The next 'Walking Dead'? Comic book superstar Brian Michael Bendis on FX's 'Powers' pilot

Brian-Michael-Bendis-PowersImage 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.

Comments (24 total) Add your comment
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  • Dude1

    CSI meets Law and Order meets the best aspects of Heroes. I’m sold!!!

  • Zombie Jesus

    Why would they bother with another superheroes show when we have amazing shows like No Ordinary Family and The Cape? End sarcasm(seriously, writing that made me sick to my stomach).

    • K

      Bah, I love The Cape. It’s deliciously ridiculous. Did you see this past week’s episode? That scene with the cake might be my favorite scene from a TV show in recent weeks. It was hilarious. I’m truly sad that they cancelled it without even letting them finish and air the originally-planned 13 episodes.

      • wsugar

        The Cape never got better, but No Ordinary Family did improve in the second half of the season, and is actually pretty good right now. Not great but enjoyable.

    • m.

      Because both of those shows are bad?! I watched both of them and hoped and hoped that they’ll get better. I liked the actors, I liked the characters, I liked their powers, but the writing was really awful.
      Writing a great superhero series seems to be really hard.

      • Trish Heinrich

        If you’re familiar with and are a fan of the superhero genre/comic books you tend to write, direct, produce better shows in that genre than someone who is just hired off the street for it. In my humble opinion.

  • James

    The thing that will make this different and more interesting than other super hero shows is that its an adult TVMA type show. Perfect for FX.

  • MWeyer

    They’ll have to tone down the language (which not only means cursing but Bendis’ habit of characters repeating themselves constantly) but still perfect for TV.

  • Dave

    FX has had a lot more hits than misses when it comes to quality. I’ll pretty much give any show on FX a chance. And this sounds pretty cool. Looking forward to it.

  • Joan

    Will Bendis staccato, repetitively dull and allegedly “realistic” dialogue cadences translate to TV?

    • Brett

      Thank you Joan for letting me know that I am not alone in this world! If only Bendis would stop listening to the sound of his own voice long enough to hear how people actually talk, he’d be a decent writer…

  • Jacob

    YES. Love the comic! Looking forward to this.

  • Riles

    Rigsby from The Mentalist would be the perfect Walker!

  • UGH

    Great book. Too bad Jon Hamm is signed up with Mad Men (well, I wouldn’t want him to jump ship there) but he would be perfect casting for this.

  • Waterland

    Katee Sackhoff is rumored to be attached to this pilot…

  • Roger

    No more superheroes shows. They all stink.

  • Redvector

    I never read Powers but I like the concept behind it so I’ll check out the first few episodes. And I also never read The Walking Dead either but I love the show.

  • Nicholas Christopher

    Finally, some network is willing to take a chance on a writer who’s both sharp and inventive. Now if they would just let David Fincher develop Torso or Goldfish, we’d have something amazing.

    And if that network DOESN’T at least TRY to cast Patrick Warburton as Walker… eh… I take it back. He’s not dark enough.

  • K

    Can’t wait – I love Powers

  • roz

    Will there be any Black, Hispanic, Asian or Native Americans characters featured?

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