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Adventures in Interviewing: Adam Beechen

Adventures in Interviewing: Adam Beechen
Written by Doug Zawisza – www.comicbloc.com – Tuesday, 29 May 2007


If there’s one name that’s gotten Internet message boards buzzing lately, it’s Adam Beechen. The multimedia writer has put his thoughts to the pages of comics and the frames of cartoons, blogged about hoops and devised ideas for animated series. Not only that, but he has forever altered the fate of more than one teenage hero. Joining Teen Titans amidst the hubbub of Geoff Johns leaving the book he had revived, Adam found his own time there to be one of transition. Leaving Titans before he even fully warms up the seat of the writer’s chair, Adam Beechen is counting down to his new tasks …in more ways than one.

DZ: To get the ball rolling, I am aware that you’ve written for a number of cartoons. How did you get started doing that? Do you still keep your finger on the pulse there?

AB: Yep, writing for television is still very much a big part of what I do. I came out to L.A. to write for television a number of years ago, having gotten a graduate degree in screenwriting. I had a ton of writing samples under my arm, took a bunch of meetings when I first got out here that went nowhere and then bounced from job to job for a year or so before I got a gig as a writer’s assistant on an Aaron Spelling prime-time soap opera called Savannah.

I was promoted to Staff Writer a few weeks after that and then the show was almost immediately canceled. About eight months after that, one of the animation companies I’d first met with when I moved here called me up and asked if I’d be interested in writing an episode of a new show of theirs. I said “yes,” wrote an episode of The Wild Thornberrys and everything started rolling from there. Since then, I’ve worked on shows ranging from Rugrats to Teen Titans and just about everywhere in between.

DZ: In comics, you’re one of the writers for Countdown and you’re writing Countdown To Adventure, what did I pull you away from right now?

AB: Today was a pretty light day. I finished a script for Countdown To Adventure a little earlier in the week, so today I wrote an entry for the fan blog I write at the Phoenix Suns’ Web site, worked up some story ideas for an animated series I’m pitching and finally took myself out to see Spider-Man 3 … umm, I thought Thomas Haden Church and Topher Grace were well-cast.

DZ: A Suns fan, eh? They’ve had quite a run here. As a Pistons fan, it’s been a fun series to watch. And, I do have to agree with you that Thomas Haden Church was well cast. I, personally, would have preferred to see a little more closure on his character’s story though. Previously, you’ve mentioned that you are also doing some work for Nickelodeon. Can you clue us in to the title of the animated Nicktoons television series you’ve been story editing so we can keep an eye out for it, or is it still in a delicate position?

AB: It’s called Edgar and Ellen. Half hour specials featuring the characters have already aired on Nick and those interested can check out edgarandellen.com to get more of a sense of the characters.

DZ: A fair number of folks have familiarized themselves with your work on Robin. Not as many of them are as familiar with your work on Justice League Unlimited. JLU came first, right? If not, what was your first comic writing gig?

AB: I think the chronology roughly goes like this … I wrote the script for the Dugout graphic novel in 2001 or so for AiT/PlanetLar, which languished for a long time because we couldn’t find an artist. Then I wrote the Hench graphic novel for the same company about two years later and Manny Bello came aboard to draw that. While he was working on the book, I visited my pal Ivan Cohen in New York, who was then an editor at DC. He gave me a tour and introduced me to Tom Palmer, Jr., who was editing the comic book Teen Titans Go! based on the Titans cartoon. Since I’d been writing for the cartoon, I asked Tom if I could pitch for the book. He said sure, I sent him some pitches and he bought two.

Shortly after the first one came out in the spring of 2004, I got a call from DC asking if I’d like to write the new monthly JLU book for the Johnny DC line. I said “of course” and as I was working on the first issue of that book, Hench came out. Eddie Berganza liked what I’d been doing with JLU, knew I could handle a monthly book and, based on Hench, saw I could do slightly edgier stuff, so he campaigned for me to take over Robin in the wake of One Year Later. I did a framing story for a Teen Titans: Secret Files book as sort of a tryout and Robin followed soon after.

DZ: And of course, your work on Robin got you in front of some folks who were able to consider you for the task of replacing Geoff Johns on Teen Titans. How exactly did the opportunity to work on Teen Titans come about?

AB: Last fall I got a phone call from Geoff, whom I’ve known for a while, asking if I’d be interested in writing Teen Titans, should he ever leave. After my heart attack, I said sure. He said he’d get back to me. A few weeks later, I got a call from Eddie Berganza, asking if I’d be interested in writing Teen Titans, should he ever leave. Once again, I said “sure.” A few weeks after that, I was driving to Arizona for Thanksgiving and got a call while I was in the middle of the desert from Eddie, officially offering me the title. I spoke to both Eddie and Geoff shortly thereafter, and they told me I’d be co-writing the end of an arc with Geoff to ease the transition, and then I’d have the chance to write the title on my own.

DZ: As has already been announced, you’re leaving Robin AND Teen Titans. So that leaves you with Countdown and Countdown to Adventure. Anything else in the works?

AB: Just those two for now. Given my other writing commitments in television, two monthly books is the perfect workload for me.

DZ: Given how excited you were about Teen Titans, what was the appeal of Countdown to Adventure that made you leave the title you had just inherited?

AB: I think the chance to start something from scratch. I love the Titans and I always will, but the chance to start a book from issue #1 and develop a title’s voice using characters I happen to really like is just a great opportunity. And 52 left these particular characters in great places where a lot could be done with them—they could be taken any number of ways. By the way, this works out well for Teen Titans, too.

As happy as some of that book’s fans are that I’m leaving the title, they should really be excited that Sean McKeever’s the guy coming in to take it over. He’s good. I mean, really, really good. I’m loving his stuff for Countdown and anyone who’s seen his work elsewhere knows how well he gets the teen voices. The book is in very good hands.

DZ: Has Sean given you any idea what he’s going to be doing, or don’t you want to know? I imagine this is an awkward spot where you’re handing off your work, something you’ve invested yourself in, but at the same you are ready to move on and see what happens—as a fan.

AB: No, it’s not awkward at all! Sean and I have had some great E-mail exchanges over the handoff and he knows I’m totally in his corner (not that he needs that). I have zero idea what he’s got planned for the book, nor do I want one. I want to be as surprised as everyone else!

DZ: Regarding Countdown to Adventure, how do you make this story relevant and not an unnecessary rehash of themes and notions already used in 52?

AB: Hopefully, we do it by considering where the characters are now in their lives and where 52 has left them. One of C2ADV’s big themes is about our heroes adjusting to being home. They’ve been gone for a year, so home is now as alien to them in some ways as the places they went while they were gone. Not only have their experiences in that year changed them, but the people they love have changed as well. There’s a lot of adjusting to do.

DZ: So will we be seeing Ellen, Cliff and Maxine?

AB: Oh yes. They figure very prominently. And they’re a ton of fun to write.

DZ: Will the cast be expanding at all? What is your take on the Space Trio—Adam Strange, Animal Man and Starfire?

AB: We’re staying focused on this unlikely threesome and we’ve concocted an adventure that brings them all back together, even though they’re literally starting out light years apart, as Adam is on Rann, and Buddy and Kori are on Earth. As for my take on them, it’s pretty traditional. Nobody’s going to be acting too far out of the lines of their established characters, although the status quo is going to be changing for each of them by the series’ end.

DZ: Which of those three is hardest to write for you?

AB: At this point, probably Starfire, because she’s had so many things happen to her over the years, grown so much and seems to evolve a little more every time a story about her takes place. But I’m figuring her out pretty quickly.

DZ: Can we expect to see Animal Man’s yellow, alien friends in this story? If so, will they have names, as it seems like fanboys the world over have been curious about the aliens’ identities?

AB: No plans for those guys (whose real names, by the way, are Eddie Berganza and Adam Schlagman), but we’ve got a number of other aliens showing up who are important to the story …

DZ: Would any of those aliens happen to rhyme with “Shady Fix?”

AB: I’m glad you bring this up, because I’ve seen lots of speculation about this and it gives me a chance to put it to rest. No, Grady Bicks, Spaceman From Neptune, from this classic Marooned In Space comics from the 1950s, will not be appearing!

DZ: I’m just going to take that as a “wait and see” … How is the writing on the weekly Countdown going? Do you find it difficult to mentally separate that project from Countdown to Adventure?

AB: It’s going great! Even as we’re writing new scripts for the series, we’re going back and touching up completed ones to make sure they’re as exciting, dramatic and eventful as they possibly can be. As for separating the projects, it’s only confusing in terms of the names of their files on my computer. Too many things named Countdown.

DZ: So, are you actually done writing Teen Titans now, or are you putting the bows on your storylines?

AB: I’m actually done writing Titans. My last script was officially declared good to go last week. Onward and upward!

DZ: Will you be using Robin’s voice in Teen Titans then, or will you be trying to establish the viewpoint through an different character?

AB: Titans is an ensemble book, so it makes sense and is just plain more fun to explore all the different voices. Otherwise, they’d call it Robin and the Other Kids.

DZ: Tease the readers a little, what can we expect from you in both Robin and Teen Titans? Who’s the next big bad Robin’s going to face? What issue gives us the next Titans roster shake-ups?

AB: Well, I’m going to play my cards pretty close to the vest as pertains to Titans, hope you don’t mind … but after the Titans East storyline wraps up, we’ll see the book cross over with Amazons Attack for a few issues, then there’s the matter of a landmark 50th issue to deal with. As far as roster shake-ups … some characters will definitely be moving on around that time, and it’s my hope a new character or two will come in.

Something important to deal with will be the situation Jericho finds himself in at the end of Titans East, and it’s a condition that affects a number of our cast. Over in Robin, Tim’s currently dealing with a street gang that’s been turned murderously metahuman in a story that’ll run three parts. Then there’s a single issue showing us Tim’s first Father’s Day with Bruce … it’s a story I like a lot, as it brings back my favorite villains of the Bill Willingham era. Then there’s another multi-parter that addresses the fate of the teen teleporter, Dodge, who’s been lurking around for my entire run and introduces a couple new villains I hope can become fixtures in Robin’s world.

DZ: Sounds like a busy year for comicdom’s favorite teens. Given your relatively short time on the series, without spoiling anything, what do you view as your contribution to the Teen Titans mythos?

AB: As the guy who served as the bridge between Geoff Johns and Sean McKeever! (laughs) I’m not sure I was there long enough to make a huge contribution to the Titans’ mythos (much to some fans’ relief, I’m sure!), but I think I moved some key subplots along and left things in good order for the next writer to develop.

DZ: You had a pretty solid run on Justice League Unlimited. Was issue #31 your last issue for the foreseeable future? How do you feel looking back?

AB: I have two more scripts in the pipeline, one featuring Rocket Red and another spotlighting the female Dr. Light, but I don’t know when those will see print. I had a wonderful time on that book and in many ways, it was a perfect assignment for me. I didn’t have to worry about the continuity of the DC mainstream. I didn’t have to follow the show storyline, specifically. I could focus on different characters every month. And I could tell stories of different styles and tones.

Also, as someone who hadn’t written a lot of comic stories to that point, it was a great education for me. I think you can see the learning process as you go through the issues I wrote, as some are definitely stronger than others, but there are some issues I feel really proud of, like the Blue Beetle issue (#5), the Question issue (#8), the Vibe issue (#15) and the Martian Manhunter issue (#24). I’ll always be grateful to editors Tom Palmer, Jr., Michael Wright and Rachel Gluckstern for the freedom they gave me on that title.

DZ: The Justice League Unlimited title has a fabulous Silver Age feel while delivering Modern characters; did you find your work on the title was influenced by the cartoon, or were you able to block that from your mind and truly tell your stories?

AB: For the most part, I was able to tell my own stories, although I did try to be pretty true to the way the show portrayed the characters. For instance, the Flash is a little jokier on the show than the mainstream Flash, so I went more with the show’s version. With the secondary characters, a lot of them hadn’t really been explored by the show, so I was able to imagine their voices a little more.

DZ: You mentioned the JLU curse in an interview with a different Web site over a year ago. Has anyone else suffered?

AB: Well, we did a Red Tornado story a while back and then he got a rough ride in 52 and more recently in the new Justice League of America book, but other than that, I think the curse may have lifted. I probably just jinxed it. Look out, B’wana Beast!

DZ: Not B’wana Beast! Although, I think it’s too late for him … he hasn’t been around much lately.

AB: Yeah, maybe he’s on safari. I hope I get a postcard.

DZ: Sad to say, but he was killed off in Animal Man and eventually replaced with Freedom Beast.

AB: That’s right. We used him in JLU to undo part of the JLU Curse, maybe.

DZ: Hopefully that will work. He was an oddly interesting character. Speaking of B’wana Beast and his JLU story, are there any more JLU digest collections in the pipeline that you know of? Those are handy little books that pack a wallop of a great read. They fit nicely into a carry-on, computer bag or backpack and have multiple stories with that wonderful JLU vibe. Well, not that Vibe … although he is in there too … anyways, sorry; about the digests …

AB: Not that I know of, but I’d love to see those stories be reprinted. However, the first run of stories I wrote on Robin has just been reprinted as a trade paperback, if I may plug that. That’s a real thrill.

DZ: What goes through your mind when you pick up a TPB or digest and the stuff collected within it came from those same hands? Do you feel like you could justifiably walk out of the store with it?

AB: Well, not without paying for it … it’s a real kick—as big as seeing my name in a comic. The first collection of Robin stories Freddie [Williams II] and Karl [Kerschl] and I did (Robin: Wanted) just came out and it’s pretty surreal seeing my name on the spine of a trade paperback.

DZ: How would you compare writing JLU to Titans? Both need to be accessible by new readers, yet each has a very distinct voice.

AB: Well, Teen Titans is obviously a lot more continuity-based, so there’s a bunch more information that needs to be imparted on a script-by-script basis. And Teen Titans relies more on character interaction than a book like JLU does. In JLU, I can keep the focus on a single character in any given issue, with a few other members moving through the story in the background. In a book like Titans, the spotlight is shared more equally. Each character has their own subplot going on, generally speaking and those have to advance, if not every issue, then on a pretty regular basis.

DZ: Will Countdown to Adventure focus more on character interaction or spotlight the adventures through the eyes of one of the main players?

AB: We’re telling it equally through the eyes of all the characters, but there’ll be plenty of interaction among our trio, all together and in various combinations.

DZ: Were you provided references for any of your books? Bibles, guidelines, style guides?

AB: Not really. Fortunately, I’d read Teen Titans since its first issue and Robin for about a year before I took over and I had the DC Encyclopedia and Who’s Who to fill in any gaps!

As for Countdown to Adventure, I’d read all of Grant Morrison’s definitive Animal Man run (which was my mindblowing introduction to Grant’s work), I’d read and enjoyed Andy Diggle’s Adam Strange miniseries and Dave Gibbons’ Rann-Thanagar War and as mentioned, I’ve followed Starfire through Titans for years, so I was pretty familiar with everyone … and, of course, I’d read 52. But the editors are great about supplying reference material should a writer request it.

DZ: Have you found times where you are supplied reference material, even though you didn’t request it? What I mean is have you ever used a character only to have editing say, “We can’t do that. Here. Look?”

AB: No one’s ever felt compelled to go to that length to inform me of a character’s voice. If I step out of bounds on what a character might say or do, I’ll get a note or call from the editor, but truthfully, that hasn’t happened much. A little bit on Titans East, maybe, where there were a lot of characters running around that I wasn’t quite as familiar with.

DZ: Who is your favorite character to write right now? Who comes naturally to you?

AB: Adam Strange. I’ve been a fan of that character for a long time … one of the first comics I ever owned, in fact, was the JLA comic in which he married Alanna. When he showed up in Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing run, I saw the character and his circumstance in an entirely new and thought-provoking way and I’d thought about the character a lot for years. I’ve always wanted to do something with him and now’s my chance.

DZ: Do you have ideas for Adam (and the other characters) after their story in Countdown to Adventure? Is Countdown to Adventure possibly a test case for getting any of these characters an ongoing title?

AB: I hope it’s a test run! I’d love to see it continue so we can really grow the characters and follow them along. I have ideas for all them. Lots of ideas.

DZ: Can you give us another tease about Countdown and Countdown to Adventure? What can the readers look forward to there? What is going to make it worth the money and the wait?

AB: Countdown is the spine of the DC Universe for 2007 and 2008. If you really want to be plugged in to what’s going on all over DC, it’s really in your best interests to pick up the book on a weekly basis. It’s going to be big, and it’s going to bring big changes. Countdown to Adventure brings our heroes back together for another mission, this one a lot closer to their homes and more personal than ever before. It explores them as individuals and as a unit, given the special bond they formed when they were away. The stakes of the story are enormous and very close to their hearts. It’s action-packed with big swings in character and some absolutely huge moments. And at least one character goes on to become a major player in the continuity of the DCU.

And if that isn’t tease enough, fans have the art of Eddy Barrows to look forward to. He’s already sent me some character designs and the layouts for a few pages, and they’re GORGEOUS. I feel like I did when I started working with Freddie Williams on Robin. That very soon a lot of people are going to be talking very positively about this guy.

DZ: Eddy did a great job on 52 as well as Gail Simone’s All-New Atom. He’s got a very distinct style that is slightly reminiscient of Neal Adams and a little of Norm Breyfogle, with a tight line. How far along is the book? It’s been solicited for August, so where does the first issue stand currently?

AB: The script is done and Eddy’s hard at work on the art! I’m chugging along on scripts for later issues, so hopefully we’ll be far ahead!

DZ: How’s Dugout coming along? Do you have a slated release date for that yet?

AB: Manny Bello’s hard at work on the art and every few days he sends me more pages to gawk at and my jaw just keeps dropping further and further. It’s gorgeous art, and we’re hoping the book will be out later this year from AiT/PlanetLar so everyone can see it. For those who don’t know, it’s about the manager of a failing 1960’s baseball team who decides the only way to save his squad is to break his star player out of prison—where he’s doing time for murder! So, the manager schedules an exhibition game against the prison team as cover for the breakout. It’s coming out really, really well and it’s a lot of fun.

DZ: Sounds kinda like a darker, baseball version of The Longest Yard. Should be a fun read. What else do we have to look forward to from you, Adam? Any more forays into the TV world?

AB: On the comics side, I’m one of the writers for DC’s new weekly project Countdown, which is giving me a chance to be part of something really momentous in DC history, to work with some really talented writers and artists and to write some characters I’ve never written before … and some others I have. It’s a great experiment, a great education and it’s going to be monumentally cool. I also have a fill-in issue of Shadowpact that hasn’t been scheduled yet and I’m excited for people to see that.

On the TV side, I already mentioned the series I’m working on now … I’ve also just finished writing an episode of Johnny Test, I’m writing a comedy-action video game, developing a bunch of other projects for television and helping try to sell Hench as a film or television series. There’s been encouraging news on that last front, lately, so my fingers are crossed.

DZ: How does writing a fill-in differ from regular monthly work?

AB: Well, you don’t get to play with subplots, you’re not really advancing the overall story (unless you work something out with the editor). Your plotting is much more contained, with a definite ending that doesn’t change the status quo of the book unless, again, you’ve worked something out with the editor. The Shadowpact story, for instance, is a Nightmaster-focused tale that could take place at any point in the Shadowpact continuity and was written specifically for that purpose.

DZ: And, in case you haven’t lurked around comicbloc.com, I would like to present you with some questions from our forums:

Roy Harper: Will you keep Joey and Vic on the team?

AB: Well, like I said, some characters will be going and others coming on, but Joey and Vic will ALWAYS retain their Titans ties, in one form or another.

Roy Harper: Will more former Titans join the team?

AB: Entirely possible. Whether they’re Titans we’ve seen with the team before, or whether they’re Titans who were part of the team during the “missing year,” I couldn’t say.

Devlyn16: What were your favorite arcs of the various eras of Titans incarnations?

AB: The Search for the Doom Patrol in the initial Wolfman/Perez run is probably my all-time favorite Titans storyline. It’s what really sold me on the title and it featured a wide range of emotions to go along with all the action. The characters were sharp, the story had huge stakes, and it was flat-out fun to read. Also, I wasn’t too up on the Doom Patrol at that point, so those characters had an air of mystery about them, for me.

ConnorFan: What do you think are the important aspects in forming a team of Teen Titans?

AB: That’s a tough question … I think I side with Geoff Johns on this, in that it’s hard to imagine a Titans team that doesn’t have some connection to some of the biggest heroes in DC history. By that, I mean, it doesn’t feel right to me if there’s not a Wonder Girl or a Robin around. Beyond that, as a writer, I look at balance. Which characters bounce off each other in the most interesting ways? Are there personalities all across the spectrum that can lend themselves to great stories? Where can character histories, powers and attitudes cross over in ways that we might not expect?

Lady Timedramon, Gar Logan’s #1 Fangirl: Are there any plans for Gar Logan?

AB: Yes! (Sorry, Lady T. My Legion flight ring would be confiscated if I gave anything away.)

Saturn Girl: Who are your favorite Titans and why?

AB: I always liked the Flashes, believe it or not. I was a fan of Wally as Kid Flash in the old days because he was the most normal one. He came from the most stable and relatable background, so I felt like I could see the stories through his eyes. Also, I’ve always been fascinated by heroes who are speedsters (and giants. Someday, I’ll have to create a character who’s a super-fast giant, I guess).

DZ: Thanks for answering those Adam! I am certain the readers appreciate it! Finally, dream large here, if you were given a blank slate, what would your ideal assignment be? What characters, artists, colorists and such would you include on your dream team?

AB: Wow … honestly, I think I’d want to write Aquaman. He was one of the first superheroes I gravitated toward as a little kid. I’ve got a great story for him I’d love to tell one day, but it runs counter to the direction the character’s moving in now, so maybe it can be a “down the road” thing. As far as artists, I so associate the character with the late, great Jim Aparo it’s hard to imagine anyone else. It’d be a thrill to see stories I worked on come from his pen. Obviously, that’s not a possibility now, but you did say dream large!

DZ: That I did. You certainly succeeded there. Other than being a childhood favorite, what’s the appeal of Aquaman to you as a character? Would it be the classic orange and green Arthur Aquaman or the bearded Orin?

AB: His environment always attracted me. Maybe because I grew up in the desert in Arizona, I was fascinated by the sea—its mystery and beauty. I also liked that Aquaman had a few things going for him that relatively few other characters did—he was royalty and he was a family man. And I liked that, in the issues of Adventure Comics where I first discovered him, he was a brawler, a tough guy. The story I’d like to write for him would be for the green and orange incarnation … although just between you and me, I really liked the camouflage blue costume he wore in his 1980’s miniseries done by Neal Pozner and Craig Hamilton. That was cool-lookin’ and practical.

DZ: Before I let you go, will you be attending any cons this year?

AB: I’ll be in San Diego! Please stop by and say “hi.”

DZ: I would, but San Diego is a bit out of my meager budget this year. Thanks again for taking the time to hit the ‘Bloc, Adam! Feel free to pop by the comicbloc.com forums. You’ll find the folks there tend to be more welcoming than some other areas out here in cyber-space.

AB: Thanks, Doug!

 


End of titanstower.com transmission. About this author:  Bill Walko is an author and artist and the man behind titanstower.com. He's been reading and drawing comics since he was 5 years old and hasn't stopped since. Read more from this author