Jaime Reyes, the teenage star of DC Comics' ongoing monthly comic book series "Blue Beetle," has a lot on his plate.
Besides the normal pressures of high school and girls, Jaime also has to worry about a deadly group of super-powered henchmen, the terrifying kingpin Aunt of his best friend, a broken alien war machine that's fused to his spine -- and, if that's not enough drama for the ongoing series written by Tony Bedard and penciled by Ig Guara, Jaime may just have killed his other best friend thanks to the alien Scarab, Khaji-Da.
Debuting as part of DC's New 52 relaunch last year, the first arc of "Blue Beetle" is still going strong, setting up Jaime's antagonists and continuing until March when Jaime will have to make some tough decisions about what life means when you have a killing machine strapped to your back. The man behind the Beetle, Bedard spoke with CBR about the conclusion of his first arc, discussing the challenges in finding a voice for Khaji-Da and revealing what Green Lantern will be making a cameo in the book very soon.
CBR News: There's a lot going on in "Blue Beetle's" first arc between La Dama, Jaime fighting with Khaji-Da, and the Reach operatives orbiting overhead. After this first arc, are you aiming to keep up the fast-paced, non-stop level of action going on in these first issues? Or will things slow down for Jaime and his family?
Tony Bedard: Actually, the end of this first arc will see a big change for Jaime. He'll realize that he's a threat to everybody around him, and he'll leave El Paso, hoping to spare his friends and family further risk as he keeps trying to gain full control over his alien armor. That's going to lead to a run-in with Green Lantern Kyle Rayner, more direct interaction with the rest of the DC heroes (and villains), and more trouble than he thought he was leaving behind!
So we are going to see Kyle and Jaime meet! From that point onward is the idea for the series to become more involved in the greater DCU with characters crossing over to different books, events in "Blue Beetle" echoing through other series, etc.?
Yes, after re-introducing Jaime to the readers and re-establishing his origin, etc., I want to make sure that his world extends beyond his roots in El Paso. Readers need to know that this guy is important to the DCU, and I think Blue Beetle fans want to see him interact with Green Lanterns and with the Justice League and especially with Booster Gold. Now, we're not going to do it all at once, but I think it will be a blast to discover the rest of the DCU heroes and villains through Jaime's eyes.
At this point, what is Jaime's greatest handicap? Is it more than just Khaji-Da?
Jaime's just a regular teenager pitting his willpower and the values his folks taught him against a planet-killing weapon fused to his spine. He might not seem up to the task sometimes -- too inexperienced and naïve -- but his basic goodness is his best tool in trying to turn the Scarab Khaji-Da into a force for good. Of course, Khaji-Da's natural reaction to any problem or threat is to respond with deadly force, so Jaime's got his work cut out for him.
From a writing standpoint, how did you go about finding Khaji-Da's voice? Was it just a matter of thinking what would be the opposite of Jaime's voice and personality?
We actually went back and forth on that. At first I was just going to have Jaime talking to himself, like we were only getting one side of that dialogue he's having with the alien voice in his head. But it didn't work that well, and we went to the current system with Khaji-Da speaking through thought captions. As for his "voice," I started out a bit chattier, and I've gradually made it more terse and to the point. The Scarab is a living machine, and it sees things rather narrowly through the prism of its mission and programming. It just wants to get its job done, and it doesn't understand Jaime's emotions and his ties to family and friends. Jaime and Khaji-Da will end up educating each other if they don't get killed first.
Besides keeping Jaime's family intact and playing with pre-established Blue Beetle characters, you've also interestingly brought in some of DC's B-villains with Phobia, Warp and Plasmus. What made you decide to bring back these specific villains as the hired-muscle bad guys looking for the Scarab?
When [editor] Eddie Berganza and I were first discussing this book, we wanted to make the Scarab into a semi-legendary item like the Maltese Falcon that many different people were after. Obviously, La Dama wanted it, but we needed another criminal or villain to come after it. That's when we decided to use those Brotherhood of Evil characters. They're fun, visually interesting, and weren't being featured in the other books. I mean, this book is very much about Jaime and his supporting cast, but we wanted some honest-to-goodness super villains in there!
Between La Dama, the Brotherhood of Evil, the Reach and the Scarab itself, it seems like Jaime's got a lot of villains, super villains, and super villainous aliens on his hands. At this point are you trying to develop any one of them as the "definitive" Blue Beetle nemesis, or do you enjoy having a large roster of bad guys without having to designate one as Jaime's "arch-nemesis?"
We definitely want Blue Beetle to have his own rogues gallery. La Dama is one of them -- she's his "Kingpin." And in "Blue Beetle" #5 you're going to get your first look at his "Venom." But we want to get other villains in the mix, too, so the Beetle-verse doesn't feel to insular. Blue Beetle is a part of a shared universe and he's going to take it by storm!
While artist Ig Guara's El Paso looks and feels like any small southwestern American town, Ig himself is not an American. Because of this, do you have to send him a lot of reference or explain aspects of American culture (high school life, etc.) you want visually depicted in the book?
Ig does almost all of his own research. The guy is really amazing, and discovering how talented he is has been the best thing about doing this book. He really breathes life and emotion into the characters, and I think Ig has a very bright future ahead of him. He is a true cartoonist in the best sense of the word.
Finally, what is your favorite character or place in Jaime's world as drawn and visualized by Ig?
I adore how he draws Brenda. She's tough, yet vulnerable -- attractive without being obvious. But I also love how he draws La Dama. She came alive on his pages and you can totally buy into both her ruthlessness and her tender feelings for her niece. There are a lot of reasons to read "Blue Beetle," but Ig Guara's phenomenal art is at the top of the list!
"Blue Beetle" issue #5 hits stores 1/18.