This Ain't Your Father's Starro: Tony Bedard on R.E.B.E.L.S.

This ain't your father's Starro.

Originally introduced in "The Brave and the Bold" #28 in 1960, which just so happened to be the first appearance of the Justice League, Starro is a gigantic starfish-like alien who uses mind control and the rapid reproduction of parasitic offspring to conquer planets.

After being teased last month in "R.E.B.E.L.S." #3, DC Comics released a new image of the Star Conqueror designed by superstar artist J.G. Jones. Certainly not the same fun-loving anthropomorphic echinoderm who battled Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew and Superman in the early eighties, Starro's now transfixed to a warrior king who makes Mel Gibson's "Braveheart" look like a slightly enraged boy scout.

To find out just who this new Starro is and what his plans are for Brainiac 2 and the rest of his rebellious rag tag team, CBR News checked in with "R.E.B.E.L.S." writer Tony Bedard.

CBR: In "R.E.B.E.L.S." #3, you revealed Starro would be playing a larger role in the months ahead and will be a cause for great concern for Vril Dox and company. What made you think of using this classic villain as a nemesis for Brainiac 2 and the rest of the team?

Tony Bedard: Originally, I'd wanted to use Brainiac as our big villain, but of course there were big plans for him in "Action Comics." Then I thought of using Mordru, the Legion's big villain, but he turned out to be off-limits, too. So we threw around some other ideas, and I think it might've been [DCU Executive Editor] Dan DiDio who suggested giving Starro a revamp.

Now, I've always embraced the goofier aspects of comics, and I really liked what Grant Morrison did with Starro in a couple of "JLA" stories, so I knew there was potential there. What we finally came up with is a whole new take on Starro, but it honors the Star Conqueror's earlier appearances. It's the sort of approach I love in Geoff Johns' work, as exemplified by his recent Brainiac reboot, which nailed the essence of the character and yet gave the green guy a fresh coat of paint.

But this isn't the same Starro from "The Brave and the Bold" #28, as we've seen the cover for "R.E.B.E.L.S." #6 and the sketches from J.G. Jones. Who or what are we dealing with here?

I want to leave some mystery because we're slowly unveiling the new Starro over the next few issues of "R.E.B.E.L.S." and then really going in-depth with the upcoming Starro special. I think it's safe to say that the Star Conqueror is a cosmic Genghis Khan, but he's also much more than that.

Has Starro parasitically attached himself to a host? Who is the host? Was he already villainous?

Again, that'll be revealed in the extra-sized Starro one-shot we have planned for October. I just finished the script for that one, and I'm really excited about its scope and revelations.

What can you share about his army? Is each of them "tagged" with a Starro?

Starro has two different kinds of soldiers. The ones with starro "spores" attached to their faces are almost mindless zombies. They are puppets, controlled by Starro, with no real independence or sense of self. The ones with starros attached to their backs, like the one seen at the end of "R.E.B.E.L.S." #3, are something entirely different. They are the super-powered, independent elite troops in Starro's horde. They're his vanguard, and you'll find out more about them in the next few issues of "R.E.B.E.L.S."

The solicitation for issue #6 says while it's the end of the first arc, Starro and his horde are only just beginning their conquest of the universe. Can we assume the second arc will also feature Starro?

Yes, the Starro invasion is a major event that will overshadow the "R.E.B.E.L.S." storyline, but we'll continue introducing new characters, new locations and new twists. We'll go more in depth with some of the major interstellar powers, like the Dominators, the Khund, the Gil Dish'pan and others.

You're still pretty fresh into your run, but are you pleased with the feedback for "R.E.B.E.L.S." thus far?

I know "R.E.B.E.L.S." isn't the biggest seller in the DCU, but the response has been really, really positive. I think sometimes it's an advantage to come out of nowhere and take people by surprise. I've done several convention appearances in the last few months and received kudos from readers and retailers alike. But the most gratifying thing is hearing from my editor, Brian Cunningham, how others within the DC offices keep coming up and letting him know how much they're enjoying "R.E.B.E.L.S." When you're in the industry, you can get a bit jaded about your weekly comp comics. To know that we're a hit in the DC offices is, in many ways, the highest praise of all.

But the biggest factor in the success of "R.E.B.E.L.S." is the eye-popping artwork of Andy Clarke. He has absolutely made all of these strange characters come alive. I'm also very excited about the upcoming artwork by Claude St. Aubin, who is doing the best work of his career.

It would appear DC has big plans for "R.E.B.E.L.S." in 2009. Would you concur?

I think that DC's cosmic comics are going to be very exciting this year, considering what a force the "Blackest Night" event is shaping up to be. I like to think that "R.E.B.E.L.S." does its own bit to round out our cosmic big picture, and we'll be playing along with the "Blackest Night" fun in November, which will allow me to revisit another favorite character from L.E.G.I.O.N.'s past. So, yeah, I'm feeling like we're the Little Book That Could, and things are going to get bigger and better as the year progresses.

"R.E.B.E.L.S." #4, featuring art by Claude St. Aubin and Scott Hanna with a cover by Ed Benes and Rob Hunter, will be in stores this Wednesday from DC Comics.

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