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Image Comics’ ‘The Big Lie’ asks some big questions

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June 14, 2011
By Brian Truitt
USA
TODAY

The Big Lie Exclusive Preview

It has been nearly 10 years since 9/11, and the tragedy is still on the minds of many Americans. One of those, writer and artist Rick Veitch, is convinced we haven’t been told the complete truth about it.

The questions surrounding that fateful day power the themes and story of his new Image Comics series The Big Lie, which debuts Sept. 7 and reteams Veitch with fellow artist Gary Erskine.

Veitch structured the story similarly to the 1963 Twilight Zone episode “No Time Like the Past,” in which a man uses a time machine to try to “fix” three events: warning a Hiroshima policeman about the atomic bomb, assassinating Hitler before World War II and stopping the sinking of the Lusitania.

In The Big Lie, the heroine is a woman named Sandra, who lost her husband, Carl, during the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City. A particle physicist working at the Large Hadron Collider, she figures out a practical way to travel back in time, so she ventures from present day to Manhattan an hour before the first plane hits the towers on Sept. 11, 2001.

She rushes to his office at a risk-management consulting agency, but since she has aged 10 years, Carl can’t quite accept that it’s her. And even though she brings evidence on her iPad, neither her spouse nor his co-workers believe her warnings.

“The meat of the story is her trying to convince these ‘experts’ that the terrorist attack is about to happen,” Veitch says. “So it’s essentially a taut emotional drama with the facts and questions surrounding 9/11 sewed into it.”

Editor and cover artist Thomas Yeates came up with the idea of creating a comic about 9/11, and he and Image Comics publisher Eric Stephenson asked Veitch and Erskine to come on board after being fans of their Vertigo Comics series Army@Love, which was part military satire, part critique on love in wartime.

It wasn’t until they picked a narrator for The Big Lie– Uncle Sam himself — that everything fell into place, says Yeates, who depicts the American icon on the cover of issue 1 standing alongside the smoking Twin Towers.

“For me, what’s great about the U.S. is our freedom,” Yeates says. “The 9/11 attacks were used to pass the Patriot Act, which took away some of our most important freedoms. So Uncle Sam here, while bloodied, is still trying to fight to get those freedoms back.”

Everybody who lived through 9/11, from Ground Zero survivors to those glued to their TV sets, has a personal connection to the day, Veitch says. “It’s very much a defining moment in the history of our country and the world.”

And this isn’t the first time Veitch has used 9/11 as a theme. In his Vertigo Comics graphic novel Can’t Get No, he used one man’s lost week before, during and after the attacks as a view of it from the microcosm, but with The Big Lie, Veitch says, “we’re trying to present the whole macroscopic landscape of politics, finance and military.”

Going into this project, he didn’t consider himself a “Truther,” yet living during the eras of the Pentagon Papers, Watergate, Iran/Contra and the invasion of Iraq, Veitch admits that he’s skeptical about any “official” story provided by the government.

“Reading the 9/11 Commission Report, it’s pretty clear that a lot of important evidence about the lead-up to the attacks and the collapse of the towers was ignored or glossed over,” he explains. “And I’m pretty angry about the aftermath: how Iraq was invaded based on false intelligence and the occupation mismanaged resulting in over 100,000 civilian deaths.”

Those maverick sensibilities and storytelling have been hallmarks of Veitch’s career, dating back to his runs on mainstream books such as Miracleman and Swamp Thing, Erskine says. “There was always a subversive edge there, sometimes hidden in the subtext, more often confronting the reader head on.

“This book has certainly been a challenging project for both writer and artist and I am sure it will prove challenging and thought-provoking for the reader.”

While similar time-travel stories are nothing new in pop culture, not many have tackled 9/11 yet. It’s still pretty recent, for sure, but “the modern entertainment industry tends to focus on empty calories,” Veitch says. “And there’s been a sort of cultural amnesia in the general public concerning 9/11. I think it was so traumatic that most folks want to forget it and get on with their lives.

“If one scratches the surface of the commission report, one finds huge holes in the official story. There’s also a lot of disinformation out there and oddball conspiracy theories that need to be debunked. People who are paying attention are asking for a real in-depth investigation into all these nagging questions. That’s what our book is all about.”

Veitch realizes The Big Lie may be controversial in some circles, yet the country is so polarized in general right now, he’s pretty sure he’ll attract hard cases on both sides of the argument: those who want to simply remember, and those who want real and true answers.

That’s why he has aimed the book itself straight at the middle, to “those folks who might not have thought about these things much in the last 10 years or who participate in the ideological back and forth,” says Veitch, who wants to tackle other historical “big lies” with the series.

“It is right and good that we remember the events of 9/11. It is also vitally important that we get a clearer picture of what really happened.”

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Story published June 21, 2011 at Huffingtonpost.com