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CAPTAIN MARVEL: THE POWER OF HOPE

Alex Ross and Paul Dini team up again to create a giant-sized 60th birthday present for DC's Captain Marvel

By Craig Shutt     August 09, 2000

Following on the heels of two past annual tributes, Alex Ross and Paul Dini are teaming up again this November to present fans with a blockbuster Treasury-sized comic book. This year, the two will focus on DC's Captain Marvel as he meets children in a hospital and learns about hope along with them in Captain Marvel: The Power of Hope.

The story follows 1998's Peace on Earth starring Superman and 1999's War on Crime starring Batman. Each story runs 64 pages and uses an over-sized tabloid size that shows off Ross's amazing artwork to great advantage. The stories have each been published in the 60th anniversary year of each hero, with Captain Marvel's turn coming this year. Wonder Woman will follow in 2001 to finish up the series.

'Basically, this story will take things down a notch to provide a human level to the stories,' explains Ross. 'These books, to a certain extent, have been about the trauma of the human condition, focusing on world hunger [in Peace] and crime and survival [in War]. In this one, we take a better look at an aspect of the human condition that you can't fight with your fists.'

Adds Dini, 'The Power of Hope is still very much in the vein of the earlier two stories in taking a larger-than-life superhero and putting him into a more realistic setting. But by the nature of this story being about Captain Marvel, it's a little lighter in tone.'

Both creators have been long-time fans of the original Captain Marvel, who was created by Otto Binder and C.C. Beck, who created a light-hearted style that hasn't been duplicated since. 'Captain Marvel always struck me as a hero that younger kids really enjoyed and related to more than Superman and Batman,' says Dini. 'He was designed with a younger look and feeling in mind. Those classic stories are a heck of a lot of fun. We wanted to recapture that in our book, but also give it a bit of a thoughtful edge.'

The thoughtful edge arises from The Big Red Cheese's alter ego, Billy Batson, a kid news reporter for WHIZ radio. 'Billy plays a big role, because the story looks at his psyche and what it means to be in his position,' says Dini. 'We look at what it's like to be a kid and have to go to school, have a job as a kid radio announcer and also have the responsibility of being Captain Marvel on his shoulders. It can be overpowering, even for a straight-arrow, go-getter like Billy.'

At a point when Billy is having difficulties juggling these many roles, he receives an 'overwhelming' bag of mail addressed to Captain Marvel, who is known to be Billy's friend. Many of the letters come from children in a local hospital, who brighten Billy's day. 'Their drawings make him smile, and he realizes how good it is to be Captain Marvel,' says Dini. 'So he decides to visit the children in the hospital.'

The story focuses on how Billy and Captain Marvel help make the kids' individual wishes come trueand what boundaries there are even on superhuman ability. 'He becomes a big pal to them all, but he also sees the limits to what a superhero can do,' says Dini. Adds Ross, 'It's a real statement of his humanity that he doesn't begrudge the time he spends with the kids who have suffered a lot. We make it very realistic in that content.'

In fact, Ross visited a children's hospital in his area to learn first-hand about the kids who spend time there. 'I saw some of the patients and talked with people who work there to understand what it's like,' he says. 'I wanted to be at least not completely ignorant of how I represented these things.' However, Ross didn't take photos of the children, something he traditionally does with his subject matter when he prepares to illustrate a scene. Instead, he'll be recreating the images from his imagination.

Dini and Ross have been working on the story since last November, when the previous Batman issue appeared. 'We took a few days together to plot out ideas and decide how we wanted to handle it,' says Dini. From there, Dini wrote a detailed 10-page outline from which Ross then broke down the action for each page or spread. The design for the books is unique in comics, as it features large collages on each spread with first-person narration supplied in copy blocks, as opposed to word and thought balloons and traditional captions.

'I sympathize with the production department having to fit the copy into the space they've got to work with,' laughs Dini. 'They have to figure out where it makes sense to put it and what to do when there's too much for the space we'd planned. It can be a big headache.' Those troubles aside, though, Dini enjoys the writing style, and working with one of their favorite characters. 'I'm having a blast with this, and so is Alex. Captain Marvel is a tremendously special hero to both of us.'

Adds Ross, 'I dearly want to present him with his due recognition as one of the heavy hitters,' he says. 'He's lost that footing because DC hasn't made a strong enough use of him, no matter how hard they tryand they have tried. I don't want to allow this character to go softly into the night.'

The popularity the tabloid series has received in traditional bookstores also makes Ross especially happy and optimistic about this volume. 'Not every good character is meant to have his own regular monthly book,' explains Ross. 'But when there's a chance to get a story to the right audience, it's good to be able to do it.'

And this will be a good story, both creators promise. 'All of the books have been a lot of fun to do,' says Dini. 'But this one I think will be our favorite of them all. We really like the character and the story we've created for him.'

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