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As just announced at FanExpo Canada, DC Comics is launching a brand new version of the Justice League of America in 2013! Written by Justice League's Geoff Johns, and pencilled by Batman: The Dark Knight's David Finch, the title brings together a disparate group of heroes under the leadership of Steve Trevor to fight the Secret Society of Super Villains. We had a chance to sit down and talk with Geoff Johns and David Finch about the title - which will be running side by side with Justice League - in advance of the reveal, and found out more about the line-up (hey, there's Vibe and Stargirl!), how they come together, and why this might be the start of something even bigger:
MTV Geek: Geoff, David, thanks for chatting... Other than David doing covers, this is the first time you two have worked together, right?
Geoff Johns: Yeah, I’m super excited about that!
David Finch: I’ve been wanting to work with him for a long time.
GJ: I think I met you at Toronto, it must of been seven years ago or something.
DF: I remember, we were walking back from the convention.
GJ: We were talking about working on something together someday, and lucky seven years later, we’re doing it!
Geek: So then how did this end up being the right project? Why Justice League of America?
GJ: I think they knew we wanted to work together on something, we were talking about the book, and I think David, they approached you about doing a book like this?
DF: I really wanted to work with you, so that was really the only criteria. [Laughs] When I heard about the book, I was very excited, and I’ve loved everything I’ve seen so far. It’s just so cool.
Geek: I’m pretty excited about the roster for the team, but before we get to that, what’s the idea of the book? Why do they get together?
GJ: The idea of why the JLA forms, and what it is, and what it’s in reaction to... It kind of spins out of Justice League #12; what happens in that, and then subsequent issues, because JLA comes out next year some time. But the book itself is a group of heroes that aren’t necessarily coming together because they want to be together... They’ve been selected specifically. They all want, or need something that Steve Trevor, and the other person behind the scenes that’s in charge of this team can provide.
The first arc is going to deal with something they learn is called The Secret Society of Super-Villains.
Geek: I’m curious, how specific is the “Of America” part of the title?
GJ: It’s specific because its run by A.R.G.U.S. They have a team they feel they can now control. Whether or not that ends up being the case is up for debate.
Geek: From your side of things, how did this team come together?
GJ: We talked about characters that were League members, like Green Arrow and Hawkman that felt like they belonged... Characters that were unexpected, like Vibe and Catwoman. Obviously, Martian Manhunter is a big piece of it, and we hinted about this team back in Justice League #8, both with Green Arrow, Martian Manhunter, and Steve Trevor. And Katana was a new character. Stargirl is coming back, obviously a character that I have a huge affinity for. And then the new Green Lantern.
DF: For me, it was much more important to know who the characters were in their head, and be able to talk to Geoff about where the characters are coming from, and what they’re about. I know from my one experience drawing this kind of book that it makes all the difference for me when I can believe in the characters as people.
Geek: Is there anything different for you about drawing a team book like this, versus a solo book like Dark Knight?
DF: Any solo book I’ve ever done has been a Batman-ish kind of book. I feel I’m not so much going from multiple characters from a single character, so much as something that’s a little more real world, and brighter, and broad, to something that’s dark, angry... Already in the first couple of pictures I’ve done for this one, I feel like I’m enjoying it a lot more than Batman, which is killing me! I love being able to draw a character like Batman, but it’s so great to draw Stargirl, who’s smiling... A range of colorful people. It’s a lot more muscles to flex, I guess.
GJ: The characters that are selected like Stargirl, and Vibe, and Green Arrow, they have a lot of personality. If you remember the first couple of issues of Justice League, with their larger than life personalities, and the development... This takes it to the fifteenth degree, because we’re dealing with characters that are... Like, you don’t know where Vibe is coming from. He’s recruited to the JLA by his older brother, and he says, “Why would they want me? I’m just this kid from Detroit. I’ve stopped three liquor store robberies, and one was by mistake.” His brother looks at him and says, “Maybe they see potential in you that you and I don’t see.” And he’s like, “Thanks a lot.”
So you get these weird characters that are unexpected, and they’re thrust into the forefront of Justice League of America... You’ll see why they’re selected, and why this team is going to give the real Justice League a run for its money; because the relationships in this team are going to be incredibly significant. There’s going to be a real learning curve with all the teams, but has the benefit of a true leader in Steve Trevor. Steve Trevor has a heart and soul that’s going to bring these characters that, on first glance, might not ever gel - what does Stargirl ever have in common with Catwoman? How’s that going to work?
Geek: It’s also probably going to be tough for Steve to lead since he died in Justice League #11, right?
GJ: [Laughs] Exactly.
Geek: Let’s talk about the characters a bit... I think I was the most excited to see Stargirl coming back, and you writing her again. What’s the take on her? Is this the same Courtney Whitmore we know and love?
GJ: Yeah, it is! She’s slightly different... She is the opposite of Lindsay Lohan and Amanda Bynes. She is this real, All-American, wholesome superhero from Hollywood that is a phenomenon out in Los Angeles. She got her start on Hollywood Boulevard, she is incredibly altruistic, and idealistic. She is probably the one hero that goes against everything that the Paris Hilton generation is. That’s where she comes from, so she brings a different voice, a different perspective to the team.
She’s younger, probably seventeen or eighteen years old. She’s very exuberant, positive, optimistic... You’ll learn a little bit more about her background and why she became Stargirl, and how she’s connected to another superhero named Starman... Pat Duggan will be in there. It’s very true to the original origins of Stargirl, but I think she’s even more relevant now. And I love that if she has an article on TMZ? It’s only positive.
Geek: On the other end of the spectrum, the character I was most surprised to see in there was Catwoman. How does she end up in the mix?
GJ: Catwoman is a very different perspective, and is brought in for a very different reason. She stays because they have something that she wants... And it’s not at all what you’d expect. It’s not a big diamond, it’s not a get out of jail free card, it’s something she’s been searching for that’s going to lead to a whole exploration of a side of Selina Kyle we haven’t yet seen.
But she is going to have a lot of fun on the team, she is going to be the Veronica to Stargirl’s Betty, if you will, and she has a new dynamic because we haven’t really seen her interact much with all these characters. Some of them not at all, like Vibe, and Stargirl... There’s not a lot of interaction between her and Martian Manhunter, and I don’t think she’s ever interacted with Steve Trevor that I can remember. Catwoman has a very different reason for being on the team.
Geek: Who’s the Archie then? Is Martian Manhunter the Archie stuck in the middle of Catwoman’s Veronica, and Stargirl’s Betty?
GJ: Oh no, Martian Manhunter isn’t the Archie. You saw how David draws Martian Manhunter, he’s as imposing as they come. If there’s an Archie, it’s probably Steve. And Reggie is definitely Oliver Queen.
Geek: I’m trying to figure out who’s Jughead then.
GJ: That’s Vibe. That’s easy. [Laughs] We could do this all day, I mean, Hawkman’s Moose...
Geek: [Laughs] Okay, so what can you tell us about where you going to be sending these guys in the first couple of issues?
GJ: It’s funny, the book feels very much like JSA, because there’s a lot of character interaction, a lot of characters that aren’t necessarily the A-List, which is always really fun to work with... I love working with non A-List characters. And having David draw those, they become A-List. So if you look at David’s art, and this has influenced the book tremendously, he has this great power to his figures, this very great superhero art...
But if you look at The Dark Knight, he also has these fantastic emotions, and getting emotion out of the characters, really seeing these characters on a journey together; the book is going to have a tone that is JSA, the original Ostrander Suicide Squad, which was very character driven, and again utilized characters we don’t necessarily see together a lot. Those are the two biggest influences on where the book is going.
And then there’s things we’re going to do, like Martian Manhunter, we really want to set him up as one of the most, not just powerful, but also influential characters in the DC Universe, and you don’t even know it - there’s a lot to be revealed about that. So the book really has a lot of layers, and the first arc will have them tackling something that... All they know is that the word on the street is that it’s called The Secret Society of Super Villains. This will be an exercise in team building, and working together, and how different personalities have to rise to that occasion.
Geek: You’re still going to be writing Justice League ongoing, at the same time as JLA, correct?
Geek: So what’s the coordination between those titles, and potentially Justice League Dark going to be like?
GJ: Brian Cunningham is the Editor, and he edits all of those, so all three of the books - and I talk to Jeff Lemire a ton, Jeff is a fantastic writer - but all three of those books will be set in the same universe, and things will be tying into one another. We’ve got some plans for that, but I don’t want to get too ahead of ourselves yet, though.
One of the main goals for JLA when we launch this is to establish a cohesive team, and the relationships for that team, before we go into any big stories or crossovers, or anything like that.
Geek: So I hesitate to ask this then, but with three Justice League teams, if they were to go to war, that might be some sort of... Trinity War, you might call it?
GJ: It could be, but you’re a little off. How’s that for an answer?
Geek: Pretty good, I’ll take it! [Laughs] Just to start wrapping up here a bit, David, what are you looking forward to on the art end of things?
DF: I love the fact that its not every single most popular character in the company, it’s characters that don’t really have the same kind of exposure some of them? So it really gives us a chance to define those characters, and put our stamp on them. That’s really exciting to me. The chance to take them, make them larger than life, but also we get real, and grounded, and as believable as we can make it. Everything I’ve seen so far, it’s going to be a lot of fun.
GJ: I love characters that are more obscure. On Justice League, Shazam will be joining, and the team dynamics will be changing quite a bit on that team, but this is going to be such a great opportunity to work on characters like Katana, who I think is such a great asset, and getting deeper into characters like Vibe... Reintroducing Stargirl... Seeing the new Green Lantern with Green Arrow, and revisiting that relationship with Green Arrow and Hawkman, because we think we know it, we think they’re always at odds... And we want to turn it on its head a little bit, and delve into it more, and see what makes those two characters tick, to find out there’s something in common they both have despite their differences.
So creating dynamics between these characters, and really making it a character driven, intense, intriguing book... One of the words I have on the outline for the series is intrigue. What I mean by that is I always want you to wonder why. Why is this happening, what is their motivation, what are they after, what do they need, what do they want? I just look forward to writing a book that harkens to some of my favorite team books, and mystery books... And hopefully its something that you won’t know what to expect, and when you get it you’ll think it’s what it should be, but you never could have imagined it.
And there’s a big twist in the first issue that I don’t want to spoil, but it will explain exactly what’s happening, and what the team is doing, and everything else.
Justice League of America launches from DC Comics in 2013!