Six months ago, the Justice Society of America split in two, spawning a new series of younger heroes called JSA All-Stars.
Written by Matt Sturges, the comic kicked off with a storyline that brought back an old favorite JSA character while dealing with the death of another. And along the way, the comic introduced a couple new characters and revived an old love interest while pitting the heroes against the Injustice Society and the villainous Johnny Sorrow.
The team book, which features art by Freddie Williams II, features some well-known characters like Power Girl, Sand and Stargirl alongside newer heroes like the gabby young Cyclone, strong single father Citizen Steel, and the mysterious new King Chimera.
Next month, JSA All-Stars #7 will deal with the death of Damage in Blackest Night before the next adventure begins for the heroes and their newly returned member, Atom Smasher. The issue will kick off the next storyline, "Glory Days," where readers will find out more about King Chimera while exploring the characters' feelings about their past in the midst of a battle in the fictional DC country of Parador.
Newsarama talked with Sturges to find out more about the journey JSA All-Stars has taken so far, and what comes next for the book.
Newsarama: Matt, what were the goals you had in mind for this first story arc and this new team, and do you think you've met those goals?
Sturges: The initial idea for the first story arc came about over a year ago when we were first talking about what we were going to do with the split of the JSA, and how that was going to be handled. We started setting that in motion with our very first JSA issue. When the villains refused to attack Stargirl, that was the beginning of Johnny Sorrow's plan. So the story has been in the works for a very long time.
As a challenge, it was more of a challenge than I thought to write a big team book. I had 10 cast members to deal with all at once, and when Bill and I were doing JSA, we were doing it together, but starting on this big team book myself was a lot to deal with, a lot to take in. So I am generally pleased with how everything turned out. I think there were some great moments in there.
But I also think what I'm doing now, starting with this next story arc, is better.
Nrama: It's probably a level of comfort that comes with writing this awhile and getting used to the characters' voices, isn't it?
Sturges: It does get easier over time. The hardest part is that there is this group of characters that were thrust together, not randomly, but it's not like you get to sit down and design each character yourself and make sure they have complimentary powers and personalities and abilities. So it can be very challenging to have everything work together as a well-oiled machine without forcing people into roles they haven't previously had. That was probably my biggest challenge.
And then, because we have such a large cast, trying to explain to the artist where everyone is and what they were doing during the fight scenes... but fortunately, Freddie is a very smart guy, so he worked a lot of that out without my help.
Nrama: Why did you decide to focus on Atom Smasher coming back, right as Damage left?
Sturges: Well, Atom Smasher was a character who has been off-stage for awhile. He's had some difficulties in the JSA for a long time, going back through Geoff [Johns]'s run. He's a character I really like a lot. He was a great character in Infinity Inc., back when he was Nuklon, and he was someone I really wanted to use.
So when the word came down that Damage was going away, it seemed like a really natural choice to bring Atom Smasher in to replace him symbolically.
Nrama: It also provides a romantic interest for Stargirl.
Sturges: Right. And that was something that Geoff had hinted at in a number of ways. And it was something I wanted to play around with.
It's interesting, because it's a relationship that makes a lot of fans uncomfortable, and so I wanted to play off that discomfort. But I had a lot of fun doing that and playing make believe in one of those issues where they got to see what it would be like if they did get together. But now things are much more complex between the two of them because Stargirl knows things and feels things that Atom Smasher doesn't know. And that's going to make their relationship going forward a little complicated.
Nrama: Are we going to find out the origin of King Chimera anytime soon?
Sturges: We are. In fact, we're going to start getting some big clues about that at the beginning of the next big story arc.
Nrama: What is the next story arc?
Sturges: The next story arc is called "Glory Days," and it's about our feelings about the past. It takes place partially in the country of Parador, which you may remember as the country Eclipso had taken over sometime back. And there is a religion in Parador very much like the Mayas or the Incas. It's kind of a combination of the two. And this is a religion that's trying to make a comeback in a really big and unpleasant way.
The story arc also explores, thematically, issues of the past and how we often like to paint the past as a rosier picture than it sometimes was. So we'll see some of that with Atom Smasher and Hourman and, to some extent, Power Girl, looking back to the days of Infinity Inc. And some of the story takes place in Los Angeles, so that will be interesting.
And also, we'll be learning things about King Chimera's past, and the things that he's carrying around with him to this day.
Nrama: Will we see more of Anna Fortune?
Sturges: Yes. We'll definitely be seeing more of Anna Fortune. I won't say that she's officially a member of the team, but she'll be around, and we'll learn more about her. And her last name is no accident. If there's another character in the DCU named Fortune, but probably in a different way than you might expect.
Nrama: They'll be exploring the past in this next story arc, so will we see any other characters coming in to work with the team or even fight against the team?
Sturges: We will see another character that has a very strong tie to the JSA making a big, splashy return, but I don't want to say who he is. Somebody who has not been seen for awhile.
Nrama: Since you have such a big team, will the focus shift to different characters in the JSA?
Sturges: Yes. There are a few characters who haven't really had a chance to shine yet. When they first showed up, they showed up in the midst of big events — characters like Judomaster, Wildcat II, Citizen Steel — and these guys are going to get some focus very soon. In Issue #7, which is the next issue, we'll see a lot about Judomaster and start to understand things from her point of view. She's a character that I really didn't have a handle on, coming into it, and now I feel like I know her really well. So I'm excited for fans to get to know her a little bit.
Nrama: What else do you have going on. You have a book coming out soon, don't you?
Sturges: I do. It's a novel coming out in June. It's called The Office of Shadow. It's sort of a sequel to my first novel, Midwinter, but it's also kind of a stand-alone book. It's basically a Cold War espionage thriller, but set in Faerie. So it's elves and spies, cloak and dagger and magic wands. It's a lot of fun. There's a lot of action. And if you like the things I'm doing in comics, then you'll probably like that too.
Nrama: Anything else coming up in comics that you want to tell people about?
Sturges: We've got big things coming up in Jack of Fables. We're gearing up for Issue #50. And a lot of old, favorite characters are going to come back. It's going to be a big, all-star extravaganza that we're really looking forward to. We've been planning this for awhile.
The Web is wrapping up, and I'm really sorry to see it go. I had a lot of fun on that book. But The Web #10 will be a good issue to read, because it's not just the final issue of the book, but it's very much a lead-in to the Mighty Crusaders series that's coming up after that.
So if you're interested in Mighty Crusaders, that's an issue you could check out.
Nrama: OK, Matt, then to finish, is there anything you want to say to JSA fans and readers of JSA All-Stars?
Sturges: Thanks for sticking with the book. We have a whole lot in store. We have a lot of great shout-outs for people who have been fans of JSA for a long time, and you can expect a lot of action, a lot of character development, and some really interesting surprises along the way. And we get to meet sorcerers who are really going to cause a lot of trouble.