Super heroes may be the solution to the problem of power hungry villains out to destroy and conquer the world, but from a police officer’s perspective they can cause just as much harm as good. That’s because super powered clashes often end in violence and murder, and when they do it’s up to the cops to solve these murders and arrest the perpetrators.
The stars of writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Michael Avon Oeming’s creator-owned series “Powers,” from Marvel Comics’ Icon imprint have been investigating super powered homicide cases for 11 years now and their beat is about to heat up again. After a lengthy hiatus, “Powers” is returning to shelves and CBR News spoke with Bendis about the reasons for the book’s absence and what to expect when the series returns. He also shared the latest update on the “Powers” television pilot currently in development at the FX.
It’s been almost a year since the release of issue #7 of the latest volume of “Powers,” and in that time a number of things happened. “This is something that I’m very embarrassed about and not happy with myself about. I’m certainly going to try and make it up in any way I can,” Bendis told CBR News. “Basically what happened was we were heading strong into our latest storyline on ‘Powers,’ then miraculously, after 11 years, someone agreed to pay money to film the book as a television series. I served as an executive producer and was very involved with the other executive producers in all the decisions about bringing this to the screen. We talked about casting and met with all kinds of actors. We were there while the pilot was being filmed and were involved in every little decision like costuming.
“It was a wonderful experience, but without even realizing that I was doing it the part of my brain that makes the ‘Powers’ comic had switched to the ‘Powers’ TV show,” Bendis continued. “I literally couldn’t do it because I was so laser focused on this other thing. I didn’t even realize that time was going by because in my world I was working eight to nine hours a day on ‘Powers’ almost every day. There just wasn’t anything that people were seeing. So people would ask me, ‘Hey don’t you care about ‘Powers’ anymore?’ and I would be like, ‘What are you talking about? That’s all I’ve been doing all day.’ So it was weird. Then when we were done with post production of the pilot I started missing having ‘Powers’ stuff to do and I realized I was sitting on four issues of Mike Oeming’s art.”
That realization led Bendis to jump headfirst into the task of getting “Powers” the comic book series back on a regular schedule. “‘Powers’ #8 is at the printer, issue #9 is being lettered right now, and we’ll have two more issues coming out in very quick succession. So for people who have never read the book before there’s a bunch coming your way. You’ll be able to sink your teeth in,” Bendis said. “For people who have been waiting patiently I can’t thank you enough. I feel awful about what happened and please do know that nothing is more important, and a lot of issues will come out in quick succession. So I’ll make it up to you on the back end.
“I know that some people who read comics as they come out might be thinking, ‘All your Marvel Comics came out.’ Getting ‘Avengers’ and ‘Ultimate Spider-Man’ done has nothing to do with ‘Powers,’ though. Plus the giant machine that is Marvel Comics helps me produce those books. With ‘Powers’ it’s literally me, Mike, Chris Eliopoulos our letterer, Nick Filardi our colorist, and our editor Jen Gruenwald putting it all together. There’s nobody else involved,” Bendis continued. “Just because the book was coming out from Icon doesn’t mean it’s a Marvel Comic. ‘Powers,’ ‘Brilliant,’ ‘Scarlet,’ and ‘Takio’ are all as independent as the way we made them at Caliber. It’s just us. I love that and a lot of good comes from that, but it’s not like we could, and I don’t think anyone is interested, in having someone else write or draw the book. It’s either us or nothing. That’s the way we want it.”
Bendis knows there are some people that won’t accept or believe his excuse, but he plans to work hard to rectify the mistake that led to “Powers'” unexpected hiatus. “I’ve made it pretty clear in the past that my writing is extremely important to me, especially when it’s something I own. So it wasn’t a matter of me thinking that Spider-Man was more fun or interesting. That’s never the case,” Bendis explained. “A couple weeks before Christmas time, I started looking around at my year in comics; what I had done creatively and business wise. I was trying to decide what I was proud of and what I wasn’t, what I should do next, and what I should be working on now. By far the thing I was most embarrassed by was ‘Powers’ not shipping. Before I finished that thought I pulled out the artwork from issue #8 and spent the week working on the script and getting the book out as quickly as humanly possible to make up for the embarrassment that I felt about this all.”
While the last year may not have seen new “Powers” stories, it was still a great time for new readers to jump aboard the series. That’s because Bendis and Oeming began re-issuing the library of “Powers” collected editions in a new deluxe format.
“We’ve been putting out these beautiful hardcovers that I’m very proud of. We’ve got them all over comic stores and Barnes & Noble has been very nice in picking them up in their stores. So I felt like in the back of my head I was justifying things; like we were putting out ‘Powers’ all over the place. ‘Look it’s here! And it’s there. It’s 11 years-old, but it’s still ‘Powers.” There was news about the ‘Powers’ pilot almost every week all summer and we wanted a version of the series out there that was as attractive to pick up as possible,” Bendis remarked. “I’m a big fan of the sleeveless hardcovers. That’s my format du jour for almost all things Jinxworld and Icon. ‘Powers’ had never been out in that form and I love that format. So that’s the way we’re putting out all our stuff from now on.”
Readers who have picked up these hardcovers and longtime readers of “Powers” know what the series is about, but Bendis also wants to make sure new readers who give the series try starting with this month’s issue “Powers” #8 aren’t lost. “For those who have never read ‘Powers,’ it’s about homicide cops investigating super hero and super powers-related murders in a world where super heroes exist. We were the first people to ever do this. It’s been imitated often since, but we were upfront and we’re really proud of that,” the writer explained. “In this story line that we’re writing right now, there’s a group of god-like super heroes in the vein of characters like Hercules or Thor that are being impossibly and publicly murdered. Their heads have been blowing off their bodies and, their leader’s head explodes right on television during the middle of an interview. So now the case has gone from an impossible red ball case to a case where the feds have to be involved.”
For years, the two detectives featured in “Powers” were Christian Walker and Deena Pilgrim. When the latest volume launched, however, the book was anchored by Walker and his new partner, Detective Enki Sunrise.
“That’s because Pilgrim left the force in disgrace and hasn’t been seen in years. She returned to the book in our current storyline and she’s now an FBI agent in charge of her own Powers task force. So she’s back in Walker’s life and she’s now sort of his superior. They’re very happy to see each other again, but when they left each other they revealed their darkest secrets to each other,” Bendis said. “I’d rather people discover those secrets on their own, but one of which is that Walker used to be one of the world’s great super heroes. He doesn’t have his powers anymore, so this is what he does instead. It’s an uneasy relationship but these two love each other very much. Not in a romantic way, but in a way you love a friend or family member. It’s a warts and all relationship at this point, though.”
Walker’s relationship with Enki Sunrise is also a complicated one. “Enki Sunrise is working for Internal Affairs because almost everyone on the police force is certain that Walker is dirty on some level. They are literally hounding him to see what they can discover,” Bendis explained. “In this current story arc [Walker and Sunrise] are investigating these horrible murders, and as they carry out their investigations we’ll meet all these new demigod characters. While that’s going on we’re exploring all these fractured relationships amongst the cops themselves.”
Another element in the current investigation in “Powers” is the nature of divinity in the universe that Bendis and Oeming have established. “Why is it that the god characters in this storyline don’t seem to be able to define what being a god means? The only people who don’t seem worried about that either are these characters,” Bendis said. “They’re living their lives. We’ll meet Hades and all these other cool characters that don’t seem to be worried about whether they’re gods or not. They’re more concerned with their lots in life.”
The investigation into the god murders will heat up in “Powers” #8 and conclude in #11. “All of these issues will ship between now and the spring. We want to get them out as quickly as possible. From there our hope is to produce this book on a regular basis,” Bendis said. “There are a lot of people who have stuck by this book for a decade and I take that very seriously. There are people who love these characters even more than me and Mike do, and some of them are going to be reading this article and won’t be happy with the excuses I just gave because it’s pretty hard to describe unless you’ve been there. Specifically to those people I apologize. Our goal is to make the most of Mike’s amazing output and produce the book as regularly as possible.
“That’s the best thing to do,” Bendis continued. “I had a lot of fun on the pilot and a lot of that was because it was a new and different experience for me. I love writing this book more though, and putting issue #8 to bed felt so good. It felt like a right creative thing. Like, ‘This is what I do.’ So to deny myself that feeling would be insane.”
While Bendis is working on new “Powers” comics, work continues on the “Powers” television pilot. “The good news was that the pilot was put together. I’ve seen it and it’s not embarrassing on any level. It’s very interesting, dense, and complicated like every FX show is. We were tested and the things that you need to continue forward we tested very well with. People liked our lead Jason Patric and the idea of the show. They said they would watch the show. So all of these things did very well,” Bendis said. “If those things didn’t do well we would have been dead. There were a couple areas that we needed to clarify for a mass audience, but they were very easy fixes. We also came up with an idea for an opening that we liked better than what we had.
“So here’s the thing, FX is different from other networks. Other networks make a bunch of pilots and watch them once. They then test them and decide whether they want to put them on the air or not. If FX greenlights a pilot they’re 80 percent sure that they’re putting the show on the air. They reshoot pilots before they abandon them. From what I understand the ‘Sons of Anarchy’ pilot that aired was almost completely reshot from the original. It was done by our director,” Bendis continued. “So they look at it as a first draft of a five-year investment in a series, which I think makes their shows better. I think that’s why their success rate is so high. If a series doesn’t connect with an audience it isn’t from a lack of quality.
“So that’s where we are now. The important stuff worked. There are rewrites happening as we speak and I talk with the other producers all the time. Just last night me and Chic Eglee, our show runner, had a wonderful conversation about ‘Powers’ involving things we can do right now and in the future. Also I have to say our network president [John Landgraf] is very intelligent and very invested. He’s spending a lot of time with us,” Bendis said. “I’ve been told by almost everybody working on this pilot that we’re being very spoiled. The president of FX will call us to talk about ‘Powers’ in a philosophical manner and it’s such a wonderful conversation. Everyone says to me, ‘That’s not how it is. And I go, ‘I know. I’ve been around.'”
Bendis is enjoying the chance to collaborate with everyone involved with the “Powers” pilot, but the writer knows that ultimately if the show gets on the air it won’t be because of his powers of persuasion. “There’s nothing I can say or do to get it on the air except help make a quality show. If it doesn’t go on the air then I will show it after ‘Locke & Key’ at conventions and smile and wave. So I’m hopeful and very proud of my collaborators. And in the back of issue #8 I talk about spending time on set with Mike Oeming watching this happen. It was a really special experience,” Bendis explained. “Me and Mike were friends when we first started this. Now here we are over a decade later and we’re more than friends. We’re family. We’ll be that way forever and to share this experience together and still be friends was really, really special and wonderful. All of that came about because people supported the book so vocally.”
The producers of the “Powers” pilot were aware of the book’s dedicated fan base and, to Bendis’ surprise and pleasure, took fans’ opinions into consideration when they were developing the pilot. “When the pilot was announced people got onto websites and started listing their casting choices. There were lots of posts and threads and I think iFanboy did a podcast about it. When we were in a casting meeting for ‘Powers’ someone in the network pulled out a print out of those various posts, and said, ‘Let’s talk about what’s on these lists.’ It was very cool,” Bendis stated. “That’s how seriously people’s passion for this was taken. It went all the way up to the people who are going to make the pilot. So I hope that people who have been fans of this book take a lot of pride in that.”
Bendis knows the passionate “Powers” fan base is one of the main reasons the television pilot happened and he feels like he let them down by not releasing an issue of the comic series for so long. Right now his immediate priority is getting new issues of the comics out to readers, but the writer told CBR he holds out hope that “Powers” will be picked up as a series on FX so fans can experience the story through a different medium.
“The book began with me writing it in my basement and Mike drawing the book in the security booth where he worked in the middle of the night guarding a parking lot. So we went from a lonesome experience like that to speaking with dozens of people who are all now making ‘Powers.’ They’re all smart Peabody and Emmy-winners behind the television that I watch and love. So it brought all of this to me, and after I was all done I realized that I did not do my part and put more issues of ‘Powers’ out to keep it all going. I stopped things and I’m desperate to get it moving again,” Bendis explained. “I can’t wait to not only get issues of the book out to people who are waiting patiently, but also to unveil this TV project to everyone. I can’t wait for people to see what I’ve seen which is Jason Patric looking just like a Mike Oeming drawing walking into a room and start questioning a subject. It was very cool.”
“Powers” #8 by Bendis and Oeming is on sale February 8.