As DC gets closer to releasing the Great Ten mini-series, and readers get closer to seeing Grant Morrison's Chinese super-team finally take center stage, Newsarama is shining a spotlight on the characters.
Beginning in November, the 10-issue Great Ten series by writer Tony Bedard will explore the characters who debuted in 52. Headquartered within the Great Wall of China, the team is made up of 10 government-regulated "super-functionaries" with literally translated names who are controlled through the bureaucracy of the Chinese government.
The characters appeared in 52 and Checkmate, but this mini-series will be the first opportunity readers have to see the characters fleshed out, as Bedard and artist Scott McDaniel tell the story of their battle with ancient gods of China.
To help readers make sense of who's who in the Great Ten and what all those names mean, Newsarama is doing a series of re-introductions to the 10 characters who make up the Great Ten, while discussing with Bedard what role they play in his upcoming mini-series.
This week, we focus on Thundermind and Immortal Man-in-Darkness.Thundermind
Real Name: Zou Kang.
Power: Thundermind is a "Bodhisattva," which means he has the powers listed in the Buddhist siddhis, which include everything from super-speed to flying to the ability to increase or decrease his size. He has also been said to have a type of telepathy and extra-sensory perception.
What Makes the Character Unique: "In a way, Thundermind is China's Superman," Bedard explained. "Like Superman, he leads a double life. When he's not Thundermind, he's a nebbishy school teacher named Zou Kang, in love with fellow teacher Ms Wu, who only has eyes for Thundermind. But in his heroic guise, he's the most popular and beloved member of the Great Ten -- bright and telegenic, unfailingly polite and possessing a multitude of powers. Of course, he's also a reflection of his own culture, especially of the Buddhist tradition. In fact, his superpowers are actually "siddhis" or Buddhist supernatural abilities, and they stem from an ancient scripture he translated which contained his magic phrase or mantra, 'All hail the jewel in the lotus.' That phrase is to Zou Kang what 'Shazam' is to Billy Batson. When he utters it, he's transformed.
His Personality: "Thundermind is the purest, least morally conflicted member of the Great Ten," Bedard said. "This is a guy who would never lie or cheat -- a real positive role model. Nice to kids, loves animals, all that stuff. This is partly because as Thundermind he is an enlightened soul. His mantra allows him to tap the "overmind" -- the hidden evolutionary potential that resides within every human being, but which we seldom access at all. And knowing that keeps him humble, because he knows he's not superhuman. He's what any human could and should be."
What Part the Character Plays in the Great Ten mini-series: "Each of the Great Ten has their own home turf, their own favorite city or hometown. For Thundermind, it's Beijing, and when the God of War attacks downtown Beijing, Thundermind has a very public battle with him," Bedard said. "I don't want to give away too much about that fight, since it comprises the bulk of issue #3, but Thundermind has to use every one of his powers, and he comes away with a key insight to battling the old gods invading China.
Added info from Tony Bedard: "Stanley Lau is doing absolutely stunning covers for the series, and I think his Thundermind cover is my favorite!"
Real Name: Unknown. The character's identity changes because the suit worn by Immortal Man-in-Darkness eventually destroys its wearer.
Power: The suit worn by Immortal Man-in-Darkness is actually a semi-living spacecraft that bonds to the wearer and gives him incredible powers, but unfortunately, it slowly kills him at the molecular level. Powers while wearing it include flight, shape-shifting, body armor, grappling arms, an internal computer, space and ocean flight, and the ability to diffuse into a smoke-like substance.
What Makes the Character Unique: "Immortal Man-in-Darkness is the ultimate jet pilot, so I approached his issue more like a war comic than the others so far," Bedard said. "This is an elite pilot from the Chinese Air force who is recruited to fly the most advanced fighter plane on earth, the Dragonwing.The plane is half-alive, a mix of stealth technology and captured alien tech. Together, the Dragonwing and Immortal Man-in-Darkness have a symbiotic relationship. But the downside is that flying the Dragonwing slowly kills the pilot, so they need to keep a whole team of pilots trained and ready. He's not really immortal, he just keeps getting replaced."
His Personality: "Immortal Man-in-Darkness is all about duty," Bedard said. "He'd have to be, considering he knows what his fate will be and yet he volunteers, anyway. He's also all about pushing himself and his talent as far as he can. He symbolizes the selfless sacrifice of the armed forces and the death-defying fearlessness of a Top Gun personality."
What Part the Character Plays in the Great Ten mini-series: "Immortal Man-in-Darkness protects China's largest city, Shanghai," Bedard said. "When the God of Wind whips up a tornado amongst its skyscrapers, our guy is there to stop him. But the Dragonwing hesitates for some reason, not wanting to attack the God of Wind. The reason why this happens, combined with what Thundermind found out, really blows the lid off the secret behind the gods' return."
Added info from Tony Bedard: "One thing I really love is Scott McDaniel's design for the God of Wind. In the ancient tradition, Feng Po, the God of Wind, was this old man who carried a cloth sack in which he kept the four winds. Neat idea but not a really compelling comic book visual. Scott designed our guy with this billowing hooded cloak that puffs up with air, sort of like he's wearing the bag of winds. It's the sort of really smart design work that totally knocks me out!"
* For much more art from The Great Ten featuring Thundermind and Immortal Man-in-Darkness, including interior pages from issues #3 & 4, click here.
** And click here for parts 1 and 2 - Accomplished Perfect Physician and Celestial Archer.