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Interview with Omar Spahi & Siike Donnelly of OSSM Comics

Last week CBNAH caught up with Omar Spahi, writer of XENOGLYPHS & THANIEL, CEO and founder of OSSM Comics,and Siike (Seek) Donnelly, writer of the upcoming title MONOMYTH, EIC and Marketing Director of OSSM Comics. In the first part of our interview, we chat about the history of the company, THANIEL both issue one and two is coming out this April, XENOGLYPHS, MONOMYTH and much more. 

CBNAH: How did OSSM Comics first started?

OMAR SPAHI: I kind of knew from the get-go that I wanna have a publishing company and I wanted to put out my own comic books. I went to other companies first, and the comic book industry is so incestuous and you have to be working for a company to get pull into another company, and everyone is kind of working with each other. We really wanted to make our own company and be able to make our own name. We decided to go against the grain and try to make something new and innovative in a lot of ways.


CBNAH: Did the company start in 2011 or 2012?

OS: Early 2012 that the company was officially released and we had our first issue of Xenoglyphs come out around that same time.

CBNAH: Siike, how did you first got introduced to the company?

SIIKE (SEEK) DONNELLY: I used to work at Golden Apple Comics, a retail store here in Los Angeles, and Omar came in promoting and trying to get sales on Xenoglyphs. I took a look at the counter and I thought it was really great. I loved the artwork. Peejay Catacutan is the artist on the book and he's really great. I thought the storyline and (Omar)his pitch was awesome. In the end, I couldn't say no. We came up with a kind of consignment thing. We set up a signing with Omar and ever since then, we've been friends. Around November of last year, I left my previous job on sick leave, I wasn't feeling well and I had some medical stuff going on. While I was recuperating, Omar offered me to come work for him. He said, "I could do it from my bed at home." And then I said, "Perfect cuz that's where I am. In bed." So, I started to work for OSSM. Now four months later we went from one book on the verge coming out to now six titles, four of which we'll be talking about today.

CBNAH: Omar, can you tell us about Xenoglyphs?

OS: Xenoglyphs is about these nine different elemental stones. Each stone has its own different power like earth, wind, water, light and darkness. If you hold that stone, you control all of that element. It's kind of like Captain Planet meets The Fifth Element. What really is cool about it goes back, explains a lot of mysteries, conspiracies and unexplained phenomena. These two best friends Steven and Dom are trying to stop these stones from falling to the wrong hands.

CBNAH: Is Xenoglyphs a mini-series?

OS: Xenoglyphs is a six issue mini-series. After that we're launching a new series called Separators, which begins after the conclusion of Xenoglyphs. It'll be our first ongoing title.

SD: It'll be out in late October.

CBNAH: This april will see the debut of your new title Thaniel(Issue #1 and #2 will ship in April). Can you tell us what Thaniel is all about? 


OS: Thaniel is about this kid who is kinda of been around death throughout his whole life. He always wanted to figure out why. As the story progresses, he figures out what if it's his fault. It's about understanding life and death, and everything in-between too.

CBNAH: Will this also be a mini-series?

OS: That's going to be a four issue mini. We're really looking forward to it.

CBNAH: Can you tell us about Terry's(Huddleston) artwork? His art style is a perfect match for this title? 

OS: Thank you. Terry has been amazing to work with. He has such a rich mainstream style. His artwork is something that people can see and instantly get on board.

CBNAH: How did you find Terry?

OS: I actually him at the New York Comic Con about two years ago. We just started talking and before that, there were several other artists who were interested in working on Thaniel. We went back and forth with a couple of them. Terry was the one that just made the most sense.

CBNAH: Any other upcoming titles coming out this year?

SD: Real quick on Separators, that was always the plan to do a straightforward team book but we wanted to build the team. So, Omar very forward-thinking he had Xenoglyphs being the mini-series leading up Separators. We're releasing Xenoglyphs in trade paperback in early October and Separators #1 comes out in the end of October. That's our big push for the fall. In the summer we have a mini-series that I wrote called Monomyth. Monomyth is basically like a what if story in a way. It's what of Lucifer did not fall from Heaven but Saint Michael did. What happens in it is Lucifer tells Adam and Eve not to eat the apple and she-- She ends up becoming the protector of mankind. Michael falls off into the darkness that would of been earth, Michael builds an army. In Eden, a young man named Enoch is born, who is also from the Bible. He's born a natural born warrior. He doesn't like rules, everything is too peaceful, too calm for him. He's a little bit chaotic and he has a lot of teen angst. It's the first time that Eden has seen something like this because they don't know sin, evil, war or disagreement. It's kind of a seemingly boring society. Enoch is this salmon swimming upstream and ultimately he's on his hero's journey because he's an outsider and goes against the grain like all good heroes should. He learns that his actual existence for a reason because he's chosen to protect Eden from the oncoming war that Michael brings. It's a really big, epic storyline and the format for that is a three issue mini-series but each issue is $3.99 and you get 30 pages of art and story. So, it's a lot of bang for your buck. In total each issue is 40 pages plus ads and everything. It's full of action, drama and everything you want. The best way to describe it is Gilgamesh meets Final Fantasy.

CBNAH: Is this material on comiXology?

SD: Yes, Omar and I are both actively pursue comiXology. ComiXology they created a site called Submit. It's geared towards indy creators. They recommend us to use that for  the time being. Over the course of book sales going up and other factors, maybe moving on to the main site. There's a lot of rules with them but we love comiXology and I have submitted all of Xenoglyphs and Thaniel to them. And we're just waiting to hear back.

CBNAH: A lot of small publishing companies are doing various Kickstarter campaigns. Has there been any talk of doing a Kickstarter project? 

OS: Siike is the master of Kickstarters and we talked about Kickstarter for a little bit. We've gone back and forth on it but as of right now, we're trying to stay away from. Not there's any problem with Kickstarter. I think it's a great opportunity for people to learn about a book and concept. But I think -- we don't to make the fans jump in on it. I want the fans to be excited about our titles and I don't want it to be a charity project. I want it to be something that people can get in and that these characters are for real. It's not something that we built but it's something that they built and we're getting interested and we're building fans.   

SD: As for someone who finished a Kickstarter (Solestar) last year, it's a lot of pressure and many sleepless nights. Staying up late and worrying about the project if it'll make it to its goal or not. Even now, I'm still sending out the last twenty to thirty Kickstarter prizes. It's a long process when you're trying to do it on your own. It's really hard but at the end of the day it's a real good sense of accomplishment. I like that I did one Kickstarter and got it out of the way. The reason I did it for that project because I had no financial backing and no other way to do it otherwise. With OSSM we're only trying to create projects that we do have the funding for already and we believe in a lot. Kickstarter is a great tool for indie creators and I highly suggest that people should use it. But right now with us, we have the six main books and we're also keeping a opening mind for submissions as well. We have our plate full enough at the moment.   

CBNAH: Is there any side projects you would like to discuss and promote?

SD: I'm doing a podcast coming out in March for The Ex Comedy, which is a New York based comedy group called The Experiment. It's called "Real Conversations with Fake People" and the premise is a parody show in which each episode I interview an actor pretending to be Peter Parker or Jill Valentine and I interview them for thirty minutes. Just trying to get into the head of the character and have some fun. In one of my favorite ones I did was with Ben Grimm, and then I did one with Barbara Gordon and Douglas Reynholm from The IT Crowd. It's really a fun project and definitely a passion of love. You can find more info at my website http://www.siikedonnelly.com/. I have Solestar which is the Kickstarter that I did. We're doing a deluxe edition with fifty more pages of art and story. That will come out probably this Christmas. 

CBNAH: Will that be in hardcover or softcover?

SD: I will see. Right now it's softcover because Amazon is going to print it for us. But if I can figure out a way to do a special edition hardcover. I might create a Kickstarter for $3,000 just to do that.

CBNAH: What's your convention schedule for this year? 

OS: The next one is we're going to WonderCon in April. I know we have Amazing Las Vegas Comic Con in June, for sure. We're maybe going to Emerald City, we're still looking at that one and see if we'll be at that one. Definitely be at both New York and San Diego Comic Con.

SD: We're also going to do Comikaze here in LA. Maybe or maybe not do one of the Long Beaches if we can fit it into out schedule. We're trying to some free comic book signings and in April, the whole month of April we are going on a signing tour of Thaniel. So a lot of stores in LA and then even in a couple in Terry Huddleston's neck of the woods. Where he'll go and sign. We're going to be to spread out and be doing local signings in our neck of the woods and we're going to release a tour poster like a band would. We're also going to include some other indie creators as well, it'll be like the headliners and they will be like our opening acts kind of thing. Trying to do something invented with a typical boring signing schedule. 

CBNAH: Will there been a short film of it?

SD: That's not a bad idea.

OS: We're open to it.

CBNAH: Speaking of social media, do you have a Youtube channel?

SD: We don't have one that I know of yet, but I plan to make trailers for our comic books because I love editing. You may see something like that, it'll be probably closer to the release of Thaniel. 

CBNAH: Will it be your second or third year at SDCC and are there any panels planned?  

SD: This will be my fourth year in a row signing but my first year for OSSM Comics. And I think Omar was there last year, right, Omar?

OS: Yes, this will be my second year.

SD: As for panels it takes time. We applied for panels at both WonderCon and SDCC. Those just take time for us to hear back but I hope we do.

OS: I think we'll probably gonna have panels at both. If they let us (knocks on wood). We'll see.

SD: I had two panels last year on my own. I think there's a good chance we'll get one at each convention.

CBNAH: Where do you see yourselves in three to five years from now?

SD: Three to five years I'll be dead (both laugh). I'm a bad person to answer this. I grew up poor my whole life. My dreams have never been big dreams. I always dream for the middle because that's all I've ever been able to achieve. But being around Omar, he's actually let me see things in a different way and to dream big and it's okay to dream big. Whether you succeed or not it's okay as long as you try. Obviously, I would like to see OSSM Comics be very profitable in three to five years and having to take smaller risks for our books and be able to get our book out there. Hopefully by that time we'll have a really strong fanbase and people liking us. Maybe us on the level, maybe not the exact level but in the ballpark of something like a Boom! or IDW. To me that will be really awesome. Again that's me reaching for the middle but I still think like that's quite accomplishment for something that started with one guy and then two guys and then grow into something like that.

OS: That's my goal was to compete with the big boys. I think we're going to get there. I don't know in three to five years but we'll be taking the right steps to get there.

CBNAH: Do you have any words or advice for young writers and artists trying to get into the industry and anyone who wants to start a publishing company?

OS: Sure. It's about people. It's really about understanding the industry, learning from and talking to other people, reaching out, and making new friends because really the comic book industry to me is like a group of friends making books together and having fun. I think the best advice I can give is don't try to do it on your own. Reach out to other people see and learn what other people have succeed or failed. Learn from them. If you're going to do it make sure you know what your getting into before you do it.

SD: I used to work in TV and movies in a bunch of movie sets. One thing that I've notice is when your trying to do something creative, the people on the ground floor with you. If your a Production Assistant, the other PA's that you work with, chances are you guys are going to grow together. One of you will become a producer or director or actor or writer. That seems to be the comic book industry too. So just like go out there, and have fun and create your stuff. Even if you have to do it on your own. I would always say sometimes you can't rely on other people. When you believe in something, that what heroes do best. They rise up against when everyone tells them that they can't do it on their own. So, whether you do it on your own or you don't, just keep creating and keep one thing in mind. You're going to struggle a lot and that's the test. I heard Dan Harmon (Rick and Morty and Community) say, "If you want to create go create. If you want to make money go make money. There's a lot of great things to do if you just want to make money. But if you want to create just be ready to know that it may be all you do. You may never see paychecks for what you create for a long time before you see your first one. But don't let that discourage you." I wrote my first thing and got it published when I was eighteen years old and I never made any money off of it. I did like four other projects after that never made money off them. It wasn't until the last three years that I actually did stuff that started generating at least a little bit of money for me. And then Solestar, which started to generate a little bit of money for charity that I'm trying to raise money for. Pretty much don't give up, there's a light at the end of the tunnel and when you get there it's gonna feel so good. 

Check out OSSM Comics official site: http://www.ossmcomics.com/

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