Not everyone in the DC Universe is gifted with super powers. Some use gadgets or expert training to make up for their lack of fantastic abilities. Others are not content and use chemical compounds like Miraclo and Venom to temporarily endow themselves with metahuman abilities. This September, the JSA’s Hourman and Bane, the man who broke Batman’s back, the DC Universe’s two most prominent chemically powered characters, will clash in the pages of “The Venom Connection,” a two-part story that begins in “JSA Classified” #17. CBR News spoke with writer Tony Bedard about the story.
The roots for “The Venom Connection” extend back to Bedard’s days as a comic book editor. “I’ve been storming the ivory tower at DC, wanting very much to get in and play with their toys,” Bedard told CBR News. “‘JSA Classified’ editor Mike Carlin was kind enough to open the door and give me a shot. Now, you may not know this, but way back in the 20th century, I used to edit books for DC Comics, and one of the series I oversaw was ‘Hourman.’ So I thought to myself, ‘Who would make a great adversary for a hero hopped up on goofballs?’ And the obvious answer was, naturally, ‘A villain who’s hopped up on goofballs!’ And, thus, the Hourman vs. Bane match-up began to write itself. Then Mike lined up an A-list artist, Scott McDaniel (who also used to do ‘Hourman’ covers!), and we were off to the races!”
“The Venom Connection” takes place after the events of “Infinite Crisis” where Bane was seen among the ranks of The Society villains attempting to destroy Metropolis. “Most of the great villains in comics have an element of ambiguity to them. Ra’s al Ghul, Magneto, Luthor and Dr. Doom are all definitely bad guys, and yet they see themselves as the heroes of their own stories,” Bedard explained. “And right now, Black Adam is one of DC’s most interesting characters because he’s straddling that hero/villain line. Bane went from the man who broke Batman’s back to an erstwhile ally of Batman, and now he’s back to working the dark side of the street again. The story of his involvement with Luthor’s Society during ‘Infinite Crisis’ isn’t what ‘The Venom Connection’ is about, but it’s not hard to imagine Bane being swept up in the massive events of the Crisis. However, ‘The Venom Connection’ does reveal a big secret about both Bane and Hourman, and the source of their power.”
When Bane was last seen in “Infinite Crisis” it appeared that he had returned to his original source of power, the drug Venom. “Without giving away too much, Bane arrives in our story with his old Venom gear restored, and part of the mystery that unfolds is how and why he would ever return to that stuff after freeing himself of addiction,” Bedard said. “The answer has everything to do with his new interest in Hourman Rick Tyler, his father Rex Tyler, and the chemical compound that gives them superpowers for sixty minutes per dose.”
Life is good for Rick Tyler when “The Venom Connection” begins. “Hourman Rick Tyler is actually at one of the best points in his life these days,” Bedard stated. “He’s doing well in the JSA, he’s conquered his addiction to Miraclo, and his father is back from the dead. So, naturally, with things going so well for him, we’ll have to put him through the wringer!”
While the wringer awaits Hourman, Bane has just returned from a harrowing experience when the story begins. “Bane shows up as big and dangerous as ever, but with a shocking tale of his return to his home – the corrupt Caribbean hellhole called Santa Prisca,” Bedard said. “Events over there have driven him to seek out Hourman with a desperation that begs the question: what could be so bad that Hourman would ever fight alongside such a dangerous man?”
As the plot of “The Venom Connection” unfolds, Rick Tyler will discover that he has more in common than he thinks with his dangerous and reluctant ally. “It has to do with Bane’s old quest to control the Venom drug and to eliminate anyone else who knows its secrets,” Bedard said. “It also has to do with Rick’s father, Rex Tyler, the original Hourman and inventor of the super-pill, Miraclo. Bane and Hourman, it turns out, are two sides of the same bizarre coin, and the connection between them runs deeper than either man suspects. It all leads to mortal danger for Hourman and the need to prove that his power and heroism aren’t just something he gets from a drug.”
Hourman’s quest to prove that his power and heroism are genuine will take him from the United State to a Caribbean dungeon. “We start out in the Connecticut home of Rex Tyler and end up in the bowels of the Santa Priscan prison where an orphaned boy grew into the killer known as Bane,” Bedard stated.
Bane and Hourman are the central characters of “The Venom Connection” and Bedard intends to keep the spotlight on them throughout the two-part story. “We’re keeping the focus on Bane and the intensity set at ‘eleven’ on this one,” Bedard explained. “I think the whole purpose of ‘JSA Classified’ is to reveal some secret about a character that gives you a better understanding of who they are, and I plan on delivering on that promise, so while there’s a cameo by a few other Justice Society folks, this remains an intimate story about a father, a son, and a five hundred pound monster who breaks backs and dresses like a Mexican wrestler.”
Since “The Venom Connection” is a story about a father a son and a monster, readers can expect Rick’s father, the original Hourman Rex Tyler, to play a role in “The Venom Connection.” “Rex definitely plays a central role, although this is really Rick’s story,” Bedard said. “Rick’s lived in his father’s shadow for pretty much his entire career and I wanted to make sure he wasn’t outshone in this tale since he’s come into his own in the JSA. But his relationship with his father and the whole concept of a Hourman ‘legacy’ is central to this story.”
Rick Tyler’s mother will also play a small part in the story. “Wendi Tyler was actually my favorite character in the ‘Hourman’ series I used to edit,” Bedard explained. “Back then, though, she was this boozy, widowed, has-been actress, and every scene with her ended with Wendi crying and her mascara running. I used to think that mascara bit was her superpower. Now Wendi’s got her husband back and is doing much better. Aside from that, we’re sticking to Bane, Rick and Rex and mining them for all they’re worth!”
In addition to exploring the connections and motivations of its central characters, “The Venom Connection” will also be a story about revelations, action and spine tingling escapes. Bedard described the tone of the story as, “…part mystery investigation and part deathtrap-suspense thriller.”
Readers excited by “The Venom Connection” and hungry for more of Bedard penned tales about the denizens of the DC Universe have plenty to look forward to. “In addition to my Image book, ‘Retro Rocket,’ and my stuff at Marvel, I also have three issues of ‘Legion of Superheroes’ co-written with my patron saint in comics, Mark Waid (I wouldn’t be writing at all if not for him!), and somewhere down the line you’ll see a ‘Batman Confidential’ tale from me — but you’ll have to wait for more details on that one! DC Comics is a very exciting place these days and I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a bigger role there.”
Bedard is excited to be writing an arc of “JSA Classified” and even more excited about the artist who will bring his scripts to life. “I would like to thank Mike Carlin for hooking me up with Scott McDaniel!” Bedard stated. “That guy could make lunchtime at an old folk’s home look exciting! Hmm, maybe that could be the next tale we tell.”