The Justice Society of America, the first superhero team in DC's rich history, was one of the most high profile victims of the publisher's 2011 reboot. When the New 52 launched with younger, hipper capes, it erased the rich tapestry of heroes from the Golden Age — and the mantles they passed on to their young, energetic descendants — who made up the Justice Society of America for more than 70 years.
Now Convergence is giving fans a chance to reminisce about DC heroes-gone-by, as writer Dan Abnett is bringing back the JSA— not only giving them a new lease on life, but crafting a story that gives them the chance to be young again. Working with his frequent collaborator, artist Tom Derenick, Abnett is pitting the JSA characters against villains from the Qward universe in the two-issue mini-series, Convergence: Justice Society of America.
And how did Abnett get those characters for his story? Believe it or not, he won them in a bidding war that took place in a conference call with DC Co-Publisher Dan DiDio.
As a result, readers will get to see characters like Dr. Fate, Hawkman, Jay Garrick and Alan Scott again. And although the New 52 has a few of these names in their roster (most of them fighting for survival on Earth 2), Abnett's writing the original versions — older, wiser heroes of DC's past.
Newsarama talked to Abnett to find out more about his plans for the comic — and found out more about the "bidding war" conference call that determined he'd be writing the Justice Society.
Nrama: Dan, how did you get involved with Convergence, and whose idea was this story revisiting the older versions of the JSA?
Abnett: I was invited to take part by editor Marie Javins. There was a kind of "bidding process" where we got on the phone with Bobbie Chase and Dan DiDio and pitched for the characters that most appealed so they could be assigned. It was one of the most amusing conference calls I’ve ever taken part in. That’s how I landed the JSA and, for my other title, Barry Allen — and also the villains involved.
Nrama: I would love to have recording of that phone call. So once you won the bidding war, which characters did you end up getting to use in this story?
Abnett: I’m using Doctor Fate, Hawkman, the Jay Garrick Flash and the Alan Scott Green Lantern, plus references to and appearances by other supporting characters who are in the city at the same time.
Nrama: There's a long history of the JSA, so what are they like as we meet them in your story? And what is their world like under the dome?
Abnett: I can’t tell you too much, but life under the dome is tough and it’s made them question themselves somewhat. The JSA represent a more ‘veteran’ part of the DCU, and this story reflects on what it’s like to be a costumed superhero in the later parts of a famous career.
The dome pretty much determines everything about life in the city and how the adventure runs. It’s an extraordinary situation that they’re in, unlike anything they’ve dealt with before.
Nrama: How does the ability to "regain their youth" get into the mix?
Abnett: That factor sort of singles out this tale. It’s an added wrinkle to the Convergence dynamic, a gift from Doctor Fate. It’s celebratory, but also nostalgic and a little sad.
Nrama: Let's talk about that bidding war again — you apparently wanted to write these characters, so what interested you about writing the JSA characters in particular?
Abnett: They’re classic heroes, with a wonderful friendship and bond. It’s great to be showing them at their peak, as the sort of heroes that defined being a hero and created a legacy that others would follow.
Nrama: You mentioned nostalgia, and that's one of the reasons a lot of fans love the JSA. Are there elements of these heroes and their world that you miss?
Abnett: I think I miss the iterations of these heroes, and the atmosphere of the JSA. There is a tendency to make heroes very young these days, to make them people who are just discovering their abilities and starting out. I’ve always loved that the core of the JSA was people who had achieved a legacy already, who had life experience and careers.
It’s not better; it just makes a very nice contrast, and adds a sense of realism to the DCU — heroes get older, there is progression, life moves along.
Nrama: The solicitations reveal that the JSA is fighting the Qward universe. How much time are you spending with the Qward Universe, and what can you tell us about who we'll see?
Abnett: The Qward elements are thrust upon them, and come in the form of an implacable threat. Qward is struggling with similar problems, and dealing with them in its own way.
Nrama: So, were these adversaries you picked? How familiar were you with them?
Abnett: I used the Qward and Weaponer ideas and constructed a brand new, fit for purpose threat — something the Weaponers have been developing to deal with the situation.
Nrama: What are some of the more interesting character interactions you're getting to portray, and what can you tease about them?
Abnett: I think the really interesting interactions are Jay, Alan, Kent and Carter — as opposed to Flash, Lantern, Fate and Hawkman. It’s about the people behind the masks, and their lives and pasts. And their friendship.
Nrama: What's it been like working with the artist on this book?
Abnett: Tom Derenick is fantastic. I’ve worked with him many times, on Masters of the Universe and Infinite Crisis, as well as Hypernaturals for Boom!
I love his work, and he always brings so much to a story — clean and dynamic storytelling, huge dynamism, great power.
He’s one of those artists who’s not only very talented, they bring that little bit extra of thought and invention.
Nrama: As someone who's been involved in plenty of superhero universe events, what do you think of the idea behind Convergence?
Abnett: I love it. I think it’s a great way to be able to revisit classic DC eras and characters, and reveal the wealth and imagination of the DC Multiverse.
Nrama: Why do you think superhero companies tend to be looking back now, highlighting stories and timelines from the past while concurrently rebooting and relaunching and revamping their characters?
Abnett: Because it lends significance and history to characters and their world, a sense of a great unfolding narrative. These are modern mythical figures, and their histories and legends add weight and depth to their characters.
We need ideas and characters to be refreshed and reinvented all the time, and we need to make them accessible for new generations of readers, but we also want to celebrate their pasts, both "in-universe" and in terms of greatly appreciated publishing histories.
There are a lot of new fans to welcome in, but also a lot of people who have been readers for a long time, and who are invested and connected to these modern heroic sagas. Publishers like DC are wise enough to respond to both, and an event like Convergence offers rewards to both established readers and new ones.