Justice Society x2: Writer Matt Sturges Talks JSA ALL-STARS

Just when fans were becoming concerned that the Justice Society of America team was too big, now comes news that the comic and the team are being split in two.

As announced at San Diego Comic-Con, Justice Society co-writers Matt Sturges and Bill Willingham will each write one of the two Justice Society books, which will begin after the current story arc concludes this fall. While Willingham will stay on Justice Society of America, Sturges will begin a new title called JSA All-Stars with artist Freddie E. Williams II.

The two teams will still be part of one Justice Society of America, but they will function separately, giving JSA fans stories about their favorite characters in two comics a month.

Newsarama sat down with Sturges in San Diego to talk about the new comic, finding out what was behind the decision to split the book, who will be on each team, and what the focus is going to be in JSA All-Stars.

Newsarama: Matt, before we get into the details of the comic, why was the decision made to split the JSA into two teams and therefore two comic books?

Matt Sturges: I think the real world reason is kind of obvious in that Geoff had taken the JSA to the point where he had introduced so many interesting new characters that they weren't able to get the screen time that they deserved. So I think that by splitting the book up in two and having two issues worth of JSA every month that we'd be able to focus more on the characters.

You know, every reader has their favorite character, and if your character doesn't get any panel time in that issue, you're like, 'Well, c'mon man! Where's Sandman? Give me some love!'

So I think that's part of it.

Another thing that we wanted to do was shake up the JSA world a little bit and follow up on some of the things that had happened in the Gog storyline and show some of the generational differences. One of the things Geoff Johns had always done very well, and even going back to David Goyer and James Robinson's time on the comic, was showing how the generations worked so well together. But in reality, they don't always. And so one of the things we wanted to show was that these characters who are still a team and who still work together can have slightly different views of what's the best way to approach a situation and be in tension with each other yet still be a team.

Nrama: How will these two books be different? What will be the idea behind the All-Stars comic?

Sturges: There's a heavy focus in the All-Stars about training heroes, and not just how to be moral and good heroes. The focus of the main JSA team has always been "making better heroes." And with JSA All-Stars, the focus is on "making the heroes better." It's about making them better at what they do. Training, drilling, learning the extent of what our abilities and powers are and how can we improve that? Going out on a mission, fighting the bad guys, coming back and evaluating – what did we do right? What did we do wrong?

I want to really show that aspect of it, and how incredibly important it is, especially as times have changed in comics and comics have gotten more dangerous and deadly for the heroes. It seems to make sense that the heroes themselves would want to be as on their game as possible, because any time you go out there, you could get killed. I want to really show in All-Stars that sense that there is real danger out there and it's not a game that we're playing when we go out to fight these guys. People are, of course, going to still make funny quips when they punch someone, because you have to.

Nrama: It's standard practice!

Sturges: It's part of the world. You can't change it, and you wouldn't want to.

Nrama: Who is going to be leading the new team?

Sturges: The leaders of the new team are going to be Power Girl and Magog.

Nrama: Who else is on the team?

Sturges: The other members of the old guard, going back to the earlier series, are Hourman (Rick Tyler) and Stargirl. And each of them has a specific role on the team. Hourman is the liaison to the main JSA team. And Stargirl is sort of the, and this isn't her official title, but she's sort of the emotional core of the team. And we'll learn early on that Power Girl convinced her to join the team for that very reason. The younger heroes look up to her because she's been in the JSA longer, and they see her as a role model. Someone they can relate to. Some of the younger team members, like Cyclone or Wildcat – Wildcat III or as I call him, Wildcat Jr. [laughs] – might be a little intimidated by someone like Power Girl. But Stargirl is someone they see as a peer. But someone that they also really respect. And that's kind of funny because I think she's the youngest person on the team by at least two years.

So we have Hourman, Stargirl, Power Girl, Magog, the younger Wildcat, Damage, Citizen Steel, Judomaster, Cyclone, and King Chimera.

Nrama: King Chimera? That's a new one.

Sturges: Yeah, he's a new character that is introduced in our first JSA issue that comes out this week. And he is a legacy hero that claims to be the son of a guy named King Standish, who was a master of disguise who solved crimes by wearing various disguises back in Flash Comics in the 1940s. I always thought he was a cool guy. I wanted to sort of re-invent him as a new character.

One of the interesting things about King Chimera is that you never saw his actual face. You only saw him in disguise. And so, with this new King Chimera, it's a bit more metaphorical than that. I'll just leave it at that. You can read the book and see what his powers are and how they work. He was created specifically to be on that team.

Nrama: Wait a second, though. Rick's on this team. Where's his wife?

Sturges: She's on the other team.

Nrama: Is there a story reason for that?

Sturges: Maybe.

Nrama: It's doesn't seem right. They enjoy working together so much.

Sturges: They do! And they're married!

Nrama: Are they still married?

Sturges: Hmm... what's going on with that?

Nrama: Okay, I guess we'll have to wait and see. But Matt, why didn't the other young characters make it onto the team, like Lightning, who's among these teen members?

Sturges: Real world reason is that we wanted the teams to be balanced. In-story reason? You'll just have to keep reading and see why everyone ended up on the team that they did.

Nrama: So by "balanced," you mean that you wanted to keep young people on the other team as well?

Sturges: Yeah, to keep that inter-generational aspect of it. We didn't want to just stop doing that. It's what the core of the JSA has come to be over time, was to train the younger generation. So it's still happening. But it's just that when they decide to create the new team, they take a select group of people with them to do it. It's kind of experimental. They take certain people with them to do it.

Nrama: Since you'll have Stargirl on the team, what's going on with her and Billy Batson?

Sturges: I actually probably get asked more about Stargirl and Captain Marvel than I do about anything else. And of course, there's also the Stargirl and Atom Smasher crowd. Gosh, is that going to be addressed? Certainly, if Stargirl is on my team, her personal relationships might come into play.

Nrama: So those characters may show up?

Sturges: It's entirely possible.

Nrama: Are they all still in the Brownstone or do they get two different headquarters?

Sturges: You'll have to wait and see.

Nrama: What's the dynamic going to be between Power Girl and Magog as leaders of the team? Those are two pretty head-strong leaders, aren't they?

Sturges: Yeah, and we're going to see from the beginning that they don't agree on everything. They have fairly different takes on how to approach their jobs, even though, as you'll see in the JSA arc that Bill and I wrote together, they have similar attitudes about what the problems are and how they should be addressed in a macro sense. Power Girl has always been a little more aggressive. She's always been a little more strong-willed. I think she and Magog have that in common. They're the ones that want to go after the bad guys and put them down then keep them down. So I think that's what helps them come together at the start of this team.

But Magog's approach to fighting villains is a very military attitude. He's a Marine and he sees what's going on between heroes and villains as a war that's to be fought, whereas Power Girl has the more traditional superhero view, even if she is a little tougher than a lot of heroes around.

Nrama: And you're working with Freddie Williams again after having just had him on Run!

Sturges: Yes, and we're going straight from one book to the next. It's great because I finished the last issue of Run! and I'm putting together the first script for All-Stars, and as soon as he's finished with nRun!, he's going to jump over to All-Stars. We've been talking about it. Freddie and I talk fairly often. We'll be talking about Run! and I'll say, by the way, I had this idea about something like changing Cyclone's costume or about the monkey. So that's really nice.

And working with Freddie is great. His process is really cool. It's all digital. So you get to see very quickly his progression. You can see his work at every stage. It's sort of a multi-stage process. He doesn't just go from thumbnails to pencils. There are roughs and then there are these 3-D wire frame sort of things, and then he inks it by hand on the computer. And then he can even do little things like spot colors. It's really fascinating. He's written a book that DC is putting out called the DC Comics Guide to Digitally Drawing Comics and that's coming out in September.

Nrama: Power Girl and Magog have their own series. Are you going to coordinate what happens to them in this book with those creators at all?

Sturges: Yes. In fact, we have a JSA Annual coming up. I'm not sure when it will happen. But it's a sort of JSA/Magog crossover event. Well, it's an annual, but I want it to be a "big event!" 'cause that's awesomer. So you'll see those two books crossing over. And there are things that happen in All-Stars with Magog that tie directly into things that are happening in Magog's own series. You don't have to be reading both books to understand what's going on. But the two books inform each other.

And to a lesser extent, Power Girl as well. What Jimmy [Palmiotti], Justin [Gray] and Amanda [Conner] are doing has a very different feel to it, and there's something specific that they're doing. So we don't have any particular plot point crossovers now, but I know we want to do that kind of thing when we can.

One of the things that, as soon as my name was associated with JSA, something that people have been asking me about a lot is the JSA/JLA annuals. And that's something we're looking at trying to work out as well.

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