Back to the Future: Barrucci and Beatty on Buck Rogers

Buck Rogers #0

Earlier today, we brought you word of Dynamite’s plans to launch its new Buck Rogers series with a 25-cent #0 in May by Scott Beatty and Carlos Rafael, with covers (sporting a fresh design on Buck’s classic outfit) by John Cassaday and Alex Ross.

The new series will be a restart for the character, or rather, a fresh start for telling tales of the man from our time who wakes up in the 25th century. Beatty, Rafael and Cassaday will spin fresh yarns of the time traveler as seen through 21st century eyes, and for a 21st century audience.

Why beat around the bush when sometimes a cliché works? This isn’t exactly your father’s Buck Rogers.

We spoke with Dynamite Entertainment President Nick Barrucci and Scott Beatty for more on their plans for the spaceman who goes to the future.

Newsarma: First off Nick, this was announced about a year back - why's it taken so long to get things rolling?

Nick Barrucci: You're absolutely right. Buck was announced about a year ago. One of the things that took quite a bit to put the project together, is that, Buck required much more thought and a creative team that understood that. When you are creating comics for the present you know what the present is like. Even when you are set in the past you have the history to map out the past to allow you to tell your stories. When setting comics in the future, whether the near future or the far future, you have to be very careful to make it realistic enough for fans to appreciate, yet imaginative enough (i.e. far-fetched enough) that fans can enjoy, without being too over the top. It's a hard thing to explain but it took us a while to get the writer that would get us to the right setting, who understood the material. Like many other great icons before, their history is oversimplified. Buck Rogers originally walked into a cave like Rip Van Winkle and came out in the midst of an intergalactic war on earth. You couldn't have that kind of simplicity in the future. So we had to stick with the "cannon" yet still create stories that are compelling. It's been hard, I think that if you look at most of our licenses when we acquired them to when we release them, a year is not an exorbitant amount of time for a rollout. You never want to keep fans waiting too long, but you don’t want to launch “half-baked” either.

NRAMA: Fair enough. Now, with Zorro and The Lone Ranger, you've gone back to the roots of those classic characters and updated them while sticking close to their iconic roots. Roughly speaking, is that the plan you have for Buck Rogers?

NB: Absolutely that's what we plan to do with Buck Rogers. As I mentioned, we're going to stick close to the classic characters roots, the essence of the characters, and make them identifiable for the fan base. Most of these characters that have been around, and Buck has been around for eighty years, there is a reason why these characters mean something to someone. We feel we can help make Buck be more than he's meant in years, and part of that is to stick closely to the classic but still know where to deviate, where to change for existing fans and to help bring in new fans. Again, we're not going to have him walk into a cave, fall asleep for 500 years and come out in the middle of an intergalactic war, it will be more compelling. Without saying too much, I think we are thinking more of how Howard Hughes could be a prototype for Iron Man’s Tony Stark - and it’s what's going to be viable for Buck.

NRAMA: Well, along those lines, both technology and our view of the future has changed vastly since Buck Rogers first debuted, heck, even since Gil Gerard put the spacesuit on. How does that affect what you can do with Buck Rogers?

NB: Well, technology changing and our view of the future changes every day doesn’t it? Someone once said "Things will change more in three years than you expect but not as much in ten years as you would have thought." Technology and our view of the future will be changed and I guess one of the things to look at is how it changes on a regular basis. If you look at books that have a far ranging history in comics, such books as The Legion of Super-Heroes, the idea of the future and what is possible and how it’s presented has been changed over 50 years. The advancements that we have learned in our lifetime will have an effect on the story. I couldn't have been happier having Scott Beatty telling the story since he is such an exceptionally great comic writer and one who has a few projects where he shined, we're hoping this project really puts the spotlight on him.

NRAMA: How closely are you working with Flint Dille on this project?

NB: We're working very closely with Flint. We have regular conversations with Flint, we talk about the history of the character, the possibilities. His expertise and input helps. What you have to know about Flint is that his day job is in the video game market. He is writing scripts for popular video games on a day to day basis. Here's someone who is tapping into the psyche of a generation who plays video games day in and day out. In my opinion, having his feedback has enhanced the project.

NRAMA: Speaking of the creative side, what led you to signing on Scott Beatty for the series? What does he bring to the table?

NB: Scott brings an ability to execute in this genre. I think Scott is the perfect writer for this series, he's a great guy, a team player and he has a vision that is making the character not only viable for today but fun and I think that's a great part of it. We have so much faith in this series that we're launching it with a quarter book with a John Cassaday cover, as we announced this morning. We really want to bring in as many fans as possible and make this as easy of a sell as possible for retailers.

NRAMA: Speaking of John, with your other classic, iconic properties, you've had John Cassaday tweak the look of the character. Are you looking to do the same with Buck Rogers?

NB: John is one of those artists who has an eye for design, and he has had his hand in setting up Buck. On this launch, the timeline was a little differeint, in that what originally happened is we asked Alex Ross to do a cover and Alex did a classic, iconic book with a "future" costume. John (Cassaday) saw what Alex did and tweaked it to fit his art style for his cover, and for the interior look of the book. John is the cover artist moving forward. While Alex was the person with the first stab at it so to speak, John's vision is the designs and the focus of the covers moving forward. It’s pretty cool to have such talented cover artists join Scott and Carlos.

NRAMA: You’ve got the quarter book, and from there, how are you planning the roll out of the series?

NB: We're rolling out the series with a quarter book and it will then be monthly. We have a wonderful interior artist, Carlos Rafael on the art and it's coming along great. We plan on rolling out the #0 issue in May and had we had the information earlier this would have been our Free Comic Book Day book, but giving retailers the option to order this quarter book, I think they're getting a greater discount on this than they would have on a Free Comic Book Day offering. This allows retailers to kill two birds with one stone. This will launch in May at a quarter with a John Cassaday cover of a classic character who's eighty years young and just getting his second wind. Retailers, if they want, can allow this to participate in Free Comic Book Day.

NRAMA: Finally, given that both you and Frank Miller are working on Buck Rogers around the same time, with you in comics and Miller in film, are you looking at keeping your versions coordinated?

NB: When it comes to the film they're two different beasts and I'm certain that Frank's vision of the film, and where the technology will allow them to go, will be much different than what we do in the comics. If there are similarities, that will be great but we wouldn't expect them to follow what we're doing as it’s taken us a bit to get to where we’re at. Each medium will live on its own. I'm also not sure how far they've gotten into the film, whether they would have materials to show us if and when the time is right and if it's a possibility we would like to look at it. Frank’s body of work is head and shoulders above anything I could ever hope to accomplish in my life, and if we were offered the opportunity where we could coordinate with the film, we would love to be there, but we're not there today.

And now, over to Scott Beatty:

Newsarama: Scott, how did you get on to Buck Rogers, and what was the attraction for you?

Scott Beatty: Nick phoned and asked me if I was a fan of Buck. Dynamite was looking for someone to write a new series based on the character and I was given the opportunity to throw my hat in the ring. Evidently, out of the field of contenders--and I'm not privy to the names--Dynamite and the Dille Estate, Buck's owners, liked what I had in mind for updating the characters and concepts. So, happily, I got the job. For me, the appeal of Buck Rogers is that it's classic science fiction and adventure. No matter how scary the future seems, there's still an underlying sense of fun and optimism in the property. We wouldn't want to read Buck's stories if there wasn't some inner desire to see and experience that future also. Plus, Buck has a ray-gun and jet-pack. He's one of the seminal sci-fi icons. I mean, come on...

NRAMA: You're a thirtysomething, early fortysomehting guy - Buck's heyday was obviously well before your time (and you only get a half point for Gil Gerard...) so what's your connection and familiarity with Buck Rogers based on?

SB: I don't think my age precludes me from being a fan of Buck. Yes, I watched Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. But as a fan of the genre--even as a kid--I sought out anything I could get my hands on, which included a fair share of Buck Rogers reprints among a steady appetite of comics and Star Trek and Star Wars and Heinlein and Ellison and Sturgeon and... do I need to go on? All of the sci-fi published since Buck's creation owes a partial debt to the trails blazed in those pages. Buck's also a part of my own sci-fi tapestry. Since pitching for the project, I've gone back and read all the Buck material I can get my hands on... equal parts research and pleasure. I'm not trying to remake the concept as much as I am illustrating to new readers how important Buck is to the genre.

NRAMA: Something we spoke with Nick about - while Buck Rogers was a science fiction icon in the early part of the last century, "science fiction," not to mention our understanding of science has changed vastly in the years since Buck's debut. How does that affect what you're doing with the character and how you're updating things?

SB: Well, we may have hand-held computers and smart weapons, but space travel still isn't a commercial reality. I'm patiently awaiting my own personal jet-pack and ray-gun, stuff that "mythical" 21st century promised Little Scott Beatty back in the 1970s. I think the key to writing any good and credible science fiction is to ground it in science fact. If you read the science magazines and journals, we (and I mean mankind here) is on the verge of some really incredible discoveries, and that includes singling out life-sustaining worlds somewhere out there or sending particles through time and space. First little particles then big particles then stuff made up of lots of little and big particles - the teleportation! There's so much we don't know about the universe--and our own planet, for that matter--and if you can tap into that sense of wonder, then you can really draw upon some fun and mind-blowing ideas that right now are science fiction. But tomorrow, who knows?

NRAMA: Let’s talk about the man in the suit a little more – in your view, what makes Buck Rogers "Buck" - that is, an individual, rather than any given generic action hero with science fiction overtones?

SB: Buck's not the same old laconic square jawed hero. He wants to see new places. He wants to experience all the universe has to offer. He's full of ideas and keeps a journal so that he doesn't forget anything important. In many ways, he's a stranger in a strange land in his own time, so being sling-shooting him into the future isn't quite as bad for him as it would be for someone less inclined to see the potential in finding himself a half-millennium forward in time. Buck assumes that technology has caught up with his own fabulist ideas. That may not necessarily be the case...

NRAMA: Related to that, Buck in the future - why is he such a hero? If someone came from 1509 to our time, they'd be more of an anachronism, someone to be studied by historians. Why does Buck become a hero to these people?

SB: It's not as if Buck's a Neanderthal walking around Times Square weirded out by Jumbotrons and taxicabs. Earth hasn't exactly "evolved" in 500 years. There have been some technological upgrades, but the planet has been through some harsh times. Buck is an oddity because he's allegedly from the past. He's hard-pressed to prove that idea. But he arrives at a crucial point in time and makes some tough choices others are unwilling to make. And he deals with a problem that he may have inadvertently failed to prevent in the first place. If I say any more I risk spoiling the conceits of the opening arc...

NRAMA: Who else, and what iconic elements are you bringing back in to the series? What, in your view has to be there in order to make Buck Rogers "Buck Rogers?"

SB: Buck can't be Buck without the supporting cast. And I'm talking about Wilma and Buddy Deering, Dr. Huer, Killer Kane, Ardala, Black Barney and all the rest. Plus a few new additions. This is space opera cut from the cloth that created space opera, so I wouldn't go into this without bringing along all the principle players.

NRAMA: We know you’re loathe to go into too much detail, but can you outline your first arc a little? We know what gets things started, but where are you heading from there?

SB: I don't want to say too much except that the first arc deals mainly with how and why Buck finds himself thrust forward 500 years--plus or minus--into the future. There's a threat from the past that comes full circle, not unlike a the orbit of a large celestial body, by the time Buck gets back to Earth, not his Earth necessarily, but a planet that has gotten a little older and is showing her age. Buck finds himself in the middle of a pretty nasty conflict. Choosing sides is easy. Getting his new "friends" to believe he is who he purports to be is another matter. Earth is in the so-called "Goldilocks Zone," neither too hot nor too cold to sustain life. Yummy delicious life. Think about it...

NRAMA: Finally - Twiki. Yes or no?

SB: Biddi-biddi-biddi-no.

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