Author D.J. Kirkbride (Amelia Cole) had a chance to explore subversive cosmic humor in the pages of The Bigger Bang from IDW in 2014. Kirkbride alongside Vassilis Gogtzilas (The Adventures of Augusta Wind) has gotten the chance to explore that same brand of absurdist cosmic comic book humor once again in 2016 with The Biggest Bang, the second entry to the original mini-series from 2014– The Beat had a chance to sit down with author and talk about the sequel aptly titled The Biggest Bang. We even have exclusive pages from issue #1 down at the the bottom– you’re not going to want to miss this one:
Warning: the first question contains SPOILERS for the first series: THE BIGGER BANG.
For those not in the know, can you lightly recap the events of THE BIGGER BANG and talk about how the sequel series came to be?
My comic con spiel, which I give around 500 times a day at any show, is… “The Big Bang created all life as we know it. THE BIGGER BANG created just one being, the superhero space god Cosmos– and DESTROYED our entire universe!” The original 4-issue mini-series (now out in snazzy IDW trade paperback) followed Cosmos as he traversed the multiverse, trying to do good because his birth caused so much death and destruction. No matter how many lives he saves or disasters he averts, though, every person/alien/other he meets is terrified of him due to his “cosmic stench of death.” We focus on a universe where a space tyrant known as King Thulu seems to not only not fear Cosmos, but actually befriend him, inviting him to his flying space castle ship via his greatest pilot, Captain Wyan. Cosmos falls head over heels for Wyan, and she finds herself drawn to his almost simplistic views of good and evil. Thulu, meanwhile, offers to basically give him a galactic PR boost, but it turns out he just wants to manipulate him. Outer space action and soul searching result!
The book’s origins go back to artist/co-creator Vassilis Gogtzilas sending a line drawing of a big, super muscular superhero-type floating in space to my AMELIA COLE writing partner Adam P. Knave and me. He said he wanted to do a superhero in space comic and asked if we’d be interested in writing it. Adam was to busy with other projects, so I decided to take the plunge, an Oates without a Hall.
With nothing to go on other than that one awesome drawing, I tried to find an interesting hook, and the cosmic-level equivalent of the existential guilt of a mother dying during child birth came out of my brain, only in this case the mother would be our universe and the child a powerful godlike superhero-type. It was so dramatic and over-the-top that, coupled with Vassilis’s amazingly cartoonish and intense artwork, I knew it’d have to be pretty funny as well. The pull between story and art and conflicting tones was planned and worked to our advantage, I think.
Did you have a larger plan at work past THE BIGGER BANG initially– and do you have a plan formulating to even follow-up this mini-series?
The main gist of THE BIGGEST BANG, the central conflict and crazy resolution, were going to be big parts of a third mini-series, with the follow-up actually being called THE BIGGER BANG II (insert what would now be a spoilery subtitle here), and THEN we’d go to THE BIGGEST BANG. Vass, our editor Justin Eisinger, and I developed that story for a while, Vass even drawing some cool pages, but in the end it leaned to heavily on a type of plottier, talker drama that wasn’t clicking, so I picked the more bombastic elements from it, and decided to go for broke — skip part two and go right to part three! It felt appropriately bonkers for this multiverse.
Can you follow-up on where some of the villains of the series are starting with ominous ELIMINATION SQUAD?
The Elimination Squad was King Thulu’s spaceship flying group of toughs that Wyan lead in THE BIGGER BANG. We deal with some of the fallout of Cosmos banishing Thulu from this universe by picking up with a rogue trio of pilots who are now jobless and flailing about the universe.
THE BIGGEST BANG doesn’t have a central villain in the way Thulu was in THE BIGGER BANG. In fact, each issue kind of has a central villainous conflict that leads into the next issue. It’s not episodic so much as each chapter leads into a greater challenge for Cosmos and Wyan. I don’t want to give too much away, but keep an eye on Janishire Sneck, the big eyed guy spouting platitudes at the end of issue 1 who takes more of a center stage in 2– and I can’t wait until people meet a few new characters in issue 3.
Now that introductions are out of the way, what kind of plan do you have for Wyan in the new series?
In THE BIGGER BANG issue 4, Thulu murdered her. She 100% died. Then Cosmos brought her back with a kiss. We quickly learn in THE BIGGEST BANG that his powers did more than give her a new lease on life and a matching white hairdo. She knows who she was and is working on who she is to become who she wants to be. Her journey is huge in this series, and whereas she had a supporting role in the first series, here she is very much the co-lead. And she is awesome. I love writing Wyan and seeing how Vass visualizes her supreme awesomeness.
What about Cosmos? Where is his head space at following the resurrection of Wyan?
Bringing Wyan back took a lot out of Cosmos physically and cosmically. While she is feeling better than ever, he feels weak. It’s ridiculous to her and will be to the reader, too, as he’s still incredibly powerful, but he really feels the lack. It’s not something he laments about too much, as there are no regrets in this case. He learns from it, taking time to kind of stop and smell the roses more, almost an opposite path from the reinvigorated Wyan. They are very much together yet more alone than ever. There’s just as much drama as ever, though it’s a little less whiney this time around, as Cosmos has grown up and learned quite a bit.
In the series, how have you sort of mapped out some of the world building for each place and location, do you think on a large scale with the Universe that you build– do you get down to the nitty gritty? Or do you find a good mix of each?
What I’ve learned in writing the first volume and writing and rewriting this one is that these particular comics are about the broad strokes. Attempts at getting too detailed bogged down the more operatic style and scope at which Vass excels. There is a lot of planning and details that don’t go in the script but are in my head. It helps inform the storytelling, but it might not always be obvious or spelled out on the pages. I can answer random questions about random aliens and worlds if anyone’s ever curious, though.
What sort of ideas influence the creation of the series? Are there any comics that you look for to meld new ideas and plot direction?
For me it starts with the artist, who is my first audience. The way I write for Vass is totally different than how Adam P. Knave and I write for Nick Brokenshire on AMELIA COLE or Robert Love for our mini-series NEVER ENDING or Robert Wilson IV for our DARK HORSE PRESENTS 3-parter “Laser Joan and the Rayguns.” Artists spend a lot more time at the table than writers, and it’s up to the writer to make sure they enjoy the work and don’t get bored.
While I read plenty of comics, I don’t specifically look to them for direct inspiration, for fear of copying or ripping off — which is a nightmare to me. The bigness of Jack Kirby’s work definitely inspires me, of course, though I’m not as well versed as I should be in his specific works. I do love his anything goes, make it big and bold style. That kind of hugeness is where Vass works from, too, and learning about Kirby’s process in books like Kirby: King of Comics by Mark Evanier and the rescent COMIC APOCALYPSE art show book CSUN and IDW recently put out helped me lighten up and have more fun with the plotting and writing of these books, knowing that personal messages and emotions can be in there along with the bombast and fun.
With this now being the follow-up to the original mini, are there any new directions or challenges in your collaboration with Vassilis Gogtzilas?
Somehow I thought this one would be easier since we already did it once before. The last issue of THE BIGGER BANG clicked for us, so I thought we had it all figured out, but that was silly thinking. We both want to raise the bar and really challenge each other, with our editor Justin Eisinger in the middle, helping guide the direction and particulars of collaboration, and letterer Frank Cvetkovic is always able to tie the art and the words together in very impressive ways. It can get harry when we’re in the thick of it, but Vass and I really like and respect each other, and it all works out in the end. So far! MUAHAHAHA! It’s exciting and ultimately healthy and good for the book. I’m also crazy jealous of his artistic talent. It’s ridiculous the amount of passion and energy he can put into a page. He’s the real deal.
What on earth is the sequel going to be called?
THE BIGGER BANG was meant to just be four issues, and so THE BIGGEST BANG was quite a surprise. It’ll end on a very good end note, too, so that’s where we’ll leave it. At the moment I have no idea how one gets bigger than the biggest, but I’m also confident Vass and I could figure it out if necessary.
If you had to sum up the entire mini-series in one word, what would it be?
Do you have any last words on the series?
Both volumes of this little huge saga are real labors of love. All comic books are. Folks who read THE BIGGER BANG already know this, but I hope people on the fence put aside the visual of a big muscle guy in a cape and let go of whatever preconceived notions that might have. Cosmos isn’t who you expect, and that continues in THE BIGGEST BANG. These comics, for all their grandeur and action and over-the-top narration, are very personal. It’s exciting to have the opportunity to make comics like this, especially at a company as great as IDW. So, if you read and liked THE BIGGER BANG, I think you’ll enjoy THE BIGGEST BANG even more. It goes deeper and darker in some ways, yet it is even faster paced and brighter, broader in scope yet visually and thematically tighter. For readers that didn’t read THE BIGGER BANG, you will be able to pick up THE BIGGEST BANG pretty easily. It picks up where the previous volume left off, but it is it’s own entity. If you’re curious about what happened before, though, THE BIGGER BANG trade is readily available, too, of course.
Look, I love these weirdo books and truly hope a healthy number of comic readers are willing to take a chance and read what Vass, Frank, Justin, and I have created. This is the type of madness that you can only find in comics!
Here’s a batch of exclusive issue one pages straight from IDW for The Biggest Bang #1 shipping May 18;