Earlier this month I was doing my regular round-up of the best local Kickstarter campaigns when I came across something I was certain I would hate. The Web series is called More Than Human, and it follows the fates of five high school students who gain superpowers after ingesting a stolen experimental formula. They are of course then pursued by a variety of forces, both terrestrial and interdimensional.
My initial thought was, so we really need another story like this? Heroes started out great but then turned into a mess faster than a toddler's art project. Teen superheroes is really, really hard to do well, and I haven't seen it pulled off since Buffy went off the air. So what changed my mind?
Well, the trailer for one. Get a load of it up there. That's some pretty impressive visuals for a local production. You could put it up against any regular network show and it would hold its own.
More than that was the fact that it's helmed by Carlos Tovar, who is quietly one of the people in the Houston film scene that gets things really done. I'm currently waiting on his horror flick Doll Factory (Because I apparently get too much un-haunted sleep), but he's been involved with some really top-notch projects like 25 and Married. That speaks well of its potential.
So far, the first five episodes of the first season have been completed, and Tovar is using Kickstarter to raise interest in the second five.
Inspiration for the series comes from everything from X-Men to the Bible, but what sets it apart is the unique approach to the superhero genre that Tovar is using.
"It has the origin story that develops in an organic way," said Tovar via e-mail. "It has an adequate, realistic depiction of the usage of powers and the training period it takes to truly master them (I am tired of superhero films in which characters 'learn their powers' in the space of a shortened time period). I like the idea of showing the team becoming a team. I like the idea of this group of teenagers learning to function as a unit and during that time, losing every battle they are in (which they do)...we have an internal joke amongst the cast and creative team that our burgeoning teen team gets their collective asses kicked in every fight they have during the entire first season. Poor Scott, who plays Bryce, the teen with 'super-strength,' has been begging from the start to actually win one of his fights -- to which I have mercilessly replied, 'No... he hasn't learned how to really use his power yet.'Flashback 100 Creatives 2013: Joe Grisaffi, The Man Who Will Play Dean Corll
It's an aspect of realism that is sadly missing in a lot of superhero franchises. Why does Spider-Man automatically know a completely unique fighting style that works with his singular set of powers? Why do they know how to sew a perfect superhero suit? Tovar intends to approach the idea from its most logical starting point.
At its heart, the series is about growing up, which lends it the same power that Buffy sported. Teens find themselves armed against an oncoming world, but learning to take it on requires a lot of practice. Tovar promises us that it will be awhile before his team is capable of anything like excellence, which allows an audience to identify with the struggles of adolescence.
Our heroes consist of William (Xavier Price), a junior with the ability to control elements of the Earth; Morgan (Sadie Brook), a freshman girl who can hypnotically possess people; Bryce (Scott Chase), a super strong and durable freshman boy; the electrokinetic Eli (Rowland Sauls); and Lindsey (Alexandra Mauro), a junior with telekinesis.
In addition to the teenage cast are several veterans of the Houston scene in significant roles. Scream queen Amy Rene LaFavers (Jacob, Sweatshop) joins the cast as the cheerleading coach.
"I'm a strict teacher," said LaFavers. "I'm trying to think of a good word for her. I don't take no bullshit or playing around. I want my rules obeyed. That type."
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Another addition is Joe Grisaffi, who we'll also be seeing as infamous Houston serial killer Dean Corll in Josh Vargas's upcoming In a Madman's World. He takes on the role of Dr. James Worthington, a government scientist trying to save his daughter from a chronic and fatal disease. He's the one who initially has access to the mysterious serum, which may hold the cure, but is worried about unknown side effects.
"He is a good man that has a difficult decision to make," says Grisaffi.
Release will be determined by the success of the Kickstarter campaign, though we should be able to look forward to the completed first half very soon.