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Melody Cooper talks superheroes and social justice on 'OMNI'

Comic Books

Melody Cooper talks superheroes and social justice on ‘OMNI’

The series’ second volume is finally available this week.

Back in 2019, Humanoids launched H1, its very own superhero imprint. Of the several series to emerge from the line, OMNI perhaps proved to be perhaps the most intriguing. Here, Dr. Cecelia Cobbina is gifted with the ability to think and process information faster than the speed of light, which she uses to try and help her patients as much as saving the actual world.

After Devin Grayson penned the first volume, a new writer was tapped for the second: Melody Cooper, who is perhaps best known for her work on Law and Order: SVU and the CW’s Two Sentence Horror Stories. Despite the transition, and the series’ publishing schedule being thrown off due to COVID, Cooper’s work in OMNI proved to be just as thoughtful and engaging, exploring Cobbina’s position as unlikely hero and how her efforts touched on the issues of race and social justice.

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The entire second volume — No More Hate — is set to be released today, February 2 (the first time the whole storyline is available in print). In celebration, we touched base with Cooper to talk about her transition onto the series, working in comics, the journey of Cobbina, and much, much more.

Melody Cooper talks superheroes and social justice on 'OMNI'AIPT: How much did you know about the book, or even what was going on with Humanoids’ H1 “universe,” before you started writing?

Melody Cooper: Not much! It was new to me, but the editor at the time, Fabrice Sapolsky, made sure I had all the back story and issues before I pitched my ideas for the book.

AIPT: How do you think your volume compares to the first volume of OMNI?

MC: I think it dovetails nicely, and digs into social justice and personal issues a little deeper.

AIPT: Is there anything you tried to do differently with the book/story that wasn’t found in volume one? What do you think you did to expand the character, universe, etc.?

MC: I’m a social justice activist and I let issues that impact marginalized people live a little more in my volume and drive Cecelia’s actions, including stories dealing with Indigenous, Muslim, Jewish, Black, poor people, etc. And when I wrote my issues, I leaned into a White Supremacy storyline before Proud Boys reared their heads again and before the Capitol Insurrection, because for a long time I’ve seen signs of something larger and more insidious brewing that was connected to power and even the military. It’s kind of uncanny how the latest news is proving that storyline’s speculations.

AIPT: You’re perhaps best known for genre work, especially within horror and sci-fi. How did some of that filter into this book/story?

MC: It’s the foundation of my work on OMNI. Both horror and sci fi give me a chance to look at history and current events from a different perspective and illuminate truths that we may not be able to accept or see otherwise. Horror leans in on our fears to help us see things about ourselves and our world, and what can be more frightening than climate disaster and the possibility of the end of life as we know it? And sci-fi lets our minds soar to imagine big What Ifs that function in much the same way as horror can. What If your dream came true and you had a super power that might save the world…or end up being your worst nightmare?

AIPT: This is among your first comics projects. What was your experience like adapting to the medium? Do you think you’ll do more comics beyond OMNI?

MC: I had the luck of working on the second season of the CW TV series Two Sentence Horror Stories as a staff writer at the same time that I was brought on board to write OMNI. The two projects dovetailed perfectly because 2SHS is a short, half-hour show, with a 22-page script, which is what a comic book’s length is. And I had to come up with fresh, brand new ideas for each issue and in the writer’s room (I wrote two episodes of 2SHS). So I found that each writing job informed the other, and sharpened my skills on both. Best of both worlds. I’ve already jumped into my next comic book project, a sci-fi noir story in the indie anthology Noir Is The New Black, soon to be released.

Melody Cooper talks superheroes and social justice on 'OMNI'

Courtesy of Humanoids.

AIPT: Was it daunting at all to take over for Devin Grayson? Did you try and replicate some of her efforts at all to maintain consistency (especially since you did one issue together before taking over)?

MC: It was a godsend to work with Devin! She was wonderful, gracious and very helpful. She told me to run with my idea for the first issue we worked on together, and really took a kind of supervisory role so I could “spread my wings” as a writer and be ready to take over OMNI on my own. I definitely stuck with the concept of Cecelia’s Avatars to keep a consistent through line, though I end up having them interact differently as the story progresses. Devin’s guidance was invaluable and I hope to work with her again!

AIPT: Is there anything you think that had to be “left behind” from the first volume, or that wasn’t as essential to your “chapter?”

MC: For me, it was more about utilizing the strong groundwork to develop Cecelia further and finding new avenues to explore her power and her personal life. I did not want her to be a savior so much as a brilliant woman with faults and challenges that would make her vulnerable, grounded and relatable.

Melody Cooper

Courtesy of Humanoids.

AIPT: What do you think OMNI is ultimately about in terms of narrative goals or larger meaning? Does it feel like two “different” stories so far?

MC: No, I think essentially it’s always been about trying to make sense of what is happening to the world and us within it, whether it’s climate change, racism, economic disparity, police brutality. When we’re empowered, how do we face and deal with these challenges? We’ve seen in the real world there are positive and negative answers to that question. OMNI sets this question on the heightened stage of Ignition and in a world on the brink of disaster.

AIPT: This is one of the few books with a black female lead. I think that clearly matters, but is that still a harder “sell” or are more fans seeking out this kind of representation?

MC: I think fans are seeking it and are more open to it. For some, it’s the representation they’ve been looking for. For others, it’s a different and refreshing POV. Cecelia is not just Black and female, she’s also empowered, a medical professional with a strong family, and brilliant even before she became Ignited. We don’t see that combination very much in comic books or anywhere else.

AIPT: Why should anyone pick up/read volume two?

MC: Because Cecelia will surprise you, the stories with get you riled up and inspired, and volume one was just the beginning of her incredible journey.

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