Since its launch earlier this year, "R.E.B.E.L.S." has been well-received by fans and critically acclaimed, but the sales figures for the title have hovered in the low tens of thousands. However, at this point it appears that DC Comics is committed to sticking with the space adventure starring Brainiac's cloned successor, the antihero Vril Dox, and an upcoming crossover with "Blackest Night" could possibly bring in thousands of new readers to the series.
But before that happens, writer Tony Bedard is introducing fan favorite intergalactic adventurer Adam Strange to the mix ,as the spaceman from Rann makes his first appearance in the series this week in "R.E.B.E.L.S." #9.
And with the big reveal in "R.E.B.E.L.S."#8 that Lyrl's mother Stealth – a founding member of the original R.E.B.E.L.S. team – was killed in a battle with Dox's security robots (that happened to be under Starro control), could a Black Lantern version of mommy dearest be far off, as well?
CBR News checked in with Bedard about the upcoming crossover, what it means to the epic battle he's currently waging between Dox and Starro the Conqueror, and how Brainiac 2's son, Lyrl Dox, figures into the DCU mega event.
The last time we spoke you called "R.E.B.E.L.S.," 'The Little Book That Could.' Is it still chugging, and are you getting up that hill?
Still chugging, but feeling strong. The book has gotten great critical response, and they love it at the DC offices. I'd say we have 'cult fave' status, but we're still looking for a wider audience. Part of that might be a built-in resistance in readers to new launches. If a series isn't tied in to some family of books or an 'event' then people can tend to dismiss it. The upside is that with a book like "R.E.B.E.L.S.," people don't have preconceived ideas about how the book should be done, so you get to pleasantly surprise readers.
I've really enjoyed how you opened the series with this massive cosmic battle that ultimately pits Vril Dox against Starro the Conqueror. It's certainly not a textbook way to write a team book, and yet you immediately introduce this wonderful dynamic between Dox and the other members. Was this your plan from the outset, or did this story form organically chapter by chapter?
A little of both. I always knew the book was really about Vril Dox. The other guys are fun, but Dox is the best antihero, and he lights up every scene he's in. Also, some of our cast, like Wildstar, Bounder, Strata and Tribulus, were in the first pitch I put together for "R.E.B.E.L.S." but some of the book also was shaped by the feedback I got from my excellent editor Brian Cunningham and from DC Story Editor Ian Sattler and Executive Editor Dan DiDio. Characters like Ciji, Xylon, Amon Hakk and Kanjar Ro came along as the series progressed and took shape. The original team I had in mind was more of a direct reflection of Legion of Super-heroes characters. What we ended up with is more a reflection of the current-day DCU.
Last week saw the release of the "R.E.B.E.L.S." Annual, in the pages of which much of Starro's origin was revealed. For those who missed it, can you share some details of Starro's dark past?
So far, Starro has been a mysterious figure. In the annual, we learn that he was once a normal boy in another galaxy where a mind-controlling starfish species preyed upon inhabited worlds. This boy belonged to a primitive people who shared a psychic link that united their whole culture and made them the most ethical people ever. Then the queen of all starro landed on his world and enslaved his people. She was dying and needed to lay eggs so a new queen could hatch. The boy could feel his whole species dying a slow death as they serviced the queen starfish and her eggs. When a new queen was born, the boy tried to kill it, and when it latched onto him to rip him apart, the combined psychic outrage of his entire dying species overwhelmed it. The tables were turned, and the boy could now command the baby queen attached to his chest. Through the queen, he could control all starro, allowing him to command worlds. So the Starro the Conqueror we see today is a hybrid human/starro who draws his strength directly from all the mind-slaves he controls. He has conquered nine galaxies and grown into an inhuman monster, but deep down he subconsciously wishes someone could defeat him and stop his conquests.
This week, you introduce Adam Strange to the cast. Will he be joining Dox's rebellion on a permanent basis?
I'm going to keep Adam Strange and Captain Comet as long as I can. Comet was in the original "L.E.G.I.O.N." comic. Strange is just the quintessential pulp space hero – DC's own Flash Gordon. I'd also love to get my hands on Lobo some day.
How do Strange and Dox connect?
Vril actually called Adam Strange for help when he was first ousted from L.E.G.I.O.N. Strange said 'no' at first, but now he's joined the fight. They've had dealings before, of course – in the outstanding mini-series "Adam Strange: Planet Heist," and in the "Rann/Thanagar War" – so it's not a big stretch to include him in "R.E.B.E.L.S."
What's the relationship like between Strange and Dox? While they're both brilliant, they are a bit of an odd couple.
I tend to see Adam Strange as more of a MacGyver type – a great improviser and a cunning strategist. Dox is smart in a whole different way, and he's not as hobbled by such things as ethics, compassion or etiquette. Dox will throw you in the meat-grinder without a second thought.
"R.E.B.E.L.S." #10 and #11 cross over with "Blackest Night." While there will no doubt be a boost in sales, does the crossover hurt your ability to tell 'your' story? Or does the Starro story arc end in #9? Better yet, tell me he dies and comes back as a Black Lantern.
Actually, when I first spoke to Geoff Johns about playing along with "Blackest Night," his main concern was that it not derail my story. The whole thing was set up not just to bring in a bigger audience, but to tie Starro's invasion to the DCU at large. We've ended up with a two-part story that really raises the stakes in the Starro invasion and especially focuses on Vril Dox's relationship with his son, Lyrl, which is contentious, to say the least.
Your next DC series, "The Great Ten," will be hitting stores soon. What can folks expect from that series? It's something pretty different from "R.E.B.E.L.S.," I'm guessing.
Yeah, "The Great Ten" is very different from "R.E.B.E.L.S." in many respects, and yet there are some similarities that I find helpful. When we got "R.E.B.E.L.S." off the ground, no one expected anything from it, which allowed us to really take people by surprise. "The Great Ten" is much the same in that it comes from great source material – Grant Morrison created them for the "52" series – and yet it's a self-contained epic which gives Scott McDaniel and me a wonderful degree of creative freedom.
And working with Scott is a total joy. He's an amazing designer, both with characters and the way he lays out a page. His work explodes with energy, and his high-contrast style, which reminds me of Jack Kirby, Frank Miller and Walt Simonson, really suits this book's characters and locations. I think the guy is a master cartoonist and a future 'Hall of Famer.'
Are you working on anything else these days?
Right now it's just "R.E.B.E.L.S." and "The Great Ten," but we're already talking about future projects. I'm very excited about my DC work these days, and I hope to keep contributing to the DC team for a long time to come.
"R.E.B.E.L.S." #9, featuring art by Claude St. Aubin and Scott Hanna, is on sale now.