get further into the series, but yes. You’re right. These aren’t coming from any specific mythology, as much as more specific archetypes. And those archetypes are connected to what we probably think of, as emotion.
But again, if all life stems from the Immortals being imprisoned here, it does make you wonder: how much of what we are as a species, is a direct result of these territories?
OM: And how do you map out a saga like this? Broad brush strokes first and then focus in on characters, situations and events you’d like to include?
KH: It’s a back and forth process. I tend to be an “outside-in” writer. Probably in large part because I work in genre fiction, I tend to start from a concept and build characters designed to explore the areas of that concept that I find the most interesting. But then, of course, you change gears and you start building the actual characters… which will often lead to tweaking the concept. Back and forth I go, until I find combinations that I feel comfortable with and that excites me. A lot of times, it can be as simple as arriving at a question I hadn’t considered, as a result of this exploration.
This is kind of what I was referring to before, when I said I wasn’t ready to tackle this story before now. Honestly, the scope of what I started building was way too big and ambitious for where my experience and comfort level was at. But, building things like Shattered Grid certainly helped me to grow. And it helped prove to myself that I could do something as cosmically ambitious as Ordinary Gods.
OM: As a time-spanning series, was there a lot of research you needed to do? Japanese culture I know you’re a big fan of, but Russia during the Communist Revolution, which we touch upon in the second issue?
KH: There’s a lot of research, yes.
OM: I love that fact that the exiled gods on earth are already halfway through their quest. I feel that while this is going to be huge in scale, it’s also going to be fast paced. How many issues do you see this story taking to unfold and be told?
KH: It’s mapped as five arcs right now. So, about 30 issues in total.
OM: Okay, Kyle. One more and I’ll let you go. Any clues, and hints that you can leave me and the raiders with for Ordinary Gods #2 and beyond that?
KH: The Warden, the Trickster and the Prodigy. In that order.
OM: Kyle, it’s always a pleasure, so many thanks for finding the time for this issue. And all the eats for Ordinary Gods. It really is immense!
KH: You’re most welcome! Thanks for reading!
Ordinary Gods #2 is out Wednesday 11th August from Image Comics
And you can read our review of the first issue here.