With the revival of the legacy Kirby character Fighting American from Titan Comics, we thought it well worth the time to chat with incoming writer Gordon Rennie about his take on this under-appreciated superhero, the comic’s satirical tone, as well as how comics have evolved from the 50’s to today.
Olly MacNamee: What makes Fighting American an intriguing character to work with, given his sparse publishing history? Were you aware of previous incarnations of him and if so, how has this informed your take on this lost hero?
Gordon Rennie: I came to it fresh, which is what I think they were looking for. In researching the character, I became aware that there were previous revival versions of him.
OM: It would seem, from the brief synopsis, that we are dealing with a man out of time as Fighting American and Speedboy ‘find themselves trapped in the modern world’. Given the original 7 issue series soon became a satirical comic with issue 2, will you be finding time to inject the odd bit of satire into your series?
GR: Oh, there’s a lot of humour and satire in the story, most of it revolving around the reactions of a strait-laced 1950s Eisenhower Republican to the America of 2017. He’s confused about the media of today. He’s confused by all the youth culture of today. He’s confused about having a female FBI handler, when he used to have a male one back in the 1950s. He’s going to be confused about same-sex marriage too, when he finds out about it.
We didn’t want to make him the object of the humour, though. He’s bemused by the modern world, but will probably come to realise that, while American values have shifted, they are still American values, and it’ll be his job as the Fighting American to defend them. It just might take him a while to come round to this realisation.
OM: What can we expect from your own take on this lost legacy?
GR: By taking these characters out of the 1950s–and there’s going to be quite a few of the old villains in there too–and bringing them forward into the modern day, we take a look at how the whole style of comics way of writing comic stories and characters differed between then and now. It’s really a take on culture clash between modern comics and that vintage pre-Silver Age era, between social values and the political landscape then and now, and on the argument on whether it is or isn’t acceptable to punch bad guys in the face.
OM: How does one go about producing a Fighting American comic without the obvious parallels to Captain America that are inevitable. See, I’ve pretty much done it myself with this question.
GR: There’s a Captain America joke in issue 5, but it’s not a drum I’m going to keep on banging on after that. To be honest, we basically ignore the parallels. I suppose what makes the Fighting American really different from his older cousin is his truly weird origin story–that he’s actually this guy inhabiting the reanimated body of his dead older war hero brother, to continue his brother’s crusade against enemies of the American way of life like gangsters and communists. Yeah, the absolute creepy oddness of this gets referenced quite a few times.
OM: And finally, Gordon, what would Fighting American, the Commie-bashing crusader, make of President Trump and this modern world?
GR: Well, the story’s really all about how he reacts to modern life, as I’ve already said. As for Trump….I dunno…he’s a bit of a too obvious target, and by the time any story with him or some probably duff parody of him sees print, who knows if he’ll even still be president then?
It occurred to me that if you transport someone seventy years forward in time, then they can meet future generations of their own family, so that’s what we’re going to do with the Fighting American. We see how the Fighting American, who’s all about the kind of conservative but decent and democratic values of someone like Eisenhower, is going to deal with the fact when he realises that the real fifth columnist enemy now aren’t reds under the bed, but gun-toting, racial supremacists hiding behind a slogan.
Fighting American #3 is out digitally and in print on December 13th.