Tagged: Joe Hill

Joe Corallo: Powerless And Super

Back in February, a new comics publisher debuted called Vault Comics They hit the ground running with Fissure by Tim Daniel and Patricio Delpeche. Focusing on telling fresh, fast paced science fiction and fantasy stories, Vault has managed the Herculean feat of launching six different comic book series within three months and I’ve picked up all of them.

One of those series, Powerless, gives us a fresh take on the idea of superheroes; something you’ll rarely hear me say. I got the chance to talk with Powerless creator/writer David M. Booher and artist Nathan C. Gooden.

Joe Corallo: Let’s start with the basics. For those who aren’t familiar, what’s each of your elevator pitches for Powerless?
David Booher: Tough question because I could go on for days about this story. Here’s the 37-second pitch: We’ve flipped the idea of superpowers on its head. Every single person on the planet has some extraordinary ability, but a virus is spreading that takes away the powers of those infected. Using elite agents, the government has instituted Quarantine and the infected are starting to fight back violently. Our main characters find themselves caught right in the middle.
Nathan Gooden: Powerless is a world that asks the question: Do superpowers really solve any of the world’s issues? Does the ability to switch places with anyone or help the life of a depressed teenager, only add fuel to the flames of a brewing war? It’s a character-driven thrill ride that will answer these questions and many more.
JC: What was the genesis of this project? When did you each get involved?
DB: I created the series, but I’ve actually been nurturing the concept for years now. It sprang from my love of stories about people with extraordinary powers, from traditional superheroes to novels like Firestarter and Carrie by Stephen King. With so much out there, I took it as a challenge to create something fresh and different. It came to me – what if there were no superheroes because everyone had powers? What if I didn’t? From there it snowballed: How would I survive in that world? Where would I find power? How would others look at me? And on and on.
NG: I met David four years ago at the San Diego Comic-Con and we immediately hit it off. His pitch completely sold us on the idea of Powerless. We knew we were going to publish it, but I was even more honored and humbled, to have David ask me to do the art for the series.
JC: Powerless takes place in a world with a wide range of existing superhuman powers. What kind of powers can people expect to see explored and why did you pick the powers that you did?
DB: Again, it was about doing something that felt new. So, yeah, readers will see powers they’ve probably seen before – controlling elements, super speed, and telekinesis. But how about a million telekinetics? Or five million pyrokinetics? In a world where a superpower is no longer extraordinary, no one’s impressed that you can start fires. Now, how good you are with that power? That’s a different story. To use a sports analogy: I can throw a baseball over home plate, but will I ever be a pro pitcher? Hell, no. Pros have spent years training. The same with powers – lots of people might be able to do a certain thing, but you better believe there are pros who have perfected it.
Then there are the rarer powers. Switch is a modified teleporter who can swap places within anyone in her line of sight. Billy is a chronokinetic with the ability to go back in time 37 seconds. We carefully selected these powers because they have consequences for these characters as the story goes on. Our whole team has spent hours and hours talking about this world to figure out how it would really work. It’s been a ton of fun!
NG: I have always believed in taking the reader somewhere they have never been. So pushing the boundaries of super powers was such a treat. Without giving too much away, I’d like to call attention to one of my favorite characters, Grant Porter. He’s a mid level Serokinetic who can extract blood from organisms in a unique way. It will make for some beautiful, but gruesome brutality.
JC: Why Vault Comics?
DB: Long before Vault existed, I met Adrian Wassel (editor) and Damian Wassel (publisher) along with Nathan at conventions when they were publishing gorgeous graphic novels under a different imprint. I loved their books so much I pitched Powerless to them. The timing couldn’t have been better because they were already talking about creating Vault Comics. Then Nathan came on board as the artist and we were off to the races. They’ve been nothing but amazing from the very beginning.
NG: Well I have been a part of Vault Comics since day one, literally. Adrian and Damian are my very close cousins (more like brothers), so it was a no brainer to be part of the team and help the family.
JC: A common critique of mainstream comics lately is that there isn’t enough story in individual issues. That’s certainly not the case here with Powerless which is dense in story as well as panels and dialogue. What drove the decision to pack so much into the first issue of Powerless and what were the benefits and challenges of that?
DB: I’ll let Nathan talk about page layouts, since I almost always defer to him on that. For my part, I didn’t really make a conscious decision about how much or how little to put in the first issue. It was all dictated by the story. We had 28 pages to create a complex, nuanced world on the brink of transformation and characters who react to it in very different ways. And then we had to overlay all of that with superhuman abilities. There was a lot of ground to cover, and hopefully issue one balances all of that to hook readers. As the series moves forward, we do open up the pages and dialogue a bit now that the world has been established.
NG: I wanted to get the readers into the world as fast as possible so we could prove to them that we are going off the beaten path. You won’t have to invest months only to get a small taste. I went with an almost kaleidoscope panel design to fill this issue with as much depth and detail as humanly possible, sometimes leaving Deron with the hardest job of all. As David stated, the issues do intentionally open up as they progress and the panels and compositions will reflect that.
JC: To follow up on that, could you all discuss how you went about laying out the more complex pages and what was the most complex page to put together from the first issue?
DB: One thing I love about Nathan’s art (among so many things!) is his use of nontraditional page layouts. This is a non-traditional story, so it fits perfectly. We didn’t make Deron’s lettering job easy at all, but he sure made it look that way. Beyond those things, I’ll let Nathan and tell you which pages in the first issue drove him nuts!
NG: Pages 13 and 14 gave me a very big challenge. This is the first major conflict and has several Quarantine agents using their powers at the same time. It was a struggle to not make it just a big glowing mess or fists and kicks. As far as layout, I really wanted to walk the line of overwhelming the reader, without kicking them out of the book.
JC: While reading Powerless #1 I interpreted influence from events in American history such as the internment of Japanese Americans in World War II, the AIDS epidemic, and politics post 9-11. How did these aspects of history impact the story of Powerless and what other historical and political events played a role in creating this story?
DB: As I wrote the scripts, of course lots of these historical events were in the back of my mind. As a gay creator, I probably thought most about the AIDS crisis and the horrible treatment of LGBT people that still happens today. Honestly, it’s been hard to stay ahead of all the crazy social and political events happening right now. I mean, if I wrote some of our current events into a script, I’d get laughed out of my editor’s office. That said, the political and social aspects of Powerless are there, but they provide the backdrop for the very personal stories of these characters and how they react to each other and the world around them.
NG: I think David covered that very well. I would just add, those exact thoughts are what drew me to the series in the first place.
JC: What fictional stories, comics or otherwise, influenced Powerless as well your other works?
DB: I think everything I read or see influences me in some way. I was an 80’s kid and I still love just about everything from that decade. Lately I’ve been focused on reading a lot of what Image, IDW, Black Mask, and of course Vault have been publishing. It’s incredible to watch indie creators push the boundaries of comics and see indie publishers support that. I will give a shout-out to IDW’s Locke & Key by Joe Hill. A masterpiece of comic storytelling.
NG: I’d have to say, just my love for all things X-Men as a child. I’d have to give a huge shout out to Saga‘s creators, Brian K Vaughan and Fiona Staples for really reigniting my creative fire.
JC: There are quite a few different factions in this comic leading to a wide range of outfits and uniforms. Can you discuss the process behind developing these outfits and uniforms? Any nods to uniforms from stories you love?
DB: I’ll let Nathan field this one. Like page layouts, I left most of the character design in his capable hands. Seeing the amazing results, I’m glad I did!
NG: Oh, I could go on for days about the design of these characters but I will try and focus in on the most important among them, Quarantine. I wanted this to feel like an oppressive version of Apple’s marketing. Very recognizable logo that will be spread across the globe by force. The uniforms themselves, I wanted a modern Nazi feel. Crisp clean uniforms, where individuality is reserved for those of high rank. The boots and capes for decoration of higher ranking officials. I also had to think of how clothing would change in a world where people could burst themselves into flames or change their body mass in the matter of seconds.
JC: Diversity has been a hot topic in comics lately. Judging by the diverse group of characters featured in Powerless, diversity is important to you all. How did you go about creating a diverse cast of characters and why is diversity in comics important to you?
DB: For me, there was no question but to include a diverse cast. Powerless exists in a world very much like ours, and diversity is part of that. I also wanted to create characters that are relatable for all readers. But it’s not just about diversity for diversity’s sake. If I included characters with all the same background and experiences, they’d just agree on everything. How boring would that be? When characters start from different places, that’s when things get interesting.
NG: Powerless is an exploration into civil rights. It’s only natural to try and see it from as many sides as possible. Visually, I wanted every reader to have the chance to see themselves in at least one of the main characters. Diversity has always played a critical role in my life. I’m biracial, and often wondered as a child, why the heroes or characters didn’t look like me. Sure, there were blonde hair and blue eyed characters that look like my mother’s side of the family. Darker skinned characters that resembled that of my father’s side, but where was the character that looked like me?
Sorry for rambling, but diversity was important to me when doing all of the designs for the world.

JC: It’s fine, I don’t mind rambling! It was great hearing what you both have to say about diversity. Before we wrap this up, could you tell us where people can get a copy of Powerless #1 and when Powerless #2 will be available?
DB: Issue #1 is on shelves now at comic shops. Issue #2 will be on shelves tomorrow!
NG: Issue #1 is available everywhere Diamond distributes, just ask your local comic shop. Issue #2 is out Wednesday April 26th. Also, A huge shout out to Oliver Ridge and Blood Moon, who helped make this all possible.

JC: Thank you both so much for taking the time to chat with me, and for everyone reading this interview, go check out Powerless from these guys and letterer Deron Bennett as well as the rest of Vault Comics’ line-up!

The Law Is A Ass # 392: Bob’s Brain Has A Darkside

I am reminded of a story my father told me. What story, I’ll get to that shortly. First I’ve got to tell you about another story.

That other story is “Sleepwalker” from Tales From the Darkside# 1. For those of you who, unlike me, aren’t as old as Pangean dirt, there was a syndicated TV show of that same name combined back when Hector was a pup, and I was in my 30s. A half-hour anthology show featuring horror, science-fiction, and fantasy stories that usually climaxed with a twist ending. The show wasn’t bad, but I had a problem with it. I was raised on The Twilight Zone and EC comics. I cut my teeth on twist endings. For me the endings of Tales From the Darkside had as much twist as a pretzel rod.

Joe Hill, a fantasist with a pedigree, both a literary pedigree and a literal pedigree, tried to revive the series for the CW. The series didn’t make in onto TV, but Hill is adapting four of the scripts he wrote for the show into a comic-book series of the same name. And that first issue is the other story I’m telling you about first.

Ziggy was a recent high-school graduate who was working as a lifeguard at a municipal swimming pool on Brody Island. His lawyer mother was out-of-town on business, so he stayed out partying all night then went to his lifeguard job during the day. As bad ideas go, this wasn’t like texting and driving. This was more like typesetting a magazine article complete with multiple fonts and drop caps while driving.

The sleep-deprived Ziggy fell asleep on duty and Ellen Miller died.

Only she didn’t drown. Leastwise, I don’t think she did.

Neither did the coroner. He testified during some courtroom proceeding Ziggy called a trial that Ellen had a weakness in the wall of her heart and Ziggy he probably couldn’t have saved Ellen’s life even if he had “gotten to her in time.” According to Ziggy, the hearing ended in less than an hour with the judge telling Ziggy that he shouldn’t blame himself.

That’s when I went tilt. The story called the proceeding both a hearing and a trial. My brain, with it’s mind trained to think like a lawyer even though none of my law school professors looked even remotely like John Houseman wanted to know. Was it a hearing or a trial?

The proceeding happened so quickly that Ziggy’s mother had to cut her business trip short. That’s not enough time between event and proceeding for it to have been a full trial. Trials take time to mount. Even on small islands with small populations, trials for negligent homicide don’t generally come to court for weeks or months. So let’s take trial off the table. Ziggy, the narrator of the story, probably didn’t know the difference between a trial and a hearing and misspoke, or mis-first-person-narrative-captioned, when he called it a trial. Hearing it is.

Except there appeared to be a jury in what appeared to be the jury box and you don’t have juries in hearings. Only, was it a jury box? The group of people were seated in what looked like a standard jury rig, except for the fact that it was on the other side of the room from the witness stand. The judge’s bench separated the witness stand from the jury box. In every courtroom I’ve been in, the jury box is right next to the witness stand, the better to hear the witnesses with.

So, let’s assume this wasn’t a jury box because it wasn’t where a jury box was supposed to be. Maybe it was an auxiliary seating area for the spectators. Boy there must not be a lot to do on Brody’s Island other than that swimming pool, if the local courthouse routinely gets so many spectators it needs overflow seating. Okay, no jury box means that wasn’t a jury and the proceeding wasn’t a trial. It was a hearing.

But what kind of a hearing? The coroner testified. Could it have been a coroner’s inquest? Not likely. First, coroner’s inquests might be all the rage over in England, when they’re not too busy having their Brexit, lunch and dinner, but they’re aren’t as common in the United States. Moreover, a coroner generally presides over a coroner’s inquest, not a judge. Our hearing definitely had a judge.

I’m guessing it was a preliminary hearing, in which the judge heard some witnesses and determined whether there was enough probable cause to bind Ziggy over for trial. That would be in a courtroom and presided over by a judge. And it only last an hour after the judge heard the coroner testify that Ellen died from a weakness in the wall of her heart, like a ruptured aortic aneurysm, and Ziggy couldn’t have done anything to save her life. Even a tough-on-crime judge would have to find no probable cause after the coroner testified the defendant didn’t kill the victim.

I was almost satisfied. The only question I still had was this: What was Ziggy doing in the witness stand? The prosecution couldn’t call Ziggy to the witness stand. I don’t know what state Brody Island is in, but I don’t need to. All 50 of them recognize the 5th Amendment and its right against self-incrimination. So the State didn’t call Ziggy.

Did he testify on his own behalf? At a trial, maybe. Sometimes defendants testify in order to present a defense with the best possible evidence. But not at a pre-trial hearing. When all that’s happening is the judge hearing the state’s case to determine whether there’s probable cause, no “high-powered lawyer” is going to let the defendant testify. There’s a greater percentage of impurities in Ivory Soap, than there is of allowing a defendant to testify in a preliminary hearing.

I have a theory why Ziggy was in the witness stand. The story was about Ziggy being sleep deprived and sleepwalking through life. Maybe Ziggy sleepwalked into the courtroom and sat in the witness stand by accident. No one moved him because you’re not supposed to wake a sleepwalker.

Okay, it’s not a great theory. But it’s still a hell of a lot better than believing that a defense attorney let the defendant testify at a preliminary hearing.

So after studying the contextual clues of the story, I’ve determined that the proceeding shown in Tales From the Darkside # 1 was a preliminary probable cause hearing.

Now here’s the story my father told me that I was reminded of. When he was in college, my father took a course on Shakespeare. One day the professor came into class with the biggest, broadest cat-that-swallowed-the-canary smile imaginable on his face. The cat didn’t just eat the canary. It had canary cordon bleu, asparagus with hollandaise sauce, and La Bonnotte potatoes; washed it down with a bottle of Chateau Lafite, and got double points for the whole meal on his cash-back rewards card. The elated professor announced that after thirty years of close and intensive study of Hamlet’s text as well as the language, idioms, and word usage of Elizabethan England, he had concluded that, yes, Hamlet had definitely slept with Ophelia.

My father asked one simple question, “And that changes the play, how?”

The professor deflated quicker than a Macy’s balloon after a close encounter of the AK-47 kind.

I was reminded of that story, when I realized that my studying contextual clues to determine Ziggy was in a preliminary hearing didn’t change the story, either. But at least I didn’t spend thirty years determining the answer. Or even thirty minutes. And, unlike Ziggy, I didn’t lose any sleep over my problem.