H1, which is a line of comics being published by Humanoids, is a more realistic approach on the existence of super-powered beings, intertwining them and their capabilities and their significance with the tumult of our year 2019. That line of comics flagship title is Ignited, and it’s continuing to grow now with Omni #1. Omni features “a gifted doctor with a vibrant, compassionate personality” who gains the ability to think faster than the speed of light. It is this character who might solve the mystery of what has caused people in the world to gain powers.
On the day of the comics’ release, The Beat was fortunate enough to have an opportunity to interview Alitha E. Martinez. Her very generous and thoughtful answers can be found below…
The Beat: The protagonist, Cecelia Cobbina, has the ability to think faster than light and to answer any question. It’s a more visually-complex powerset than we usually see in punch-heavy superhero comics. How did you approach the designs and aesthetic for this story?
Alitha E. Martinez: I really enjoy stepping out of my comfort zones and Omni has certainly been a welcomed challenge mainly because of the lack of city-wrecking superpowers. Omni is like Watson and Holmes in all of the clever ways. Cecelia uses her brain instead of her fists. For my part, I wanted to present a strong, beautiful, functional character (in sensible shoes, lol). That’s harder than you think. We are conditioned to certain selling points which characters like Cecelia and Mae utterly defy. The one thing that we see very little of, even in this wonderful climate of inclusion, is true friendship between women. The old acid test used to be if two women could carry on a conversation in a story that was not about the male. A more modern version to me is if two women could act in concert without being tied together sexually.
Martinez: It took a very long time for me to embrace that I am a comic book artist. I think because I was entering a field where I was alone. The stories were and still are mostly created by people who don’t share my experiences or background. They make stories based on assumptions and I, along with the readers, have had to take it with a grain of salt. Women of color were particularly invisible in comics up until a few years ago. It was as if no one could figure out how to present a certain type of woman (and I’ll just say it) who was outside of the typical parameters. Finally, we have a presentation of a modern woman, a woman of color who is educated. That’s a really big deal because we are still living in the shadow of deeply hurtful misconceptions about black women.
Martinez: It’s fun to draw globetrotting escapades. I hope that Cecelia and Mae keep their bags packed. I travel extensively, most recently with the US State Department’s World Speaker program. It’s one thing to see the tourist traps and entirely another to put your boots on the ground in a foreign country where you don’t speak the language and just walk. It’s an entirely different experience for POC than being in America. I hope that I can bring a touch of that to Omni.
Martinez: I have had to hit the ground running. Humanoids is trying to inject a new style of storytelling into the comic book mainstream. There’s not a cape in sight so far, but there is certainly no lack of adventure.