Palmiotti and Gray Fight for Freedom

Uncle Sam wants you...to pick up his newest DC Comics ongoing series "Freedom Fighters" this September from writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray with art by Travis Moore and Trevor Scott.

Originally appearing as characters in Quality Comics, Uncle Sam and his band of Freedom Fighters joined the DC Universe pre-"Crisis on Infinite Earths" as denizens of Earth-X. There, they fought for truth, justice and the American Way against Nazi oppression in a world where a prolonged WWII ultimately ended in a victory for the Axis Powers. However, as with many other characters from the various Earths of the Multiverse, the Freedom Fighters eventually joined the mainstay DCU post-"Crisis," originally serving as members of the All-Star Squadron and later going to appear in countless stories throughout DC continuity. Although the Freedom Fighters suffered losses during the mega-event known as "Infinite Crisis," the American heroes reappeared in the miniseries "Crisis Aftermath: Battle for Bludhaven" written by Palmiotti and Gray. The writing duo went on the pen two more miniseries starring the characters, "Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters" and simply "Freedom Fighters," which introduced new versions of many members of the team, including Phantom Lady, the Ray and the Human Bomb.

The recently announced ongoing series continues Palmiotti and Gray's tenure with the patriotic group, and the super hero scribes spoke with CBR News about the team's continuing fight for freedom, getting to play with American history and their desire to cause eyeballs to explode over the title's visual splendor.

The writers readily admitted that they've wanted to launch an ongoing "Freedom Fighters" for some time, ever since the end of the previous miniseries, however, the then-current direction of the DCU didn't synch up with the stories they had planned. Luckily, as the Brightest Day dawned, it marked a perfect time for the return of the patriotic pantheon. "This is a great vote of confidence from DC, committing to an ongoing with us," Palmiotti told CBR News. "With this freedom, we are able to approach the book with a bigger agenda. After our run on 'Power Girl,' they wanted to get us on something else right away and everyone thought this was the perfect fit."

Beyond the duo's history with the super team, their love of the characters also added to that glove-like fit. "[The Freedom Fighter are] an interesting and unique team of heroes, not just because of  the political elements we can inject into stories, but also from the fact that they've been around for such a long time but haven't been given a big enough stage to shine on," said Gray. "This time around, we've been focusing on giving them their own rogues and revamping existing ones in interesting ways. They're patriotic heroes to a degree, but the potential to tell very different kinds of stories exists with this team more so than others. I think, from a reader's perspective, you don't know what to expect and there aren't a strict set of rules to follow."

"I like the patriotic aspects of the characters, as well," added Palmiotti. "They are an interesting group with interesting backgrounds, and each of them brings a different voice to the table as far as how they view the world around them. Unlike a lot of other characters, there is an unpredictable nature to them and how they are going to deal with a problem. We show some of that in the very first issue." 

Despite the team's long history - and the scribes' long history with them - both Palmiotti and Gray assured readers that they have crafted the new series with complete accessibility in mind. "We have a responsibility to approach the title as if everyone is a new reader, and it has to work on that level," explained Gray. "Picking up the last two miniseries wouldn't hurt, but it's not totally necessary to dig right in with the title. Since this is an ongoing book, we will be laying out the story, characters and the world around them right from page one."

From that very first page, the two plan to introduce an epic, far-reaching storyline and mystery that unfolds over the course of the first year of the title, the first shot of which rings out in the opening arc. "There is a ton of blockbuster action and special effects as we set the team on a quest to locate a weapon of mass destruction created by the Confederate army during the Civil War - it is this kind of mythological weapon that uncovers a secret society more mysterious than the Freemasons," teased Gray. "We're remixing and building a different kind of American mythology and history. On top of that, Travis doing some amazing redesigns of The Renegades, who were seen in the original series. I really wanted to explore the fantasy elements and mythical idea of the Freemasons. Conspiracy theorists point to their involvement with everything from the geographic design of Washington D.C. to the design of a baseball diamond looking very similar to the Freemason symbol. We touched on this in the second mini, but it was more of a seed of an idea that couldn't be expanded on. Now it can."

"From the onset, the book needed to be unique to the team, giving it a flavor and a rhythm that could only work with this team. From that, we wanted to play with American history, dig out and create a different reality from the one we know," Gray continued. "Borrowing elements from conspiracy theories relating to the foundation of the country, we branched out into a secret America for the team to uncover. One major element was to address how the country nearly split in two and how it impacted Uncle Sam's role as the spirit of America."

The ability to delve into the political and historical aspects of America appeals to both writers, but they also acknowledge that the series remains a super hero story at its core. Of course, the fact that the DC Universe exhibits its own unique history, distinctly separate from what we know as historical fact, also allows them to work with some rather innovative ideas. "There is a lot of freedom given to us in working on this title, so expect us to explore a lot of ideas that aren't really touched on in the regular books," said Palmiotti. "At the same time, in this new series we expect to go bigger, as far as scope and action, than we ever have done before."

Another aspect of the series the writers said they plan to concentrate on is the building of a core team. Although many members of the Freedom Fighters exist, Palmiotti and Gray told CBR that they ultimately made the decision to slim down the main cast for the upcoming title. "The heart and soul of the team is Uncle Sam, Human Bomb, Phantom Lady, Firebrand, Black Condor and the Ray," said Gray. "I like them all for different reasons. Each represents a different psychology, which I think makes for the best kind of team dynamic. You have Uncle Sam as this kindhearted father figure; Firebrand as the eager and idealistic young hero; Phantom Lady has had a rough life and is learning to enjoy who she is; Condor is this proud warrior who hides his feelings; the Ray is the most integrated hero on the team with tons of experience; and Human Bomb is this scared and dangerous kid clinging to the team as his only family."

Palmiotti agreed with Gray's take on the team's members. "I love the idea and nature of Human Bomb's powers and potential for insanity. I am a fan of Black Condor's roots and native American background, and with Phantom Lady, I like the idea of this very sensual looking woman having so much power at her disposal yet having troubles with her normal everyday existence. The Ray holds a special place in my heart because of its history, as does Firebrand. My favorite character of all is Uncle Sam. Sam has the potential to be the most dangerous man on Earth, but he is a teacher at heart that leads by example. I admire those with power that decide to lead with truth and justice."

However, beyond the politics, the history, the characters and various other elements that they look forward to exploring, the pair of penmen stressed that the most important aspect of the comic is making sure it's first and foremost entertaining to the fans. "This is escapist fantasy featuring colorful superheroes doing impossible things. We want to take the energy and excitement we generated with our work on 'Power Girl' and apply it here in much more serious fashion," said Gray. "We've been accused of doing things differently and that you can identify one of our books by the tone and style we employ. With 'Freedom Fighters,' we want to deliver the look and feel of a big budget summer movie with the heart and intimacy of an indie flick. That's a tall order, but with these characters the potential is limitless. Fortunately, we have Travis Moore to give the book a dynamic and super-centric look. His designs are looking amazing and he's probably going to want to kill us before the sixth issue. We're getting to a point where film can visualize the kinds of things you see in comics, [but] that hasn't always been the case. It is time to ratchet that up again. There is just so much scope to the action, we want people's eyes to explode."

"It's hard to answer these questions after Justin," laughed Palmiotti before adding, "Our main goal is to entertain, make you care about what you are reading and the characters involved and feel like the book is an important part of the DCU each and every month."

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