Tony Bedard likes his women strong, which is why he is right at home as the new ongoing writer of Barbara Gordon and the other lovely yet dangerous ladies of DC Comics' "Birds of Prey" beginning with issue #118, on sale now. Over the course of his comics writing career, Bedard's work has always been a hit with fans and critics when he tells stories featuring formidable female characters, whether in Crossgen's "Mystic," Marvel's "Rogue," DC's "Black Canary" or his previous four-issue guest-writing gig on "Birds of Prey" in 2007.
This time, Bedard is playing with a new location in which the Birds shall roost, new villains with whom the Birds will play, and the first face-to-face meeting between The Joker and Barbara Gordon since he crippled her in Alan Moore and Brian Bolland's landmark graphic novel, "The Killing Joke."
We spoke in-depth with Bedard about his new "Birds of Prey" run, as well as his recent arc in "Batman Confidential," and took a look back on "Countdown to Final Crisis."
You've been exclusive with DC Comics for a year and a half. How do you think you've grown as a writer since becoming DC-exclusive, and what other lessons have you learned?
I don't think that signing the exclusive affected myself as a writer, but I just continue to try and get a bit better and better, trying to work on dialogue and all that stuff. The one thing that I am always afraid of is that I'm going to fall into a rut and start telling the same story over and over again.
Has that ever happened to you before?
Every writer has to be careful of that. You can probably think up some examples of pretty big writers who have gone through the arch of their career and told the same type of story over and over again. I don't want to be that guy.
How long is the exclusive?
It's up in December.
And do you want to re-sign with them? Go back to Marvel? Freelance?
I don't know. I guess it all depends on how things are going. If things are great with DC and they are happy with me, I'd want to sign back up. It's a great deal and nice security to know I don't have to look for other work. Right now, DC feels like home. At the same time I definitely want to do work at other places again some day, just to try something different. There are always creator-owned things you can do at a small publisher that you couldn't necessarily do at the big two, and I've got a lot of projects and ideas "in the drawer" that I'll get to one day.
Let's talk about "Birds of Prey." Did this ongoing gig come about from those four guest-writing issues you produced last year?
It was that and the "Black Canary" miniseries. I used to be on staff at DC as an editor and Mike Carlin used to run the entire DC editorial department. I was just a lowly associate editor at the time, so our relationship was completely different. One of the great surprises of coming back to DC has been working with Mike, and how things have changed for both of us, and how great our collaboration has become. He's really supportive and on top of everything. His feedback and story suggestions have really improved what I'm doing.
I don't work well in isolation. One of the things I liked about working at Crossgen was that you could bounce ideas off of the people you were working with, and Mike's been a really good sounding board.
Tell us about your new "Birds of Prey" run, what changes are you bringing to the title?
Oracle and her team have moved to another new city, Platinum Flats, which is the Silicon Valley of the DCU. We are trying to establish Platinum Flats in the same way that BlÃ¼dhaven was established from the ground up in "Nightwing." We are trying to make it a viable location, and the technology angle fits Oracle really well and what the Birds of Prey are all about.
In [previous writer Sean] McKeever's run, they had found some new villains at Platinum Flats, and I'm expanding on that. We're going to learn is that the Flats is ruled by its own supervillain mafia, much like the five New York crime families formed their own syndicate back in the 1930s. For each of the major tech company -- and there are plays on Google and Microsoft and eBay, all the usual suspects -- a particular supervillain is syphoning money off it and forcing the company to do their bidding. Most of these villains are new to DC readers, and these guys have kept a very low profile because their setup is so lucrative, but now the Birds of Prey have shown up and threaten to upend all of that.
What appeals to you about "Birds of Prey," specifically?
Oracle has turned into such a great character, one of the best heroines in comics. It's funny because she is so much more now than she ever was as Batgirl. It's been a neat evolution of that character, especially under [previous "Birds of Prey" writer] Gail Simone, who really built up Oracle and Black Canary. Oracle went through a rehabilitation period after she was crippled by the Joker, and she became stringer and more capable than she ever was before. What she is doing now is essentially rehabilitating others. Aside from the fact that they're carrying out cool missions, Babs is helping her operatives become greater heroines than they ever were on their own. If you look at them all, the Birds all have a broken wing to mend, so to speak, and that is really rich dramatic material to work with as a writer.
In your current arc, Barbara encounters the Joker.
In the midst of Babs uncovering the Silicon Syndicate, the Joker gets involved with those guys, which leads up to a face-to-face encounter between the Joker and Barbara. I think this is their first face-to-face encounter since "The Killing Joke," even though they had a confrontation in earlier issues of "Birds of Prey," but filtered through a computer screen and her Oracle persona. This is the first time they are going to be mano-a-mano, and I can't wait to see what the pages look like.
Is DC marketing this as a small event?
We'll see. I just hope people know it's happening. There are so many big events lately that it won't be a mega-happening, but I just hope they get the word out, because it's definitely a major turn in Oracle's life.
How difficult was it to script the scene since that relationship obviously has so much history behind it?
The thing about "Birds of Prey" that has been a surprise to me is how effortless it is to write. It's a book where the characters are so well defined that I never have to wrack my mind to think of what to do next. It's been effortless in the very best way, and it's been that way since those four issues between Gail and McKeever.
How is "Final Crisis" going to impact "Birds of Prey"?
The very first issue of my ongoing run, [issue #118], which came out last week, has something to do with the Dark Side Club [seen in "Final Crisis" #1].
Is your gig on "Birds of Prey" to be an open-ended run?
As long as DC is happy with it, and as long as readers are happy with it, I'd like to stay around for a good long time. I have the first year's worth of stories figured out and more to come if that all works out.
Let's talk about your penciller, Nicola Scott.
Nicola Scott is doing a few issues before going off to do "Secret Six" for Gail. She's been great, and I'd love to see her stay, but it's a big opportunity for her. We have a guy name Michael O'Hare doing issue #120 and beyond, as far as I know, and he's turning in really nice-looking stuff. It's sharp and pretty and the action is terrific. And as good as he is right off the mark, you can tell he's somebody who will continue to grow as the issues go on.
What else do you have simmering in your pot?
There is a new series in the works that will be announced soon and debut near the end of the year. It's completely different than "Birds of Prey" and the sort of thing I've wanted to do since "Negation" at Crossgen. It's with a team that I've loved since I was starting to read comics, though I think they've been very underutilized since then, but I still have a huge love for them.
Basically, I can't wait to talk about it, but I can't yet.
You wrapped in April your "Wrath Child" arc on "Batman: Confidential," in issues #13-16. Looking back, are you satisfied with the arc?
I'm totally pleased with it. It was a dream come true because I've wanted to work with [artist] Rags [Morales] in that capacity since we worked at Valiant together. And working with him at DC on [the 1990s series] "Hourman" was my favorite editorial experience ever. He did work with me once as an artist a long time ago, I think it was an issue of "Shadowman," and we've both come a long way since then.
What other characters in the DC sandbox are you itching to work with?
The funny thing about that question is that there are one or two standard answers, and for me that has always been the Legion and Aquaman for DC and Captain America and Iron Man for Marvel.
You are always looking for an underperforming character to pull something like Alan Moore did on "Swamp Thing" where you tap into the hidden potential of the character. But it's not like I have the definitive Aquaman story in my head ready to go. I'd have to come up with it.
Well which Aquaman would you use? There are so many at this point.
I'd want to get close to the orange shirt, both hands, rides a sea horse version. Not as campy as you'd remember him, of course. We could make it contemporary and edgy.
You were on the writing team for "Countdown to Final Crisis." Let's talk about that book, in retrospect.
Well, I'll always be grateful to "Countdown" because it got me in the mix at DC. I think that we tried doing "Countdown" a different way than they did "52" which might have avoided some of the internal headaches they experienced making "52" but also gave us some new problems all our own. We gave it our best effort, but it didn't seem to go over as well as "52" did.
Because of the way the book was set up, it was not as collaborative as I would have liked. I got to collaborate with [head writer Paul] Dini a lot one-on-one. It was mostly each of us hashing out our particular part with him, rather than everyone in the same room figuring out the whole tale.
What artists are you itching to work with?
I'd love to work with Ed Benes. I'd love to work Ivan Reis, who knocks my socks off every time. There were some guys that I worked with on "Countdown" like Tom Derenick and Pete Woods. There are a lot of folks, and not all of them are household names.
And then there's my old "Negation" and "Exiles" partner, Paul Pelletier. I'd like to marry Paul Pelletier and work with him for the rest of my days. That guy gives you 200% on everything!