The next 'Walking Dead'? Comic book superstar Brian Michael Bendis on FX's 'Powers' pilot
Image Credit: Marvel Entertainment; Albert L. Ortega/WireImage.comLast year, an acclaimed indie comic book called The Walking Dead made the leap from spinner rack to small screen, becoming a smash hit for AMC. Now another cable network is hoping for similar success with another highly-respected alt-comics property: Last week, FX announced it was producing a pilot for a proposed series based on Powers, a long-running saga about cops in a city teeming with superheroes. Think: NYPD Blue meets Watchmen; Jack Kirby meets James Ellroy. Handling the adaptation: writer/producer Charles H. Eglee (formerly of The Shield and Dark Angel; he also helped filmmaker Frank Darabont bring The Walking Dead to TV life) and veteran TV director Michael Dinner. Superstar comic book scribe Brian Michael Bendis — who created Powers with artist Michael Avon Oeming — will work on the show as an exec producer. “It is so cool,” an amped Bendis told EW via email. “Not just because of the obvious reasons. These are really talented people behind the scenes. I was at Eglee’s house a few weeks ago. He has a Peabody award for his work on The Shield. I have a Wizard Fan Award for Best Costumed Villain.” (Bendis has also won many other, more prestigious awards, including several Eisner Awards — the comic book Oscars — for Best Writer and a 2001 Eisner award for Powers in the Best New Series category.)
Since launching in 2000, Powers has distinguished itself as one of the comic industry’s best, most visually distinctive, and certainly edgiest superhero comics. The creators’ cited influences: Homicide: Life on the Street and Taxi Driver. Yet the Powers world isn’t just grim and gritty; it’s deep and mythic, too. The lead character, homicide detective Christian Walker, is not just an ex-superhero (or “Power” in the Powers parlance), but [SPOILER ALERT!] an immortal being, a Jungian heroic archetype made flesh, whose first incarnation dates back to the dawn of man. [END SPOILER ALERT.] His young, spunky, stocked-with-secrets partner is Deena Pilgrim, who at one point in the saga [RENEW SPOILER ALERT!] gets powers herself. [END SPOILERS.] Bendis and Oeming have used their unique storytelling vehicle to do more than just make twisty-and-trippy, smart-and-shocking superhero noir; Powers also works as an extremely credible policier and as sharp media/cultural satire, too. “It’s a cop show in a superhero world,” says Bendis, “but because of the nature of the genre mash-up we are able to strip away a lot of the cliché of either genre and maybe invent a new mini genre. We deconstruct and reconstruct and have a lot of fun doing it.”
Image Comics originally published the creator-owned property. Now Powers is published by Marvel Comics through its Icon imprint. The series is collected annually in trade paperback form. To date: 13 volumes. Asked if the TV series will be adapting specific storylines or if it will be telling original stories set within a translation of the Powers world, Bendis said: “I can’t speak specifically to this, but there will be very, very familiar elements from the graphic novels [i.e., the collected storylines] in the pilot and probably in early episodes. But I am truly hoping that Powers — the television show — invents its own language of plot and storytelling as it goes. I personally would like to see a world where the Powers graphic novels and the Powers television show run in parallel but flattering universes much like Dexter. I’m not much into slavish adaptation. I don’t think it brings out the best in what the medium of television has to offer.”
Bendis could soon have his name on multiple shows on multiple networks. The prolific scribe — whose current output includes Marvel’s New Avengers — is a consulting producer and writer on Ultimate Spider-Man, a forthcoming animated series for the Disney XD network based on the Marvel comic of the same name. (“It’s a powerhouse writers room and I’m really looking forward to how it all turns out,” says Bendis of the show, whose exec producers are Steven T. Seagle, Joe Kelly, Joe Casey and Duncan Rouleau.) And ABC is currently developing a TV series based on Bendis’ now-concluded comic Alias, which chronicled the adventures of Marvel superhero-turned-private eye Jessica Jones. Melissa Rosenberg — the Twilight movie franchise screenwriter and former Dexter producer — is adapting the comic.
More from our interview with Bendis — including an appreciation of his controversial new comic book series Scarlet — later this week in our Shelf Life blog.