While the team traces its roots back decades, the Freedom Fighters returned with a vengeance in 2003 thanks to a revamped team concept by Grant Morrison. Palmiotti and Gray were the writers who penned that triumphant return in Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters, a mini-series that mixed superhero action with political thriller-type drama.
Although the writers say this new #1 issue is geared toward new readers, they've written the characters more than once, including the more recent Freedom Fighters mini-series. Now they get a chance to write the team in a new ongoing.
The co-writing pair, who write DC's Jonah Hex series, recently disappointed fans by departing from the Power Girl monthly. But now they're launching the new Freedom Fighters ongoing title with artist Travis Moore.
Newsarama talked with Gray and Palmiotti to find out more about this week's beginning of a new ongoing series and how the Civil War ends up playing a part in the storyline.
Newsarama: What's going to be the premise of this book? Is it similar to what you did before with the team, mixing political elements with a superhero team?
Justin Gray: Exactly, the characters drive the book, but it is going to be escapist superhero fantasy mixed with the political thriller. That’s what worked very well with the first mini-series. This time around we have big set pieces and tons of new villains that are specific to the Freedom Fighters. It would be easy to borrow other villains from other parts of the DCU right out of the gate, but that wouldn’t help establish the Freedom Fighters as a unique team unto themselves. They desperately need rogues of their own. Silver Ghost might be evil but he can’t carry the bad for every issue. The tone is much more serious than our recent work on Power Girl because that’s what we feel worked best with this team the last time.
Jimmy Palmiotti: Fans of the last two mini-series know what to expect on some levels , but like Justin said, this book is bigger and has a lot more going on simply because it is an ongoing and not a limited series.
Nrama: What particular historical/political elements will you address in the first storyline? Can you set up the story for us a little?Gray: There’s a mystery at the heart of the first storyline that pulls the curtain back on a secret society that claims responsibility for shaping America. With the fact that the DCU isn’t exactly like the world we know in terms of historical events we’ve been having fun playing with an alternate version of America. It starts with the idea that the Confederacy could have won the Civil War if they’d used a super weapon they’d developed. Someone or something stopped that from happening and dismantled the weapon. The Freedom Fighters are trying to locate the weapon and it unearths all kinds of new problems.
Nrama: What's the overall tone of the book going to be? Big and epic? Or small and character-focused?
Gray: Primarily it is a big action book, but we tend to compress a lot of material in each issue so there will be moments of intense focus on the individual characters. I feel like Jimmy and I are building a foundation for this team to solidify the differences between the Freedom Fighters and other DCU teams – to give the book a flavor all its own. I hope we can recapture that sense of colorful fun but also dramatic and intense.
Palmiotti: this is not going to be a team book that you can read in two minutes and cast away…there is a lot of over the top action and excitement and a real story that we think will grab the reader and keep them around for a long time to come. We want you to get to know these characters as well as you know the popular DCU characters and are focusing on their personalities and how they interact with each other in and out of the team. We feel we are giving them the attention they always deserved.
Nrama: Who are the characters that make up the team? And can you give a brief description of what each of their roles/stories will be in the upcoming comics?
Gray: We’ve streamlined the main cast down to Uncle Sam, The Ray, Firebrand, Phantom Lady, Human Bomb and Black Condor. This is very close to the original incarnation from the seventies. At this point we want to limit the number of players to keep from watering down the team and personalities. Uncle Sam is a leader and the heart of the team. Firebrand is that young man with more passion than life experience so he tends to make immature mistakes and talk too much without having all the information. Black Condor is the team bad-ass, a no nonsense fighter and the guy you don’t want mad at you. Phantom Lady is the celebrity, a successful actress who has overcome the pitfalls of fame and begun to embrace her role as a heroine. Human Bomb is slowly evolving into the kind of geeky peaceful warrior – in realizing how dangerous he is he’s trying so hard to be careful and smart about using his powers. The Ray has a much more seasoned and developed background in the superhero community and you get the sense that he’s crossed over from being a kid to being a man.
Nrama: How does having Travis Moore on the book impact the story/tone?
Gray: Travis and Trevor are instrumental in conveying the scope of the story and coming up with awesome new designs for the new characters we’re introducing. We’re asking them to shoulder such a heavy load in terms of battle sequences. Things like the 100-Shaman war that proposes the idea that there used to be a whole group of Native American superheroes long before the colonization of America. That goes back to the idea of looking at the secret America. The art is fantastic and capturing the action exactly as it should be – bold, explosive and exciting. You can tell there’s so much energy and excitement going into the pages and layouts – at least we hope that Travis is enjoying himself and not thinking up ways to kill us.Palmiotti: this is not a book for a lazy artist on any level and Travis and Trevor, as well as Rob Schwager on colors have a lot of work ahead for them to do…but a couple of issues in and you can already see a beat going on…a synchronicity that is happening with teams that usually need three times the issues to get to. Each page and each issue is getting better and the storytelling is crystal clear, even among all the chaos and that’s really important to us.
Nrama: How does this team fit into the current DCU? Will it interact with the rest of the DCU?
Palmiotti: yes it will, but first we need to establish the characters themselves out of the gate. We have a lot of big plans ahead and since this is an ongoing book and part of the DCU, expect to see the characters popping up elsewhere as well.
Gray: It will on varying levels. Hopefully we can coordinate some of the things we have planned to help solidify the team in DCU proper and the trick is to make the interaction as organic as possible from a story standpoint. We want the Freedom Fighters to kick all kinds of ass on their own as well as with the rest of the DCU.Nrama: Anything else you want to tell fans about Freedom Fighters?
Gray: Everything we do is different from book to book. The tones and styles vary from Hex to Power Girl and so on. If you want straight up DCU superhero drama with a different twist this might be the book you’re looking for. You don’t have to know the entire Freedom Fighters history to pick up an issue and follow it.
Palmiotti: We have an opportunity here to really make these characters matter and build up a real feel for their place in the DCU and we hope the readers give the book a shot. We got great art, classic characters and a lot of bang for the buck. Most importantly, what we hope comes through…is our love for these characters…each and every issue.