With veteran writer Len Wein’s run on "Justice League of America" coming to close yesterday with the end of his Royal Flush arc, CBR News checked in with incoming writer James Robinson to discuss his roster, which was recently revealed in promotional spots in the pages of DC Comics’ September titles.
Robinson has been writing "Superman" for the last year, but the Man of Steel has been off doing his ‘leaping tall buildings’ thing in "World of New Krypton," a 12-issue miniseries Robinson is also co-writing with Greg Rucka ("Action Comics," "Detective Comics").
In Superman’s absence, Mon-El and Guardian have been protecting Metropolis from evil-doers - and doing a fine job of it - but good enough to earn membership into the World’s Greatest Heroes Team? Robinson shares details on why the Daxamite explorer and the Science Police officer made the grade, as well as, who’s in and who’s out from those currently on the Justice League's roster and those appearing in his limited series, "Justice League: Cry for Justice."
Robinson, who won an Eisner Award for his work on "Starman" in the 1990s, also talks about the graduation of Teen Titans Dick Grayson, Donna Troy, Cyborg and Starfire, the work of his collaborator, superstar artist Mark Bagley ("Trinity") and an upcoming crossover with Tony Bedard’s "R.E.B.E.L.S."
So, James, will the formation of your JLA roster start to take shape in your current ongoing miniseries, "Justice League: Cry for Justice"?
Elements of "Cry for Justice," plot points, fall right into "Justice League of America." As you’ll see in the first issue, "Justice League of America" #38, I basically inherit the old team. That’s already in the aftermath of "Cry for Justice." And then, we have the "Blackest Night" issues in #39 and #40. And then it’s only after that’s done, in issue #41 in January, where there’s a six-part arc where you’ll see the team come together and form from the various places – the team from "Cry for Justice," the team that’s in the book at the moment and then obviously some of the new characters, like Donna, Batman and Mon-El. That all leads into a crossover with "R.E.B.E.L.S." at the end of those six issues, in #45 and #46.
Let’s speak about those three characters. What do you see are the differences and perhaps similarities between the classic Trinity of Superman, Batman and Robin and - let’s call them Trinity 2.0 – Mon-El, Dick Grayson and Donna Troy.
I think one of the differences is that Mon-El is the least comfortable in the situation which he is in, which is part of the World’s Greatest Team. Whereas, for Superman, it’s a role he takes on very naturally.
With Dick’s involvement with the Justice League, he’s going to be constantly torn between being with the team and wanting to get back to Gotham and everything there.
And with Donna Troy, you’re going to see her stepping up and evolving into her own person over the course of the first year of the book, and not being sort of Wonder Woman Lite. She’s going to have her own dynamic personality and she’s going to be a much more exciting and physical character than we’ve perhaps seen her in the past.
Did you get kind of a fanboy chill when you were assembling your JLA roster? (That’s a game just about every kid that grew up reading DC Comics must have played out in their head at one point or another.) And how did you decide on who to include and exclude from the final roster?
Yes, of course, but there’s something that [DCU Executive Editor] Dan [DiDio] said, I think, online or somewhere, which is that, the team is very big. And actually, as he pointed out, the classic Justice League team that Len Wein wrote many, many years ago, had quite a large cast, as well, but not every single character was in every single story. So it’s going to have a lot more of that where characters come and characters go. It isn’t going to be crammed to the rafters with characters constantly. At the same time, what I want the book to be is a book that is very much right in the heart of the DC Universe. So it’s going to have a lot of characters appearing when they need to appear. For instance, if someone needs medical help then, of course, Doctor Mid-Nite will appear. I can potentially see a scene, down the line, where they’ll need the advice of Cave Carson. It’s going to be a book that has lots of interesting guest stars, and some noteworthy ones, as well as, this team of core characters.
It’s a dream because I get to enjoy all the different characters of the DC Universe and play with them, but also I don’t want this book to be off in its own little world. I think the Justice League of America should be constantly referring to what’s going on in other books. So even though Wonder Woman isn’t on the team, although she will be appearing in #41, what’s going on her life will be referenced. In a sense, the events of the Justice League of America are unfolding around the adventures of all the heroes of the DC Universe.
Does the fact that Superman, Bruce Wayne and Wonder Woman aren’t on the team as part of that core group allow you to move along in the book at your own pace a bit easier, since you won’t be so tied to the major events of DCU?
No, like I said, I actually like that aspect. Obviously, at some point, Superman is going to come back. And when he is, he’ll be back in the Justice League and the events in the "Superman" book will reflect accordingly in the "Justice League of America" book.
In "Cry for Justice," you’ve been using Oliver Queen and Hal Jordan as the central figures. And you’ve been using another Silver Age icon in Ray Palmer too. Did you find a nice mix between those three, and if so, is that why you’ve kept them on as major players in your lineup?
Yes, I did. People either love or hate, it seems, my depiction of those guys. I do write them with lots of banter and making fun of each other, and all of that. And Green Arrow is going to be a big part of the DC Universe next year. And knowing what’s ahead for him, it’s exciting planning out how the events in his life will play out in "Justice League of America" and how that reflects on Hal, Ray Palmer and Dinah and the other characters who are around him.
There are couple of significant graduates from the Teen Titans in Cyborg and Starfire. Why are those two, in particular, ready for "prime time?"
They’re old enough now, certainly [laughs]. They’ve paid their dues, and I think the way that I introduce them and fold them into the team is fun. And it really showcases their abilities and personalities. I also think people will enjoy seeing the sparks between Starfire and Dick Grayson again. And seeing Vic Stone/Cyborg rise to the occasion and become more and more, a real key JLAer as his arc in the story unfolds will be fun too.
Guardian, like Mon-El, is someone you’ve worked with lately and have been given a chance to get to know as a character. Before you had him in "Superman," would you have ever considered him as a potential JLAer?
Before I put him in the "Superman" book? Probably not. But I enjoy writing him. I like that he’s this guy who basically likes giving orders. He’s tough, he doesn’t compromise and he isn’t always the most pleasant guy, but actually he has this conflict within him where he’s worried he doesn’t have a soul, that his daughter doesn’t have a soul, and that he is just a godless clone. So there is that duality of aspects to him that I enjoy playing with and which you’ll see as the book unfolds.
Of the active roster that Len Wein’s been using of late, up until today, only Doctor Light is featured in the preview art we’ve seen from Mark Bagley. We don’t see Firestorm. We don’t see Vixen. So what is it about Kimiyo that you liked enough to keep her active?
Firestorm will probably be coming back at some point. It’s just that I felt that, after the events of "Blackest Night," he maybe needed some time away. And he just wasn’t a character that called to me at the moment. With regards to Vixen, you’ll see that she has a definite plan and goal in #41. It’s revealed that she leaves for a specific purpose. And that purpose will fold back into the Justice League and into the DC Universe in the future.
As for Doctor Light, I like the character. I began writing her in "Superman" because she works at S.T.A.R. Labs in Metropolis. And as you’ll see after her confrontation with Arthur Light Doctor Light in "Blackest Night," one of the things I like about her is she’s painted as this sort of hard-assed Asian woman, which I find to be a little bit of a cliché. This sort of emotionless, professional Asian woman, you know? So I want to show the reason why she has that personality and I try to get into that character too and make her less of a one-note character. She is more than her powers and the color of her skin. Let’s make her more of a real person. She’s a mother too, which is something that no one ever really picks up. She has two kids so I want to deal with the fact she’s a superhero while sort of juggling her professional career and her children and the sacrifices that are made along the way because of that.
Did you even consider including Plastic Man?
Well Plastic Man, you’ll see there’s a reason he won’t be in the book. But one of the things that I’ve recently been re-reading and re-falling in love with is Joe Kelly’s run on "JLA" and "Justice League Elite," which I think is absolutely excellent. It is sort of the forgotten little gem of the recent times of the Justice League. And his handling of Plastic Man, at times, was really fantastic, so when, eventually, we see Plastic Man again, and we will, I’ll definitely be drawing influence from Joe Kelly’s excellent work with that character.
The last member featured in the teaser art is Congo Bill. I am thrilled he’s there but where’s Starman Mikaal Tomas?
Starman’s going to be around. Honestly, the team was just too big. Mikaal Tomas is going to come and go. He’ll be one of the guest stars in the supporting cast. I just didn’t feel like I needed both of them in this team.
And everyone likes gorillas. I do. And also, I like the idea that Congo Bill, if you think about it, from when he was first a hunter in Africa, he’s about 100 years old. He’s a man with a huge fountain of experience and wisdom. And I love the idea that the wisest and most experienced member of the team is a gigantic, magical, golden gorilla. That’s just fun comic books, if you ask me. And I know people have been a bit negative about it all online with Congo Bill being on the team and that’s it’s a terrible idea, but I think it’s what comics should be. It’s that incongruous element that makes it fun.
Where’s the speedster? Isn’t there always a home for a Flash in the JLA, especially when there are so many running around DCU these days thanks to "Flash: Rebirth"?
There will be. Yes. I’m talking to Geoff [Johns] about which one it will be. I just have to make sure that everyone at DC is happy with the choice. But there’s a definitely one I have in mind, and I think you’ll all find it an interesting choice.
You sound like you have some real long-term plans for this book. How far along do you have it mapped out?
Well, I could always get kicked off if I do a bad job. That’s obviously a fact of life, but if I’m not asked to leave, I’m not planning on going any time soon. Because I know what’s coming ahead for the DC Universe and for the Justice League world within that universe, there’s just a lot of fun stuff coming up. I have plans for the team. I have a definite direction I want to take this book. I want to keep it fun.
I’m also lucky that I have Mark Bagley as my artist because A) he can do a monthly book and B) we’ve been talking about the possibly of doing the annual too so it feels like the old Jack Kirby/Stan Lee thing when they would do "Fantastic Four" and then they would also do the annual. It just felt like a part of one big event. We’d like to do that, so hopefully we’ll be giving the readers what they want.
"Justice League of America" #38 goes on sale October 21, featuring art and cover by Mark Bagley with a variant cover by Andy Kubert.