One thing you can't say about Dynamite Entertainment's "Project Superpowers" line is that it tries to be anything but big. While the publisher has kept a leash on the number of tie-ins and support series for Alex Ross and Jim Krueger's ongoing reinvention of Golden Age heroes like the Death Defying "Devil and the Green Lama, the main "Project Superpowers: Chapter 2" series and the now ongoing "Black Terror" are jam-packed with characters, concepts and, throughout this fall, a growing war with the god Zeus. CBR caught up with the creative and publishing minds behind the series to see where the "Project Superpowers" story would turn next and what Dynamite is doing to encourage new readers to jump on board with growing epic.
"In an effort to give the country they once fought to protect back to the people, Team Superpowers invade the Pentagon and take control of America's military agenda-makers. This results in the Superpowers being branded terrorists and facing an upward battle socially to even convince people that they are actually trying to help America," explained Krueger of the core concept behind the "Chapter 2" series, whose seventh of 12 issues is on its way in January. Recent issues of the comic have brought major revelations as to the nature of the urn known as Pandora's Box which trapped the heroes outside of time for decades.
"While this is happening, another old hero arrives on the scene – Captain Future. But his so-called heroism seems to have been all but consumed by a hedonistic approach to the world and its people. Part of the team tries to talk to Captain Future, but their attempts at diplomacy with their former ally go terribly wrong, as he attacks them only to be revealed to not be a hero at all, but in fact the god Zeus – the original maker of Pandora's box, the urn that trapped the heroes for all those years. Some of the team are killed in this battle."
The battle between the beleaguered heroes and the father of the Greek pantheon of gods comes to a head in February's issue #8, but before then, Dynamite is making a push to bring fans interested in the series into the fold with a specially-priced $9.99 trade paperback collecting issues #0 through 6, hitting the same day as issue #7. "One of the harder things to do is to get people to jump in midstream, and I think that's also true for Marvel and DC as well," explained Dynamite publisher Nick Barrucci. "This is why we are doing the introductory priced paperback, so that comic fans who haven't picked up #0 through #6 can pick up a collection at under $10 and then pick up #7 on the same day. We are also over-shipping to retailers twice their orders on 'Project Superpowers' #7 at no cost to allow them to have more copies on hand and to advance reorder copies of #8 and up so that ,if they can pick up some more readers, it will make it easier for them at minimal risk.
"There are a lot of ways to create attention, and you have to fight to stand out when there is so much going on, in comics and outside of comics...There is always a bit of a concern that the trades may hurt sales on issue #6 if they shipped too close together, but I can honestly say that with our shipping the trade a month after #6 and at the same time as #7, it should allow more readers to be brought in."
With Dynamite focusing on getting the first half of the series into people's hands, Krueger, Ross and artist Edgar Salazar are focusing on tying together threads that reach back to the beginning of the entire franchise, as the resurrection of heroes fallen in the recent battle lets the team show their story cards. "Lama begins to believe that those heroes that were trapped in the Urn have been transformed into creatures of myth and can no longer die," Krueger said of upcoming developments. As the series moves into its next arc, some Superpowers will be taking on the shadowy Supremacy who have taken over the U.S. government, while others will be made targets of Zeus, starting with the Flame and Flame-Girl. "One of the more recent revelations is that the Flame they have is the ancient fire that was stolen by Zeus in the first place by Prometheus way back in myth. The Supremacy captured Flame-Girl and offered her to Zeus in exchange for his not getting involved in their affairs and interests. But Zeus needs the Flame as well to get back the fire that was stolen from him."
Krueger also has big plans for the next generation of superheroes present in the series, including the team of former sidekicks, the Inheritors, who team up with Man-Cat, Black Owl and Burning Eagle in issue #7, as well as the legacy characters Truth and Dare. "I love the Inheritors. I think they are one of the coolest parts of this storyline, specifically the love triangle between Kid Terror and Kitten and Kid Terror (you have to read it see what I'm talking about)," Krueger teased. "There's something involving Dynamic Man and Boy King that I'm dying to tell, but that's a future story. I mean literally, a future story. As to Truth and Dare, their story relates directly as a subplot for the search for the Claw Terrorists. And the death of Truth has had a strange effect on Dare. Her story will be a bigger part of the last number of issues as she is forced to take on a new partner."
While the main cast continues to deal with the duel threats of Zeus and the Supremacy, the Black Terror has taken off on a mission to kill the many clones of his former friend, the American Crusader, in the pages of his own series. "Oh, he's definitely unhinged, but in a righteous sort of way," Terror ongoing writer Phil Hester explained. "Just because he's a little crazy doesn't mean he's wrong. He sees the whole Crusader program as a deep perversion of the legacy of one of his best friends, The American Crusader. It's my job as a writer to present his insanity in an entertaining and frightening way, but to also make you understand and sympathize with his reasoning. Hopefully, by the end of the arc you'll be appalled at the ends Black Terror will go to, but also completely supportive of his reign of terror."
Within the arc (whose second part hits this week with "Black Terror" #6), Hester and artist Jonathan Lau are shifting back and forth between the modern day and the superheroic Golden Age to bring what the writer hopes will be new light to the previous era. "A lot of those original stories have a harder edge than you might suspect. The essential difference in the majority of the PSP heroes is that they all underwent a huge betrayal at the hands of someone they trusted - sort of like [if Bucky learned that] Captain America put him in suspended animation on purpose. The heroes' time in exile honed their powers and personalities into a concentrated version of their Golden Age selves. So, since Black Terror was a bit of a hard ass in the Golden Age, he's a borderline maniac now. Still, at the end of the day he's a hero, and that's something this berserk rampage helps him learn."
Hester said he's working hand in hand with Krueger to make sure that both of the ongoing series flow in and out of each other in a story sense, and while he will be "looking to introduce some Golden Age characters that have been unseen until now and to dig a little deeper into Black Terror's sense of unease with modern society," Krueger will be touching upon the many factions in the main series whose stories are more connected than readers may think.
"The marquee heroes' final battle in the midst of this really has very little to do with the battle against Zeus that gets fought in issues #8 through 10 (yeah, it should be a war, you know?)," Krueger teased, noting that by series end, the long-awaited story of the 'Devil and the Claw will be returned to. "Their battle involves another major conflict that sort of creeps up on everyone in the midst of the distractions of the war with Zeus. That said, I think I should warn fans of the series that not everything is going to end well for the team. We've really worked hard to try to tell a different type of story, one that doesn't pretend to have simple answers to tough problems. The resolutions to this series will have major consequences in whatever series follows."
Both the "Project Superpowers: Chapter 2" trade and the series seventh issue will be in stores in January – the latter being double shipped to retailers free of charge.