The Hidden S in Phone Booth

Debuting last week (and hopefully appearing with some regularity) is a new column called "The Hidden S in Phone Booth." Your writer is Mark Rhodes, a man known within many magazine circles including The Christian Science Monitor, Opera and Wizard. He runs a site called the European Film Report that looks at the art of filmmaking, and will tackle whatever he feels like writing about (similar to Tedd in Hank McCoy (Before the Fur) except with less love of Dazzler). Hank McCoy (Before the Fur) has been moved to Fridays now, so be sure to check back in then if you want to see what else Tedd has to say about comics. The Michelangelo of Comics makes Project Superpowers a hot comic... Dynamite Entertainment has made a name for itself by stylishly resurrecting old properties that had apparently outlived the interest of the public. These properties are among the oldest costumed heroes in pulp literature: The Lone Ranger, Zorro, Buck Rogers and Red Sonja; most of this stuff predates comics (in the sense that we know them) by decades, yet somehow the company has given new life to these hoary old warhorses. Dynamite's Project Superpowers is easily the most high profile project the comic group has been associated with . As is the company's style, the series takes a number of Golden Age heroes from extinct and/or obscure comics publishers like Crestwood Publications, Fox Comics and Nedor Comics and dragged them into the 21st century. Ironically enough, most of Project Superpowers characters' copyrights have lapsed and they have been in the public domain for years. The beginning of this series finds an aging Bruce Carter III (aka The Fighting Yank) confronted by a spirit in the guise of an American flag who claims to represent "the blood of patriots" who gave their lives for the USA. Among this group are the superhero peers of Bruce Carter/The American Spirit. It seems that Carter fought for the OSS in the guise of the American Spirit and was given the responsibility of regaining Pandora's Box from Hitler, which in the mythos of PS was the cause of World War II. Ironically, the Box also contained "hope" which allowed for the appearance of several of the Golden Age superheroes who figure heavily in the series. This ghost makes Carter revisit the events and figures in his past and puts into motion the plot of the story. Almost every issue of the series has introduced a fascinating character into the world of PS. Of note are the Death-Defying Devil (a Precursor to Marvel's Daredevil), The Dynamic Family (an amalgam of the Fantastic Four and "The Four" in Warren Ellis' Planetary), The Black Terror (A mix of Batman, Hourman and the Punisher) and the Arrow (An Uber-Archer Forerunner to Green Arrow and Marvel's Hawkeye). Finally, there is the Green Lama, one of the most interesting footnote characters in comics' history as the first (and really only) Buddhist Superhero. Project Superpowers has attracted a couple of heavyweights in Alex Ross and Jim Krueger. Kreuger has written the scripts and he and Ross have story credits for the series. It is Ross, however, who provides the gravitational pull of the series with his mystique-laden and iconic covers. (The interior art is not his, but Ross provides character designs and art direction). Ross' work is not new to comic fans but his work continues to impress. Mainstream comics have had a lot of great stylists/Illustrators like Steve Ditko, Howard Chaykin, Neal Adams, Chester Gould, Alex Toth, etc. But Ross is the only comic artist who might be considered a transcendent artist on par with some of the immortals like Michelangelo, Da Vinci, or even Blake. Marvel has taken a similar tact with its series The Twelve which resurrects a number of the characters from Timely Comics (Marvel's original company). This series has not had the impact of Dynamite's Project Superpowers because of less distinctive art, lesser characters and a more confusing story line (which is less timely). The idea of looking to comics past to make it relevant in the present is an interesting and refreshing development and a signal that comics are departing the Dark Ages and entering a second Golden Age, and hopefully both the major and minor comic publishers will pay tribute to their history while expanding the mythology of their universe.