POW­ER­ING UP

What hap­pens when su­per­heroes col­lide with the cop show? Stephen Jewell walks the Pow­ers beat…

SFX: The Sci-Fi and Fantasy Magazine - - Powers -

We went back in time and had mon­keys fuck­ing at the dawn of man,” smiles Brian Michael Bendis. “And they’re go­ing to do their own thing…”

The ac­claimed comics writer is telling SFX how the PlaySta­tion Net­work’s forth­com­ing adap­ta­tion of his and Michael Avon Oem­ing’s cre­ator- owned se­ries Pow­ers might just dif­fer from its four- colour in­car­na­tion. But while there may not be any for­ni­cat­ing pri­mates on the screen – at least, for now – Bendis says showrun­ner Charlie Hus­ton is stay­ing true to the high- con­cept premise of a pair of homi­cide de­tec­tives in­ves­ti­gat­ing su­per­hero- re­lated crimes.

“What Charlie has done is cher­ryp­ick el­e­ments of the comic se­ries to craft his own thing,” says Bendis. “What I hope hap­pens – and is al­ready hap­pen­ing be­hind the scenes – is that the Pow­ers TV show cre­ates its own mythol­ogy and goes off on its own way to the comic.”

First pub­lished by Im­age Comics in 2000 be­fore mov­ing to Mar­vel’s bou­tique Icon im­print in 2004, Pow­ers proved to be the Port­land- based au­thor’s call­ing card. Go­ing on to be­come one of the House of Ideas’ lead­ing ar­chi­tects, he has since en­joyed long runs on ti­tles such as Avengers, All- New X- Men and

Guardians Of The Galaxy. How­ever, Pow­ers’ path to the screen has not been so smooth. Op­tioned for the cin­ema by Sony Pic­tures in 2001, it was even­tu­ally de­cided that TV would be a bet­ter fit with FX and Sony Pic­tures Tele­vi­sion team­ing up to shoot a pi­lot star­ring Ja­son Pa­tric and Lucy Punch.

With Bendis con­ced­ing that “it was all about the chem­istry,” FX then de­cided not to pro­ceed any fur­ther, al­low­ing the PlaySta­tion Net­work to pick up the ba­ton, or­der­ing a tenepisode run and ap­point­ing thriller au­thor Charlie Hus­ton as showrun­ner and Fall­ing

Skies’s Remy Aubu­chon as ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer. “Charlie was in the writ­ers’ room for the FX se­ries and he wrote a script, which I and every­body in­volved uni­formly pointed to and said, ‘ Now, that is Pow­ers!’” re­calls Bendis. “It was funny and dark and did ev­ery­thing that I wanted the show to do.” Hav­ing writ­ten the likes of Wolver­ine and

Moon Knight for Mar­vel, Hus­ton is well versed in the comic book medium. “Like my­self, he is a crime writer who hap­pens to com­pletely un­der­stand the genre of su­per­heroes and that’s what was needed for the TV show,” says Bendis. “As any­one who loves the genre will tell you, it has to be in your blood. You can’t just come in and make your way in it; you have to have it in you at a cel­lu­lar level.”

Just as Robert Kirk­man has taken a hands- on ap­proach with The Walk­ing Dead, Bendis has been closely in­volved with ev­ery step of Pow­ers’ pro­duc­tion. “I’m gra­ciously hold­ing onto Robert’s zom­bielike coat­tails as we move for­ward,” laughs Bendis, who acts as an ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer and will co- write the fi­nale with Hus­ton. “It’s Charlie’s show but be­cause I’m also a writer and one of the cre­ators, I was there dur­ing the first weeks of the writ­ers’ room in LA It was cool be­cause one of the few things I know all the an­swers to is Pow­ers, so when peo­ple ask me about it, I sound like a ge­nius.”

Cru­cially, he also par­tic­i­pated in the cast­ing process. “It’s true with any show, but es­pe­cially true with genre mash- ups like this, that the ac­tors be­come their own ver­sion of the char­ac­ters and are not just read­ing lines from the comic book. I wanted to keep the spirit of the char­ac­ters from the comic but I wanted them to be­come their own thing.

“the su­per hero genre has to be in your blood”

I al­ways cite Dex­ter as my in­spi­ra­tion here – the orig­i­nal nov­els and the show were like par­al­lel uni­verses ex­am­in­ing the same thing, and that’s what I wanted with this. With that man­date, we went look­ing and I’m very happy that we’ve got some­one with the cal­i­bre of Sharlto Co­p­ley ( Dis­trict 9) on board as he’s bring­ing all kinds of new en­ergy to Walker. He’s got the poise of some­one who used to be a su­per­hero.”

GO­ING RETRO

While Co­p­ley’s cast­ing has met with almost univer­sal ap­proval, there has been some fan disquiet after African- Amer­i­can ac­tress Susan Hey­wood landed the part of the for­merly blonde Deena. “There are some char­ac­ters like Cal­lista, where the ac­tress ( Olesya Rulin) looks ex­actly like a Mike Oem­ing car­toon, but that was a happy ac­ci­dent,” rea­sons Bendis. “When you see Sharlto and Susan to­gether, they look like Walker and Deena in their own way. It doesn’t take you much to get there be­cause no one in the world looks like Walker does in the comic. If some­one who looked like that walked into the room, you’d scream!”

With Noah Tay­lor and Ed­die Iz­zard play­ing the vil­lain­ous Johnny Royale and “Big Bad” Wolfe re­spec­tively, Michelle Forbes ( Bat­tlestar Galac­tica, Star Trek: The Next Gen­er­a­tion) won the cru­cial part of ar­che­typal su­per­heroine Retro Girl. Though her death formed the ba­sis of the in­au­gu­ral Pow­ers comics arc, view­ers will be given the chance to get to know her prop­erly. “For peo­ple who read the books, it’s nice that they don’t know what’s go­ing to hap­pen as our first sto­ry­line isn’t ‘ Who Killed Retro Girl?’,” ex­plains Bendis. “Mike and I did that be­cause we didn’t think we’d get to the third is­sue. We thought we’d get can­celled so we’d bet­ter run it quick. If we were to do it all over again, I’d do it like this.”

Prais­ing Hus­ton for “com­ing up with a way to give Mike, as the artist, a voice on the show,” Bendis stresses that Oem­ing’s an­gu­lar, Manga- es­que style is also rep­re­sented in Retro Girl’s dis­tinc­tive de­sign. “She’s our big hero and is like our Bey­oncé of su­per­heroes,” he ex­plains. “But un­like in the comic book, she’s not dead at the start of the se­ries so we get to see that she’s been around for a very long time. We also see all of her mar­ket­ing in­clud­ing this car­toon show that has been on the air for decades. The look of that show and all the mer­chan­dis­ing is all in the look of Mike’s art­work. That seems unique and ex­cit­ing to me be­cause that’s one of the things that al­ways ends up go­ing by the way­side in th­ese adap­ta­tions. Even in Watch­men, you don’t feel Dave Gib­bons other than in the cos­tumes be­cause it’s live ac­tion, it’s not a car­toon.”

One as­pect Pow­ers does share with the movie ver­sion of that re­vi­sion­ist su­per­hero opus is its un­flinch­ing adult tone, set­ting it apart from the likes of Ar­row and, dare we say it, Gotham. Hav­ing pro­vided one of the ini­tial in­flu­ences for Ed Brubaker and Greg Rucka’s DC Comics po­lice pro­ce­dural Gotham Cen­tral, from which Fox’s Bat­man pre­quel is de­rived, it seems un­for­tu­nate tim­ing that Pow­ers has been beaten to the TV screen. How­ever, Bendis is con­fi­dent that the two shows are very dif­fer­ent beasts.

“Almost ev­ery ten min­utes you’ll see some­thing that you will never see on net­work TV,” he says. “There’s some­thing that hap­pens in our first five min­utes of the first episode where you will go, ‘ You will never see that on Gotham!’” Pow­ers will be shown in the UK on the PlaySta­tion Net­work.

Retro Girl doesn’t start off dead in the se­ries. But she might well get there.

Deena won­ders why she has to be the hal­i­to­sis as­ses­sor.

Pilgrim and Walker’s on- page look dif­fers just slightly from the screen. Mod­ern graf­fiti artists dodge the law by af­fect­ing a more dap­per ap­pear­ance.

Brightly coloured duct tape is the new thing on the Paris run­ways.

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