ELYSIAN FIELDS: THE PYRAMID GAMBIT Exclusive: Michael Oden Discusses The Tournament-Style Underworld Series

We got the opportunity to catch up with indie comic creator and 9 Reals Publishing founder Michael Oden about his comic book, Elysian Fields: The Pyramid Gambit. Read on to hear what he had to say!

Support and excitement for the tournament-style comic book Elysian Fields: The Pyramid Gambit has recently been soaring amongst indie readers. This is reflected in the book's funding on IndieGogo, which reached over 250% of its original goal ahead of the release of Issue #1.

The writer and creator of Elysian Fields: The Pyramid Gambit, Michael Oden, is also the founder of 9 Realms Publishing. We recently had the opportunity to interview Oden and gain some insight into his vibrant new comic series.

Michael informed us about different tournament fighting characters such as Achilles, Imhotep, Gilgamesh, and more. We also learned about which anime and manga served as inspiration for the book.

Listen to our chat with Michael Oden by clicking the podcast player below. Comic fans can also hear our interviews with writers Joshua Plack (How to Die, Eudaimonia) and Keith Knight (The K Chronicles), which are embedded along with the transcript.

1m 15s
Literary Joe

Can you tell us about Pyramid Gambit? Is that the next story?

1m 23s
Michael Oden

Yep. The book that you guys have read at this point, I assume, is the Zero issue. That's the introduction; it's a prologue. It sets the stage for everything that's going to happen here in the future. Pyramid Gambit is the first full-on story in the Louisiana field, and it's us getting into that first round of the tournament. We're seeing team Hades coming together. There are some growing pains there. You've got these different personality types that are coming together. You got Theseus, who's the founder of Athens, and he was the guy who overcame the labyrinth, he slew the minotaur. He's the brains of the group. You've got Eric Lee's, who not dumb or anything, but he likes hitting this stuff hard. And you've got Achilles this kind of brash upstart. HerrickLee's and Theseus have this advantage where they've been working together for many of these tournaments. They even knew each other in life. Now you have this young guy that comes in, and he proves himself quite the fighter in that first round, but he's somewhat of an a*****e. There are some growing pains. It's a good time. They are going up against Imhotep, the champion of Osiris, and Imhotep has never lost in the arena. Most people tend to bribe Osiris with something that he wants, and that's how they get around. Otherwise, when they go up against him, they lose.

3m 18s
Literary Joe

Does the entire story follow the perspective of Achilles?

3m 23s
Michael Oden

He is our protagonist, but I feel like any good story that has a large cast of characters, you get to see some of their perspectives as well. In this book, we get we play around with a few different characters. We get to see a lot of stuff from Hades. You can understand the scope and the stakes of this tournament. You go into this tournament, and you're like, why is this so important for Hades? When he talks to Achilles' about it, it makes it seem like it's no big deal, but that's not the case. You find out that there's a lot more to this than Hades wanting to be King of the Underworld again. There are underlying things that had been going on that play a significant role. And then, Theseus, you get a bunch of time with him and Achilles'. And Theseus starts to get a read on who this guy is, and he's not sure what to expect from Achilles. I wouldn't say he is afraid of him, but he doesn't trust him. He knows something is going on, and it makes him anxious as to why Hades has brought this kid.

5m 25s
Nick Brooks

Is the goal to ultimately implement some of the best fighters throughout different cultures, mythologies and see how each team competes?

5m 36s
Michael Oden

Absolutely. This is a tournament book. The whole idea is the Episode tournament of champions occurs every thousand years. Every different mythology has its own respective God of the Dead or one of the underworld. Each of those deities is competing in this tournament by proxy of a team of champions of their respective cultures. The first round that gets to see the beginnings in the zero issue is team Hades versus team Nergold. Greek versus Mesopotamian. You've got Gilgamesh and Ancheyado from the Epic of Gilgamesh, the two first real heroes in Western literature, against Theseus and Achilles in that first snippet. We see the conclusion of that fight at the beginning of this book. The plan is, as we go on, you're going to see not every book is going to start like Achilles and them in a round. When you are doing a tournament book and working with a large cast, you need to play with them. In the future, there will be times where Achilles and Theseus, and all of them aren't necessarily competing. They're watching because you've got to know what you're opponents are going to do. We need to be paying attention to every single fight, so we know who we are going up against.

7m 52s
Nick Brooks

Did you take any inspiration from Anime for this story?

7m 58s
Michael Oden

It's funny because it helped influence the rework of this concept. After all, I had this boiling in my head for years, but the thing that gave me the push to go in this direction was Fate Zero and Fate Apocrypha. You have the Fate series where normally one mage teamed up with one hero spirit, but the ante got upped in Fate Apocrypha. I think that was a fantastic one. It's like you have two teams of Mages; that's a cool concept. It's a way to bring these characters together if they are effectively extensions of an avatar. The idea of what's the way to do that without making it feel like a ripoff of this was giving it it's own unique spin. The realization was every single one of these cultures and myths has a deity of the dead or a Lord of the underworld. That was it; that was the answer. They're all in this tournament, and they're all trying to get to the top. The team that makes it to the end of the tournament fights the champion of the last tournament.

9m 52s
Literary Joe

Is Imhotep the winner of the last tournament?

9m 56s
Michael Oden

The winter of the last tournament is Lucifer. You're going to be going up against the devil's own. In my concept, deities have this thing called divine mana, and the amount of divine mana that a God has is directly linked to however large of a following they have up above. What they can do with divine mana is effectively cheap. I am a huge fan of the Iliad, and the whole idea with the gods is none of them are supposed to be involved with this war. It's been pushed down as a Royal decree by Zeus that they aren't supposed to go and interfere. Yet all of them start jumping down and are trying to destroy the other side, giving their respective champions power-ups and boost steps. I feel like when you look at these older mythologies, that's a pretty common thing where as much as these are like higher beings, they're not, they're very emotional, and they don't necessarily play by the rules. Everyone wants to win. The big grand prize of being Lord of the underworld is not just a prestige thing; It's fuel. Think of it as an endless nuclear reactor of divine mana because the way it works is that people, when they pray, those prayers are infused with their soul energy, and soul energy is what creates divine mana. The underworld has an unlimited supply of human souls. It directly fuel's divine mana. Everybody wants to get to the top and in that position, because that means they have an unlimited supply for a thousand years. Not just them, but their whole Pantheon, and then they don't have to compete in the next tournament until the end.

12m 49s
Nick Brooks
Hades got the short end of the stick when it came to the underworld.

12m 58s
Michael Oden

I do play on that a little bit. I like writing with Hades because it's this thing where he was settled to be the Greeks Lord of the underworld, and he hated it. He didn't realize the important stuff. Now, he's in this position where he needs to get it back. I won't go too far into that because it's heavy spoiler territory. Again, all of these gods, it's not just a p*****g contest; there are actual stake and reward for competing and winning.

13m 56s
Nick Brooks

Are there any particular match-ups that you're interested in seeing a fight for?

14m 5s
Michael Oden

There are three branches of mythology that I feel are probably my personal strengths. Roman Mythology, Norse Mythology, and then the other massive one is Arthurian lore. We will have the Celtic God of death, Marion cow, at one point, and I'm doing this traditional, heavily Welsh-based version of King Arthur and a few of the characters in that story. They will all be in there, but It'll be traditional to the Welsh routes. 

*This interview has been edited for clarity. Comic Brooks co-hosts audio.*


The Abyssal Tournament of Champions has begun. Achilles has proven himself worthy of his place through his clash with the first hero Gilgamesh! However, Achilles' return to peace has been stalled as Hades makes an offer he just can't refuse. He now joins the ranks of the Champions of Hades alongside Theseus, slayer of the Minotaur, and Herakles, the mighty hero who conquered the 12 labors. Together they will fight to win this tournament, and their next opponent is a foe that has yet to be defeated in the arena.... the champion of Egyptian Lord of the Dead, Osiris.

Grab your copy of Elysian Fields: The Pyramid Gambit here!

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