Got a real treat today, folks: an interview with Scott Beatty, comic book writer and walking DC Universe encyclopedia!
Codename: Scott Beatty
Specialty: Wordsmith, Plastic Raconteur
Base of Operations: www.scottbeatty.com
Bio: Scott Beatty has worked extensively for DC Comics since the mid ’90s. His latest work includes DC’s weekly series Countdown to Final Crisis.
PG: You’ve recently published a book on the history of DC action figures, the DC Action Figure Archive. When did you start this project, and why?
SB: Technically, I started it a little over ten years ago after leaving ToyFare magazine and finishing my first book, Batman: the Ultimate Guide to the Dark Knight, for DC Comics’ licensed book division. I pitched the concept then. There was interest, but the publisher was iffy. So I kept my hopes up and squirreled away every bit of DC toy info, cardbacks, etc. I came across for the next decade…mostly to legitimize my “collection” as a tax write-off. More business, less obsession.
You’ve written the “bio text” for several DC action figure lines, as well as several books detailing superhero biographies (such as The DC Comics Encyclopedia). With so many characters having complicated or bizarre origins (Orion, for instance), is it difficult to sum them up in 100 words or less?
Some more than others. You can probably summarize Batman or Superman in fifty words. The icons have simple, elegant back-stories. The stranger characters can be more convoluted…and that’s being kind. I just came off a run of thirty-six two-page supervillain origins for DC’s Countdown to Final Crisis weekly series. And I started at DC writing text for the Secret Files books and working on The DC Comics Encyclopedia a few years back. When you have to write in text-confined spaces, you find a way to make it work.
You were an editor at ToyFare back when the magazine first started. What was it like to be there for its humble beginnings, and how has it changed in the decade since?
Launching ToyFare was a lot of fun, mainly because our goal was to have fun with toy collecting. At the time–1996-1997–collecting just seemed to be driven mostly by profit. We wanted to hearken back to the toys of our youth and just remind people that toys were meant to be played with. That’s why our action figures, particularly Mego Spidey, were irreverent and sometimes more than a bit naughty. Heck, you wouldn’t have Robot Chicken if not for “Twisted Mego Theatre.” RC’s creators and staff have ToyFare roots. I just picked up the magazine at my local comics store the other day and, aside from up-sizing to magazine format from comic book scale when we started, the basic formula remains intact: all the latest toy news, pop culture collectibles spotlighted, plus Mego Spidey and the gang doing very bad things to one another in Megoville. Same as it ever was.
What do you think of Mattel’s efforts with the DC license so far?
Pitch-perfect. Love it love it love it. The figures can’t come out fast enough for me. As far as I’m concerned there’s only one thing missing: Legion of Super-Heroes. That and Son of Vulcan, a character I revamped on a while back. A SOV figure would make my day.
Let’s put you on the spot: rank your top three DC toy lines of all time and why.
3. DC MINIMATES (DC Direct/Art Asylum)
They’re cute, fun, and make great cake-toppers. I never want the line to end.
2. WORLD’S GREATEST SUPER-HEROES! (Mego)
I wouldn’t have the toy bug if not for these figures, truly ahead of their time. Great looking, even by today’s standards…with lots of play-value and durability. WGSH! defined my Christmas wish lists for several years.
1. JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED (Mattel)
I thought Kenner’s Super Powers was the cat’s meow until Mattel showed what a little ingenuity and some swappable body parts could mean for rendering just about the entire animated DCU in plastic. Nemesis? Blue Devil? Hawk and Dove? Keep right on making ’em, Mattel. Daddy like.