Continuing the barrage of announcements from Image Comics at this year's Comic-Con International in San Diego, writer B. Clay Moore unveiled his new project, "Battle Hymn" and spoke to CBR News extensively about the series.
"'Battle Hymn' is a five-issue mini-series debuting in December from Image," says Moore. "Jeremy Haun, who previously drew twelve issues of 'Paradigm' (also from Image) is handling the pencils, and Ande Parks (of 'Green Arrow' fame) is handling the inks to start. Dave Bryant is coloring the book, and Brian Frey (who collaborated with Tony Harris on a few 'Starman' trade paperback covers) is collaborating with Jeremy on the covers.
"So that's my starting point.
"The main characters in the book are part of a group dubbed 'Watchguard' by the government. On the surface, the characters are sort of archetypical types, mirroring a lot of the heroes that were running rampant through comics in the forties. But it's important to note that these characters are almost all deeply flawed, and their flaws are what drive the story to its conclusion.
"We've got the Proud American, a patriotic zealot with artificially augmented strength, who fancies himself a shining symbol of freedom, but whom the government looks upon as a slightly deranged walking photo op. The government sends him around the globe and snaps pictures of him as he mugs with weary soldiers just coming off the frontline. At the outset of the book, he's the only one with any public identity of note. Sort of a living unknown soldier in the public's mind, and ostensibly the 'leader' of Watchguard.
"Quinn Rey is our water-breather, in the tradition of Aquaman, the Sub-Mariner, the Fin or Hydroman (Golden Age heroes). He's just coming of age, and is sort of like a playful puppy in the water. The problem is that his version of 'playing' is to pop up and punch holes in the hulls of U.S. battleships before diving back to his undersea home. The government manages to hook him with the right bait, and while he remains something of a brash and reckless youngster, the bait in question, Miss Betty Jablonski, keeps him in check.
"The Mid-Nite Hour is the lone Brit in the group. A British super-spy, the Hour comes out of the shadows and joins the group at the request of Winston Churchill, in an effort to better gauge the reasons for the group's formation. He's probably the only sane member of the gang.
"Finally, the Defender of Liberty is the flip side to the Proud American, although both emerged from the same government-funded augmentation program. Whereas the American makes every move with thoughts of keeping the world safe for democracy, the Defender is decidedly more self-centered. When the Proud American is called away, the Defender steps right in and has no problem doing whatever dirty work is needed to be done to keep Watchguard from falling out of favor with the rather nervous American public."
Some might be quick to think this a deconstruction or parody of the Golden Age heroes, but Moore stresses that this is his way of paying tribute to one of his favorite eras of comics. "Oh, yeah, I'm a huge fan of Golden Age comics. Since the day I started reading comics as a kid the entire history of comics has fascinated me, and the energy of the Golden Age super-hero comics was just insane. The number one problem with all retellings of World War II super-hero stories is trying to explain why the heroes didn't just blow into Germany and take out Hitler and his goons. Writers invariably come up with convoluted answers to that question, but in my story it's only a matter of time before one of the 'heroes' realizes there's no reason he shouldn't do just that. And that's when the shit really hits the fan.
"I didn't do a ton of research. This stuff is pretty ingrained in me, you know? Jeremy, of course, has done a lot of period research to nail the look and feel of the era. And Brian Frey and I combed through a ton of old propaganda posters trying to settle on the right 'look' for the covers. So the covers are intentionally ironic.
"Churchill and Roosevelt appear in the first issue. The group is assembled at the request of FDR, and Churchill wants to make damn sure his boy (the Mid-Nite Hour) gets to play along."
Lest ye think Moore has a political agenda with the series, the prolific Image Comics writer says the series is about constant themes in any era of American history as opposed to a commentary on the present. "I think it's more a reaction to the events that are always present in society than a direct reaction to the current war. Those in charge will often bend others to their will if they feel it's in the best interests of the country. Sometimes they'll do the same if they think it's in their own personal best interests. But if you played this game with super-powered chess pieces, I think it would only be a matter of time before the board exploded in your face."
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CBR Executive Producer Jonah Weiland contributed to this story.