L-r: Burnout, Crackshot, Slick, Cimarron. Artist: James Fry.

THE LIBERTY PROJECT

Medium: Comic books
Published by: Eclipse
First Appeared: 1987
Creators: Kurt Busiek (writer) and James Fry (artist)
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Even in the realm of superheroes, the idea of criminals paying for their misdeeds by doing value-creating work, rather than undergoing value-consuming punishment, is nothing new. In the real world, miscreants have been atoning for their misdeeds by benefiting taxpayers with community service, as an alternative to going to jail at taxpayer expense, for a long time. In the superhero world, …

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… at least in the DC Comics branch, The Suicide Squad has been used as a means of extracting value from super bad guys rather than making them absorb value by being sent up the river. So the creation of The Liberty Project (no relation) for exactly that purpose wasn't, in itself, a startlingly original concept.

But comics writer Kurt Busiek (The Avengers, Thunderbolts), who created The Liberty Project, went on to make a name for himself by applying such real-world concepts to situations involving superheroes. First, his Marvels presented a look at the Marvel Universe from an unfamiliar point of view; then his Astro City series did the same with a new set of heroes. His artist collatorator, James Fry (Moon Knight, Nomad), is not known for similar work.

The Liberty Project was published by Eclipse Comics (Zot!, Airboy), which launched it with a cover date of July, 1987. They were convicted young super-troublemakers who sought to make up for their crimes by doing hero work rather than their accustomed antisocial deeds..

Crackshot was Lee Alexander Clayton, whose super power was to hit whatever he aimed at — sort of like Willie Garvin as a superhero, instead of just a guy with really good aim. Cimarron was Rosalita Vasquez, who had super strength and was reasonably invulnerable. She wasn't a hardened super-villain, but just got into trouble because she had a quick temper and wasn't overly concerned with the law. Burnout, aka Beatrice Keogh, could create fire with a thought, much like The Human Torch, but teenage angst inclined her more in the direction of juvenile delinquiency than in socially positive directions. Slick, whose name was Nicholas Walcek, had the super power of reducing friction, i.e., making things slippery. He was the leader of the group, but only because nobody else would take the job. They were joined in the third issue by Johnny Savage, who used his surname as his superhero monicker. He was a Hulk/Thing type, who could turn into a monster.

Eclipse published the title for eight issues, ending May, 1988. They followed it with a oneshot tying it in with a company-wide crossover, which linked the series with Miracleman, The Heap and others Eclipse published at the time. After Eclipse folded, Busiek, as writer, used them as guest stars in Jack Kirby's TeenAgents #3 (October, 1993), published by Topps Comics (Mars Attacks, Exosuad).

The Liberty Project was forgotten for several years, then re-printed by About Comics (DNAgents, It's Only a Game) in 2003. Since then, it's been forgotten again.

— DDM

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Text ©2009-10 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Kurt Busiek and James Fry.