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POWERS: Brian Michael Bendis & Mike Avon Oeming

Crime noir meets superhero slugfests in Image Comics' hot new series.

By Trent D. McNeeley     December 27, 2000

So you've heard the buzz about Powers, right? The comic that crosses genres by providing crime noir stories in a superhero world? Yeah, that one. The one your comic shoplike so many otherssold out of while you sat back listening to all the hype. And now that issue #8 is about to hit the stands, perhaps you've given up on the idea of ever reading and collecting the series. Well, hold on to your hats and get ready to let loose some of your hard-earned green because Image Comics is giving you a second chance to hop onboard without missing a beat.

Not wanting anyone to be left Power-less, Image is collecting the first six issues of Powers, which comprises the 'Killer Chic' story arc, in a new trade paperback. And issue #7 is on shelves right now, featuring a stand-alone story guest-starring real-life comics writer Warren Ellis(!) doing some superhero research. So readers have no excuses not to pick up issue #8, due in stores early next year, which creators Brian Michael Bendis (Ultimate Spider-Man, Jinx) and Mike Avon Oeming (Young Justice, Superman) say will begin the 'Roleplay' story arc.

'It's about these college kids who roleplay that they are superheroes,' explains Bendis. 'The kids are being murdered by what might be a supervillain.' So detectives Christian Walker and Deena Pilgrim are called in to investigate.

The 411

In case you're one of the unlucky ones who's missed out so far, Walker is a special homicide officer in charge of cases that involve superpowers. He's special in that he once had powers himself. Now just a regular guy, he's teamed with Pilgrim, a rookie who remains hurt and angry that her partner is tight-lipped about his past. The superpowered characters in the bookCheshire, Retro Girl, Blast Lizzie Borden, Fury, Diamond, The Sift, Elemental, Shotgun, Johnny Royale and the fat Fish Gang, to name a feware important, but in supporting roles.

After solving the murder of Retro Girl in issue #6 and enduring Ellis's ride along in #7, dealing with a bunch of kids in the new five-part arc might be considered a break for Walker. Then again, maybe not.

'In 'Roleplay,' we'll find out about a whole subculture of people who enjoy these role-playing games,' says Bendis. 'And we'll see how the media would be entrenched in a world of superheroes. Let's face it, if there were superheroes in this world, the paparazzi would stalk them wherever they go. We'll be taking a darker look at that side of celebrity.'

That pop culture fascination is really what Powers is all about according to Bendis. He describes the book in general terms in the same way it's being described in Hollywood to folks looking to turn the popular series into a feature film.

'What would a cop's life be like if he had to solve crimes involving superheroes?' asks Bendis. 'This book is about that. It's about a couple of cops whose job it is to solve those kinds of crimes. But we don't get into any hardcore continuity. We look at these in a different context that allows me to rattle on about media and celebrity. It's a VH1 Behind the Music version of superheroes lives. That's what separates this book from the pack. That's the underlying theme of it.'

Describing himself as a 'professor of popular culture,' the thirtysomething Bendis says that penchant for celebrity is just one inspiration for Powers. The other inspiration comes from his partner in crime, Oeming.

Artistic Vision

Oeming and Bendis first met while each was doing work for Caliber Comics. Oeming describes the duo as a natural fit. 'When I meet people, I'm polite,' says Oeming, 'but I have a strong distrust of people I don't know. But I met Brian and [writer/artist David] Mack the same day, and with those two, things just clicked right away. I knew when I first talked with Brian that I wanted to work with him, even before I had read his work.'

A simple, noirish style is Oeming's stock-in-trade, he says. 'I started out heavily influenced by Mike Mignola [of Hellboy fame],' says Oeming. 'Through Mignola, I learned about Alex Toth. Then I began to look at Bruce Timm's work, which was influenced by Toth.' Oeming tried to get work on some of the Timm-inspired Batman books, including Batman Adventures, but found the work stifling because of strict adherence to character guides, a common thing in comics based on cartoons.

All the while, Oeming and Bendis were discussing various projects, including a crime comedy, recalls Oeming. The ideas were always small: a mini-series or black-and-white one-shot. 'But with Powers, things really snowballed,' says Oeming. 'Brian said he wanted to do a color project. I said I wanted to make money. A creator-owned color comic doesn't make money. But Powers has succeeded beyond my wildest dreams.'

He isn't kidding. For Oeming, a stay-at-home dad who's spent some time on welfare and worked various weekend jobs while drawing the early issues of Powers, the recent movie dealreportedly in the six figure rangecould change his life. No one knows for certain if the film will ever get made, of course, but he feels it's in good hands, as it was Sony-based producer Mace (Clear and Present Danger) Neufeld who bought the rights.

Colorful Future

Besides the trade paperback and possible film, Powers is also taking root in a whole other medium: coloring books. 'It's hilarious,' says Bendis of the Powers Coloring & Activity Book, scheduled to ship in February. 'It's the first coloring book Image has ever put out, and it may be the first ever in the direct market.'

The book is based on the safety books put out by real police to teach kids about not talking to strangers or looking both ways when crossing the street. '[Image publisher] Jim Valentino loves the idea, so he gave us the green light,' continues Bendis. 'We're doing it as if the reader went down to the station house.'

Oeming says the book will include lots of dos and don'ts, such as 'Don't touch a superhero when he's not looking' and 'Don't put on a costume and cape and jump off a large building in an attempt to get your favorite superhero's attention.'

As for the series itself, Bendis and Oeming both hope Powers goes on for a long time, but they know the ups and downs of being comic creators. 'I know there are retailers pulling my stuff out of the 25-cent bins and marking it up now,' says Bendis. 'I hate to see that for the fans, but I never minded being in the 25-cent bin.

'Mike and me have a pinky pact to keep this book going until we start repeating ourselves,' continues Bendis. 'Many comics stick around too long, well after they run out of good ideas. But I think I have a pretty good amount of pretty good stories. We'll bail out before we have to resort to using bad ones.'


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