Whereas Millennials reaped the benefits as innovators behind social media and birthed the youngest-ever billionaires, Generation Z was sort of the fallout because of it. Whose problems, between depressing disconnectedness, climate change, LGBTQ+ rights, and social media addictions, sort of warranted a sort of woken state of self-awareness. Something that sees their world of opportunities for what it is: absolutely fucked.
Omega Gang, the title by Scout Comics, is a series that addresses these issues, starring a group of teens very representative of the hopelessness of the times. We talked with Matteo Rivosecchi and Niccolò Ielapi about their debut comic, which addresses many themes about what kids are dealing with today.
If I were an Executive at Apple TV locked in an elevator with you for sixty seconds, how would you pitch Omega Gang to me as a comics-to-television series?
Matteo Rivosecchi: “Omega Gang is a YA series about a group of Gen Z teenagers, calling themselves the Omega Gang to represent their lack of hope for the future. They’re the Omega, the last in line as everything gets worse. But the sudden appearance of a group of magical monsters linked to their fears and dreams gives them a chance for the first time. They’ll have the chance to get into good trouble and improve their lives or perish while taking care of these monsters and hiding them from the world.”
Niccolò Ielapi: “Breakfast Club meets Pokèmon! A group of teenagers find some mysterious creatures and keep them secret. They want to live with them, but these creatures have dangerous powers conditioned by the feelings of their owner. How can these kids control living weapons while facing the issues of any other teenager without a future? That’s Omega Gang.”
Your comic represents the voice of a doomed generation. Tell me, what are some of the troubling issues of today’s youth that you sought to address in this series?
Matteo Rivosecchi: “There are so many like the usual racism, homophobia, and poverty that so many encounter when they’re so young. But I believe the main one would be the lack of a decent future. It’s becoming more and more difficult to build a career, afford decent housing, and just survive.
Plus, there’s the specter of climate change looming. And on top of all that nobody seems to take them, and the mental health problems caused by all of this, seriously. There are so many young people perfectly aware of the awful conditions we’re living in, knowing it’s only gonna get worse, and are trying to raise their voice. To scream at the adults in the room to do something, only to get ridiculised.
Niccolò Ielapi: I think that Matteo chose to address multiple topics, but the most important (for me) is for these kids to understand what kind of person they currently are and what they wanna be in their lives. Monsters are obviously a physical manifestation of their insecurities.”
What inspired you more in the making of Omega Gang: Deadly Class, Persona 5, or Pokémon? What did you like about these stories and how did they influence Omega Gang?
Matteo Rivosecchi: “Deadly Class is one of my favorite comics ever and was a huge influence in the writing of Omega Gang. I loved the way Remender perfectly characterized the characters. You have scenes with characters just talking about their music tastes and it just defines so much of their character. It definitely influenced me, especially in the massive use of narration, and in a sort of way I wanted to translate that teen rebellious strike into the modern world (in a more PG way because Deadly Class is about a high school for assassins while we’re doing a YA book lol).
Persona 5 was more of a lucky coincidence, I played it only after writing the initial pitch and I was in awe of how many similarities it had with Omega Gang. What I liked about Persona was the will of the protagonists to go against the ‘rotten adults’ ruining their lives, being at the same time so adamant about their missions and so doubting. I played Persona 5 Royal while writing the scripts and used it to polish some things with that in mind.
Both Deadly Class and Persona 5 helped me to portray that raw teen angst. The kids are tired of this shit and they’ll take no more! And the extra you see at the end of every issue with snippets of the Gang group chat, we modeled that after Persona 5 and the way they use texts to further define their characters.
As far as Pokémon goes, it was the bedrock of my childhood. But while writing I tried to take as little as possible from Pokémon and Digimon. I strongly stand against the nostalgia permeating every show, movie, and book we have, especially while writing something that looks to the youth and the future like Omega Gang. So apart from the evolution concept and the way the monsters are named I wanted to take as little as possible from it.”
I see many parallels between Omega Gang and Persona 5. Things such as Amaranta’s and Ann Takamaki’s story arcs, or even the heightened emotions granting special abilities. In what ways do you think comics can explore stories in ways video games can’t?
Matteo Rivosecchi: “You’re right. I also noticed quite a few similarities between Futaba and Luna (the loss of a dear one, the mental health problems, the ancient Egypt concept of a refuge. I SWEAR I only found out about Persona after we already planned the whole story and it is just a coincidence!).
That’s an interesting question. Comics is a sequential art, playing with that element and the formation of the grid of the page is one of the aspects that fascinates me the most about comics, and it is something you can do only here.
That’s why Alan Moore is one of the greatest. The impact that the Doc Manhattan chapter of Watchmen had on the page is miles ahead of its movie adaptation. Plus, comics are a lot cheaper to make than video games or movies. You can almost easily make a comic book all by yourself and try to self-publish it. With video games, it takes a lot more than that.”
The artwork of Niccolò Ielapi is very distinguishable and I love how the artwork blends with the coloring in seamless pinks, purples, and blues. What’s it been like working together? Can you share the initial concepts they and yourself had in bringing life into these teens?
Matteo Rivosecchi: “Me and Niccolò go way back. We started working together in 2018 and the chemistry was just there. We had quite similar tastes and made a few other pitches together until we landed Omega Gang in 2020. This is something we joke about all the time but the actual pitch came from Niccolò. He comes at me sometimes with crazy ideas and sometimes, like on this occasion, they’re actually good.
His initial idea was “Friday the 13th plus Digimon”. It was more of a horror genre comic as these monsters can be quite scary and wanted to dwell on that. He usually focuses on the ‘action’ element while I try to weave a story behind that, and so we focused more on the teen aspect of the idea, stitching upon the concept of ‘Omega Gang’ that I came up with a few years prior. It was quite a different beat but the core was there. At the time I was still green and didn’t know what to do exactly with that idea. When Niccolò came to me with the Pokèmon monsters I decided it was the time to bring it back.”
Niccolò Ielapi: “Working with Matteo is a fluke for me and an endurance test for him.”
Your characters are incredibly memorable and feel grounded, angsty, and rebellious. Can you share the emotional journey we’re about to go on with Gabriel, Adham, Luna, and Amaranta? What problems do they have to overcome and how will their newfound monsters help them overcome it?
Matteo Rivosecchi: “First of all, thank you very much. I’m glad that our intentions came through clearly. Each member has their own share of trouble.
Gab is a closeted homosexual coming from a very conservative family which refuses this side of him and makes him so much more insecure.
Adham comes from poor Indian immigrants who force him to play football (it’s set in England, so it’s OG England football, aka soccer) in order to find more success, even though he doesn’t like it and would rather follow his dreams and passion about pro wrestling.
Luna suffers from severe depression after losing her family at a young age. Amaranta is gonna get blackmailed after trusting the wrong person with intimate pictures of herself.
They share the same fears and lack of hope for the future and in all the cases the OGs give them support where there wasn’t before. They’re helpful companions who will have their backs in any case.”
Let’s talk about the Gang’s Monsters and OG Counterparts. How are they representative of their owners? Can you explain to us how the mechanics of evolution works?
Matteo Rivosecchi: “Each monster is modeled after its owner. Ama’s is a fire caterpillar as she burns brightly with her determination and charisma. Her will to enjoy her youth made me think of the life cycle of a butterfly as its lifespan it’s quite short but beautiful and intense.
Adham’s is a reckless monkey that relies mainly on physical strength because of the hard-headed nature of his and his passion for pro wrestling.
Luna’s is an undead cat with connections to the afterlife because of her obsession with ancient Egypt and their relationship with the dead.
Gab’s is a magical furball, shining brightly with a twist, as he is very gentle and sweet while hiding a darker side due to the problems with his family.”
The symbol of Omega means the last of something. For the Omega Gang, is this the final version of the group? Or will there be new gang members introduced in the future?
Matteo Rivosecchi: “I don’t exactly know about that myself. I would like to expand the concept of Omega Gang in an eventual season 2 after the aftermath of the first one, but we shall wait and see how this goes to see if there’s enough demand for a second season. But the second half of the series, from issues 5 to 8, will see A LOT of trouble and massive events occur so I won’t spoil too much.”
If there was something you’d like audiences to take away from this comic what would it be?
Matteo Rivosecchi: “For the grown-ups: to listen more to the kids. To treat Young Adults as such, without patronizing or sanitizing words and events. For the young adults: no matter how worse it will get, to always maintain a shred of hope. There’s absolutely nothing promising about it but we can’t give up and let them win. It will have its up and downs but we can’t stop believin’.”
Where can audiences follow you?
Matteo Rivosecchi: “I’m mainly active on Instagram at reevo.lt, but you can also find me on FB and Twitter as Matteo Rivosecchi.”
Niccolò Ielapi: “I’m active on instagram (nikyielapi_nie) and on twitter as @nie_ielapi“