Mark your calendars, Powers fans, because Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming‘s vaunted superhero noir comic returns to television screens for its second season on May 31 on Sony’s PlayStation Network. On Saturday evening, cast members Susan Heyward (Deena Pilgrm), Olesya Rulin (Calista Secor), and Logan Browning (Zora) were joined by Bendis, Oeming, and showrunner Remi Aubochon for an Emerald City Comicon panel moderated by yours truly to shed some light on the upcoming second season, which by all accounts seems to be radically altered for the better.
While the creative team behind Powers admits there were some hurdles they encountered in the first season, they are confident about the future of the series, relishing the opportunity to make the series better by hearkening back to the source material.
“There were some things that we stumbled on, that we didn’t quite get right, and we had an opportunity in the second season to really make that work,” Aubuchon said. “Imprinting DNA of the actual book… allowed us to be inspired by Mike Oeming’s amazing vision and graphic style, which is not an easy task to translate to a television show, but I think we were fairly successful.”
Oeming clarified that it wouldn’t just be a carbon-copy of the comic book, though. “We recreated some scenes directly from the comics,” Oeming said. “Not slavishly so, but if you’re a fan of the comic, you’ll say, ‘Oh my god, I remember that!'”
The second season of Powers will follow the “Who Killed Retro Girl?” story arc, which kicked off the original comic book series. Retro Girl (Michelle Forbes) was essentially the biggest, most prominent, and well-liked Power in the world. Murdering her should be no easy task, but someone did it and her death has a profound ripple effect across the entire community. The power vacuum created by her demise, both for new heroes to rise to the occasion and villains to seize their chance for profit and plunder.
“In that story, every single beat of the investigation opens up the world of Powers, introducing it to you,” Bendis said. “In the show, this storyline will open up the world of Powers. Everywhere we go, there’s something new to look at, that you’re not going to see on other shows.”
“It wasn’t just, ‘a superhero died and she was really awesome,'” he continued. “Her presence kept things at bay. Almost immediately, those threats are empowered to try whatever nasty stuff they’re up to.”
Lucky fans in the Emerald City Comicon audience got a first-look at a scene from season 2 in which Calista reveals her new powers to Walker, which you can view below or on the PlayStation Blog:
These new powers are just part and parcel of Calista’s journey this season, according to Olesya Rulin. “[Her relationship with Retro Girl] was her life, it was the only positive thing she had to look forward to,” Rulin explained. “When her murder happens, I feel like Calista’s in such a state of shock.”
Although she will have to find her own way this season, Calista won’t be entirely on her own. In addition to Walker’s, ahem, unorthodox style of support, she finds a kindred spirit in newly minted cast member Wil Wheaton. “We clicked right away,” Rulin enthused. “He’s kind of my new mentor… and there’s a relationship there that I think a lot of people in the entertainment industry know, and you will find out if you watch the show.”
One thing that Wheaton did not expect when joining the cast of Powers was to be reunited with his Star Trek: The Next Generation co-star Jonathan Frakes. “We had this cool thing that happened to happen,” Bendis explained. “Wil Wheaton signed on to do this part, and Jonathan Frakes signed on to direct an episode. He had never directed him before. It was cool!”
Rulin added that in between takes, Wheaton and Frakes waxed nostalgic, catching up about both the good old days and what each had been up to in recent years.
As for the light-manipulating Zora, she is still reeling from her battle with Wolfe (Eddie Izzard) that landed her in the hospital. When she wakes up, she’s finally famous — but not for the reasons she wanted. “You don’t turn into season two and she’s [doing] well,” Browning said. “She’s not. You’ll see her struggle with the fact that she has this representation who was supposed to guide her, and they led her astray. Now she’s kind of on her own, and using that experience that she’s had to try to navigate this world, and find out where she fits in.”
Heyward also teased a potential love interest for Detective Deena Pilgrim in season two, one that will show “a side of her we didn’t see in season one.” While she didn’t mention exactly who Deena would be swiping right on, Heyward said, “We see Deena act out in a way that might be love, and might not be,” adding that it’ll put her in a “potentially vulnerable state.”
In addition to the sneak peek at season two, the creators also revealed a brand new title sequence, which was designed in part by Oeming:
“We wanted to find a very distinctive voice,” said Oeming of the title sequence. “[Something] comic book-y, but not too comic book-y.”
Much like other streaming series like Jessica Jones, Powers‘ home on the PlayStation Network allows it certain creative freedoms not found within the confines of network and cable television. “The road of making a Powers television show was very long,” Bendis told the audience.
The show, which was first optioned in 2000, went through a lengthy development process, with a pilot starring Jason Patric shot for FX in 2011. Finally, in 2014, Powers found its new home at PlayStation where it became the first piece of original scripted content for the PlayStation Network.
“We’re an adult show for an adult audience made by adults, and sometimes we go into places that network shows can’t go,” Bendis explained. “We always were in good hands with good people, but even at FX when we were making that pilot, we were always, ‘They don’t have anything like this.'”
From an acting perspective, Powers is a dream come true in that it provides complex, multifaceted female roles for its actors to dig their teeth into. “It’s one of the best examples of a female role, that has been empowered in such a beautiful way,” Rulin said of the show. “In other shows, there’s a strong female protagonist and she’s just surrounded by everyone else,” Heyward elaborated. “In this world, there are strong women everywhere.”
Powers season 2 premieres on May 31, 2016 on PlayStation Network.