18 years ago a giant rock plummeted from space and changed the world as we know it. No one died that day thankfully, but the town at ground zero was changed forever. Children born from that town ever since have been born with strange and unusual abilities – super powers – and now as they come of age they’re put to the test in a reality-style competition show that’s also the title of this comic series: America’s Got Powers.
Exploding from the minds of British TV personality Jonathan Ross and famed widescreen comic artist Bryan Hitch, America’s Got Powers is a six-issue Image series set to debut in April that follows a group of super-powered teens in televised competition for the chance to be in their world’s preeminent superhero team. But behind the curtain and outside of the cameras’ view, there’s a dark side to this superhero-as-celebrity world. America’s Got Powers pursues the idea of what it really takes to be a hero, and what happens to those in the contest – both winners and losers.
Ross and Hitch have front-loaded the series with two issues of America’s Got Powers set to release in April -- #1 April 11 and #2 April 25. We talked with Ross about the series, being a superhero, living as a celebrity, and working with Bryan Hitch
Newsarama: Jonathan, both of you hail from England where many of America’s big reality contest shows got their starts, but why did you decide to set this series in America?
Jonathan Ross: We are both VERY English, that's for sure. Bryan perhaps more so then me; I think he wears a monocle and tweed suit while drawing. But the kind of comics we both grew up with and loved the most were American. I love a lot of comics that are set here in the United Kingdom, but superheroes just seem to suit America more. The buildings, the size and scope of the country – everything lends itself to the superhero genre so well, and, of course, that is where they were born.
In one of the various drafts that we worked on as we inched towards the finished first book, we had the Event that creates these super-powered teens happen simultaneously in other parts of there world - over Paris, Dublin, Vancouver, North Korea... and there is still the possibility we might return to this world and follow what might have happened if this were a global event rather then just happening over San Francisco. But the decision to keep it streamlined was made in order to most effectively and economically tell the story we wanted to tell, in the time and space we had to tell it.Nrama: Who are the people vying for the winner’s circle on this competition show?
Ross The main character is Tommy, the one kid who, although born of the Event like all the others is the only one with no powers. But as you'll see from the book when it is published, it's not really about the competition. That’s the backdrop for the main story, which is about exploitation and control, suppression and maintaining the status quo despite changes from below. Sort of.
Nrama:What’s the format of the show? I read in the solicits about something called the Trials.
Ross: As we start our series the show has been running for a while and there are already several State-approved super heroes in action.
Ice, Blurr and Quarterback all feature pretty prominently the story. But the games are changing, becoming more brutal and the participants have next to no say in what happens to them during - or after the televised trials. The public doesn't know - and doesn't care to know- what goes on behind the scenes; the Powered Kids are a source of fascination and entertainment for them, but they are also wary of and a little scared by them - especially after the Riots that happened when the kids first became teenagers and reacted violently against the State's control over them. I really don't want to give too much away. There’s a pretty rich and thoroughly plotted back story that leads to the current situation - I hope it will lead to a very satisfying and exciting reading experience.
Nrama: Excerpt for the whole super powers thing, this looks straight out of our own world. How would you compare the world of America’s Got Powers to ours?Ross: It’s an enhanced version of our world. It’s Earth as we imagine it would be if a giant space rock had landed here 18 years ago and gifted super-powers to the newborn babies in one town. How would we react? How would we monitor their power, how would we try to control them or exploit them, and how would they feel about that? What would the effect of having a super-powered anomaly in the family have on the kid's parents or older and younger siblings? When the chance came to monetize these kids, who would benefit? How would the military try to use them? Industry? The sex trade? As they grew to be adults - which is when our story takes place - would they be able to break free and be true to what they are, or would they be kept in a sub-ordinate and oppressed ghetto to serve the 'greater good'?
These are some of the ideas we are juggling and playing with. But its also got a lot of fighting in it! Big, wide-screen Bryan Hitch style smack-downs!
Nrama: You mentioned established heroes and contest alums like Ice, Blurr and Quarterback. Will the super-team that everyone’s competing to join in this contest be a big part of the story?
Ross: By the end of the run, yes. We are still tinkering with the plot and the story-arcs, but we intend to end with a gigantic action sequence in which all the main players - the super-powers, the military, the businessmen who want to use the kids for their own gain - even those kids that have conveniently 'disappeared' - all take part in a huge battle royale to determine what the future will be. I got the easier job - I just have to write it down. Bryan's going to have to not speak to his friends or family for the next 6 months to get this finished!!
Nrama: How’d you and Bryan get together to do this project?
Ross: Two words. Mark. Millar. I loved the work Bryan did on Ultimates and the other books that he kind of designed the template for. So he felt like the perfect partner to try and make this story work with! And the pages I have seen so far are just off-the-scale great! The story-telling and the detail are exceptional. I think people are going to love what he has done. i know I do!Nrama: Since you’re a top figure in British television – have you ever done any of these talent judging shows like the ones America’s Got Powers is inspired by or been approached to host one yourself?
Ross: I've had a few feelers out to me and I would consider doing it if it wasn't just one of the singing competitions. I'd vote for and put through the least conventionally talented people on offer rather then go for the vanilla mainstream, so they probably wouldn't keep me for long!
Nrama: Can you tell us how your own life, and aspect of being a celebrity yourself, influenced the tangent of this story?
Ross: A little. I have first hand knowledge and exposure to the ruthlessness and cynicism that runs through the entertainment business. But it's not really about me, or real-life experiences. Its a gigantic 'What If?' - my favorite kind of science fiction and superhero