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Talking Comics with Tim: Tony Bedard

by  in Comic News Comment

Tony Bedard is a writer I’ve interviewed several times regarding various projects over the years. I greatly enjoyed his work years ago with CrossGen and since then I’ve often viewed a project more favorably if I found his name was attached. So when I heard he had a new ongoing series for DC, R.E.B.E.L.S. (core concept: Vril Dox [Brainiac 2] recruits a team to regain control of his L.E.G.I.O.N. police force), I contacted him for an email interview. This Wednesday, April 15, marks the release of the third issue in the series. (A preview of the first issue is available from DC here.)

Tim O’Shea: The first issue opens with a reference from the Encyclopedia Galactica, a nod to past incarnations of Legion books (as well as the works of Isaac Asimov and Douglas Adams). When launching a new series that references the past but wants to make its own mark in the present (while telling tales from the future) how careful does a writer need to be in referencing the past with certain aspects while giving readers a fresh twist?

Tony Bedard: I want R.E.B.E.L.S. to be completely accessible to a new reader, and yet I want it to be loaded with references and “Easter eggs” for readers who are familiar with Legion lore. I guess the trick is not to make those bits essential to understanding the story. They’re in there as a bonus (and, yeah, the encyclopedia caption is a total homage to LSH stories of the past) but they’re not the point of the book. We’re just telling a fast and furious space saga, and everyone’s invited to join us.

O’Shea: As judged by the first two issues, you’re taking your time in building the team’s roster. Too often some series rush to get the whole cast set in the first issue or two, without allowing the creative team to experiment with the dynamics of characters. How did you come to the decision to set the pacing (in terms of cast building) as you have? Was there any editorial discussion or concerns on the pacing?

Bedard: From the start, I wanted to do a gradual building of the team so that we could get a chance to meet each character and get a sense of who they are. That structure also seemed to make sense since there’s a mystery for Vril Dox to unravel: the identity of his new foe. But I won’t take too long – the complete team is together by issue 4.

O’Shea: Many discussions about this book are quickly followed by a mention of your past fanbase built through the CrossGen Negation series. Some writers do well writing space adventures, while other series can falter once the characters leave the Earth, why do you think you are so successful in writing space adventures?

Bedard: Well, I know Negation worked because we had a real collaboration on the creative team. Penciler Paul Pelletier, inker Dave Meikis and colorists James Rochelle and Wil Quintana all contributed vital ideas and enthusiasm to the mix. It also helped that we got to build the book from the ground up. I later wrote a 6-issue stint on LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES that met with mixed reactions, but that was on a long-running book that people already have strong opinions about, and I wasn’t really supposed to change much before the new writer took over. So, not the best circumstances. Now, on R.E.B.E.L.S., I can essentially start from the beginning and go wherever I want, and the results are closer to what we had going on Negation. Most importantly, I’m working with Andy Clarke, an absolutely astounding artist who is going to be a major star in the industry.

O’Shea: How did you decide to incorporate the Omega Men in the story?

Bedard: That was actually suggested by editorial. We took a look at some of DC’s other cosmic characters to see who we could sweep up in our tale, and the Omega Men made sense. They have history with Vril Dox and they started out as cosmic freedom fighters, which fits the direction of our saga. Plus, they are just plain fun characters.

O’Shea: What are you enjoying most about the collaboration with Andy Clarke–can you point to a scene that you wrote that was improved beyond your initial intentions thanks to Clarke’s art?

Bedard: Almost every scene he draws comes back better than I envisioned it! Mostly it comes down to the wonderfully subtle expressions he gives people. The scene in Starhaven was one that surprised me with how well he brought that place to life. Loved the opening scene to issue #1, as well. I keep printouts of Andy’s pages that I show to friends and colleagues all the time…like baby pictures.

O’Shea: Is issue 2, Wildstar’s eyes are so seemingly wise and weary at the same time, was that a request you gave for Clarke is this something he added to the character?

Bedard: That’s a perfect example of the x-factor Andy brings to the book. When you write a script, you hope the artist will breathe that sort of life into the characters, but you’re not always sure. I have supreme confidence with Andy that he’ll deliver that level of subtlety and impact.

O’Shea: Am I correct in thinking this is the first series you’ve launched (from relative scratch) at DC? How daunting and/or exciting is that for you?

Bedard: I guess it is my first ongoing launch at DC (and hopefully not my last!). So far, I’ve either inherited books from madly talented people like Gail Simone and Mark Waid, or I’ve filled in for short stints on books where I couldn’t really make my mark. So this is a very welcome opportunity, as I feel like DC readers still haven’t seen my best work.

O’Shea: Issue 4 features art by Claude St. Aubin and Scott Hanna, will Andy be getting breaks every few issues or what is the long-term plan for the series (feel free to ignore this question, if you want)?

Bedard: Andy is a meticulous artist, but the downside of that is that he is not the fastest guy out there. That’s fine by me – I’ll wait for his work. But in the meantime we have a monthly book to put out, so in Claude we’ve found a penciler who can really do the book justice and maintain the high level of detail and expressiveness that Andy delivers. But let’s make no mistake, Andy is still our principal artist, and he’s on the book for the long haul. That said, Claude is no slouch, and he’s turning in the best work of his career.

O’Shea: I like your use of humor in the series–can you discuss some of your humor influences?

Bedard: I think a lot of it goes back to Mike Baron and his series Nexus and Badger – two of my all-time faves. They taught me that when you laugh with a character, they become real to you. I had a lot of humor in Negation, too, and a book like R.E.B.E.L.S. provides lots of opportunity for very grim humor, which is often the best kind.

O’Shea: Would you say trust (or a lack of it) is at the heart of this series?

Bedard: Hunh, there’s a thought. See, I don’t think anyone trusts Vril Dox for long. They’d be foolish to. And yet they’re counting on him to save the day. Maybe that’s what drives the book: that nobody trusts each other, and yet they are forced to rely on one another. It’s a situation rife with conflict and conflicted feelings.

O’Shea: Care to give a hint to readers of what surprises you have coming up in future issues?

Bedard: We’ll soon find out who the big baddie is who stole L.E.G.I.O.N. from Dox, and it’s much bigger than anything Dox expects. We’ll also check in with Dox’s son (the villain from the original R.E.B.E.L.S. series).

O’Shea: Who has been the most challenging character to write for you so far? I ask that, as I find in many instances the hardest “voice” to find ends up being one of the strongest cast members.

Bedard: I haven’t felt a great deal of difficulty yet, but the character I’m still looking for a voice for is Bounder, who shows up in issue #3. I’ll nail it down, once I have a moment to focus on him.

O’Shea: What do you think R.E.B.E.L.S. offers to potential readers?

Bedard: In an age dominated by crossovers and publishing events, DC offers a handful of books like Jonah Hex and Secret Six that stand on their own, driven by a heartfelt creative vision. I hope readers will find R.E.B.E.L.S. is like that, because it’s totally a labor of love for myself and Andy (and Claude!).