In his spare time, Beau Smith wrestles the Yeti in the tundra; saves beautiful damsels from alligators in the bayou; or leaps from burning airplanes without a parachute because he needs entertainment on Sunday afternoons when the Chicago Bears aren't playing.
There is no doubt about it: He is the most interesting man in the world.
With a career in comic books stretching back for 30 years, Smith is finding widespread mainstream recognition for being the creator of Wynonna Earp. Originally published by Image Comics in the '90s, Earp was developed for the Syfy Channel by executive producer and showrunner Emily Andras last year. It quickly became a critics' favorite and a social-media sensation, often praised by LGBT communities for its positive portrayals of gay characters but also from horror fans needing a Buffy the Vampire Slayer fix. The show's mix of Western grit, grindhouse thrills, and sarcastic wit faithfully echoes the weird world of Smith's Earp comics, which he now writes for IDW, even collaborating with the stunningly beautiful and bad-ass Earp herself, Melanie Scrofano and Tim Rozon, who plays the charming scoundrel Doc Holliday on the show.
Mikey Sutton:DC Comics has just compiled Batman/Wildcat, your 1997 mini-series with Chuck Dixon, in a trade. How would you describe your experience writing that?
Beau Smith: In a way, I would compare it to the film, The Wild Bunch, in that it was the end of a dying breed. By that, I mean it was a time at DC Comics when creative work-for-hire freedom was very abundant. Editorially, Eddie Berganza and Scott Peterson gave us a blank check to create and write a series of adventures with the character Wildcat, within the Batman universe, with little restraint. I don’t mean that we got to go hog wild and destroy traditional character foundations, just the opposite; we got to build from the strong foundation that was laid before. We got to establish that Wildcat was a mentor and teacher of fighting skills to not only Batman, but Catwoman, Robin, Nightwing, and others behind the DC scenes. Chuck and I had such a great time with that freedom. We got to set up some of Batman’s sense of humor, very dry and “guy” humor. Not too much where it would go against character grain and stick out like loud socks with shorts, but natural and fitting the character through all the decades. Chuck and I got to do our usual of writing each other into corners to see how the other would get out of it. That’s always fun, and it adds so much to the story that goes beyond the story outline. The Catwoman/Wildcat story was the most fun for me; it has to be the craziest “rom-com superhero-date story ever." On one hand, it’s a very dark crime heist story; it’s interwoven with this twisted May/December flirtatious date, then toss in some heavy duty violence, along with a bad guy sibling rivalry that is truly scary. It’s what you get when you let me and Chuck on a run with a very long leash.
M:Any chance of your Black Terror book with Dixon being reissued?
B: I sure hope so. Not a month goes by without myself, Chuck Dixon or Dan Brereton talking about it. IDW Publishing would love to do it and has attempted to a few times; the problem lies within finding the film for the book. After Eclipse Comics was sold to Todd McFarlane, the film has been hard to trace down. Todd never had the film in his hands; there were rumors that it was sold, along with some other film to a Roger Broughton in Canada, before Eclipse shut down. No one has heard from him to my knowledge. I’ve contacted Todd before and talked to him about IDW republishing The Black Terror as a trade paperback; he was good with it, but again, no film. Not being a tech whiz, I don’t know how good printing would be with a painted book without the original film. It was published back in 1989; things have changed a lot since then. What hasn’t changed is the story. I truly believe, and I am not bragging here, The Black Terror was ahead of its time and still stands up today. I will go as far as to say it’s on a Watchmen level as far as a superhero crime story goes. I think if reprinted, others would agree.
M:What is your favorite interpretation of Batman outside of the comic books?
B: My favorite Batman is the animated one. From the first Batman series in the '90s to The Brave And The Bold and Justice League Unlimited. Those are the Batman I enjoy the most. I loved the look and the feel, the dialogue and the characters. It was fun without being slapstick and it was dark without making me wanna slit my own wrists. Some really brilliant stuff.
M:With Wynonna Earp entering its third season on Syfy in 2018, you're no stranger to seeing your creations venturing beyond the world of comics. How would you describe the year you've had, seeing Earp on global television and developing a massive audience she never had before?
B: Far beyond what I could ever deserve or earn. If I got what I deserve I’d be in a 6' X 9' jail cell. If I got what I earned, well, that would mean I had to have worked at some point, and writing comic books has never been work for me; it’s a love affair. The biggest reward for me is seeing the faith that Ted Adams, CEO of IDW, has always had in Wynonna Earp and me, come to fruition in a very high quality, emotional and funny TV series that he always knew it could be. I’m very thankful for the new family that I have adopted and that has adopted me, the cast, the crew and the creative folks behind Wynonna Earp the TV Series. I truly mean we have become family, from Melanie Scrofano, Tim Rozon, Dominque Chalkley-Provost, Shamier Anderson, Kathrine Barrel, Kate Drummond, Michael Eklund, and of course, showrunner and writer, Emily Andras, who "got" the Wynonna Earp that I created and gave her to the world. This has been a very unique experience, one that I will never forget and always hold close to my black, sin-filled heart. These people have become my family and my family’s family. Long live Canada! This kind of goodness doesn’t usually happen to someone who has been writing comic books for 30 years. This happens to a 25-year-old that is riding the rocket of something brand new, not a character that has been around for 20 years. Ya know what? This is the way it was meant to be, and I thank God it turned out that way. If this would’ve happened to 25-year-old Beau Smith, there’d been some major stupid stuff on my criminal record.
M: Has the TV show influenced your comic books about her? In what way?
B: Both. For me, it’s been a chance to hybrid the original property into something that not only the comic book world can enjoy, but the whole wide world. I thank Emily Andras for her kindness and generous ways in making that happen. We have both borrowed from another to better the character and the world of Wynonna Earp. Who gets the reward of that? The readers and the viewers, along with Emily and I in the satisfaction that we have teamed up to entertain a lot of people. The fandom of Wynonna Earp grows every day; there are more and more “Earpers” that join our party every week. We love it, and we love them. This hybrid that we have created has taken the foundation and tradition of Wynonna Earp, and we’ve built upon it a tower of entertainment that we hope everyone can enjoy and relate to.
M: Wynonna Earp has developed a huge following with LGBT communities. Was that something you ever expected?
B: Nope. Not expected, but truly have embraced, because my purpose with everything I write is not to limit it to who is reading it. To me, there are only readers and non-readers. I want everyone to read Wynonna Earp and the other books I do. I, in turn, want those readers to get other non-readers to join in my little book club and make it a universal book club. In the next few years, if we find out there is life on other planets, then my goal is to get them to read Wynonna Earp as well…as long as they have tentacles to hold the book and at least one to a million eyeballs to read it.
M: You've now co-written comic books with stars Melanie Scrofano and Tim Rozon. How did that come out and what were those experiences like?
B: It was something that might have been Halloween turn into Christmas. The gifts came pouring in as we learned to write together. Melanie brought her wicked sense of humor and intelligent dialogue; Tim laid on the table his keen sense of story telling and knowledge of all characters. Both Tim and Mel brought in great offerings to Wynonna Earp that no other writer could. They brought a sense of character and love for the property. Our Facetime plotting sessions were crazy, unique and insane, and yet emotional in the fact that we had become family. A better experience I could not ask for. Both of these fine young people are actors "and" writers. They are different, yet the same with respect to the character. I couldn’t have written this script any better for myself. We all came out winning on many different levels.
M: How did it feel visiting the set of Wynonna Earp knowing that they would've never existed without you?
B: Like entering Westworld with out anyone trying to kill, or deceive you. Some folks wanna ago to Disney World; not me, keep your funny talking mouse, his Goofy friends and grouchy Duck. I’d rather be walking and talking with characters I created and seeing everything I dreamed about for 20 years come to life. I got to go to Calgary, Alberta, with my family to meet my “other” family….my Wynonna Earp family. As far as would they have existed without me? Well, in some technical way, that’s true, but hardly the biggest thing, without people like Ted Adams and the thousands of other folks that bought that first issue of Wynonna Earp, without Jim Lee, and all the other creative people with and behind Wynonna Earp, none of this would’ve ever happened. Not a day goes by that I am not amazed that it is all happening. I feel that way every time a comic book comes out with my name on it. After 30 years, it’s still so hard for me to believe. It’s like I’m at a wonderful party waiting for someone to figure out that I don’t belong and boot me out. “You’re not pretty enough, you’re not smart enough, you’re not young enough to be here…OUT!” That’s what I keep thinking in my mind should happen [laughs].
M:Because you created Wynonna Earp, everyone on the TV series is employed thanks to you. In other words, you're a job creator. Ever consider running for president?
B: The only thing I should be running for or from is the law for all the crimes I’ve committed in my creative life. I would never want the responsibility of being President. I’m a soldier, not an officer.
M:You recently wrote an article about depowered superheroes, which can be used to describe Wynonna Earp herself. She's a woman with a gun. Do you find it more exciting to write a character like that, who has to generate creative ways of getting out of situations?
B: Personally and creatively, yes, I do. Can I write anything or anyone regardless of powers and genre, yes to that, too. First thing always, I wanna write a character that folks like and relate to. I want them to have an emotional investment in my characters; doesn’t matter if they are the lead character or a one-panel supporting character, they gotta like them. The bad guy, has to be liked or relatable on some level; they have to. The story has to be compelling. The conflict or event situation is secondary; if they don’t care about the character then the event or conflict doesn’t matter. The cart should never come before the horse. That character has to bring something interesting to the dinner table; if they don’t, then what’s to eat? Interesting is the food; I like to burp, and I like to fart (There, I said it.) Without food, I don’t get to do either.
M: Would Wynonna Earp date Guy Gardner?
B: Yup! Why? Because that would be a wrong move, it’d be trouble, and Wynonna Earp makes wrong and troubling moves on occasion. Would it be fun, oh, hell yes! So there’s the story…FUN!
M:You have decades of experience in marketing. Marvel Comics is in a quicksand of stagnant sales right now. How would you rescue them, given the chance?
B: Same thing I’d like to do for DC Comics as well. BBTF. (Bring Back The Fun.) Not slapstick, not over the top, but fun as in every day humanistic fun. Even if they are not human, they should still be fun. You can’t know tragedy without knowing fun and love first. Right now, we have a lot of tragedy, but not the fun. It’s like drinking beer without the alcohol. It’s not a hard thing to do. One panel of having Robin showing Batman how to use shuffle on his iPhone music would be the one scene everyone would love. It’s the one readers would remember, not so much the millionth villain he punched in the nose. Let us see Iron Man complain about eating a big steak and fitting into his suit, where the Hulk would just reach over, grab the steak, eat it and say “Hulk solve problem, puny Tin Man.” It’s not brain surgery, but it’s a start.
M: What are some of the new projects you have planned in the near future?
B: I wanna do more Wynonna Earp. Lots of ground still yet to cover, especially why did she eventually turn her hair to blonde? I am DYING to do more of Cobb. I have so much planned for that. I have a B’Wana Beast story line that I think many people would enjoy, one that would not only explain the character, but define him as well. Of course, I’d love to return to Wildcat and Guy Gardner - they are my buddies. We still have some stories to tell. In 30 years, the only trail I haven’t walked is that of Marvel Comics. They are the only publisher I haven’t written for yet. They were what brought me into comics and yet, I haven’t had my dance yet. Maybe Sub-Mariner and I will get to go swimming yet.
M: Any new developments on Cobb as a TV show that you can discuss?
B: Can’t talk about this one right now.
M:Pineapples on pizza. Delicious or blasphemy?
B: Nasty. I’m a very plain Jane kinda eater.
(Special thanks to Dan Hickman and Alex Fuentebella for technical assistance. For questions, especially media inquiries, Mikey Sutton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)