It was simpler than it normally is. Normally, larger-scale
project-type stuff comes about for me in one of two ways:
A) I either develop a relationship with a writer or editor,
and we come up with something together; B) I call around
and beg. But in this case, I got a cold call from editor
Joan Hilty, asking if I was interested, and that was that.
I mean, just out of the blue! I'd never worked for her,
and she really knew me only by reputation. Which, come
to think of it, makes even more amazing that she called me...
That said, what convinced you to join the Blue Beetle
Well, it was a combination, really. I'd never worked
much with Keith before, and I'd always wanted to. Keith,
if you've never talked to him, is wildly inventive and hilariously
outspoken, just a creative geyser. I figure anything
he's involved with has to be fun. Also, DC just seems
to me to be kind of an exciting place right now. There's
a lot going on, they have a lot plates spinning. It's
cool to be where things seem to really be happening.
And finally, I responded to the notion of being in on the
ground floor of a new character, and the challenge of bringing
a different design ethic to the party. Beyond that,
I'm more and more convinced that Keith and John are on to
something, story wise and character wise. There's just
a lot to like.
For the past few years, you've been known as an artist who
handles miniseries and specials here and this. This is neither
- it's a monthly. Any trepidation or worry about getting back
into that monthly grind?
Honestly? It's a little scary. I've been a "special
projects" guy, a short-story guy, a fill-in guy for about
ten years. I haven't done a monthly since Firearm,
and even then, I found it to be extremely difficult most of
the time. I've made at least one attempt in recent years
to try to do a monthly, but honestly, my head just wasn't
in the right place for it, and it imploded. So, that
is on my mind, but I will say that this whole project feels
different to me. Keith and John Rogers are great guys,
and really accommodating to work with. Joan and her
assistant, Rachel Gluckstern, are awesome. There's a
real feeling I'm getting from people at DC that they're in
our corner. I'm not sure that I've ever had all those
things come together at once before. It makes it much
less of a job, and much more of a fun way to spend your day.
Had you been a fan of the Ted Kord
or the Dan Garret Blue Beetle?
"Fan" is a strong word. I wouldn't
necessarily say so, to be honest.
Did you know who he was at least?
Oh yeah, absolutely. I liked the character, especially Keith's
version of him from Justice
League, and I had a vague familiarity with him from reading
about the Golden Age and 60's versions of the character when
I was a kid. But for my job, drawing and helping to
tell the story of a brand-new version of the character, there's
not a whole lot of study required. As Ketih has said,
this isn't Ted Kord, and it's not Dan Garrett. It's
a brand-new thing, with no regular characters carrying over
from series that have featured the other Blue Beetles.
Which is not to say that there's absolutely no connective
tissue, but not the way everybody thinks. I've seen
a lot of the commentary on message boards, and I haven't
run across one person who's gotten it right...
Fair enough. Given that, as you said, it's a brand new character
with hints to the legacy, you got to do the character design
for the new Beetle, what type of guidelines were you given?
You know... much as I'd like to go into detail, I just can't.
The suit has to do with the story?
Something like that, so I can't really go into it without
giving away some things that you should learn by reading the
book. I'll say that what I did get was an overview
of the characters and stories for the first six issues, and
that was more useful than anything. I was sent some
attempts by a couple of other guys at a design, but DC
told me up front they there was nothing they liked.
So, I looked at all the material I had, and put it aside for
a while. I came into the studio one day, and decided
to just jump into it. The first drawing I sent them,
they approved. There was a tweak here and there, but
what you're gonna see in the book is essentially what I sent
them that first time. I don't think it was anything
like what they had in mind at first, but luckily for me, they
went for it.
NRAMA: What goes into designing a new character for
you? Do you draw upon classic motifs, eras, or is each a different
beast unto itself?
book character design should start from the
point of what I just said,
who is this person, what's this person about, what
can this person do, what's this person's goal as
a character? Also,
a visual motif is important here, 'cause there's gotta
be some blue in there, and there's gotta be some "bug"
in there. But the main thing for me was trying to come
up with an iconic silhouette. To me, all great comics
characters have that, so that was a goal. It's up to
you guys reading this to tell me whether or not I've succeeded...
That said, Blue Beetle has become a legacy hero, what type
of influences will we see form the previous Beetles?
Well... as we've said, the new character has no personal connection
to Ted Kord whatsoever, so there's no personal legacy there.
The Dan Garrett scarab is involved, so there is a mythological
legacy, a talismanic kind of thing. Visually, the version
doesn't have much in common with previous versions, but there
is a slight graphic nod to Ted Kord in the costume design.
The one legacy that I will say we're trying to very much to
uphold is that the new Blue Beetle will be a hero. There's
a path the character takes that is very much the traditional
heroic journey. I can't really say much more than that.
Keith Giffen's plots often come in the form of thumbnail layouts,
is that easier or harder to work with?
I wouldn't know, because Keith hasn't given me any thumbnails!
That was something he used to do back in the 80's and 90's,
but we're not doing that here. Keith and John co-plot,
John writes a full script, and I work from that script. So,
I hope it doesn't disappoint people looking for the old Legion-style
nine-panel grids. It ain't gonna happen!
The comic takes place in El Paso, Texas; are we going to see
El Paso landmarks and structures in the series?
Yes! There are a few little things in there that I hope
people in El Paso will notice, though I won't say what.
On the other hand, I've never been to Texas, so I'm relying
on internet research. Hopefully, I won't make any glaring
mistakes. But yeah, keep your eyes open!
This comic is coming out in June, have you started working
on it yet?
Oh, yeah, I should be done with issue #1 in about a week-and-a-half,
if all goes well. I've seen a couple of colored pages
from my Red colorist,
David Self, and they do look sweet.