Announced earlier at WonderCon, writer Tony Bedard is now exclusive with DC Comics and will participate in the upcoming “Countdown” event. The scribe began his career in 1992 at the then fledgling Valiant Comics and soon found himself editing at DC Comics, which brought him to the attention of the principle creators at Crossgen Comics. At the upstart comic publisher, Bedard drew acclaim for his work on “Negation” and “Route 666.” He soon found himself at Marvel Comics, writing titles such as “Exiles” and “Rogue,” both from the popular X-Men family of comics. We spoke with Bedard to learn about his return to the DC Comics family and what he’s got planned for the future.
Allright, let’s start with the easy question — why? Why sign an exclusive with DC Comics at this moment in your career?
Are you kidding? Why wouldn’t I? DC’s never been as vital, aggressive and fascinating as they’ve been these past few years. And being part of the team that follows up “52” is as close to a sure thing as you get in this business. “Countddown” is going to be huge: it deals with the whole DC Universe and it’s a game-changing story. The repercussions of the story will echo through the DCU for a long time to come. So when I was offered a chance to be part of all that, I leaped at it. The “exclusive” part comes in because if you’re going to be part of such a crucial project, it behooves the company to make sure you won’t jump ship in the middle of the story. So I’m in it for the duration and I hope to come up with even more fun stories to tell at DC Comics.
What’s the term of this exclusivity agreement?
I’ve signed on for a 2-year tour of duty. Maybe they’ll re-enlist me if my body count is high enough.
How did this exclusivity all go down? How long has it been in the works? When were you first approached?
“Countdown” editor Mike Marts and I first started talking about this last fall, though I don’t recall the exact date. We had a terrific working relationship at Marvel when he edited and I wrote their “Exiles” series. Then Mike took a very good opportunity at DC and we kept in touch. I suppose when he was handed the reins to “Countdown,” Mike knew he could rely on me to work hard, hit my deadlines, play well with others, and try to get an “Oh, $#!t” moment in every issue. Of course, I didn’t ask why he extended the invitation – I just took it!
Smart boy! Now, to readers you’re primarily known for your work at CrossGen and later at Marvel. Does tackling DCU characters present new or different challenges for you compared to your previous work?
Y’know, I used to work on staff at DC and Vertigo as an editor, and I loved the DC characters from my teenage years. I even edited “Secret Files,” their “Who’s Who” book, so I got to know a lot of the obscure history and characters in the DCU, so this is actually an opportunity I’ve wanted for a long time. There’s a real comfort level with the material and my only worry is catching up on the last couple of years when I was so busy at Marvel that I hardly had time to keep up with DC continuity.
You’re hitting the road running being a part of “Countdown,” a rather high profile start for your work at DC. Tell us about becoming a part of “Countdown” and what that process has been like?
Well, a project like this is different than most comics writing in that you have to work in concert with a group, rather than just going off and banging out scripts by yourself. For some, being part of a writing team is a nightmare scenario. But this kind of collaboration is something I’m used to and really enjoy. I did it for a time at Broadway Comics and worked closely with my creative teams at CrossGen, where we were all under one roof. So it’s been fun trading e-mails and doing phone conferences with Mike Marts, Paul Dini, Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray, Adam Beechen and Sean McKeever. In fact, the way we work is probably more like working on a TV series. Dini is the “showrunner,” laying out the basic storylines for each of the several subplots that wind their way through “Countdown.” We then discuss how to break these up into individual issues and each of us tries to outdo the others, coming up with cool character moments, surprising twists and nail biting cliffhangers.
Outside of “Countdown,” does DC have plans for you in the months ahead? Where might we see your work?
I’ve got a lot of wheels turning at DC. I have a 4-part “Batman Confidential” story in the works with my old pal Rags Morales. It features a cult-favorite villain: the anti-Batman known as The Wrath. I’m totally stoked about this story, especially with Rags knocking it out of the park. I also have a “JSA Classified” tale upcoming with eye-opening art by Dennis Calero. I have two more high-profile projects that DC hasn’t announced yet, so I’ll remain mum, but I will say that anyone who liked my CrossGen science fiction book “Negation” is going to love one of these unannounced stories. And anyone who likes girls and kung fu will love the other one.
While you’ll clearly be working on projects in the DCU, what about Wildstorm and Vertigo? In regards to the latter, while you’ve primarily worked on company projects, do you have any interest in setting up creator owned properties?
I have two or three creator-owned projects that I want to pursue, but I’m still settling in on “Countdown “so I’ll wait another few weeks before I pitch them. I’d love to get a crack at working in Vertigo. I once did a short story in the Vertigo anthology “Flinch” that was illustrated by David Lloyd (thanks, Shelly!), and that tale was a creative turning point for me. I think it’s actually a big part of why Mark Waid recruited me to write for CrossGen. I’d love to work in Vertigo again some day, but most of my original ideas are probably more suited for WildStorm, so I’ll have to check them out.
Does your exclusivity with DC allow you any outside work, say for someone like Image or any other publisher? Are there any exclusions?
I don’t think there are any exclusions, but I do have some things that I already did for other publishers that just haven’t seen print yet. There’s a painted X-Men book with Joe Chiodo at Marvel, and a horror project at Avatar called “The Deathwalker” that may see the light of day soon. The nice thing is that between DCU, Vertigo and Wildstorm, there’s room to do almost any kind of project you want.
What do you see are your strengths as a writer? Conversely, what do you see as your weaknesses?
I just try hard. I do my research, I try to make my characters behave intelligently and I try to pack in surprises so you don’t always know where the story is going. I think my stories also start strong and move briskly. I also think I do fairly well with female protagonists. Between “Route 666,” “Exiles'” and “Rogue,” I’ve felt really comfortable with books driven by female characters.
If there’s one thing I need to work on, it’s probably my endings. Sometimes I think they’re too rushed. Sometimes they don’t pack the punch I was hoping for. The nice thing about writing is that you can keep growing and improving if you just avoid getting too comfortable with your own work.
We all know examples of creators who essentially tell the same story for a decade or two. I don’t ever want to be that guy. I always hope that I’ll keep changing and improving, and my best work lies ahead, but only if I keep striving for it.
Looking at the stable of DCU characters, which would be your favorite and which are the ones you’re most interested in tackling?
I always want to tackle characters like Aquaman who are well-known but still seem to have great untapped potential. The model for what I’d love to do is the way Alan Moore elevated Swamp Thing, Frank Miller expanded Daredevil and Walt Simonson unleashed Thor. Of course, those guys are all geniuses and I’m just me, but you gotta aim high, right? I also like Lobo, L.E.G.I.O.N., Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, the Legion of Super-Heroes, the Doom Patrol and the list goes on. The DCU is a great big wonderful sandbox. I hope they let me play here for a good long while.
Thanks, Tony. Congratulations on the exclusivity and have fun with “Countdown.”
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