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Big Bang Experiment

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Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti's new project, the DC/WildStorm mini series Twilight Experiment debuts tomorrow. The creative duo that brought you Hawkman and The Monolith discuss what Twilight Experiment is all about and what makes it different from the stories they've tackled together before.

BROKEN FRONTIER: What is the basic concept of Twilight Experiment? What does the title stand for?

JUSTIN GRAY: The experiment began with a group of four humans that volunteered to be test subjects, in turn they would be granted extraordinary powers with which they could save humanity from a future catastrophe -- or the Twilight of humanity. In essence they became the first super humans. During the time leading up to this predicted disaster, the test subjects developed different ideas of how humanity should be saved. Their differences resulted in their destruction. Luckily, one of the four had a son she kept secret from the world. 

BF: This series has been touted as something radically different from what you guys have done before. Why is that?

JG: Twilight Experiment was completed long before we had the opportunity to work on a recognizable superhero. Since then we've been handling the reins on Hawkman, but we had never really explored that genre in all its glory. Twilight Experiment is rooted entirely in a superhero universe, but it incorporates all of the elements we find interesting in grounded stories. I put a lot of myself in this book, some of it is exaggerated, but that's what writing is. 

JIMMY PALMIOTTI: I don't think anything is really that radical if you have been following our work. The superhero concept may be - and the scale in which we deliver the action is - bigger, but the character development is still a key element of the story. I think that is our strength. Without that, why would anyone care?

BF: The opening pages of the series see the world struck by a cosmic event. Will it ever be explained why this chaotic event took place?

JG: What you witness in the beginning of issue #1 is the final battle between the remaining two volunteers, Serenity and The Righteous and how it affects specific players in our story. 

JP: The reader walks right into the middle of the action and there is a reason for that. This series is told at a fast and furious pace and there is a lot to absorb, so at times we cut to the chase and keep the fun stuff moving. There is a particular pace set up in this series that builds up to a climax. It's a mini- series with a beginning, middle and a real end. How often do you see that these days? 

Click to enlargeBF: What's the purpose of the quote of Gustave Nanaud - "The vicar's right; he says that we are ever wayward, weak and blind; he tells us in his homily ambition ruins all mankind" - we find at the beginning of the first issue?

JG: The quote embodies one of the central themes of the series and it becomes more and more relevant in subsequent issues. 

BF: The main protagonists in Twilight Experiment are Rene and Michael. Can you tell us something more about who these two characters are and what their key characteristics are?

JG: As we see in the first issue, both are intimately impacted by the battle between the world's first and apparently last superheroes. For Michael it is the death of his mother and the abandonment that follows. 

JP: These main characters are ours and the reader's eyes into what is going on in the books. We view the big picture through these two characters and get to see some unique observation's of events that comic book readers see on a monthly basis. We tried to offer diverse points of view on single events that are superhero based. 

Click to enlargeBF: What is the most prominent theme you guys are exploring in the six-issue mini series? Sacrifice, heroism, or something else entirely?

JG: All of that and more. What appealed to me about superheroes as a child was not only their sense of fairness, but their ability to act upon their sensibilities. As a kid, you are relatively powerless in most situations, so comics opened this door to a fantasy world where empowerment was a valuable component of the story. That empowerment often fell on the misfits or those that society deemed outcasts. There's also a theme of looking at the positive and negative impact that superheroes have on a global level. 

JP: I think the love between people and the drive to overcome what's expected of them.

BF: The artist on Twilight Experiment is Juan Santacruz. Is there anything particular about his style that makes him a better fit for this project than other artists out there?

JG: The idea was to give the book a visual style that was unique. We worked with Juan on The Resistance and the relationship was a good one in terms of Juan's ability to interpret our scripts and express his own imagination. Being a superhero book it needs to look and feel fantastic. Juan's style works that way.

Click to enlargeJP: Indeed, Juan knows how to pull the camera back and take us for a visual ride. We get the scale and power of scenes out of his work that very few artists can comprehend. 

BF: After the mini series has wrapped up in July, do you have any plans to revisit the world of Twilight Experiment, or is this a one and done gig?

JG: I would love to follow it up with another mini, or work it the way Astro City is handled, but realistically everything depends on sales. If the market shows a strong desire to see more of these characters then they'll get them. Ultimately, I can't be concerned with that, its very rewarding just to see these issues in print.

JP: The reality of that question is that 2004 and 2005 have already proven that people want the same old books over and over and that there is a core group of readers that look for new and exciting things. Out of the top 100 books of last year, only a couple of new series out of the big two have survived… and out of the top 100 books, there is not one new character that made it on the list. The odds are against us on this title, but the readers that demand new material need to make more noise than the usual crew does. At this point, we have our miniseries done… and we are happy that it now exists and people are able to get it. 

- Frederik Hautain

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