This July, Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray introduce themselves to the Radical Comics universe with “Time Bomb,” their newest original action-adventure time travel tale. In the series, a modern-day scientific expedition uncovers a bomb from World War II Germany and launches the countdown to an epic explosion. A military team is tasked with the objective of going back in time 24 hours to stop the bomb from ever being activated. However, instead of going back a single day, the team is sent to Nazi Germany in the midst of World War II. Now, not only do they have to stop the bomb from ever going off, they must find a way back to their own era without changing the entirety of history.
Bringing Palmiotti and Gray’s sojourn into the annals of military history to life is artist Paul Gulacy. Gulacy, best known for his work at both Marvel and DC, collaborated previously with Gray and Palmiotti on “Jonah Hex.”
CBR News spoke with the creative team of “Time Bomb” to get a better idea of how the book came to be, the challenges of telling a 150-page original story and Gray’s unique contribution to the trio’s collaborative process.
CBR News: Jimmy and Justin, how exactly did you come up with “Time Bomb” and how did it land at Radical?
Jimmy Palmiotti: The original idea was something I had in my head and on paper for a long time. When we were talking about going out with it, Justin and I sat and went over it and made it a better piece by doing so. We showed it to a couple of companies, and they were interested but wanted to change the concept or the page count and so on, and we were not interested. We then got a call from Barry [Levine] at Radical and pitched him a couple of ideas and right away he was interested in “Time Bomb.” After that, it was music to our ears how he explained that we can tell the story our way and he gave us three 50-page books to tell it. Add to that, they got Paul Gulacy on board and we were sold.
Justin Gray: Exactly, not only did we have a blast working out the story, scripting and jamming together with Paul, but also Radical gave us a supportive and creative environment to do our thing, while backing us with great production values. There’s a commitment to quality that we were looking for with “Time Bomb” that everyone at Radical embraced and that made work feel more like fun, which is a big part of why we do this.
Paul, what drew you to “Time Bomb” initially? How did you get involved?
Paul Gulacy: I can’t recall who originally contacted me in regards to working on “Time Bomb,” but I actually first heard about it on the Radical website. The original cover art for the book was what intrigued m,e initially. Funny enough, around the same time I was also contacted by Axel Alonso’s assistant editor for “A special “Cable” project” at Marvel. When Jimmy described the story to me, the cast of heroes and the elements of sci-fi involved, I knew I wanted to sign up.
Give us the central concept of the story – what makes it tick, so to speak?
Palmiotti: It’s part sci-fi, part war and part drama story about something that happens in present day that needs to be changed, and the fate of the world is held in the balance. It’s all action and adventure and more than that, well…we don’t what to give away too much. I’d rather let the book speak for itself. Just know that there is some time travel involved, as well as a lot of dead Nazis.
Gray: People are going to have a lot of fun reading it because it mashes up so many different genres that work well together. I love the espionage and sci-fi elements mixed with the pulpy war comic style.
Paul, what was your design process like? How did you go about bringing these characters to life?
Gulacy: Well, I think by the time I got to the last page of book one, which would be page 51, I felt I knew who the characters are in my head and soul based on how they were described in the script. It’s always a birthing process that is in the artist’s hands, and it goes beyond just the visuals. Each have their own personality and I try to bring that out; their body language, attitude and so forth. I’m basically winging it, but I also feel it inside. Not just seeing it – feeling it. I’m attempting to 3D them out from a one-dimensional plain. Take Jack. From early in the beginning of the book to page 51, I felt comfortable in his development as the “take charge” team leader as well as the personality traits of the rest of the team. Now, bear in mind, none of this happens without what Jimmy and Justin described in the script on the characters. I’m running from ground zero on from that point.
Do you have a favorite moment in the comic that you think fans should watch out for?
Gulacy: Yeah, I like when they make the time jump to 1945 Germany. I thought those scenes worked well. It’s a good hook to end the first issue, and I’m hoping by then everybody is digging it and will want to see more.
Jimmy and Justin, you’ve worked on a vast number of different projects in a staggering number of settings, from the old western style of “Jonah Hex” to the concrete jungle of “Back to Brooklyn” and the more traditional superhero fare of “Power Girl” and “Terra.” What makes “Time Bomb” stand out from the rest of the projects that you’ve done?
Palmiotti: The elements of the story are things we haven’t hit yet, and the genre mashing of “Time Bomb” makes it something that a lot of readers haven’t had too much of in comics, so it works on those levels. As far as standing out against the other projects… well, it’s all in the concept and execution. We have never had a 150-page story to tell. This, by far, is our biggest project to date for a single story.
Gray: I think I’ve said before that we’re interested in telling all kinds of stories and playing with every genre. We approach every project differently, with attention to altering the style of storytelling to fit those genres. This is a story that is both intimate and epic in scope. Not an easy task, normally, but the format worked really well.
Do you think telling this story is important?
Palmiotti: Important…not so much, but entertaining, yes! We are telling a story that has a bit of a warning to it, but we don’t preach. We let the reader take out of it what they want. All I care about is that the reader wants to flip the pages, pick up the next book and by the end, feel they have been along for a ride with all the characters.
Gray: We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel, but we are interested in taking readers to a different world and entertaining them with “Time Bomb.” There’s nothing wrong with striving for a medium changing work of art, but comics are also escapist fantasy. Every once in a while you need to forget about the world and lose yourself in a fun read.
How is working on your own property like “Time Bomb” different than playing with the toys, say, in the DCU?
Palmiotti: Simply the freedom to do what we want, to have the characters move about without continuity or restrictions and have a concept that doesn’t have to cross over with event books and is made to generate sales and such. With Radical Publishing, they understand they are going to get the best product they can get by letting us do our thing…and we thank them for that.
Gray: I think you answered the question; it is our project, which is automatically a different experience. We love working with DC and they have so many amazing characters, but we’re also interested in creating our own work and telling different kinds of stories in different genres. Obviously there is a different kind of creative freedom in crafting creator owned books, which Radical understands and embraced with “Time Bomb.”
OK, take us through your collaborative process a bit. How much back-and-forth was there? What was your interaction like?
Gulacy: Some disagreements have taken place, but that’s natural. Everybody is going to have their take. It will probably happen again, and that’s fine. We iron it out and move ahead. I’ll contact Radical if I think Jimmy or Justin may not have the answer, and check with Jimmy on things. I’ve worked with both these guys before, and they always let me loose to do my thing. Because of the historic aspect to “Time Bomb,” everything needs to match up. We want to keep it accurate as possible.
Palmiotti: Every project is a collaborative thing and anyone that has worked with us understands this. We worry about every single panel…the color, the lettering placement and even how the book is marketed and sold.
Gray: I don’t collaborate. I just stomp around shouting angrily at the walls that no one understands my genius.
Why do you think that this story is well suited for comics in particular?
Gulacy: In my opinion, this story is well suited for all kinds of mediums. This thing has all the bells, whistles and legs. I’m lucky just to be in on this in the comic form. I’ll put it to you like this, and I mentioned this to Jimmy – I think it may be one of the best comics stories ever. Not just one that I happen to be working on – ever. I’ve been around a long time in this business and I just don’t throw that out there. It’s really a good solid story, no matter what form. I’m glad to be part of it as a comic.
Palmiotti: Yeah, Paul called us up and said just that, and we were flattered beyond belief. As well, this is the best work of Paul’s career, and that’s not an easy thing to say, especially when I have been working with him for the past 10 years. But you can see the experience and energy of his storytelling in each and every page. It’s made exactly for the comic book medium because of its insane scale and science fiction elements.
Were there any special challenges you faced while doing “Time Bomb?”
Gulacy: Being able to stand erect after putting a full day in. [Laughs] Everything is a challenge. Nazi tanks, uniforms, trucks, huge gun battles in a German prison, bombed out cities, hot love scenes, wild chases. Don’t ever ask me to do this again. Nah, I’m loving it. It’s really fun and I don’t say that too often and mean it.
Palmiotti: For me, making sure the idea I had since I was a kid actually lived up to the way I imagined in my head.
Gray: The most difficult part for me was making sure Jimmy and Paul remained sane.
By the same token, what have been some of the specific rewards of doing this project?
Gulacy: Getting involved with a up and coming cutting edge company that is awesome to work for. I’ve been treated like a king by Radical and I’m very grateful. Fun is the key and this is fun.
Palmiotti: Look at the art…its amazing. Each page by Paul and Rain is a daily gift.
Gray: Having the opportunity to tell a story that we’re all personally invested in and working with a great bunch of people.