An interview with Tony Bedard!

Writer Tony Bedard started his work inside the comics industry as an intern at Valiant Comics, goint to CrossGen right after that and writing and editing some great titles for them. After gaining the experience only a few professionals had the chance to, since learning how to edit and to write (even to letter) comics, Tony established himself at DC Comics in the beginnings of 2000s. Tony turned into an important editor inside the publisher, and them started to ascend as a writer. Now Tony is one of the most read super hero writers.

Here is an interview we did with Tony by email during these last weeks. Here he talks a little bit about his carreer, some of his beat works and some other controversial subjects. Thanks, Tony, for taking some time to talk to us =)

[Note 1: special thanks to a Daniel HDR, Delfin and Vlad ‘Focus’, guys who helped on this interview] [Note 2: this interview was published in Portuguese, you can read it here]

One of the old Turok comic issues

1-) Tell us a little about your first experience with comics as a reader and then as a professional. What were your difficulties when you first entered the business? Also how did you get a job at DC Comics?

TONY: My first comic was an issue of TUROK: SON OF STONE I picked up in the supermarket in Puerto Rico when I was around 4 or 5. I never forgot it, though I didn’t become a regular comics reader until I was 15 and SECRET WARS came out. That hooked me, though I wasn;t just a Marvel reader. I liked DC, and also First Comics, Eclipse Comics, etc. My all-time favorites were SWAMP THING, DAREDEVIL and NEXUS (which was hugely influential on my sci-fi comics). I was 25 when I got into the comics business, working for free as an intern at Valiant Comics. They finally hired me and I managed to stay in the business ever since. I got the DC job through my friend Garth Ennis who was working with editor Dan Raspler at the time and knew Dan was looking for an Associate Editor. That turned out to be a great break for me, and my three years at DC editorial were a wonderful learning experience for me.

Harbinger #30, edited by Tony Bedard

2-) You were woking at Valiant Comics when the company was acquired by Acclaim. That happened after Jim Shooter (the main creator of that editorial universe) was fired. How did you feel about it by that time? And why, after a while, things fell apart so that one of the most promising publishers of the 1990s fell into disrepute in the business?

TONY: I arrived at Valiant about a month after Shooter was gone. The company was just starting to really take off, launching huge-selling books like BLOODSHOT, NINJAK, X-O MANOWAR and TUROK: DINOSAUR HUNTER. It was terrific fun and at the time I was naive enough to think I’d work there for the rest of my career. But we also expanded the line too quickly, trying to capture market share. It only cannibalized our own sales and quality dropped. We lost what made us special in the first place and then the speculator bubble popped. I got laid off in 1995 and one of my first jobs afterward was writing for Jim Shooter at Broadway Comics. In spite of all the horror stories I heard about him, he always treated me professionally and I enjoyed my brief tenure with Broadway. That’s where I met J.G. Jones, and we’ve been close friends ever since.

Route 666, created by Bedard to CrossGen

3-) Talking about bankrupt companies, how sad were you when you had to “turn off the lights” of the Sigilverse at CrossGen?

TONY: The funny thing was that Valiant prepared me to deal with CrossGen. When I moved down there, I figured I had about 2 years to tell some good stories and try to line up further work at other publishers. It turned out that CrossGen was an amazing experience — even better than Valiant. We were all under the same roof and could trade ideas, techniques, etc. I think almost everyone who worked there got better. The colorists could learn from the likes of Laura Martin and Justin Ponsor. The pencilers would see how Greg Land or Jimmy Chung achieved such gorgeous work. We had up and comers like Steve McNiven, Frank Darmata and Karl Moline absolutely flourish there. And veterans like Steve Epting and Butch Guice revitalized their careers. CrossGen was a great place, and I still miss it, but as I watched it expand too fast, it was like Valiant all over again. At least it seems like the talent there went on to bigger and better things.

Hourman by Tom Peyer, edited by Bedard

4-) Here in Brazil you are known for your work with DC and Marvel Comics. Just a few people know that you grew up as a professional working as an important editor at Valiant and then at DC Comics. You edited great, acclaimed and completely different titles such as Harbinger, DC One Million, Transmetropolitan, Hourman and Fanboy. Can you tell us a little bit about all these experiences?

TONY: The best thing about editing was that I got to read scripts as they came in from Grant Morrison, Brian Azzarello, Garth Ennis, Warren Ellis, and so on. It was a great education for an aspiring writer to see just how concise and lean a script should be. It was also a treat to create a good creative relationship. The best example for me was HOURMAN, where I think Rags Morales really shone and Tom Peyer had a landmark run — maybe the best writing of his career. It was also fun editing TRANSMET, where I got to commission work from so many great artists.

Green Lantern: New Guardians, by Bedard and Tyler Kirkham

5-) From your work as assistant editor of Grant Morrison’s JLA you seem to have developed a “personal relationship” with Kyle Rayner. Having the chance to work solely with him now in New Guardians, what you want to add to it? Also, would you say that the Ron Marz material is still the “cornerstone” for the character?

TONY: Ron definitely deserves all the credit for making Kyle Rayner one of the best DC characters of the past 20 years. It’s true, too, that I really “got” the character from working on JLA. The interplay Grant set up between Kyle and Wally West was one of the best things about that book. Now that I get to focus on Kyle in NEW GUARDIANS, I want to play up why he’s special. He got his ring in a different way than any other Lantern. He has a closer relationship with a Guardian than any other Lantern. And he is going to be able to work across the whole Emotional Spectrum in a way that no other Lantern can match.

6-) “The Great Ten” miniseries was an amazing multicultural epic. Did you do a lot of research about Chinese culture to define all those characters? How did you imagine to fit all the symbolism their culture has on each character?

Last issue of The Great Ten

TONY: I’ve always been interested in Chinese history and culture, so when Dan Didio offered me the project, I jumped at the chance. Also, I got to work from character notes by Grant Morrison, so that was a terrific springboard right there. Then it was just a matter of giving each character their own issue and trying to make each issue feel like it was a different genre, depending on what was appropriate for each character. The Thundermind story was like an old Superman comic. The August General was more like War of the Worlds. It was great fun for me and for Scott McDaniel, who is an amazing artist and graphic designer.

7-) “The Great Ten” miniseries was supposed to have 10 issues but it only got 9. Why?

TONY: I think the sales were low and they wanted to cut it down to 8 issue. Editor Mike Siglain fought for that extra issue and it made all the difference.

Last issue of Outsiders, by Bedard

8-) Some time ago it was confirmed that you were going to write some Outsiders stories but that never happened. What were the themes of those stories you were planning and why they never saw the light of day?

TONY: I wanted Batman to put together a team that the public thought was a rogue team so they could interact with bad guys and take down the underworld from within. As outlaws, they would’ve had the ability to do things the Justice League couldn’t. But I think my vision for the book just didn’t jibe with DC’s plans. It was no big deal.

9-) Let’s talk about Blue Beetle a little bit. You are Puerto Rican and Jaime Reyes is a Latino too. Now you’re having the chance of telling his story to a lot of new readers. Are you going to put some of your personal experiences and thoughts on the character? Are you Jaime? =D

The new Blue Beetle

TONY: BLUE BEETLE has definitely become a personal project for me. We moved from Puerto Rico when I was five, and though I grew up in Atlanta, at home the culture was definitely still Puerto Rican. Now, that’s a different thing than Jaime Reyes’ Mexican-American upbringing, but there are certain fairly universal things in Latino culture. I’ve caught a little heat in some reviews for using too much “Spanglish,” but that’s just how we spoke at my house, and I’ve heard from readers in El Paso who say the dialogue sounds true to them.

10-) Reading Blue Beetle #1 it became clear that you are very true to his origin. Did DC asked you that? Are you a fan of Jaime first stories?

TONY: The last BLUE BEETLE series was my favorite thing DC published when it was out — especially the John Rogers/Rafael Albuquerque issues. I wanted to honor the spirit of that last series, but we’ve redone Jaime’s origin so it is a little simpler for new readers. We’ve also made the relationship between Jaime and the Scarab much more adversarial. And I made Paco more of a foul-up — a dropout and a gang member — because I want a way to explore that side of life in a city that shares a border with Ciudad Juarez, the most dangerous city in the world.

REBELS, great sci-fi title that Bedard brought to DC

11-) Since it’s a relaunch, why not using Ted Kord? Was it your decision or a DC decision? And is Ted going to appear in some of your stories sometime?

TONY: Jaime Reyes is the Blue Beetle we’re interested in pursuing right now. Nothing against Ted, but Jaime is a terrific character — the best new DC character since Kyle Rayner, I think. Jaime is the Blue Beetle appearing in Brave & The Bold cartoons and on Smallville. And Jaime is also the best Hispanic character out there. So it’s all Jaime for now. I do think Ted Kord will show up again at some point — he hasn’t been written out of continuity. But for now I have no plans for a Ted Kord return.

Tony at Megacon, 2010

12-) This is a cliche question, but we can’t help asking it: what are your influences, specially out of the comics industry? By the way did you always want to be a comic book writer or you started with something else?

TONY: I always loved reading and telling stories, so I guess I always did want to become a writer. I was influenced by the Greek myths, J.R.R. Tolkien, Michael Moorcock, Robert Howard, Carlos Castañeda, Herman Hesse, Star Wars, Ultra Man, Starblazers, Frank Miller, Alan Moore, Mike Baron, Los Bros Hernandez, etc. And I learned a lot from the people I’ve worked for — Bob Layton, Billy Tucci, Dan Raspler, to name a few.

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