In the first scene of Surge of Power: Revenge of the Sequel, a comic book retailer recommends the issue that serves as the the film’s framing device to a customer with a big smile and the assurance that “it’s fun.” It’s as much a statement of purpose as a promise of things to come, and the film delivers. A sequel to 2006’s Surge of Power: The Stuff of Heroes, it’s a campy, star-studded delight that still has time for important messages about understanding and making a difference in the world.
I had the opportunity to ask Vincent J. Roth, the writer, producer, and star of both Surge movies, some questions via email about gay superheroes, the joy of returning to familiar characters, and working with geek icons like Nichelle Nichols.
“My favorite superhero when I was a kid was Green Lantern and in high school and undergrad days Firestorm was up there with Green Lantern for me.” As for gay superheroes, “My favorite LGBT superhero is Midnighter from Stormwatch and The Authority…Midnighter is written with no stereotypical gay characteristics and… [has always been] written as gay, unlike other superheroes who have been rewritten to be gay (like Iceman, Batwoman, the original Green Lantern [Alan Scott], and The Ray).”
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Roth said, “I didn’t think it would take 12 years since the first Surge of Power movie for another gay superhero movie to show up.” I asked him why he thinks major studios still shy away from such portrayals. “Two reasons. First, I don’t think studios are confident enough that there is a strong…audience for a gay lead character. Second, there is still a lot of prejudice out there...I can tell you from my own experience, there are people who tried to prevent me from making the sequel because Surge is gay.”
Roth remains hopeful about seeing a mainstream gay superhero in cinema, though. “I think Greg Berlanti, the producer for…the ‘Arrow-verse,’ is starting to test the waters…introducing The Ray in live action on the CW shows, who is now rewritten as gay, and The Ray will soon have a short, animated series. We’ll see how audiences react to The Ray.”
As for all the celebrities in Surge of Power: Revenge of the Sequel, “we more than doubled our star power for the sequel because it marked the 10-year anniversary of the release of the first Surge of Power movie. Nichelle Nichols came on board with the first movie because she took a shine to what we were doing by introducing cinema’s first out gay superhero. It struck a chord with her because of her own experience as the first black woman on TV in a position of power as part of the main crew of the [USS] Enterprise.”
I asked Roth about his process for garnering such actors. “I recruited celebrities by asking them directly or by contacting their managers or agents. We also used a talent agent this time, to help me reach celebrities and their managers and agents. At first, I wasn’t aiming for 50 stars, but as we got more and more shot, we decided to put a star in every possible role that made sense and that we could afford. I had certain celebrities in mind for certain roles, but not every role. The momentum of casting celebrities builds on itself. Since I already had one movie out with 20 stars, it automatically gave legitimacy to the sequel. Similarly, the more celebrities we shot while making the sequel lent more credibility when we would approach the next.”
Roth also wrote, “It was a real joy to return to…the characters from the first movie.” That joy is evident from the first frame of the film, along with the excitement at telling a new story. “The sequel has a lot of new characters, and much of it takes place…outside of [Surge’s] comfort zone of Big City.”
Did he have this adventure in mind when he made the first film? “I did not have this particular story in mind at the beginning, but I knew there was only so much ground I could cover in the first movie, with it being an origin story for Surge and his nemesis, the Metal Master. Now that the origin story is done, I have a much wider playing field to explore.
“The sequel is really the answer to what fans and reviewers were asking for. For example, people wanted to see more about the villain. Fans and commentators wanted to see gay issues explored…we are introduced to the Metal Master’s homophobic parents, played by Linda Blair (The Exorcist) and Gil Gerard (Buck Rogers), and we learn that the Metal Master turned evil because his parents rejected him for being gay. There it is – [fans and commentators] get a gay issue explored and find out why Metal Master is bad.”
For anyone clamoring for more Surge, Roth has good news. “Big City Chronicles is a variety show of short Internet episodes on our website, YouTube channel, and social media. This is to entertain fans between movies, being that it takes so many years to make the movies. Some episodes are of our gay superhero, Surge, interviewing celebrities who have played superheroes or prominent sci-fi characters. Some episodes are behind-the-scenes looks at both movies. Some episodes are new, mini adventures of Surge. The first season will end on Episode 17 with a Christmas Special on Christmas weekend. Season 2 will kick off in January and we already have a dozen episodes completed and ready to go live. Surge will do some exciting new things in Season 2.”
So, what’s next for Surge? “In the third movie to the trilogy, Surge of Power: Call of the Champions, we’ll see how Surge interacts with other superheroes. We already shot scenes with Nichelle Nichols for Call of the Champions…There will be a short teaser for the third movie as an extra on the DVD and Blu-Ray [of Revenge of the Sequel] when they come out…Not only did we get a lot of celebrities to come join us for the sequel, but some colleagues of mine who have their own independent superhero projects allowed their characters to cross over into the world of Big City. At the end of the sequel, viewers get a glimpse of some of these pre-existing indie superheroes. It will be interesting to see if our gay superhero, Surge, can round up a bunch of straight superheroes and coordinate them to fight [all the villains introduced as The Council in the sequel]. By having these independent studios bring our characters together, I’m creating the ‘Indie-verse.’”
You can watch the trailer and find the screening schedule for Surge of Power: Revenge of the Sequel here, and watch the first movie here. I wish Roth the best, and hope everyone enjoys this nice, big, gay superhero romp. Zapuva!