Alex Ross: Talking About the Black Terror

Ross & Krueger on The Black Terror

He was a popular comic book character throughout the bulk of the 1940s, and if Alex Ross, Jim Krueger and Mike Lily have their way, the Black Terror will be again.

As we’ve reported, Dynamite’s Project Superpowers universe will grow beginning in October as the Black Terror spins out of the main story into his own series, plotted by Alex Ross and Jim Krueger with pencils by Mike Lily , and covers and art direction by Ross.

As readers of Project Superpowers know, the Black Terror has been quite active…well, quite active since bring released from the magical urn that the Fighting Yank was tricked into trapping his allies in decades ago. Since his release, Terror has been shown to be more powerful than he ever was, and…edgy. He’s angry and confused both at what happened and the modern world he’s found himself in, and also, is desperate to find any hint of his sidekick Tim.

He may not sound like the poster boy for an spinoff, but he’s got potential, Ross says.

“He’s the one that, to us, seemed the most obvious for his own series,” Ross says of the character. “It’s the one that the publisher wanted to do a book on soonest, and so it just made the most sense. Not to mention, as we worked on the series, the Black Terror character became more and more important, and he made me a convert.”

To date, the character is the one shown to be having the most difficulty adjusting to life outside the urn, something that, according to Ross, helps to tighten the focus on how he is seen by his creators. “In the Black Terror, we have, in effect, a tormented Superman archetype. He’s sort of Superman wearing Batman’s borrowed costume. For me, he was the character that was motivating things a little more than the others – he’s got more passion than the others, and he’ll be making choices that affect movement going forward – especially when he’s viewing the world with a judgment toward how screwed up everything really is, and what can he, as a super-powered hero do about it?”

Ross has already tweaked and slightly redesigned the Black Terror’s costume, and along with the revitalized outfit, which will be drawn by Lily – along with many other costumes.

“Mike has to deal with all of the designs for returning characters as well as new characters that we’re creating,” Ross says. “For example, you’ll be seeing what became of the patriotic heroes of which there are quite a few from that time period. I put a list together of the ones that appealed to me and grouped them together – it’s sort of like a band of Captain Americas that will be facing off against the Black Terror. So Mike will get a chance to work with a lot of different costumes, and I’ll be keeping an eye on things.”

The character will also be returning to his roots in regards to his powers.

“The original origin for the Black Terror had his powers being a kind of drug effect,” Ross said. “He gained superhuman ability to the point where he could even stop a train. The super-powered aspects of the Black Terror were lost over the years when guys including Jerry Robinson [who also worked on Batman] turned him into a copycat caped crusader, but we’re taking him back to his original level of strength or even maybe a little more. It makes it clear that his threats aren’t hollow.”

And who will be the subject of those threats? That’s pretty simple, Ross explains – the character has come out of a decades-long imprisonment into a world that he doesn’t know, that doesn’t make sense, and, as he sees it, is corrupt to its core. It’s time for someone to change it, Ross continues – someone with a skull and crossbones on his chest.

“You’ve got the graphic symbol stuff at work – you’ve got the symbol of the Jolly Roger flag and a name that sounds like something provocative in today’s language,” Ross says. “He’s got ‘terror’ in his name, but he’s a hero. We’re kind of taking the flag of anarchy and waving it with brining this character to life in his own series, and asking, ‘What would he do in a modern America?’ What would a darkened Superman do in a modern America?”

Well, hold on to your answer, as Krueger gave us a hint when we spoke with him earlier, saying "The search for Tim is a catalyst to the story involved, but there's far more to it than Tim. Black Terror discovers that one of the former sidekicks (who could or could not be Tim) is being incarcerated by the president of the United States. This leads him to take off for Washington. We've been dealing with what new abilities each of the characters have assumed since their incarceration in the urn. When it comes to the Black Terror, diplomacy isn't one of his new strengths. It's going to get bad."

So, that said, what does a darkened Superman do?

The answer is simple, Ross says, twisting the classic Spider-Man catchphrase of gret responsibility coming with great power. “With great power comes great corruption,” he says. “And by ‘corruption,’ we’re talking about things along the lines of ‘You know what? I can change the world to fit my ideal of what it should be.’ If you’re looking at inadequacies in the government and culture around you; and you’re bristling with power, then you’re looking to head that on directly. That’s what’s occurring in the Black Terror series. He’s taking on a government that he sees as being corrupted from within, and taking the fight right to them. I mean, doesn’t my cover kind of say that?

“I heard a comment of the book from someone after they saw that cover saying that ‘Alex has gone too far now –this new cover he did with the Black Terror dive-bombing the White House. He can’t do that!’ To confront power and speak the truth to it – this is very much an issue for our time, and you should be able to do it at any time. It’s a story point, and something that’s very fitting for the world we live in. If we’re not taking the metaphorical charge that he’s taking in this comic book, if we’re not ready to do that, then we’re all a bunch of pussies.”

Black Terror #1 ships in October from Dynamite Entertainment.

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