Big Bang is the name of a comic company specializing in superhero comics. More appropriately, the company pays tribute to the great heroes and creators of the past, yet it travels down its own idiomatic path. Operated by Gary Carlson, well known for Megaton Comics and Big Bang Comics. Megaton introduces great characters and stories as well as future popular comic creators (Erik Larsen, Rob Liefeld, Angel Medina, Butch Guice, Mike Gustovich, Sam Grainger, and Sam DeLaRosa ). Megaton turned into Big Bang Comics. Appropriately named. Every comic fan has had the experience. Reading the first comic that them into fans first decades to come. That big bang moment.
I was a fan of Megaton Comics and even interviewed Gary a few years back. I know, without a doubt, of his infectious affection regarding comics. Big Bang recently published a three-part story line running through Big Bang Adventures written by Pedro Angosto (and pencils by Jorge Santamaria, inks by Juan Moreno, colors by Daniele Caramanico, and letters by Adam Pruett). Pedro shares the same kind of affection for comics that Gary has and is mirrored in every comic fan.
Welcome to both of you. To each, where did your love of comics begin? How did you get turned into comics, what did they mean to you then and now? What titles started your journey?
After my father started me on Disney comics and an adaptation of the animated Heidi series from the 70s, I went on reading Tintin and many other french comics (Lucky Luck, Iznoguz, Asterix, etc…). Then for a while started collecting many Spanish humor comics from the Bruguera imprint, sort of equivalent to your Archie comics (Mortadelo, Zipi & Zape, Superlopez, etc…).
I was 12 (1983) when I first run into the new Spanish editions of Marvel Comics by Forum, Spider-Man being the first I collected, shortly followed by all the main Marvel titles, then the DC ones, published by Zinco. I was lucky enough to buy New Teen Titans # 19 first, so that way was really easy to fall in love with all those 80s DC and Marvel books and their great, mostly unsurpassed runs and their creators.
Would like to be terribly original, but in hindsight I read comics cause back then I guess I was what you now call a nerd, even if there wasn’t a word for it back then. “Socially challenged”, not good at sports and running away from all the “Flash Thompsons” in my High School.
Even if my name wasn’t Peter, there were many parallels between Parker and me. Except from Mary Jane. And Wall-Crawling. I had like half a dozen “Aunt Mays” (one of my grandmothers had four sisters).
And now… well, like many others fans of Marvel and DC I stopped reading and collecting comic-books close to 10 years now, not being able to recognize the original scope of the characters I grew with. Mainly because, being a writer, I got a pretty clear idea of how each should be done -even if not by me- and in general, production values of those publishers have dropped way below what used to be the norm.
Still, the superhero concept and all their characters -and I mean ALL in a George Pérez way- are very important to me, as a modern myth. Myth understood like a story that gives you meaning. Even before starting collecting I saw the Donner Superman movie and… felt something.
So either I am from Krypton too -or rather, from what Krypton symbolizes- or my inner nerd found a way of scape in Reeves’ Clark Kent. Make your choice!
I started reading comics by age 4 or 5. My brother was three years older than me and let me read his comics. Soon I was riding my bike to the grocery store and trading comics with his friends. This was 1962 or so and the comics I read were all DCs: Superman. Batman. Flash. That’s what was on the shelves. I was drawing these characters in class at my kindergarten.
Big Bang pays tribute to many of your comic book loves. Tributes can be interesting. These aren’t one-shot stories in an anthology that stand by themselves. To be honest, every modern comic pays tribute to the past. Big Bang is more honest with that. Is that honesty on purpose?
We do our best to tell “old” stories that haven’t been told before. We honor the characters, as well as the creative teams that wrote and drew them in times past. We never tried to make fun of the old styles with a wink-wink to the reader.
If superhero comic-books teach you something is the concept of “classics”: Every major character has been rebooted at least half a dozen times. But not always with the same success, creative and in sales.
That easily shows you that, many times what worked, what was done right, the essence and better version of a character is indeed in THE PAST. Doing a homage for the sake of it it’s nice, no doubt. But I don’t think what Big Bang Comics or many other superhero pastiches do.
When Gary started BBC and did, for example, the seminal Criss-Cross Crisis, alternate worlds stories, the now ubiquitous Multiverse, had been FORBIDDEN at DC Comics for 12 years!!! So, by recreating the books of his childhood he actually sent a pretty clear message to DC saying: “Hey, guys, maybe you are missing something that was your backbone for 30 years!”
Of course, no good deed goes unpunished, and even if DC brought back the concept, with the exception of Grant Morrison and some others, it hasn’t produced any major, memorable story.
For me, Gary Carlson & Chris Ecker have a decisive role in in “spawning” the Sense of Wonder Renaissance of the middle 90’s, together with Bryan Augustyn. Moore, Waid, Busiek, etc… Of course Alan Moore’s Supreme is much better known, but those came later, after the initial Caliber Comics BBC back-ups.
If the Dark Age of Comics made something clear was, again, that the heroes should return to their Golden Age ideals, their Silver Age fantasy and their Bronze Age touch of realism. And “for one brief, shinning moment”, in comics, they did. Then, along came The Authority and The Ultimates… Luckily, Marvel Studios movies and series carry on on that tradition.
And at the same time, by creating their own pastiche DC Universe, Gary and Chris were following a hallowed tradition in comic-books, picking it where Roy Thomas, Steve Englehart and the late Mark Gruenwald left it.
When I do a pastiche, I take lessons from all the writers mentioned, and then some, and try my best to emulate them.
If you go to the comic shop today, you’ll be able to pick The Death Of Superman -his electric powers are back!- some Mutant Massacre revisits, the Midnight Sons are back -nothing wrong with that, I love magic-based characters!- and Spider-Man’s clone is still causing trouble.
Spider-Man is again being drawn by Romita Jr. And Mark Bagley (Todd McFarlane, you better get ready, you must be next!) God bless them all. I love their work but I don’t think I would have loved Roger Stern’s Spider-Man if suddenly Steve Ditko came back to draw it in the 80s. In that alternate world, we wouldn’t even have had any Romita Jr. And the Hobgoblin ended being Ayn Rand in disguise!! (By the way, we homaged Ditko in The Last Whiz Kids Story # 1 (BBA # 14) with the most unimaginative Question/Mr. A pastiche!)
Sadly, to me, what’s left of the comic industry survives off nostalgia and publishers seem stuck on the 90s, only this time the books don’t sell millions.
So getting back to your “question”, no I don’t think what we do is just a homage to the past.
Over the years that Big Bang has been around you have also shown not only a love for comics, you love your characters. While these characters may be one part tribute, they are also their own creation with a destiny of their own. Just like a child sharing the genetics of their parents, they exist as individuals as well.
We’ve always tried to make the characters as much of their own as possible. They were based on archetypes, not just ripping off any individual character. We never just “changed the names”. We always tried to give them their own backstories. Even with the stories, while they may start off familiar, we’ve always insisted on a “left hand turn” away from what people might be expecting.
To amplify this, Pedro, in a prior interview on First Comics News, you were talking about your story with the Whiz Kids and said “The story is similar to The Judas Contract but remains a very personal story that can only be told with the Whiz Kids.” Go into a little more detail about this idea that a story can be a tribute, but its own thing as well.
Yes. To me developing a good pastiche is like creating a great alternate version of one character. For example, Captain Carter from the What If… animated series. She’s Captain America but, at the same time she’s different from Steve Rogers. Not cause she has boobs: Heroes Reborn Steve had them too -sorry, Rob-.
Oh, we homage too Rob Liefeld’s Youngblood in Whiz Kids # 2 (BBA # 17), with some terrific designs by Luis Lorente, as that title was originally meant to be published by Megaton. I think Rob liked them, and was waiting for the regular series!
Captain Carter had her own tone of Pulp adventures, a different “Puny Steve” to relate to, she’s British, etc…
For Whiz Kids, them being a Teen Titans pastiche, I am following on the steps of both Gary Carlson and Ed DeGeorge. Gary created the Silver Age and Bronze Age versions, and Ed wrote the Whiz Kids Special -drawn by none other than a young Chris Samnee, now one of the very best draftsmen in superhero art!- developing his version of the New Teen Titans.
I added some members but the story picks up where the most modern adventure of Knight Watchman’s sidekick Galahad and The Blitz’s sidekick, our speedster, Cyclone left them, that being the FREE AGENTS issue, published in #4 of the original Caliber Comics mini-series.
The Free Agents were an 90’s version of the Round Table Of America, together with impossible anatomy, lack of backgrounds, cybernetic limbs galore, violence, deaths… One of the most accomplished pastiches, that could easily be mistaken for the real thing!
So my task was to take those characters and evolve them beyond that dark point in time, looking back, of course, to the Wolfman/Pérez run, but also to the Grummett era or even the Grayson/Buckingham one. And being Big Bang characters, I felt that they needed to end in a sunnier place. And that, in a nutshell, is what our story is about.
While we were publishing it this last year, the Titans didn’t even had their own series at DC! They were secondary characters in Titans Academy. Funnily, that had superb art by Rafa Sandoval, who like Jorge Santamaría, our artist, is very influenced by our revered Carlos Pacheco.
We don’t want to go into a competition with him nor with Taylor & Redondo’s acclaimed Nightwing run. But Jorge and me started before both runs were announced…and we will finish it later, with many less pages and no Eisner nominations! ;-P
But we had lots of fun and I am thankful to Gary & Chris for the chance of doing the story and amazed at the evolution of Jorge’s style along the pages.
Big Bang has even around since 1994. The company includes characters from Megaton. That’s decades’ worth of stories. This is no one-shot in an anthology indeed. This is a real company, paying taxes and it comes complete with a long history and back story. These characters matter and their stories have consequences.
Megaton was created as a new generation of heroes. Megaton, UltraGirl, Ethrian, Vanguard, Berzerker and others were a new group of mostly young characters. There were a few older generation characters noted, but the focus was on the new kids. When Chris and I created Big Bang almost ten years later, we decided to tell the stories of the older generation of heroes.
Pedro, the current story with the Whiz Kids that you’re writing is proof of a long history and back story filled with characters that matter and have consequences. Tell our readers why you are passionate about this story and why it matters to you and should to them.
Why I am passionate? Dude, Gary created HIS OWN DC UNIVERSE! And then He and Chris went on tackling many of the Marvel Universe ones! That demiurgic power, Thanos level, is fascinating for any superhero fan, even more if you think of yourself as a writer. All those untold stories deserve to be told. Only Alan Moore and Kurt Busiek have accomplished something as complex.
Go and read the two History of Big Bang Comics (#24 & #27) of the Image series. Even for those who, like the Whiz Kids, only had two or three real comic-books, Gary developed decades of faux stories, together with friends, foes, creators and runs.
For my first entry into the BBC universe, 15 years ago, I did this Round Table Of America: Personality Crisis that was a homage to the kind of stories Schwartz and Fox penned for the Silver Age JLA. My creative ego, as huge as it can get, was totally satisfied when a review by Keith Howell said our book, drawn by Carlos Rodriguez, was more entertaining than the JLA issue of that month! (won’t mention here who that writer was, but he went on to major things, not all of the liking of DC Fans!!)
And about the Whiz Kids, even if I had just three issues -almost 100 pages, tho- to homage Wolfman & Pérez’s seminal 75+ issues run, I tried to put in that story all I wish I could be reading in the original one. Mainly, character development, even with said space constraints.
The leader of the WK being called Galahad allowed me to tell a story that plays with that, a Grail Quest, to get it before the mysterious Arabian magician Old Man of The Mountains, leader of the Assassins gets it!
And I can assure you that the adventure will end with a moment in the lives of the Whiz Kids that have never been told for their original counterparts!!! And, man, it’s EPIC! JOHN WILLIAMS’ epic!!
Big Bang has brought back another aspect of comics. Having fun! Your slogan is “Remember when comics were fun? We do!” Gary, how important was it to keep things fun?
That was the point of Big Bang from the start. When I started reading comics, they were aimed at kids and were fun. As time went on, creators would say “Comics aren’t just for kids anymore.” It got to the point where comics weren’t aimed at kids at all, except maybe a few goofy cartoony ones aimed at five year olds.
I’m curious, to both of you, you’re passionate, having fun, doing what you enjoy, and working with people you respect, your perspective helps mold what you do. What is life to you?
I’m an old guy now. Probably as old or older than when we started and would see legends like Shelly Moldoff and Mart Nodell. After a bout with cancer two years ago, I’m just happy to be alive and doing what I love.
Oh man, not really in the better place to answer that right now! Struggle, Frustration, Failure, repeat… would be the short answer.
Creatively it has been a complete JOY, working with Gary as an editor -a hands-off one, but with a touch deadlier than both Karnak and Man-Thing- and all the artists (Pablo Alcalde for Knights of Justice, Luis Lorente for the new Round Table of America -an spin-off or tie-in of The Last Whiz Kids Story- and Joan Vives for Doctor Weird.
Doctor Weird, the Spectre/Dr.Fate/Dr.Strange/Mr Justice pastiche created by fan editor Howard Kertnel in 1963, the oldest of all BBC Universe characters, was drawn in the 70s by a young JIM STARLIN, and written and further developed by another fan who went on to create one of the best written and most enthralling fantasy sagas of the day: A SONG OF FIRE AND ICE’s G.R.R. MARTIN himself!
Imagine how I feel taking on his footsteps! And Joan promises the book will be drawn before WINDS OF WINTER comes out! ;-P
The only way to be more excited would be if I was writing that “Meteor Man” from Martin’s “distinguished competence”, but he hardly speaks!
Being a character that Martin wrote, I should had included many more deaths. And much more sex. Within the family! Now, Doctor Weird being a ghost puts a clear limit to the latest!
Oh, but we were talking about life. I hope, following Tolkien, this is a sort of “cosmic trap” we FELL into and once our rings in due time are destroyed we will return home. For him, life was a school for demiurges. It will be really nice to be able to create stuff without having to wait some artist who don’t really get the concept of deadlines. ;-P
Getting back to comics, what should today’s readers and creators remember or draw inspiration from comics in the past? Why do comics from the Golden, Silver, and Bronze ages resonate with you so much?
Probably because I grew up with them. Then I got into the histories from reading Jim Steranko’s two volume Histories and Jules Feiffer’s book.
My fascination with the Golden Age heroes is mostly due to Roy Thomas’ work: Invaders, Liberty Legion at Marvel and All-Star Squadron, Young All-Stars and Infinity Inc. At DC.
Also Len Wein’s, who in his JLA rescued from Limbo the Seven Soldiers, the Freedom Fighters and the rest of Fawcett Earth’s characters.
Brian Augustyn rescued the Justice Society from Limbo in that sadly short and overlooked delicious run Strazewski & Parobeck. And then Mark Waid run with Johnny & Jesse Qucik and Max Mercury.
Then, of course, along came James Robinson with his The Golden Age -published as Elseworld, like The New Frontier, to me that’s the real DCU Continuity- and his magnum opus STARMAN. So perfect and beautiful that I think a comic book writer cannot aspire to archive anything beyond it. And I loved the original Stars & S.T.R.I.P.E. Mini by Johns. Wish Lee Modern did much more work. As for the JSA, I enjoyed most of it, even more drawn by Leonard Kirk & the Pacheco JLA/JSA team-ups. If DC doesn’t do one of those every year, you still can tell they can do better. In place of that, they now do a reboot every year. Or two reboots, every… month???
The Silver Age of DC Comics was tragically ignored post-Crisis. Like Hawkman, it became only a place for continuity mistakes and convoluted stories. But in the works of editors Schwartz and Weisinger, among many others, lie the true essence of what made DC Comics great and singular.
I started reading mostly post-Crisis DC Comics, and understand the need to reboot and renew, mostly artistically, but man, they did throw the baby out with the bath water…!!!
If not for Augustyn, Waid and others, modern DC readers won’t even have a hint of what DC characters were really about back then. Very few writers, most of them British like Moore, Morrison or Gaiman have been able to look back to those books and recapture its magic. Hey, I am not British, but once I visited Carlos Pacheco’s home and it’s next to Gibraltar, maybe they should give me a try! ;-P
After all, at this precise moment in time, DC Comics has to rescue every single character that has been published by them and it’s not BATMAN! ;-P
What has Big Bang paid tribute to?
Siegel and Shuster. Bob Kane’s ghosts. Simon & Kirby. Curt Swan. C.C. Beck. As many as we possibly could.
Gary should answer this better. But me and my artist have already homaged Bronze Age JLA (Personality Crisis), Golden Age JSA of Earth-2 (Knights of Justice -BBA # 8-, again with an adventure that hasn’t been told with the original models, the heroes visiting Venus’ Roman Underworld, full of mythological characters and, on top of that, fighting some Golden Age bad guys who may have some parallels with other better known Golden Age supervillains agroupattions.
Then the already mentioned Bronze Age (and beyond!) New Teen Titans.
In the works, a new Round Table of America, think of it as a wink to the JLA’s Morrison era.
And last, Doctor Weird, where we of course tried to homage all his past creators by expanding his world into some Ditko/Lovecraftian adventure in the vein of Moore’s “A lesson of Anatomy”, which revisits Weird’s origin story, respecting but HEAVILY EXPANDING it. It’s titled “The Quest For Garments”.
Pablo Alcalde (KoJ) and me had another pitch for a National Guardians story -those being the Silver Age Thomas/Buscema Avengers- but the original story -that takes the group to the Shooter/Pérez era- has been rejected by Gary…among many other reasons for having TOO MANY CHARACTERS! He’s right. Looking now for the chance to rewrite it.
Historically, comics were printed at much higher print runs and read more widespread in America than what they are today. I think we can all agree that comics are created differently than they were in the past. What do you think creators and publishers are missing from the past that should be part of how comics are created now and in the future?
I don’t know. The comics seem very violent to me these days. And they’re constantly rebooting the characters over and over. The money seems to be in movies and merchandising now, which seems to attract readers. Comics didn’t used to be “real”. You just had to believe that a man could fly – not have an explanation why it is possible.
Oh I have this little idea that might be helpful: THE CONCEPT OF A “SERIES” entails same writer and SAME ARTIST.
During the Quesada years at Marvel the TPB model already restricted most arcs to six issues done by the same artist. OK, I buy that! But nowadays I DARE YOU to find a “series” that keeps the same artist for six consecutive issues. I don’t really want to get into the fact that too many books today include the work of two or more artists. Nothing “artful” there, sorry.
No series, nothing there to COLLECT.
Monthly format belongs to the past, at least as long as editors seem unable to find the right talent not to make them a merry-go-round of artists. But that probably cost more money that publishers are allowed to expend this days…
Pedro, I am curious, comics are treated differently overseas. In fact, in many places around the world, there is a kind of greater respect for comics. From your vantage point, what could the American industry adopt from the overseas markets to help elevate its comic industry?
Well, you mean France and Belgium. Here in Spain we survive on American, French and Japanese comics and our own industry, even if it produces real masterworks, more in the “Graphic Novel” slice of reality genre than the adventure one.
For the American superhero industry to be reborn in need the aforementioned change of format. One good graphic novel a year is much better than any other 12 regular issues of those produced today.
Then, in a global market, you need to find and hire the very best artists. For example, Enrico Marini. When I saw his french work I intermediately thought of him doing Batman. And he did. Why is he not doing more? Why other french and European artists are not doing superheroes, even if they all know and love those characters?
And -I might be biased here- but, just in case you didn’t notice, there is an unwritten rule that keeps non English-speakers writers banned from the American industry. Look back at what the BRITISH INVASION brought to superheroes and American books. There could be an SPANISH INVASION of writers too. There is an Spanish Alan Moore. And a Grant Morrison. And a Neil Gaiman. And a Warren Ellis. And a Peter Milligan. Etc…
They may take a little bit more of time to edit into the Queen’s English, but I can assure you it would be worth. And, no, I am not saying I might be one of those Tres -or thirty- Caballeros, cause my recent experience trying to promote Big Bang Comics back to the place it historically deserves has made me SO INCENSED with the American Industry and the news sites that Alan Moore would sounds like a “fervent fanboy of fabulous figments of fantasy” (Excalibur!!) next to what I’d say right now.
With many years and many issues worth of comics, this shared-world universe has a lot to it. There is a lot to Big Bang Comics that readers can dig into, collect back issues of, and enjoy. What are your current series and where should new readers start?
We try to make every issue a good starting off point. The current books are on sale through IndyPlanet.com. Go in and take a look, If you like a character, pick up an issue with another story featuring him or her. Some back issues from the 90s and 2000s are available on the Big Bang website for as little as $3.00 each. Check them out at: https://bigbangcomics.com/product-category/comic-books/
Gary would have already say that you can get an almost complete run of BBC books thru the eras from our website. And the current series from Indyplanet.
But let me top that: I cannot fathom how Gary has not already received DOZENS of offers from current independent publishers to bring the series back into their imprints and sell it back thru PREVIEWS.
And the one who does that should IMMEDIATELY publish the whole series thru paperbacks. With new color, for the ones that were done in B&W.
BBC is a love letter to the American superhero genre, now a global success. I really pity those who remain ignorant about it or unable to understand the talent that all the contributors put into it.
Leave aside my writing -EVEN IF ALL THE REVIEWS PRAISE IT-, the artwork we have been producing does not deserve to be IGNORED. A system that does that with newcomers is nothing but DOOMED and with a reason.
Looks to me that, like everywhere else, nothing gets done in the comic-book industry unless you put a dead horse head in the bed of somebody. All other offers do get refused. So yeah, beyond doing the best comics ever, Alan Moore might not be totally wrong when he equals it with a long running “mutual help Sicilian association” popularized in fiction by the writer of Superman, The Movie. PORCA MISERIA!
Gary, what is a little-known fact that should be more well-known about Big Bang?
That we were lucky enough to work with some legendary creators who influenced us: Curt Swan, Murphy Anderson, Shelly Moldoff, Mart Nodell, Jim Steranko, Rich Buckler, Dave Cockrum, etc.
Alan Moore was a fan of Big Bang Comics. ‘Nuff Said!
Whats coming up next for Big Bang?
Big Bang Adventures features different characters in every issue. Besides the main book, there is Anomalies, which features a group of young heroes whose parents were infected by the Ultranium radiation that gave Ultiman his powers and killed so many others. Knight Watchman: Creatures of the Knight will be a 3 or 4 issue mini-series where the Watchman’s major foes join together. It’s kind of a comics meets Universal Monsters theme.
You mean us or the DC event that snatched the name? ;-P
Well, I have talked enough about our coming project on the Spaniard side of BBC!
As, if not a series of MIRACLES happen, I’ll be taking a looong break from comic-books again, speaking as a fan, I’d love for Big Bang Comics to be read by the, at least 5.000 readers or more than could enjoy them.
I’d love to see some classic writers and artists, those who sadly won’t get work in the majors anymore to come to BBC and work on its characters and develop even more pastiche ones.
Gary, as me with dozens of Spanish ones, have helped an awful lot of artist to get started in comic-books. And I am sure he was more rewarded by them than I was.
But would be really nice if some of them took a minute to help promote this 40 years old superhero universe created by the “Grandfather of Image Comics” himself now that BBC, like the industry itself, has seen better times.
Doing something nice for the people around you, even more if they helped you in the past, that’s what life is about for me now.
If you read superhero comics, but don’t try to behave heroically, you are very silly, totally missing the point and on the side of villains, dear comic book fans of today. Go and re-read Amazing Fantasy #15: When you think something wrong in the world is not your problem, the world will find a way to let you know it really was.
And let me finish thanking again Gary and Chris, all the artist, inkers, colorists and letterers who have worked with me on this run (dozens of them, doing pin-ups and other stuff) and all those like you who have helped promote Big Bang Comics. Specially Rik Offenberger and Eric N. Bennet, who did a wonderful INDIEVERSITY HANDBOOK OF INDEPENDENT SUPERHERO UNIVERSES. And our half a dozen reviewers, who made the mistake to make me believe we did something of value.
That’s something that should be done: a BIG BANG COMICS UNIVERSE HANDBOOK, so people can see how huge it really is. And with this fanboy wish, this Propero breaks his wand…in the head of all comic-book readers! Adieu!
Thank you Gary and Pedro. Big Bang Comics is a refreshing change in comic creation. Instead of chasing the latest trends the big dollar events, pimping for Hollywood, Big Bang Comics is about comics and the love of comics. There was a time in the past, with both Marvel and DC, when the ideas meant more than the dollar signs. If you miss those kind of comics, you should be reading Big Bang Comics!
For those ready for something fun and exciting you can buy Big Bang Comics at : https://bigbangcomics.com/product-category/comic-books/
Go to their website at https://bigbangcomics.com/
Buy Big Bang Comics at https://www.indyplanet.com/big-bang-comics