In “Blue Beetle” #26, Jaime Reyes – the third incarnation of the popular DC character – brings his new girlfriend Tracy Thirteen home to his family reunion.
All fine and good except everyone speaks Spanish but Miss 13.
And to put readers truly in the moment, DC Comics has given regular series writer John Rogers a month off and called upon rising star Jai Nitz to fill-in for an issue that will be presented in Spanish. (The English is included in the extra-sized book as bonus material.)
Nitz told CBR News it was his work on the upcoming “El Diablo” mini-series that landed him the special “Blue Beetle” issue.
“‘El Diablo’ originally happened because I pitched [DC Senior Coordinating Editor] Jann Jones who took it to [DC Senior Vice President, Executive Editor] Dan Didio. I got to work directly with Dan quite a bit and we hit a nice working-relationship stride,” explained Nitz. “DC wanted to do an all-Spanish issue of ‘Blue Beetle,’ so Jann and Dan, knowing I’m Hispanic, called me to see if I’d be interested. I’ve also known Joan Hilty and Rachel Gluckstern, (‘Blue Beetle’ editor and assistant editor respectively) for some time.”
Asked if his issue falls in line with ongoing continuity or is a true stand-alone tale, Nits responded, “A little bit of both.”
“The story is in continuity as far as Jaime and Traci Thirteen are dating,” continued Reyes. “I also got to look at future issues of ‘Blue Beetle’ to make sure I didn’t disrupt upcoming continuity. That said it’s a stand-alone story that any reader can pick up and get a complete experience from.”
Nitz confirmed that everyone in the book speaks Spanish except Traci Thirteen. And yes, that includes the issue’s main villain.
“The Parasite also speaks Spanish in the story because of who he drains,” explained Nitz, who wrote the issue originally in English and translated it to Spanish.
“I actually kept my phrasing in mind so I didn’t do something that wouldn’t translate well or sound forced in Spanish,” explained Nitz. “I tried to keep it as natural as possible.”
As for the book’s overall theme, Nitz said, “The story is about the responsibility you have to your family that comes with great power.”
DC’s regular writer on the young readers title “The Batman Strikes” loves the direction Rogers has taken Blue Beetle, both the character and the title.
“John is a fantastic writer and has been nothing but supportive of me on this issue,” said Nitz. “I’m glad to see it back in his capable hands after I leave.”
Nitz said what he loves best about Blue Beetle, and specifically Jaime, is that he lets himself cry.
“Here’s a quick side story that oddly was where the original inspiration for this issue comes from,” shared Nitz. “The first time I took my wife to south Texas we got in a bad roll-over car accident. We were taken to the hospital in Laredo, right on the Mexico border. We both lost our glasses, so we couldn’t see, and everybody spoke Spanish.
“We weren’t hurt badly, but we were out of sorts and scared. My wife doesn’t speak Spanish, so this experience was a double nightmare for her. Anyway, I kept it together all day, trying to be strong for her. Then we got to our hotel that night and I just lost it. I was bawling, sobbing, the whole nine yards. I love that Jaime does the same thing and that [the book’s original head writer] Keith [Giffen] and John [Rogers] have captured it so well.”
Nitz was actually a fan of the character when Giffen wrote him the first time in “Justice League International” and was a little worried that a new leading man would be fighting for justice from behind the Blue Beetle mask.
“I love the Giffen/DeMatteis ‘JLI’ Beetle and Booster stories,” said Nitz. “I was originally turned off by the idea of a new Blue Beetle, but I gave the book a shot and I’m glad I did. Giffen and Rogers really knock it out of the park every issue. It’s good, fun, layered, thoughtful, and thought provoking.”
Nitz’ mother’s family is from the “very southern tip” of Texas next to Mexico, in the middle of the desert, not, he said, “by the ocean.”
“I guess the best word to describe my mom’s family is Tejano,” explained Nitz. “We’re only American because of the side of the Rio Grande we settled on a hundred and fifty years ago. That in mind, South Texas/Mexican culture has always been in my family. I didn’t realize how much until I got older and saw other people’s families and how different we were. We didn’t speak Spanish in the house, but my mom spoke in Spanish to relatives. My dad made my brother and I take Spanish in high school so we could speak to our grandparents without a translator. My grandfather was a cowboy, a real-life cowboy, that didn’t speak any English. I thought my Spanish fully paid off when I aced all my college Spanish courses while many people struggled, turns out it paid off again with ‘Blue Beetle.'”
And while DC has had some Hispanic characters over the years, the most recognizable current hero would likely be considered Green Lantern Kyle Rayner, Nitz said every publisher, including DC, could always add more.
“Not just Spanish or Mexican, but Dominican, and Puerto Rican, and Guatemalan, and and and,” offered Nitz. “Every company needs more Asian and Middle Eastern characters too. Diversity isn’t a bad thing.”
Nitz himself is helming a book this summer that will add yet another Hispanic to the DCU sandbox as “El Diablo” will have his own mini-series.
“I’m still plugging along on ‘El Diablo.’ I just turned in an issue to my editor Nachie Castro and I’m really happy with the results,” said Nitz. “I talk to Phil Hester [the penciler] every week. I’m having lunch with Ande Parks [the inker] this week. I couldn’t be happier with the team assembled from editorial on down. I believe the first issue will be out in June, so you’ll see it in the DC catalog about two months from now.”
He also has a “Man-Thing” story coming for Marvel, as well a few creator-owned projects.
“I’m really proud of ‘Man-Thing.’ It’ll be in ‘Marvel Comics Presents’ sometime in the future.
“And it’s too early to mention them, but the artists I’m working with on my creator-owned books, Joe Dellagatta and Dan Duncan, are both holy-moley good. You’ll be hearing a lot more about them,” said Nitz.