Exploring Thanagar And More With Robert Venditti (Interview)
The GWW recently had the chance to talk with Hawkman and Freedom Fighters writer Robert Venditti about his newest comics and future plans for them; check it out below!
GWW: What was your big takeaway and lesson from Morrison and Lee’s Multiversity: Mastermen one-shot and how did that inform and inspire the choices and decisions you made while doing Freedom Fighters?
Robert Venditti: My biggest takeaway was the world building. Earth-X is a location in the Multiverse that’s been around for decades, but we’ve never spent much time there. This series is an opportunity for Eddy Barrows and me to build this world from the ground up. How does society function in an American that’s been under complete Nazi control since the 1960s? Who are the heroes? Who are the villains? Are people still allowed to play baseball? It’s a lot of work, but the challenge of alternate universe stories is to give the audience just enough to recognize something as familiar, then take it in an unfamiliar direction. In the first issue, we saw Jesse Owens as the leader of the original Freedom Fighters. In the issue Eddy just finished drawing, Mount Rushmore has become Mount Reichsmehr, a monument to the Hitler Dynasty. You end up having to go to some dark places when you think about these things, but it’s in the darkest places that heroes shine the brightest. That’s what Freedom Fighters is all about.
GWW: Freedom Fighters deals with a lot of political issues. Does the current political climate in America affect how you write this book or the characters in it?
RV: I came to the project at a time when I was thinking about the past. When DC first approached me about a new Freedom Fighters series, I was already researching my upcoming nonfiction graphic novel with Kevin Maurer and Andrea Mutti, Six Days. It’s based on the Battle of Graignes, which took place as part of the D-Day campaign in 1944. My uncle was killed in the battle, something no one in my family knew until I discovered a letter from one of my uncle’s war buddies in some of my grandmother’s things. Researching the battle had me in the headspace of considering the enormous sacrifices, both military and civilian, that led to the defeat of Nazi Germany. It’s embarrassing to say, but until that project, I’d only ever thought about World War II from the survivors’ perspective because those are the stories my grandfathers told me. It was an emotional experience to find myself thinking about the war from the perspective of those who didn’t come home. Freedom Fighters is about the world we’d have if those sacrifices hadn’t been enough. It’s eerie to think that both Six Days and Freedom Fighters will be on the shelves for the 75th anniversary of D-Day this June.
GWW: #1 of Freedom Fighters established what’s happened on Earth X and the legacy of the original Freedom Fighters, but #2 jumped straight into the action with the new team. How did you decide which characters to use/pull from for the new lineup? Was there a long, in-depth selection process or did you already know who you wanted to use beforehand?
RV: The template for the new iteration of the Freedom Fighters was established in multiversity: Mastermen. In that one-shot, the modern incarnations of Black Condor, Doll Woman, Human Bomb, and Phantom Lady were introduced. Our series carries forward many of those characters, plus we’re introducing some of our own, such as a third version of Human Bomb and of a modern take on the Blue Tracer, the team’s land, air, and sea mobile base. This series really delves into the backstories of the cast. They’ve all decided for very different reasons to become Freedom Fighters. Black Condor is fighting for those left behind. Phantom Lady wants to make up for the evil committed by her father. Doll Woman just wants revenge. No matter their motivation, though, everyone wants the same thing—to bring back Uncle Sam and set America free.
GWW: Uncle Sam’s eyes at the end of #2 made it look like he’s not all there yet. Are the Freedom Fighters going to have to work at bringing him back into the fight to save America following his resurrection?
RV: Conflict is the engine of the story, so we won’t be making things easy on the Freedom Fighters. In our story, America has spent fifty-five years under the boot of the Hitler Dynasty. The country barely remembers a time when heroes existed when life was anything other than tyranny and oppression. Uncle Sam’s strength and power is tied to the spirit of the American nation, and that spirit died when the original Freedom Fighters were executed in 1963. The team will have to relight the fire of that spirit and get it blazing again. Only then will Uncle Sam return. They hope.
GWW: With the first seven issues of Hawkman, you’ve managed to seamlessly streamline Carter Hall’s origin story while simultaneously keeping, as far as I can tell, almost every previous incarnation of the character in continuity and providing an excellent jumping on point for new readers. Was this an idea/character you’ve always wanted to fix and make accessible to a new group of readers?
RV: Until DC approached me about pitching for the character, I didn’t know much about Hawkman at all, other than his reputation for having a confusing continuity. I found that appealing, though, the challenge of trying to solve this unsolvable puzzle. As I was doing my early research on the character, it struck me that it’d solve a lot of confusion to say he reincarnates not just across time but space as well. So the Thanagarian police officer version is another past life of the Ancient Egyptian prince version, Carter Hall just didn’t realize it until now. Once we made that connection, the possibilities really started to present themselves. Hawkman had a past life on Krypton, on Rann, inside the Microverse, and so on. We’re establishing Hawkman as the living historical document of the DC Universe. He’s been there and witnessed it all.
GWW: The Krypton part of Carter’s story has easily been my favorite aspect so far. Where did the inspiration to use this particular planet come from?
RV: It all goes back to Krypton, doesn’t it? The death of the Krypton gave birth to the superhero comic book. And Superman has always been my favorite superhero, so the chance to weave Hawkman’s story into the mythology of Superman and Krypton was too great to pass up. As we find out in issue #8, not only was Catar-Ol, the Kryptonian past life of Carter Hall, present for the death of Krypton, but he also knew Jor-El and was a teacher to Supergirl. This is just one example of how introducing the concept of Carter Hall reincarnating across time and space lends the character to connections with characters and locations across the DC Universe. We’d like nothing more than for other creators to make their own connections. That’s how Hawkman can return to a place of central prominence.
GWW: Jumping back to issue five and six, you brought back the fan-favorite team of Hawkman and Atom. What were the challenges in bringing the two together again? Could we possibly see them team up again in the future?
RV: The biggest challenge was coming up with something different to do with them. Once we had the idea to send Hawkman to the Microverse as part of his adventure into uncovering the truth of his past, it struck me that Atom would have the power to grow to a relative giant there, since he was already subatomic in size. That opened everything up to a very different sort of Hawkman and Atom team-up. As for it happening again, I’d love to revisit the partnership. The ideas are there. But as with all things, it depends on what’s best for the ongoing story. We never want to force it.
GWW: What can you tease about The Lord Beyond The Void and his role/place in Hawkman’s mythology? Will it be someone we’ve met before in previous Hawkman iterations?
RV: The Lord Beyond the Void is a mystery still to be revealed. Hawkman is about exploration and discovery. Every time Carter makes a new discovery, we want it to come with new mysteries as well. That keeps the energy of the series driving forward.
GWW: You’ve revitalized both Hawkman and Freedom Fighters, so are there any other characters you’d like to play with one day?
RV: There are so many. The Atom, Phantom Stranger, and Suicide Squad to name a few. I’m sure there are a hundred more I haven’t even thought of. Nightwing! The DC Universe is so rich in characters, I could spend my entire career here and not scratch the surface of all that I’d like to do. For now, I feel very fortunate to have worked on the characters that I have. Green Lantern? Hawkman? The Freedom Fighters? That’s just amazing. We’ll see what the future holds.
Hawkman #8 and Freedom Fighters #3 are on shelves now.