Having super abilities and a flashy costume doesn’t make you above the law. In writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Michael Avon Oeming’s “Powers,” it’s the job of Detectives Christian Walker and Deena Pilgrim to apprehend criminals in cases involving super powers. They’ve been at work for almost ten years, but recently Bendis and Oeming had to put the Icon Comics series on hiatus for several months. “Powers” returns this November with all new #1issue, and CBR News spoke with Bendis about his plans for the book as well as the “Powers” television series, which is currently in development.
Bendis knows “Powers” fans have been waiting almost a year for the book’s return and is eternally grateful for their patience. “We needed to stop soliciting issues, take a step back and get back to what Mike and I felt was a comfortable place in production,” Bendis told CBR News. “This meant Mike and I could get a few issues done and then start soliciting monthly, because what was going on in the last year or so was embarrassing to me. We were telling what I thought was the best story we ever told in ‘Powers,’ ‘The 25 Coolest Dead Superheroes of All Time.’ It was shipping so sporadically, though, that I thought we were doing ourselves a major disservice. Our sales were level but I was upset that the story wasn’t being read in the way it was meant to be.”
"We pick up the book with a new #1 issue, which is a very clean jumping on point," Bendis continued. "I know a lot of people who've read my Marvel work and have wanted to pick up 'Powers' because they keep hearing about it, but they couldn't figure out where to start. This is it. In November with our new #1."
New readers will discover that Detective Christian Walker is more than just a homicide cop tasked with investigating cases involving super powers. "In our very first story arc it was revealed that Walker is so good at his job because he was a superhero who lost his powers [later it was revealed that Walker wasn't just a superhero. He was an immortal as well]," Bendis explained. "Instead of just giving up he joined the police force and is still out there doing what he can do."
Walker's powerless status didn't last long. In a recent "Powers" storyline, an investigation lead to the intrepid police detective being initiated into a much larger and more powerful law enforcement agency. "Walker was working a case that involved a Galactic Guardian that had accidentally been murdered," Bendis explained. "That left an opening for a new protector and Walker was given those powers and yes, when our new #1 issue begins, he still has them. He's very secretive about them. No one is allowed to know he has these powers. Not even his close friends."
Deena Pilgrim, Walker's former partner, had no super powers or past heroic experience to call on. Her feisty attitude and cynical outlook proved to be helpful crime solving tools. "Walker and Pilgrim went forward together as a very effective team. What they've been through over the years has been crazy, dramatic, and very passionate. The last storyline we did just before this relaunch had Deena leaving the force," Bendis said. "She had been infected with a Powers virus that ruined her both mentally and physically. So when she was cured the police force paid her off and sent her on her way."
Pilgrim's exit from the Force left her financially well off but in a very dark place emotionally. "She was murdering people and it was interesting to walk that line where you're still following her -- even though she's done heinous things, you still care for her," Bendis remarked. "Answers about her physical and emotional state are coming soon, so I don't want to reveal too much. She does return to the book full time and things are different than they were."
Bendis may have ended the first volume of "Powers" with his two characters on separate career paths, but the two former partners will meet again soon. "You don't see Deena right away but she's coming. First we're going to see what Walker's world is like now," Bendis hinted. "The first case gets us back into his world and his mythology. Even though he doesn't remember most of it, he's been walking the Earth for hundreds of years. That's not because his mind was wiped like Wolverine. It's because when someone is that old they don't necessarily remember everything that's happened to them."
When "Powers" #1 begins, Walker and Pilgrim’s world has changed quite a bit thanks to the Powers virus that Deena contracted. It was a worldwide pandemic, and even though it's been cured, the fallout from its outbreak is still a big problem. "Quite a bit of time has passed. We get to see the world post-virus," Bendis revealed. "There have absolutely been wide spread effects on people and their relationships with the police and superheroes. It also has changed the way people feel about super powers."
Another way Walker’s world is different when “Powers” #1 begins is that he’s partnered with Detective Enki Sunrise, a former Internal Affairs detective. “Her job is not only to be his partner but to keep an eye on him and his Powers interests outside of the force,” Bendis revealed. “And with Walker, he’s walking away from his partnership with Deena, which even though it ended badly, was one of the great partnerships of his life. So it’s going to be tough for Enki no matter what, but they also don’t trust each other. Enki knows Walker has a secret and he knows she wants to know. He doesn’t want to give it to her, though.”
Complicating matters further is the fact that Walker and Enki’s latest case has ties to Walker’s past. “We find out that in the ‘50s there wasn't a Rat Pack so much as there was a superhero version of it, the idea being that if there were superheroes it wouldn’t be Sinatra’s Rat Pack it would be another type,” Bendis explained. “Walker was one of them and the things they did in the ‘50s and into the ‘60s as this Rat Pack come back to bite them in the ass in the present day.”
“The tone of this story is lighter because we were as dark as you can get in our previous arc,” Bendis continued. “Mike had a blast drawing the flashbacks to the ‘50s. In those flashbacks you get to see Walker’s life as the Dean Martin in the heyday of this Rat Pack. You’ll also get to revisit a lot of cool ‘Powers’ characters who have since passed like Zora.
“What I think people liked the most about the Rat Pack is that Sinatra and his friends seemed for awhile to have this feeling like they were above the law and social mores. They were allowed to do the many things they wanted to do and the idea of a superhero Rat Pack is kind of like, ‘I kicked ass in World War II. So go get me my fucking drink!’ That’s a lot of fun to write and draw.”
The new “Powers” #1 will also include all the extra features that longtime readers loved about the series, like the letter column and Bendis’s “No Life” space. “‘Powers’ is back in full swing. There are some fans online who feel that we kind of lost interest in the series and I can see how they could feel that way, but it wasn’t that way at all,” the writer said. “I was working on the ‘Powers’ TV show and Mike has been working on pages this whole year. So we’ve been very invested. We just wanted to ship monthly like a normal comic. The reason that’s harder than other books is that it’s just me and Mike. C.B. Cebulski is our editor and helps us get the book together. Plus we have a couple of friends who help us out, but it’s just us. ‘Powers’ is still a creator-owned independent comic and it’s created just like we used to create stuff at Caliber.”
November doesn’t just mark the return of “Powers,” it marks the series’ tenth anniversary. “We’re putting out all kinds of stuff in November,” Bendis said. “We’re releasing the third Definitive Hardcover. People seem to be digging them. We’re also putting out the long delayed ‘Powers Encyclopedia,’ and boy was that a lot of work. Tim Daniels helped put together. It’s really nice and there’s tons of new artwork by Mike. Also hopefully around that same time we’ll have we’ll have a big announcement about the ‘Power’ TV show.”
Currently, the pilot for the “Powers” TV show is still in the early stages of development. “We have a director and a show runner and Sony is very positive,” Bendis confirmed. “All kinds of good things are going on behind the scenes right now. They’ve just asked for more material and we’re putting together budgets as well as some other stuff. So we’ll see, but it is an expensive endeavor. This is one of those situations where our imagination and how inexpensive it is to put on the page flies in the face of how expensive it is to put on TV. When you’re only doing tiny bits of superheroics they’ve got to be great. They’ve got to be something really special and I think we’ve all seen the shitty CGI stuff. I don’t want to see it. I’d rather see nothing.
“I’m spoiled in m day job at Marvel. There’s always some really great artist that will make anything I think of come to life and it will look awesome and unique, whereas the people working on ‘Powers’ with me remind me that you can’t do that in TV. You have to imagine what the worst version is because that might be what you get. Mike and I have been working on ‘Powers,’ the comic, with the idea that we can do whatever we want, but the TV show is a different language. Having watched ‘Watchmen,’ I don’t want to see a direct verbatim adaptation of ‘Powers.’ I want to see something else. I want to see what the language of ‘Powers’ would be on television.”
Regardless of whether “Powers” fans are reading the comic book or watching a television adaptation, there’s one thing that won’t change and that’s the fact that “Powers” will always be about the clash between the epic elements of the superhero genre and the real world elements of the police procedural. “What made ‘Powers’ special in a culture filled with superhero stories was that we never left the cop’s point of view,” Bendis said. “We don’t go flying around with the superheroes. We always stay on the ground. ’Powers’ is not a superhero story. We mention all these cool fantastic ideas but it’s a cop story. It’s ‘CSI’ and not ‘Heroes.’”
“Powers” #1 goes on sale in November from Icon Comics.