Phil Hester's Monthly Reign of "Terror"

In the spirit of the pirates whose standard he's taken for his own emblem, Dynamite Entertainment's the Black Terror has seen his solo series shanghaied by a player from outside the regular "Project Superpowers" creative team. Luckily for him, though, the publisher seems pretty pleased that the new captain of the ship is Phil Hester.

Starting with November's issue #5, "Black Terror" returns to the stands as an ongoing written by Hester with art from Jonathan Lau. And though he already took a spin in the "Project Superpowers" universe established by Alex Ross and Jim Krueger with this year's "Masquerade" mini series, the writer told CBR that taking the Terror monthly makes for an all-new kind of challenge. "'Black Terror' being an ongoing has given me the chance to really crack the character open and see what makes him, and maybe all super heroes, tick on some level. We're going to refine his powers, redefine his mission, and put him through the emotional wringer. All for your entertainment!

"That said, it's just fun to write a super hero book. Despite the prevailing wisdom that super heroes dominate all of comics, most indie writer's like myself can write for years before being asked to handle one. Now that I have a chance to play with one, I'm going to tear this sandbox up."

With his "Masquerade" work earning high marks from the creative and editorial staff of the ongoing "Project Superpowers" series, Hester's pick as the new steward of "Black Terror" came with the knowledge that he'd be able to work his arcs in and out of the wide-screen action that drives the main "Superpowers" minis, including "Chapter 2," which will be nearly half-over when his first issue ships. "The 'PS' story line trumps all, but in the regular book we'll see him deal with a lot of the fallout of being set loose in the modern world after being away for 60 years," Hester explained. "There's a lot for him to deal with in terms of old friends being used for nefarious ends by our government, reclaiming his old civilian identity, and coming to grips with his own violent impulses. Remember when the Avengers thawed out Cap, and he kept walking around the modern world shaking his head in bewilderment? Well, Black Terror does the same thing, but after shaking his head he punches through a battleship or something. The adjustment is messy."

And making things messy is the centerpiece of Hester's plans for the black-clad anti-hero, a character he feels pulls a surprising amount of range from the superhero formula. "He's a great contradiction. He's World's Finest in one person, both Batman and Superman. So that makes him simultaneously the rebel and the icon, and that's a nice, hot mess for any writer to play in. Black Terror was always a bad-ass, even back in the Golden Age, and his time in the urn has sort of honed that facet of his personality. At the same time, his civilian profession was a pharmacist, so there's an aspect to this guy that leans toward healing. More juicy contradictions...I can't write a character unless I break them down at some level, so I'll be devoting a lot of the series to Black Terror trying to reconcile all these disparate impulses while kicking villains' asses all the way."

Along for the ride in the initial arc will be another long lost Golden Age hero: The American Crusader. Originally appearing in Nedor publishing's "Thrilling Comics," the Crusader carried an array atomic accident-derived superpowers, but within the "Project Superpowers" world, his likeness has been used on some nasty stromtrooper-like soliders. "The first arc is all about how someone as noble and upstanding as the original American Crusader could ever have his powers, legacy or even self degraded enough to spawn the stormtroopers we've seen in 'PS,'" Hester teased. "Black Terror counted the Golden Age American Crusader as one of his best friends, so to see his memory defiled really sets him off. Some of the most satisfying bits of this first arc come from seeing Terror unleash his righteous anger on those responsible.

"As with any story, I'm looking for some little chunk of tragedy to turn the plot on, and the final fate of the American Crusader should definitely present that. Terror's uncompromising morality becomes useless when faced with the choices he'll have to make by the final issue of the arc."

And where there's complex moral dilemmas, there's supervillains, as Hester promises to up the costumed criminal quotient in his run. "My goal is to build in some more villains. Outside of 'Meet The Bad Guys,' the original source material is pretty thin on villains. Nedor characters spent a lot of time beating up racketeers, saboteurs, and smugglers," he joked, noting that main series powerhouse, Dynamic Man, will play a key role. "Dynamic Man is sort of trapped between The Supremacy (the council of badness), who fear him, and the PS heroes, who seek his destruction. So, he plays off both, seeking advantage with whichever side wins. Also, he and Black Terror have a cool, issue-long fist fight that would make Kirby smile."

And speaking of the artistic end of the series, the writer expressed confidence in Lau to deliver some memorable visuals to match his "beat 'em up" scripting. "I think Jonathan is great. He's going to make a lot of noise in this business. He's got a unique combination of skills. He combines western character acting and figure work with very eastern techniques in conveying speed and special effects. He's a true hybrid of American rendering and manga storytelling. Great stuff."

The third issue of the main "Project Superpowers: Chapter 2" series is on stands now, with the final installments of "Meet The Bad Guys" to follow before "Black Terror" #5 hits stores this November.

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