Co-created by Jim Krueger and Alex Ross from an idea by Dynamite Entertainment publisher Nick Barrucci, the inaugural eight-issue "Project Superpowers" miniseries was a decades-spanning saga with a cast of fifteen main characters and countless supporting players. The story followed a disgraced hero of World War II who, thinking he was doing good for the world, captured all his fellow masked heroes in Pandora's Box. When the miniseries began, the man embarked upon a journey to destroy Pandora's Box and make things right.
The series reintroduced forgotten Golden Age characters like The Black Terror and The Death Defying Devil, who have now both spun off into their own miniseries. A third spin-off miniseries, "Masquerade," will launch in February, and coming soon is a second thirteen-issue volume of "Project Superpowers," which co-writer Jim Krueger promises will be even more epic than the first.
Krueger stopped by CBR to talk about all things "Project Superpowers."
CBR: Looking back, how do you feel about the first volume of "Project Superpowers?"
Jim Krueger: I feel good about it. But now when I look over it, I think about just how much prelude there is to the second one. The purpose of the first one was to bring everyone on stage to set up their antagonism to the governments and power sources of the world.
I'm very proud of the zero issue and the sixth issue. The zero issue really did what needed to happen and the sixth issue honed everything. It's the one where the Superpowers, rather than being passive like they were in the first four or five issues, where they are on the defense against a world that is hunting them down, they take a stand even though they are going to be branded as traitors.
There were a lot of other things I liked, like the relationship between Masquerade and D-Man and I enjoyed writing Black Terror.
How much research did you do to make sure all the characters spoke like they would in the Golden Age of comics?
Fortunately, I was not the only one doing the research. Let me take the opportunity to say Joe Rybandt is a great editor and great person to work with. I don't think he gets nearly enough credit and I don't think he gets talked about nearly enough. He is one of those people who is really an unsung hero of Dynamite and really deserves more credit than he gets.
With a cast of at least fifteen main characters, were there any that ended up rubbing you the wrong way as you continued writing the first miniseries?
Going back to "Earth X," there were people in the Marvel Universe who I never really cared for, Hulk and Iron Man in particular, but then when I wrote their origins, all of a sudden new things occurred to me, and it wasn't the fault of the character. It was my fault for not really thinking about them or finding what makes them special.
With "Project Superpowers," I think I was a little disappointed with The Target. The way I imagined him in my head was more cinematic than on the page. There was a disconnect with how he looked and how I imagined him, even though he has the coolest power ever. He's the guy who no one can get in their targets. That is so cool, but that idea didn't translate as well.
On the flip side, were there any characters that really grew on you as the miniseries progressed?
Yeah. Even when the opportunity came up to do the first couple limited series, I was not that excited about Black Terror because I thought I had written him a little goofier than I should have. Those questions came up around issue four of "Project Superpowers," and by the end of that series he is the character I most wanted to write. A part of that is because, when he was in the '40s, he was a mild mannered scientist type, almost Clark Kent dressed like Batman, and now he's rage and emotion. I've gone through giant changes in my life, and so it's exciting to write a character who is so vastly different than he was. He's trying to claim an earlier part of his life and remember what he was, and part of his search for Tim [Kid Terror, his sidekick] is a search for the part of him that is missing.
I had so much fun writing D-Man that I feel like I made him mine. Completely.
At what point while writing did you realize D-Man was yours?
I think it is when you do something with the character that has never been done before, or if the character is an archetype of other characters, then you do something with the character that defies all the archetypes and dares them to try to be as cool.
It seemed like the character of Samson was growing on you as the series progressed, with his increased spotlight and characterization.
I don't know how I feel about Samson. Part of that is just the sense of ambiguity, because I still haven't chosen if he is the real Samson from biblical days, the Samson who is a descendant, someone who thinks he is Samson or someone who has got a different body but is spiritually the reincarnation of Samson. I was having fun playing with the ambiguity and don't feel like I made a mistake by not choosing yet. Every once and a while there is a character I'm working on where I will leave it ambiguous because I like to have them write their own story.
At what point did you realize how epic "Project Superpowers" would ultimately become?
I've gotten to write a lot of little eight-to-ten page comic book stories. Scott Allie, over at Dark Horse, told me that writing short stories is like writing a joke. It's a set-up with a twist. It doesn't have to be a funny twist, but there has to be a twist that defies the set-up. You have to do the same thing on these giant projects, but you also have to make these large groupings of characters have arcs and emotional resonance.
How many volumes of "Project Superpowers" do you think you'll be involved in?
I have a timetable as far as stories that Alex and I have been talking about. Volume Two is going to be twelve-issues long with an additional zero issue to launch it. It is going to be epic in the sense that it is going to be a "Universe X"-sized epic. We already have the origins of the characters but now the characters are going to find out the secrets of their lives. The urn is only the tip of the iceberg. How has it changed them? Why has it changed them? What is the nature of everything that has gone on with them and how it is related to the mythology?
Do you have volume three mapped out?
We have a vague idea for volume three. And that will go back the original number zero and touch on all the seeds planted there. Technically, I envision volume three as the same size as volume one in length where volume two is the giant guts of the epic. It is definitely darker as well.
Volume two will introduce a plethora of new characters. Which ones are you most excited about introducing?
For many reasons, I am so excited about the Inheritors. They are going to be a big part of this. As was evident in my "Earth X" trilogy, I love British superheroes. Kid Terror plays a big part as well. What's really exciting about volume two is we have this big conflict, but more than that, two is also going to focus on the terrorist group called The Claw and deal with The 'Devil and the 'Devils history.
Let's talk about working with Dynamite on "Project Superpowers."
I've already talked about Joe, but the guy who deserves the most credit is Nick Barrucci. He's the guy who said, "Alex and Jim, I love 'Justice' and would like to see this become a giant project." Nick is really into the history of comics and the heritage we have. None of this would have happened without Nick leading it all.
How are sales of "Project Superpowers?"
They are great. One of the top-selling indie books. It outsells a lot of the lower-tier Marvel and DC books, which is phenomenal.
How much of the original vision has been changed or altered as the series has developed?
I don't even know if I can answer that question because there have been a lot of changes. How it began and how it has come to be has been the result of hours and hours of conversation and disagreements and agreements. You climb onboard and the process begins. It's like marriage or having kids. You never know what you are in for and it is always fantastic, but at the same time it's like something you never expected.
There are three spin-off miniseries: "The Death Defying 'Devil," "The Black Terror" and "Masquerade." Was choosing which one to write something like "Sophie's Choice?"
Yeah, that's what it was. I was given the opportunity to write whichever one I wanted to. I felt like Black Terror's voice was one that I had given him so he was the natural choice. Initially, I wanted to do the "'Devil" limited series, but at the same time, this is a number of different voices creating the project and weighing in on this pot. It's a group story.
I think the 'Devil should be able to talk, but I was outvoted. I don't like silent heroes. I want to hear their thoughts and hear what makes them challenge me. That said, something happens in volume two that makes it really cool that he doesn't speak or chooses not to speak. It's an issue that has to be developed because in volume one a police officer turns to the 'Devil and says, "Did you just say something?"
What other characters might get miniseries devoted to them down the line?
That is still very much up for grabs.
Obviously The 'Devil and Black Terror were obvious choices for a miniseries, but why Masquerade?
Masquerade was chosen because of how her story could tell this chapter that is so far untold about the '50s and knowing that all your fellow Superpowers were disappearing. It fills in some of the gaps in the story and creates an overall world that people can invest themselves in and get excited about.
Look at George Lucas' Star Wars as an example of a universe with all these pocket worlds to discover.
What piece of "Project Superheroes" are you happiest with so far?
The Wizard #1/2 issue. I'm so proud of it and it certainly is something that will be included in the second volume because it sets something up in the second.
Why was writer Joe Casey right for "Masquerade," and Phil Hester for "The Death Defying 'Devil?"
Because they are really good thinkers. It's not just about being someone who can script part of a plot or part of a chapter that has to accomplish something. Alex has had a relationship with Joe for a number of years and Phil and I have been friends forever. I can send my ideas to him and always get great feedback.
After all of your continuity-steeped crossovers and epic books, how refreshing was it to go into a relatively-continuity free book?
It's awesome to be able to help create your own world, and if there is anything I love to do it is to create worlds. All these things that I've done are about establishing a world. Look at New York overrun by the big tree. The great thing about continuity is that you become part of a larger story and people can be excited about how it fits in, but the problem of continuity is that is robs the story of any lasting value. You can't kill a character. You can't change the world. The status quo is the status quo.
Next week in REFLECTIONS, Jim Kreuger returns to discuss the currently running "Avengers/Invaders" and looks back on "Justice" And in the coming weeks, you can look forward to new interviews with Brian Michael Bendis! Tom DeFalco! Rob Liefeld! Jeph Loeb!