Tony Bedard has been a presence in comics since the early 90s, working for a huge number of publishers in nearly as many roles. Bedard excels at writing clever and engaging comics that often explore the edges of their universes, where his ideas are free to grow.

Bedard currently writes Supergirl for DC and, in reviewing that series, I realized how interesting it would be to talk to him for the site. It took a while to find a time, but I was able to sit down with Tony at Special Edition: NYC to talk about Supergirl, editing, and even superhero movies. I hope you’ll enjoy hearing from him as much as I did.

WCBR: I admit, I’m going to start with a question that’s near and dear to me personally, which is: is there any chance we’ll be seeing more Beowulf soon?

Tony Bedard: You know, we actually talked about trying to get a Beowulf mini-series or something going and they didn’t think that it was gonna do well enough to support it. So, it’s kind of a backburner thing, ’cause it was really well received internally in the office and it’s just a question of figuring out if we could somehow attach it to an event or something that will make them think that they could sell more of ’em.

Just out of curiosity, did the DCU Presents issue go over well, comparatively?

I don’t know how it did sales-wise. It was nice to just be able to do a little bit more with the character.

We also talked about- Me and Ricky Purdin, the editor on Supergirl, actually talked about trying to get her into Beowulf’s world or something for a couple of issues, just to touch on that. So, there’s a love for the character, but who knows?

We talked a little yesterday, but, since I have you in an interview now, I felt the need to ask: especially after a…I’d say a fairly successful reboot of the character in the late 80s with the mind control stuff, what was it that made you just think, “You know what, Starro should be like a space Genghis Khan?”

Ahhh. Well, when I first pitched R.E.B.E.L.S. I pitched it as L.E.G.I.O.N. and that was just one of the changes that happened. Another one was that I thought it would make more sense to have Brainiac as the main bad guy.

Ohhh-

‘Cause, of course, it’s Vril Dox’s dad, and, y’know, there was a logic to it. But they had big plans at the time for Brainiac.

Right. That must have been the Brainiac arc- the- I think it was just called “Brainiac” in [Action Comics].

It was just something where they were just like, “no, you can’t use that character,” then, I can’t remember who else it was that I suggested, and somebody else had big plans for that and I’m starting to run out of ideas and Dan was the one — Dan Didio — who said, “Why don’t you do something with Starro? Just don’t feel like you gotta use the giant starfish.” And once they gave me kind of carte blanche then we came up with that whole thing, which I tried to structure so that it didn’t disrespect Starro’s appearances before.

Sure.

But that the big starfish we’ve seen are all aspects or extensions of this one dude and now he’s coming. That’s basically where it came from.

Awesome. So, I can’t help but notice there seems to be something of a thread – I’m more familiar with your more recent DC work, so that’s a lot of what I’m asking about- but at least in that work there seems to be an affinity for science fantasy sort of stuff with Starro and the Weaponer in Green Lantern [Corps]. Is there something about that mixture of sci-fi and old B fantasy that’s-

It’s not intentional. But, the thing that got me into comics in the first place was a love for Conan-

Oh. Okay…

Yeah. And actually that was one of the things that made Beowulf work out so well, because I had always wanted to do a Conan type story and Jesus Saiz, the artist, had also always wanted to do one but was always getting cast into these other type of things. So, we both got to scratch that itch there, but I guess maybe it kind of creeps in into other things I’m doing. Just always been a sucker for Conan.

It’s a very different look that you settled on, with Beowulf particularly, but it’s- I think that’s part of what made the character work is just that there’s a certain striking quality about it. That was great art all through.

Yeah. Well, and that’s all on Jesus, that guy is amazing.

And also, my personal focus on that series was Wiglaf, the boy that is kind of his sidekick. As far as I was concerned it was really his story and Beowulf was more like just this scary, unpredictable thing, that you never know if he’s going to help him or- or slice him up…

Sample of one, but if you get the chance to do more Beowulf, I would love more Wiglaf.

Oh god, me too.

Beowulf and Wiglaf

So another thing I noticed that I don’t know if you can necessarily talk about, and I understand if you don’t want to step on any toes, but, particularly since “Flashpoint”, I noticed that you’ve actually done a lot of little Aquaman event stuff. Is that something that either you want or there’s been any talk of maybe doing on a more longterm basis.

Well, I would welcome talk of longer term stuff, y’know, just ’cause Aquaman’s my favorite guy-

Oh, really?

At my work desk there’s all these Aquaman figures all in a line and- and, so I think they know that I have a love for the character and anytime some small thing comes up, they’ll throw it my way. But, unfortunately, not the-

It’s funny because I was actually a little upset that I didn’t get to do the Aquaman series in the relaunch, but, of course, I couldn’t have done that as well as Geoff did. He really, y’know… It kind of takes the sting out of it when I read those issues and see how well he reestablished that character. But who knows? I mean, maybe some day in the future.

Yeah. And now, actually, occurs to me, just since we went off on those tangents, have you been hearing the rumors the past couple days about a casting?

No.

He’s previously been very vehemently against anyone speculating, so I don’t wanna be part of the rumor mill, but I think it was IGN actually ran that they think Jason Momoa-

As Aquaman?

I know.

Noooo.

But given that it’s Conan-

Right-

-playing Aquaman, what do you-

You know what though, a lot of times these things come up, and- and they don’t- they sound counterintuitive but they work, so…

It may not happen. It may just be a rumor. But it was just such a weird choice.

I could see it if they play him off as this sort of warrior king. I mean, there’s different versions of Aquaman and that’s a very viable one. So, they might go with something like that. That would be the thinking, I’m sure.

I like classic Aquaman though. In fact, I like him with a big smile on his face. Maybe it’s because I fell in love with the character from the cartoon where he was, y’know, with Tusky and Aqualad, and it was as goofy as hell, but it was fun. Jason Mamoa is not going to be that version of Aquaman if it’s him.

Probably not.

Yeah. I thought he was in there, but he was probably gonna be like a bad guy or something.

I mean, that was the thinking, but I woke up yesterday morning like “Okay, time to go to con” and I just checked Twitter and was like “Jason Mamoa as Aquaman, what?”

It’s so hard to envision, though, especially ’cause [Aquaman’s] blonde and he would just look strange blonde.

Yeah, no. I don’t think- I think they’d have to change Aquaman before they changed him. I mean-

Yeah, probably.

I can’t imagine- I just- Aquaman can’t be a bleached blonde-

Right-

He’s got such a look.

Yeah, this. Well maybe the good thing to think of is Heimdall in the Thor movies, y’know?

Yeah. That’s true.

Idris Elba works wonderfully as Heimdall. He’s actually one of the most interesting characters in those movies.

He is.

So-

Yeah, who knows? 

Alright, getting back on track. You started out as an editor, right?

Right.

Having worked on both sides of that, is there something that you feel that artists – aspiring, professional, whatever – is there something that writers and artists should know about editors and that editors should know about working with creators?

Huh. I think for what editors should know about writers and artists is that it’s okay to just sort of keep a light hand on the tiller. Y’know? To let them do things that don’t seem right to you or wouldn’t have been your choice because when you give that kind of slack, you’re gonna get a few things that you don’t think are working well, but you’re gonna get three big surprises that are wonderful for every one thing that doesn’t work.

And a lot of this, I found out when I was working at CrossGen and we didn’t have editors. But I’d come there from an editorial background, which helped me to manage my creative team and sort of work through each issue. But I’d sit down and talk through the issue with them and- and I could just watch their faces and they’d smile when I was on something good and if there was anything there that didn’t work, I could tell right away and I’d cut it, or they would come up with an idea that was a better suggestion and, so, the issues that came out weren’t how I would have written them all by myself, but by allowing for that, for unexpected directions, I think the work was better.

God, a long winded way of saying just let people do their thing and let ’em succeed or fail. Y’know? And in the end, line-wide, the results can’t be as bad as when you’re micromanaging everything and directing everything.

Yeah.

Whether as an editor or a writer or anything, is there something that you really wish you’d known in your career that you know now?

Maybe not to worry so much? I’m always thinking- and maybe this is just my personality – but I always feel like my career’s about to be over, y’know? Even when things are going great, I always think “Aw, they’re gonna start hating me tomorrow” and, looking back, things have worked out pretty well. So, I kind of wish that I hadn’t wasted so much time and energy terrified that I was going to lose my job the next day.

Alright, turning to Supergirl, you’ve actually worked with Supergirl, at least a decent amount in the past. Were there any unexpected joys or challenges in coming back to a character who, perhaps more than most, was really changed by the New 52?

SG-29-2-830d4Well, yeah. I think with the Super characters, there are certain things that are appropriate for them. And it’s difficult- you run the risk when you look at ’em that way, of just writing them the way that they’ve been written and didn’t work for a long time. But I think that Supergirl needs to be a bright, happy, y’know, likable character and that she hasn’t necessarily been that since the relaunch. I understand what they’re going for with her and I’ve tried to do some of that, to make her a fish out of water that’s struggling to fit in, but she still needs to have some light moments, stuff that makes you like her and care about what happens. Otherwise she’s just kind of a whiny, dark character.

So, that’s been the biggest struggle with everything bad that happens to her, finding those little moments to try and leaven that and still keep her likable. And Spider-Man’s the best example of a character like that. That something was always wrong, y’know, Aunt May needed her medicine and he was going to lose his job and he couldn’t pay the rent. But it didn’t come across as a downer of a book. But Spider-Man’s a real different character than Supergirl is so it’s hard to pull that off with her.

One thing I thought was great was that your Secret Origins story spent a good amount of time kind of looking at what the differences are between Kara and Superman. And one of the things that struck me is, of course, that Kara lived on Krypton. Superman has this weird secondhand relationship with his home. What do you think that difference- really having known Krypton, how does that change Kara from what people think of when they think of the Superman family?

Well, I think- one of the problems with Supergirl is that she’s kind of a subset of Superman, y’know, and that kind of limits who she can be, or at least has for a long time. Her identity is always expressed in relation to another character and she kind of needed her own thing to set her apart. So, I think that the fact that she grew up on Krypton being played up, that’s why that’s there.

We’re trying to stand her up on her own and also to give her a motivation that stems from her Kryptonian background. In the case of Superman, he got his values from Ma and Pa Kent and that’s really vital as far as who he turned out to be and why he goes around doing good things. So, I think if we played up her Kryptonian-ness it’s to try and differentiate her from him and also not just make her, y’know-

“Superman’s Cousin: Kara Kent”.

Yeah. Exactly. She needs to have her own sort of reason for going around and doing good deeds and using her powers for good.

sg 29-01Great. So, Supergirl #31, which is technically the latest issue at this time, was a really dense issue. There was a lot going on, but Red Lanterns deals with the Judge and Atrocitus and now this week’s issue sees her going up against the Diasporans and Worldkiller-1 , which is a big reveal after a long while. So, I guess the question is, once we’re done with that, will we be turning back towards Earth and Blaze, who’s been kind of sneaking around the corners?

We’re definitely getting back to Earth. What happens with Blaze is actually- We’re not gonna plunge into that as a storyline. That’s kind of been put off because there’s some other things going on. And this is the joy of working in a big universe like this is sometimes you set up plans and think they’re gonna pay off at a certain point, and then you turn around and find out that there’s another thing, like, for example in September- Have they released much information about the September books yet?

We have solicits now and- Yeah, we have all of the writers and artists.

Uh huh.

But, you know, solicitations are intentionally misleading to some degree.

Right. Because those books are all going to play off of stuff that’s going on in “Future’s End”. And so that kind of punted my plans a little bit, but it’s okay because actually I get to do something really fun in that issue with Kara and Cyborg Superman. And also the issue when she gets back to Earth, we’re actually going do something a little romantic with her.

Oh, cool.

Which, she hasn’t had much romance or that kind of fun in the whole run of the series, so I’m looking forward to that. We actually slow down a little bit and do some more character-driven stuff.

Great. Looking back on it now I realize a lot of my questions have been something along these lines, but you’ve got Supergirl right now. Is there anything that you can talk about that’s coming down the pipe?

Actually, there’s something I can’t talk about. Like, y’know, literally I’ve signed a paper that…

No, understood.

However they’re- Suffice it to say, there’s actually a very exciting project that I’m gonna get to work on and once they announce it, I’ll enjoy shouting about that. But it’s with some characters that haven’t been seen in a long time and characters that I’m actually real excited to write that have been long time favorites of mine. So, that’s the tantalizing non-answer I can give you there.

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