Along with artist Bryan Hitch, writer Robert Venditti has turned DC’s Hawkman into a massive critical and sales hit. Venditti has humanized the Winged Warrior while presenting a genre bending experience that simplified the character’s convoluted history while exploring Hawkman as a hero that transcends time and space.
Recently, Venditti and artist Eddy Barrows have done the same kind of quality exploration on the Freedom Fighters. Trapped in a world ruled by a victorious Third Reich, the Freedom Fighters are an exciting collection of classic Golden Age heroes reimagined for the 21st century, led by none other than Uncle Sam himself. Freedom Fighters is an intense, disturbing, and topical book. We had the pleasure to sit down with Mr. Venditti to discuss DC’s new Freedom Fighters and these classic characters’ place in the modern day DC Universe.
What led to the genesis of the new Freedom Fighters book?
That was an instance where DC approached me and said they had these characters called the Freedom Fighters and that they wanted to do a maxi-series and would I be interested. I didn’t have a familiarity with the Freedom Fighters at the time except knowing that they were set on Earth X which is an alternate history where Nazi Germany won World War II. That really appealed to me.
At the same time, I was working on my own graphic novel for Vertigo called Six Days which is the story of a battle my uncle was involved in during the D-Day campaign. He was killed in action there. I was in the headspace of looking at the sacrifices of soldiers and civilians that led to victory in World War II. It became an opportunity to use the Freedom Fighters as a way to examine if the sacrifices weren’t enough, what would our world be like? That’s what drew me to it as well as the opportunity to do world building in the most complete sense of that term. Earth X is part of the Multiverse that we know about, but we’ve never spent a ton of time there. So, to spend twelve issues there and for me and Eddy Barrows to establish what their culture would be like and to see that this is an America that’s been an America that has been under Nazi control for 50 years. Who are the heroes? Who are the villains?
Why have so many creators returned to this semi-obscure team again and again?
I don’t know, for me, there’s something so comic book, in the most positive use of that phrase, with the Freedom Fighters. The Human Bomb, a character who can’t touch anything or it explodes. Doll Man or Doll Woman, six inch tall characters. Phantom Lady. Black Condor and Uncle Sam. What a great visual. So many cool things have been done with Uncle Sam over that character’s history. Good ideas and good core concepts always win out, and the Freedom Fighters is one of those examples.
You really utilized the Quality Comics heroes so well, up to and including evil versions of Quality’s flagship hero, Plastic Man. Can you talk about your personal history with the Quality pantheon?
In the first issue, we establish characters called the Plastic Men which are these ultimate Nazi SS agents. We took the Plastic Man mythology and reimagined it in a way that’s completely horrifying which is more shocking because Plastic Man is such a fun and comedic character. Earth X is an opportunity to do that. We can create new concepts but also look at other DC concepts in new and different ways, which we will certainly do as the series moves forward.
Can we look forward to any more Quality characters like Blackhawk or the Ray, maybe Midnight?
Some characters yes, other character, no. The Ray is a character that won’t be showing up because that character is already doing things elsewhere in the DC Universe, but there will be other things that show up. In issue two, we’ll see the Blue Tracer, if anyone remembers what that one is.
The Blue Tracer? I’m going to have to look that one up. (And I did! The Blue Tracer was a vehicle that could convert into a tank, a submarine, or a plane. It first appeared in Military Comics #1 (August 1941) and was created by Fred Guardineer. The Blue Tracer was piloted by William “Wild Bill” Dunn and “Boomerang” Jones and the fact that it’s soon to make its first appearance since the War is just awesome.)*
It’s a Quality Comics vehicle that could go on land, in the water, or in the air. We’ll see a new version of the new Blue Tracer; we’ll see Bozo the Ironman. We have a new design for the Blue Tracer. We’ll also bring in other aspects of the DC Universe the way Grant Morrison did in Multiversity where he had Uberman and an Earth X version of Flash and Aquaman. We’ll be doing stuff like that as well.
Talk about designing the new members. There really is a nice balance of Golden Age classic and modern sensibility.
The only one we designed completely new for this series is Human Bomb because it’s a new Human Bomb. We looked at sort of the high collar bomb vest worn by bomb techs to disarm IEDs and things like that. The other characters like Phantom Lady, Black Condor, and Doll Woman all appeared in the Multiversity one shot by Grant Morrison and Jim Lee. We’re picking it up and moving forward with it.
* Editor’s Note – If Marc Buxton has to look it up, trust me on this, it’s obscure as hell. – Mike *
Freedom Fighters #2 is on sale Wednesday, Jan. 23.