In a few weeks, Kurt Busiek is doing something the comic industry veteran has never done before: Begin a new ongoing series published by DC Comics. "Power Company" will make its debut in the pages of "JLA" #61.
"I wouldn't say I have 'jitters,' exactly, but I've got a lot of anticipation," Busiek told CBR News on Friday. "We've been working on this project a good long time now, and I'm very happy with what we've done, so I'm eager to see it finally get in front of readers and get some reactions to it all.
"It's definitely a new thing for me to be playing around in the DCU -- I've done DC stuff before, but never long-term, and I'm having a blast. I hoping we'll get some of my Marvel audience coming over to check it out, and some of the longtime DC crowd seeing what I can do with a series. I'm eager for a reaction -- it'll hit right after Christmas, so it's one more present, I guess. I'm itching to unwrap it and find out what people think."
Unlike the last ongoing book Busiek launched -- Marvel Comics' "Thunderbolts" -- the high concept behind "The Power Company" is known up front this time:
"The Power Company's a full-service professional superhero team, offering superhuman services the way lawyers or doctors offer legal or medical aid. They're structured like a law firm, with partners, associates, clients, billable hours, pro bono work, support staff, caseloads ... the whole deal. But these guys don't carry briefcases and argue in court, they wear costumes and beat the crap out of super-villains. Or whatever the job needs, whether it's preventing an alien incursion, recovering stolen goods, guarding a millionaire's daughter who's been targeted for kidnapping, and so on. The Power Company works for a fee for those who can afford tem, but if a job needs doing and nobody can afford them -- well, that's why pro bono work was invented."
After the special story in "JLA" #61," January will see a series of specials featuring each of the Power Company members.
"Each of the specials is a one-shot designed to give readers a spotlight on and introduction to one of the Power Company members, and to showcase an adventure involving an established DCU superstar of the past and present.
"In the case of 'Witchfire,' it's a story of one notable night during one of Witchfire's concert tours, well before the Power Company exists, and what happens when her dabblings in magic and the unknown go awry, with some nasty surprises. Wonder Woman is the guest-star."
And this Wonder Woman is one before the tumultuous events of the past year, back when she was still a princess of Paradise Island.
"About 'six years ago,' internal DCU time," Busiek said. "This is shortly after Wonder Woman came to 'Man's World,' while she was making Boston her base of operations. Or to put it another way, it's during the first year or so of the Perez run of 'Wonder Woman.'
"The story is set during a concert tour -- Witchfire's in Boston, at the Fleet Center, and Nessie Kapatelis has dragged Wonder Woman to the show. But Witchfire uses magic in her act, something goes wrong, and things develop from there. It's a story that'll introduce Witchfire, give the readers insight on who she is and what makes her tick, and it'll set her up for what's to come.
"Plus, as you can tell from the pages you have, it's gorgeously drawn by Matt Haley and Karl Kesel."
Part of the idea of "Power Company" is that all the members existed in the DC Universe, and maybe were even well-known, well before the series begins. That's certainly true of Witchfire.
"She's a media celebrity par excellence -- a singer, actress (in a variety of mostly-crummy big-budget movies), model and even a daredevil stunt-cyclist. She likes being in the spotlight, and she's up for almost anything that'll keep her there. But she's also a dabbler in magic and the unknown, and she's learned enough to give herself a variety of mystic powers. But she's not one of those 'The mystic forces must be treated gently and with great respect, so that all stays in harmony and balance' types you usually see doing magic in superhero books. She likes to make a splash. She likes to be loud. She likes to be noticed.
"Not always the best way to approach things magical and dangerous ..."
Cranking out all these specials meant that Busiek, who didn't necessarily seem busy this year, most certainly was.
"Oh yeah. By the end of this year, I'll have done 13 plots in 11 months, and 10 scripts in six months, all for a series where #1 doesn't actually hit until February. It's been a good bit of work. But I've been able to work with some terrific artists, including Keith Giffen, Dan Jurgens, Joe Staton, Kieron Dwyer and Mark Bagley, and I think it'll make for an enjoyable 'premiere party' as it were."
As for whose head the blame for this extra work falls on ...
"Mine," Busiek said. "Just call me bonehead. But I thought it'd give me a good chance to establish them -- all the specials take place at different times in DC history, and give us the chance to establish our cast's pasts, rooting them in the DCU at various points, from the Invasion crossover to the Goodwin/Simonson Manhunter saga to the salad days of Hal Jordan as Green Lantern and more. And it's certainly gotten us more attention than we might've had otherwise."
But those on a budget who aren't interested in picking up every single special shouldn't feel as though the books are critical to understanding the ongoing "Power Company" series.
"None of them are. I make it a point to make anything I do accessible to new readers -- and with a first issue, you've got to do that even more than usual. So 'Power Company' #1 starts the series off from the beginning, and the material that comes before is a great way to get to know the characters ahead of time, and to learn more about their roots and their histories, but they're not strictly necessary, any more than it's necessary to have read every appearance of Superman, Batman or the Flash before you read JLA.
We're hoping people will want to read them -- for the new characters, for the guest-stars, for the artists, for my scripts, whatever -- but we'd never set it up so that they had to read them or they'd be lost."
Having said that, Busiek is eager for fans to check the specials out.
"I'm especially interested in seeing how people react to the 'Josiah Power,' 'Skyrocket' and 'Manhunter' one-shots. Those are the ones that feel the most 'foundational' to me, if that makes sense. But I'm happy with all of them, and looking forward to seeing them all colored up and printed."