Less than five months ago, writer Matthew Sturges was lamenting the end of this job writing DC's Blue Beetle.That didn't last long.
Beginning in June, Blue Beetle gets his own 10-page "co-features" by Sturges in the back of the Booster Gold series. Part of DC Comics' new effort to justify higher prices by giving readers "more story" for the money, the Blue Beetle back-up stories will reunite the character with Sturges, who wrote the title from Blue Beetle #29-36.
The co-features will also reunite two characters that are indelibly linked – Booster Gold and Blue Beetle. While the previous Blue Beetle, Ted Kord, was better known as Booster's partner in crime-fighting, the new Blue Beetle, Jaime Reyes, also has an established history with Booster, having been first discovered by Booster in the pages of Infinite Crisis and teaming up with him more than once to save the world.
Plus, as readers of this interview will find out, there may be some Ted Kord in the series' future as well.
Newsarama talked to Sturges to find out more about the new Blue Beetle co-features and why writing House of Mystery prepared him for the job.
Newsarama: You're back on Blue Beetle! Did you know when Blue Beetle was canceled that you'd get to do these back-up stories?
Matt Sturges: I didn't! I had already gone through, like, five stages of grieving about losing Blue Beetle. I had just reached "acceptance," you know? I was just thinking that maybe I was OK with it and I could move on. Then I got this call where they said, "Hey, we're doing this Blue Beetle back-up. Would you like to write it?" And I said, "Sure! Of course! Why wouldn't I?" And I got off the phone and thought, man, I'm having weird emotions that I can't name. I had just gotten used to the idea of not doing it, and four months after doing the last issue, I'm now writing the first issue of this.
NRAMA: This whole idea of "co-features" is kind of new. How long are these co-features going to run? Are you doing long-term planning for the stories in Blue Beetle?
MS: It's going to run into the foreseeable future, so there's going to be a little bit of long-term planning going on. But because it's such a small number of pages per issue, the storytelling is going to be done in a little different way. It's going to be more compact and more focused. And what we're starting out with are some shorter, self-contained stories to introduce readers who aren't familiar with Blue Beetle to the character. We're assuming a lot of the people who are going to be coming into this back-up have not read Blue Beetle in the past. So we want to sort of ease them into it. So it's kind of like a new #1 for Blue Beetle in terms of storytelling.
NRAMA: Do you re-tell the origin? Or is there more to it?
MS: It tells his origin in three panels, in a very compressed fashion, and then jumps right into it. If people want the full origin story, they know where to find it, so we do a quick refresher course, and then we just jump right into it. Mainly, what we wanted to do at first was something that was light and a lot of fun. The focus is on the fun. And I think that's something that people really enjoyed about Blue Beetle during the previous series is that there was a lot of humor in it and real emotion. So I'm really trying to focus on the best qualities I can bring forward.
NRAMA: Blue Beetle had a pretty varied cast by the end of the series. Is that the same cast we'll see in this new co-feature format?
MS: It's a slightly smaller cast, just because we have so little space to work with. We're going to be seeing a lot of Brenda and Jaime and Paco. Those are the three characters that will show up all the time. And then we'll see some of Jaime's family. We'll try to work in some of Paco's family, who was very popular when I introduced them. Of course, Peacemaker is no longer with the group. He's gone on to greener pastures. And some of the other secondary and tertiary characters won't be there anymore. We want to focus. Since so much of Blue Beetle is character, I wanted to focus on a few characters and really do them justice.
NRAMA: For those who might be unfamiliar with Blue Beetle, who are Paco and Brenda and Jaime?
MS: Jaime Reyes is the Blue Beetle. He's a typical American teenager who lives in El Paso. He finds a mystical scarab that turns out to be an alien artifact, and he unwittingly becomes a superhero. His two best friends are Paco and Brenda, who are also teenagers, and they've been best friends forever. Now, at the end of the previous series, Paco and Brenda sort of hooked up. And as we'll see in this new series, it's taken as a given that Paco and Brenda are a couple, but they are a couple with a very stormy relationship, as it's turning out. And all is not well between Paco and Brenda as we re-encounter them in the new story.
NRAMA: We've seen solicitations for the first issue, and this "marauding 50-foot robot" is clearly on the side of light and fun. But can you tell us anything about what these "long-term" plans for Blue Beetle might be?
MS: I can't be too specific for a couple of reasons. One is that I don't want to give things away. And two is that, because this is something that's kind of new to have this manner of back-up, we're kind of feeling out what works more than we would if this were a regular, ongoing series. So we're not making the kind of huge, long-term plans that we normally would.
That said, we do have some long-term plans that we're looking forward to exploiting. The character of the Black Beetle, who has shown up in Booster Gold and who may or may not have shown up in Blue Beetle, is something that will probably be addressed at some point. And because Booster Gold is a time-traveler, and a lot of people are fascinated by Ted Kord, the previous Blue Beetle, mix those two elements together and see what that sparks in your imagination. And I'll leave it at that.
NRAMA: So you drop a Ted Kord bomb and just let it lie there as we wait for it to explode?
MS: [laughs] Well, yeah!
NRAMA: How has it been for you as a writer to compress your story into 10 pages?
MS: This is something where my experience working on House of Mystery has really helped out a lot because that shorter form has its own challenges and its own freedoms, but mostly challenges, because you have to pack a story into a much shorter space. It's less than half the space of a normal comic in terms of pages. So you want the reader to feel like they're getting their money's worth out of that story even though it's a back-up.
And that was something that the original Steve Ditko Blue Beetle back-ups in the old Charleton comics did very well. They gave you enough story in sort of a compressed manner that you felt like you were getting your money's worth even though they were only 8 or 10 pages themselves. And so that's what I'm really striving to do here is make you feel like you're getting more than 10 pages of story.
NRAMA: What do you think of the overall concept behind these back-up stories from DC? Is it a good idea to put these small spotlights on these characters that probably couldn't support their own series?
MS: I think it's a fabulous idea, obviously, for me It works out extremely well for me personally.
As far as the concept, I hope it's very successful. You are getting more for your money, and I know that the whole price increase thing is something people have been debating endlessly on the message boards. But that's sort of "above my pay grade," so I can't speculate on that. But I do think you're getting more story for your money. And I think people that are reading Booster Gold are inclined to enjoy Blue Beetle. It's one of those things where, if you enjoy this, you're probably also going to enjoy this.
So even though it's not the "Blue and Gold" that you might have expected – it's not Ted Kord – I think people who are willing to give the new mixture a chance are going to be very happy with the result.