"And I got booed by 250 people. Which was really fun."
It's really great that Adam Beechen is finally ready to pop and become one of those superstar writers I said he would soon become the last time I interviewed him.
I unabashedly love what Beechen is doing on "Robin," and his new high profile gigs on "Teen Titans" following up Geoff Johns and working on DC's new weekly comic series "Countdown," along with Paul Dini, Justin Gray & Jimmy Palmiotti, Tony Bedard and Sean McKeever, is ensuring him a well-deserved place in the spotlight as one of DC's premier writers.
Beechen took some time to talk about "Countdown" and leaving "Robin" (rejoice, Cassandra Cain lovers!).
Robert Taylor: How's everything going?
Adam Beechen: Things are going great. I'm having a great time on "Countdown," and I'm wrapping up my last couple of issues of "Robin," and enjoying that as well.
RT: Last couple issues!? What!?
AB: I'm finishing up my run on issue #166.
AB: There is only room in my schedule for so many bits in addition to my TV schedule, so when you move on to do "Teen Titans," something else has to go.
I've done a solid year and a half on "Robin," and now I'm moving forward.
RT: Looking back, how do you feel about it and how do you think you've changed as a writer on it?
AB: I guess I feel like I've learned a lot as a comic writer, since I've never written a mainstream ongoing title before. I don't feel like I'm all the way there yet and on the same level as my favorite writers in comics, but I feel like my stories have improved. Some of that is natural evolution and some is skills picked up as you go along.
RT: What moment are you most proud of in your run, or have we gotten there yet?
AB: I would say in general, the way that we have portrayed Tim as a well-rounded person. We have equal parts focusing on the Robin aspect of his life and the Tim aspect of his life. I think it's a danger to forget who the person is behind the mask and, I think in this case, we've done a pretty good job of showing that they are the same person. I think Tim is consistent whether he is in costume or out of costume, and I'm really happy with how that is portrayed. I have a better sense of who the character is as a whole, instead of just a kid in a cape.
RT: Is it difficult, with "Teen Titans," not to favor his character?
AB: He's such a big part of the team that he tends to gravitate toward the center anyway, which isn't to say there won't be focus and spotlight on other characters. It's hard to tell a "Teen Titans" story that Robin doesn't figure in prominently, so I have the feeling he will have a major voice.
RT: I mentioned what you were most proud of in the run, what do you think your shortcomings were with the book?
AB: Not so much what you are saying, but more on the technical side of storytelling. I think I am shaky on pace, especially when it comes to pacing out multi-part stories. I'm not where I want to be yet, but that is a function of not having done a lot of them.
Also, when I first came onboard, the "Boy Wanted" arc was supposed to be six issues and it turned out to only be four, which led to some shaking up and compressing of events. I think I probably came to the book with an idea to stretch a little more in terms of arcs, and what [editor] Pete Tomasi and I have done is gone for shorter arcs instead. And learning to pace those out has been an education because the stories I've wanted to tell are larger stories we've had to compress down.
If they were longer arcs, then plots can drag out for a long time and things aren't addressed for a long time. Going through stories quickly and making changes to characters quickly, I feel, is more satisfying to readers. It's been a challenge for me to learn to do that though, and I'm still learning.
RT: What's happening to Freddie?
AB: He's staying on "Robin" for the time being.
RT: What do you make of all the people on message boards who are comparing your stuff on "Robin" to the early work of Chuck Dixon on "Nightwing?"
AB: It's incredibly flattering. Chuck Dixon is a real pro and someone whose work I admire a lot. To be compared with anyone who has had such a big impact on the characters is really nice. I hope that I can continue to remind people of writers that they like. [laughs]
RT: What's coming up for the character?
AB: We are finishing up the "Street Gang" storyline and I'm really happy with the way that is looking. Freddie started out at a great spot on the book and is improving by leaps and bounds by every issue.
Every time I get the black and whites from the publisher I just sit there and marvel at it- that's the wrong word to use. DC won't like me using that word.
But look at the first date issue; I look at the detail work he did on that with the outside of the building, the inside of the restaurant - it was beautiful. He's really come a long way.
Then we have a standalone issue that brings back my favorite villains from the Bill Willingham run and it's also Tim's first father's day.
Following that we kick off our final arc, which kicks off the mystery of what happens to Dodge, which brings back another villain from the Willingham run along with some other bad guys.
The way it's worked out, the entire storyline has been about Dodge's emergence and what has happened to him as a character over the 18-issue run. And it's been a lot of fun.
RT: Do you know who is taking over for you?
AB: I do. It's a great choice. Someone who really knows, appreciates and understands the character.
"Robin" has been a great education and great chance to work with the people involved, particularly Fred.
RT: You want to work in the Bat universe again soon?
AB: I certainly would not say "no." One of the great things about "Robin" is that Batman showed up every once in a while and what I've tried to do is show his relationship with Robin on a father/son level. It's been fun to play those paternal feelings.
I know people are looking at it with a cocked eye because Batman is coming across a bit softer than he appears in other books, but my feeling is that he wouldn't adopt a child without having some love for the child in the first place. When Bruce is in costume, he needs to spread the fear, but when he is with Tim he doesn't need to be that way. I think he is able to separate the personas of Bruce and Batman, and he's not going to forget that he is talking to his son. It's been really fun to play that.
RT: What is your favorite character in the Bat universe that you haven't gotten to sink your claws into yet?
AB: It's probably more on the villain side, because Batman has such a great rogue's gallery. It's would be great to write Two-Face one day.
RT: Let's move on to "Countdown." Obviously you've been reading "52."
RT: How'd you like it?
AB: I liked it a lot. I couldn't solve the mysteries and I had no idea where the story was going at any given time. I had a good time reading it.
RT: Tell us about what you guys are doing different creatively than the motley crew behind "52."
AB: It functions a lot like a TV staff. We have a head writer, Paul Dini, who has come up with the complete overarching storyline. Paul, in addition to being a great head writer, is a great resource. He knows the DC Universe. So having him come up with the story itself is a great safety net for us.
The story is there. What Paul and [editor] Mike Marts have done is break it down into manageable chunks so that we could pick up a manageable section of that story every week and script it out. We can add our own bits if we want to and generally Paul and Mike are very enthusiastic about what we are doing.
So, it hasn't been as on-the-fly as "52" might have been. And given the nature of "52," I think they did an amazing job. The story is set down in our case.
RT: Are you given a set week to write for every month, or does it change?
AB: I've pretty much written an issue every four weeks. My first issue is #48, my second is #44. There was one hiccup where I got bumped up a week, but that's it.
RT: Are you given a specific character to focus on, or are multiple plotlines involved?
AB: Multiple plotlines. If I'm writing #48, I may have four or five plotlines to feature in that issue. I have to be able to write all of the characters that appear in "Countdown."
RT: Tell us about the synchronism between the writers and editor.
AB: Mike Marts has been amazing about getting us scripts as they are finished and making sure, if I'm writing issue #29, that I know exactly what is happening in issues #30 and #31, even if the issues aren't finished yet.
RT: What can you tell us about all those plotlines?
AB: They are really exciting. [laughs] Cassandra Cain doesn't turn evil in any of them.
RT: Let me rephrase to try and get something more out of you.
AB: Sure, give it a try.
RT: Who is your favorite character to play with in "Countdown" and why?
AB: Jimmy Olsen is a hoot. I've never had a chance to write him before and it's a lot of fun to play on the time-honored goofy aspects of the character while incorporating more modern touches Jimmy has gone through over the years. He's great to write.
RT: And now he might die.
AB: Must die.
RT: Tell us about the gang of writers.
AB: I've only met Jimmy Palmiotti out at Wizard World LA.
There is email chatter among all of us and I think we might be literally at every corner of the United States. But there is chatter that goes around.
Another thing that has worked out really well is that the voices have been unified. You can't look at an issue and say that it is clearly an Adam Beechen issue because it is so much different than the other guys. That is not the case. To me it feels like we are writing with a unified voice. That is a testament to Paul and Mike.
RT: Let me think, what else would I ask you about a weekly comic series - oh yeah, how's the grind?
AB: It's like writing a monthly book. I don't have to focus on it every week, every day. There hasn't been a sense of a grind at all, in fact it's been easier than writing other books. I just have to get it down on paper, ask whatever questions I have, incorporate whatever touches I can and go from there.
It's been shockingly smooth and I've been waiting for the other shoe to drop, but it hasn't happened. I may have just jinxed the entire thing.
RT: Way to go.
AB: Yeah, Tony Bedard is going to come looking for me now.
But these stories are going to shake DC up. These stories are important stories.
RT: How does it feel to be working on DC's major "crossover" for '07, early '08.
AB: Given my preference for ease of work, I would prefer non-crossover stories. These characters come from so many families of books, that you are going to have characters coming in and out of the storylines.
With "Robin," we never really crossed over, but with "Teen Titans," every issue is a crossover and it's been a function of the way that book is. We are dealing with stuff from "Amazons Attack" now. And I want to become better at integrating the regular DCU. I think it's important, but I think fans like it.
RT: How many issues are in the can?
AB: I'm not sure how many issues are fully in the can, but I know we are going at a pretty good clip. I just finished the script for issue #29, so in terms of the writing, we are pretty far along.
We got a really early jump, which was great and our pace shows our enthusiasm for the book.
We also have Keith Giffen doing the breakdowns for every issue, which is fast and keeping with a coherent storytelling style.
RT: Are you guys taking bets for if Keith is going to have a nervous breakdown this year?
AB: [laughs] He loves this stuff! I can't understand it, but it's amazing! And he's doing nine million other comic projects at the same time! He's going nuts for this stuff and it's great to have him on our side.
He called me up a couple of weeks ago and it was surreal enough to get a phone call from Keith Giffen, but he said he was here as a resource. And that is incredibly generous for a guy who doesn't have a lot of time and to know he is there for the project takes a lot of pressure off.
RT: I got some preview issues of "52" back at Wizard and those breakdowns he does? Pretty much finished pencils.
AB: Yeah. Keith is maybe my all time favorite comic artist. To work on any project with him is great. There is so much energy in his work and that's what I love. I would rather see someone take incredible chances and fall short than just someone turning something out. Keith's work always has that enthusiastic energy to it.
RT: We haven't talked about Mike Marts much.
AB: I have yet to meet Mike and I would really like to because I've had a great time working with him to this point.
RT: He's a nice guy.
AB: Is he? Because he sure seems like it. As for whether or not he brought me onto the project, I'm not sure. My understanding was that I was a suggestion made by Dan DiDio, which I'm very grateful and flattered. I feel like Mike inherited me and he's been great at answering questions and giving me notes. Just great to deal with.
I'm most impressed by his traffic coordination skills, because I know it can't be easy.
RT: Are you guys going to have a summit meeting just to say "hey" and get some drinks at some point?
AB: I hope so. I don't think anything is scheduled, but I hope a lot of us show up in San Diego. It sure would be great to meet people like Tony and Sean and Justin and Jimmy and some of the artists, not to mention Mike and everyone else who works on the book.
RT: Whose writing were you most unfamiliar with when you started the book?
AB: Probably Sean McKeever. His scripts are really solid and strong. He moves between the plotlines with a lot of grace. Sometimes it's hard to transition from scene to scene and he does it well.
RT: Okay, lightning round time! Since we've done this before, I'm just asking the new questions.
RT: What did you think about "Civil War?"
AB: I enjoyed it. I thought it was a really interesting take. I like interesting ideas that are followed relatively logically. I thought it was attacked thoughtfully and they answered questions I had as a reader as I went along.
RT: What is your biggest strength as a writer?
AB: Voice. I think it is finding a character's voice and bringing it out.
RT: Biggest weakness?
AB: Pacing and plotting out stories.
RT: What comic books can you never miss at the comic store?
AB: "52" has been at the top of my reading list. "Justice League" and "Justice Society." "Justice" itself has been fun to look at. I still read "The Punisher" as soon as possible after it comes out because I'm such a big fan of Garth Ennis. I really am enjoying what Geoff and Richard Donner are doing on "Action Comics," and the "All Star" books - when and if they come out. I didn't say that out loud. When I get my comp box the first thing I read without fail is "Y: The Last Man."
RT: Any new weird convention experiences?
AB: I got booed at WonderCon.
AB: It was part of the DC Nation panel where I was announced as being exclusive. I was the last person introduced and Dan was introducing everyone by their credits, and he got to me and said "And here's the man who made Cassandra Cain evil, Adam Beechen." Nothing else! That's what he said! And I got booed by 250 people. Which was really fun. So I got up there and said, "Your boos only nourish my blackened soul." After, some people came up to me and told me they wanted to give the book a try because of what I said during the panel.
Fast forward to a month later, I was doing another DC Nation panel, and he is introducing everyone by their credits, and he got to me and said, "I have to be careful, because the last time I introduced him as 'the man who made Cassandra Cain evil' and everybody booed." And everybody started booing. So I said to Dan, "Thanks for not doing that again."
Hopefully at some point in my career I can be known as something else.
RT: I can see the next panel now, "Here's Adam Beechen, the man who dared to take over 'Teen Titans' from Geoff Johns." [laughs]