Although Steve Orlando's new Justice League of America title won't skimp on "small" details - like Ray Palmer's location in the microverse and how established heroes train newer ones - the book will have an overall global tone that the writer calls a feeling of "we're all in it together."
DC is launching the twice-monthly JLA title in February, but readers are being introduced to team members in one-shots throughout January. Team members who are being profiled in one-shots include the Atom, Vixen, the Ray and Killer Frost. They'll be joined on the team by Lobo, Black Canary, and, of course, Batman.
Newsarama talked to Orlando about the team's make-up, why he sees them as a global organization (even though they have "America" in their name), and what readers can expect from the Ray Palmer story.
Newsarama: Steve, you've told me before that one of your favorite comic books when you were younger was the JLA run by Grant Morrison and Howard Porter. Is that influencing the way you're writing your Justice League of America title? Is it a similar tone at all?
Steve Orlando: In a way. My tone has never been exactly like that, and it would be wrong for me to try to force that.
The scale of Grant's run, to me, is important. That's what Justice League of America had to be to me - these iconic moments, Superman wrestling an angel, Batman "ready when you are" with the four white Martians surrounding him. These are things I remember from, god, almost 20 years ago.
And that, to me, making those moments where everyone says, "I can't believe that happened" - that's key.
But at the same time, I feel we've got an even more interesting roster. I mean, I love the "Big 7," but these are characters we haven't seen in a while in some cases.
The emotional beats are extremely important too.
So I hope for the scale of the Grant Morrison run and the emotional beats without necessarily going all the way into the "bwa-ha-ha" of the J.M. DeMatteis and Keith Giffen run. I mean, I collected all those editions. And one of my favorite JLA runs is actually the Adam Hughes, and DeMattei,s and Giffen Despero arc, where years and years of bwa-ha-ha made you care for these characters, and then when things get serious, you feel it in a very visceral way. I think there's some influence from that too, because that Despero arc hit me really hard.
So I think the tone is a little bit in between. We're going to have, hopefully, inventive, only-in-comics moments, but at the same time you're going to have interactions with these characters that really shows their heart and who they are, and how they grow as a team.
These are all people that are good on their own, but they can make each other better together.
Nrama: This team was chosen by Batman. Do they follow him? Do they get along? Can you talk about the overall community of the JLA and how they work together?
Orlando: That's a big part of what the JLA is about. I mean, certainly there are people in the DCU who look up to Batman, especially the younger characters. And there are characters on the team who have known Batman for years and years.
But at the same time, it's important to say, in my mind, that there isn't a leader. And that's a big part of why the JLA exists. It's this idea of a heroic community.
It actually comes from Vixen and how she sees the world - that there's no such thing as someone else's problem. Her powers are connected to every living thing on the planet, And she knows that we're all in it together.
You can't protect yourselves if you're not protecting everyone, because that's an illusion. It's a momentary illusion that doesn't see the bigger picture.
So the JLA is about not standing above people, but standing with people.
Part and parcel to that is the fact that there isn't a specific leader of the JLA, and more specifically, maybe there isn't even a specific roster, at least on a spiritual level, because in the eyes of Vixen, the JLA is everyone.
Whatever fight is going on in the world, it's everyone's fight. And that's a big part of why the team comes together, to show people that, even if they see these characters who look like gods floating above them, anyone can be a hero.
We say it time and again: They're not above the world; they're fighting with the world. And they're with people.
And that's a small distinction, but I think it's a very important one.
Nrama: But the book has the name "America" in the title. Is there a reason for that?
Orlando: It's a Justice League of America that looks like America. But the face of America is changing. And part of that is, going back to what I said before, the fact that heroes can be anyone. And they have to be a symbol of that and show people that. And that's one of the reasons the team comes together.
Beyond that, I think this is, hopefully, in the eyes of the characters, stage one of a larger hero community that is starting in America. And we dig into that more and more as we go on.
But the JLA is something that's meant to grow as a heroism movement. It starts here but it doesn't end here. It can't end here, because of the way they're looking at the world.
I think it's important to the team. It's important to the team from a liberty standpoint. It's important to the team from a freedom standpoint.
Those are things that don't have borders. Those are things that are worth fighting for.
But also, with these characters, I think the point of view, given that the characters are from underrepresented communities, on the team is that there's a mind for agency and a responsibility that comes with picking up someone's fight and joining someone's fight.
So the idea is key to some things that are important to America, but only start here and really are important to the world as a whole, because it's about how everyone is part of the whole. And that means us, too, as a country, because we are all part of something greater.
It's Justice League of America because this is phase one. And phase two and phase three and however many phases we have - it's all about growing the hero community and realizing that we are part of something greater, and we all have to fight together.
Whatever it is we're fighting against, whatever's coming, that remains to be seen in the book.
Nrama: How did you choose the characters in the book? As you said, it's an interesting mix.
Orlando: A lot of it will play out going forward in the book. I think most of the characters being human is part of what I just talked about - that they're part of this world. Of course, there's one notable exception. The reason Lobo is there is a point that's developed in the book, and you'll eventually see that there's a specific reason that Lobo is one of the characters that Batman says needs to be on the team as the developments in the DC Universe come to light.
But it's all about checks and balances, and especially because you have large sort of egos on the team. But it's a realization - I mean, the book goes micro to macro. We can say the JLA realizes they're part of something greater, and it can't just be them. We can say America realizes they're part of something greater and it can't just be them. We could also say Batman realizes he's part of something greater and it can't be just him.
That's why a lot of those characters are on the team. That's why we have characters like Canary and Vixen who have known Batman so long that he is a peer to them, there's a mutual respect there.
But it's also about building the next generation, and that's why you see characters like the Ray, who is debuting in public for the first time. That's why you have characters like the Atom, who is stepping into an active role after long being in a supporting role. And that's why you have a character like Killer Frost, who's decided to make a change in her life and own her mistakes and try to do something better.
When you are really looking at the world as a holistic unit, which to me is what the JLA does, it can't just be about the moment. The moment are the established heroes. It has to be about the future.
Nrama: We've been told that the Ray Palmer storyline is going to play out in JLA, and we've seen a hint of it at the end of the Atom one-shot. Can you tell us anything about what role that plays?
Orlando: Yeah, the Ray Palmer storyline is incredibly important. You'll start to see just how important soon, in the first part of the year.
Whatever Ray has discovered in the microverse, it's something that the JLA eventually will not be able to ignore.
Nrama: You kept talking about how the JLA, or at least its heroic movement, is going to grow over time. Would it be safe to assume that you're writing a long-form story and staying on the book for a while?
Orlando: Yeah, I will write Justice League of America as long as people want me to. It's the book that got me into buying modern comics. I was buying back-issues until 1997 when I picked up part two of "Rock of Ages." So I don't know what could be a more enticing offer than to write the title that got you into comics as a modern type of medium.
But I wouldn't expect long story arcs. That's not to say things don't feed into and nest into a greater story, but at the same time, I think things that you can enjoy in easy, digestible sittings.
Around the time I got into the JLA was also right around the time Warren Ellis and Bryan Hitch were doing The Authority, which were standard four-issue arcs. I'm not saying we're going to do standard four-issue arcs, but I like the idea that things were consumable.
But at the same time, there were small things in those arcs that blew up as time went on.
So there are things in my JLA run that will hint at greater storylines as time goes on, but each storyline will be satisfying on its own and you'll get a full resolution every time.