As A Place To Hang Your Cape readers are avid superhero fans, you will probably be familiar with a novel series called Powerless by Tony Cooper, set in a world where superheroes are outlawed. The series is now making the jump into the comic medium in the form of Powerless: Some Kind Of Hero (Kickstarter), so we spoke to Cooper for more info.
AP2HYC: So this is set in the same world as the Powerless novel series?
Cooper: Yes, it’s the same world and features two of the main characters of the books, Martin and Hayley.
The Powerless world is an alternate version of Britain today, where superheroes have been known about since the late 1800s. More recently, in the 1990s, the government banned superhero teams and the use of powers in public and brought in a registration and testing system. There are a few state-run teams that work with the police and Powered Crime Agency, but most Heroes can’t use their abilities any more. In the novels, Martin was an old 80s/90s Hero in Element City, but has since retired. He is then brought back into the Hero life by Hayley, a teleporter who saves his life and convinces him to become her mentor.
Chronologically, the comic takes place after the second book, Killing Gods, but the story is self-contained, so you don’t have to have read either of the books to follow it. If you *have* read the books however, you should be able to spot some little nods to past events.
AP2HYC: How did you find the transition from writing novels to writing a comic book?
Cooper: The main difference is you don’t need to write any text for description of people or places unless it is absoutely required i.e. a major plot element, or a character comments on something. So this allowed me to focus more on the dialogue and internal monologue of Hayley.
So, I started out trying to write to a standard comic book template, but when I decided to do the art myself I realised I didn’t need to write long descriptions of locations and actions since it was all in my head anyway. Instead I did a brief outline of events by page – which was quite similar to writing a novel, where I create an outline by chapter – then moved on to thumbnail page layouts informed by what I wanted to write.
At that point the art took over and I didn’t write any more. I had to “let go” of the writing while I did the art and have the confidence that when I came back to the script for the final polish, I would know what needed updating based on the art I had done. It’s been quite freeing, albeit a little scary. I’ve never combined the writer and artist in me at the same time, but they seem to be agreeing on most things. Right now I’m just hoping it all works out in the end!
AP2HYC: Can you talk about our heroine, Hayley Turner, and how she goes about her duties?
Cooper: Hayley is a Police Constable in the Element City Police Department, a job she has been in for about four years now. She loves her job and wouldn’t swap it for anything. Unless that “anything” was using her powers to stop crime instead. For her, the job is a means to help people, to do what she isn’t allowed to with her powers. Unfortunately, she has managed to get away with concealing her powers all her life, which means she is technically breaking the law by working for the police, which causes her no end of guilt.
Outside of her day job, she partners up with Martin and they investigate organised crime in the city. She is desperate to prove herself to this old superhero, someone she looked up to as a child, and use her abillities to stop crime. But even in this role, she knows it all has to happen in the shadows because no-one can find out about her powers.
So she flip-flops between these two parts of her life constantly, and this is the dilemma the comic focuses on.
AP2HYC: What about the art style?
Cooper: I have no idea what the art style is to be honest. I mean, I’ve been drawing on and off since I was a child, but this is the biggest and longest stretch of work I’ve ever done. I attend life drawing classes where I tend to focus on realism, so I guess this has carried across into the comic. I haven’t tried to emulate any famous comic artists or styles, at least consciously, but I did my own research into digital comic drawing and colouring and just took it from there.
Oh yes, and it’s also the first digital work I’ve done, so I haven’t taken on much of a challenge have I!
AP2HYC: Can we expect more from the Powerless series?
Cooper: Absolutely! When the comic is finished, I will be diving straight into the third book in the series – the plan being to have that out before the end of the year. As for after that, I have ideas for future stories, and I already know how it will all end, so I’m sure there will be more to come.
There will probably be no more Powerless comics however. By the time it’s done, this 24 page comic will have taken the same number of months to complete and publish as a 125k word novel! If I ever do dip my toe into comics again I will either have to find an artist other than myself, or just go black and white. That’s only two colours, so that must be simpler, right? 🙂
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