WEDNESDAY COMICS: Kurt Busiek & Eddie Berganza

Welcome back to CBR's weekly look at DC Comics' new series "Wednesday Comics." Presented in a broadsheet format (14 inches by 20 inches), the 12-week series features 15 strips written and illustrated by Eisner Award winners like Neil Gaiman, Dave Gibbons, Mike Allred and Kurt Busiek. And with DC icons Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman standing tall beside lesser-known characters like Adam Strange, Metamorpho and Deadman, there is truly something for everybody.

Every Wednesday, CBR presents a new interview with the creators bringing this unique title to life. DC Art Director Mark Chiarello usually joins us for a quick Q&A, as well, but this week, we have a special guest in his stead, DC Comics editor Eddie Berganza ("Blackest Night, "Justice League of America"), who is contributing a "Teen Titans" strip to the project, illustrated by Sean Galloway.

But first, we'll check in with Busiek, who is scripting a strip illustrated by relative newcomer Joe Quiñones and featuring arguably DC's hottest character, Green Lantern. The headliner of the Geoff Johns' orchestrated mega-event "Blackest Night," Green Lantern will make the jump to the big screen next year in a movie starring Ryan Reynolds and directed by Martin Campbell.

Busiek, who just completed a year-long stint as the writer of DC's weekly epic "Trinity," announced two big projects at Comic-Con International - a new "Astro City" ongoing series and a new creator-owned title named "Kurt Busiek's American Gothic."


CBR: When you signed on for this weekly series, you were knee deep in another one, "Trinity." What were you thinking?

KURT BUSIEK: [laughs] Actually, I was thinking for this whole weekly series, my part of it will be as long as one lead chapter from "Trinity." Of course, that's only technically true because the pages are bigger, the story is more complicated than ours -- the complete story -- but mainly it seemed crazy to sign on for another weekly, but at the same time, it was too cool a project to pass up on.

Was that a big part of why you signed on - the coolness factor? Or was it the talented lineup Mark Chiarello was assembling? Or perhaps it was something else?

Well, I didn't know who all the other folks involved were. I knew that he'd been talking to some good people but basically, what got me was the format, the chance to work with Joe Quiñones and the chance to work with Mark himself.

I'm a big fan of old, classic adventure strips in the newspaper so being able to do something that was that kind of package, that kind of format, just sounded like too much fun to say no to.

Do you have any favorite adventure strips?

My all-time favorites are "Terry and the Pirates" and "Steve Canyon" by Milt Caniff. And I'm a big fan of "Gasoline Alley," Leonard Starr's "On Stage" - those are the big ones. Frank Robbins' "Johnny Hazard," I could go on but I've named some pretty good ones already.

Do you think a project like "Wednesday Comics" will inspire readers to go and seek out some of the old, classic strips?

That would be nice but I don't think that there's so strong a connection that someone will read "Wednesday Comics" and think they should go out and buy some old, comic strip books. It would be wonderful if the people who are reading the Gibbons and Sook "Kamandi" would go and give "Prince Valiant" a try because if they're liking "Kamandi," then they'd probably be liking "Prince Valiant." But I don't know how many people are going to make that leap. The people who are already enjoying that material are probably already reading "Wednesday Comics" because we're getting to play in an arena they like.

Certainly, all the writers and artists involved are having a good time and I think new readers who aren't familiar with that stuff, I don't think they need to be. I think we're telling a story in one gigantic page a week, which was a cool format to work in back in the thirties, the forties, fifties and it's a cool format to work in today. You don't need to have that as a touchstone, but it's fun.

Do you have a touchstone strip that you and Quiñones are channeling for your Green Lantern story?

Well, every day that I was working on the Green Lantern strip, I would be sitting on the floor of my office with a full-size reproduction of Leonard's Starr's "On Stage" funny pages from the early 1960s all around me. Partly that was because Starr is one the absolute greats in the genre and partly it was because the Green Lantern strip is set in the 1960s and we wanted to capture that feeling. In our case, it's right down to the lettering. We're using a font based on Ben Oda's lettering and Ben Oda was the guy who lettered "On Stage." So I'm not picking something that as many people are going to recognize as "Prince Valiant" but I was certainly going back to a particular touchstone and that was early 1960s' Leonard Starr.

Part of that is because Joe Quiñones is so good at doing real people interacting that we wanted to do a story that had a lot that to it and part of it was that it was this jet age, space age storytelling from the Kennedy era, so why not go back and emulate that to some degree?

How did you hook up with Joe Quiñones on this project?

I ran into Joe at a Stumptown Comics Fest in Portland, Oregon. I liked his work tremendously and I tried to get him to work on another project that I was working on that hasn't yet got off the ground but at the same time, Joe was in contact with Mark Chiarello. Mark had told Joe about "Wednesday Comics." I was thrilled with Joe's work and eager to work with him and Mark was thrilled with Joe's work and eager to work with him so that's how it got to be me and Joe on "Wednesday Comics."

I literally was walking by his table at Stumptown and said, "Holy Cow. This guy's a really good artist." So I bought some of his stuff and talked to him and that's how it all started really.

So it's fair to say that you'd like to work with him again one day?

That would be wonderful. I'm still working with him now. I still getting pages in from him and tweaking them. He's working on the 10th chapter now. I have three more pages to go of getting his artwork in and editing my script to fit the pages, so I don't feel like I'm done working with him yet but yes, I'd love to work with him again.

And how did you land on a Green Lantern story?

It seemed that about half the guys who said they were interested in doing something for "Wednesday Comics" said, "Yeah. I want to do Kamandi." And Mark had already given it to Dave [Gibbons]. And I did the same thing. I said I'd love to do Kamandi. He said, "Sorry, he's not available." So we talked about other possibilities - maybe a Superman story, maybe a Black Canary story but we settled on Green Lantern because this story we're telling is something that I had in mind for a while but it doesn't quite fit into Green Lantern continuity as he exists today. So this was a chance to take him out of continuity and do it.

Hal Jordan is probably my all-time favorite DC superhero so getting the chance to do a Hal Jordan story without any ties of continuity or whatever the current history is. It's just doing the classic character the way I feel like it works. That was one of the many opportunities that was too good to pass up.

If "Wednesday Comics" is back next year, would you come back and do it again?

I've already told Mark Chiarello that if there's a Round 2 that I want to do "The Witching Hour" but I'm sure that if they do a Round 2 they may go for a completely new set of creators. I'd certainly understand that. Or they may have different ideas that they want to do.

There are certainly tons of DC properties that would be fun to do. I'd love doing an Unknown Soldier strip or "Fabulous World of Krypton." We were just talking at Comic-Con and several people said, if they are doing this again, they'd love to see Paul Levitz do a Legion of Super-Heroes strip. That would be something that would be great to see in that big Sunday strip-style format.

DC has a huge library of characters and there are so many good approaches to the material. If they do it again next year, if I get a chance to do it again, great, I'll be happy to. If I don't get a chance to work on it that just means that's one more strip for me to read. So I'll be happy either way.


CBR: You haven't done a ton of writing for DC over the years, as your primary role is that of editor. What were the circumstances that led you to writing a Teen Titans strip in "Wednesday Comics?"

EDDIE BERGANZA: Well, when you keep being handed the company's biggest events - like "Blackest Night" - it does become hard. Still, I do like to occasionally write, as I've done in the past with the old "Superboy" series, where I did solo work as well as teamed up with my good pal, Joe Kelly.

Our editor and genius behind this whole thing, Mark Chiarello, was looking for different approaches to our heroes for this and he knew I wanted to do something. From his initial description of the project it sounded fine and small enough to fit it into my schedule. Mind you, at the time, I had no idea who else he was asking to work on it from the writing end.

And have you enjoyed the process?

Enjoyed? I'm freaking ecstatic. It has become a phenomenon, and rightfully so. I'm in a title with writers the likes of Gaiman, Azzarello, Simonson, Busiek and Kubert. I have to pinch myself to know it's not all a dream.

Were there specific Sunday funnies you loved growing up as a kid or continue to love today?

Strangely, "Brenda Starr." It was the most adventure-like one going on that I could follow. Pretty girl and a mysterious guy she was involved with. The others weren't so interesting except for the cool art on "Prince Valiant," and my fascination with following the trails of those kids from "Family Circus."

The true inspiration for doing this was Stan Lee and the "Spider-Man" strip. It gave you just enough of a story with a cliffhanger to get you back for the next chapter. It's what I have been trying to do.

Are you a long-time fan of the Teen Titans?

Huge. Long-time fan. The Marv Wolfman and George Perez era resonates with everyone. They really defined for me what a team book should be, and many of the creators that have followed have added greatly to that like Geoff Johns and Mike McKone.

When selecting your lineup, you stuck pretty closely with current continuity, specifically using Blue Beetle, a relative newcomer, yet you added Superboy and Robin. How did you land on your roster?

When the amazing Sean Galloway started doing his take on characters like Red Devil and Blue Beetle, I just had to do more with them. It's one of the reasons one of the chapters is devoted to Blue Beetle entirely. I also loved his take on Nightwing and Starfire, which is why they along with Beast Boy will continue to appear.

Best part of this was that I did have both "Teen Titans" and the older "Titans" to pick and choose from.

As we said earlier, your day-to-day gig at DC is an editor. What is Mark Chiarello like as an editor? Or does he leave you alone because of your editor status?

Thankfully, no. Everyone, everyone needs an editor. You need a fresh pair of eyes to look at your work to see if you are getting your message across. Sometimes you are so close to it, you think you are being clear and you're not.

Mark is the best kind of editor in that he's a great coach at getting you to do your best. He doesn't tell you what you should do, but more inspires you to do something better. He learned from the best, which is Archie Goodwin. People always wanted to impress Archie with their best work. Same goes with Mark. We all just want to make him happy.

"Wednesday Comics" #5 is on sale now from DC Comics. Be sure to check back next week when we discuss Hawkman with Kyle Baker, and don't forget to email us your questions for Mark Chiarello.

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