Where Big Bang #s 1 and 2 from Caliber Press introduced the Golden Age heroes, and issue #3 did the same for the Silver Age versions, it stands to reason that BB #4 was going to focus on the Modern Age. (It was the 1990s). And so it was.
Taking place in 1995, we learn that the Round Table of America has disbanded. A big, heavily armed bad dude shows up at their former HQ looking for them. Irate to discover that no one is there and that Noah Talbot, the Human Sub is dead (the Sub died in issue #3) he starts shooting the place up and kills Julia Gardner, now retired but formerly known as the Beacon!
Soon, others show up to help and we discover that Ultiman is old and grey and his powers are waning. The Knight Watchman has retired, leaving the crimefighting in the capable hands of Galahad. The Master of the Macabre Dr. Weird appears to tell them that the Beacon desperately wanted to talk to them before she died, and he resurrects her soul. She tells them that the villain called himself the Sub-Human and is looking to kill them all.
Galahad calls in his buddies from the Whiz Kids: Thunder Girl is still a perky, eternal teenager, but her alter ego Molly Wilson is now 40+ years old. The Blitz’s old partner Cyclone had been crippled in an accident but gained a pair of robotic legs and is now calling himself Overdrive. And Matt Scott, former child star turned super hero Megaton showed up to help Ultiman out, making his only Big Bang appearance.
The issue ends on a cliffhanger, setting up a giant fight between the heroes we were calling the FreeAgents and the Sub-Human. Except, the fight and the conclusion of the story never appeared.
What happened was that our deal with Caliber Press had expired. (See the previous post for more on this). Our pals Erik Larsen and Jim Valentino at Image Comics were fans of BB and we accepted an offer to move the BB universe to Erik’s Highbrow imprint at Image. However, he wasn’t a big fan of this issue, #4 and requested only retro stories at Image. We complied.
BB #4 at Caliber turned out to be none of our favorite issues to that point. Somebody else (I forget who) was slated to draw the issue and had to back out at the last minute. Bart Schmitz stepped in and did a great job, but the rush to get the issue finished in time meant three separate inkers (Ken Lester, Jim Brozman, Mark Lewis) and zero time for editorial futzing.
Plus, after three issues of requesting newsprint for the retro issue interiors and getting bright white paper instead, #4 was colored using a full modern palette but was printed on newsprint without telling us and the colors just died on the page, flat and dark. Oh well.
If the second part had ever happened, it would have been discovered that the Sub-Human was in reality . . . . the Human Sub (big surprise, huh?), whose body had never been recovered and lay buried beneath debris in the ocean for three decades. When he finally awoke, he was bitter, confused and senile for Noah Talbott had been an old man in the 1940s. The Sub-Human was a walking armory of big guns and missiles, the poster boy for 1990s Image-style comic books. The character was designed by Mark Lewis, and was definitely a nod to my old Megaton alumni & pal Rob Liefeld.
Eventually, it would have been made clear that parts of the Sub’s android body were used to create the Berzerker, another old Megaton character who was then appearing in a six issue series from Caliber, tying together the past, present and future of the Big Bang Comics universe.