Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Tony Bedard Interview

We recently learned that Tony Bedard's run on Supergirl will be over shortly and that writers Kate Perkins and Mike Johnson will be taking Kara down a new creative direction. 

I have loved Bedard's run on the book as he understood Supergirl and made her more like the character that I love, even in the midst of her becoming a Red Lantern and joining the JLU. I had the opportunity to interview Bedard recently, asking him about his take on Supergirl, his current run, and where he was hoping to take her. It was hard not to be a fanboy. Here is the interview.

Anj: You have had a couple of short runs on two different incarnations of Supergirl, a brief run on Supergirl and the Legion of Super-Heroes, and even had her in R.E.B.E.L.S.!  Have you always  been a fan of Supergirl? What do you think of her as a character? What are her key attributes or character qualities?

TONY: I started reading comics relatively late in life, around the age of 15. It was the mid ‘80s and the first thing that really hooked me into superhero comics was Marvel’s SECRET WARS. I was so jazzed by it that when I heard DC was also doing a mega-event called CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS, I dived into it. So, ironically, my first exposure to Supergirl was her death in that series. But it left a lasting mark and I have always deeply felt her importance, even at times when she didn’t seem as important to whatever “big thing” was happening in comics. As for getting to write SUPERGIRL during the “Amazons Attack” event, and also getting to write a few issues of SUPERGIRL AND THE LEGION OF SUPERHEROES, that was sheer, wonderful luck. So, while I’ve always liked the Supergirl character, I’ve just been fortunate that they asked me to write her this many times. For me, her key attributes are the things that come with wearing that “S” on your chest – the responsibility to use your gifts for the benefit of others, the humility and self-sacrifice to serve the greater good even though you’re powerful enough to just take what you want. And I think Supergirl should have a brightness and optimism that matches her youth. She is filed with promise and potential. She should be an aspirational character, a role model. I think this can be maintained, even when you’re trying to fill her stories with teen angst and the sense of confusion and isolation that comes with being a teenager.

Anj: That vision of her as a young hero, learning the ropes while understanding what her responsibilities is mine as well. And yes, I think she should be an aspirational character as well.

Anj: You wrote three issues in the last incarnation of Supergirl, between Joe Kelly and Kelly Puckett’s runs. The issues were also crossovers with Amazons Attack as well as Countdown. What can you tell us about those issues? Did you ask to write them? They also seems to be an attempt to rehabilitate her character after a rough portrayal in Amazons and prior stories where she was angry and isolated. Were you hoping to make her more likable back then?
TONY: The Amazons Attack issues were offered to me out of the blue. As a former editor, I know that when you plan these big events, somebody is bound to drop out, or a creative team gets shifted around, and suddenly you have to get some issues covered. So when the editor called asking if I could pinch-hit on SUPERGIRL, I was only too glad to step in. The funny thing is that I hadn’t been keeping up with SUPERGIRL at the time and didn’t realize that she’d been portrayed as angry and isolated. I just wrote her as I thought she should be. As I’ve said in previous interviews, I want my Supergirl to be likable and upbeat. So even though she was screwing up, crashing Air Force One, etc., I still wanted her underlying character to be wholesome, well intentioned and sympathetic.

Anj: I love that the way she acted in those issues was your 'default' Supergirl. That is fantastic. I loved those issues and thought that maybe DC had asked you to soften her edges given the upcoming run.  

TONY: But when I think of those issues, what really stands out to me is how great it was working with Renato Guedes. Holy crap, that guy is amazing!  He drew Supergirl like a human being, and he put those biker pants under her skirt. Thank you, Renato! Maybe I’m just old, but the LAST thing I want from a SUPERGIRL comic is one of those upskirt shots. I remember seeing a few people online complain that he had made her “too fat.” Unbelievable. He made her look like a real girl is what he did.

Anj: Yeah, his stuff is great. I loved how he drew Supergirl here and when she appeared in Superman when he was drawing that book. And don't remind me about the bike shorts debacle. Like you, I thought they made perfect sense.

Anj: I was a big fan of R.E.B.E.L.S. and reviewed it monthly here. I loved that Supergirl was part of the opening issues. Were there plans to ever bring her back to the book? Do you miss Vril Dox?
TONY: I miss Vril Dox every day! I even tried to sneak him back into the DCU in the Villains Month BRAINIAC issue. But I don’t think we’ll be seeing a New 52 REBELS series any time soon. As for having Supergirl appear in that series, having written Kara in the 30th Century already, she seemed like the best person to deliver a message from Brainiac 5 to his forefather Brainiac 2 (Vril Dox). It was just a guest appearance, but I felt really good about the way Brainiac 5 sent his message: having her actually write it on a blank DVD with her heat vision. Cute trick. Y’know, I’ll always be grateful that DC let REBELS go as far as it did. I think it was 28 issues. It was one of those times where something was liked internally and they really gave it a chance. Maybe if the DCU follows in Marvel’s movie footsteps, then REBELS could be the Guardians of the Galaxy surprise movie hit of 2022…?

Anj: Can you talk about how you ended up on the current Supergirl book? You have gone on record as saying that you wanted to make the angry and isolated New 52 Supergirl more likable and relatable. Did you seek out the assignment? And what were you hoping to bring to the book? Did you know early on that it was going to be a short run?
TONY: This was another instance of DC calling me and offering me the gig out of the blue. They knew I was looking for a new project, but I didn’t specifically lobby for SUPERGIRL. To be honest, it’s hard to get a gig you’re going after unless it’s a completely new pitch, like I did with R.E.B.E.L.S. (Yes, I know I was just trying to re-launch the criminally under-appreciated L.E.G.I.O.N. ’89).  Once they gave me SUPERGIRL, what I was hoping to bring to the book was a supporting cast and a lighter tone -- a moment for Kara to get past her resentment and embrace her new home. What DC wanted was to build up her rogue’s gallery and to play up the “stranger in a strange land” aspect. I tried to give them what they wanted and get the stuff in that I wanted. It ended up a bit of a mixed bag, but looking back I’m pretty happy with the run, even if much of it was dealing with characters and situations that I sort of inherited.

Anj: Knowing how you had treated her in all the prior runs that we've talked about, I was thrilled to hear you were on the book and what your approach was going to be. 

Anj: But then shortly after the announcement of you coming on board, we got the news about Red Daughter. Did you have to adapt your plans dramatically because of the new plot direction? How closely did you work with Red Lanterns’ writer Charles Soule on the arc?
TONY: I got to work fairly closely with Charles, since it was his idea to make her a Red Lantern to begin with! And I have to admit that when it was first presented to me, I wasn’t sold on the idea. I was trying to take her away from being angry all the time and we were going to make her a Rage Lantern?! But it didn’t take long to realize this might be the perfect pivot point for Kara. She couldhit bottom and then end up rejecting anger.  So I went along with it, and the great surprise was that by making her a Red Lantern, we gave her an instant support network and people to play off of and it turned out to be a great little storyline. I owe a lot to Charles, especially for making RED LANTERNS a fun, upbeat read. It made it easier to bring some of that fun to SUPERGIRL. 

Anj: I thought Red Daughter was handled very well and actually showed a more likable and friendly Kara despite the rage ring.  Was it hard to write a character who embraced rage while trying to make her a more heroic and positive person?
TONY: It was surprisingly easy. Kara had been searching for friends, for a place to belong. After a few really bad turns, she suddenly had a bunch of people who valued her power and wanted her around (except for Guy Gardner, who was wise enough to see she shouldn’t be one of them). It all worked out pretty nicely, with both moments to see her as a hero, and a great life lesson for Kara. Being a Red Lantern was one of the first times that people actually cheered for her. She deserved to be wanted for a change and she finally got a taste of what it felt like. 

Anj: You sowed the seeds of future plotlines which may never come to fruition. Can you tell us what you were planning with Blaze? Siobhan? Michael? Shay Veritas?
TONY: I was going to have Blaze create a trio of henchgirls called the Furies. Remember Siobhan’s roommate and her two friends? They were all orphaned in superhero battles and had sworn themselves to finding a way to make super-people pay. They were going to beat Supergirl and take her back to Blaze’s home dimension. Hilarity would ensue. I wanted to get Siobhan in there more, to make her and Kara a team. I had one issue where the newly Red Lanterned Kara fights Silver Banshee, and I contrasted their fight with flashbacks of Kara and Siobhan just having fun roommate moments. That remains one of my favorite things from the run: just letting her have a friend. Michael returns in my final issue, and we’ll see if they do anything with him after that. If not, it was enough that Kara met a guy who had every reason to hate life and yet retained a positive outlook. He was in many ways a good role model for her, and he didn’t want to trick or use her, which is nice for a change. And Shay I wanted to keep playing sort of mysterious. Is she really a friend to Supergirl, or does she view her as another science project? Shay’s still a bit of a cypher to me, which is okay if she’s played for mystery. But I liked doing scenes of her staff at the Block talking about what it’s like being stuck there, having to wear her face, alternating between admiration and resentment. It gave the whole Block set-up a little complexity.

Anj: Too bad we won't get the chance to read that Blaze arc. Sounds like a blast. Anyways, as a big Supergirl fan, I just wanted to thank you for writing such a great Supergirl, a young, positive hero still learning the ropes. While you have a couple of more issues on your run, any last words for Supergirl’s fandom?
TONY: I just wish the new team success. Kara’s had a rocky time since the New 52 launch, but I feel like right now she’s well positioned to move forward and become a true hero on her own terms. And I wish Emanuela Lupacchino all the success in the world! She’s an amazing artist and Supergirl couldn’t be in better hands, art-wise!

Anj: Thanks so much for taking the time to talk to Supergirl fans! Looking forward to your last 2 issues.


Supertorresmo said...

I sure wish Supergirl would settle on something once and for all. It's been already three years and she still doesn't have a place to call home or even a bed of her own. This feels like eternal transition. Also a secret identity would be nice...

Anonymous said...

Very nice interview Anj, those were some suitable questions for Tony and he gave great answers in return. A really nice rapport here that a lot of interviews don't have. When did you get to interview him if I may ask?


Count Drunkula said...

Great interview, Anj! It's too bad Bedard's run got cut shorter than planned, but hopefully the next writers will find success with Kara.

Anonymous said...

Anj - when you interviewed Tony, could anyone else see him, or did they act like he was invisible?

At the end, did he turn into a pink flying banana and teleport away?

Did you eat anything suspicious the night before?

(Joking, great interview! :D)

Bartiemus said...

I wonder why his run was cut short it makes no sense when the book is growing month in month out?

Ah well DC finally seem to be learning what to do with Kara all the covers for Justice League United she has been smiling and shes even getting Variants now in her own book.

And the best news of all shes actually getting a TV show! It needs to be picked up by a network still but everything comic book related is making them tons of money so no reason why she won't get picked up.

Anonymous said...

Two words... JUST BEAUTIFUL!

I wonder if this shouldn't've been titled "Interview with Tony Bedard: Everything DC Didn't Let Him Say."
Seriously, he has the right mindset, he obviously loves Kara / Supergirl... and he definately had some
ideas to keep things going. I, for one, will miss seeing what he would've done with the Blaze and Shay

Oh well, to the road not travelled...


Anj said...

Thanks for all the comments.

The interview was done electronically, not live.

And it is too bad that Bedard didn't have more time on the book. Sounds like things would have been great.