Top Cow's Sablik Talks Cyberforce/Hunter-Killer

Top Cow took advantage of this year's Free Comic Book Day offering to reintroduce two of its most popular teams and preview a major miniseries coming this summer. "Cyberforce/Hunter-Killer," written by Mark Waid and illustrated by Kenneth Rocafort, begins in July with the first of five issues. The original "Cyberforce" series was one of Image Comics' first titles, published originally under the Homage banner before moving to Top Cow upon the studio's founding. The book featured a team of cybernetically enhanced mutants fighting against the organization responsible for their bionic modifications.

"Hunter-Killer" saw the introduction of genetically modified "ultra-sapiens," created by the shadowy mastermind Morningstar purportedly in an attempt to stave off the end of the world.

CBR News spoke with Top Cow Publisher Filip Sablik about the two teams, the crossover miniseries, and what may be coming up further down the line.

At the end of the previous "Hunter-Killer" series, Ellis, a young man encoded with a database of all "ultra-sapiens" who can duplicate the powers of any nearby, had witnessed two doomsday scenarios: one, where Morningstar lived, and another, where Morningstar died. Ellis ultimately chose to kill the prophet of those visions instead, realizing that she had been manipulating events from the beginning.

In the FCBD issue, readers learn that Ellis is now working with Cynder, a former adversary, and the preview also fills in some of the blanks as to what's been going on since the end of "Hunter-Killer." Ellis has been exploring the world in the time since we last saw him, and his new experiences have informed a new outlook.

"He grew up pretty sheltered and naive and that was reflected in his decision making process in 'Hunter-Killer,' but since parting ways with Morningstar and the team he's become much more worldly," Filip Sablik told CBR. "He's figuring out how the world works and that sometimes the ends do justify the means. What else he's picked up in his travels will be revealed in the series."

The Hunter-Killer team, which had been greatly aided by Ellis's abilities in their quest to track ultra-sapiens for recruitment or disposal, has muddled along since his departure. "Without Ellis they've had to go back to more conventional approaches to hunting down ultra-sapians and sometimes this means they go after innocent targets," Sablik said. "It's actually how they end up butting heads with Cyberforce in the first place."

Sablik described the status quo of Cyberforce as a team without an incredibly strong mission. "They believe Cyberdata is gone, destroyed. So they've had some down time and a few side adventures on their own, but when we kick off the series they are a team, a family. And the introduction of the Hunter-Killers and Ellis to their world is going to shake it in a major way."

Cyberforce, created by Marc Silvestri, was one of Top Cow's earliest titles, its most recent series ending in 2006. Since then, the team has featured in crossover projects and some of its characters have had "Pilot Season" one-shots. "Hunter-Killer" debuted in 2004 from Silvestri and writer Mark Waid, running a 12-issue "season" that ended in 2007. The new crossover series looks to return both teams to the spotlight, and Sablik notes that collectively, the two teams represent an important part of the Top Cow Universe. "Both teams are what I would call the 'tech' side of our universe. I think in the Top Cow Universe you can see a couple of genres represented pretty strongly, but the two that have made the biggest impact are 'supernatural' (which is where you'll find titles like 'Witchblade,' 'The Darkness,' etc) and 'sci-fi,' which is where these two properties exist for me.

"We wanted to revitalize that tradition along with both of these teams being two of the most requested by fans to bring back into a series of some sort. So why not combine the best of both worlds and put them in one crossover event."

Sablik also described what makes these two teams distinct. "For me, the core concept of Cyberforce is the ultimate extrapolation of human evolution. One of my favorite nonfiction books from a few years back was 'Radical Evolution' [by Joel Garreau], which talked about the introduction of cybernetics, nano-technology, and robotics into our lives and how eventually these advancements would essentially spur the next stage of human evolution. The cool thing about Cyberforce is the possibilities for characters and stories are endless. That's the part of the characters that falls into Marc's philosophy that our heroes should all be people the reader wants to be.

"The core concept for Hunter-Killer is superheroes as weapons of mass destruction. They are walking bombs, more dangerous potentially than a terrorist with a suitcase nuke," Sablik continued. "In our universe, they are the super powered secret agents fighting in a secret war. And again the origin of their powers is in science and technology with the technoderm 'tattoos.'"

Cyberforce and Hunter-Killer share a forward-looking take on superheroes. "Both teams blend some of our favorite superhero archetypes with fantastic next gen sci-fi," Sablik said. "The other big appeal for me in both properties are their villains. Cyberforce essentially fights against 'big business' in the guise of Cyberdata and the Hunter-Killer team is in many ways fighting against 'big government' (even though they work for the government). If there's a more fitting time to be scared and want rail against those two opponents, I don't know what it is!"

As to why Top Cow chose to bring back Hunter-Killer at this time, with original writer Mark Waid returning to the characters, Sablik said simply, the fans demanded it. "We had a great response to the first season of 'Hunter-Killer' but fans kept clamoring for more. And like I said earlier, it seemed like with everything that's happening in the world in the last decade, the idea of a comic reflecting concerns we have about conspiracies and machinations within our governments and large corporations is really timely. I think that was one of the things that attracted Mark Waid to the project. He saw we were interested in doing something bigger and more imaginative than just 'two teams meet and fight.' The best science fiction reflects and serves as an allegory for events in the present and hopefully this series will read like that on some level."

As to whether "Cyberforce/Hunter-Killer" will lead to a new series for either team, Sablik indicated this was certainly on the table. "As with any publishing decision, fan response and demand is going to dictate where we go from this series. But I can tell you that I for one would love to see a new Cyberforce series for the 21st century. And I know that Kenneth Rocafort considers Cyberforce his 'dream project," Sablik said, adding that he would love to tempt Waid back for more "Hunter-Killer."

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