NYCC 2014: The Powers TV Show Will Be Very, Very Different

By bill - October 14, 2014

powers-logo-featThe small-screen adaptation of Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Avon Oemig’s great crime comic will tell a very different story.

Brian Michael Bendis and Sony Pictures Television hosted a panel on their new Powers series at NYCC, and they shared a lot more than the brand-new first trailer for the upcoming Playstation Network series.  The biggest takeaway from the panel?  The Powers TV show will most definitely NOT be a direct adaptation of the comic book series.

Bendis confirmed this directly at the panel, although based on the surprising casting choices and tone of the trailer, it seemed fairly obvious.  And I’m all for it– the comic is the comic, and we can all know that story by reading it… I kind of like the idea of familiar paths being walked by different characters, and drastically different versions of characters.  The Walking Dead has made great use of diverging from the comic book trajectory to the best results of the overall series, and after hearing Bendis talk and seeing some Powers footage, I am hopeful this show will follow suit.

So what’s going to be different?  Here’s some of the big takeaways I got:

Christian Walker, while still a former Power, is not the super-cop he is in the comics.  As played by Sharlto Copley, the TV version of Walker will be much more of a loose cannon.  His intimate knowledge of Powers makes him an asset for the police, but that doesn’t make him a good cop.  Perhaps even more interestingly, Walker’s former super hero self wasn’t that great, either, being described by Bendis as “the Charlie Sheen of super heroes.”  The theme of super heroes as celebrities will still be a major aspect of the series, but it seem like in the TV version, Walker will have always lived closer to the edge of that stardom, in every way possible.

In contrast to a wilder, less controlled Walker will be a more controlled Deena Pilgrim (Susan Heyward), who seems to be taking on a “Dana Scully” type of role, intended to keep an eye on Walker while serving as his partner.  Deena will serve as the one normal human amidst this world of super powered beings, grounding our view of their world through her eyes.  Based on the footage we saw– a riff on the side effects of sleeping with a Power bit from the comics– the TV version of Deena will start out a bit more critical of Walker, while he comes off as much more of a jackass than the no-nonsense detective of the comics.

Callista will also be a major player in the series, although the young woman whose powers are just developing will not be alone– she’s joined by Zora, in this version another young hero (hence her intentionally awful looking, DIY costume from the production photos that hit the web a few weeks ago).  According to Bendis both these young women represent the next generation of Powers… although he hints they will progress in this world in very different ways.

Much like in the books, Callista will look to Walker as a father figure, although she also feels that way about super powered gangster Johnny Royale (Noah Taylor), one of two Powers villains likely to have a much larger presence on the show than they did in the comics.  The other guy is Wolfe, played here by Eddie Izzard, who will receive much more screen time than his on-page alter ego, whose presence was felt more than seen.  Izzard assured fans his character’s relationship with Walker will still be “long and old,” but Wolfe will interact with many more characters than just the detectives over the course of the series.

The least-changed character will be Retro Girl, who is now the singularly most popular Power of all time.  The “Beyonce of super heroes” will be a major presence in the series, both as a character and as a beloved franchise, with everything from Retro Girl comic books to cartoons (drawn by the likes of David Mack, Mike Allred and Michael Avon Oeming) being seen throughout the city.  Oh, and she will still be alive when we meet her… Bendis didn’t say what comic book storyline will serve as the first arc of the TV show, but stated it will NOT be “Who Killed Retro Girl?”

When the first photos from the Powers show were released, I had my doubts.  I’m still not sold on the heavily saturated primary color pallet the show seems to employ, but the casting certainly makes more sense given the changes to the story that Bendis outlined in the panel.  Even the cheapness of things like Zora’s costume now leave me feeling more optimistic about this series, and I find the left turns from the source material to be more intriguing than disappointing.

There’s more potential than I expected in Powers’ small screen adaptation, and I’m actually really looking forward to checking it out now.  I loved the comic series for a lot of its run, and I’m quite curious how simple changes to the core of the story– like grounding loose cannon Pilgrim and allowing Walker to let his wild man out– will affect the overall experience.  We will know soon, as Powers is scheduled to hit the Playstation Network in late 2014, which is not as far away as it once seemed.

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