“Bravest Warriors” collaborators and pals Kate Leth and Matt Cummings plan to bring a new super squad into the world, borrowing tropes from the realm of Magical Girl stories. The characters in “Power Up,” their new all-ages book from BOOM! Studios’ experimental BOOM! Box, are less than heroic when blessed with incredible abilities when the first issue debuts July 22.
In the case of “Power Up,” a trio of strangers — plus one goldfish — all receive their own abilities thanks to unknown forces following in vein of Magical Girl stories from manga and anime like “Sailor Moon.” The group consists of mother-of-two Sandy, former high school athlete Kevin, attitude-laced Amie and goldfish Silas. While Leth and Cummings remain tight-lipped on exactly what the characters can do, they will have to deal with these newfound abilities quickly as each issue features a new threat of some kind.
CBR News talked with Leth and Cummings about this group of characters who plateaued prior to gaining powers, working fully in the creator-owned realm and what brought them together as creators.
CBR News: How did the two of you decide to join forces on “Power Up?”
Kate Leth: Matt and I have been friends for a couple years. We actually live about 40 minutes apart on the very East-est coast of Canada. We would have Google Hangout work sessions and eventually decided to try and put together a pitch, since we worked so well together and had so much fun doing it. Thus, “Power Up” came to be!
Matt Cummings: Yeah! A lot of our early talks amounted to, “It’s bonkers that we aren’t working together!” Luckily we’re pretty tenacious/hard-working/annoying and were able to pretty quickly convince the team at BOOM! that a Leth/Cummings team-up was as smart as it was inevitable.
Kate, you’ve created your own webcomics before and written licensed books for BOOM! and IDW, but how does it feel to build a book like this from the ground up?
Leth: Honestly, it’s amazing. I cut my teeth writing licensed comics and I still love doing it, but having control over pretty much every aspect of the world and building the characters is amazing. I’d never done something like this and I don’t know if I would have this soon without Matt! Every character description I gave, he’d hit me back with these designs that had me so excited to bring them to life. I’ve got the fever now.
When creating this world together, were you both drawing concepts and sending them back and forth to each other? What was that process like?
Leth: It was and is pretty collaborative. We spent a long time working the story out, and then, as comics goes, it was a long time before I actually started scripting. Matt’s a way better artist than I am, so I would give him the loosest of sketches or design ideas and he turned them into people, or fish. I leave a lot of design choices up to him in the script. Most of them, really.
Cummings: Within one Google Hangout we more or less had the World ready. It was unreal. Kate, as an artist, knows how to communicate what she wants in a way that I immediately get. It was a lot of us yelling “What if–“ and the designs arrived soon after!
What were some of the specific Magical Girl tropes you wanted to play with in “Power Up,” both from a story and visual standpoint?
Leth: Oh, lots. I want to tackle the “real life” issues of Magical Girls: secret identities, costumes, powers, the whole bit! “Power Up” asks the hard questions, like “What happens when your costume doesn’t magically clean itself?” and “What happens to your day job?”
In terms of the visuals, Matt and I both love the background scenery and cosmic visuals from shows like “Sailor Moon.” You can expect sparkles and pastels alongside cool explosions, I promise you that. Honestly, I’m having a lot of fun writing the story, but this is going to be an unbelievably pretty comic. The preview pages I’ve seen are almost too much to handle!
Cummings: Agreed. I’m amazing!
How do Amie, Kevin, Sandy and Silas react to being chosen for this responsibility?
Leth: Each in different ways! They’re all people who would never ordinarily choose the spotlight. None of them grabs it by the horns and decides to be a hero, at least not right away. Imagine a very confused group of people who don’t know each other suddenly having to be a superhero team. That’s “Power Up!”
Cummings: Yeah, the main reaction is definitely “confused fear.”
What kind of cosmic abilities do Amie, Kevin, Sandy and Silas have and how has it been figuring out how those look on the page?
Leth: Some of them are revealed as we go, so I don’t want to say too much. I can tell you that Amie has a number of different abilities, Kevin’s powers are similar to a Sailor Scout/Cardcaptor situation and Sandy is the brute force. Silas the goldfish… Silas has laser vision. He transforms. You’ll see.
Cummings: I’ll just say that I’m most excited for everyone to see Sandy’s powers!
How did the idea to feature a goldfish in the group come about and how has it been writing or drawing that character so far?
Leth: Silas is the best! Y’know, I was recently re-watching an episode of “Steven Universe” where Steven summons a miniature whale and I wondered if it had been subconscious, but no, I hadn’t seen the episode until after we started designing these characters. Crazy confluences! As for writing him, it’s great. He’s going to get some amazing action sequences as we go along. As soon as Matt drew him, I loved him.
These characters don’t really know each other leading into the story, how does that dynamic play into their ability to use their powers?
Leth: How they work together definitely affects their powers, especially as the series progresses. Again, I don’t want to give too much away – their abilities and how they combine are a big and really fun part of the story!
Cummings: I’ll say that being a team is central to the story and the powers! It was an important element from the early planning stages.
Kate, you mentioned on your podcast that part of what you wanted to explore with “Power Up” was the idea of dealing with people who have settled in their lives. How do you convey that through the story and the look of the book?
Leth: The difference between our heroes and a lot of superhero/magical team books is that none of our protagonists expected to be heroes, or are even the best fit for it. Batman had that tragic childhood and dedicated his life to fighting crime, our characters were just living their day-to-day lives. None of them are born leaders. They struggle with their powers and their new responsibilities in a bunch of different ways.
For instance, Kevin is a construction worker and a pretty chill dude’s-dude who is suddenly faced with what you’d call “magical girl” abilities, as well as the costume that comes with them. It forces him to look at himself and his life in ways he wouldn’t have expected, and makes him grow as a person both in and out of battle.
Can you both talk about who this group comes up against just as they’re getting used to their powers and teammates?
Leth: Yes! The fun thing is that there are different monsters in each issue, and they’re all from different worlds and with different agendas. Our first issue sees a very mysterious suited figure who is made of the essentially the absence of light, and our second issue involves these sort of round, flying bubble creatures that explode on impact! The “Power Up” team doesn’t know who they are, where they’re from, or what they want, but they know it’s up to them to stop them.
Cummings: A big part of this wide range of “baddies” is that the team will never know what to expect. Even if they’re able to take down one, the next will come at them from a whole different angle!
“Power Up” is currently set up as a six-issue series. Do you have this planned as a series of one-and-dones or is there an overarching story?
Leth: We have a much larger backstory in mind for “Power Up,” but even if we end it at six issues, we’ve got a solid arc that’ll tie up neatly. That’s sort of how I plan stories these days! Come up with a miniseries and develop an elaborate world for it, just in case…
Cummings: When Kate first came up with the ending of the run and pitched it to me, I got a chill! There is a larger universe we can play with, beyond this arc. We hope people want to go along for the ride!
“Power Up” #1 hits stores on July 22 from Kate Leth, Matt Cummings and BOOM! Studios’ BOOM! Box imprint.
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