Beechen and Gray Prepare to "Countdown to Adventure"

This August, DC Comics' space team from the top-selling "52" – Adam Strange, Animal Man and Starfire – are set to further their adventures in the eight-issue mini-series "Countdown to Adventure." Penning the book is DC exclusive Adam Beechen, who is also sharing writing duties on the weekly series "Countdown" over the next twelve months. If "Countdown to Adventure" (or "C2A") doesn't jump to your buy pile with this news, what if CBR reminded you that Justin Gray of "Jonah Hex" fame will contribute a backup story to each issue of "Countdown to Adventure" featuring a new DC character named Forerunner? To further tempt you, writers Beechen and Gray recently shared some details of the forthcoming project with CBR News.

First off, calling the headlining cast of "Countdown to Adventure" DC's "space team" is "a handy shorthand" given the roles the characters played in "52." But, Beechen told CBR News, "the new series actually takes place in a pretty even split between Earth and Rann, so our trio are heroes wherever they happen to be.

Beechen, who previously worked on the animated series "Teen Titans" and "The Batman," followed closely the heroes' exploits in "52" in preparation for "C2A." "They're three of my favorite heroes, so it was fun to see them thrown together, and fun to see them undertake such an epic journey. And as a longtime Legion reader, it was very cool to discover the history of the Emerald Eye of Ekron."

In terms of finding the trio's chemistry for "C2A," Beechen said, "I've gone back and re-read their scenes from '52' straight through just to get a refresher on the finer points and specifics of their story. Their personalities are so strong in my mind that their chemistry hasn't really been an issue."

Of the three, Adam Strange has the most history in DCU, having been created by legendary writer Gardner Fox ("The Flash" and "Justice Society of America") fifty years ago in "Showcase." As such, Beechen has done his homework and re-read many of Strange's classic tales as a primer for his run on "C2A." "One of the first comics I ever owned was the 'Justice League of America' issue where Adam married Alanna," explained Beechen, "so I've followed the character for a long time. But my experience with his first appearances is pretty spotty, so it's been great to go back to the Archive Editions and fill in gaps and get some cool ideas from the crazy old monsters Adam faced in his defense of Rann."

Despite the fact the archeologist-turned-starfighter is prominently featured on the solicitation cover art for issue #1, Beechen said "C2A" should not be perceived as "Adam Strange and His Space Buddies." "'C2A' will give as equal a spotlight as possible to all three of our leads," Beechen confirmed. "They all have extremely important roles in the story we've cooked up."

In summing up his three leads, Beechen explained that each brings an incredible depth and importance to the storytelling of "C2A." "For Starfire, it's thinking about how all the roles she's played in her life – princess, slave, refugee, hero – combine to make her who she is.

"While for Animal Man, it's his regular guy-ness. You never forget there's a Buddy Baker beneath that Members Only jacket. And for Adam, it's his intelligence. He's the thinking man's hero and it's cool to follow his thought processes through a crisis."

"52," at its heart, was feted for its ability to deliver compelling and, perhaps more importantly, significant stories without the use of DC's Big 3 – Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman--   and relying primarily second and even third string players. "It's always a good thing for DC to expand their universe," Beechen remarked. "There are so many niches, corners and great characters that have been created over the years that deserve to have a little light shed into them. Doing so only enriches the total mythology, you know? And I guess I don't think of them as B-listers, since I've enjoyed them so much over the years. Maybe they're not prime movers in the DCU in terms of power, but they're as complex and interesting as any characters on the DC roster."

Spoken like a proud parent.

While Beechen is building upon an already strong mythos of three until recently underused DC superheroes, fellow Countdown writing team member Justin Gray is breaking new ground with the character known as Forerunner. "She's mad, bad and dangerous to know," Gray quipped to CBR News. "Forerunner is the byproduct of a very elaborate plan, one where her race was specifically bred for a purpose that you'll see for the first time in 'Countdown' #46."

Gray, who has enjoyed critical success with co-writer Jimmy Palmiotti Palmiotti on his re-launch of "Jonah Hex, explained, "Creating something new is often much easier than trying to tell a fresh story with characters that are several decades old and have thousands of tales written about them. Once we discovered the need for Forerunner in the "Countdown" series, writing her was as natural as breathing. In meeting with [DC Executive Editor] Dan DiDio, I was able to answer all of his questions about why she's important and exactly how unique she is to the DCU. What I find exciting is growth and the evolution of a character. We watch Forerunner's journey as a person and how her perspective changes based on what happens to and around her."

Despite the fact that Forerunner was created predominantly out of necessity for the "Countdown" story, Gray had been developing the character for a while. "I've had ideas for this character in the back of my mind for some time," explained Gray. "It was just a case of being presented with the right situation to bring those ideas forward and give them a name. During a conference call we were kicking ideas around and realized we needed a new character to fill a specific role on 'Countdown.' I believe Jimmy [Palmiotti] suggested that a woman should fill the role. It just so happened that this character needed to show up in the issue Jimmy and I were writing. The call ended and I immediately set to work on giving Forerunner a name, a history and a lot of design notes on how she should look and move.

"One thing of major importance was that she didn't embody the stereotype of a comic book heroine, no skimpy clothes, no Grand Canyon cleavage, that sort of thing. She had to be strong, intelligent and capable of holding her own against anyone without being sexualized or trivialized. I'd been reading various reactions to illustrations of Power Girl, discussions on the skirt and body type given to Mary Marvel and Supergirl, as well as the recent outrage over Adam Hughes' Mary Jane statue.   "In fact I'd love to work with Powergirl just to address the point of how her appearance is something of a handicap and how certain women have a difficult time being taken seriously in a male dominated environment just because they're sexy.

"Anyway, those arguments get very heated and there are valid points on both sides, but the idea was to design Forerunner as a counterpoint – a fully clothed and more than capable woman. I also wanted more of an Asian influence in her design and fighting style as well as a cultural background that is very different from what we experience. But mostly I wanted her to kick major ass and scare the shit out of people."

Gray explained that "C2A "works both as an introduction to Forerunner – who she is, where she comes from, what her motivations are – as well as a look behind the scenes of some of the major plot lines in the weekly "Countdown" series. "I structured everything to work independently as well as in conjunction with the main 'Countdown' title," said Gray. "I am also able to travel through the multiverse, giving readers the chance to see worlds they may not get to see in the weekly."

Adam Beechen said the main storyline in "C2A," for the most part, unfolds outside the realm of "Countdown." "There may be places where we reference happenings in 'Countdown,' but it doesn't figure too prominently in the story we'll be trying to tell," explained Beechen. The writer also revealed that although Forerunner shares a title with Adam Strange, Animal Man and Starfire, DCU's latest addition will not appear in the book's main storyline.

"Forerunner, who's a very cool character, won't be appearing in this Adam Strange/Animal Man/Starfire story we're doing," Beechen confirmed.

"While the DC Universe or Multiverse is constantly changing and evolving, right now the two stories are separate," added Gray. "In fact, I'm not aware of what [Beechen] is doing story-wise, but I enjoy his work and I'm sure it is going to be great."

Although "C2A" is solicited as an eight-issue mini-series, that's not stopping Beechen from thinking long-term about the space-trotting trifecta. "The story we're telling certainly has a climax, but we're opening up lots of potential future storylines, should DC want to pursue them," explained a hopeful Beechen. "There's definitely potential for an ongoing series featuring all three of these characters, as well as for an Adam Strange solo monthly, and nothing would make me happier than the opportunity to write a book like that."

Justin Gray, on the other hand, is just happy to be introducing a new character to DC's main stage. "I haven't even considered a monthly," said Gray. "In fact, I was surprised DC wanted to spotlight Forerunner in the first place -- pleasantly surprised. A part of me worried that Forerunner would be consumed by 'Countdown' and she's become something entirely different than I'd imagined. I hold no illusions of an ongoing for a new character. If she captures enough attention to warrant her own series then that's fantastic, but my focus is this story here and now. One of the most satisfying creative aspects is being able to give Forerunner a unique voice and style."

While both Gray and Beechen are contributors on "Countdown," neither is concerned about making deadlines while juggling multiple titles. "To be honest we're so far ahead on scripts, I believe Jimmy [Palmiotti] and I only have six 'Countdown' scripts left to write and I've already completed three Forerunner scripts, which are seventeen pages each and not the solicited eight," explained Gray. "I like to work as far in advance as possible because this allows me to go back and tighten up script and story."

Adam Beechen, who has also been story editing an upcoming television project for Nicktoons called "Edgar and Ellen," concurred. "I don't think it'll be a problem, keeping up with the deadlines for the respective books. So far, just as I've finished the script for one assignment, it's been time to write a script for the other, and I'm hoping to keep things scheduled that way. As for 'Countdown,' we're doing it a little differently than '52' in that each of us scripters scripts entire issues regardless of what plotlines are appearing. So we all get to chip in on all the stories, and provide dialogue for all the characters."

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