The Liberty Brigade Fights Again…For the First Time

Longtime comic fan and original art collector Michael Finn has decided to create a  self-published book featuring Golden Age Heroes in a brand new adventure. First Comic News sat down with Michael recently to find out how he conceived the idea and how Kickstarter is helping make his fanboy dream come true.First Comic News: So Michael you are a long time comic fan and more recently a comic art collector. In fact, most people might know you as the One Minute Later Guy where you take comic covers and evolve them into what would happen one Minute later, great concept by the way.

Michael Finn: That is right, Mike.  I love the One Minute Later theme I have, but right now I’m completely focused on The Liberty Brigade, a WW II story featuring dozens of public domain heroes and villains from the 1940s and 1950s.

1st: So how did your love for Golden Age heroes begin?

Michael: Marvel had a series called The Invaders which took place in WW II.  It was amazing to me to get to see Captain America, the original Human Torch and the Sub-Mariner all working together.  I was in kid-heaven.  Later, DC had The All-Star Squadron, another book written by Roy, which featured a DC team of heroes fighting in WW II.  Roy just did a wonderful job with both books and, as part of his storylines, he featured characters from the earliest days of comics.  I just loved it.  I have to credit Roy for initiating my love of the Golden Age of comics.

1st: Okay. so you loved the Invaders and for quite some time you were one of the preeminent owners of original art from the Bronze Age run of the Marvel series. How did you go from appreciating the original Timely heroes and the DC/All American heroes to the second tier characters that were published by Nedor, Fox and other companies?

Michael: Once you start to learn about something, you want to go further back and learn even more.  Once I read the Invaders and All-Star Squadron, I started reading the original tales of these characters.  I also became interested in the history of comics and the creators behind the characters.  That led me to learn that there were many, many more publishers in the 1940s than anybody has ever realized.  Literally dozens and dozens of comic book publishers, each of which had patriotic and other characters.  I love the Red, White and Blue patriotic characters of the 1940s and felt like they deserved to be seen in their full glory at least one last time.

1st: So how did this lead to you thinking about actually publishing the “The Liberty Brigade?”

Michael: I wanted to bring the characters of the 1940s back to life one more time but do so in their original timeline, WW II.  I wanted especially to bring back a bunch of the lesser known 1940s characters and see if we could tell a terrific story while slightly (just slightly) freshening up some of the characters.

I’d had this story idea for years and every so often I’d toss some more notes into my file and I finally figured it was now or never.  I just wanted to tell this story and so many of the creators I know encouraged me to jump into the pool and “just do it!”

1st: As you were dipping your toe into the water, how did you go about making sure these characters were public domain? I know there have been questions about whether or not the MLJ characters are public domain(they are not) or say the Harvey Black Cat ( she is not)

Michael: Well, I have to say that I hired a top-notch copyright research team from one of DC’s finest law schools.  They did all the work for me and so we have a very good idea of which characters are public domain and which are not.

I very much wanted to use The Fighting Hobo from USA Comics #5 but it turns out he is still copyrighted by Marvel Comics.  So, we have a similar character known as The Battling Hobo instead.  (Note – Marvel if you are reading this, help a guy out and give me a license to use the Fighting Hobo).

1st: Okay, so now the question comes down to writing and art, I know a lot of us have read a comic or three and said I could do better than that. What made you think YOU could do it?

Michael: You know what — tons of encouragement — thank you, Mark Waid, Mark Buckingham, Barry Kitson and Marc Nathan (who owns the Baltimore Comic-Con).  They kept encouraging me and they all read the plot several times and made suggestions.  Best of all, Jim Steranko himself gave me plot tips.  With all that firepower, I knew I had a good plot.  Then, on to scripting.  Well, if you are a first time writer, there is no better editor than Mark Waid.  I am so privileged to have him as our editor and his tips, cajoling, kindness, and word suggestions are so very appreciated and so very good.

There are some pages I’ve turned in and Mark says “great job” and boy do I feel proud of myself.  Other times, he may say something like, “Why don’t you consider saying X or Y” and, like Homer Simpson, I say “D’oh” because it is such a great suggestion and makes something I’ve struggled with so very clear that I simply cannot believe I’ve overlooked it.

Plus, I have the two greatest pencilers in the world – Ron Frenz and Barry Kitson – they’ve made suggestions all along the way which have helped me.  Alan Davis gave me a page of notes on his one-page origin and every single idea/concept Alan had improved the product.  I can’t thank these gentlemen enough.

1st: So you had some sage advisors looking over your shoulder?

Michael: Yes, I sure did and do and the book is so much better for it.

1st: How did you come up with the title “The Liberty Brigade?”

Michael: Blame Roy Thomas – he took The Invaders and the All-Star Squadron not to mention Freedom Fighters.  I just was wracking my brain and checking the US Copyright/Trademark Office to try to find a name that had not been used/taken in comics that would be the kind of name to evoke a super-hero team fighting the Axis in the 1940s.

1st: All right let’s move on to the art, I think it is safe to assume with well over one hundred One Minute Later commissions you have had done that you are pretty well connected with the artistic community?

Michael: Yes, I’ve been fortunate to get to know many artists and I asked almost all of them if they would consider helping me on my project.  I was thrilled — truly thrilled — to get the great and amazing Ron Frenz and Barry Kitson on the graphic novel, not to mention all the guest artists providing one-page origins of Golden Age characters.

1st: Yeah I have seen the one-page origin that George Perez drew, it is stunning!

Michael: Thank you — George is a long-time friend and client (I do legal work for folks in the comic community) and I was blown away by George’s origin page for TNT.

1st: So you were able to get a lot of artists you knew to do one-page origin or pinup pages but how did you get Barry Kitson to do breakdowns and then land Ron Frenz to do the actual story.

Michael: Well, it is much more than that — Ron agreed to do the story which was about 40 pages but as I sat to really think it through it grew to be around 80 pages at which point I knew I needed two artists as Ron is pretty busy on Blue Baron (check it out) and other projects.  Barry Kitson was going to do a cover and he is a long-time friend of mine (one of my very best friends, in fact) and he said he had a small window in which he could squeeze in the other 40 pages.  So, really it is Ron Frenz and Barry as the two pencilers — we worked out a terrific way to split the story up and it works great.

1st: So were you looking for a certain kind of Bronze Age type feel to the book.

Michael: I sure was and Barry and Ron are the two guys to do it.

1st: Let me ask you quickly about the coloring, the preview pages just pop off the Kickstarter page, who did the coloring?

Michael: Thank you.  Chris Ivy — he inks for Marvel and DC and is a phenomenal colorist. We also have Memo Regalado on colors as well.

1st: Were you looking for a certain feel or era for the colors also?

Michael: Bright and shiny like the characters is the truth of it.

1st: So this is being published but “The Liberty Brigade” will not be on newsstands, this is part of a Kickstarter that has already reached its initial goal, so we know it will be published. But you have to pledge to the Kickstarter or else end up buying “The Liberty Brigade”   on eBay at a much higher price when it becomes a collector’s item.

Michael: Yes, that is true so please buy it on Kickstarter.  We have a JIM STERANKO variant cover version available as well.

1st: Okay we’ll give you a free plug here and put the link to the Kickstarter here.

$20 bucks gets you the digital copy, $30 dollars gets you the paperback edition and the more you pledge the greater the bonus features you receive?

Michael: Yes That is correct. We have a hardcover and we have a hardcover with a JIM STERANKO variant cover. We also have prints as part of the deal and original art. Something for everyone.

1st: Well congratulations on your success so far, full disclosure I pledged and look forward to my copy sometime this winter?

Michael: The book is scheduled to come out in March. Pages are coming in now every week and we have some bonus stories and pinups as stretch goals including a new Green Lama story and the creation of a new female K the Unknown.

1st: Of course, we should ask will there be a sequel?

Michael: YES, we are nearly 200% subscribed and already thinking about the sequel.

1st: Okay thanks for your time and we look forward to reading the book and congratulate you on achieving a fanboy’s dream.

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