“National Comics,” perhaps best known as the launching pad for Will Eisner’s superhero Uncle Sam, was an anthology comic book series published by Quality Comics in 1940s. More than 60 years later, DC Comics is now reviving the title with a series of one-shots beginning this month, the first issue of which showcases a character who knows a thing or two about resurrection.
Written by Jeff Lemire (“Animal Man”) and featuring art by Cully Hamner (“Red”), “National Comics: Eternity” #1 delivers a re-imagined version of Kid Eternity, himself a former Quality Comics character sold to DC Comics in 1956, who made his debut in 1942’s “Hit Comics” #25.
While his origin and powers have changed a number of times over the years, Kid Eternity’s first appearance within the DCU introduced him as Christopher Freeman, a member of the Marvel Family of Earth-S. Kid Eternity could summon any good historical or mythological figure or animal by saying the word “Eternity.” He was re-imagined again in the 1990s for Vertigo Comics by Grant Morrison and Duncan Fegredo and later Ann Nocenti and Sean Phillips. No longer part of the Marvel family, this version could summon people by saying “Eternity,” but the people he summoned are demons that assume the form of the figures he desires. More recently, he was killed in 1999’s “JSA” #1 only to be revived and killed again in “Teen Titans” #74.
In “National Comics: Eternity” #1, a 40-page one-shot scheduled for July 25, Lemire has created a brand new mythology for the character, which portrays him as an introverted medical examiner. Christopher Freeman now has the ability to resurrect the departed so they can assist one another in solving their murder case. The only catch — they have just 24 hours.
Lemire told CBR News about the character’s connection to the Land of the Dead, which member of Kid Eternity’s Quality Comics’ supporting cast plays a role in the one-shot, and how he and Hamner actually pitched a Shazam/Captain Marvel series to DC Comics before landing this assignment. The Eisner Award-nominated creator also discussed his love for DCU’s “dark” characters and what might be next for him after his runs on “Animal Man” and “Justice League Dark.”
CBR News: You originally requested Kid Eternity for “Justice League Dark,” correct?
Jeff Lemire: Yes, I did. I wanted all the old Vertigo properties that were DC characters. That was my team. I just wanted to have everyone in it. But I was told that there were other plans for the character so I just moved on. Ironically, I ended up doing those “other plans” because those ended up being “National Comics” with Cully Hamner. And I’m really happy with it. Sometimes doing one-shots or self-contained stories can be really tough because you only have 20 pages or whatever. But we were lucky because DC gave us a double-sized issue so we had 40 pages to tell a really cool story.
And when you have an artist like Cully, whose work I really like, it makes it a lot easier too. I just read the final product, the lettered version with the final art, and I am pretty proud of it, actually. It’s really cool.
What was your introduction to Kid Eternity?
It was probably the [Grant] Morrison/Duncan Fegredo Prestige miniseries. Or I may have seen the Ann Nocenti/Sean Phillips series after that and gone back to the Morrison/Fegredo series but it was definitely the Vertigo version, for sure — not the old Fawcett version.
The pre-New 52 version of Christopher Freeman is the brother of Freddy Freeman. Is that still the case and are you tying into the Shazam universe at all?
No, we don’t address that at all. As far as I know, and I might be corrected on this, the “National Comics” titles are out of continuity because I know that there is a Madame Xanadu one and it has nothing to do with the New 52 Madame Xanadu. So no, I don’t make any reference to any other DC Universe character. It is a self-contained, totally out-of-continuity take on the character. We just kept the original name and stuff.
It is the New 52, so characters get new leases on life — no pun intended — but what can you tell us about your version of Kid Eternity?
It is really different from the Vertigo version. It is not similar at all. It is a much more modern take and much more grounded in reality. And there is a very supernatural aspect to the whole book.
The high concept behind the book is that Christopher Freeman is a police coroner who has the ability to resurrect a murder victim for 24 hours and together, he and the victim’s ghost can try and solve the murder. That is the high concept. And I built a little mythology from there, which is all based around this idea of the Land of the Dead.
I also brought back the old character from the original named Mr. Keeper, who is sort of Eternity’s guardian. And it is a new take on that character too. And there is also a new take on Eternity’s nemesis. And there is a game being played for the souls of people.
It is a one-shot but we tried to do it in a way where you want to learn more about this cool mythology that we have set up so there is that potential to spin this off into a series if people like it. There is definitely enough stuff there.
Would you like to continue telling stories with the character within this new mythology?
I would but I just don’t have time. I would love, if this was successful, for another writer to pick it up and just run with it. I think that would be really cool but I think I have told my story with Eternity and coming up with a new murder mystery every month would be hell [Laughs] so I don’t want to do that. I would rather write “Animal Man.”
You mentioned Cully Hamner off the top. How did you hook up with him on this project?
We were friendly via e-mail, and I can’t remember how that started to be honest with you, but we did become friends via e-mail and Twitter about a year, year-and-a-half ago, and we both really, really wanted to do a project together and we both wanted to do Shazam/Captain Marvel. And we kept talking and saying, “Maybe we will get a chance to do it someday.” We actually tried to pitch it to DC but Geoff [Johns] already had plans for Shazam as we now see. But we never stopped talking and when Ben Abernathy, the editor at DC, gave me this gig and told me Cully was the artist, separate from him knowing we were friends and that we wanted to work together, it all really worked out well.
I got to hang out with Cully at HeroesCon a couple of weeks ago and that was really cool. And now we’ve already started bouncing ideas off of one another about doing something else together one day. He is a great artist and I would love to work with him some more.
Animal Man, Frankenstein, John Constantine, Kid Eternity — you are really working your way through DC’s A-listers, eh?
For right now, I am really enjoying doing these “dark” characters. I feel like I am really in a groove with those. And I still have stories I want to tell with those characters, so I am going to stick with them for the next year, year-and-a-half and tell this big story I have planned for after “Rotworld.” But after that, I think I would like to move away from those dark characters and, just to mix it up, do something with some more traditional superheroes. We’ll just have to see who is writing what when that happens, two years from now, and what characters are available but I would like to take a crack at some of the bigger DCU characters.
Is that next big story coming up in “Justice League Dark,” “Animal Man,” or both titles?
After “Rotworld,” I do have plans for “Justice League Dark” and “Animal Man” and something else that will eventually come together but that won’t be for a long time. After the “Swamp Thing”/”Animal Man” crossover, I don’t want to just dive right into another crossover. I want to give it at least a year in both books to do their own thing and for Buddy Baker to get his life back together or at least try to [Laughs] after I do horrible things to him and his family. But eventually, I would like to do a big story with all the dark books. I have a story that I think is pretty cool.
“National Comics: Eternity” #1 by Jeff Lemire and Cully Hamner is on sale July 25.