Talking Comics with Tim | Rick Veitch

Less than a month ago (and just before the 10th anniversary of 9/11), Rick Veitch's latest project (published by Image), The Big Lie, was released. While the one-shot has already been released, it's clear that Veitch hopes the comic can foster discussion. As a storyteller who began pursuit of his craft in the early 1970s, Veitch has a perspective and creative voice shaped by a wealth of experience that few active current creators possess. In that spirit, I interviewed Veitch via email about his latest collaboration with artist Gary Erskine. While it was a one-shot so far, Veitch clearly intends to do more with The Big Lie platform. Here's Image's official description of the story: "A lab tech travels back in time on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001 to try and get her husband out of the world trade center before it falls, but will the facts convince him before it's too late?" For additional context on The Big Lie, be sure to also read CBR's August interview with Veitch as well the preview we ran in late July.

Tim O'Shea: Do you bristle at the characterization by some that this is a Truther comic?

Rick Veitch: Only in the sense that the "Truther" name lumps together everyone who doubts the government's version of what happened. I think there's a huge difference between the architects and engineers who've put their professional careers on the line by speaking out and those who are claiming space aliens were responsible.

O'Shea: In Chad Nevett's CBR review of The Big Lie, he wrote: "Obviously meant to present as convincing an argument as possible by giving voice to counterarguments, the contrast of Sandra’s emotional hysterics and the men’s cold logic turns it all into a farce, a comedy skit. It’s very reminiscent of a Jack Chick comic in the way that it tries to be so serious on its subject and winds up producing laughs as a result. Various running jokes, including one about the iPad, don’t help in that regard." How much did you strive to try to keep the book from being preachy (and avoid Jack Chick comparisons) while still tackling the concerns you felt needed to be addressed in the story?

Veitch: I don't share Jack Chick's religious beliefs, but I find his comics irresistible. The Big Lie uses the same narrative device of embedding a propaganda message within a drama (although I prefer to think of our book as an act of anti-propaganda).

What's different is we've strived to humanize our characters a bit more than Jack used to. Sandra looks like a 45 year old lady. None of the men have chiseled physiques. No one is a paragon of virtue or evil incarnate. They're just people going about their daily lives. I can't think of a better way to honor the victims of the 9/11 attacks.

O'Shea: Was there any hesitation in releasing the book so close to the 10th anniversary, for fear of it being perceived as exploitative with its timing?

Veitch: Thomas Yeates and I had been discussing this project for about five years. The oncoming anniversary did help us move from talking to doing. But this isn't a money making project. It's an act of political theater, if you will. And in this day and age, whatever you do and whenever you do it is going to inspire some yahoo on the internet to call you exploitive.

O'Shea: In tackling such a politically charged topic (albeit through the lens of time travel/Twilight Zone vibe, as you liken it in this CBR interview)--did you fear alienating some of your readership for future stories? Or do you trust that your long-standing track record of respected and engaging creative work speaks for itself?

Veitch: I do a lousy John Wayne imitation but here goes: "Sometimes a man's gotta' do what a man's gotta' do".

I suspect my longtime readers know my history as an underground cartoonist. My first printed comic, Two-Fisted Zombies, was published by Last Gasp in 1972. The Big Lie might seem a little strange to today's comic book fan subsisting on empty-calorie superheroes, but there's a long proud history of counterculture cartoonists speaking out about politics and repression.

O'Shea: You clearly don't bristle at criticism of the work, as evidenced by the fact you yourself linked to this Wired review (and the discussion that ensued)? Would you say one of your main goals was to get people talking?

Veitch: After the release of Can't Get No, as a perverse exercise, I posted all the reviews, good bad and indifferent.

I think it cured me of having my feelings either pumped or deflated by reviews. I usually find something useful or interesting in all of them. And in a way its an honor when someone reads my work and is prompted to respond, you know?

O'Shea: What's on the horizon for future tales in The Big Lie?

Veitch: The first issue was a sort of basic overview of the big unanswered questions surrounding the attacks. What we're discussing is focusing in on certain important aspects of 9/11 like the money trail and the Patriot Act.

O'Shea: Clearly the work generated a great deal of reaction, was there any reaction that surprised/pleased you more than others?

Veitch: I got contacted by someone asking if I'd based one of my characters on a real person who died that day. That set me back a bit. But I think the best reaction was the mainstream news coverage the book received. One of the things that has been frustrating those who are asking for a new independent investigation is that the there has been a virtual media blackout on the valid questions being raised. Somehow our comic seemed to open the door to discussions and reporting on these questions. In that sense it has fulfilled one of its most important goals.

O'Shea: What were some of the biggest challenges in terms of trying to tackle the scope of your story in this first issue, without running our of pages to tell the tale?

Veitch: It's a hell of a thing to get your head around. The physical evidence points to the distinct possibility that the three towers were brought down by demolitions. The implications of what that might mean if it were proved true are monstrous. I personally think it would behoove the government to convincingly clear the air about this thing. By ignoring the science they are only feeding conspiracy theories.

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