Powers (comics)

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Publication information
PublisherImage Comics
Icon Comics (Marvel Comics)
FormatOngoing series
Genre, crime, superhero
Publication dateApril 2000 to present
Number of issuesVol. 1 #1–37
Vol. 2 #1–30
Vol. 3 #1-current
Creative team
Writer(s)Brian Michael Bendis
Artist(s)Michael Avon Oeming
Letterer(s)Brian Michael Bendis
Ken Bruzenak
Colorist(s)Pat Garrahy
Peter Pantazis
Creator(s)Brian Michael Bendis
Michael Avon Oeming
Editor(s)K. C. McCrory
Jamie S. Rich
Collected editions
Who Killed Retro Girl?ISBN 1-58240-183-7
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Publication information
PublisherImage Comics
Icon Comics (Marvel Comics)
FormatOngoing series
Genre, crime, superhero
Publication dateApril 2000 to present
Number of issuesVol. 1 #1–37
Vol. 2 #1–30
Vol. 3 #1-current
Creative team
Writer(s)Brian Michael Bendis
Artist(s)Michael Avon Oeming
Letterer(s)Brian Michael Bendis
Ken Bruzenak
Colorist(s)Pat Garrahy
Peter Pantazis
Creator(s)Brian Michael Bendis
Michael Avon Oeming
Editor(s)K. C. McCrory
Jamie S. Rich
Collected editions
Who Killed Retro Girl?ISBN 1-58240-183-7

Powers is an American creator-owned police procedural comic book series by writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Michael Avon Oeming. The series' first volume was published by Image Comics from 2000 to 2004. In 2004 the series moved to Marvel Comics as a part of its Icon imprint.

Combining the genres of superhero fantasy, crime noir and the police procedural, the series follows the lives of two homicide detectives, Christian Walker and Deena Pilgrim, assigned to investigate cases involving people with superhuman abilities, who are referred to colloquially as "powers".


Publication history


Brian Michael Bendis, Michael Avon Oeming and David W. Mack became friends while all three were working on individual small press projects. Bendis says that he also began to "analyz[e] why it was that I [had] never attempted to write a superhero comic" at the time, while he was writing crime books such as Jinx and Goldfish, despite his love of the genre. Concluding that Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns and Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' Watchmen had sufficiently explored the genre, Bendis decided to work in other genres."[1] The series' concept was derived from his love of crime fiction and police procedurals in general, as well as specific works such as Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets,[1][2] Janis Joplin's biography,[1] Taxi Driver, T-Men, Traffic)[2] and Visions Of Light: The Art of Cinematography,[3] and would take the form of a Behind the Music-type look at superheroes.[1] Powers, Oeming says is "a superhero universe seen through the eyes of the police... [as] observed by the media" and everyday individuals. Bendis' intention was to view the "cliches of the superhero genre through the harder eyes of the cops," but with the added layer that (echoing "Behind the Music") "every arc has some footing in a famous rock star story." Bendis' scripts are often compiled from "a list of scenes," eschewing "the big exploding ending" in favor of a "character-driven or psychological ending." Indeed, in experimenting with plots, the duo swiftly moved beyond 'mere' police precedurals (despite those being both creators' "favorite stories"), constantly pushing each other creatively in new ways. In conceiving plots for the series, Bendis emphasizes the purpose and themes in the narrative over "just being cool", and allowing the theme to dictate the direction of the story.[4]

Bendis would collaborate with Oeming, who had already expressed interest in producing a crime/noir comic with Bendis,[1][5][6] inspired by his attempts to get work on Batman Adventures to do a book in a style reminiscent of Bruce Timm and Alex Toth.[5] Bendis cites two images produced by Oeming (one for Bendis' Jinx, and one for David Mack's series Kabuki) as originating the then-experimental "Powers' style," and "inspir[ing] everything in [Powers]."[3] (Indeed, Bendis and Oeming's first collaboration was "Mall Outing" in Jinz: True Crime Confessions. It is included in Little Deaths "for Powers completists and curiosity's sake."[7]) Oeming has noted that, although seen as an overtly "cartoony" style, the artwork does not appeal to children, which helps sidestep the potential problem of the book, which contains mature content, being purchased by customers younger than its intended audience.[6]

Despite both creators only having produced work in black and white before Powers, Bendis envisioned Powers in color, and convinced Oeming that it could work, despite the dramatically higher number of sales required to sustain a color comic.[2] Bendis also convinced Oeming that the book should juxtapose both the superhero and crime noir genres, as Oeming initially shied away from the former.[3][6] Bendis writes in the 'Sketchbook' section of the Powers: Who Killed Retro Girl? TPB that "one of the rules of film noir is that the city itself should be considered a lead character."[3] To this end, he made Oeming watch Visions of Light a documentary by the American Cinematographers Institute about the art of lighting in film, which he saw as important to the feel of comics also.[3] According to Oeming, both he and Bendis do copious research for their projects, and that before he began the series, he would do ride-alongs with police, meet police officials, and take extensive photo reference of their equipment.[5] (c.f. Issue #7)


Powers was initially pitched to DC Comics, after DC inquired of Bendis and Oeming what they were hoping to create.[2] Bendis ultimately retained ownership of his creation, which allows him complete freedom as the writer.[1]

Bendis and Oeming were initially worried, after having produced but not solicited two issues of the series, to learn that writer Alan Moore was preparing what was to become Top 10 for America's Best Comics. Although the creators had been confident that the idea of a book juxtaposing superheroes and the police procedural had not been done previously, the knowledge that Moore was doing something similar nearly led them to abandon the series, before discovering that Top Ten featured superhero police officers and a different enough approach that led them to feel safe in continuing.[2]

Powers was initially previewed in a series of original strips which ran in Cliff Biggers and Ward Batty's Comic Shop News a comics-industry periodical available from many comic shops. The eight strips were colored and lettered by Bendis (before initial colorist/letterer Pat Garrahy became involved) and complemented the up-coming series as a companion piece in newspaper strip form.[3] The strip was later serialized at the online comics magazine PopImage.com.[8]

Debuting with sales of 12,500 (around the "break even" mark for a color comic, although "like ten thousand more" than Bendis' previous book, Torso), Powers was faced with an uncertain future, as sales of comics tend to dwindle over subsequent issues. However, Image Comics publisher Jim Valentino and head of marketing Anthony Bozzi both read and enjoyed the first three issues (lettered and laid out by Bendis himself, a hang-over from his earlier fully creator-owned works where he took on the complete roles of several individuals), with Bozzi reportedly saying, "If we can't make a book like POWERS sell we really should stop making comics." Image offered to double-ship the second issue, effectively doubling the orders for that issue as an attempt to boost sales: the gamble worked, and issue #1 was soon reprinted, while according to Bendis, "issues #3–11 saw an upswing" in sales every issue.[2] The reported Diamond pre-order figures show sales climbing above 23,000 by issue #7, and topping 30,000 with issue #14 and stabilizing between 25,000 and 30,000 for the remainder of the titles' Image run.[9] These strong sales allowed Oeming to quit his job as a security guard, while Bendis' launch of Ultimate Spider-Man had a positive effect on Powers' sales as readers searched out his comics.[2]

Move to Icon

In 2004, Marvel launched a new imprint for creator-owned material, open by invitation only to Marvel creators. Powers was (with Kabuki) the first series to debut under this new line, in large part due to Bendis' preeminent role as a Marvel author. The move worked well for the comic, "gain[ing] new readers" in the move from Image to Icon, with the initial issue garnering pre-orders of over 40,000 (and settling around the 30,000 mark with issues #7–8).[2][9] In part, the move was precipitated by Jim Valentino stepping down as publisher of Image Comics, after having been driving force in the launch of Powers (as well as publishing Bendis' earlier works Jinx and Torso). Bendis notes that his"relationships with publishers "are always with people, not with logos."[2]

For their anniversary issue (Volume 2, issue #12 from Icon), Bendis and Oeming had planned to swap roles – Oeming writing and Bendis drawing. Unfortunately, Bendis suffered an injury to his cornea stopping him from drawing the full issue, although he did provide a cover for the issue.[2] Powers Volume 3 launched with issue number one in November 2009.[10] After a year long hiatus, Powers has resumed circulation with Volume 3 #8 on February 8, 2012.

Bendis has a "POWERS idea-list" and the two have "enough stories left in [them], and... the audience to keep the book going" for a while yet.[2] Both have repeatedly stated that they "know the ending," not in terms of time frame or issue number, but as a final act of closure, having "promised to never write or draw Powers beyond the amount of fresh ideas" they have.[4]



Powers is set in a world where superpowers are relatively common but not mundane. It follows the lives of two detectives, Christian Walker and Deena Pilgrim, police officers in a Homicide department devoted to cases that involve "powers" (people with superpowers). Walker himself used to be a costumed superhero named Diamond, but became a police officer after he lost his abilities.

Who Killed Retro Girl? (Powers Vol. 1, #1-6)

The first arc introduces Walker saving a young girl named Calista from a convict with a jetpack. Walker is later introduced to Pilgrim as they investigate their first case, the murder of a popular superhero named Retro Girl, who is found dead outside a school with her throat slit. As the investigation deepens, Deena discovers Walker's past as Diamond as well as his relationships with Retro Girl and the controversial superhero Zora.

(Issue 7 was a stand-alone issue in which Walker was teamed with famous graphic novelist Warren Ellis).

Roleplay (Powers Vol. 1, #8-11)

Walker and Pilgrim investigate a series of murders at a college campus. All of the victims belonged to a roleplaying club in which the members dressed up as superheroes. Evidence suggests the killings are being performed by a notorious supervillain.

Little Deaths (Powers Vol. 1, #12-14)

Walker and Pilgrim investigate the death of Olympia, a renowned superhero who is found dead in a sleazy apartment with no clothing and no sign of injury. Information emerges about Olympia's controversial sex life, which may have played a role in his death.

The Powers Annual #1 deals with a Superhero who is arrested and tried for murdering a supervillain.

Supergroup (Powers Vol. 1, #15-20)

Walker and Pilgrim investigate the death of a member of FG-3, a federally employed and corporate funded trio. Evidence leads Walker to believe a federal cover-up is taking place, and as the investigation spirals out of control both professionally and personally (Zora is killed during a confrontation with FG-3), Walker leaves the police force after exposing the cover-up on television.

Anarchy (Powers Vol. 1, #21-24)

Pilgrim and her new partner investigate a series of superhero murders being committed by a group claiming inspiration from the killer of Retro Girl. Walker is brought into the case when the leader of the group is arrested and demands to see him, and Pilgrim's new partner is killed during an assassination attempt on Walker's life. Walker is brought back onto the force after the case is resolved.

The Sellouts (Powers Vol. 1, #25-30)

Walker and Pilgrim investigate the murder of a member of the popular superhero team Unity, which had been active in the 1980s but subsequently disbanded. The investigation leads to a particular superhero who oversteps his power and authority on an international scale, and as a result of events during the case all powers are declared illegal by the United States Government.

Forever (Powers Vol. 1, #31-37)

Walker's history as a hero is fully explored, from his origins to the loss of his powers in 1986, as well as his relationships with other superheroes such as Retro Girl, Triphammer, and Zora.

Legends (Powers Vol. 2, #1-6)

Walker and Pilgrim attempt to deal with the onslaught of supervillain activity following the ban on powers. Pilgrim is captured and tortured by a target of their investigation, and subsequently gains superpowers of her own. Calista assists Walker and Pilgrim by revealing herself as the reincarnated Retro Girl, and she subsequently inspires other heroes to resume fighting crime despite the ban.

Psychotic (Powers Vol. 2, #7-12)

Walker and Pilgrim investigate the murder of the Blackguard, a superhero whose power stemmed from a magic jewel. The Blackguard's nemesis is also found murdered, and the detectives believe the jewel is the reason for these events. During the investigation, Pilgrim uses her powers to murder her ex-boyfriend after he attacks her.

Cosmic (Powers Vol. 2, #13-18)

Walker and Pilgrim investigate the death of a seemingly normal person who is later revealed to be a member of an alien organization called the millennium guard. Pilgrim comes under scrutiny from Internal Affairs for her recent actions, and Walker is contacted by the millennium guard to take the place of the earlier victim. When he accepts, he gets his powers back. Walker also begins a romantic relationship with a witness to the murder.

Secret Identity (Powers Vol. 2, #19-24)

Walker and Pilgrim investigate the murder of Queen Noir's husband Strike. Queen Noir is the leader of a team called "The Heroes" which had emerged during the Legends Arc. As the investigation continues, more and more members of The Heroes are killed, and evidence points to Queen Noir as the prime suspect. During the case, Pilgrim discovers that Walker has powers, and disappears.

The 25 Coolest Dead Superheroes of All Time (Powers Vol. 2, #25-30)

A Powers Virus spreads throughout the city, and numerous young girls are falling victim to it. Pilgrim is the primary suspect, as the powers she contracted in the Legends Arc are revealed to be a strain of the virus. Walker attempts to discover the source of the epidemic while Pilgrim does her own investigation. Pilgrim is exonerated when she helps crack the case, and subsequently leaves the police force.

Z (Powers Vol. 3, #1-6)

Walker and his new partner Enki Sunrise investigate the murder of Z, who Walker teamed up with in World War 2. Sunrise continues her covert Internal Affairs-directed investigation of Walker, but slowly becomes more hesitant to inform on him. Walker proposes to his girlfriend Heather, but she is receiving visions detailing a forthcoming apocalyptic battle, and leaves without telling him she is pregnant. Pilgrim returns to Chicago, now a member of the F.B.I.'s powers task force.

712 (Powers Vol. 3, #7-11)

After closing the Z case, members of The Golden Ones, a god-like team of heroes, are targeted by a serial killer, with the mother of the murdered Damocles attempting to gain revenge on the world by launching a titanic assault on Chicago. Walker's fianceé Heather returns and is killed in a method similar to her visions, and Walker joins the other powers in battling Damocles' mother, in defiance of Millennium's restrictions on his activities. They succeed in defeating her, but in the aftermath of the battle, Walker, Triphammer and Callista are missing, and all powers-related cases are permanently assigned to the F.B.I., with Captain Cross and Detective Sunrise being hired by the now vastly understaffed bureau.


Despite the high mortality rate, there are several recurrent characters in Powers beyond the main two. Oeming has praised Bendis' writing in giving a "real depth" to even minor figures, writing that he particularly enjoys Bendis writing "a character as an asshole and then we [the reader] learn they are more valiant than most of the [other] characters."[4]

Main characters

Supporting characters


One of the series' recurring motifs, which begins in issue #4, is the liberal use of cameos. Investigating their first major crime, Walker and Pilgrim question 32 superheroes (and five pages later, 32 supervillains) for leads. Described by Bendis as both "one of [his and Oeming's] best ideas" and a "'logistical nightmare'," many of these cameo-characters were lent by "well-known comic book creator friends" of Bendis and Oeming to add a level of metatextuality and flesh out the wider Powers universe.[3] In addition to the "brand new super hero and villain creations" solicited, some creators allowed the appearance of their well-established (creator-owned) characters – such as Mike Allred's Madman, Erik Larsen's Savage Dragon and Jim Valentino's Shadowhawk. Other creators who have lent their time and characters to Powers include: Angel Medina, Dan Brereton, Paul Jenkins, Neil Vokes, Judd Winick, Jim Krueger, Mike Baron, Phil Jimenez, Scott Morse, Marc Andreyko, Ed Brubaker, Joe Quesada and David Mack.

As the series has progressed, more notable cameo appearances of real individuals have to a greater or lesser extent furthered/augmented/commented on the plot. Powers issue #7 "Ride Along" introduced author Warren Ellis into the Powers universe, as a writer of "graphic novels" who accompanies Walker on a "ride along" for research purposes.[7] The Powers Ellis discuses the domination of the comics industry by superheroes and the medium of comics itself, before being revealed at the end of the issue, in a super-metatextual moment, as the author of the in-Powers-universe comic entitled "Powers". In issue #23, an analogue of Dark Horse Comics editor Diana Schutz is interviewed on the problematic nature of vigilante superheroes who exist above the normal system of law, and why non-powered individuals might feel betrayed by, wary or resentful of them.[4]


In his introduction to the bonus materials section of Powers: Roleplay, Bendis highlights five Superhero comic cover clichés, and then explains that "Mike and I decided very early on to create theme covers for each storyarc."[5] "Roleplay" (issues #8–11)'s theme used "album cover designs from albums you would find in a college dorm room."[5] The covers homaged were:

Issues #12–14 (collected in Little Deaths) were drawn in the style of trashy gossip/celebrity tabloid magazines. The covers were styled after the following magazines:

Other covers are homages to a number of things, including:

Under Icon, some of Volume 2's covers have been drawn in the style of various classic movie posters. Specifically, #7–10.

Daily strip

The first through fourth story arcs, "Who Killed Retro Girl?", "Roleplay", "Little Deaths" and "Supergroup", were published online in a daily page-per-day format, and the fifth arc, "Anarchy", was being released but has since ceased its release days. also the story "little deaths" is incomplete.

Recognition and influence

The series won the Eisner Award for Best New Series for 2001 and Brian Michael Bendis won the Best Writer Eisner Award in 2002 and 2003.

Greg Rucka and Ed Brubaker, whom Bendis and Oeming view as "amazing crime writers," created Gotham Central, which Bendis and Oeming view as one of many Powers-like comics influenced by their work. Bendis notes that Rucka and Brubaker gave himself and Oeming a "heads up" that they were preparing a "cop book in the DC Universe," and entirely separate from the plethora of titles which seem to merely be attempting to ape Powers.[2]

Television series

Bendis has confirmed that there will be a Powers TV show on the FX network and he will be writing the pilot for the show.[18] In February 2011 it was announced that the show, now scripted by "Chick" Eglee, had been greenlit for a pilot.[19] Charles S. Dutton was cast as Captain Cross in May 2011.[20] In June, Bendis revealed that the pilot would begin filming in "a few weeks".[21] Days later, Lucy Punch was cast as Deena Pilgrim.[22][23] The following day, Jason Patric was cast as Christian Walker and T-Mobile girl Carly Foulkes was cast as Retro Girl.[23][24]

Collected editions

TPB Collections

1Who Killed Retro Girl?Image Comics2000ISBN 1-58240-183-7
2RoleplayImage Comics2002ISBN 1-58240-232-9
3Little DeathsImage Comics2003ISBN 1-58240-269-8
4SupergroupImage Comics2003ISBN 1-58240-309-0
5AnarchyImage Comics2003ISBN 1-58240-331-7
6The SelloutsIcon Comics2004ISBN 0-7851-1582-X
7ForeverIcon Comics2004ISBN 0-7851-1656-7
8LegendsIcon Comics2005ISBN 0-7851-1742-3
9PsychoticIcon Comics2006ISBN 0-7851-1743-1
10CosmicIcon Comics2007ISBN 0-7851-2260-5
11Secret IdentityIcon Comics2008ISBN 0-7851-2261-3
12The 25 Coolest Dead Superheroes of all TimeIcon Comics2009ISBN 0-7851-2262-1
13ZIcon Comics2010ISBN 0-7851-4593-6

Note: The full title of all volumes listed here start with "Powers: ".



  1. ^ a b c d e f Alex Hamby of herorealm.com interviews BM Bendis, March 27, 2002. Excerpts from: Bendis, Brian Michael and Oeming, Michael Avon, Powers TPB Vol. 3 – Little Deaths (Image, 2002), ISBN 1-58240-670-7
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v "The Definitive Powers Interview" by Ernie Estrella in Bendis, Brian Michael and Oeming, Michael Avon, Powers TPB Vol. 9 – Psychotic (Icon, 2006), ISBN 0-7851-1743-1
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Bendis, Brian Michael and Oeming, Michael Avon, Powers TPB Vol. 1 – Who Killed Retro Girl? (Image, 2000), ISBN 1-58240-183-7
  4. ^ a b c d Bendis, Brian Michael and Oeming, Michael Avon, Powers TPB Vol. 5 – Anarchy (Image, 2003), ISBN 1-58240-331-7
  5. ^ a b c d e Bendis, Brian Michael and Oeming, Michael Avon, Powers TPB Vol. 2 – Roleplay (Image, 2001), ISBN 1-58240-232-9
  6. ^ a b c Bill Love interviews Michael Oeming for Sketch magazine; reprinted in Bendis, Brian Michael and Oeming, Michael Avon, Powers TPB Vol. 6 – The Sellouts (Icon, 2004), ISBN 0-7851-1582-X
  7. ^ a b Bendis, Brian Michael and Oeming, Michael Avon, Powers TPB Vol. 3 – Little Deaths (Image, 2002), ISBN 1-58240-670-7
  8. ^ PI COMICS: Original Online Comics., Pop Image, accessed July 7, 2011.
  9. ^ a b Miller, J. J., Thompson, Maggie, Bickford, Peter & Frankenhoff, Brent, The Comic Buyer's Guide Standard Catalog of Comic Books, 4th Edition (KP Books, 2005) – "Powers", p. 1073
  10. ^ http://marvel.com/catalog/?id=13343
  11. ^ a b P! Online: Cast and Crew. Accessed June 15, 2008
  12. ^ Empire: 50 Greatest Comic Book Characters
  13. ^ Brian Michael Bendis, Michael Avon Oeming. "Who Killed Retro Girl?", Hidden Robot, accessed July 7, 2011.
  14. ^ Brian Michael Bendis, Michael Avon Oeming. "Roleplay", Hidden Robot, accessed July 7, 2011.
  15. ^ Brian Michael Bendis, Michael Avon Oeming. "Little Deaths", Hidden Robot, accessed July 7, 2011.
  16. ^ Brian Michael Bendis, Michael Avon Oeming. "Supergroup", Hidden Robot, accessed July 7, 2011.
  17. ^ Brian Michael Bendis, Michael Avon Oeming. "Anarchy", Hidden Robot, accessed July 7, 2011.
  18. ^ Melrose, Kevin. "Bendis confirms Powers TV series headed to FX". Comic Book Resources. February 6, 2009
  19. ^ http://spinoff.comicbookresources.com/2011/02/25/fx-greenlights-powers-pilot/
  20. ^ [1]
  21. ^ Bendis Says POWERS Pilot Is 'Filming In Just A Few Weeks'
  22. ^ Lucy Punch Set As The Female Lead In FX's Drama Pilot 'Powers'
  23. ^ a b Schneider, Michael. "TV's New Heroes", TV Guide, July 11, 2011, pages 18–19
  24. ^ Andreeva, Nellie. "Jason Patric Set To Star In FX's 'Powers'", Deadline Hollywood, June 21, 2011


External links