After years in various stages in development, a live-action TV series based on Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming‘s acclaimed creator-owned comic “Powers” is happening, with a show set to debut on Sony’s PlayStation Network in the next few months. The show is now in production, and a first look was revealed to fans in the “Powers: Bringing the Graphic Novels to Life Exclusively on PlayStation” panel Saturday afternoon at New York Comic Con, featuring Bendis, plus cast members Susan Heyward (Deena Pilgrim), Eddie Izzard (Wolfe), Logan Browning (Zora), Noah Taylor (Johnny Royalle) and Olesya Rulin (Calista).
Panel moderator Geoff Keighley started the event by introducing Bendis, who talked about the 14-year journey of “Powers” from an Image Comics series to a television show, and quickly introduced the first trailer from the show. The clip started with a shot of Walker (Sharlto Copley) and Pilgrim side-by-side, with Walker’s narration stating, “I lost my powers. So they gave me a badge. What the fuck am I supposed to do with that?” The video also included Pilgrim speaking on how Walker is the only person who can teach her what she needs to know to investigate powers-related crimes, and Wolfe asking, “How does it feel Christian, to be powerless?”
Clearly, the show will not shy away from the comic’s explicit language — or humor. The trailer ends with Pilgrim punching through a car window and cursing, with Pilgrim responding, “It’s unlocked.”
“That was almost worth 14 years,” Bendis quipped. “That was cool!”
Bendis explained the central concept of “Powers” to the crowd (detectives investigating superpower-related homicides), and addressed the past attempts at “Powers” as a TV show — a pilot was produced by FX a few years back. The writer equated it to dating, where the other person might not actually have anything wrong with them, but something’s not quite right with the chemistry.
He also stated that the show will be comparable to anything else on television in terms of budget and cast, despite airing on the relatively new platform of the PlayStation Network.
Charlie Huston serves as showrunner on “Powers.” “He’s an amazing novelist, and some of you may remember his work on ‘Moon Knight,'” Bendis said. “He is shepherding the show into such an amazing place.” Bendis said Huston is viewing the “Powers” series as a 10-chapter crime novel.
Sharlto Copley is not in attendance, but a quick video was played to the crowd of the actor thanking the fans for attending the panel.
Discussing his role as Wolfe, Izzard said, “I feel like in the right place at my career, to right now get this role of Wolfe, which is a certain unknown. Even if people have read the comic books, we are going in a slightly different direction. I’m allowed to give [Wolfe] a certain artistic direction. That’s really interesting.”
Bendis stated the show won’t be a “word-for-word adaptation” of the comic book, since that kind of thing “doesn’t always work.” “We wanted the show to be its own entity,” he said.
One of those shifts is that Calista is depicted as an older character than in the comics. Rulin said she enjoys the creative freedom provided by Sony and the producers. “As an actress, to have that much freedom with your characters, it’s incredibly rare.”
Deena Pilgrim is the co-lead of “Powers,” and Bendis said that the role takes multiple qualities — being able to serve as an entry point for the audience as a human experiencing superpowered matters for the first time, but also being a steadfast police officer and someone who can stand up to Walker. Of Heyward’s casting, Bendis said, “we looked high and wide, and the best actress got the part.”
“We’re introduced to her in a place where she’s quite wounded,” Heyward said of Deena, who starts the series after a prior stint at the sheriff’s office. “Things didn’t quite work out in the sheriff’s office.” The character is not politically savvy, Heyward said — “she says things as they are.”
Speaking of Walker, Bendis said that the character may not realize that becoming a detective is a “massively heroic gesture, probably more heroic than the gestures he made as a power.” Bendis said Huston considers Walker to be “the Charlie Sheen of superheroes during his heyday.”
Taylor on Johnny Royalle: “He’s a mysterious character. It’s a dream role, and I’m loving doing it. The text is so rich. I think the combination of having Charlie coming from a crime writing background, and Brian writing for comics, has really made this script much richer than a lot of similar genre things that I’ve read.”
Browning talked Zora, saying, “I don’t think she knows what she’s capable of, in terms of the impact she can have on the world.” Unlike some superpowered characters in the “Powers” world who wants fame, Zora “wants to be a hero,” Browning said.
“Zora is probably the most changed in the book,” Bendis added, as in the comics, Zora is already a full-fledged superhero. “We’re meeting your character at her most formative years. You represent the paths that are in front of anybody in your position.”
Izzard shared more thoughts on Wolfe: “He’s beguiling, he’s charming, and at the point we meet him, he’s fucked up as hell.” He said if the character had a theme song, it would be “Mona Lisa.”
Michelle Forbes, not in attendance, plays Retro Girl in the series. “She’s bringing that power and gravitas that she brings to everything,” Bendis said, adding that she and Nathan Fillion should be the first two faces on the “Mount Rushmore of genre actors.” “She just gets it. She knows it from the get-go.”
Comic book art will be a part of “Powers” — David Mack has illustrated sketches for Retro Girl, and Mike Allred and David Marquez have drawn comic book covers that will be seen on the show as covers of Retro Girl comics that exist in the “Powers” world. The covers will also be used as variants for the real-world “Powers” comic book.
“Powers” co-creator and illustrator Michael Avon Oeming joined the panel. “You will see Mike’s art all the time,” Bendis said, at various spots on the show. Oeming said he’s been accused of overusing the word “awesome” for mundane things, but appearing on this “Powers” TV panel was definitely “awesome.”
Additionally, Oeming’s art will be seen on screen as the work of an artist character in the series. The artist said it’s an interesting experience to watch the show unfold, as the actors’ performances will likely inform his artistic approach to the comic book series (which is soon relaunching with a new #1).
Izzard asked if the working relationship between Bendis and Oeming have been helped by both of them having three names. “We were making no money off of the book, and all we got was our names on the cover, so we made them as long as possible,” Bendis said. “For ten years, we did not make a dime.”
Bendis said the opening of the “Powers” TV series “doesn’t follow the opening of the comic, but it’s a story you’ve seen in the comics.”
A short scene from the show played at the panel, with Walker telling Pilgrim about someone temporarily gaining the ability to fly after performing oral sex on Walker. “You will not see that on ‘Gotham,’ I promise you that,” Bendis said after the clip rolled.
Moving to fan Q&A, a self-professed devotee of the comic book series asked if the show will include flashbacks to Walker’s previous life as a superhero. “Yes,” Bendis said. “In fact, I’ll tell you, it’s episode five.”
What type of music will appear on “Powers”? “Some of the best Sony artists ever heard,” Bendis said.
A fan asked if there was a plan for people who don’t own a PlayStation to be able to view the series. “The good news is, that millions and millions of people have a PlayStation,” Bendis said, adding that any outside release is unlikely since promoting PlayStation use is part of Sony’s motivation in producing the series, and that the first episode is free to non-PlayStation Plus members.
The panel wrapped with Bendis reflecting on the surreal and gratifying experience of he and Oeming working on the “Powers” TV show at the same time they continue to make the comic book. “Powers” is set to debut on the PlayStation Network this fall.
Keep reading CBR all weekend for the latest from New York Comic Con!
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