Veteran comics industry writer Tony Bedard ("Birds of Prey," "Supergirl and the Legion of Super-Heroes") says every writer has a secret wish list of books and characters they'd love to tackle.
Well, Christmas came early for Mr. Bedard, as the former Vertigo editor launches "R.E.B.E.L.S." #1 in February of 2009 with rising star artist Andy Clarke ("Detective Comics," "2000 AD"), a reimagining of DC's classic L.E.G.I.O.N. concept.
Created by Keith Giffen, L.E.G.I.O.N. first appeared in DC Comics' Invasion! crossover event 20 years ago, in December 1988. L.E.G.I.O.N. - which stands for Licensed Extra-Governmental Interstellar Operatives Network - was led by Brainiac's fiercely intelligent and Machiavellian son Vril Dox and operated for all intents and purposes as a peacekeeping patrol for hire, not unlike the Green Lantern Corps if they were rent-a-cops. The stories took place not in the 31st century but in the present, and the group included a number of original characters as well as an incarnation of the Legion of Super-Heroes' Phantom Girl (known in the series as Phase) and the homicidal Lobo, who Dox tricked into becoming a permanent member of the team.
Spinning out of Invasion! was "L.E.G.I.O.N. '89," which debuted in 1989. The title would change to reflect the year of publication, and concluded in 1994's "L.E.G.I.O.N. '94" #70. The cast then moved to the spinoff series "R.E.B.E.L.S.," which lasted only 17 issues.
Tony Bedard - who still receives enormous praise for his work on the similarly cosmic and ensemble-based CrossGen series "Negation" -- told CBR News that the R.E.B.E.L.S./L.E.G.I.O.N. group is "often a mix of high-profile favorites and more obscure gems," that "from the moment I started writing for DC Comics, I wanted a crack at Brainiac 2 and his outer space mercenary police force."
CBR News spoke with Bedard about "R.E.B.E.L.S." and found a creator not only passionate about his assignment, but also someone who really loves his leading man.
CBR: How did this new R.E.B.E.L.S. project come about? Was it your pitch?
Tony Bedard: Last year, when I got a little breathing room in my schedule, I emailed [DC Executive Editor] Dan DiDio, begging for a chance to pitch a L.E.G.I.O.N. series. And Dan, in his infinite wisdom, said, "Yes." Since then, my pitch has grown and mutated a number of times, taking on a life of its own. And while some of the details and even the title have changed since the original pitch, the core idea remains the same.
Brainiac 2 gathers a new team reminiscent of some of my favorite Legion of Super-Heroes good guys and bad guys. I couldn't be more excited about these characters, both old and new, and about my partner-in-crime on "R.E.B.E.L.S.," artist Andy Clarke, who is about to become the "next big thing" with his amazing, intricate and exquisite work.
Are you a long time fan of the Legion of Super-Heroes?
I was a fan of the Legion of Super-Heroes since my youth, although I only read a handful of Legion comics back then. Still, the thought of a whole other world of heroes to discover along with Superboy immediately hooked me. And it was the little touches, like those gold discs that held on Mon-El's cape, or Timber Wolf's awesome sideburns, or Chameleon Boy's antennae that really sparked my imagination.
Later, when the "L.E.G.I.O.N." series spun out of the Invasion! crossover in the late '80s, I got hooked again. I hadn't seen a hero like Vril Dox/Brainiac 2 before. The guy was totally cold-blooded, and willing to commit absolute atrocities in the name of justice. And he chumped Lobo! So, yeah, this is all material that's near and dear to me, ever since I first became a comics fan.
Why bring the concept back as "R.E.B.E.L.S." and not "L.E.G.I.O.N."?
To be honest, I first pitched this as "L.E.G.I.O.N.," but a couple of things became apparent as the series took shape. The first is that, on the heels of the cancellation of the regular "Legion of Super-Heroes" series, we didn't want anyone confused that this might be a re-launch of "LSH," or a sequel, or prequel, or whatever. There may be aspects of R.E.B.E.L.S. that were inspired by Legion, but "R.E.B.E.L.S." is its own book set in the present-day DC Universe.
The other reason we went with "R.E.B.E.L.S." has to do with our new premise. Brainiac 2 has been deposed from command of L.E.G.I.O.N., and his interplanetary police force has been turned into an army of occupation. Dox and his new strike team must fight an insurgent campaign, a guerilla war to free the people who paid good money for Dox's protection. A situation like this happened once before, when Dox's evil son stole his organization, and the series changed its name from "L.E.G.I.O.N." to "R.E.B.E.L.S." We figured that title is a better fit for the tone of our new series.
Set up the series for us, how does it open?
Brainiac 2 arrives on Earth with a crew of alien bounty hunters chasing him. His vast robotic police force has been usurped by an unknown adversary who, in one fell swoop, conquered all the worlds L.E.G.I.O.N. was supposed to protect. But Dox knows that Supergirl has what he needs - the key to winning back his command. Exactly what that "key" is will be a surprise, and it will require him to gather a new team which includes one former teammate, Strata, and four new allies who will be a whole lot of trouble for him. And a whole lot of crazy fun for us.
What makes Brainiac 2 a compelling lead character?
He's the most ruthless bastard you'd ever want on your side. Vril Dox is a true believer that the end justifies the means. He uses people with no consideration of their feelings, and won't hesitate to sacrifice the few for the good of the many. In other words, he's a ton of fun to write. He has a moral core, but it just doesn't match the Golden Rule that you and I play by. Consequently, you never know what will happen in this book, or who will live and die. I guarantee you one wild, mean-spirited, wicked read. It takes the baddest good guy in the DCU to tame the most dangerous sector in space.
Fill out the roster for us. Who else is on the team and what can you share about them?
I mentioned Strata, who hails from the same rocky race that gave us the classic Legionnaire, Blok. Strata was in the original "L.E.G.I.O.N." series, and she provides a voice of reason and strong moral core to counterbalance Brainiac 2's more excessive tendencies. We'll also see Vril Dox recruit Wildstar, Tribulus, Bounder and the Emerald Princess, all of whom are reminiscent of some of my favorite LSH heroes and villains.
There's a story reason why he chooses this group, and a logic to where they come from, but you'll have to read the book to find out more. At the end of the day, this is an immensely powerful strike team, which Dox will need if he has any hope of defeating the new enemy who stole L.E.G.I.O.N. away from him, and now threatens the rest of the DCU.
Who is the new enemy?
Like several of Dox's new teammates, our villain is both strangely familiar and yet entirely new. A big part of the fun in our opening story arc is the reveal of this villain, who will become a major threat in the DC Universe, and wields power an order of magnitude beyond anything Brainiac 2 ever faced. In fact, we're building a mini event around our new villain, and you'll hear more about that soon, but it will be felt beyond the pages of "R.E.B.E.L.S.," and it will affect more of DC's cosmic characters.
Supergirl and the Legion are guest stars in the first issue. Will any other DCU heroes come into play?
Just Supergirl at first. We have enough characters in the mix, and I want to maintain a focus on Vril Dox so that new readers quickly understand how cool he is. We will then build our cast up, issue by issue, but the story itself keeps moving at a breakneck pace, with one twist after another as we hop from planet to planet. There is a dark and exciting corner of the DCU to explore, and we will see some great, underutilized cosmic characters like the Omega Men and others as our saga unfolds.
Does this book tie-in to any other titles?
We have plans for a companion title in the works, and we'll also reflect some of the big picture stuff coming up in 2009. We'll also try to maintain a connection to events on Earth. Despite the fact that we'll be planet-hopping and going cosmic, I very much want "R.E.B.E.L.S." to matter to the rest of the lineup.
What can you say about the art of Andy Clarke?
I can't say enough about Andy Clarke. In fact, this whole interview should be about Andy Clarke. This guy is going to blow up big-time. He's the best new artist I've seen since looking over the shoulder of an apprentice at CrossGen named Steve McNiven.
Andy has been on contract at DC for a while, but the right opportunity hadn't come along for him. Mike Marts suggested him for "R.E.B.E.L.S.," and I now owe Marts my next child because Andy is knocking everything I send his way right out of the park. Check out his covers and his great character designs. His art is gorgeously rendered in a manner that brings to mind Travis Charest, and it's as expressive as Kevin Maguire's.
My only worry is that someone will steal him away before our first year is up, but this kind of collaborative magic is rare, and once you find it, you hang on.
I should also mention our extraordinary award-winning colorist, Jose Villarrubia, a great artist in his own right and Andy's first choice for this assignment. I'm terribly lucky to have such collaborators, and I promise we will make the most of this opportunity.
It must be exciting writing a #1 issue and establishing a new team in the DCU. Have you even thought about that?
You don't often get a shot at a number one issue at either of the Big Two, much less a shot at re-launching a personal favorite. And you don't often get a chance to do it with the Artist of Tomorrow. I've won the lottery here, the big trifecta, and I am having a blast. I think anyone who picks up "R.E.B.E.L.S." #1 will have a blast, too.
It's something different, and believe me, this book is gonna matter. Tell your local store to save you a copy in February.
"R.E.B.E.L.S." #1 hits comic book stands on February 11, 2009 from DC Comics.