From murderous vigilantes to demonic possessions, the next installment of this year's Pilot Season series goes straight-up superhero with a twist with Stealth. The book, which is scheduled to come out on April 28th, centers around a man ordinary like you or I named Todd Carey whose life is in a bit of a rough patch recently. While recovering from a nasty divorce and trying to help his college daughter from failing her classes, he finds out his father has Alzheimer's. Although Todd's still trying to learn to live on his own after years of marriage, he takes in his father and unintentionally discovers a deeper secret: his father is a superhero.
"Through the simple circumstances of living in the same house with his father and him being absent-minded, Todd learns that his father is a superhero named Stealth," said writer Robert Kirkman. "Stealth's been in action for better part of his life. All those years growing up, Todd wondered why his dad wasn't around for t-ball and other things, but now he knows why – his dad was saving the world. Finding out about this aspect of his father's life is groundbreaking for him, but its difficult to talk to his father about it since he has Alzheimers."
While Kirkman's other superhero title Invincible is more a classic variety of the superhero genre, this book takes the enthusiastic creativity of cape fiction and plays it against real life struggles of a modern family.
"It's got a bit of superheroey-ness to it," Kirkman explains," but at its heart it's a situation about a man learning to live with his dad who has Alzheimer's. Since his father has this affliction, he may think he's attacking a bad guy when he's really just beating up a soccer mom. Todd's got to protect his father just as his father protected him and the world."
While operating under the guise of the tech-savvy flyer Stealth, Todd's father saved the world but also accumulated his fair share of enemies along the way. Those threats, along with the erratic behavior one would expect when dealing with Alzheimer's, puts a heavy toll on Todd's lap and his relationship with his father.
"The book really tackles the idea of what happens when superhuman vigilantes get old," said Marc Silvestri, who partnered with Kirkman on all of this year's titles. "Like so many of Robert's concepts, this one succeeds on his characterization. You really feel for these guys, you know?
Although the series promises some weighty subject matter, the creators also know how to weave in superheroic elements that they all know too well. Top Cow founder Marc Silvestri worked side-by-side with Kirkman to flesh out all of the Pilot Season books including this one, and this one gave him a chance to design a whole new superhero.
"This concept was difficult," said Silvestri," in that Robert didn't really have a concrete idea of what he wanted this superhero character to look like. We decided we wanted to have him be a technology-based hero. I've been exploring the idea of having technology possessing an organic quality, as well as different textures and materials playing up against each other. I also thought the idea of transparent wings was something cool to play with."
Although the character is going on in years, his superhero Stealth suit remains as cutting edge as it was when he first donned it many years ago.
"The suit Stealth wears allows the wearer to muffle sound, increase your strength and also has the ability to fly with the wing apparatus," said Kirkman. "It has all kinds of different bizarre technological advances, and one of the mysteries of the book that I hope to reveal if this series wins is where he got the suit from. Stealth has been running around with this since the 70s, but even today in the 21st century its still light years ahead of human technology."
Stealth is the third of five Pilot Season books coming out from Top Cow this year. In a unique twist from the publisher's first two iterations of this event, all five titles this year were written by a sole writer – Robert Kirkman – with Silvestri providing the designs for the characters and helping Kirkman flesh out his original rough ideas. Silvestri also drew each of the five issues cover, and worked closely to find the perfect artist for each project. For Stealth, he didn't have to look far when he found Sheldon Mitchell.
"Sheldon's actually been in the Top Cow studio for some time, studying with me and assisting me with backgrounds," explains Silvestri, who is well known in the industry for mentoring superstar artists such as David Finch and Michael Turner. "He's had a couple smaller projects with us, but recently he made a really great leap in his art and we thought this was a good time and opportunity to thrust him into the spotlight."
Mitchell, who previously worked on the Top Cow books Trinity: Blood on the Sands and the recent Witchblade Annual, is one of several artists who work in-house at Top Cow's studio dubbed "the pit".
"It's been awesome to work alongside Marc and Robert on this," said the young artist. "Marc's a great storyteller and having him around to keep me on my toes is great."
Each of the five artists chosen to draw this year's crop of Pilot Season books brings a different style and perspective to the concepts Kirkman and Silvestri dreamed up, giving each title a shot in the voting process to choose the winner for the unique competition. Just as in previous years, fans will vote online to see which titles they want to see expanded into a full series. Each year, the top two vote-getters are greenlit into the full series, but it's not an easy thing – in the first year alone, the Pilot Season competition garnered over four million votes from fans. With Kirkman helming all five projects, his thoughts aren't so much if he'll win or not but which of his creations fans will like best.
"It's a weird thing in that I don't have a stake into what exactly wins," explained the writer. "I think each of the five concepts have enormous potential to continue. I'm actually anxious to continue writing all five of them. I honestly want all five of them to win. Whichever two are in the winner's circle will bust out in miniseries of their own, but I honestly can't rule out the possibly of expanding the other ones in the future. I think it's a fun thing for readers, for retailers, and the Top Cow crew and me. I hope it's something people get behind and campaign for their favorite books."