Wizard World LA, Day 3: Chen & Benitez talk Wildstorm's "The Wraithborn"

Anyone passed over for a promotion at work knows it can be a maddening experience.

Here's one even worse -- how's about getting snubbed on the superpowers you were promised? Superpowers you had trained for since birth to possess?

Oh, and the person that did get those superpowers? A timid, five-foot-nothing high school girl.

Welcome to "The Wraithborn."

Announced today at Wizard World Los Angeles, "The Wraithborn," from DC Comics/Wildstorm, is a new series from the talents of Marcia Chen and Joe Benitez.

According to the duo, the Wraithborn are wielders of a mysterious power who have silently protected society throughout the ages from the supernatural beings they call wraiths. Valin, a young man trained from birth to take on the mantle of the Wraithborn, is mysteriously passed on taking the powers he expected. Instead, Melanie, a meek high school girl, is bequeathed these powers. Suddenly, her normal world of high school algebra and 50-minute lunch breaks is turned upside down.

"Valin is forced into the unwanted role of Melanie's protector as several opposing forces move in to seize or destroy the new untrained Wraithborn," series writer Chen told CBR News. "Together, Melanie and Valin must escape their pursuers and discover the strengths of the Wraithborn power and of themselves before the wraiths can return in force, and reestablish dominion over mankind."

"The basic idea is that she has the power but not the training, and he has the training but not the power. And they need to work together to survive," series artist Benitez told CBR News, who originally created the Melanie character and the basic concept. "I like the idea of a five-foot-tall unassuming normal teenage girl kicking the shit out of things ten times her size."

Chen and Benitez have worked together previously, first on some issues of "Darkness" and then on the "Magdalena" mini-series.

Chen says that if she had to pick which character she likes the most, she'd go with one of the villains - but she's remaining tight-lipped on the villains for now. But if she were forced to choose between Valin and Melanie, she'd take Melanie.

"This story is really about Melanie's journey -- and Valin's also -- both literally as

well as figuratively. Through the many obstacles and hardships that she's going to face, she evolves from this timid and shy, scared little girl into a strong, take-charge, ass-kicking heroine, and we, as readers, will be with her, every step of the way," Chen says. "…And she gets to wear some pretty cool outfits too, later in the series."

The design of those outfits is something that series artist Benitez is taking great pains to make sure look right. The most difficult thing about this book for him is the creation of a brand new world for these characters.

"(I'm) always changing, always modifying (things). If I'm drawing Spider-Man or Batman or any established character, you have some sort of base to work off of. When you're creating something from nothing, you're always rethinking and tweaking. You want to get it right, trying to make it different and cool at the same time, trying to make the book stand out from every other book out there," he says. "I'm happy with the look of the book, but there's always room for improvement."

The two have worked closely without declaring either creator the "leader" of the series. So far it's been a successful plan, as Chen is especially pleased with the look of "The Wraithborn" style that Benitez has come up with. But occasionally things can get lost in translation.

"We really wanted the art and story to complement each other perfectly. Joe is a fantastic artist, but he also wants to present a big, epic, moving story with real characters. And I absolutely believe that a comic book needs to have good art with visually interesting scenes," Chen says. "But, while we had the same goal, we work and think very differently. He, of course, thinks more visually, and plots somewhat linearly, while I tend to be a bit abstract and can go off on -- what he considers - irrelevant tangents. And it was often a struggle to communicate our ideas in ways that the other could understand, and to find solutions that worked well for both art and story."

But it all has come together as a special project for the team, working together much like their characters, Valin and Melanie.

"It's taken a long time to get here, everyone involved is putting forth 100 percent to do the best possible product," Benitez says. "Hopefully the end result is a book that the audiences will enjoy."

"Anyone who likes great art and a good story (will enjoy The Wraithborn,)" says Chen. "It's a mainstream action/adventure book with supernatural horror/dark fantasy elements."

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