If ever there was an expert on Blue Beetle, Keith Giffen is probably it. Not only did the veteran writer/artist co-create the modern version of the character, Jaime Reyes, but he worked on some of the most legendary stories featuring his predecessor, Ted Kord.
With "Rebirth," Giffen gets to write both characters in a fresh, new way in the Blue Beetle title. Working with illustrator Scott Kolins, Giffen has made Ted the enthusiastic mentor for reluctant hero Jaime.
The new series, which introduced the two-Beetle concept in August's Blue Beetle: Rebirth #1, picks up many of the pieces left from the "New 52" and post-Crisis stories about the two characters, but takes some of it in a different direction. In particular, the scarab that has attached itself to Jaime - and gave him his super-suit-type powers - has been revealed to have a magical origin.
Revealed, that is, by Doctor Fate, who also plays an important role in the ongoing series.
With Blue Beetle #1 on stands this week, Giffen talked to Newsarama and disclosed more about his plans for Blue Beetle, whether there will be any familiar characters visiting, and when readers will find out whether Ted Kord has worn the costume before.
Newsarama: Keith, the Rebirth issue introduced us to this concept, so as we start issue #1, Ted Kord is serving as a mentor to Jaime?
Keith Giffen: Yes, he's trying to help him make the most out of being Blue Beetle, the superhero. But Jaime isn't quite as enthusiastic. He would prefer that the scarab was out of his back.
So we've got that kind of dynamic. Ted is basically saying, "Well, the scarab is there, and there's nothing you can do about that. So let me show you how you can make use of this." But Jaime just wants to hang out with his friends and have a normal life. He's hoping Ted can get the scarab out.
Ted is really into - as Ted's always been - he's really into the whole superhero-saves-the-innocent thing. And he always approaches it with this almost infectious enthusiasm.
Unfortunately Jaime, he's had this thrust on him. He didn't ask for this thing in his back. So he's kind of the reluctant one.
So they're working together, and we've got these fun things, like this giant bug...
Nrama: Which is kind of like a Bat Cave for the Blue Beetles. Very cool.
Giffen: Yes! And Ted's coming from the direction of, "This is the greatest thing in the world! Look! I have this big Blue Beetle ship!" But Jaime's coming from the direction of, "Can you do something to stop this? I want to lead a normal life."
Of course, as the story goes on, they meet in the middle. That's about as much as I can say without giving too much away.
Nrama: We learned from DC Universe: Rebirth #1 that the scarab is not alien, but is instead magic. The Rebirth scene, featuring Doctor Fate, was echoed in Blue Beetle: Rebirth #1. Yet Keith, you wrote all the post-Crisis stuff about Jaime's interaction with the Reach and the scarab's alien origins. Are you going to mesh that together? Or are you dumping the old and starting fresh?
Keith Giffen: My initial reaction is to just start fresh. I mean, it is "Rebirth," and so we can use what worked about the characters and what might not have worked about the characters.
So right about now, I'm not bringing the Reach into it. That doesn't mean we won't in the future. Right now, they're just discovering that the scarab has a mystical origin, mostly due to Doctor Fate getting involved. And that's the story that will play out over the next couple issues. Doctor Fate actually plays a pretty important role in the comic.
However, I'm not going to rule out that I might bring the Reach in and touch base on some of the history of the scarab. But right now, as far as I'm concerned, it's a mystical artifact. And as the story progresses, we'll learn not only about how Jaime deals with that and how Ted, kind of his mentor, is dealing with that, but also the history of the scarab.
But I don't know… maybe the Reach did take it for a while and damaged it. Or maybe it got damaged some other way.
So in this story, we're exploring the mystical elements of the scarab. And we'll see what happens in the future.
Nrama: So you're kind of starting over with Blue Beetle? But doing it in a way that leaves room for Blue Beetle's post-Crisis stories to be incorporated?
Giffen: We're approaching the book like they're new characters, and we'll fill the readers in as we go - and some of that fill-in might be from past stories. Which stories will we use to fill in? Keep reading and find out. Right now, I'm trying to keep the book spontaneous.
Nrama: OK, but this doesn't just apply to the scarab. It applies to Ted Kord too. Is he going to start remembering his post-Crisis life like some other characters are right now?
Giffen: Wait and see.
I'm trying to deal with Ted, right now, as a brand new character. Yes, he was Blue Beetle in the past. Was he the Blue Beetle that we saw in the Justice League that J.M. DeMatteis and I did? Was he the Blue Beetle that was in the Charlton books? Did he have a brief career? Was he never Blue Beetle?
All of that is stuff that will be answered, probably, within the first year of the book. There is an answer, but I just cannot divulge it right now.
Nrama: So as we pick up the first issue, these two characters already know each other, right?
Giffen: Yes, Ted is already with Jaime. They are trying to work together as a team. And then we'll start filling in the background.
Nrama: Issue #4 says it's an origin issue?
Giffen: Yes, but although it answers questions, it will introduce other questions. Just come along for the ride. We'll have the answers in a timely way.
Nrama: What kind of adventures will Jaime and Ted go on together?
Giffen: Right now, they're dealing with the El Paso area. I'm reintroducing El Paso, and Jaime's family and friends, and the fact that he goes to school.
But there will be a major threat to arise in El Paso. They'll realize that a lot of the events have a common core, they have a common source.
We're building up to our big, major, Dr. Doom-level villain.
Nrama: In issue #4's solicitation, it talks about a "new arrival." In this era of returning characters, there's a lot of guessing about this, but I know you, Keith. You love new characters too, right?
Giffen: Yeah, and that's where we'll go more often with this book.
Yes, I'll have a handful of familiar characters, like Doctor Fate. And we'll have characters you know from the Blue Beetle supporting cast. The heroes and the supporting cast - you've seen them before.
But when it comes to the foes that Jaime will be fighting, I'm not going to the DC archives. The villains will be new. New concepts, new characters, new situations. I'm treating it like a brand new book.
I'm sure, somewhere down the line, we'll have a familiar character fighting Jaime. But I'm trying to make this book stand out as a place where the core, familiar characters are encountering new things and new characters. And I hope readers enjoy the ride.