WV comic creator’s character gets small screen debut
A home-grown heroine is expanding her pursuit of supernatural bad guys from comics to cable in “Wynonna Earp,” set to premiere April 1 on SyFy.
The descendant of legendary lawman Wyatt Earp, Wynonna is the brainchild of West Virginia’s own Beau Smith, who has called Ceredo home throughout his 29 years in the comics industry as a writer and working in marketing for Image, DC, IDW Publishing and more.
As a child watching Western TV shows in the 1950s, Smith found the real history and the mythology surrounding Wyatt Earp and his brothers appealing.
“I always did little stories when I was a kid (with) Wyatt Earp fighting monsters,” he said.
The concept stuck with him but even after he broke into the comics business, Smith said he couldn’t find any takers. So in 1994, when he worked for Todd McFarlane Productions and Image Comics, Smith tweaked his pitch, making his wild West hero a heroine in contemporary times.
“To make it more sellable, I modernized it,” he said.
A marshal like her ancestor, Wynonna Earp works for a special division called the Black Badge, formed by President Teddy Roosevelt.
“She goes after paranormal fugitives and works with the paranormal witness protection program,” Smith said.
It wasn’t his specific goal to create a strong, female character.
“My goal has always been, with any character I write or create, is to first and foremost make them a compelling character,” Smith said.
The initial 1996 five-issue series, drawn by Joyce Chin and Pat Lee, pitted the title character against vampire drug dealers and a mummy mafia enforcer.
Later, the character moved to IDW Publishing, founded by Smith’s friend Ted Adams, who told him early on, “This screams to be a TV series.”
Smith said the Fox network actually optioned “Wynonna Earp” in 2008, but with Joss Whedon’s “Dollhouse” and J.J. Abrams’ “Fringe” also in the mix, he wasn’t surprised his creation ended up the odd (wo)man out.
IDW would go on to print the original graphic novel “Wynonna Earp: The Yeti Wars” and a limited series subtitled “Home on the Strange.” With the TV show about to debut, the company is putting out a new Wynonna Earp series with Smith writing and Lora Innes providing the art.
This series and the show feature a younger Wynonna, about 27, than the previous comics in which Smith wrote her in the range of 35 to 40. He describes the new comic as a “hybrid” with the show.
“I get to not only do all my original stuff, but I get to borrow some of the stuff they do with the TV show too,” he said.
Smith plans to explain why this version of Wynonna is brunette, unlike the blond bombshell from previous stories. The eventual change in hair color is “actually a major story point,” he said.
Issue 3, coming out in April, is set in Wayne County, W.Va. Smith said he likes to spotlight his home state in his work.
The major villain for the inaugural season of the show is Bobo Del Rey, who Earp faced back in that original Image series.
“He’s kind of like the Al Capone of paranormal crime,” Smith said.
In December, Smith and his wife Beth visited the Canadian set of the show and saw the settings and characters he created brought to life.
“It was unreal … to see Wynonna Earp plastered everywhere, and most of all to see Melanie Scrofano as Wynonna Earp, speaking the lines, to see Bobo Del Rey threatening the good guys,” he said.