Saturday, February 9, 2013


Still a little delayed updating my blog. Been a busy last couple of months. But I thank you for checking in as this was a favorite story to work on in a number of ways.

The "Beyond: Origin" for Big Barda, was a chance to continue my love for all things Jack Kirby. Unlike some of the other newer characters in the future Justice League, Barda is the one that should be the most familiar to readers, as she wasn't invented for the Beyond universe. So for her, it was more of a retelling of how she ended up joining the team. And really more of an opportunity to do something a little different with her and continue the theme of parents for these origin stories. To find out where our heroes came from in relation to their mothers and fathers.

I love a good tragic story. It's something I tend to gravitate to. The idea of two characters that grow up as friends, only for time and circumstance to pull them apart, and become bitter rivals and enemies. I thought that would be worth exploring for Barda's mother, Big Breeda, and her childhood friend who would ultimately become Granny Goodness. It's no shock to anyone that Apokolips isn't a happy place to grow up. The living conditions in the slums, the oppression, threats of war, and a constant state of death and gloom hang over the landscape of rock and fire. And those that do survive the process become stronger individuals. Barda is who she is because of how strong a mother she had.

I'm actually kind of surprised they allowed me to have Barda's birth on the battlefield. There might be some Conan The Barbarian similarities there, but I thought it would be just an insane brutal visual of a mother-to-be, bred to fight, that would continue doing so, right up to the delivery itself. Some things during a story's development get questioned, debated, and changed. But this one, they didn't even touch, and I'm happy for that allowance.

I just love the world that Kirby created with the New Gods and Fourth World. If it were up to me, and the company gave me free reign, that would be an area I'd love to explore more of from the very beginning. What Urgrund was like in the beginning before it split into two worlds, the type of family that Darkseid came from…there's a lot of mythical and biblical application to be found, I'm sure. Some people get bored by that type of stuff, as if they're being forced to hear a history lesson. But I would enjoy playing in that world, much like I would find it interesting what Krypton was like hundreds of years before its own demise. But that's just me. The New Gods look to be explored more by Azzarello in the Wonder Woman title, so I'm happy they haven't been forgotten in the New52.

And last, let me gush a little about the artist on our story. I was excited that we got to have Ben Caldwell draw this origin for us. A lot of times, the choice for artist is made for you by the editor and company. Writers give their suggestions when asked. But usually, the editor has a certain stable of people they've worked with or like to go-to. But I was really adamant about getting Ben for this one, because I'm a HUGE fan of his work.

I first stumbled across Ben with his first Action Cartooning how-to-draw book. I rarely even notice those types of books, but saw one on display at my local Barnes & Noble when it came out years back. I loved the style and energy he brought to his drawings. Maybe it's because I could instantly see the animation artists he was influenced by, which happen to be two of my favorites…Don Bluth and Bruce Timm (coming from many quarters spent playing Dragon's Lair and Space Ace in the arcades, and many years watching the Batman cartoons). And once I discovered Ben's work, I became an instant fan, picking up his work on various short stories and covers he would do, along with his Action Classics line of books and his own Dare Detectives creation.

I think the thing I appreciate most about Ben's work, is the actual design process leading up to the sequentials. It could be his background in toy design and animation concept work, but he really spends a lot of time in the preliminary stage of figuring out his characters and their environments. You hear the term "world builder" from time to time in the creative arts, and I definitely apply that to Ben's work. Comic artists aren't always allowed the time and freedom to develop their drawings before they have to jump into the job itself. But I knew with Ben, he'd take that time to figure it out. I also love that he colored himself on this story with a very limited palette. It comes off very european or Heavy Metal inspired, adding to the mood.

As you'll see below, these were just a few of the sketchbook designs and rough layouts Ben was working through before he jumped into the pages themselves. It's a fantastic behind-the-scenes process as you see him figure things out before he dove into the sequentials.

And this isn't the last we'll see of him. Currently I'm working on an upcoming story arc I've written for Justice League Beyond, with Ben on pencils and I'm inking him. It's a bit strange inking over someone you're a fan of. Sometimes it's less stressful to just sit back and be a fan and be separate from the art. But at the same time, I was curious to see what I'd be able to do. Below is the very first page of that story, yet to come out.

Children are our future. Our dark, manipulated future...


  1. Caldwell earned my instant recognition and admiration with his Wonder Woman feature from Wednesday Comics, still my favorite from that series.

    I agree that Kirby's Fourth World remains infinitely fascinating, and mostly untapped. I still hope to read his complete original tales.

    Looking forward to reading this one!

    1. His Wednesday Comics work was ambitious and fun to look at. He always draws the ladies well, which is why I felt he'd be a nice fit for Barda. And he gets to draw and design a whole bunch of characters for the upcoming JLB story.