It's Thanksgiving week, and one of the things I'm thankful for recently was the opportunity to have some questions answered via email by former Legion writer, Tom Peyer!
Tom began writing the Legion in 1994 at the dawn of the post-Zero Hour reboot, and was one of the architects of a new future and helped develop a new vision for the 30th century. Please check out the Q & A below, in which Tom talks a little about his time on the Legion.
Also, be sure to check out Tom on Twitter, and his latest work, co-writing (along w/ Mark Waid) the fantastic Captain Kid, published by Aftershock Comics.
How did you come to write the Legion/Legionnaires? You were working on REBELS at the time, correct? Were you always a Legion fan?
I was a kid in the Silver Age, so I'd read a million Legion stories. But part of me held it against the Legion that their series replaced "Tales of the Bizarro World" in the back of Adventure Comics. That "Bizarro World" was the far superior series should have been obvious to everyone--but people are fools. They refuse to see. Many years later, in writing the Legion, I was finally able to make my peace with them. Bringing me aboard was Mark Waid's idea; it was the start of a writing collaboration that continues to this day with Captain Kid.
Was the idea of a fresh start for the Legion appealing? Any regret not working on versions of the Legion characters you may have read & enjoyed in the past?
Like I said, I was a Silver Age kid. To me, those are the real comics and most of what came after is karaoke. I would have enjoyed calling the Legionnaires by their 60s code names--This Lass and That Lad. The rocket clubhouse, Superboy, Proty--I missed all of it.
There seemed to have been an effort in the previous version of the team (Giffen/Bierbaums) to tie the Legion and its future to 20th century L.E.G.I.O.N. - which seemed to describe a pre-history of the United Planets. Was there any plan while REBELS was still being published to carry on a relationship between the 2 books?
L.E.G.I.O.N./REBELS was my first ongoing series, so I was just pedaling really hard not to embarrass myself. I don't remember any plans to link up with the Legion books. But I was aware of all of the connections and I'm sure that informed the work on some level.
Not that I remember. I think we might have gotten it out of our system at some point. My memory is vague, but I want to say we trended more toward original stories in the last couple of years. I could be wrong.
How did the plotting of the 2 series work? For 2 series with 3 writers, the continuity was super-tight!
Everything started with these marathon conference calls, six of us throwing out ideas and beginning the process of shaping them. Roger Stern, Carmela Merlo, Tom McCraw, KC Carlson, Mike McAvennie, me. We all got along very well, which was good, because I don't think we could have pulled it off otherwise. The calls were long and there were the inevitable hellish times when ideas eluded us.
I've always thought the characterization of the team members was improved during this time - older characters were recognizable but there were additional layers present, that hadn't been noticeable before - Violet, Saturn Girl & Brainiac were particularly strong. Was this just a symptom of the times, where deepened characterization was the norm? Or was there a conscious effort by you and your co-writers to flesh out what in times past had been underdeveloped characters?
I think it was the era more than anything. For me, at least. Despite my glib dismissal of everything post-Silver Age, comics writing really came into its own in the 80s. Those Alan Moore Swamp Things in particular showed a glimpse of what could be accomplished if you sought influences outside of comics and put some sweat into the crafting of it. There was no going back. I'm not saying my writing came anywhere near up to that standard. But I was always more interested in drama and comedy than, say, continuity. Or science.
I think Roger would say that it was Stan Lee who really brought character into comics, and he'd be right of course. But I thought the British writers--Moore and Grant Morrison and Jamie Delano and Peter Milligan--took it to a deeper level. Of course I had worked with most of those writers at Vertigo, so I guess it's fair to accuse me of being brainwashed.
You co-wrote my absolute favorite version of Brainiac 5 (reboot Brainy is my favorite Legionnaire, by far). He seemed to have inherited a bit of characterization (a little detached nastiness) from his ancestor, Vril Dox. Was Brainy's new (& improved!) acerbic nature fun to write?
Brainy was my favorite. I'm glad you liked him. I tried to make the same point with nearly every story he played a major role in: that it's good to be smart, but it's not necessarily enough. You need other qualities, too. I don't know if I ever got the idea across, but I believed it and he seemed like the perfect vehicle.
Several brilliant new characters were added during this run (XS, Gates, Monstress, Sensor, etc.) which really helped make this group the most diverse the Legion has ever been. Did you guys have free reign in introducing new characters/species? Any characters that you enjoyed writing more than others?
Gates was the most fun because he was a political extremist and kind of a blowhard about it. He was never actually going to do anything extreme, but he could bend your ear for hours. Such creatures exist in the real world. I might be one of them. At the time Communist countries all over the world were going capitalist, so I thought it was funny that 1,000 years from now this extraterrestrial will still be preaching Marx. I guess that tells you we had a pretty long leash, characterwise.
Did you ever catch any flak for messing with anyone's favorite character?
Only on days that end in "y."
I've read, or heard, some horror stories about previous creative teams and their conflict with some other DC editorial offices - over what could or couldn't be depicted in the future, or what characters could or couldn't be used. Did you ever feel restricted in this way?
Not in any way that became a grudge I still carry. I actually don't remember anyone saying boo to us. It would have been nice to use the Silver Age Superboy, but we knew that would never happen so we didn't even ask. Other than that? It's not like we were burning to use Hex, so, no. People treated us pretty well, unless I've blacked some horrible trauma out.
You got to co-write the year long adventure that 1/2 the Legion had in the 20th century. How was that? Any difficulty in working in or working around the line-wide x-overs of the time (Final Night & Genesis)?
I don't think the crossovers presented much of a problem. Since we had two books, I wanted to set one in the 20th Century because that was how the earliest Legion stories went: they weren't in the 30th, they were from it. I could have written those for a long time but it turned out that I was the only person in the world who wanted that.
You worked with some really great artists on the Legion: Lee Moder, Scot Kolins, Ron Boyd; Jeffrey Moy, WC Carani. Moy seemed like an especially consistent artist to work with - I can't really confirm this, but he may have drawn more issues of Legion(naires) than anyone else, ever. (I guess this is more of a comment than a question).
Were you done telling Legion stories when you left the book? It wasn't a reboot by any means, but there seemed to be a bit of a creative housecleaning when Abnett/Lanning/Coipel came on.
I can only think my work must have gotten pretty stale by the end. Five years is a long time to write a comic book. It was a great experience to work with that group, and to learn to love the Legion.
And finally, I just have to sneak one in about Hourman:
I loved the Hourman series, and hated how the character was 'undone' a few years after your run. Were there any more Hourman stories in the tank when that series ended?
No. Freed from the responsibility of thinking up Hourman stories, I immediately stopped thinking up Hourman stories. We were lucky to get a two-issue warning before they cancelled us, so I was able to nudge the story toward the ending I'd been planning. If we'd been cancelled years later, the story probably would have been the same ending: Hourman leaves to become Amazo's mentor.