Tony Bedard is writing two new #1s for DC in September, as part of the 52 series they're launching post-Flashpoint.
One is Green Lantern: New Guardians; familiar territory for him since he's been writing Green Lantern Corps. The other is new for him, but not for DC readers: Blue Beetle, specifically the Jaime Reyes version of the character introduced during Infinite Crisis in 2006.
While some characters are getting a rather radical status quo change this fall — Barbara Gordon back as Batgirl, and have you seen those Teen Titans character designs? — Bedard tells Newsarama that Jaime will stay pretty consistent, both visually and in personality.
In an email interview with the writer, he told much more about what's coming in the new series, including the importance of a Latino superhero, and whether or not Jaime's pals in the Justice League International will be playing a role.
Newsarama: Unlike with Green Lantern: New Guardians, you're coming onto Blue Beetlefresh, and now prepping the character for maybe his biggest comic book audience yet with a new #1. What do you like about Jaime Reyes as a character? He definitely seems like one of DC's most successful new character launches in recent years, having crossed over to both Smallville and Batman: The Brave and the Bold.
Tony Bedard: Jaime is unique in the DC lineup of heroes. There's nobody else quite like him. In a way, you can describe him as Spider-Man meets Green Lantern. I mean, he's the kinda nerdy high-school kid with a wicked sense of humor and a penchant for getting in trouble who receives the ultimate cosmic weapon. But then the comparisons fall by the wayside since he's presented with a unique problem. Jaime's weapon, the scarab armor, was intended to conquer the world for an alien empire. So the thing that empowers him to do good is potentially the greatest threat to the planet. It's a great irony that presents all sorts of dramatic possibilities and conflict on every level. As a writer, Blue Beetle is an irresistible premise.
Nrama: And while some characters appear to have undergone pretty significant revamps post-Flashpoint, it looks like Blue Beetle, aside from some visual tweaks, remains pretty much untouched. Is that an accurate guess or are things not quite so simple?
Bedard: Jaime's keeping his same basic look and same basic cast. I recognize that there's a lot we want to keep about this character, especially since in its heyday Giffen & Rogers'Blue Beetle was my favorite series DC produced. Seriously, I'm intimidated by the thought of following that combo. But there are also other things we want to play up that weren't as salient in the first Blue Beetle series. I think we kind of made it too easy on him the first time around. He had a great support system since all his friends and family knew his secret, and the armor probably became too friendly too quickly. This relaunch will intensify the threat posed by the Reach (the alien empire that created the armor) and make things considerably tougher on Jaime. That doesn't mean we'll lose the humor and fun that made the first series such a joy to read, but being the Blue Beetle shouldn't be a cakewalk, either. Finally, the first series had a fairly convoluted origin (in the midst ofInfinite Crisis, is the armor magic or not?, having to explain the two Blue Beetles before him, etc). This time, we'll have a more streamlined origin so new readers don't need a scorecard to join in the fun.
Nrama: And though Blue Beetle has been successful in many ways, there's still the fact that his last solo title was canceled because of low sales. What makes now the right time to re-introduce the character into the market in his own book?
Bedard: Aside from the overall renewed interest in DC and this big relaunch, I think Jaime's appearance on Brave & the Bold, Smallville and Justice League: Generation Lostshow that the character has actually widened his audience since his original series was canceled. I think Jaime has truly come into his own as the Blue Beetle and he'll launch higher than the last time around.
Nrama: Of course, an important aspect of Blue Beetle's character is the fact that he's of Latin descent. One of the stated objectives of the DC revamp is to bring more diversity, so is special kind of responsibility handling a character like Jaime?
Bedard: I suspect one of the reasons I got the gig is because I'm Puerto Rican and I have something to say from my own personal experience about being Latino — the first point being that it's not a single monolithic community. I'm not Mexican-American like Jaime, but my sister-in-law is Mexican and we've talked and laughed about the differences in the Spanish we speak and the other little cultural differences between us. Now, I know I'm pretty darn whitebread, but Spanish was actually my first language and I didn't live in the U.S. until I was ten years old. I know what it's like to feel torn between two cultures and to try to find a balance between them. I know the shame of forgetting my mother tongue and then re-learning it years later when I waited tables at a place with Mexican dishwashers. I know the struggles my mother faced as the state director of the League of United Latin-American Citizens in Georgia, and so on. So, basically, I'm pretty sure I have a lot to say on the Latino front, but that's not the be-all end-all of this book. It's going to be a fun, fast-paced, accessible adventure regardless of your background.
Nrama: The character Blue Beetle is often associated with a more humorous take, with Jaime Reyes in particular having a sarcastic bent. What kind of tone are you looking to establish in this book?
Bedard: I want to keep Jaime's snarky sense of humor and the fun banter between him, Paco and Brenda. Jaime's sense of humor is his most endearing attribute. It's also his main defense mechanism (at least, until he gets the armor). But we'll also raise the conflict level, the sense of real danger, and the obstacles Jaime faces. Gaining the armor means that everyone around him is in danger and that if he isn't careful, Jaime might wind up effectively ending the human race. With great power comes one crazy, dangerous situation after another. This book will be fun with serious consequences.
Nrama: You've written teen characters before, like the Legion and Supergirl, but Jaime is considerably more down to Earth than them, despite the scarab and his connection to the Reach and all that. So is it fair to say that, despite the sci-fi connection, this book is in some ways a bit of a departure for you?
Bedard: When I was writing for CrossGen I did a horror series called Route 666 with a teen female protagonist. It was one of my proudest moments as a writer. I know I might get pegged as a "cosmic" guy after R.E.B.E.L.S. and Green Lantern Corps, but I'm dying to get back into some down-to-earth teen trials, tribulation and trauma. I think there will even be horror aspects to Blue Beetle. I mean, the kid has an alien weapon fused to his spine! Ick!
Nrama: And surely there will be lots of action going on, but can readers also expect to see a healthy amount of checking in with Jaime's school and family life — both important parts of the character?
Bedard: Yeah, school and family pretty much define your teen years, so they'll be a huge part of Jaime's story. And your typical Latino family has a feel and flavor all its own. It's the little things, like the way everyone wore way too much perfume and cologne, and the way you never messed with my Abuelita Conchi even though she could hardly walk, and the way my Tio Couqui fiercely looked after us when my mom was trying to raise us by herself. There's a familial tightness and a way that everybody gets all in each other's business — sometimes more than you want. If I can capture a little of that in Blue BeetleI'll be a happy camper.
Nrama: What can you say about the threats posed in this book? Jaime's connection to the Reach implies big, global-level action (and perhaps beyond), but I'm guessing Jaime will also be facing things on a more intimate level as well.
Bedard: We'll add others to Jaime's "rogues gallery" as the series progresses, but the Reach will be a major cosmic adversary while El Paso's crime boss La Dama will pose an entirely different threat at home. Others will come trying to sieze the power of the scarab, Green Lanterns will instantly register the Blue Beetle as a threat, and Jaime will always be trying to rein in the scarab, whose standard reaction to any foe is deadly force. And in the midst of all this, Jaime wouldn't mind landing his first kiss, a date to the school dance, etc.
Nrama: The bulk of Jaime's recent appearances have been in the recently wrappedJustice League: Generation Lost, and most of those characters — but not Jaime — are on the cover to Justice League International #1. Can we expect a degree of interaction between those two books?
Bedard: Jaime's going to operate on his own at first. We're reestablishing his connection to the DCU heroic community, and not everyone knows his secret as we kick things off.
Nrama: This is probably the most high-profile work yet for artist Ig Guara. It's clearly early still, but what can you say at this point about what he brings to the title?
Bedard: I think Ig is our secret weapon, and people are going to buzzing about him most of all. I adore the pages he's turned in so far — he's a great cartoonist, his action really moves on the page, and his characters are bursting with personality. I'm very, very lucky to be working with him, and my biggest concern is that others will try to steal him away once they see how hard he's rocking this book!