I had the opportunity to interview a writer whose work I have followed for most of my life as a comic book geek: the inimitable Tony Bedard.
He has written an enormous number of great books from Magnus Robot Fighter to Green Lantern Corps and Green Lantern: The New Guardians. Later, when he transferred to CrossGen comics, he wrote phenomenal runs on Negation and Mystic. In researching this piece, I learned that he worked as an editor for not just DC but also its Vertigo imprint, where he such great titles as Hellblazer. Bedard’s work is smart, exciting, and demonstrates the talent to write for an eclectic assortment of genres and styles. His versatility is even more evident as the writer for the new DC one-shot Suicide Squad/Banana Splits Special.
I had the opportunity to ask Vedard some questions that I had been waiting thirteen years in which to receive his answers — as all CrossGen fans have. To begin with, I wanted to know how he got started at CrossGen.
“Mark Waid was the one who recruited me to write at CrossGen,” he replied. “At the time I was an editor at DC Comics, but I guess from my time editing Mark’s JLA run he had some faith in my storytelling abilities. I was nervous as hell when I first moved from New York to Tampa. A lot of people were comparing the CrossGen studio to a cult compound because the idea of everyone working on site seemed to foreign to comics. Lots of Kool-Aid jokes. But rather than being like Jonestown, it turned out to be more like a hothouse. Having all that talent under the same roof meant that we could collaborate on a daily basis. I could talk through stories with my entire creative team and get their feedback and ideas. Normally an inker or colorist has very little creative input beyond their specific discipline. But at CrossGen I included story and character moments suggested by everyone on the team.”
Not that it was all creative paradise.
“There were also crazy times at CrossGen,” Bedard confided. “Mark Alessi, the millionaire who founded the studio, was famously mercurial and drove some people nuts. But he gave us all a chance to do our best work and grow as creators. I’ll always be grateful for that. And so should Marvel. They snapped up most of CrossGen’s talent when the studio went under and they are reaping the benefits to this day.”
One bit of unfinished business at that studio was Negation War. I wondered how it would’ve ended.
“As I recall, we only got the first 2 issues of Negation War out before we ceased publication,” Bedard recalled. “What we were trying to do was a line-wide crossover involving the previously separate worlds of the CrossGen Universe. Samandahl Rey, the hero of Sigil was the guy leading the army of Sigil-Bearers against the evil forces of the Negation. But the big shock was that Sam gets killed early on and it looks hopeless for our remaining heroes until Obregon Kaine, star of the Negation series, stepped up to lead the rest. … It seemed nothing could stop the Negation’s god-emperor Charon from taking over. But Kaine finds out that [Negation god-emperor] Charon used to have a partner named Appolyon, whom he had trapped in a hellish pocket universe. If Charon was the god of his universe, then Appolyon was his Lucifer. Kaine … lures Charon to Appolyon’s hell-dimension where they set off a bomb that robs Charon of his godlike powers. And then Kaine beats them both half to death with a toilet. No kidding.”
Also, no kidding, he wrote a crossover between the Suicide Squad and the Banana Splits. How did that happen?
“Editor Marie Javins and I worked together on previous projects that bordered on the absurd, like the KFC comics we did as giveaways at [comics conventions]. Those were really fun and it was nice to work on humorous books. I like writing funny stuff. So when Marie contacted me about the Suicide Squad/Banana Splits book I leapt at the chance. I should add that the premise for the book was something artist Ben Caldwell had come up with. That guy is a cartooning genius and deserves all credit for the book being as fun as it is.”
Was he aware of the Banana Splits before he started work on the book?
“I adored the Banana Splits when I was a little kid,” he reminisced. “Of course, a lot of people younger than me won’t even remember them. So I made it a story point that nobody remembers them and now the Splits are looking for a way to recapture the spotlight. I also re-watched a lot of the original Banana Splits shows while prepping for the book. They’re pretty thin, character-wise, but I boiled down the Splits to their essentials and worked from there. I even included the Sour Grapes Bunch, who were the Banana Splits’ adversaries in the original show. And then Ben took the script and knocked it out of the park. I’m so, so lucky to have worked with him!”
So what’s next for this multi-tool talent?
“In the vein of the Suicide Squad/Banana Splits craziness, I have a Wonder Woman/Tasmanian Devil book coming out,” he revealed. “These days I’m also working as a video game writer on a major AAA game that I also can’t reveal yet. I couldn’t be more excited about it, though. It will reach a bigger audience than I’ve ever had. So…I’m a happy camper. And I’m looking forward to meeting everyone at BoroughCon later this month!”
And we’re all looking forward to having Tony Bedard as our guest.