What happens to a superhero team when their enemies aren’t just attacking them from all sides, but fighting them from within? Next February, a team of creators join forces to bring you “Secret Identities,” a new series released through Image Comics. Co-written by Brian Joines and Jay Faerber with artists Ilias Kyriazis and Charlie Kirchoff, “Secret Identities” tells the story of The Front Line, a crew of heroes that banded together to protect the Earth from an alien invasion. Although their mission was successful, the Front Line still has a nemesis — and he just joined their team.
Following the release of a over half-a-dozen tantalizing teaser images, the creators provided CBR News an exclusive first look at and in-depth discussion of the series. Joines, Faerber and Kyriazis spoke with us to share more about the heroes at the heart of their story, the villains they’ll face and the secrets that could tear their team apart.
CBR News: Tell me about the history of “Secret Identities” — when did you guys decide to work together? Was this always the story you had in mind?
Jay Faerber: Brian can correct me if I’m wrong, but I think I approached him about teaming up on a superhero team book. I wanted to do a superhero book again, after working in other genres for a few years, but my workload was pretty heavy, so I thought it’d make sense to co-write. Brian and I have been friends for years, and always bounce stuff off each other anyway, so making it “official” wasn’t that big a step. We tossed around a few ideas and debated them back and forth, before settling on the idea of a team book where you know from the outset that one of the members is a traitor. And we knew that regardless of the concept, we were gonna ask Ilias to draw it.
Tell me a little bit about the division of work — who is doing what?Â
Brian Joines:Â Jay and I hatch a larger story arc together, then divide scripts up by scenes relating to particular characters or story lines.Â Then we swap them, suggest tweaks to make sure it all rings true and flows together properly, then turn it over to Ilias, who analyzes and scrutinizes the script before working his magic to turn all of our insane scrawlings into these fantastical images.
Let’s talk about the team at the heart of your series — who are they? Where are they at when the series begins?Â
Faerber: One of the fun things about this book was the creation of the team. Some characters were suggested/conceived by myself, some by Brian, and some by Ilias. The team itself is called The Front Line, and they came together to fend off an alien invasion that occurred before the book starts. The team is based in Toronto, because that’s where the invasion happened to be centered — but it’s not exactly a Canadian super-team. This isn’t Alpha Flight; some of the members just happen to be Canadian.
Ilias Kyriazis: Luminary is the super-powered daughter of the President of the United States. She a very public hero, America’s darling. Now, after a few years of working solo, she leads her own superhero team — but the Front Line and the White House don’t see things eye to eye.
Helot is a Metal album cover come to life. He’s a human weapon, and I cannot wait until we reveal just who created him — and why. Needless to say there’s a reason he looks like an ancient Greek warrior — an in-story reason I mean, besides me channeling what 8 year old Ilias thought looked awesome.
Faerber: Rundown is the team speedster. I’ve always loved speedsters — Flash, Quicksilver, Northstar. They’re my guys. The trick was to come up with a kind of speedster we haven’t seen before. I think we succeeded — but you’ll have to read the book to find out exactly what makes Rundown different.
Punchline is the team wiseass. She’s also the team bruiser — she’s got super-strength. But like most comedians, her quick wit is a defense for a more fragile personality. Brian and I find ourselves having a blast writing her. You put her in a scene with any of our characters, and the scene is instantly more fun to write.
Gaijin is an alien whose ship crash-landed in Japan when she was a child. She was found and raised by a Japanese criminal and treated like a member of his family. She is an incredible acrobat and martial artist, and her skin changes color depending on her mood.
Joines: Vesuvius plays into my love of the “monster as hero” concept in comics.Â He was a Roman centurion caught in the explosion at Pompeii but, rather than dying, he was transformed into this molten rock creature.Â With the Front Line, he’s embraced his new life and genuinely enjoys being a hero.
The Recluse is our dark vigilante character — moody, brooding, never letting anyone get too close.Â With so many colorful characters, he’s the team’s ultimate straight man.Â But beyond the superhero side of things, his origins lie in a more Doc Savage/pulp hero scenario, with jungle explorations, ancient curses, and the like.
Crosswind is the ultimate wild card in the mix, the new recruit presented as humble, earnest, and honest to a fault — who is really a sinister, duplicitous figure looking to rip the team apart.Â His motivations and the effects his actions have on the team — and vice versa — will be revealed as the book moves forward.
What are their villains like?Â
Joines: It’s an interesting balance since the book’s main antagonist is part of the team’s line-up.Â We’re looking at the stories and the characters, both in the team scenario and individually, and creating villains to serve those needs.Â Some may be one-offs, some may be part of larger plot developments.
Faerber: Yeah, I think we’ve got a nice assortment of villains. Some of them are enemies of the team as a whole, and others are enemies of the individual members. Some villains will be in place when the book begins, and we’ll see others get their start.
It sounds like a villain might be in their midst — will we see the team change as suspicions about Crosswind develop?Â
Joines: There’s no telling what could happen as the story progresses.Â Some members may stay, some may go.Â Some may not have a choice in the matter.
Faerber: The team may indeed change. And maybe Crosswind himself may change, too. He’s going to have to pretend to be a hero an awful lot while playing out this long con. What if that starts to rub off on him? What if he starts to actually feel like a hero?
I know you’re all big fans of superheroes. What were some qualities or powers you’d been interested in exploring?Â
Faerber: The appeal for me is in the group chemistry. Finding the right combination of powers and personalities that go well together. You want the group to feel natural, and you want the characters to play well off one another, but you don’t want the team to feel artificial. The lineup shouldn’t be too perfect, you know? It should feel organic. For instance, an argument could be made that both Helot and Vesuvius are from ancient civilizations and cultures, so why have them both on the team? Isn’t that redundant? But we decided to play up that angle — it gives them something in common. We also wanted to play against type. When I was doing “Dynamo 5,” our “strong guy” character was actually a petite girl. We’re doing a similar thing with Punchline, but at the same time, Punchline is very different from D5’s Scrap.
Joines: I mentioned my love of the “hero as monster” and pulp hero vibe.Â Beyond that, I’ve always dug the concept of hero-as-celebrity, or struggling celebrity in any case, and Jay’s done some great work with Punchline in that regard.Â Overall, though, as someone who’s mainly written more comedic books, I just welcome the opportunity to get serious and messy with these characters and their baggage.Â
Kyriazis: I love superheroes and I always wanted to do a super-team book, so my wish list of cool power-related things I want to draw is endless. I’m very interested in developing a distinctive fighting style for each character. What is very interesting is cases like Recluse and Vesuvius, where the kind of men they were and how they used to fight is the complete opposite of what their power sets dictate. Recluse carries a gun for example — that he keeps touching but never draws.Â Also — the team’s headquarters! We are not telling people yet about that, are we? Oh, I love drawing it — plus all the cool things inside it.
What are some of your favorite superhero team lineups?
Faerber: Probably my favorite super-team of all time is the Wolfman/Perez “New Teen Titans.” But I also love the Claremont/Byrne/Smith “X-Men” and John Byrne’s “Alpha Flight.” My most controversial super-team is the Harras/Epting “Avengers,” otherwise known as the “leather jacket Avengers.” I love that run, yet I realize I’m in the extreme minority on that one.
Joines: I loved Byrne’s “Alpha Flight” line-up, especially when Heather Hudson took over the team without putting on her husband’s suit, which I felt hurt the character when it happened. I always dug the absolute randomness of Marvel’s Champions, and would love to see that team together again in a modern setting. And, for me, nothing gets better than “Nextwave,” which to me remains the standard-bearer for all Marvel books since.
Kyriazis: Hm — do I lose originality points if I go with ’70s “X-Men?” Besides that I always loved whenever a team was decimated and an emergency team of minor characters, various friends and allies, is formed in their stead. “The big guns are out: Now we have to step up”.
What are some of the challenges in writing a team book with such a large cast?Â
Joines: Speaking of Byrne and “Alpha Flight,” Jay and I decided early on to adopt his strategy with that team: Not every issue has to feature all the characters.Â Sometimes the primary story in an issue will spotlight one or two characters only.Â That way, we can spend some time getting to know them as individuals without being distracted by the other seven characters running around.Â Plus, it means when we do use the entire team, that suggests some serious shit is going down.
Faerber: Yeah, Brian nailed it. It’s a team book, but it’s also an ensemble cast, where it’s fun to pair various characters up in smaller groupings depending on the story’s needs. Sometimes we’ll be following one or two characters as they deal with a villain that’s personal to them. But again, like Brian said, there will definitely be times when the whole team is together.
“Secret Identities” #1 hits stores February 18 and can be pre-ordered with Diamond Code DEC140617.