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Well, AICN COMICS: SHOOT THE MESSENGER is your weekly one stop shop for comic book -EWS. What’s comic book -EWS? Well, it’s our hodge podge of everything not reviews here at AICN Comics. Sure you can find out the @$$Holes’ critical opinions of your favorite books every Wednesday at AICN Comics. But here, you’ll find special reports such as previews, interviews, special features, and occasionally news gathered here from our online brethren at Newsarama, CBR, Wizard, etc. Sure those guys are the best at reporting news as it breaks. Click on the links for the original stories. This column cuts the crap to run down all the vital information for those of you who don’t follow it as it comes in, and serves it all up with that special ingredient of @$$y goodness.
Welcome to another AICN Comics Q & @, folks. Ambush Bug here. A lot of people know about the LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES. There’s been one version or another of the series in print for decades. But I’m betting a lesser number read the adventures of the modern day L.E.G.I.O.N. back in the early nineties. Keith Giffen brought his brand of super-hero bickering out of the Hall of Justice and into space as he followed Vril Dox (Brainiac 2), Lobo, Captain Comet, and a ship full of other aliens as they fought interstellar threats when they weren’t trying to kill each other. Writer Tony Bedard remembers that awesome series and apparently liked it so much he decided to bring Vril and an all new crew back with R.E.B.E.L.S., a new ongoing series set to debut from DC on February 11th. I had a chance to ask Mr. Bedard a few questions about the upcoming series. Take it away, me:
TONY BEDARD (TB): In the original L.E.G.I.O.N. series, Vril Dox, the “son” of Brainiac, put together an interstellar police force reminiscent of the Legion of Super-Heroes. But unlike the Legion’s Brainiac 5, Dox is completely ruthless and Machiavellian – a total bastard. And unlike the Legion, or the Green Lantern Corps, L.E.G.I.O.N. is a mercenary operation, charging top dollar for its good deeds. Over the years, Dox has grown rich and fired all his live cops, replacing them with robot peacekeepers who never question orders.
AMBUSH BUG (BUG): So I just got a chance to finish the first issue of R.E.B.E.L.S. and I have to say it was a hell of a fun read. I remember reading Keith Giffen’s original series as a kid and I found it to be one of the cooler comic books of my youth. But I’m sure there are a lot of folks out there you have never heard of the concept of R.E.B.E.L.S. and/or L.E.G.I.O.N. Care to fill them in on what this new comic is all about?
As we open R.E.B.E.L.S., someone has taken over Dox’s robo-cops and Dox is running for his life. As he puts together a new team, he’s going to find that his mysterious enemy is an order of magnitude beyond anything he’s ever faced.
Now, if you’ve never read an issue of L.E.G.I.O.N., or LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES, don’t worry. R.E.B.E.L.S. #1 is really a good jumping-on point. Most of the characters Brainiac 2 recruits are new, and you can just enjoy it as a mile-a-minute, hard-edged adventure from Earth to the outer reaches of the DC Universe. But for fans of the previous series, there are plenty of “Easter eggs” and familiar sights to get your geek on.
BUG: Vril Dox has always been a fascinating character to me, but he hasn’t been utilized in the DCU for quite a while aside from some of the Rann-Thanagar War stuff that has happened in the last few years. Where has Vril been since the end of the last R.E.B.E.L.S. series and how will the events in Starlin’s RANN-THANAGAR WAR miniseries fit into this story?TB: Basically, Vril Dox has been quietly expanding his clientele. In ADAM STRANGE: PLANET HEIST, he’d relocated his headquarters to Maltus, the most populated planet in the galaxy. He’s contracted his services to over 80 worlds. He’s a major player in the Vega Sector, where the Green Lanterns don’t patrol. He’s also alienated all his old teammates, not that he gives a damn about their feelings. The closest thing to a companion he has is his living computer, Silica, introduced in the last OMEGA MEN series.
The events of RANN-THANAGAR don’t really affect what happens in R.E.B.E.L.S. Starlin and I discussed crossing over (I’m a big fan of his), but we finally determined that we’re both better off just focusing on our separate tales.
In any case, I’ve been dying to sink my claws into Vril Dox since I came to DC. He’s an incredible antihero – it’s like writing Lex Luthor as a good guy, or like writing Batman, without the warm, fuzzy side. There’s nothing he won’t do to achieve his goals, so you never know what’s going to happen when he’s involved.
BUG: One of the things that separated the Legion of Super-Heroes from L.E.G.I.O.N., aside from the fact that one was set in the future and the other in present day, was the fact that Vril Dox’s team was a sort of “un-team”; just a bunch of aliens stuck together in a spaceship rather than a unified group with a purpose. Will that sense of un-unity carry over to this new series?TB: Yeah, without giving too much away, Dox is given the blueprint for building the perfect team…and immediately scraps it in favor of his own leaner, meaner version. But as he gathers his strike team, a major calamity forces him to take on teammates he never dreamed of working with. The end result will be a gang of strange bedfellows akin to BLAKES 7, or FARSCAPE or FIREFLY…or a book I used to write for CrossGen called NEGATION. They don’t trust each other and they know that blindly following Dox is a good way to end up dead. But they also have to work around their differences to save their homeworlds and the rest of the galaxy.
BUG: The book is titled R.E.B.E.L.S. instead of L.E.G.I.O.N. In the previous series, the book started out as L.E.G.I.O.N. then was relaunched as R.E.B.E.L.S. Why the reversal of names this time around?TB: The original series began with Dox in control of his organization, and only changed titles to R.E.B.E.L.S. when Dox’s evil son took over L.E.G.I.O.N. This time around, we begin with Dox on the run, having to fight an insurgency against his own robo-troopers and the mysterious foe who stole them. So it’s R.E.B.E.L.S. for the foreseeable future, and if Dox wins back his command, who knows? Maybe then we’ll switch to L.E.G.I.O.N.
But there’s another reason we’re going with R.E.B.E.L.S. We want to stress that this book is not yet another alternate version of the Legion of Super-Heroes. This book has a lot for Legion fans to love, but it is its own animal. It’s not as bright at LEGION, and it’s not as noble as GREEN LANTERN. It’s a darker, grittier kind of space opera, with a wicked sense of humor and a high bodycount.
BUG: What does R.E.B.E.L.S. stand for?TB: Well, it used to stand for
BUG: I see Tigorr makes an appearance in this first issue. How do the Omega Men fit into this story?TB: They’ll actually play a bigger and bigger part as the saga unfolds. The Omega Men started out as cosmic freedom fighters and ended up more as space outlaws/smugglers/pirates. Now Tigorr, Broot, Darkfire, Doc and Elu are gonna get back to fighting the good fight…whether they like it or not.
BUG: There doesn’t seem to be a set roster by the first issue; just a bunch of characters set on a collision course for each other. Who will we be expecting to show up in this book as either adversaries or team members in upcoming issues? Will we be seeing Lady Quark? Captain Comet? Valor?TB: No plans for Lady Quark, though I liked her quite a bit. Sort of a cosmic Susan Powter. If she shows up, rest assured she’ll scream, “Stop the insanity!” And I’d love to use Comet, but he’s in Starlin’s upcoming STRANGE ADVENTURES series, so he’s in good hands. I don’t think “Valor” is still in continuity, but I did want to use Mon-El. God, I love Mon-El. It’s the puffy sleeves. Anyhow, he’s playing a big part in the Superman saga currently (or at least there were plans for him that I don’t want to get in the way of).
From the original series, we’ll see Strata return. She’s the crystalline bruiser from the same planet as the Legionnaire, Blok. Aside from her, all the characters are new, and getting to know them as Dox builds his team is most of the fun.
BUG: With his recent reappearance in the REIGN IN HELL miniseries, will we be seeing L.E.G.I.O.N. mainstay Lobo in this new series?TB: Of all the characters I’ve been pining and begging for, Lobo’s at the top of the list. Alas, he’s not been handed over to me…yet. But I think he belongs back in L.E.G.I.O.N., so let me keep working on it.
BUG: Will Vril and Supergirl’s relationship be a key part of this series or just this first issue? There seems to be an awful lot of things unsaid between the two of them.TB: They play off each other so well because they’re such polar opposites. He needs her because of her previous connection to the Legion of Super-Heroes, and she plays a big part as the adventure begins, but events will soon move beyond Earth.
BUG: Tell me a little bit about the art. The black and white pics of Andy Clarke’s work are pretty amazing. How’d you luck into him as an artist?TB: When I was developing the series with DC Editor Mike Marts, he suggested Andy, who is on contract with DC but hadn’t really settled into an ongoing assignment. I remembered a couple of DETECTIVE COMICS issues he did with my pal Stuart Moore, which were impressive, but I had no idea just how good Andy is. I owe Marts, big-time! Andy’s a friggin’ revelation! He’s like Brian Bolland, Travis Charest and Frank Quitely all rolled into one. If there’s one sure thing that’ll come from R.E.B.E.L.S., it’s that Andy is about to become a major star with readers in the U.S. (he’s been doing 2000 A.D. stuff in the U.K. for years).
BUG: Vril’s somewhat Nazi-like look. Can you talk a bit about that?TB: Brainiac 2 has changed his look several times since he was introduced. The latest was a sort of long dress coat thing that looked elegant but didn’t quite carry the despotic quality I wanted to convey. So Andy designed a more militant looking uniform, though I really encouraged him to keep the jodhpurs from his previous uniform. Then we had to come up with a way to add the L.E.G.I.O.N. insignia from the original series, and I thought, “Nothing says ‘dictator’ like an armband.” I want readers to know on sight that Vril Dox isn’t the guy to call when your kitten’s stuck in a tree. He’s the guy you call when your world is being conquered by bug-eyed monsters. And then he’ll bill you for it.
BUG: There are bits here and there tying this book to the Legion of Super-Heroes. Will this continue throughout the series?TB: There is one particular tie to the Legion at the onset of the series that influences how Dox will gather his new team, but most of the echoes of the LSH are pretty subtle in R.E.B.E.L.S. This book had its own place in the DC lineup, and it’s not a Legion spinoff.
BUG: Given the complexity of the state of the LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES comic and how it ties into modern continuity, do you find it difficult to write stories which are basically supposed to be the blueprint for stories already written? (I just gave myself a headache just writing that question…)TB: Yeah, I’m getting a headache trying to come up with the answer. I guess all I can say is that I’m six issues into writing the series already, and it’s all flowed pretty effortlessly, even when I’ve had to go back and retool the story and characters here and there. A lot of that is down to having total faith in Andy Clarke’s art. It makes all the difference as a writer if you don’t stop to wonder whether or not your artist can pull off what you have in mind.
BUG: Given the fact that continuity is a bit shaky at DC right now with all of the Crises going on, how much of L.E.G.I.O.N. and R.E.B.E.L.S. history are you using for this new story or should we just not worry about that and just enjoy it for what it is?TB: Definitely just enjoy it. This is truly a new chapter in L.E.G.I.O.N. history, and a new team. We’ll touch on some old characters, like Strata, and perhaps revisit Dox’s son, Lyrl, and his baby-mama, Stealth, later on. But this opening chapter is new and self-explanatory.
BUG: From original pitch to final product, can you tell us about any changes made to your story in R.E.B.E.L.S. to fit into the malleable continuity of the DCU at the moment?TB: Y’know, most series morph a bit here and there as they go through the development process, but this one might’ve set a record. I originally pitched this as “L.E.G.I.O.N.”, with Dox and Mon-El fighting Brainiac. Of course, I changed that once I found out more about Johns’s plans in ACTION COMICS (and I was glad to do so – ACTION was my favorite comic of 2008). Then I was going to incorporate Adam Strange and Captain Comet, until I learned they were already spoken for. On top of all that, several of our characters have undergone design changes on the fly as the theme and direction of R.E.B.E.L.S. took on a life of its own.
This all sounds like it could leave you pulling your hair out, but having worked on the editorial side, I’m well aware of how unpredictable publishing plans can be. This has been true at any publisher I’ve worked for, not just DC. I also know that when you have to change plans, when you’re forced out of your creative comfort zone, you can end up with something better than you started out with. So when the curveballs start coming, you have to swing for the fences. Consequently, I feel like the book has actually improved with every iteration. We’ve ended up with a tale that’s much bigger and bolder in scope than the one I first pitched. There are characters who surprise me even as I write them, and we have a major new villain who will shake up the DCU in 2009 and 2010. But I’m keeping mum about him for the time being.