By George A. Tramountanas
The big bang is the prevailing theory for how our universe began. But this raises a few questions that most folks don’t consider – what existed before the big bang? Did our “bang” wipe it out of existence? And what if the bang was actually the birth of a superhero?
Okay, so no one asks that last question, but writer D.J. Kirkbride and artist Vassilis Gogtzilas decided to answer it anyway in their IDW miniseries The Bigger Bang. In this comic, the universe gives birth to an adult hero named Cosmos, but in doing so, it causes a big bang that wipes out our earth and several other planets populated with life.
Cosmos is fully aware of what his birth has wrought, as are the individuals on planets that were not affected by Cosmos’ bigger bang. Due to this fact, the hero is seen as a destroyer wherever he goes; although, the truth is he just wants to help and be loved. Eventually, Cosmos crosses paths with someone whose only goal is destruction, and through this confrontation, he is able to show others who he is and teach them about the true nature of power.
Like most great science fiction stories, this is a morality tale. The series (and trade paperback) was initially published in 2015. Now the creators of the book have come back to bring readers a four-issue follow-up titled – appropriately enough – The Biggest Bang. The first issue arrives in stores on May 18, so we thought we’d catch up with the writer and artist to see if we could learn more about the aftermath of their bigger bang…
BC: To begin with, how did the sequel come about? While the book seemed to enjoy critical acclaim, it didn’t exactly burn up the sales charts the first time around. Then again, as IDW publishes the other books you both work on (AMELIA COLE, ADVENTURES OF AUGUSTA WIND), it does appear they enjoy your creations…
DJ: As you say, no, we didn’t burn up the sales charts – but we found a large enough audience to make IDW interested in another miniseries. A lot of the credit goes to our editor, Justin Eisinger. He championed us to get The Bigger Bang off the ground, and the numbers for it made him confident in pushing for this sequel. I figured that if Vass, Justin, letter extraordinaire Frank Cvetkovic, and I dig these comics enough to make them, there are like-minded readers who will enjoy them too.
I appreciate IDW’s willingness to take a chance on the books Vass and I have worked on, together and with other teams. Publishers going for new ideas is what keeps the comics industry interesting.
VASSILIS: IDW gave us a great opportunity to create a more experimental and unconventional comic book with the first series. Freedom is the key to creation, and for that we are both grateful. There’s a great quality to IDW’s productions and a wide variety of themes…I think that’s what draws us together.
BC: When I picked up the first series, I thought it might be a Superman-type of story, but it felt much bigger – like one of the old Kirby Silver Surfer tales. As it doesn’t really lend itself to a simple logline, how do you usually describe the book to people?
DJ: While Vass’s design for Cosmos is that of a very big, musclebound superhero-type, your Silver Surfer take is one that I’ve mentioned when describing the book to others. I’d throw a little Doctor Who in there too. Everything we do is influenced by the stories we enjoy, but ultimately, Cosmos is his own character with unique flaws and as well as strengths.
BC: The first story seemed like an allegory of sorts. It felt as if you were trying to say something about those who hold power and what they do with it. In your mind, are Cosmos and Thulu supposed to represent specific organizations or people? Or were you just trying to tell a really cool superhero story?
DJ: THE BIGGER BANG can be read as a really cool superhero story (thanks for calling it that), but, yes, we were trying to say more. A lot of times with me, as a writer, it all comes from my gut, and I don’t try to intellectualize it as it’s happening. While Cosmos and Thulu aren’t representatives of any specific organizations, they are broadly archetypes. They’re incredibly powerful polar opposites. Day and night. Light and dark. And Wyan, though a very extreme character in many ways, is the one in the middle – a gray area that could go either way.
Power itself is neither good nor evil, it’s what one does with it that can be judged. In the end, what I really wanted to come through in this crazy, goofy space opera is that it’s not about the past or origins, it’s about what one chooses to do with the present looking toward the future that counts.
BC: Vassili’s art has a very rough, somewhat surreal feel to it – like something out of Pink Floyd’s The Wall. It almost feels like you could tell several different stories with the images he draws. What is your working process like?
DJ: I normally write tight scripts with the understanding that the artist I’m lucky enough to work with can make changes to best fit the story. This is a little too constrictive for Vass, though, so I had to adapt. I have an overall story for the entire series that I break down issue-by-issue. Once Justin and Vass are on board with the direction, I’ll dig into an issue and write the story with suggestions on how many pages each scene should take, along with temp dialogue and captions where necessary to give Vass an idea of how much space to leave for words. He takes that and breaks each page down, laying them out as he sees fit.
It’s not quite Marvel-style and is actually more labor intensive in a lot of ways than writing a full script, as it usually involves some redrawing along with a lot of rewriting and adjustments in the scripting phase. The positive that comes from this, though, is that we end up creating something that neither of us would do on our own. It becomes very organic. It’s messy and exciting and makes these comics what they are. It’s a crazy process that works for us.
BC: What is the story of the sequel about? Do we discover what happened to the evil Thulu at the end of the last book? Or does the story focus more on Cosmos and Wyan’s budding relationship? Or both?
DJ: We focus on Cosmos and Wyan’s relationship with each other and the new post-Thulu universe. While the heroes won in THE BIGGER BANG, their actions had some surprising ramifications for both themselves and the many alien races in this universe.
We get to expand the scope, seeing new cultures and worlds we never even had a chance to mention in the last series. The crux of the plot hinges on religion and the worship of power. It’s all done with crazy monsters and fun superhero action, of course, but we touch upon some serious topics and a whole lot of humanity.
BC: What ideas are you hoping to explore in this sequel? Do you continue with some of the themes from the first series, or do you veer off in a completely new direction?
DJ: The cool part about crafting a finite tale and then being given the chance to do more, is that we’ve really made a true sequel with THE BIGGEST BANG. Issue 1 of this series is not simply issue 5 of THE BIGGER BANG. Time has passed, and the characters have changed. We recap what went on before and we build off of the themes, but there is a new status quo and new characters are introduced.
Cosmos and Wyan are very much co-leads of this new miniseries. Whereas THE BIGGER BANG had Cosmos trying to do good to atone for something that really wasn’t his fault (i.e. his birth), THE BIGGEST BANG has Wyan dealing with very similar issues of guilt. The key difference in their situations, however, is that she truly is responsible for the horrible crimes committed in her past. We get into the why’s of this and how she’s changing, but hers is a different journey than that of Cosmos.
Interested readers should know that the new series can be read without knowledge of the last one. So while fans of THE BIGGER BANG may have more backstory knowledge and will get shout-outs to the original miniseries, THE BIGGEST BANG can stand alone as a new adventure – just as odd, yet exciting, in its own ways.