It's one of those headlines that seems to crop up every three months as though it were on a timer. Really, I might as well have had it in my datebook for the start of July: "Write a story about how Powers still isn't dead."
Sure enough, last week creator Brian Michael Bendis confirmed that the FX adaptation of his noirish superheroes-as-cops graphic novels is still in development, despite having been killed off more times than Daniel Jackson.
Bendis Reassures Us
Bendis posted the latest don't-toe-tag-us-yet notice on his Tumblr page: "Based on the pilot, the network ordered a handful of new scripts for new episodes and the writers should be handing them in soon. It's slow and steady but we are still alive."
Is this what you call "development hell"? I'm not so sure. The term development hell to me suggests big egos looking to twist a project in all sorts of unnatural directions, as with the fifth Superman movie in the Nineties, or legal wrangling over rights and royalties.
That's not what's going on here. I think what happened is that Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming created such a potent and original work that it simply didn't convert into television effectively the first time around. If anything we should be thankful that producer-writer Charles Eglee and FX president John Landgraf were smart enough to fly the yellow flag on this one, and try to make sure that their adaptation was both effective television and did right by the the genius of the original Powers comic.
Thieves Won't Kill It
The other big brain involved in developing Powers, Eglee, concurred with Bendis that Powers lives. He confirmed that Powers is still in active development during an appearance on the Nerdist Writer's Panel podcast.
Some had figured that the final nail in the Powers coffin would be AMC's ordering of Robert Kirkman's Thief of Thieves -- which Eglee would also be developing and showrunning. But Eglee insisted that his work on Thieves would not stop Powers. (After all, nothing else has.) Eglee's denial was recorded a few weeks ago, when it was first made known that Thieves was being pitched to AMC with Eglee's name on it.
"Unfortunately, the announcement of Thief of Thieves this last week was interpreted by a lot of people that that somehow put Powers in limbo, and that's not the case at all," Eglee said. "We're actively moving forward."
Ex-God Fights Crime
In the podcast, Eglee talked about Powers and its focus on the main character, ersatz-hero-turned-detective Christian Walker.
"We're actively moving forward with Powers," he said. "It's really about Christian Walker's journey. This guy is… sort of The Man Who Fell to Earth. He was this Olympian god who had powers and was immortal, and he sort of got thrown out. And now, here he is walking the Earth with mere mortals and trying to put it together."
A first season of Powers would likely hinge on the comic storyline of "Who Killed Retro Girl," he said. Eglee also explained his take on the series.
"My background is really more kind of cop stuff; cop and law," he said. "And my approach to the show was a little more superhero-adjacent as opposed to it being a superhero show because I really don't know much about that world, and I'm not particularly adept in telling those stories. So I was approaching it as if it was a straight cop show. It just so happens that the world was populated by these entities that have various powers and abilities and are able to create mayhem that our guys have to deal with in a legitimate cop procedural way."
The Amazing Journey
Just the timeline for Powers would constitute the storyline for a great series about getting a comic book TV show made.
March 2011: FX orders a pilot. Bendis: "It's a cop show in a superhero world."
May 2011: Charles S. Dutton cast as Captain Cross.
June 2011: Lucy Punch cast as the female lead, Deena Pilgrim.
June 2011: Jason Patric cast as Christian Walker.
July-August 2011: Filming of the pilot, in and around Chicago.
October 2011: A publicity still is released, showing Patric as Christian Walker.
November 2011: FX announced it's not ordering Powers, but asks Eglee to retool the show. The rewrites will require extensive reshooting of the pilot. Bendis: "The reshoots are planned for January and are all about tone and clarity."
January 2012: FX delays the reshoot, engaging Bendis and Eglee in more talks about the tone and thrust of the show. Landgraf: "Right now we're in the process of deciding whether to pull the trigger on the reshoot."
February 2012: Lucy Punch, who played female lead Deena Pilgrim, leaves Powers. Bendis: "Though Lucy Punch has moved on, Powers TV is not dead."
April 2012: More scripts are ordered, but reshoots and retooling are still under discussion.
April 2012: Khary Payton, who plays Kutter in the pilot, confirms that the entire cast has been "released."
June 2012: Bendis confirms that Powers is "still alive" at FX.
I've already flipped ahead in my calendar to the end of September and scribbled in, "Powers is still alive." Here's hoping.