EXCLUSIVE: Oeming Declassifies "Powers: Bureau"

Michael Avon Oeming can't get enough "Powers." He and writer Brian Michael Bendis launched the series over a decade ago, chronicling the adventures of Deena Pilgrim and Christian Walker, a pair of seemingly normal cops working in a world filled with people with superpowers. The series began at Image Comics in 2000 where it remained for 37 issues before moving over to Marvel Comics' creator-owned Icon imprint where it remained for another 30 issues before taking a break in 2008. A third series launched in 2009, running 11 issues before hitting the pause button once again in 2012.

The latest hiatus came as a result of a separate-yet-related Bendis and Oeming project: the "Powers" television adaptation. A pilot was written and filmed, but apparently it wasn't what FX was looking for, so it's back to the drawing board. Though fans have wondered about the status of the series, everyone involved continues to assure that the show is still in the works.

But the duo could not stay away from the medium that launched both their careers and spawned the still-gestating live action show for long. February sees the launch of an all-new volume with an all-new title: "Powers: Bureau" (formerly known as "Powers: FBI"). With Pilgrim and Walker both moving up to bigger and potentially better things in the Federal Bureau of Investigations, CBR News spoke with Oeming about their new responsibilities, what they mean for the characters, what led to the series double-name change and the latest status of the television pilot.

CBR News: It's not unusual for a relaunched series to undergo a title change, but "Powers" saw two, here. Why did you and Brian change the name from "Powers: FBI" to "Powers: Bureau?"

Mike Avon Oeming: I think it had something to do with FBI copyright laws or something. I honestly don't remember. We had gone through so many different names, it has become kind of a blur. The main thing was that we knew this wasn't a simple relaunch after our hiatus while we were working on the "Powers" TV pilot. The direction of the comic called for a new title, and we really needed to emphasize what this new direction is about. I know the initial switch from "FBI" to "Bureau" was confusing, but that certainly wasn't our intention.

As the title indicates, Deena has moved up in the super-crime world and is now working on the biggest cases in the country. Was it fun dreaming up bigger cases for her to handle? Can you mention what some of those cases might be?

"Powers" and Deena amazes me. I consistently think we are writing ourselves into a corner or an ending with the extreme situations we put these characters in, but it always seems to open up new doors, instead. When we started "Powers," it was about 12 years ago, the Internet was a toddler, smart phones weren't around and it was a pre-9/11 world. Cut to 12 years later, we ask ourselves the same questions we started with: How would super heroes be investigated in our world today? What laws would apply to them? How would they be investigated? We ask those same questions, but now we have new answers and even more questions, like, what are the civil rights of a character with Powers? After 9/11, Powers aren't just criminals, they are potential terrorists and [threats to] national security. Even before "Civil War," we had our Powers Registration. All of these concerns have gone from a local to a federal level. The FBI has completely transformed since 9/11, going from an investigative force to a preventative force. The FBI now reaches out internationally. All of those changes affect how we tell our stories in "Powers" now. New rules, new threats and after 12 years, a fresh start!

Deena's first case is unofficial but it's what gets her into the FBI and it revolves around child trafficking which is a big problem in the real world, but here it obviously involves Powers. We saw one of her later cases in the "Powers: Gods" storyline, when she made her return in "Powers" and I think these preview pages here give a good idea of what they'll have to tackle next.

How does Deena respond to the different pressures that come along with her new gig?

Deena has had time to decompress from herself. I think she's more mature now. She's at peace with herself for the first time, but she is also very self-aware of who she is: An outsider and a bad ass. She knows she has a dark side, but she wants to do good. In the first issue, we'll see how her new outlook on life can push her further and harder than ever before. The job carries a whole new set of pressures for her; so much more is at stake now that I don't think the old Deena could get her head around. 

Where does all this leave Deena's partner, Walker?

Deena and Walker are back together, but this time the coin is flipped. Walker is the new guy in the FBI and Deena is the one with the experience, ushering her only friend into this new world with her. We'll also get to see Nick Roberts a bit more, an old villain that Walker has become buddies with. We'll see Enki, Captain Cross and other cast members as well. We've built up quite a character list at this point. I always like to revisit characters.

What can you tell us about Deena's new co-workers? It looks like from these preview pages that Deena and Walker aren't instantly accepted.

Oh, Hell, no. Deena was kicked off the force, implicated in Powers-related murders; Walker was "outed" after being investigated by I.A.D. for secretly harboring Powers as he saved Chicago from the wrath of the gods -- and now, they are suddenly heading up the Federal Powers division. They are un-welcomed, to say the least. They are going to have to face opposition, not only from villains, but within the bureau itself.

What can you tell us about the red glob bursting out of the agent's abdomen in that last page?

Well, we aren't trying to make a pro-life statement here, but lets just say this fetus isn't going down without a fight. There is a lot of crazy stuff going down in the first few issues, and the most exciting thing is how fresh it feels. When I saw the final lettered and colored version of the comic, I was blown away. Colorist Nick Filardi and letterer Chris Eliopoulos bring "Powers" to a whole new level. I'm happy with my art, I love Brian's script, but seeing it all come together with Nick and Chris -- I was pretty blown away by the first issue.

You have a lot of other projects in the works, so what's it like getting back to the world of "Powers?" What keeps bringing you back to this series?

It's my home, really. I missed it. It feels better than ever to be back. Now that I'm living in Portland, Brian and I are working more closely than ever on the book. "Mice Templar" is coming to an end with its next story arc which launches in April. With "Mice" wrapping up, I'll mostly be working on "Powers" and "The Victories" in the near future. Its both satisfying and a bit sad to see "MT" finish the initial mega-story Bryan [J.L. Glass] and I came up with and [artist] Victor [Santos] has helped to usher along.

You and Brian have been friends and collaborators for years now. How has your working relationship evolved in that time?

I've participated more in the stories over the last arc or two. I think it really shows in the Z and Gods storyline. Brian is also digging into the art more now, too, mixing up pages after they're done. Being able to talk casually, face to face makes it just that much easier to get into layers of storytelling  that we've not been able to do before.

Earlier you mentioned that the initial "Powers" hiatus came about from working on the "Powers" TV pilot for FX. Can you say anything about where currently stands?

I've read the new scripts by Charlie Huston, and he really has captured the voice of "Powers." The pilot we filmed was really good, but these new scripts are already closer to "Powers." One of the best parts of working on the show has been being able to look much closer at "Powers," nuances we normally wouldn't inspect in the comic, and then bringing that new knowledge back into the series. The experience has really refreshed the book. "Powers" fans are in for a treat.

"Powers: The Bureau" #1, written by Brian Michael Bendis and drawn by Michael Avon Oeming, hits stands on February 13.

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