Barry Kitson Interview

Barry Kitson has illustrated such books as DC's L.E.G.I.O.N. , Empire, and JSA: Strange Adventures. This month, he re-teams with Empire co-creator Mark Waid for DC's Legion of Super-Heroes. Worlds of Westfield Content Editor Roger Ash recently spoke with Kitson about his upcoming work on Legion.

Barry Kitson has illustrated such books as DC's L.E.G.I.O.N. , Empire, and JSA: Strange Adventures. This month, he re-teams with Empire co-creator Mark Waid for DC's Legion of Super-Heroes. Worlds of Westfield Content Editor Roger Ash recently spoke with Kitson about his upcoming work on Legion.

Westfield: What was there about this project that appealed to you?

Barry Kitson: Many things really. I've always been a huge Legion fan, even as a toddler. Legion was my favorite DC book. Obviously, working with Mark again and just having a title that I could feel at home with which I had a long time ago with L.E.G.I.O.N. I knew most of the fans who were writing in through the letter columns and knew all the characters so well. Going back to something like that was too good of an offer to miss.

Westfield: Is this a complete reboot of the series or are you following what's gone before?

Kitson: I knew you were going to ask that question. [laughter] I've always understood reboot meant you were wiping out past continuity, which we're not. But we are going off in a completely different direction.

Westfield: Are you following on what's gone immediately before or going back and forming a new Legion?

Kitson: [laughs] Yes and no. It's incredibly hard to explain without you actually reading the story, which I'm not allowed to give away. It will follow on immediately from what happens in the Teen Titans/Legion crossover. From there on in, don't assume you know anything.

Westfield: From DC's description for the book, this sounds like a different way to approach the Legion. How did this come about and what challenges does it present?

Kitson: The idea came about when Mark and I were offered the Legion. We decided the first thing we needed to do was decide what their reason for being was. We didn't like the idea of the United Planets basically relying on a bunch of teenagers and choosing to do that. We decided what the Legion's reason for being together was, which I don't know if I'm allowed to tell you, and then we just worked from there which made everything different. Everything fell into place because it gave us a reason for reverting to all the original code names they had, which will be explained in the story as well. We're almost doing a retro-future take on it. We've gone back to the old code names, but everything is different. So we're kind of going back and forward at the same time. Have I confused you yet?

Westfield: (laughs) Just a bit. [laughter] I know you can't give too much away, but what can people look forward to in the book?

Kitson: It's going to be very much character driven. We're going to be focusing a lot more on the Legionnaires; who they are and their feelings about things. Probably less of the big sci-fi plots that they've had recently. Plenty of super-hero action obviously, and a lot of the kind of things that we did with Empire. We're surprising people. Getting away from the feeling that everybody who knows Legion knows what Legion's about. We want to keep surprising people issue by issue.

It takes place in an apparently utopian future and the Legion are against ennui. Utopian is fine, but then if everybody settles for it, nothing happens. The Legion is definitely a force for change. They're not satisfied with things just being ok. No matter how utopian things are, things can always be better for somebody.

Westfield: As you said, you're re-teaming with writer Mark Waid on this. How do you two work together and how much input do you have in the final story?

Kitson: We discuss things at great length before we go into anything. Sort of hit ideas backwards and forwards. Then, normally, Mark will write the plot and I will work from plot and it will go back to him for dialogue. And it will keep changing as we move along so there isn't a finished article until right at the end. Slightly different in the case of issue #1 because of the nature of things. That was actually done full script. There were still one or two things that we changed after the full script was written, but it's much less of an evolving thing than we usually do.

Westfield: You can't use reference photos for future cities, vehicles, and such. How do you go about coming up with designs for them?

Kitson: A lot of it comes from the premise that we're working from. We started with this premise about the future; how technically advanced it was, and the sort of lives most people would be living. Then things kind of come from that. In issue 1, you'll see a city from the 23rd century and the 31st century. By looking at the two, you can kind of work out how things have gone between the two eras. It's much less chaotic than life is at the moment, design wise. Very streamlined I would say.

Westfield: Do you have any other projects you're working on you'd like to mention?

Kitson: I haven't got time to work on anything else at all at the moment. We're doing 30 pages a month. Because of the change of direction we're taking, so many things needed to be redesigned. Virtually all the costumes are completely different. But there are echoes of what people have seen before. Hopefully, the characters will be recognizable, but none of the designs are exactly the same. You've also got to design every other character who's in it as well. This is pretty much taken every waking minute for the last few months.

Westfield: Any closing comments?

Kitson: What we hope to do is make it very fresh again and try and recapture a lot of the things about it that we loved. I think it's well known what a fan of the Legion Mark is. We're really pleased that Paul Levitz likes our ideas. We're just trying to get back some of the old excitement. I'm fully prepared that we'll undoubtedly upset some long-term Legion fans, because any change is understandably upsetting. Hopefully, if they give it a try, and stick with it for a few months, they might see our hearts are in the right place.