Eric N. Bennett is a friend, one of my partners in G-Man Comics, and a freelancer here at First Comics News. He has a new Kickstarter beginning September 1st. His creation Steel Wolf will be teaming up with Stray another longtime favorite comic.
First Comics News: Who is Alexei Krylenkov?
Eric N. Bennett: Alexei Mikhailovitch Krylenkov is Steel Wolf’s real name. He’s the grandson of Russia’s greatest costumed champion of the Second World War, with whom he shares his superheroic identity. His grandfather, Yuri Bolskokov, was known as “Stalnoivolk” which is Russian for “Steel Wolf.” So Alexi is technically the second to bear that name in service to the Rodina.
Eric: Alexei was among a group of Soviet soldiers who took part in a program that attempted to recreate the circumstances that gave the original Steel Wolf his powers. Out of all the soldiers who were selected, Alexei was the only one to survive the process thanks to the latent genetic potential he shares with his grandfather.
1st: Why did he leave Russia?
Eric: Despite years of honorable service to both The State and to the People of the Soviet Union, Alexei learned that the circumstances of his entire life had been one long manipulation by his grandfather and the Soviet military, leading to the process in which he gained his powers. That betrayal by those whom he respected and trusted, combined with learning that so much of what he knew was a lie, including the supposed death of his grandfather, caused him to break ties with his homeland and seek asylum in the United States. As he was already serving with the United Nations Security Council’s special enhanced powers group known as The New Alliance (a team made up of heroes from across the world all from UN member nations), his request was granted, despite Russia’s strenuous objections. This has made him persona non grata in his homeland ever since, though the people, the common man, still love him.
Eric: They’re not at all happy. Not only does he represent a security threat, but they no longer can claim the status of having the greatest hero on the planet as one of their citizens, though they do still try, and will remind everyone about it when it serves their purpose. But as I said, the people still love him and are extremely proud that one of their own is out in the world protecting it.
1st: Russian heroes have traditionally been villains outside their home country. Does Alexei face any negative recreations to being Russian?
Eric: That is indeed the case in most comics, but one of the things I wanted to remind everyone of was that the Russian people are as diverse in thought and opinion as they are here in the States. Some very much want a return to the old greatness of the Cold War era, while others very much want to move forward into the future. And as for Alexei himself, he was viewed with suspicion at first by not only the world at large but his own New Alliance teammates. But over the years he’s done nothing but prove how much he wants to serve and protect the world, and that’s made him the foremost hero on the planet. He’s very much viewed in the same manner as Superman to them.
Eric: Steel Wolf has your classic assortment of “flying brick” powers. He’s vastly strong, invulnerable, can fly and move at incredible speeds, has heightened senses, and can project what he calls his “ionic vision”, superheated beams of ionic energy that are a side-effect of the way his powers work.
1st: What are his weaknesses?
Eric: He’s vulnerable to magic and telepathic attacks, having no greater resistance to either than a normal human does. Though his wife, a high-level telepath herself, has taught him techniques to help fortify his mind from assault and takeover. He’s also vulnerable to attacks that can disrupt energy, which causes his body’s cellular structure that has been turned into ionic furnaces, to destabilize and cause him pain or incapacitate him. He’s also vulnerable to a trans-Vulcanian element known as Uranium-X, which does the same thing and disrupts the ionic processes of his body’s cellular structure, weakening him or causing him pain depending on the level to which he’s been exposed.
Eric: His supporting characters are his wife, Carolyne, also known as the heroine Auren. Additionally, in his civilian identity, Alexei works as a foreign correspondent for MEME Magazine, a publication that focuses on the activities of powered individuals around the world. He often has to work with a reporter named Rory Huntingdon (famous for a series of interviews she conducted), and photographer Tommy Cunningham, and they all report to Editor-in-Chief Martin Kelly. In his costumed identity, both he and his wife remain special agents for the United Nations Security Council. So he gets around a lot.
1st: How did he join Power Company?
Eric: Within the context of the story, the then-members of Power Company were battling Cyborilla’s Damage, Inc. group, when a contingent of the villains split off and went to attack the White House. Unable to pursue them due to the other villain members they were fighting, Crimson Streak had Professor Bizarre send him to an extra-dimensional place called The Parhelion, where Steel Wolf, Thunder Woman, and Midnight Owl were currently (in their roles as members of another team called The Empyrean Command).
As these heroes had all encountered one other in past stories, and so the three went with Crimson Streak to help right away and defended the White House from an attack by the villains Abominus, Brimcoal, and Poison Arrow. Following the conclusion of that adventure, Steel Wolf and Thunder Woman joined Power Company as active members, while Midnight Owl returned to The Empyrean Command. The three remain in close contact with one another, and will often coordinate and exchange information between the two groups. Some of this is covered in Power Company #1/2, currently available at IndyPlanet.com, while other parts of it remain “between the pages”-kinda stuff that I’d love to fully flesh out and add to something like an expanded edition of the first issue of Power Company someday.
Eric: I backed at the “Be in the Book” levels in the Kickstarter for the first issue. And as it turns out, a couple of members were leaving Coalition Comics to focus on their own individual projects, so Dan Coins (creator of Thunder Woman) and I were invited to become full partners in the project.
1st: Steel Wolf was also in Argo 5, how did that come about?
Eric: That was all a fun little cameo that Dan Sehn was generous to toss in, and I’m grateful. I still have hopes that we’ll be able to do a more meaningful story together in the future.
1st: Steel Wolf later appears in the Actionverse, how do you join the Actionverse?
Now you are doing a crossover with Stray, how did that come about?
After his appearance in STRAY: THE ROTTWEILER YEARS, I had an idea for a story for the two of them since they now “knew” each other. I approached Stray creator Vito Delsante to see if he’d be okay with me fleshing the idea out into a full issue, and he agreed. And since Vito is VERY picky about how and with whom Stray is used, I’m extremely grateful he humored me and helped me work through the story when I needed it. He always gives me just the right push when I need it.
1st: How much involvement does Vito Delsante have in the story?
Eric: Vito took a very Editor-kinda stand on the issue. He helped focus my ideas, and offered critique and suggestions where and when I needed them. He was steadfast in reiterating that he wanted this to be MY issue. And I remain extremely grateful to him, as I mentioned before.
1st: Why does Stray come to Vance City?
Eric: Vance City is Auren’s hometown, so when she and Alexei decided to relocate after living in New York, that’s where they came.
Eric: That would be telling.
1st: What is the relationship between Stray and Steel Wolf?
Eric: They’re professional colleagues and on their way to becoming real friends. Steel Wolf had heard of Stray’s father The Doberman, even back in Russia, and has great respect for him. There’s kind of a budding Superman Clark Kent/Nightwing friendship between the two.
Eric: I’ve been enjoying Ron’s work on multiple projects from Big Bang Comics (check their books out if you’ve not already), and liked his style. It brings just the right amount of 1990s-feel to the book, without going overboard. So when I asked him if he’d be interested, he graciously said yes, and the pages look amazing!
1st: Is this a one-shot or the start of an ongoing series?
Eric: This is a one-shot, but it very much leads into the ongoing. There are plot threads laid down in this book that will work their way into the first arc of the ongoing, which is titled “The Hammer and The Sickle.”
1st: What makes Steel Wolf/Stray so cool no true comic fan should miss it?
Eric: Where can fans find Steel Wolf/Stray?
The Kickstarter campaign for STEEL WOLF/STRAY: SMASH & GRAB will be launching on September 1st, so if you’re interested click the link and register to be notified the minute it goes live. I’d be grateful for everyone’s support because I’m really quite proud of the issue and I’d love to make it happen.