Image depicts Cross Bronx in new comic mini-series
by Jon Minners
The Bronx has been depicted in a number of mediums, from film to television and a number of books, but is the borough too big for comic books? That question is about to be answered.
Image Comics, the popular independent company rivaling Marvel and DC in terms of popularity and the creators of such series as Spawn and Savage Dragon, is about to present a brand new mini-series this September, entitled Cross Bronx.
The new full-color, four-part title, created by Michael Avon Oeming and Ivan Brandon, will mix police procedure and the supernatural. Cross Bronx will follow Detective Rapheal Aponte in The Bronx, mostly around the Castle Hill area and its outskirts encompassing the Cross Bronx Expressway. Aponte is investigating a mysterious gang slaying that quickly brings him face to face with the supernatural in the form of a beautiful ghost named Santaria. Taking out her revenge on the City, Santaria challenged Aponte’s faith in the law as it clashes with his faith in God – of lack of it.
“I’m very enthusiastic about Cross Bronx,” said Oeming, whose credits include the acclaimed comic books series Powers and Fell. “It is the first thing I’m co-writing as I’m also illustrating it, which has been a refreshing mix for me. I think any fan of Powers or Fell will really dig what we’re doing with this book.”
Oeming, who says that Cross Bronx is in the vein of High Plains Drifter, Taxi Driver and even the much-acclaimed, comic book-turned movie, Crow, believes that the title has a very real and gritty feel to it, something his partner enjoys.
“It should be clear by now that I am a little obsessed with the intricacies of the street-level crime world,” said Brandon, who has also created NYC Mech. “And Mike’s fascination with the city, itself, with the tiny details that make up an authentic Bronx environment, have made this a dream project across the board. Visually, this is Mike at his absolute peak. The level of craft he’s bringing to this really surpasses any of the work he’s done in comics at any point in his career. Every new page is darker and more phenomenal than the last. Writing for him on this could not be more daunting and more fulfilling.”
Oeming has some ties to The Bronx. While he grew up in the middle of New Jersey, his wife was born in Castle Hill and her father was a cab driver for 25 to 30 years in the borough. Having pre-conceived notions of The Bronx, Oeming discovered that The Bronx is not much different from where he grew up and yet had its own beauty that separated it from everywhere else. Seeing The Bronx for himself, Oeming decided to pay homage to the community through this comic book series.
To make sure the title looked realistic, Oeming spent some time photographing areas and community landmarks, which he then drew into the series. “Oh, you will see something like Top Banana that is instantly recognizable in the comic book,” he said. “You will spot locations on the highway. I definitely wanted to slip in locations that people would just see and feel close to when reading the series. There are some interiors that we made up, but the exterior shots drawn in Cross Bronx are realistic.”
The decision to represent The Bronx in this way appealed to Brandon, who has created a number of series depicting the City. “We wanted to make sure we had the location right,” he said. “A lot of times when you see the City represented in comic books or anywhere, it is a false image; as if someone picked up some postcards in the City and decided that was all New York was. It’s not genuine. My inspiration in wanting to do this book, or any book for that matter, was to really reflect the environment. This title is obviously fiction, but The Bronx is a main character and it has to be represented realistically.”
And not just the community, but the subject matter, too. Santeria, an often times misunderstood religion, is depicted very heavily in the comic book. “We didn’t want to treat it like a scapegoat or a tool,” said Oeming. “Ivan is really good at researching specifics. We didn’t want to make Santeria out to look as it does in Serpent of the Rainbow. It’s not just for shock value. Like all religions, Santeria is used for both negative and positive.”
Brandon feels that Santeria is a very legitimate religion and has a very supernatural element to it, as do most religions. The belief alone will have some readers viewing the supernatural events of the comic as plausible, while others will just enjoy its mystic intentions. Oeming does state that the book is very spiritually based with the main character walking a line between heavenly and earthly justice.
Justice plays a key role in this crime noir story and while this means gangs, shootouts and murder, neither writer wants readers to feel that The Bronx is being painted in a negative light, as it often is in other mediums.
“I don’t think mob shows make Italians look bad,” said Brandon. “It’s a crime story. There are going to be good guys and bad guys, but when people see the artwork, the beauty of The Bronx is very well depicted.”
Added Oeming, “In the end, there is a positive reflection of the neighborhood. The Bronx is not a dangerous place and we go out of the way to show what a nice neighborhood it is. For instance, we depict the handball park where there is a mural of Jesus with an anti-violence message in one scene people will recognize. There is a very positive feel.”
Oeming states that he loves The Bronx too much to allow it to be cast in a negative light, even pitching an idea for Marvel’s White Tiger that would have placed the Hispanic hero in The Bronx. Marvel went a different way. But Oeming’s loyalty to a place he does not even call home is admiring, if not shocking. “I am definitely going to set more titles in The Bronx,” he said. “And if Cross Bronx gets options for a film, I would want it shot right here in The Bronx.”
Brandon would love to see Bronxites and non-Bronx residents pick up the title. “Kids are not the predominant buyers of comics anymore,” he said. “A good series is entertaining enough to be interchangeable with novels and I think that is what people will find with Cross Bronx. People love a good crime story and the crime genre is older than the comic book, but just not as prevalent in the medium. You may not read Spiderman, but you will enjoy reading Cross Bronx.”
Cross Bronx is priced at $2.99 an issue and will be out on the target date of September 13 at all major comic book dealers in The Bronx. For more information, go to www.imagecomics.com.