CBR recently spoke with Doug Wagner and Tim Odland about their new series, Beware the Eye of Odin, and their love of trolls and Vikings.
Author Doug Wagner is best known for his and Daniel Hillyard’s disturbing crime comics Vinyl and Plastic. But he’s taking a journey into the past in his new series Beware the Eye of Odin with artist Tim Odland. Wagner and Odland just released Beware the Eye of Odin #1 with Image Comics. The series follows Helgi — the Viking prince — who goes on a journey to return the titular Eye of Odin. If he fails to complete his quest, he will face grave consequences. But for better or worse, he is not alone in this adventure.
In honor of the new comic, Wagner and Odland talked with CBR about their new comic, their collaborative process, the inspiration for Beware the Eye of Odin, and their love for trolls. Odland also discussed his experience working on his first comic and his appreciation of Norse mythology.
CBR: Doug, what was the inspiration for Beware the Eye of Odin?
Doug Wagner: It was a mix of so many things, but to be honest, the primary inspiration was all Tim. When I asked him what he wanted to work on together, he immediately spat out, “Trolls and Vikings.” It kind of took on a life of its own from there. Tim and I had been friends for a couple of years at this point and spent enough time together that I knew he and I both loved the Ray Harryhausen era of movie monsters. You can add into that our nerd-level love of movies like Big Trouble in Little China, the Norwegian movie Trollhunter, The 13th Warrior, and a bunch more movies in that vein that I’m forgetting at the moment. I jammed as much of that stuff [as I could] into the dark cauldron that is my brain and let the voices take over from there.
Tim, what drew you into doing the art for Beware the Eye of Odin?
Tim Odland: Doug tailor-made a story for me to draw. The first thing he asked me was what I wanted to draw. Because of my heritage, I’ve always been interested in Norse mythology. My father is Norwegian, and he was always telling these troll stories. So naturally, I said let’s do something with trolls and Vikings.
What was your collaborative process like?
Wagner: Simply wonderful. Tim is amazing to work with. We both agreed at the beginning to put our egos aside, have as much fun as we wanted, and just create the book we’d want to read. When the creative team puts ego aside, you end up with everyone focused on delivering the best story you can over everything else. If Tim didn’t like a scene, we’d sit down and rework it together. If I didn’t like a layout, same thing. Nobody was ever upset or sensitive about it. It was all compromise. It was truly like playing with a friend in a magical fantasy sandbox.
Odland: Yeah, it was pretty easy to work with Doug. I learned a lot from him on how to collaborate. One thing Doug would always remind me, “Remember to have fun. That’s why we’re doing this!” With that in mind, it was easy to throw around ideas and not take ourselves too seriously.
What parts of Norse mythology were you both most excited to play with?
Wagner: Trolls and monsters! I believe my first response to Tim when he mentioned trolls and Vikings was, “Only if we get to do our version.” Of everything in the book, I had the most fun re-imagining all these magical creatures. I think I’m most proud of Tim’s magnificent trolls and our play on huldrafolk and dwarves.
Odland: The Lore around the Norwegian trolls. I haven’t really seen too many comics or movies here in the states that explore that type of troll. They have a little more spice than your typical giant or ogre. Like a vampires or werewolves, they have specific weaknesses to exploit if you want to best them. I thought they’d make a great villain and would be a great jumping-off point to start a book. Then there’s Vikings… I mean, do I need to explain myself there?
What about these stories from Norse mythology do you think still captivates audiences?
Wagner: They’re cool. Yep, that simple. They’re tales that have lasted thousands of years for a reason. I mean, come on! You’ve got gods with magical abilities, fairy-tale creatures, and the threat of Ragnarök constantly looming over all of it. Yeah, it’s just cool.
Odland: Mythology makes a great foundation for new stories to sprout from. Also, I think there is a lot of fun seeing a new and interesting take on an old concept.
Doug, what were you most excited to see illustrated by Tim?
Wagner: The fight scenes. We both have an unhealthy obsession for epic fight scenes, and Tim is an absolute boss at drawing them. He’d take a single page of my script and transform it into this unbelievably dynamic double-page spread of action and mayhem that was not only exciting to read but included all these small nuances of storytelling in the background. I think my favorite is the border clash between the trolls and Earthen Smiths. You’ve got this small army of trolls using brute strength and dark forest magic fighting against a group of well-trained, well-organized, masters of weaponry. I smile just thinking about what Tim did with that.
Tim, what from the script were you most excited to draw?
Odland: The trolls! For sure! These guys are so fun to draw. I was looking at Swedish artist John Bauer and Norwegian artist Theodor Kittelsen and threw in my own ample assortment of grotesqueries. Things like extra arms, double heads, and multiple eyes to a socket. It made the trolls a riot to draw. There were a lot of them, so I had a great time trying to make each one unique.
What were some of the biggest challenges, if any, that you both faced tackling this project?
Wagner: Well, I’m not sure we won any of those battles. I’d say probably our biggest challenges were time and self-discipline. We started out with designs on a 60-page one-shot. It ended up being over 160 pages. Writing, drawing, coloring, and lettering 160 pages took just a bit longer than we’d planned. Huh? Time and self-discipline? Yep, we definitely lost there.
Odland: Comics are hard to make. This was my first comic work, and I was learning as I was going. I’m forever grateful to Doug for teaching me so much. At this point, I feel like I just did a master’s course on creating comics, and this series was my thesis. If you ever want to learn how to make comics, make one. There’s a lot to consider.
What makes Helgi such a compelling protagonist for each of you?
Wagner: For me, I really enjoyed writing this character that finds out that the world is much more than he ever thought was even possible. It’s like finding out you really are in the Matrix. My grandfather used to tell me all these fantastical tales of dragons, pegasuses, alien worlds, and scary monsters. I channeled that by putting myself in Helgi’s shoes. I mean, how would I react if I found out none of my grandfather’s bedtime stories were just tall tales but were real?
Odland: Helgi has a lot to learn. Things aren’t always what you think they are. Not only is he finding out his views on mythical legends are off, but he’s also learning that his assumptions of those around him are off. I think there are people in our everyday lives that can help us more than we know.
We’ve already met a handful of characters in this world, so if you could pick one, who’s your favorite?
Wagner: Kadlin. She’s quirky, sassy, fearless, and believes with all her heart that she’s a Valkyrie. I fell hard for her. She’s just this amazing woman that has the ability to believe in herself regardless of what anyone else may say or believe. She’s also an optimist that will never give up on her friends or [stop] standing up for what she believes is right. And did I mention she has a pet mouse that she believes she can talk to?
Odland: Stigr. I can’t help but pull for the old warrior trying to prove he’s still got it despite having only one arm.
Tim, this is your first comic with Image Comics. What’s it been like to tackle this project with them?
Wagner: It’s totally surreal! I was a kid when the Image tide overcame us. I was a huge Savage Dragon fan, and still am. It brings an indescribable amount of joy to have a series at Image, let alone my first one, and the cherry on top is that my book hits on their 30th anniversary. It really is something special to me.
Doug, you’ve written with Image before on Plastic, Vinyl, and a few others. What is your favorite thing in regard to writing for Image?
Wagner: That’s a question that has so many layers for me, so many factors to it. Image has been a dream to work with. They have great people to collaborate with from top to bottom, they’ve always been supportive and helpful, and of course, you get to keep all the rights to your projects. BUT… I think the biggest thing is Image gives me the freedom to be myself and constantly encourages me to do so.
If you could each sum up Beware the Eye of Odin in three words, what would it be?
Wagner: Viking, chaos overload.
Wagner: Norse, troll, mayhem.
Beware the Eye of Odin #1 is available now from Image Comics.
Caitlin Sinclair Chappell is a writer turned editor at CBR. What started as a love for comics, film and television turned into a career after graduating with honors from Lewis & Clark College. Along with her work for CBR, she edits the in-development comic series Half-Dragon, and she read her short story, “The Kabbalist and the Golem,” at the 2021 National Queer Arts Festival. Beyond writing and editing, she was the Film School Director at River Way Ranch Camp and the Assistant Director on the play Famous. She can be contacted at email@example.com, and her social is @comiccookbook.