Demythify: Marvel Studios’ Avengers Movie Form Used For Classic DC Super-Hero Team? DC Comics New 52 (Freedom Fighters, Human Bomb) UPDATED
by John Babos on December 10, 2012

Thanks for popping by and checking out my weekly Monday Demythify column.

Ok, let’s mix it up with this week’s column.


UPDATE

This column was updated from its original form thanks to the eagle eye of a poster named Alex who noted that the Captain America movie was teased in the Incredible Hulk movie. In addition, news surfaced about an ethnicity change for the New 52′s Uncle Sam.


Worlds Building

Marvel Comics has been far more successful at bringing its characters to the silver screen in bulk than DC Comics. As part that, Marvel Studios had also started an intriguing phenomena with its post movie credits easter egg tease of the next Marvel super-heroe(s) movie:

The shared universe aspect of much of Marvel Studios’ movie properties allows each movie to stand its own, but feel like it is part of something bigger. Plus all the solo hero films built slowly to the mega-successful Avengers movie that had them all in it. Today, Marvel Studios has several newly announced movies in the hopper. A big part of Marvel movie experience are the post-credit easter egg teaser. I’m curious what they’ll be for the next wave.

Well, DC Comics has learned from this successful set-up. While it wasn’t evident when Ray #1 was released, it appears writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray are building to a Freedom Fighters or Freedom-Fighters-like new government sanctioned super-team anchored in the DC New 52. The classic team does have some profile beyond ye olde comic books since they appeared in an episode of Cartoon Network’s Batman The Brave and the Bold.

Anyhow, before I leap into the specific New 52 comic book set-up’s Jim and Justin have done as part DC Comics New 52, let me provide you with a short bit of context.


Quality Freedom Fighting

Writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray worked on the modern 2000′s incarnation of the team prior to the New 52: two mini-series and an ongoing series that wrapped up before the New 52. As part of their efforts they repatriated – pun-intended – Uncle Sam, the leader of the Freedom Fighters, after a mature-readers take for Vertigo by Steve Darnall and Alex Ross.

The Freedom Fighters chronicle the adventures of the super-heroes DC Comics bought in the 1970s when they took over publisher Quality Comics properties. While Plastic Man may be the most iconic of the properties DC purchases, the Freedom Fighters were first positioned as a hero team from an alternate Earth X that was part of a “Crisis on Earth ______” adventure in the Justice League series of olde.

The team also anchored a series in the 1970s that was part of a dust-up with a Roy Thomas penned Invaders series for Marvel Comics. Both series used a team called Crusaders. First Marvel did using the Freedom Fighters as the template. Then, in retaliation, the Freedom Fighters featured a Crusaders team modeled on the Invaders that had Marvel icons like Captain America clones on the team. In the 1980′s the team appeared in DC Comics’ World War II era on Earth 2 as part the classic Roy Thomas – there’s that name again – penned All-Star Squadron adventures of a souped-up Justice Society of America roster.

In the 1980′s, the Crisis on Multiple Earths mega-event collapsed DC Comics’ multiverse including the Freedom Fighters’ Earth X into one solitary Earth.

The team, particularly Uncle Sam, Phantom Lady and Human Bomb even got some prime real estate – above the right shoulder of the Earth 2 Superman – on the wraparound cover painter Alex Ross did for the hardcover collection several years later. About 20 years after the Crisis of Infinite Earths – in-between which we had the Vertigo Uncle Sam book in 1997 – DC Comics did a weekly maxi-series called “52″ in 2006-07 that culminated in the recreation of DC’s multiverse including an alternate Earth – Earth 10 (X being the Roman numeral for 10) with the Freedom Fighters fighting Nazi’s in a world where the Allies lost WWII.

DC’s 52 alternate Earths include different versions of existing DC characters as well as brand new heroes. So you have a Vampire Superman on an alternate Earth, you even have a Nazi Justice League fighting the Freedom Fighters on Earth 10, etc. So, while we did have the Freedom Fighters on Earth 10, there was nothing stopping DC Comics from having a different incarnation of them on their “main” Earth too. Enter Justin and Jimmy who worked on the pre-New 52 incarnations of the team. They did some interesting things with the characters, but the three series they did didn’t catch fire despite some big support by TPTB at DC.

The New 52 provided a clean slate for the whole DCU as well as with the FF; to start anew focusing on character first and team, maybe, in the future.


Jimmy and Justin’s Excellent Adventure

The New 52 is a brand new universe where the long storied history of DC Comics has been collapsed, erased. The world is only slightly over 5 years old. It never had a Freedom Fighters team and it doesn’t have one yet, today, in December 2012.

However, some of the core characters of that classic DC team have anchored their own 4 issue mini-series: The Ray and Phantom Lady (with Dollman) have wrapped up while the Human Bomb mini debuted with #1 last week. Writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray have helmed all the series with some of the best artists in the business: Jamal Igle with Rick Perrotta on The Ray, Cat Staggs with Tom Derenick on Phantom Lady and Dollman, and comics legend Jerry Ordway on Human Bomb, out now!

The New Ray, Lucien Gates, anchored a fun mini-series which channeled a very youthful, fun vibe. That series ended with an agent of the government – in Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury subtly – recruiting a skeptical Ray. Comics Nexus’ Skitch was also a fan of that mini-series.

The Ray mini was followed by Phantom Lady and Dollman. Jennifer Knight and Dane Maxwell make an odd couple. He’s a genius stuck the size of a doll due to his own machinations. He’s in love with his best friend Jennifer – who uses darkness as a weapon – and they have an interesting chemistry despite their size differences. The mini felt like a suspense-filled dramedy. I’m glad it carved its own path because the characters are different from those in The Ray’s mini. The similarity? Well, in the last issue of Phantom Lady and Dollman’s mini-series, the Ray and the mysterious government agent appear to… recruit Jennifer and Dane’s heroic personas.

Human Bomb #1 debuted last week and it looks like we’ll learn more about the mysterious government agent – who we have learned is an African American Uncle Sam – as it appears he’ll be hunting, not recruiting, the Human Bomb from issue #1!


Past is NOT Prologue?

I’m a big fan of the Freedom Fighters, but I do find the current incarnation of the FF’s component hero parts – even though the team doesn’t exist (yet?) in the DC New 52 – fascinating. Justin and Jimmy are focussing heavily on character in a way the best procedural TV shows do. Whether we get a new FF #1 out of this or not, the characters so far are compelling and anchor series with very different tones because the leads are different in each. You don’t need wikipedia or any knowledge of the DC Universe or past Freedom Fighters adventures to enjoy the very grounded and accessible mini-series DC has delivered so far with The Ray and The Phantom Lady with Dollman. Also, Human Bomb is starting with a – pun intended – bang. ;)

However, if you are interested in the sordid and interesting past of Freedom Fighters and other Quality Comics characters including Plastic Man, check out the Quality Companion put out by TwoMorrows. In addition, Back Issue #41 magazine – also by TwoMorrows – was a U.S. patriots edition and has an interesting piece on that DC Comics Freedom Fighters and Marvel Comics Invaders spat I noted earlier.

Thanks for reading. All feedback welcome.


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