Sunday, May 13, 2007

Lethem Brings Back the Unknown

The Associated Press tells us that Jonathan Lethem (You Don’t Love Me Yet, Motherless Brooklyn) was disappointed when comic-book hero Omega the Unknown disappeared without a trace. Now, some 30 years later and with a little help from Marvel Comics, Lethem is giving his old hero a hand back from oblivion. Says AP:
Lethem joins a growing list of novelists such as Stephen King and Michael Chabon, who have shifted to work on comic books as the medium gains critical and academic respect and becomes more mainstream.
I would venture that AP overstates itself here. With a talent and a track record like Lethem’s, I hardly think he’s “shifted to” comics as much as he’s embraced the idea of writing for the medium in addition to working on his books. (I hope so, anyway. I’m a huge fan.) In any case, Lethem found creating for the comics medium to be quite different from the type of writing he usually does:
“It was an interesting challenge,” Lethem said. “One of the things I concluded very quickly was that it’s not a written form. My primary task was to provide amazing things for artists to draw.”
And just in case you missed meeting Omega on his first pass in the mid-1970s, here’s a rundown on the character:
Omega’s not your average swashbuckling superhero. He’s mute, for starters, and has a sort of psychic connection with a 12-year-old named James-Michael Starling, who moved to New York City with his family from “the mountains” to improve socialization skills after years of home-schooling. Trouble ensues, of course, and he meets Omega, the last surviving member of an unnamed alien race.
The AP piece is here.


Bill Crider said...

Some other talented novelists (Barrett, Lansdale, Vachhs) have been doing comics for many years.

Linda L. Richards said...

That's true. And, as mentioned in the piece, Chabon, King and others have done so, as well. But this is the first time Lethem has done it.