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MEETING THE FREEDOM FIGHTERS WITH GRAY & PAMIOTTI
You'd think they'd just give up.

After being decimated in Infinite Crisis #1 in an attack by the Society which saw several team members killed, you'd think that no one would ever want to re-form a team called the Freedom Fighters ever again.

Never say die.

In July, Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters get a fresh go of it at DC, this time in their own series, nonetheless, courtesy of Justin Gray, Jimmy Palmiotti, and artist Daniel Acuna.

Prior to their own debut, the team gets some face time in June's Brave New World #1, as well as an appearance in July's Crisis Aftermath: Battle for Bludhaven #6

So what's this new team all about? We spoke with Gray and Palmiotti to find out.

Newsarama: First off, and just laying the groundwork - these are the new Freedom Fighters, the ones who are taking up the job after the original batch was killed in Infinite Crisis #1, right?

Justin Gray: With a few exceptions these are all new Freedom Fighters born from the Infinite Crisis formation of a new Earth.

NRAMA: There are two approaches for this next question - what's responsible for the formation of the new team? That is, a) on the editorial side of things - how did you land the gig; and b) story-wise - what's their impetus for re-forming?

JG: Editorially speaking we were invited to develop USFF based on a blueprint drafted by Grant Morrison in which he re-imagined several of the characters much in the same way he did with Seven Soldiers. Jimmy and I wanted to make some further changes within the framework of ideas we were presented with. I had very specific thoughts on costume design for Human Bomb and Black Condor as well as Condor's new incarnation. Jimmy and I agreed that Black Condor should represent another facet of American culture and history. The reformation of the team stems from changes inside the DCU with regard to the governments position on Meta-Humans.

Jimmy Palmiotti: I think editorial was pleased with the work we were doing at the time and wanted to give us something they felt we would hit the ground running with. As Justin mentioned, we were involved with a lot of the design decisions and a lot of the creative choices. Our editor on the book, Tom Palmer Jr., has really helped keep all of us together and has given us options on the series that we are not really used to…he really made it one big happy team, working on one big superhero team.

NRAMA: Speaking of the team then, as the solicitation mentioned, who's SHADE? Are they the same group first seen in Seven Soldiers: Frankenstein, that is, Super Human Advanced Defense Executive?

JG: Right - SHADE is a top-secret government organization with ties to the Johnson administration. SHADE normally maintains a covert operational policy, as seen in Frankenstein, but due in part to the destruction of Bludhaven they have gained more public exposure.

NRAMA: Are the Freedom Fighters, as a unit, a subset of SHADE, or are they just agents who band together?

JG: The timeline for creation of this book began long before The Battle for Bludhaven was discussed and therefore we were able to work backward from our USFF scripts and incorporate certain character origins. Primarily the Human Bomb, Firebrand and Bigfoot. In Buldhaven, we see that certain familiar, in name at least, Freedom Fighters are working as SHADE agents with an ambiguous morality. In looking at life in the DCU you'd have to think the normal people and our leaders might find it disturbing that these super beings altered reality and created a new planet. This isn't just a case of the Society destroying a city or Wonder Woman snapping a man's neck-the world changed. We get nervous if someone we don't agree with gets a hold of weapons grade plutonium. I think it would be logical for the government to build their own teams of meta-humans as a result.

NRAMA: Speaking of the characters specifically, as you mentioned, the new characters are based on concepts by Grant Morrison - how does that work? You got the notes of say, who the new Phantom Lady is, and how she works, and then get to run off and play with her?

JG: In some cases yes. Grant's proposal was a very detailed twenty-page outline and character breakdown. I'm a fan of his work and have been for some time so this collaboration is exciting for me. We did alter and expand upon some of his concepts while leaving others intact.

As I said before one of the things I wanted to do was re-imagine Black Condor as an entirely new and mythic character rather than amalgamate the previous incarnations. We also expanded on the powers that Phantom Lady has and no - I don't mean breast augmentation. I'll freely admit that once the book was already approved via Grant's proposal we went nuts. It is fair to say that Grant has a certain creative license that not many in the industry share. Knowing this ahead of time and realizing that we were free to explore our own bizarre creative avenues beyond what we were given to work with was extremely liberating. We had a basic outline for the series but it took a life of its own and we started coming up with exciting and new ideas and directions.

JP: I had worked with Grant a number of times and was really excited to read his take on the characters. This is a man so full of ideas, only major cities can contain him. Once Justin and I decided what we liked and could make work, we both went nuts and Daniel Acuna took everything brilliant steps forward and delivered his best work to date. This really is a project that offered us a unique challenge from day one and at the same time amazed us how cool it all came together.

NRAMA: That said, let's run down the team from what we know so far...can you give a few words about the characters?

Let's start with Phantom Lady.

JG: The black light bands are vastly more powerful and versatile than they have been in the past. These are trans-dimensional generators capable of bending reality, opening doors in the fabric of dimensional space and kicking all kinds of ass. As for Phantom Lady herself, let's just say that looks can be deceiving.

NRAMA: You just inadvertently opened a door on a whole line of discussion that will speculate she's a dude…but moving on - The Ray

JG: Stan Silver, capable of turning his body into a living laser light is the playboy of the group.

NRAMA: The Human Bomb.

JG: Andy Franklyn, awkward, explosive personality as you might expect.

NRAMA: And - to clear things up, as the…other Ray has mentioned, no one knows where Uncle Sam is…so who's that bearded guy on the cover, sans hat?

JG: That's Father Time on the cover, not Uncle Sam. But character-wise, we also have many surprises in store that would be ruined if I said anything more than, don't get too comfortable with what you think this book is about or who you think are the starring characters.

JP: Right - as with most of the projects we are presently working on, the less said the better out of respect to the fans that will read this. Every issue has a cliffhanger and a reason to come back, but at the end of the day we want the readers to simply fall in love with these characters and keep coming back for more because we made them care. That's what makes a first-rate book for me.

NRAMA: Okay then, let's try to dance lightly on what is coming up. Going back to the solicit again; they're named as the first line of defense against domestic threats...like what? Just as an example, what or who would they be after?

JG: SHADE was designed to take care of the paranormal, extraterrestrial and downright bizarre stuff that happens in the DCU. Domestic threats cover a wide array of possibilities from experimental weapons gone wrong, towns disappearing off the map only to be relocated on alien worlds to terrorist plots within the structure of our own government.

JP: And remember, take a good look at these characters and their powers and you can begin to figure out that if they are called in, it has to be something way out of the ordinary.

NRAMA: So what gets the ball rolling? From what's come out so far, it sounds as if there's a falling out between SHADE and the Freedom Fighters?

JG: Uncle Sam's return and the SHADE mission surrounding him combined with that odd little astronaut fetus found in Bludhaven are the catalysts for the first storyline.

From there, and in classic Freedom Fighters style, they soon find themselves branded as outlaws, and on the run from some very bad people. One thing you have to remember is that things are never exactly as they appear. There are many twists and turns but the plot becomes very clear very quickly so we'd rather not spoil it.

JP: The great thing that works with this book is that if you are reading Crisis Aftermath: The Battle for Bludhaven, then you'll be seeing us lay the groundwork for a lot of the events happening in this title. At the same time we are doing our best to treat this as we do any issue one of a series and give a new reader a sense of history and at the same time not alienate them from the experience. Justin and I have a few people close to us that get to read the black and white copies of the books we do and we really listen to them and value their opinion. This helps us understand an outsider's perspective and at times gives us an opportunity to go in and open up the story in a few more places to make it new reader friendly.

NRAMA: Speaking of baseline appeal - art-wise, how did you guys get teamed with Daniel on his first work for a major American publisher?

JG: We were in Tom's office discussing the project and there were some of Daniel's cover illustrations pinned to the wall. Jimmy pointed at them and said can we get Acuna on this book? I think he's brilliant and gives USFF a hyper-real look that isn't like anything else you're going to read. I love what he's doing and the character designs are brilliant.

JP: It boils down to this - the last thing you want to do is launch a new book and make it look like all the rest out there. This time we struck gold with getting Daniel on the title. Look at the art and tell me you've seen stuff like this before. You haven't…except on the covers of books….and we got him for each and every page. We really lucked out.

NRAMA: Finally, at this point in DC's history, it seems that creators have a much better chance than they have in years for really coming in at things differently. You've said that you want this book to be like nothing else out there, so what are you looking for, in the macro view? What should people end up feeling like when they put down issue #1?

JG: USFF should feel like nothing you've read before because it combines classic superhero action with political intrigue, corruption and redemption of the human spirit, a mythological Navajo goddess, trans-dimensional alien constructs developed by mathmagicians of the anti-life equation, monsters, the discarded armor of moon based demigods.

JP: I like the idea of mixing Luc Besson with David Fincher and taking classical themes and smashing them to a big budget Indy film. Confused? Me too…but like Justin said…it's a lot of different things wrapped into one book. I'm just glad we got one of the best cinematographers in the business handling it for us.

Related:

Click here for Newsarama's preview of Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters #1

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