Beau Smith is an American comic book writer and columnist, best known for his work for DC Comics, Image Comics, IDW Publishing and as vice president of marketing for Eclipse Comics.
A lifelong resident of West Virginia, Smith is a graduate of Marshall University in journalism. Smith got his start in the comics field as a letterhack, having written over 400 letters to various comics, and actually was solicited to send letters based on early preview copies. Smith's first professional comics writing job was with Pacific Comics, but the company went out of business prior to publishing the story.
Beau Smith on Wynonna Earp
“It’s more than I deserve,” said Wynonna Earp creator Beau Smith when Bleeding Cool visited the set of the television series last December. Smith, a 25+ year veteran of comics has written everything from Wolverine to a well-loved run on Guy Gardner: Warrior. He recalled the thrill of “getting to put words in Superman’s mouth” and always thinks, “Any day they’re going to catch me and not let me do it anymore.”
But Smith's creation, Wynonna Earp premieres on Syfy this Friday and he couldn't be more thrilled with what's become of a character he's written off and on since the late 1990s. He thanked IDW Entertainment CEO Ted Adams for believing the character would make for great television as far back as their days together at Wildstorm Entertainment. “Ted’s believed in it from day one,” Smith said. “He’s [been] there at the O.K. Coral [with me].”
As Smith mentioned at WonderCon over the weekend, the concept began as idea he played with since he was a child: Wyatt Earp battling monsters. But during out visit last December, Smith recalled that even before the idea brewed in his mind, he loved watching watching westerns on television. His favorite series was The Riflemanstarring Chuck Connors as a widowed rancher and father ever ready with a Winchester 1892 rifle. Smith recalled the show — initially developed by Sam Peckinpah — as violent for the period, “but he always explained [the violence] to his son.”
Smith also read about the period voraciously. And out of all the tales of the untamed west, the Earp brothers always stood out to him. “I’m the oldest of three [brothers] and we played, I always played Wyatt even if I was the oldest,” he said.
The fascination with the west stayed with him through college and his early days in comics. By the 1990s, it finally began to crystallize, but he realized “Monsters in the Old West wasn’t the right setting.”
After the heyday of western comics in the 1950s, setting a series in that era became a hard sell — particularly during the para-militaristic focus of many ‘90s comics. Realizing that he would have to use a contemporary setting, he created a completely fictional lineage for Earp; who was childless in real life.
He also decided this character would be a U.S. Marshal for the wide jurisdiction and their mandate to hunt fugitives. “But she hunts paranormal fugitives,” he said. With that came the notion of the Black Badge Division. “Just because you’re a werewolf doesn’t mean you won’t sell drugs or cheat on your taxes,” he explained. The division would be tasked with dealing with crimes perpetrated by the most unusual of offenders.
And into that world came Wynonna Earp. While he did not set out to create a female character as such — he likened it to the surprise of learning your child's gender — he wanted the character to have an immediate appeal. “If a character is likable, the situation they’re put in is secondary,” he said. “If you like Wynonna Earp, you’ll stand by her if she’s fighting a werewolf or Galactus.”
The first miniseries featured art by Joyce Chin and Pat Lee, who stepped in for the final two issues. Smith recalled he only had two weeks to complete the art work, but managed deliver the pages on time. “He was a trooper,” Smith said. “And it began a life-long partnership and friendship.”
“When you write something and look back on it, you think ‘oh, I should’ve done this or I should’ve done that,” he said of Wynonna's initial run. “But the series has always been fun.”
Smith always wrote Wynonna older; closer to age forty. But the television series reinvented her as younger and greener, an area of her life Smith never focused on previously. He called it “a gift” from show runner Emily Andras to view Wynonna from this prism. “It was a challenge and a privilege at the same time,” he said.
His new Wynonna Earp comic book, which began in February, is set around the same time period as the show and features Agent Dolls and Doc Holiday from the upcoming television series. He called adding the characters a “silent” collaboration as the production would send him auditions tapes and eventually dailies and rough cuts of episodes so he could keep abreast of the show and, ultimately, incorporate the sound of the actors into his work. “It’s really helped me out writing this [new] series,” he said. “When I’m writing Wynonna, I can see Melanie [Scrofano] saying it.” That sense also extended to Tim Rozon's Holiday and Shamier Anderson's Dolls.
“I’m having fun with this. I’m getting to play with Emily’s toys,” he added. “In the new series, I’m trying to mix the feel of the television show and the humor with some of the serious stuff they run across.”
Unlike his earlier stories, where Wynonna was more of an authority figure like Dolls, Smith said these earlier tales have her still finding her footing. “She sometimes makes mistakes, but it all leads to up how she becomes the best at what she does,” he said.
Earlier in the day of our visit, Smith toured the production office and some of the standing sets, including the Purgatory Police Department and the Earp homestead. “It was great this morning at the production office and seeing how much work goes into it, but seeing Wynonna Earp’s truck, it’s still hard for me to believe,” he said. “Would Neil Gaiman act like this? He’s a lot smarter than me,” he joked. “So I’ll just be excited.”
He recalled a San Diego Comic-Con during the years Eclipse Comics was still in business. Gaiman was writing Miracleman, but finding it tough to get paid as the company's finances were in shambles. Smith was the only person Gaiman would talk to, but still feared the writer would eventually chew him out. “He got in the elevator [I was in] and said, ‘Don’t fret about it. That’s why we have lawyers.’ What a gentleman he always was. If only I could be that eloquent and a gentleman with that head of hair.”
Reflecting on the incident — and the day on the set of a show based on his creation — Smith laughed and said, “Working in comics is great.”
- He makes a cameo appearance in the episode, Forever Mine Nevermind.