Project Superpowers is a comic book limited series (eight issues, numbered 0 to 7) published by Dynamite Entertainment beginning January 2008. It is co-plotted by Jim Krueger and Alex Ross, with scripts by Jim Krueger, covers by Alex Ross, and finally interior art by Doug Klauba and Stephen Sadowski. Ross is also art director, which includes sketched pages, colour guides, and redesigns of most of the characters.
The series resurrects a number of Golden Age superheroes originally published by companies including Fox Comics, Crestwood Publications and Nedor Comics, many of whom are in the public domain, including the protagonist, Fighting Yank.
The characters include:
The beginning of the story depicts an aging Bruce Carter III, formerly the Fighting Yank, confronted by a spirit that comes in the form of a fluttering American flag and claims to be “the blood of [...] patriots” who died for America, including the Golden-Age superheroes who were Carter’s friends and colleagues. This “American Spirit” visits Carter in 2008, sixty years after World War II
, to force him to make recompense for his own actions during and after the war, which are revealed in flash-back.
Carter, working for the OSS, was ordered to retrieve Pandora’s Box, which had by unexplained means found its way into Hitler’s hands. The box had, since Ancient times, reabsorbed all of the evils that were released from it in the myth, but Hitler had opened it and released them again, thus starting World War II. The box had also contained hope, however, and that hope (according to Carter’s superiors) had created the Golden Age of superheroes. Thus Carter was ordered not just to retrieve the box, which is in this series depicted as an urn, but to use it to trap all his fellow superheroes inside it along with all the evil spirits that Hitler released from it. Carter’s spirit guide — the ghost of his own Revolutionary War-era great-grandfather, Bruce Carter I — corroborates the US Military's theory and urges Carter to follow their orders.
Carter traps The Flame in the urn at the end of WWII, while they're fighting the Japanese on the same day that America bombed Nagasaki. After the war, Carter, who “was now CIA sanctioned,” continues trapping heroes in the urn, both his compatriots from the war and new heroes who appear. Thus, in the contemporary world of the story, there are implicitly no superheroes left in the world. The American Spirit tells Carter, however, that instead of stopping evil, which has continued in the world, he merely trapped those who could have fought it. An argument ensues between the ghost of Bruce Carter I and the American Spirit in which they both try to convince Carter III of what to do now; either nothing, because he did the right thing in the 1940s and ’50s, or try to free the superheroes who are in the urn, because he’d condemned them to purgatory. Carter III eventually believes the American Spirit, who tells him to consult his one World War II colleague, the Green Lama, who had returned to Tibet after the war to pursue his Buddhist meditations.
The series will, then, eventually free the trapped superheroes and, most likely, set the stage for a superhero universe to be published by Dynamite Entertainment.
The story is set in a present-day world that’s different from our own; it’s implied that the absence of the world’s heroes allowed the United States to become a virtual dictatorship, with the Dynamic Forces corporation manipulating world events for the sake of order and profit. The Police Corps consists of armored officers who show no mercy, wars are being waged for nothing more than business reasons, and even free speech is heavily restricted. In addition to all this, a terrorist movement called “The Claw” (which may or may not be related to the Golden Age villain of the same name) is active around the world. It’s into this setting that the released heroes first emerge.
The following synopses are of the issues that have been released so far:
#0: Last Gleaming
This issue is described in the above Plot section. The title is from the lyrics to The Star-Spangled Banner
#1: The Rumors of My Demise...
Bruce gets to Shangri-La and tells the Green Lama everything; the Lama agrees to help him. They magically travel to New York, where the Dynamic Man and his robotic “family” (who make up an enormous corporation called Dynamic Forces) try to destroy them; Bruce succeeds in breaking the urn, and the Black Terror appears and joins the fight.
The title is from a famous quote by Mark Twain.
#2: ...The Whites of Their Eyes
The good guys make their getaway to Shangri-La. The Terror says that he can’t forgive Yank for what he’s done, and intends to eventually kill him. Meanwhile, other heroes appear elsewhere; The Death-Defying ’Devil rescues a female police officer named Justine during a riot in France
, and The Flame appears near the Hollywood Sign
. Also, two heroes who weren’t trapped in the urn — The Scarab and Samson — meet in the war-torn Middle East
, where F-Troops are trying to destroy oil
supplies so that Dynamic Forces can make a profit.
The title is part of a famous quote by Colonel William Prescott during the Battle of Bunker Hill.
#3: Proof Through the Night
Using tracers that were placed on the Black Terror without his knowledge, the Dynamic Family’s soldiers (who are modeled after the American Crusader
) locate and invade Shangri-La. The Green Lama evacuates the civilians while the Terror and Yank fight the soldiers, but the Yank is attacked and apparently killed in the battle. Meanwhile, more heroes appear; Masquerade (who has amnesia
) encounters V-Man in Japan
, The Flame reunites with Hydro, and Mr. Face appears in a Spanish
-speaking country (which one is not yet clear).
This title, like that of #0, is from the lyrics to The Star-Spangled Banner.
#4: ...Undimmed by Human Tears
The Dynamic Family is forced to abandon New York, which is now overrun with plant life thanks to the Green Lama; the Lama relocates the people of Shangri-La to New York, which he dubs New Shangri-La. The Black Terror is sent to round up all the emerging heroes and bring them to the Lama (Justine comes along with ’Devil). Meanwhile, Scarab shows Samson the nature of the F-Troops, which are reanimated corpses (who all resemble the Frankenstein Monster
); the Fighting Yank, who’s being kept alive by his power cloak, learns that his ancestor had been using him from the beginning to break his own curse; and Pyroman appears and rescues Hydro and Flame from the Police Corps, only to be de-powered by the Dynamic Boy.
The title is from the lyrics to America the Beautiful.
#5 (No title)
Pyroman “kills” the robotic Dynamic Boy to stop him from killing The Flame, just before Pyroman, Flame, and Hydro are spirited away by The Black Terror; the Terror later goes to the aid of Samson and Scarab. In New Shangri-La, V-Man is kept in quarantine
because, transformed by his time in the urn, he now causes anyone who comes near him to become seriously ill. The Dynamic Family have a well-publicized funeral
service for Dynamic Boy, and tell the world that the heroes are actually terrorists who must be stopped. Other emerging heroes include The Target and Targeteers in Amsterdam
, and The Arrow in Tibet
; unaware of his surroundings or of how much time has passed, The Arrow inadvertently fires three arrows
into Fighting Yank’s chest.
#6: ...The Perilous Fight
In his mind, Fighting Yank “sees” how his ancestor let vital information get into enemy hands by stopping for a drink during a mission. The American Spirit tells the dying Yank that his allies are in danger, and that the only way to help them is to take his ancestor’s curse upon himself, but the ancestor refuses to let him do it. Meanwhile, the heroes travel to the Middle East to aid Samson and the Scarab, but unknown to them the soil in the region has been treated by The Supremacy — a secret council that commands Dynamic Man and his corporation — so that no vegetable growth is possible there; the Green Lama is powerless to get them out of the Middle East, and he is suddenly aging.
The title is from the lyrics to The Star-Spangled Banner.
Free Comic Book Day special
On May 3
, there was a Free Comic Book Day
special edition of Project Superpowers
; in the story, which takes place after issue #7 of the miniseries, the heroes wonder if The Claw is still alive and reflect on ’Devil’s history with him.
Starting with #1, each issue includes a two-page layout of Golden Age character sketches by Alex Ross and inLight (sic
) Studio. Most of the layouts feature over a dozen characters each, some of whom now have altered names or nicknames to avoid trademark conflicts; e.g., “Hydroman” is now the name of a Spider-Man
villain, so the original Hydroman is now called Hydro.
- Issue 1: Hydro (Hydroman), Fighting Yank, Silver Streak, Captain Future, The Woman in Red, The Target and The Targeteers, Cat (Cat-Man) and Kitten, The Owl, Strongman, Major Victory, and Dynamic Man and Dynamic Boy.
- Issue 2: The Green Mask and Domino, U. S. Jones, Blue Bolt, Sub-Zero Man, Captain Battle and Captain Battle Jr., Death-Defying ’Devil (Daredevil), Black Terror and Tim, Amazing-Man, The Arrow, Vulcan, Pyroman, and The Liberator.
- Issue 3: Lash Lightning and Lightning Girl, Mr. Raven (The Raven), Unknown Soldier, The Sword, The Flag, The Green Lama, The American Crusader, The American Eagle, Skyman, Mr. Face (The Face), Marvelo, Captain Courageous, and The Super-American.
- Issue 4: The Flame and Flame Girl, “Big Blue” (Blue Beetle) and Sparky, Samson and David, V-Man and the V-Boys, Cyclone, Grim Reaper, Jack (Yellowjacket), Black Venus, The Hood, and Rocketman and Rocketgirl.
- Issue #5: The Green Giant, Phantasmo, The Boy King and his Giant, and The Claw.
- Issue #6: Man O’ Metal, The Boy King, Golden Lad, Rainbow Boy, Airman, Radior, Man of War, The Black Owl, Yank & Doodle, Sparkman, Doc (Doc Strange), and The Dart & Ace.
There will be a number of spin-off limited series
from this series including:
- Krueger's Golden with "Superpowers", Comic Book Resources, October 9, 2007
- CSN@NRAMA: Ross, Sadowski and Barrucci on Superpowers, Newsarama, October 18, 2007
- Sadwoski Talks Superpowers & Shows Art, Newsarama, October 29, 2007