Hogwarts for Superheroes?

It’s a little bit Ender’s Game and a little bit Harry Potter but Ender and Harry have nothing on Cosmos.
When you stay up late into the night feverishly reading a book you just can’t put down (even if it weighs a ton) and seriously consider flipping back to page one when you’ve finished, I think it’s safe to say you’ve found something special. Special is what Joe Graham’s Omni: History Begins is all about.

Set in the year 2012, History Begins is a magnificent work of superfiction, a genre not often found outside of comic books. This is one story that doesn’t start off with an ordinary boy. Eleven-year-old Joseph Pringle is what’s considered a “near miss” in a world rife with super humans. He’s been gifted with super strength, speed and stamina, but not enough to be classified a “super.” That is, until one day while trying to fix an art fair project, he transforms everything within a 200 foot diameter into steel.

Joseph’s not in trouble, far from it actually. He’s going to be recruited to the exclusive Alpha Academy. It’s an elite school where only the best and brightest super humans are asked to attend. There he’ll join others like him, some of whom have known they were headed to Alpha since birth, to learn how to manipulate and control their special abilities. The goal? To become superheroes of course! “Teams of Six” are positioned in major cities around the globe to protect humanity from whatever threatens them on a daily basis. Joseph even gets a super hero handle – Midas.

Retired superheroes and near misses will be their mentors on the long, hard road ahead. Alpha Academy is no walk in the park, it’s more like boot camp. The Alphas are kept on the strictest of schedules while enduring constant training exercises and drills. Oh, and that’s on top of attending actual academic classes at college level or above. You didn’t think becoming a superhero was going to be easy did you?
I recently got a chance to talk with author Joe Graham about his self-published super novel. In the spirit of full disclosure, I offered to help Graham edit a recent revision of History Begins. In his own words, “self-editing blows.” Looking back though, he can’t imagine doing it any other way. “I spoke online with a lady who had just published a nonfiction book. She was an expert in her field and well respected. She sent out 200 query letters over a two-year period just to get an agent to read her book. Any agent! During that time all she received were rejection letters. I told myself I wasn’t into that kind of rejection, so I did it myself,” he said. Hence, Rejection Press was born.

The original idea for History Begins grew out of telling elaborate bedtime stories to his six children. “I raised them on superheroes, Star Wars and the like, so my stories were along those lines. I added a character to the stories for each child, which really kept them interested,” he said, “Eventually, the characters seemed to take on a life of their own. It was a genuine affection for them and the stories that made me want to write it all down.”

Growing up, Graham was a big comic book, science fiction and fantasy reader. He sites J.R.R. Tolkien and Raymond E. Feist as some of his influences. “One of my favorite sci-fi authors is Orson Scott Card. I say that, because Ender was such a great look at an exceptional child thrust into exceptional circumstances,” he said. As far as plot goes, Graham contemplated his comic reading days, “I thought of Superman, the gold standard that all superheroes are measure by, and asked the question; ‘How could someone teach these things to a young person with regular character flaws?’ The book follows a new team of freshly recruited supers as they learn all these lessons from scratch.” Graham also made sure to keep a diverse cast of characters in mind. “I have three daughters and there is nothing worse than taking them to the action figure isle in the toy store with their brothers and there are no female action figures,” he said, “I made sure there were an equal number of female to male superheroes in my world.”
History Begins is not just about Joseph Pringle, who later becomes known by another handle – Cosmos, Alpha Academy is filled with students from all walks of life. “I had to research other countries and cultures since the book takes place all over the planet and the supers come from over 30 counties,” said Graham. The members that make up Cosmos’ team alone could belt out a choice rendition of “It’s a Small World.” Each team has members that fill particular roles depending on their specific superpowers. Bioforce, from Germany, is the healer of 1st Team and can also shape shift. Virtuoso, a Brazilian telepath and illusionist with super intelligence is rightfully the brain. Olympian on the other hand is the hitter of the team who possesses super strength, flight, invulnerability, and a lofty ego. You might have guessed from his handle already but he’s from Greece. From Japan comes tiny Shi. She’s also got super strength but can turn invisible at will and has outstanding combat skills making her the team’s stealth. The leader of 1st Team is named Darkspeed. He’s the fastest speedster Alpha Academy has ever seen. He also possesses the power to create and control darkness. Cosmos himself acts as the anchor of the team, a very important role. His ability to turn things into metal is just the tip of the iceberg as his powers grow exponentially during his short time at the academy. Not even the sky turns out to be the limit for him.

How exactly does one measure the abilities of kids who are benching significantly more than 250 pounds or running faster than a rocket? By making up completely new measurements of course! In History Begins, Graham has painstakingly documented each recruits development to a T. In fact, if there is one flaw in the book, it’s that there are too many numbers to keep track of. But then again, Graham’s day job is as a computer scientist so you can’t really blame him. He’s actually created new science for the Alphas to utilize in their training as well. “I read something by Orson Scott Card once, he said a writer should create rules for his world and stay within them. I also saw, time and again, how comic books contradicted themselves. A super can move planets one issue and lose a wrestling match with a bear in the next issue,” he said, ”I also wanted the science used to be just beyond what we have now, not centuries in the future. So, I did my homework and looked a bit into the future, just enough to make it interesting.” Interesting is an understatement. You’ll be itching to get your hands on an Ngun or some nano mail by the time you’re done reading.

And that’ll be, ohhh about a few months from now. I jest but History Begins is one massive novel, clocking in at around 360,000 words. Graham was initially concerned about the size. “About a quarter of the way through the book I thought about cutting it short and not following through with my initial outline. It was like a temptation to take the easy way out,” he said, “I quickly put these thoughts aside and said ‘effort and size be damned, I’m going to make this the best book possible.’” And it seems like his instincts took him in the right direction as readers have responded positively going so far as to begin developing an RPG based on his characters and comparing him to famous creators. “I’ve received nothing but the highest compliments and praise, it’s humbling and flattering,” said Graham, “I had one gal call me the next Stan Lee, how cool is that?” Does History Begins have weekly shelf potential? “I would love to see Omni as a comic someday. That would be a dream come true,” he said.

One step at a time though. History Begins is a more appropriate title than you might think. Graham has barely scratched the surface of his superfiction legend. “It’s a whole universe. I have so much in my head and can only type so fast. I have the rough outline of over a dozen books ready to go. There’s room for spin off novels and prequels, it’s almost unlimited,” he said. Graham already has an outline fleshed out and new characters created for book two, it’s just a matter of finding time to write. “I don’t like to stop and start, I like to just start and go through to the end,” he said. His children who inspired the stories are probably the most enthusiastic to see him continue. “The stories they used to hear have evolved into something much bigger and they want to read more and know where it is going,” he said, “They are almost impatient for me to start writing the next one.”

What about you? Are you eager to get your hands on Omni: History Begins? Graham is optimistic, “I think the superhero and science fiction fan base is the best there is,” he said, “We are fanatical and there are more of us than they suspect.” We are, for lack of a better word – special.

Omni: History Begins is on sale now at Amazon.com and other online booksellers.

5 Responses to “Hogwarts for Superheroes?”

  1. Stephen says:

    thissounds fascinating got to get on board

  2. manuel.U says:

    Great find. I'll look for it on my next outing to the book store.

    Love his publication's name.

  3. Anji says:

    The winged female is like a feminine version of Sephiroth, and I LOVE Sephiroth! Let's see if she can even come close to measuring up!

  4. Nick says:

    Cool! Love the artwork. The winged girl is especially awesome. I'll have to check this out.


    If you like my blog, please vote for it at: http://bloggerschoiceawards.com/blogs/show/77820

  5. Dan says:

    Sounds cool. I'll have to check it out.

    You should check out DULL BOY and BLACK & WHITE, two excellent examples of "superfiction."