Going up ‘Olympus’ and into ‘The Light’ with Nathan Edmondson

Editor’s Note: From the 1950s through the early 1970s, Macon was an unexpected hub of world renowned music thanks to names like Little Richard, Otis Redding, James Brown and the Allman Brothers. These days, Macon’s creative spark has manifest as an unexpected hub of world class comic book creators thanks to Tony Harris, Craig Hamilton and Ray Snyder. Joining that list of luminaries is a young writer named Nathan Edmondson, author of “Olympus” and most recently, “The Light.” He’s up first in a series of profiles exploring Macon’s great comic book talents. Edmondson will have a book signing at Comics Plus on Forsyth Road from 1-3 p.m. Saturday.

Comic book heroes tend to stumble on to their powers, slowly learning how to use the thing that makes them special.

An aspiring novelist, writer Nathan Edmondson stumbled into his growing comic book success much the same way.

Like most folks, Edmondson had limited exposure to comics beyond the major titles such as “Superman,” “Batman” and “Spiderman.” He was a Great Books student at Mercer University, studying classic literature and Greek mythology.

Besides, comics are for kids, right?

Rhett Thomas, a Macon-based editor of special projects for Marvel Comics, thinks many people feel that way, like comics are “a low medium.” But that’s a part of what makes Macon unique.

Not only does this smallish, Southern city boast several noted comic book creators, but the visibility of these artists in the community has given locals a greater exposure to comics, which has in turn created an unusual sort of “comic book scene.”

“A lot of people here have comics on their radar that normally wouldn’t,” Thomas said. “Macon is more comics-educated than most cities.”

Men, myth and legends

While working on his first novel, Edmondson met Tony Harris, an Eisner Award-winning artist based in Macon who is famous for highly regarded and intellectual titles such as “Starman” and “Ex Machina,” which stray from the mainstream but have still garnered large followings.

“(Harris) very graciously exposed me to all aspects of the industry, both good and bad,” Edmondson said. “I’m very appreciative of what he did for me.”

Edmondson, who also studied art history at Mercer University and paints as a hobby, began translating his long-standing interest in classical studies to ideas he thought would work in the more visual world of comics.

“I was attracted to the visual dynamic, the exciting reveal of turning the next page,” he said.

So he threw himself into this new medium, finding London-based artist Christian Ward — a virgin to comic book illustration himself — to help hash out and illustrate his ideas.

The result was “Olympus,” published by Image Comics, which tells the story of the Gemini, brothers Castor and Pollux who must track a prisoner released from Hades before he wreaks havoc on Earth.

“What you bring to the table sets you apart as a writer if you use it well,” Edmondson said. “It just depends on if I use it well.”

Go into “The Light”

Though Edmondson’s roots run deep in the red clay of Georgia — he grew up in Augusta with a father who has been a professor in Milledgeville for a quarter century — Edmondson has spent much of his adult life traveling the globe.

Prior to his life in comics, he held a job that sounds like it could’ve been a comic book creation: director of International Programs for the Leadership Institute. (He swears it isn’t a secret organization like S.H.I.E.L.D. or the Justice League.)

As much as his world travels have influenced the style and settings of his work, it’s the exposure he gained through his father, Henry T. Edmondson, to the world of academia that has dictated his work ethic.

“He taught me there is always room for excellence in what I do,” he said. “I can always learn more about the subjects I’m working on. I can always go more deeply.”

Partnering with artist Brett Weldele (“Southland Tales,” “Surrogates”), Edmondson’s latest project is “The Light,” a horror story about an abusive father and his daughter trying to outrun a virus.

It’s set in Portland, Ore., where Edmondon’s wife is from, and true to his compulsion for research, they traveled the area extensively to gain a greater feel for the environment.

The work has paid off. “The Light” completely sold out of the first two issues. Image Comics has printed a “bumper edition” that collects the first two issues and will be available at Edmondson’s book signing Saturday at Comics Plus, 4650 Forsyth Road in Macon.

It will feature a vignette about the virus hitting Macon.

That’s more of an honor than it may initially sound. Regardless, it will likely be at that book signing that most of his local fans realize he lives here.

The anonymous sell-out

Will Peavy, owner of Comics Plus, said he liked “Olympus” so much he kept pushing it on his customers, telling them they had to check it out.

But it wasn’t until one of the comic book marketers told him that Edmondson lives in Macon that he himself knew.

“It’s just a good title,” Peavy said. “We sell out every time we get it.”

And though the local market for comics is strong, Peavy said the area’s contributors still go overlooked.

“We have so much local talent working for the majors in the industry, and a lot of people don’t know that yet either,” he said, speaking of Tony Harris, Craig Hamilton, Ray Snyder, Rhett Thomas and the other locals working in comics.

Macon, a home

Edmondson is the new guy on the block, but like a lot of the human boomerangs who find themselves back in Macon, he wasn’t sure if he was going to stay.

He’d come back to get married and has designs on a master’s degree from Mercer, but found himself carving out a place for himself in the city’s biggest creative secret. While Macon hardly compares with Washington, D.C., or Strasbourg, France, he said he’s glad to be here.

“No matter where I’ve lived, I’ve found it’s what you’re doing that makes the difference,” he said.

He’s put that philosophy into practice since he’s been back, teaming with Vital Signs to dress up one of the empty storefronts downtown with mega-sized panels from his comic books.

He also rented studio space downtown and is considering opening a business nearby with a partner. While he’s here, he said he’s going to make the most of his opportunities.

That’s basically how he approaches his future in comics.

“I’m going to keep it up as long as I’m inspired to make comics,” Edmondson said.

Though he continues work on a new novel, Edmondson already has three new comic book projects lined up.

His next project is, he said, “a cross between ‘The Bourne Identity’ and ‘Mr. Brooks.’ ”

He’s also exploring Hollywood another way as one of his comics is in the early stages of a deal and the other poised for a presentation with studios this fall.

From the looks of it, he won’t be leaving comics anytime soon. But Edmondson seems fine with that.

“Comics are treating me pretty good,” he said.