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Image Month: How Jonathan Ross & Bryan Hitch Gave America Powers

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Fan-favorite illustrator Bryan Hitch teams up with UK TV personality Jonathan Ross to blow the lid off the superhero set in America’s Got Powers.

You may have heard the rumblings. When two uber-popular creators the stature of Jonathan Ross and Bryan Hitch join forces on a new creator-owned superhero property, it’s bound to cause a stir – especially when the principals themselves seem intent on generating as much buzz as possible about their new Image project.

Featuring a tagline boasting the first issue of their new Image series contains “Twice as much as Marvel for a dollar less”, Hitch and Ross seem determined to get people talking about America’s Got Powers. Despite the friendly poke at his former employers of the past decade, Hitch insists the marketing strategy was less about causing controversy and more about servicing their story.

“Well, I wasn’t being provocative for the sake of it; headlines are supposed to grab attention, aren’t they? It’s true though; nearly DOUBLE-sized and a dollar less than most comics are priced at. Certainly a bargain but it’s simply that it was OUR choice to let the story breathe the way we have and saw no need for you and every other potential buyer to pay for that decision,” explains Hitch.

Revealing a two-pronged marketing approach, the artist lays out the reasoning behind AGP #1’s pricing as a matter of both ensuring the highest quality reading experience for his audience, while remaining mindful of the current economics of publishing comics. Gone are the days of McFarlane’s Spider-Man #1 selling a million copies. The harsh reality of the North American market is that it’s shrinking for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is consumers just don’t have the extra scratch for funny books.

“Movies cost the same whether they are an hour and a half or two and a half [hours long]. $3.99 is pretty steep for a comic book though,” admits the veteran, “especially a 20 page story but the economics are pretty straightforward: the fewer you sell the higher your price needs to be. Even though Marvel are selling more AvX than anything since Civil War and DC’s Aquaman is still outselling everything else at Marvel with DC’s domination of the charts, those 3.99 books are paying for all the other books that aren’t selling.

“We have no offices to pay for and no publishing line to prop up with our best sellers. We just need this one book to do well enough. It’s simple enough that if we sold a few hundred thousand like JLA we could afford to sell the book for $1.99 or less and still do well out of it.”

The plot of AGP was largely the brainchild of beloved British TV personality Jonathan Ross, whose previous comics work, the genre-bending Turf, gained both critical and popular acclaim when it first hit shelves a couple of years ago. Brought together by wily Scot Mark Millar, Ross and Hitch hit it off immediately, according to the artist.

“We hit it off pretty much straight away,” raves Hitch, “drawn by mutual respect and passion for the project. Jonathan’s one line idea of Pop Idol for Superheroes snapped at me with possibilities and we both dived in to see what we could do with it. Timing is everything on the one hand but so is passion and opportunity. All collided here and the rest, hopefully, will be history!

“He’s a hard worker, intensely passionate about the medium and a joy to work with. What more could you ask from your creative partner. I’ve been lucky these last fifteen years or so and seem to have struck gold again.”

Following the journey of eighteen-year old Tommy Watts, the only non-powered kid in a city of super-powered kids as he struggles to navigate a destiny that has seemingly forever cast him in the shadows of his betters, America’s Got Powers is less about a reality TV show searching for the next big superhero sensation than it is a chronicle of Tommy’s incredible journey. In fact, Hitch insists there are no superheroes in AGP at all.

“Well, in THIS world there are no superheroes. There are powers that grew in the children born after the mysterious Stone arrived seventeen years earlier and those kids are now about eighteen years old. Nobody knew what to do with the kids and the governing forces of America: Political, Industrial and Military, are all working to exploit them in some way. ‘The Games’ are just the latest way of using the kids and their powers as means of gaining power in those areas.

“If anything, this story is about the rise of this world’s FIRST true superhero and supervillain.”

For the veteran artist, who’s spent much of his career working for either DC or Marvel, on books such as The Authority, JLA, and The Ultimates, the time was simply right for his first foray into the creator-owned arena. Although, Hitch has long desired a creative outlet free from established superhero universes, it wasn’t until he met Ross that the right project turned up at the right time.

“You just know that it is. It’s not a sudden decision anyway; Mark (Millar) and I have talked about it from year two of Ultimates. He was able to get to it far quicker than I could but I’ve been moving towards this for a very long time. Star and opportunities aligned and it was a natural and exciting step.

“There’s always a point when you know the party’s over and I think with Marvel I was still there when they were cleaning the empty bottles into the bin bags. It’s a feeling that as hard as you work and as much as you want to be, you no longer have the spark that drove your success. You can either settle into it like a comfortable pair of slippers or go off looking for new adventures. I’m not a slippers guy.”

Summing up the series’ goals with a challenge to fans, Hitch seems confident AGP #1 will garner enough positive attention from readers to justify the lower price mark and his plunge into the ultra-competitive and infinitely deep creator-owned field.

“All we want to do is make it tempting enough to try. It’s a great idea and our best efforts and it’s very, very affordable. So the week after you’ve paid $3.99 for twenty pages of X-Men or Superman, AvX or JLA, hand over $2.99 and try our massive 38 pager.

“We think you’ll all like it.”

America's Got Powers #1, Jonathan Ross (W), Bryan Hitch (A), Image Comics, $2.99. Ongoing series .Released April 11, 2012.

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