Power Rangers are teens with tendencies for a reason. Like all young superheroes, when they reach unimaginable strength, their youth paints a wonderful contrast of the responsibility to grow into young. But what happens when someone who has already grown up attains this power?
This is where Radiant Black comes in. Written by Kyle Higgins Power Rangers and Rise of Ultraman, and by art Marcelo Costa (modeled on the Power Rangers fame, with work on Firefly, Self / Made and more) and characters by Becca Carey, the new Image Comic series follows the life of potential novelist Nathan Burnett. Because of the writer’s luck finding himself returning to his hometown and the life he thought he had left behind, Nathan actually finds the remainder of his life completely upside down when a glowing light transforms him into a psychomotor superhero.. .
You have a great sense of the kind of personal conflict and weird superheroes, not only in Higgins and Costa’s previous work with Power Rangers going on at Boom Studios, but the roots of the series are greater than life in the world of tokusatsu heroes in Japan. To learn more about the new series, io9 chatted with Higgins and Costa via email about the inspiration, collaborating on a creator-owned shot that evokes the perks they loved and worked on, and making a more mature hero take account of the growing pains of adulthood.. Check all of that, plus an exclusive look inside the # 1 Radiant Black pages below!
James Whitbrook, io9: Why do you think it’s time to focus on a creator-owned chain like this one?
Kyle Higgins: Well first of all, creator owned comics are very important to me. They’re scratching a completely different itch from Work-for-Hire, and while I haven’t had a new series owned by a creator since The Dead Hand, I have got many more.. Building worlds is fun – building worlds for yourself is even more fun.
The Radiant Black background – including a miniature black hole as a source of superpowers, how it works and where it came from – was something I’ve been thinking about since I left the Power Rangers. Whenever I’ve been involved with Tokusatsu over the years – with series like Kamen Rider, Ultraman, Super Sentai, etc.. The more I get acquainted with their conventions, scope, and different themes in storytelling, the more I find myself thinking about how these elements intersect with what we traditionally think of as superheroes in America.. My first real steps in blending these styles were with the Rangers, and now, of course, I’m writing Ultraman with one of my favorite people and writers, Mat Groom.. But even before Marvel arrived at Ultraman, I knew I wanted to build something of my own influenced by certain aspects of tokusatsu, filtered through a very personal lens..
Then, late last year, Eric Stevenson and I (photo publisher and chief creative officer) were talking about contemporary superhero comics and whether there was a place for something entirely new.. I told him building a chain like this would be an absolute dream, and by some coincidence, I was actually juggling something in that space.. . .
io9: Tell me a little how you came up with the ideas that formed the basis of Radiant Black.
Higgins: There are two central ideas at the core of this book. The first is what I was just talking about – transforming superpowers via a miniature black hole, and all the construction of the cosmic world and the mysteries accompanying it..
The second idea is more personal. About a character named Nathan Burnett, a 30-year-old writer whose dream since he was a teen was to become the next great crime novelist in Los Angeles, like his hero Raymond Chandler. But, despite having been in Los Angeles and working on it for nearly eight years, Nathan and his writing did not gain much attention.. In fact, Nathan might have missed his shot. Thus, with mounting debt and his only source of money from joint leadership, he must return to his home in Illinois.
Hideaki Anno, the guy who gave us the Neon Genesis Evangelion, is already starting to excite . . .
This is a Jill story – not in the sense of « fathers and sons » (though, we do have some of that, as Nathan has returned to live with his parents). What I am referring to is more about the principles of our time. The thing that keeps me awake at night, increasingly, is how much the world and the workplace have changed since then, for example, my parents were my age. How many people do I know who, at one point or another, have had to return home. Who felt directionless. Who realized that the path we were sold by – college, career, marriage, family – might have been attractive and attainable for some, but certainly not for everyone.. And it wasn’t nearly as achievable as it was for previous generations.
The rise of the free work economy. The spread of social media and false expectations that can satiate us with it. Self-doubt and the trickster syndrome in the celebrity era for celebrities. Nathan’s position is something I attach to on many levels – getting into your 30s and feeling like you’re not on the right track, or even just not knowing what’s the right path, I think is incredibly connected. Or at least, it’s something I’ve struggled with a lot over the years. I worked hard, but I was very lucky, too. I’m fine, but I’m nowhere near where I would like to be. I have debts, failures, and a lot of insecurities. In 2016, after a bad breakup, I came home a bit too. While this is not a story about me, there is a lot of me in this one. Down to Nathan’s hometown is also Lockport, Illinois.
So, the idea of building a new superhero who lives in present times and grapples with the problems of current generations – regardless of the pandemic – was something that really excited me.. And something I’ve never done before. Add to that the opportunity to write about some of the things that keep me awake at night, and you get set for Radiant Black.
io9: What was the process like for the two of you as creators – what made the two of you want to work together on this kind of superhero book?
Marcelo Costa: Radiant Black has two things that I love – superheroes and Sentai. When Kyle told me he wanted to mix these two worlds, it was immediately interesting to me. I knew we had the opportunity to create something very special here, especially because of the timely characters and challenges we’re building for them.
Higgins: Sure. The really cool thing is that Marcelo and I have worked together before, but in a very different capacity. Originally, we met through Eduardo Ferrigato, who brought up Marcelo to color his excellent photo series and Mat Groom for which I was the editor, Self / Made. I was stunned by Marcelo’s coloring and art, and I wasn’t the only one. Daphna Beliban, editors at Power Rangers, liked Marcelo’s colors so much that she started employing him for the Rangers business.. Marcelo has colorized some issues she wrote during Shattered Grid, as well as our graphic novel, « Dragon Soul ». During that time we started chatting a little bit, and I also remembered Eduardo telling me how great the painter Marcelo was, and that he also really liked Sentai..
So, in October of last year, after Eric and I had talked about the idea for Radiant Black, I was looking for an art partner.. I asked Marcelo if he was about to do some samples, and from his early designs, this would have clearly been a very good fit.. Communication is the most important part of a creative relationship. We talk every day, via Gchat, and we are always flirting about different ideas. Experimenting with different designs and talking through the story and artistic ideas that excite us. Honestly, this whole thing was an absolute blast.
io9: Most of the time when we get a superhero origin story, it’s a younger character who is usually on the cusp of big things in their life before all superpower things happen. Why did you treat Nate as not just an old-fashioned character, but rather as someone who finds such fate at this bad stage in his career?
Higgins: I think that’s exactly why – we don’t see him accomplishing much. Also, as I just said, a lot of generational issues that we’ll explore, work best with a slightly older character.
There’s also that famous story about Frank Miller’s development of the Dark Knight Returns in part because he realized he’d be bigger than Batman.. I turned 35, and this could be my last chance to write some superhero stories to fulfill wishes for someone as big as me (laughs).
If you love Power Rangers, you are probably at least familiar with Super Sentai, whose clothing is made of spandex …
io9: Talk to me about the process of building the Nate super theme. There’s a really effective simplicity and it feels like there are touches of Power Rangers’ design sensibilities out there, with a little Daft Punk to boot.. What are the influences there?
Costa: That’s tough to answer. I feel a good superhero design should be modern, simple and unique. It will not work if you create something very complicated, you need to go directly to the point. Take inventory of it from below and find the most interesting graphic representation that reads well, even when it’s young.
For this book, the idea has always been that Radiant Black can be an urban hero fighting city bank robbers as well as a galactic warrior fighting alien threats. The design should have properties that will work for both. We worked on a few different concepts and suits, but none of them gave us the result we wanted. It was only when I ditched all previous ideas and started over, that Radiant Black really appeared. It was an unbelievable moment.
Higgins: Oh, it sure was. I remember exactly where I was when I sent Marcelo what is now the final design – I was walking down a street in Halifax, Nova Scotia after a conference, it was just so cold, when Marcelo sent in the new drawing. I literally stopped at the sidewalk and started texting my friends because it was just so perfect.
To reiterate what Marcelo said, designing a superhero is very difficult. It’s a very important part of whether or not the new character will succeed, but it is also very easy to tire it out. I remember being very excited when, earlier this year, I showed Declan Chalfy – a great artist and designer in his own right – and pointed out how well the costume reads, even at one inch. Which I meant, we were really into something.
The only aspect of the suit design that I was really adamant about was the inclusion of expressive eyes. Having written a fair amount of Power Rangers, I almost always get scars when it comes to thinking about trying to convey emotions through stationary helmets (laughs). Especially in comics, where you don’t have the voice of an actor or performer to help, it’s more difficult. Danielle Di Nicolo came up with some really creative solutions, showing an eye or a piece of expression, through an eyebrow.. But even that was difficult. So, knowing that powers and costumes will be based on energy, this made it a really easy decision to embrace the eyes of the expressive energy for Radiant Black..
io9: When you see glimpses of the first problem, there is a sense of intimacy with the scale here that looks different from your previous work in this area. Was it important for both of you to have a book that juggled with superhero models but wasn’t, at least immediately, this big, high-stakes, super-bulky thing?
Higgins: Yeah. Don’t get us wrong, there will definitely be some of that to come. But the way it will work is really from Nathan’s perspective – we’ll get to know the cosmic, as he does.
Costa: Yes. We are creating a whole new world with a bunch of different characters but it all starts with Nathan. We will follow his growth as a person and a superhero, and both tracks play each other.
Higgins: Exactly. Initially, I was describing this book as « Friendly Neighborhood Problems with the Interstellar Domain. ». When we get into the history of Radiant, how it works and how it’s made, plus who made it . . . This will open up some really huge avenues. But none of that matters if we don’t communicate with Nathan.
io9: Between books like Power Rangers and now Marvel’s Ultraman mini, it looks like we’re seeing the resurgence of this kind of superhero model transformation in comics. Do you see Radiant Black as part of that, and if so, why do you think we start seeing these kinds of superhero stories in comics now?
Higgins: That’s a good question. I’m not sure I’m the best person to think of, considering I have written – or are writing – all of these (laughs).
Higgins: Looks like I’m doing it! (Laugh). A more serious answer to your question, regarding Ultraman and Rangers, I think these two are a bit of a coincidence.. We launched Power Rangers in early 2016. During this completely unrelated tour, Tsuburaya settled any human rights issues surrounding the tram in order to return it to the West.. I know for a fact that Ultraman is a drug very close to the heart of CB Cebulski and Tom Brevoort is a big fan of Kamen Rider, so it’s no coincidence that Marvel got the license. Tom was also my first comic editor, and I just made a mini-series for Winter Soldier in 2018, which undoubtedly helped me remember when it came time to find an Ultraman writer..
as to whether or not this is the start of the trend . . . Stay tuned, I suppose. The old adage « what is old is new again » can apply.. Personally, I love the archetype of the superhero – I’d love to see him return in full force. If Radiant Black can be a part of this remake, even better.
All that said, we have some wrinkles in Radiant Black – both from a character’s point of view and in terms of concept – that are completely different from anything in the genre that preceded them. Honestly, I’m really excited to finally be able to share this huge personal project with the world.
Tokusatsu by nature is a practical medium. They are people in spandex and a rubber monster …
Coming from someone who doesn’t have any artistic ability, some of these artworks look absolutely gorgeous, some of them look like the evolving early 20th century comic web. It’s a really strange duality.
However, this series looks really cool and I’m definitely excited to review it when it gets released!
Kyle Higgins, comic book, comic book, Power Rangers
World News – African Union – Radiant Black Team Talks bring Power Rangers sentiments to older heroes
Related title :
– The team behind Radiant Black Talk Brings Power Rangers Feelings to Older Champions
– Kyle Higgins and Marcelo Costa unveil » Radiant Black «
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