Pinpoint accuracy. Brute strength. Expertise in gadgetry. A fantastically effective rocket pack. These are just some of the tremendous skills that the members of "The Intrepids" are about to put on display for comic book readers everywhere.
From writer Kurtis J. Wiebe and illustrator Scott Kowalchuck comes "The Intrepids," a new Image Comics miniseries about a group of four orphans who are cared for by a brilliant inventor named Dante. A Harvard graduate with a score to settle against some of his oldest and most dangerous colleagues, Dante sets the Intrepids forth in an effort to stop mad scientists and their deadly creations in their tracks. In other words, expect plenty of cyber-bears and battle-baboons when this series kicks off in March.
"At the surface, it's a bizarre, high action series," Wiebe told CBR News in an exclusive interview. "A whole bunch of homeless kids have been taken in by an inventor, who sends them on missions that involve taking down mad scientists. That's what it looks like when you take a look at the preview pages, but there's a heart as well: it's basically about these kids who are trying to find their identity while going out and fighting battle baboons."
Leading the Intrepids is Dante, an abnormally talented scientist in his own right who isn't without his fair share of issues. "Dante was this Harvard graduate, and he had a group of colleagues that he went to school with. He was always the bottom guy in the pecking order, getting made fun of for not being a true scientist -- he made things with his hands, he wasn't doing true scientific work. He has this complex that he has something to prove, and one of the plot elements that comes up early in the first issue is that he had a partner he worked on this cyber-technology with, Doctor Koi. He's set up at the beginning to be the villain of the story: that's who stole the technology from him, and Dante feels he's responsible for that mess and cleaning it up. That's why he needs the Intrepids; he physically can't get out there, because he's too old."
To that end, Dante is helped by a foursome of characters including Crystal, who can connect anything between her eye and her hand to create pinpoint accuracy. "Crystal is the team leader," said Wiebe. "She was the first to be taken in by Dante, the first to be trained and the first to use some of the early tech. While it was just them, Crystal felt a very strong bond with Dante. But then he brought in others, and there's kind of this conflict where she's struggling with this father figure. She was an orphan, she didn't have her own family, she wants him to be that -- that's a strong element that plays throughout the story."
As for the other three Intrepids, Wiebe described them for CBR as well. "Doyle is this big, lumbering, thoughtful guy who is kind of the big brother type. He's a passionate guy. He loves everyone on his team. They're really his family. Chester is the gadgets guy, and he's this wise-cracking, sarcastic, kind of a jerk, really. He's the youngest on the team. Then there's Rose, who is a firecracker with a lot of spunk and a lot of personality. She has a rocket pack and this taser glove that she uses, so she's like a reconnaissance girl."
Although the four of them work closely together in order to fulfill Dante's missions, the Intrepids might want to keep a close eye on their mentor. "This man is taking them in, and while he gives them hope and gives them purpose, he also has his own angle that he's working," he teased. "That's a big, strong element to the story, at well: his background and his history, how he ties that in with the kids and how he's using them to achieve his own end."
Wiebe has described "The Intrepids" as "James Bond" meets "Oliver Twist," certainly a curious combination on the surface. "The James Bond thing actually came about through Scott's art. It's very reminiscent of the 1960s. The script, when I wrote it, was just a modern day story and a lot of the things I put in there was using modern day tech. But he threw in a lot of throwback 1960s James Bond-style elements that really worked, so we rolled with that. James Bond has elaborate villains and wacky plots -- the old ones do, anyway -- and that was an influence on the tech and quirky characters in the story."
As for the "Oliver Twist" reference, Wiebe identified the character of Fagin as a source of inspiration. In the Charles Dickens novel, Fagin provides homeless children with shelter and teaches them to become pickpockets in an effort to earn a profit for himself. Is that another clue about Dante's true allegiance, perhaps? Wiebe remains coy: "There are some plot elements that'll work themselves out in the issues. Dante's intentions at the outset start becoming questionable as the story goes along, but I don't want to say too much about that. He definitely cares about these kids, but his true intentions are always left open, which we'll solve as people are reading the whole series."
For Wiebe, "The Intrepids" is an intensely personal story. The writer said that he first came up with the idea for the story during a very difficult time in his life. "I've done a lot of other projects that I haven't pitched yet, but they're sitting on my computer," he said. "I realized everything I was working on wasn't really inspired by the person that I was with, and I thought that was strange. So, interestingly enough, the two main female characters are this person's name. It started with that: I wrote this story last summer, and at that point it was just a crazy and quirky story. But over the course of the year, as Scott and I were getting ready to pitch it -- we went to Seattle to the Emerald City Comic-Con to pitch it in person -- that was when all of this stuff started to fall out. I went to go write issue #2 this summer after getting the deal with Image, and all of the sudden Crystal has someone in her life that makes her feel great, and then she starts realizing that she has to become her own person. That was definitely something I was going through at the time, so I infused a lot of what I was going through into the characters. I really started understanding them on a deeper level. It's all very real feelings that hopefully will resonate with other people when they read it."
Not only did Wiebe struggle through a hard time, but "The Intrepids" has gone through some birthing pains as well. Previously titled "Rat Bastards," Wiebe and Kowalchuck reverted to their initially conceived title, "The Intrepids," after some copyright issues emerged. "Image Comics is currently working on a press release with regard to the name change. In essence, it was simply a trademark/copyright issue, solely the title," he explained. "Luckily, 'The Intrepids' was our original title for the series and reincorporating it has led to a lot of nifty new designs for the series. We have designed some new logos that readers will get to see on the cover and on the inside front cover. The circumstances leading up to the change were unfortunate, but both Scott and I and our whole Image Comics team are much happier with the new title."
And a new title isn't going to stand in the way of "The Intrepids," as Wiebe says there are several additional stories planned following the initial miniseries. "When we talked to Image, we said we would do a first season six-issue arc, but there are plot elements that would be open at the end of season one. It's still a self-contained story that if we need to end [after six issues], we totally can. But we have lots of other plot elements for a continuing series, probably two or three more. It all depends on how busy Scott gets, too, because he has other projects; it's all a matter of timing. But there are definitely a lot of elements we left open, which are pretty tied into the people that Dante used to be in school with. It's a cast of characters that are only hinted at in this series, and they can be used later on."
The first issue of Kurtis J. Wiebe and Scott Kowalchuck's "The Intrepids" arrives in comic book stores in March of 2011.