Omar Spahi grew up watching horror films. Some of his favorites were those featuring the offspring of iconic monsters — Son of Frankenstein, Son of Dracula, to name a couple. After working with his own father for most of his teenage years, Spahi realized that there was a niche that hadn’t been explored: the son of Death.
Thaniel is the second comic to come out of the indie comic publisher OSSM Comics, where Spahi and editor-in-chief Siike Donnelly are producing unique, one-of-a-kind stories with striking visual art. Spahi and Donnelly will bring Thaniel and the as-yet-to-be-published Monomyth to Hypno Comics on Saturday for a preview and signing.
Thaniel, “a cross between Boyz N the Hood and Dead Like Me, follows a young black man as he comes to realize that the people around him are suffering, both from the rough neighborhood they’ve found themselves in and from the titular character Thaniel himself. Thaniel radiates death and, as a result, inadvertently kills his friends and family.
The comic follows Thaniel as he attempts to control his powers and put them to use for the greater good.
“I feel like a lot of people won’t take a risk to write about a character that comes from a different background,” said Spahi of Thaniel’s culture. “It makes people act differently when you have all of that hanging over your head.”
The comic is presented in stark black and white, with hints of bright, crimson red tossed in. The choice to use monochromatic colors in contrast to the singular color red was a decision derived from the source material itself.
Terry Huddleston calls himself a “mercenary” artist, picking and choosing which concepts to bring to the page. After being approached by Spahi for Thaniel, Huddleston came on board only after he was given full control over the design.
“Once I saw the parts, it became a whole that was a little bit different than probably what Omar had in mind to begin with,” said Huddleston. “That’s why you collaborate, because you want a different spin on your singular ideas.”
Huddleston saw the similarities in the story to a few of his favorite classic comics, specifically The Crow and the work of Frank Miller.
“I wanted to make sure that the audience reading it would pick up on the Frank Miller and James O’Barr influences,” said Huddleston. “I leaned into it with the heavy black and the deep shadows and the reds, almost as homage.”
Much of the influence came from classic pulp fiction novels and comics that featured stark facial expressions and a boding, heavy noir. Huddleston says that while a lot of black and white books look like “books that aren’t colored,” he believes that color would have ruined Thaniel.
“I couldn’t even imagine it in color,” said Huddleston. “I wanted to do a truly cinematic, old-school ’40s pulp crime novel, black and white where the blacks are black and the whites are white.”
Donnelly says that titles like Thaniel are needed in order to build a foundation from which to build. OSSM Comics accepts submissions from authors and writers via its website, but choosing the comics to publish is an in-depth experience.
“Our talent has come from people who are known or people we have met through conventions,” said Donnelly. “Omar and I don’t want to be the guys who write all of our books, we want to find the next big name in comics.”
Donnelly’s comic, Monomyth, is as much philosophy as it is comic. The story plays off the all-too-familiar concept of “What if?” reaching back into religious mythology to determine what kind of world would exist had Michael fallen instead of Lucifer.
Many centuries after the battle over humanity, humans live in a perfect world, one in which Eve never ate the apple and thus Eden exists the world over. For Donnelly, this concept raises many questions, concerns and ideas on how to best represent the alternate reality. Artist Eric Ninaltowski brings the pages to life in full color.
“I don’t want to offend anyone, that’s not my job,” said Donnelly, who says he is a struggling Catholic. “I’m just here to tell an interesting story.”
Issue No. 3 of Thaniel will be released this week, while Monomyth is expected to be published within the next few months.
Omar Spahi and Siike Donnelly will be signing copies of their comics this Saturday, May 31, noon-3 p.m at Hypno Comics, 1803 E. Main St., Ventura. For more information on OSSM Comics, visit www.ossmcomics.com. For more information about the signing, visit www.hypnocomics.com.