The animation franchise Ben 10 was created by a brain trust of comics creators, so it’s only fitting it come to comics. And after a brief hiatus, Cartoon Network’s Ben 10 is back with a comic new series from IDW Publishing launching this November. Set squarely within the Ben 10: Omniverse era of the franchise, this comic series features the Omnitrix wielder along with his new partner Rook, Gwen, Kevin, Grandpa Max and the whole gang – friend and foe.
“This is a fun, deeper look at the current Ben 10: Omniverse series, filled with spies, aliens, secret lairs and plenty of action,” says artist Gordon Purcell, who illustrates the first arc. “Plus the series uses the fresh design work that Man of Action came up with for Omniverse, so this series looks quite cool!”
Although Ben 10 is new to IDW, Purcell is a experienced artist – especially when it comes to Ben Tennyson. Purcell illustrated several of the origin stories for the Ben 10 comics inside DC’s Action Packs comics, and has a history of science fiction working ranging from Star Trek to Lost In Space and even Godzilla. Purcell is joined on IDW’s Ben 10 series by Jason Henderson, author of the Alex Van Helsing prose novel series published by HarperTeen.
“In Ben 10, there’s a lot of that same feel of a teenager who gets to straddle his world of school and youth and also the professional adventurer world of spies, vehicles, tech and close calls as in the Ales Van Helsing series,” says Henderson, who also wrote the Image Comics’ series Sword of Dracula. “We've got homages to all of Ben 10 as well as great adventures like 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Voyage to the Bottom of Sea, even the old undersea kingdom serials that starred people like Gene Autry and Ray 'Crash" Corrigan. I really wanted to cement Ben 10 as part of the great tradition of young heroes in wild adventures. We've got underwater battles, clowning on the ship, icy battles in the frozen north, James-Bond-climax-style commando raids, and even some genuinely mind-blowing Aquaman-style sea creature encounters.”
In this first arc, “Deep Trouble,” Grandpa Max is set to take Ben and his friends on a cruise vacation, but as viewers of Ben 10 will attest things are never that easy.
“Well, if you're you or me, we go on vacation and get sunburn. Adventurers go on vacation and always get more adventure,” Henderson tells Newsarama. “There were a lot of things we could do, and in fact I pitched several ideas to IDW to start with. But the one we landed on was easily my favorite -- Ben and his grandfather and close friends are all going on a cruise vacation, and naturally he gets sucked into an adventure that takes place mostly on the ocean.”
“The team comes aboard a cruise ship,” Purcell adds, “but instead of swimming and shuffleboard, they discover secret worlds, merpeople and a serpent army! Can a hero get a break here to work on his tan?”
Inspired by an old Sherlock Holmes radio adventure starring Basil Rathbone, Henderson puts Ben and the gang on a path that’ll lead him into the crosshairs with a villain from young Tennyson’s past; one with scales and a lisp.
“Ssserpent is back, and this time he's terrorizing a completely unknown alien city that Ben discovers,” the writer says of the villain last seen in the Ben 10: Ultimate Alien series. “To reveal more would be to give too much away! But I love Ssserpent's ship, which is all new and patterned after the ship in Voyage To The Bottom of the Sea.”
But Ben’s trip isn’t all bad news, as this ocean excursion also brings him into contact with a new interest – a love interest, who happens to be a mermaid.
“This is a minor spoiler but what the heck. Her name is Lorelai and she is a mermaid, an honest-to-Lori-Lemaris mermaid. Because what undersea adventure doesn't involve meeting and falling in love with a headstrong mermaid?” Henderson reveals. “Much less a mermaid who can fight, who pilots her own one-man fighter, and who is the chosen hero of her hidden city. She is funny and clever, and every bit Ben's equal. In this story, Ben meets Lorelai and gets wrapped up in her city's problems, which are about to spill out to the rest of the world.”
As mentioned earlier, Ben 10 has a pedigree in comics although animation is its first home; the animated series was created by a group of comics alum called Man of Action, comprised of Joe Kelly, Joe Casey, Steven T. Seagle and Duncan Rouleau.
“These guys already brought to this animated series a sense of long continuity, which, let's face it, as much as we run from it is what kids actually love about comics,” Henderson says. “The sense of ‘Is there more of this? Tell me there's more, going back and going fore!’”
Upon its release in November, the Ben 10 comic series will join a burgeoning line of Cartoon Network books finding their home at IDW. Powerpuff Girls launches this month, with Samurai Jack launching in October. It’s part of an expansive partnership between the publisher and Cartoon Network that will eventually grow to include titles for Dexter’s Laboratory, Johnny Bravo and another Man of Action creation, Generator Rex.
And while not all animated series translate well into comics form, between it’s pedigree, it’s creators, the art style and the story itself, Ben 10 seems like an ideal comic – even if it was a animated series first, Henderson says.
“Ben is perfect for comics; he's 16 years old, responsibilities are starting to pile on, but he's still very young,” says the writer. “In a comic you can hear what he's thinking the way you can't in a cartoon-- this is the first time you hear Ben think. And just like Spider-Man, just because someone is all snappy patter and bravado on the outside doesn't mean they're that way inside. Inside, you gotta figure this is a young man who has saved a lot of lives. It's rough and punishing, and he wants a vacation.”
And this coming November in the new Ben 10 comic series, Tennyson and crew will get that vacation – and all that comes with it.