When he picked up a strange amulet in 1991's "Darkhawk" #1, teenager Chris Powell couldn't have foreseen that he was taking the first steps on a road that would lead him out into the cosmos of the Marvel Universe. That amulet transformed Chris into an armored being equipped with a plethora of powers such as flight, superhuman strength and the ability to project blasts of concussive energy. As Darkhawk, Chris fought crime from 1991 until 1995 in the pages of his own self-titled series. Since then, the character has made a number of appearances, his most recent being in the pages of "Nova," where he helped repel a Skrull assault on the high tech think tank known as Project: P.E.G.A.S.U.S.
By fighting side-by-side with Nova against the Skrulls, Darkhawk has unknowingly placed himself on a collision course with his cosmic destiny, which will be realized in the upcoming War of Kings event. Before he can face his future, though, Chris Powell must deal with both his past and present in the pages of "War of Kings: Darkhawk," a two-issue miniseries by writer C.B. Cebulski and artist Harvey Tolibao, which begins in February. CBR News spoke with Cebulski about the project.
"War of Kings: Darkhawk" is not the first time Cebulski has written the titular hero. The writer previously tackled Darkhawk when he penned "The Loners," a 2007 miniseries featuring the superhero self-help group. "When Brian K. Vaughan was using Excelsior back in 'Runaways' [where Excelsior first appeared], he thought Darkhawk was a cool character that he could do something with and he proved that. And when I pitched 'The Loners,' I built off what Brian did, which was to reestablish the cool core of the Darkhawk character," Cebulski told CBR News. "Now, I think in 'Nova,' [writers] Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning are doing a fantastic job of showing why he's so bad-ass. So 'War of Kings: Darkhawk' is kind of the next natural progression of what we see as being cool about Darkhawk."
Cebulski knows that some readers aren't as taken with the Darkhawk character as he is. The writer believes it might be because when they look at the character, all they see is a far too familiar origin story. "In some ways back when he was created, they set out to make Darkhawk a Peter Parker-type character and followed the origin story pretty literally. He was a kid who lived in Queens and because of his actions he learned that 'With great power comes great responsibility,'" Cebulski explained. "They tried to make him into the Peter Parker of that day and age, but Christ Powell is so much more than that. He's kind of Peter Parker with an edge.
"He's a little bit younger and a little more unstable, and one of the things we're able to explore with him is, what if Peter Parker didn't always have the people there to help him make the right choices? How would someone who grew up without the guidance of Peter's Uncle Ben and Aunt May handle the experience of becoming a superhero? Chris Powell had a lot of hard decisions to make as a kid and while he was growing up with his super abilities. So we're exploring those themes and it gives the character more depth."
The majority of Darkhawk's adventures have been Earthbound, but the character's background is tied to an alien culture, which Cebulski sees as an organic way of working him into the larger framework of the cosmic Marvel U. "There were a couple of instances in the middle of the original 'Darkhawk' series, I believe it was somewhere around issue #20 of the series, where Chris went into outer space and had a cosmic adventure, which tweaked the origin of Darkhawk a bit but was a little farfetched in certain ways," Cebulski said.
Indeed, in that story, it was revealed that Chris's amulet and the Darkhawk form had been built for an alien crime lord. "The back-story of the amulet and the amulet's creation ties him to the cosmic landscape of the Marvel U but parts of Darkhawk's origin raised as many questions as they answered. So what we're doing now is running with that seam that was established in his origin which did not -- with the exception of some alien races that had been used in the past -- have very many ties to the overall cosmic Marvel U. And we're revealing that Darkhawk's origin is more firmly tied into specific events from the history of the Marvel U. So you're going to see some connections that seem pretty natural, especially given the bird-like nature of the character's armor. Connections, where you go, 'Oh shit! That makes perfect sense now.'"
In reviewing characters that could play a part in the War of Kings event, Darkhawk was one of the first characters editor Bill Rosemann gravitated to, as did wrtiers Abnett & Lanning, who pen the anchor "War of Kings" miniseries, which debuts in March. "They said, 'We have these ideas to show how he's connected to the bigger picture,'" Cebulski revealed.
Darkhawk may be bound for a bigger destiny in the cosmic Marvel Universe, but you wouldn't know it from the character's attitude in his recent appearances in "Nova." His interactions with his former New Warriors teammate seem to have given Darkhawk a bit of an inferiority complex. "I think that speaks to what I was saying earlier about Chris not having a lot of big influences in his life when he was growing up," Cebulski explained. "His father was missing, his mother was a hard-working, single parent District Attorney, and he was constantly scrutinized and attacked by the Mafia for reasons he didn't know. So he didn't have time to grow and become that hero when he was young and he didn't have a lot of mentors.
"Now he's becoming a little more attached to Nova and seeing the potential he would have had if he walked a different path. He's trying to change to that path and it comes with a lot of questions. He's seeing Nova as not just a friend that he's had on different teams over the years but as a role model and someone he can look up to. But at the same time while it's offering up positive influences--like realizing what he can become--there's a lot of regret coming as well."
Feelings of inferiority aren't the only personal demons Christ Powell is wrestling with in "War of Kings: Darkhawk." "Vaughan established that the Darkhawk amulet and armor were making Chris mentally unstable, and that's something I carried through into 'The Loners' and something that we're going to explore a little more deeply in this miniseries," Cebulski said. "Chris has been addressing the mental unbalance and the anger issues that come with it in ways we haven't seen yet, and we're going to explain a little bit more of that and why he's been doing the things he's doing."
The choices Darkhawk has been making have also left his mind burdened by feelings of guilt. "The other positive influence in Chris's life really had been his teammate in The Loners Miki Musashi a.k.a. Turbo, who he'd been dating. And he just up and left her to join Project: P.E.G.A.S.U.S. That also has a little to do with his inferiority complex," Cebulski confirmed. "We're going to be exploring some of his guilt."
He may be troubled by his choice to leave the West Coast, The Loners, and Turbo but Darkhawk felt it was in his own best interest to do so. "As this series begins, he's going to be living at home where he's reconciled with his family" Cebulski stated. "When someone goes to anger management classes to confront their issues Step One is always: change your environment. That's why he left L.A. That's why he went back East and that's why he's trying to reconnect with the people he felt he wronged. He wants to bring positive influences into his life again. So he's back living with his mother and his brothers and he's still working at Project: P.E.G.A.S.U.S. with Nova."
When "War of Kings: Darkhawk" begins, Chris Powell is helping to clean up some of the destruction the Skrulls wrought during their assault in the Secret Invasion tie-in issues of "Nova." He'll quickly move from dealing with physical rubble to emotional rubble, though, because The Loners have also moved back East to assist Earth's heroes with the larger clean-up from the invasion. "The things that went down during the Skrull invasion were a little screwed up. There's a lot of mistrust and discord among the heroes. So there's no better time for a superhero self help group," Cebulski explained. "Turbo is going to move The Loners to New York in order to try and help and the mandate for the team is going to change a little. I don't want to give too much away. They're going to remain a superhero self-help group, but they won't be focusing as much on staying out of costume. They'll be more about using your powers responsibly to help others."
The events in "War of Kings: Darkhawk" will also force Chris Powell to confront some of his preconceived notions about his heroic identity. "After everything that happened to him in the 'Darkhawk' series and the different appearances he's made over the years, Chris has long thought that his was the last amulet and the last set of Darkhawk armor in existence," Cebulski explained. "What we're going to find out in this series is the past will come back to haunt him, so to speak."
Cebulski couldn't reveal just exactly how that occurs, but hinted that his protagonist will clash with some familiar faces. "Some of the supporting members from Chris's past come back in play as well as one big super-villain, who he'll have to deal with before making the choice to move forward and confront his past," the writer said. "Also as mentioned, The Loners: Turbo, Ricochet, Lightspeed and the new Red Ronin will be playing a role and there were plans for more established characters but we decided we had a lot to tell and only so many pages to tell it in."
In addition to all the familiar faces, a new character will enter into Chris Powell's life in "War of Kings: Darkhawk." "This character is going to become integral not to just Chris and Darkhawk's life but to the overall plot of War of Kings* as well," Cebulski teased.
C.B. Cebulski has been a fan of artist Harvey Tolibao's work for a number of years, and the writer is excited to be collaborating with him on "War of Kings: Darkhawk." "I'm a huge Star Wars geek and originally saw his work when he doing a lot of Star Wars stuff for Dark Horse," the writer said. "We were happy to get him over here at Marvel and he's been kicking ass and really growing as an artist on 'Avengers: The Initiative' and every book he's done. I was asking for a lot of different things, like multiple angles in each panel, so I could convey as much information as possible with the pages I had available. Harvey understood that and while he's giving me the character interaction I want and doing as much as he can with the foreground; he's also including so much detail in the background that's it adding an extra layer to the story, which is exactly what I wanted. It's like he's adding a double layer of information in each panel. I'm really happy with the way it's turning out."
It's not just the interior art in "War of Kings: Darkhawk" that Cebulski is excited by. The writer has also been wowed by Brandon Peterson's cover work for the series. "I've loved Brandon Peterson as an artist for years and I think he's doing an amazing job on the covers for all of the War of Kings books, but he made these 'Darkhawk' covers look cooler than I've ever seen," Cebulski said. "So I wanted to throw some props to Brandon for his covers. When fans see the new covers he has coming up they'll be blown away."
After "War of Kings: Darkhawk," Chris Powell's fate is in the hands of Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, but Cebulski would love to take the character out for another spin. "I love Darkhawk. I'd love to play with him again and I'd love to do so in the context of 'The Loners' as well," Cebulski said. "Given that events are taking Darkhawk and The Loners on separate paths it might not be possible and I'm a little busy at the moment but hopefully there will be some more Darkhawk in my future."
"War of Kings: Darkhawk" #1 hits stores February 4 from Marvel Comics.