Big Bang Chronological Part 9: Building the Bang!

Ashcan_CoverThe fan response to our Knight Watchman and Ultiman backups in Berzerker 1 and 2 had been great, and the publication of Alan Moore’s 1963 books at Image Comics proved that there was a market for our “retro” series, and in 1993 we were given the green light to get going on a Big Bang Comics mini-series by our publisher, Gary Reed at Caliber Press.

Actually, we were given our own imprint by Caliber, and the mini-series, Dr. Weird Special, Dr. Weird ongoing series and the first two issues of Knight Watchman: Graveyard Shift were all published under the Big Bang Comics banner over the next two years.

TomKing_CoverSketch2But first, we had to decide exactly what we were going to do. Since 1963 was an homage/parody of Marvel Comics, we (Chris Ecker, Ed DeGeorge and myself) decided that we would stay closer to the DC Comics side of the fence.

Our goal was to pay homage to the iconic creators of the past, as well as their characters. A Golden Age Ultiman story could be told in a Joe Shuster, Jack Burnley, or Wayne Boring style. Silver Age could be Wayne Boring, Curt Swan, Al Plastino or Kurt Schaffenberger. We planned to mix and match artists’ styles, eventually, such as a Siegel & Shuster Knight Watchman story.

Blitz_GA_OrigSketchWe were building an entire universe and history of a company, so needed more characters. We already had stand-ins for Superman and Batman. Dr. Weird could function as the Spectre, Deadman, Dr. Strange or whoever. We decided that the Greek Goddess Venus would be a good substitute for a certain Amazon princess. We needed a fast guy. I liked the name the Blur but we decided to go with the Blitz, which worked pretty well as a Golden Age name, as in “putting the Blitz on Fritz”.HumanSub_model

With all of the characters, we tried to give them their own identity and mythology. Some succeeded better than others. We weren’t trying to reinvent the wheel, or to create a “new and improved” Superman or whoever. We merely wanted to tell new “old stories”, like you were finding an old story you hadn’t read before. Not parodies, making fun of how silly the old stories were, but loving homages and recreations.

We needed an underwater guy. Chris came up with the Human Sub, who didn’t owe much to either Aquaman or Sub-Mariner. He was a scientist whose brain was transplanted into a robot body.

BeaconChris also came up with the idea of the Beacon, a geologist who discovered a powerful crystal that emitted multi-colored beams of radiation. One enabled him to fly. Another made him strong, while a third made him bulletproof. Yet another produced a heat ray. He wedged the shining gem into the lamp receptacle of his miner’s helmet and returned to the surface world to fight for justice.TGirl_FirstSketch

We decided it would be redundant to have a Captain Marvel character since we already had Ultiman, but we wanted to do C.C. Beckish stories so we created Thunder Girl. Similarly, we wanted to honor the King – – Jack Kirby, so we created the Badge! He could function as Captain America, the Guardian, Manhunter and many other creations by Simon & Kirby, Lee & Kirby and Kirby by himself.

Badge_SAI was lucky to meet two artists who not only became great friends of mine, but two of the cornerstones of Big Bang. Mark Lewis had worked with writer Nat Gertler and created a book starring a retro character named Mr. U.S. that mined much of the same territory we were doing with Big Bang. Mr. U.S. had been cancelled before publication (it was eventually published as an issue BillF_ComicBookCollegeof Big Bang) but Mark began working with BB, creating many of our logos and designing characters. He was and is a fabulous mimic, able to ghost any number of styles including a fantastic Simon & Kirby, and he became the Badge artist.

The second indispensable addition to Big Bang was Bill Fugate. Bill was a wonderful cartoonist who had drawn for Kitchen Sink Press, BOP magazine, Gay Comics, Omaha the Cat Dancer, as well as Disney titles like Roger Rabbit’s Toontown and The Little Mermaid. I didn’t know any of that at the time. I saw an ad he had drawn for a comic book store in Minnesota and wrote to him, asking if he wanted to draw a C.C. Beck inspired strip starring Thunder Girl. Luckily he said yes.

TomKing_CoverSketch3TomKing_CoverSketch3Our plan was to introduce all incarnations of our characters in the initial mini-series. The first 64 page issue would feature the Golden Age characters. Chris drew a number of fun cover roughs similar in feel to the World’s Finest comics of the early 1940s.

Blitz_RunningIssue two was going to introduce the Silver Age incarnations of many of the same characters and issue three would set up our modern continuity (modern being the then-mid 1990s). We jokingly (and erroneously) referred to it as the Zirconium Age, named after the artificial simulated diamonds, cubic zirconia.

I have mentioned before how much help that artist David Zimmerman was in pointing us toward the possibility of doing Silver Age versions of the characters. He helped refine the look of some characters and helped design the 1960s Blitz. Ben Torres was already working on the Knight Watchman: Graveyard Shift mini-series which was the start of our modern age.Deductive_ashcan_Cvr

We printed up ashcans reprinting the Berzerker backups with new covers, Knight Watchman starring in Deductive Comics and Ultiman in Hi-Octane Comics (using a Dave Zimmermann Ultiman figure) to promote the upcoming series at various comic conventions in 1993.

Then Chris, Ed and I plotted out the history of Big Bang Comics (both of the company and the characters) and surrounded ourselves with talented artists and writers and set out to re-write history.

Gary Carlson





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