Saturday, November 14, 2009

Out of the Vault - ESPers

So in July 1986, at about the same time as Alan Moore's Watchmen was being published, Eclipse Comics put out an interesting little miniseries titled ESPers. It featured people with superpowers, but more grounded in the real world. Their powers were explained away as various manifestations of ESP, and they fought terrorists and mafiosi and such. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

In issue 1 (of a four-part miniseries), James Hudnall (writer of Battle to the Death) and David Lloyd (artist of Alan Moore's V For Vendetta) introduced us to rich American businessman Arthur Williams and his daughter Linda. Arthur is kidnapped by terrorists in Beirut (which he totally anticipates), and his daughter Linda moves heaven and earth to find him.

Literally. Turns out, both father and daughter are ESPers, people with special mental powers. Linda's power is a form of electronic telepathy. She mentally infiltrates the CIA's computers at Langley searching for information on her father's captors. She can't find any, but she does find mention of several other ESPers like herself. So she decides to recruit her own A-Team to bring her father back. And like the X-Men and/or Captain Planet's Planeteers, her team is composed of people from around the world.

Simon Ashley is a black pyrokinetic from Kingston, Jamaica, mon. William Silent Bear is an Amerindian mechanic/telekinetic from North Dakota. Maria Rivas is an Argentinian journalist who can project force-fields and teleport. Jiro Yabuki is a Japanese high school student who can shoot lightning.

And then there's Ian McVicar, the spy/art smuggler with limited time-shifting abilities who is recruited tolead the team. His name is a brilliant combination of Ian Fleming (creator of James Bond) and John McVicar, the British crook-gone-straight whose life story was turned into a movie starring Roger Daltrey of The Who. Oh, and he looks a little like Sean Connery.

Linda and McVicar recruit the other ESPers for the mission, where we learn just how deadly McVicar is.

David Lloyd's art is just stylized enough to make it interesting, but otherwise grounded in a reality that keeps it from ever being as spectacular as your average Marvel/DC superbattle. Witness this telekinetic execution by the bad guy...

Superpowered, yet somehow mundane. And that was my problem with ESPers in the 80's, I think. I was intrigued by the series, but it never really seemed to take off for me. Somebody must have liked it, though, because by issue four, the cover no longer bore the "No x of 4" logo and instead said "Now a Continuing Series."

Artist David Lloyd left after issue four and was replaced by John Burns, former artist of Modesty Blaise, who brought a retro sensibility to the book. The color stylization brought to mind 60's paperback covers.

I stopped buying the comic after one Burns issue. And yet, looking at it now, I wonder why. Because in the intervening years, my tastes have shifted, and now I really dig what Burns was doing. I may have to look up those back issues and see how things turned out.

1 comment:

Bunche said...

I loved ESPERS, especially the one-issue Burns story. When I met Burns in the U.K. four years ago, he had a bunch of his art for sale and I had to own the ESPERS page where Lo Chong destroys those ninja in the street. The original art is a painted treasure that is simply mouth-watering. Unfortunately we never got to see what else he could do on the series since it was canceled following his one issue, but the story did continue when Marvel picked up the series years later and re-titled it as INTERFACE, but by that point the magic had fled and another artist took over for Burns.