Much of DC Comics’ strategy since its Rebirth initiative kicked off a few years ago revolves around getting back to basics, but the six-issueElectric Warriors mini-series (a reimagining of an unrelated series that ran for 18 issues in the mid-‘80s) offers a fun combination of accessible new concepts and deep-cut continuity nods. Set in the previously unexplored era after the Great Disaster from Jack Kirby’s Kamandi but before the gleaming future of the Legion of Superheroes, Electric Warriors finds the DC cosmos operating a Hunger Games-style combat tourney to decide conflicts between planets. Each planet sends one enhanced warrior at a time—until Earth decides to split its “Electric Seed” between a representative from the human race and a highly trained octopus from the sentient animal kingdom.
Writer Steve Orlando has been touting Electric Warriors as DC’s answer to Overwatch’s eclectic cast of characters, and thanks to Travel Foreman’s unique design sense and the warriors’ readymade abilities, Orlando may be onto something. With the first issue hitting stands this Wednesday, Paste invited Orlando to run through EW’s roster to give an insider look at these champions’ home planets, motivations and abilities. May the odds be ever in their favors.
Electric Warriors #1 Interior Art by Travel Foreman
Representing the Humans of Earth
War Cry is Ian Navarro, a man of Mexican lineage raised in what remains of Los Angeles after the Great Disaster, now called the Feathered Coast, formerly the realm of the Pueblo Builders and the Lions. Humans were able to carve out parts of the country for themselves, mounting a comeback against the humanoid animals that rule the former United States. Ian never experienced Lion Rule, but his parents did as children, and the tensions of how to deal with the animal tribes drove them apart. His father wanted to push forward and accept the more enlightened generation of animals that abolished human slavery, while his mother could not. Ian has little in life, and scapegoats the animals for everything, especially his lack of faith. He calls them Beasts, not animals, not equals. War Cry does not, suffice to say, believe that Beasts can truly change, and thinks it’s only a matter of time until they turn on humans again.
As the human Electric Warrior of Earth, War Cry is given an iconic artifact in addition to his Electric Seed: he is the bearer of the Indestructible Shroud of Kal-El, the rediscovered Cape of Superman. The cape has perfect tensile strength, and is impervious to anything Superman was impervious to. War Cry believes in the science of its abilities, having researched the alien makeup of its fibers. But he does not believe in the mythology and cult of personality surrounding Superman—seeing him as just a person, flawed, imperfect, born with his abilities and nothing to be celebrated. Of anything, as an alien, just by being a superhero, he chose to participate in a system that showed humans they could not take care of themselves. It’s because of people like Superman humans could ever be conquered by animals in the first place.
War Cry’s Electric Seed gives him powers based around sound: manipulating vibrations, absorbing sound, perfectly mimicking and projecting any sound he’s heard and even creating sonic illusions.
The Human Seal of Earth means “Freedom.” While its meaning is essentially the same as Earth’s animals’ badge meaning “Liberty,” the two peoples have argued over semantic differences for decades. They truly cannot agree on anything.
Electric Warriors #2 Cover Art by Travel Foreman
Representing the Animal Tribes of Earth
Deep Dweller is Kana, one of the Octopus Tribe of Earth’s humanoid animal races. The Octopus Tribes were not mentioned in Kamandi because their society was hidden on the abyssal plain, in the midnight zone of the ocean, the aphotic region where light doesn’t reach. Until becoming an Electric Warrior, Kana had never seen the sun. Her armor filters out stimulus so she isn’t overwhelmed by the surface. Like the surface tribes, the Octopus Tribes did subjugate Atlanteans after the Great Disaster, but voluntarily gave it up decades before the surface, inspired by stories of the enlightened Age of Heroes, including Superman, an alien that could have subjugated the Earth, but chose to live among humans as an equal. Kana is a believer, inspired by superheroes from before the Great Disaster. She is jealous that War Cry has Superman’s cape, but doesn’t seem to respect what it stands for.
Kana, like many an Octopus, lives a solitary life. She has a haughty air about her, thinking she’s figured everything out. And she has little patience for humans that act like Beasts, still stoking the fires of species bigotry that she just wants to move away from. Humans, she thinks, deserved freedom. But once they got it they’ve done nothing but squander it.
Kana’s nanotech armor is of her own creation, changing with her shapeshifting body and allowing her to walk on the surface without being beaten down by its sensory input. Her Electric Seed gives her superhuman elaborations of an Octopus’s natural abilities. She can manipulate darkness, tapping the same Shadowlands as The Shade and Obsidian did before the Great Disaster. She has healing gifts, which she can share with others as long as she experiences their pain. Having almost no bones, she can shapeshift and fit through small holes, as long as her beak fits through. She’s humanoid, but there’s question as to if her brain is even 100% in her head, since an Octopus spreads its neurons through its arms, which are semi-independent.
The Animal Seal of Earth means “Liberty.” While its meaning is essentially the same as Earth’s human’ badge meaning “Freedom,” the two peoples have argued over semantic differences for decades.
Electric Warriors #3 Cover Art by Travel Foreman
Representing the Planet Khundia
Serene is Kho Gharda, one of the Khunds, a race from a densely overpopulated planet, a people predisposed to aggression. Khunds are highly volatile, and it’s not uncommon for them to challenge one another to duels, often to the death, for the slightest offense or insult. Each Khund is raised this way, both to make them stronger, and as a morbid solution to the planet’s overpopulation. Like all Khunds, Kho loathes weakness and is hyper-aggressive. Weakness, to her, is akin to losing one’s personhood. And strength, to her, is defined in the most rudimentary, brutal and blunt ways. Vulnerability and compassion are cognates in the Khundish language; they had no origin in the native tongue.
Serene’s journey as one of the Electric Warriors is to accept the complexity within herself, that she can be more than a warrior, that she does not need to be ashamed of having softer characteristics. This is a long journey for her, as when she was younger, she once showed compassion to her best friend when he was wounded in an honor duel. Unfortunately, he was insulted by her, despite their childhood bond, and attacked her over the shame of being pitied by her. In defending herself, she killed her friend, and was lauded by her family. Her greatest moment was also her worst as a child. She, even compared to other Khunds, has ran from any notion of compassion or compromise ever since.
Serene had to kill hundreds, if not more, for the right to be Khundia’s Electric Warrior; each combatant was a voluntary participant. She rebuffs any critique as outsiders not understanding Khund culture. Being the Electric Warrior, she thinks, will allow her to become the greatest Khundish Warrior in history. And her Electric Seed does give her massive, potentially planet-breaking cosmic strength and durability. Unfortunately, to access those powers, she must act in direct opposition to Khundish beliefs. The calmer and more in control she is, the stronger and tougher she is. And even worse, where is the honor or valor in an invulnerable warrior’s victory, if her life was never in danger? Serene must be calm, levelheaded and in control to access her strength, while her whole life was built on aggression and rage.
The Seal of Khundia means “Strength,” of course.
Electric Warriors #4 Cover Art by Travel Foreman
Representing the Planet Dominion
Dominator, like all of their species in this time period, known collectively as the Dominion, is nameless and genderless. Every member of their race is named Dominator, by default. Their race and rigid hierarchy is based around technological and intellectual advancement. The Dominators are master geneticists, having created a generation of superhumans during the Age of Heroes, centuries ago. A Dominator’s rank in the caste systems is determined by the size of the red circle on their forehead. In the present, their intergalactic power wanes. They are aristocrats desperately hanging on the their lost glory in a universe that’s turned its back on them for their repeated attempts to meddle in the genetic affairs of other planets. Though they see themselves as great, they are pariahs.
Dominator has never been off Dominion, and their experience is defined by culture shock. They truly believed the Dominators remained at the height of the universe’s aristocracy, and that Dominator culture is the height of civilization. Dominator has no parents, having been born in a lab like all other Dominators. They were built, genetically, to be the greatest and most perfect Dominator. But upon becoming an Electric Warrior and leaving Dominion, Dominator realizes that while they are the height of Dominator culture, that still leaves them as an outdated relic of the universe.
Dominator’s Electric Seed is based around genetics, their most venerated science. Their body constantly generates cellular energy that Dominator can use for flight, blasts, to power machines or to release in a massive explosion called a “Gene Bomb.” If the energy isn’t released, Dominator will die.
The Seal of Dominion means “Discovery.”
Electric Warriors #1 Cover Art Detail by Travel Foreman
Representing the Vrang Fleet
Inceptor is a Leos-Wann, a Vrang. The Vrangs, centuries before even the Age of Heroes and many centuries before the Great Disaster, once conquered the Planet Krypton before being driven off by a revolution started by Superman’s ancestor, Hatu-El. At the height of their power, the Vrangs conquered every planet in the Rao Solar System, in the Andromeda Galaxy: Boron, Phalon, Thalon, Haron, Dheron, Thoron and Krypton. The revolution that began on Krypton drove the Vrangs from the entire Andromeda Galaxy, leaving them mortally wounded as an empire. But unlike many a race of conquerors, they chose to reflect on their defeat. The Vrangs learned from their loss, and reformed their culture. They repaired their damaged fleet and vowed never to return to their homeworld. The once-violent people turned to agriculture, becoming a fleet of nomads, traveling the galaxy and seeding new planets with vegetation and life. Their warships became farmships as they beat their swords into plowshares. Centuries passed.
Leos-Wann was born to a Vrang Culture for whom their conquering days are generations gone, but still remembered, still taught as a cautionary tale. In the present, Vrangs are raised to hate conquerors, and live a humble life of generosity. For Leos-Wann, the teachers have been more effective than usual. He has a massive inferiority complex, even though he is chosen by his people to be the Electric Warrior. He feels he doesn’t deserve it, even though he was chosen for being the greatest example of Vrang ideals. He was the most humble, the most unassuming, the most giving…how is this supposed to make him a warrior? Little does he know that those ideals can be employed by a warrior to defend the weak, which he’ll learn once he sees he’s fallen too far into passivity.
Those memories, and the pain of acceptance and remembrance, are what the Electric Seed gives Inceptor as a weapon. Electrogenesis gives Inceptor the ability to weaponize not just his own memories, but the collective memory of the Vrang people, as well as manipulate memory in general. Inceptor mainly focuses this through psychic pistols, whose bullets can plant pain, deep emotions or whole ideas into the minds of Inceptor’s enemies.
The Seal of the Vrang Fleet means “Grace.”
Electric Warriors #1 Variant Cover Art by Bengal