Comics are an expansive medium, one that encompasses millions of fans around the world covering all types of genres. Out of that vastness, there can be only a select few to carve out their own space within the industry, and Omar Spahi certainly resides in that group.
Spahi is the CEO and creator of OSSM Comics, a company which has a diverse portfolio that includes Xenoglyphs, Thaniel, Terminarch, and the recently released Hadrians Wall -- a title being co-published by Image Comics.
Once he discovered that making comics was actually a career that he could aspire to, he managed to parlay his love of characters like The Flash and Batman into his own creator-owned work.
"It kind of was eye-opening to me, so from then I said, okay, I'm going to make my own. I thought as a comic book writer-creator, it's easy; all you do is, you go knock on their door and say, 'Hey, I'm a writer and I need help.' Little did I know everyone in the comic book world wants to do that," Spahi said. "I kind of took the bull by the horns and said, well I'm going to figure out how to make this work.
"There's no really better way to do something than to do it, so I created my first series Xenoglyps. From there, I thought it was going to be, I had no idea what it would entail. I was very fortunate because Diamond picked us up, and that's the first comic that I had done at Diamond. The numbers weren't great, but it was just an accomplishment to get them released all together by Diamond."
Since then the industry has grown exponentially, and that growth has allowed for numerous new avenues for people to explore and find their niche within the industry.
It is that growth that allowed for the next phase of development.
"It used to be, if you wanted to make comic books you had to go through a publisher, and they had to hire you," Spahi said. "Now it's just if you want to make comics you partner with somebody and you make comics, and you go from there."
OSSM puts out a number of in-house titles, but they've also recently co-published a number of titles like Hadrians Wall with Image Comics. Having a company like Image helping out on the publishing end of things does have its advantages.
"Number one is the numbers. Image is, first of all, they have a great vision, their company to me is what companies should be about. DC and Marvel own IP and Image doesn't. To me, that's already a great sign. To me that's where the comic book industry has changed because it used to be, it's Batman and everybody is owned by companies, instead now it's owned by individuals," he said. "So Robert Kirkman, for example, owns The Walking Dead, you know? That's changed, and that's the way the comic world should be. They should be in the hands of creators and really getting that that's their world and that message to go out there."
So far things have really aligned between the two companies, but growing pains can arise as every publisher is used to doing things their own way.
"Image has been very, very pleasant," Spahi said. "I have absolutely nothing wrong with them; they've done everything right by me. My only concern isn't really with Image but the comic book industry overall, just the comic book industry is just so difficult to make it, even with an Image title.
"An Image title gets you significantly more coverage and more press people for Image books, but you have to really have a love that's passionate. I've seen so many people try to go in and try and create a book. At the end of the day they're left holding a great book, but no one really wants to get up, because it doesn't have a brand, and they're new to the industry, so it's a tough place."
While the barriers to making a comic these days are greatly diminished, it can be harder than ever to actually get discovered and bring that product to a larger audience. Spahi said that what he would like to see evolve in the comic industry is for those who have made it to help would-be creators find their niche.
"It's just very out there, but I would love to see the return of the direct market," he said. "You know, comic book stores are amazing, but I really want to see it back in newsstands, in the supermarkets. Anywhere you could normally pick it up before in the 70's and 80's, now they don't sell them. It's heartbreaking to me as such a die-hard fan. It's very difficult, so I would love to see it go back to the direct market and really pick up.
"It's been one of my personal goals to try to get comics back there, because, after the big boom with the death of Superman and all the comics in the 90's, everyone was just, issues were selling millions of copies each printing. The world has changed in the comic book world, and it would be nice to get back to that. Even if you don't over-saturate the market again with products, it would be nice to be able to just explore some of those avenues, get people reading comics again."
Part of that equation is appealing to a diverse and varied marketplace, something that Spahi, who is Egyptian, doesn't necessarily go out of his way to do, but lets happen rather naturally.
"I mean, to me, as weird as it is, I feel like I don't care about diversity," Spahi said. "I care that people are out there making sure that diversity is recognized, but I like to work with people who are very talented, regardless of anyone who's, where they're from, what their skin color is, anything like that. That doesn't phase me. I just want to work with talented people, and if they come at me with something great, I'm going to work with them."
Diversity inherently happens when you seek out the most talented people for the job and refrain from putting up any barriers that would keep that from happening, a sentiment that Spahi echoed.
While comics will always remain closest to his heart, Spahi has recently added executive producer to his impressive resume, which will be his first foray into movies.
The project is the Robbie and Stephen Amell created Code 8, which was funded via Indie GoGo.
"This is the perfect opportunity for me to jump on and really try to take my vision and combine it with theirs and try to get the product into the right stratosphere. I could not be more excited about it, and it's going to be a big part of my life. The project's shooting May through July of next year, so I think it's starting in February we're really going to gear up for pre-production and just put our heads down and get to work, have everything planned out, all the shooting days ... We already got a couple of locations locked in, I want to say one or two."
You can find out more about OSSM comics on their website, and if you're interested in hearing more of Spahi's daily musings on the industry and comics in general, make sure to follow his Twitter account.