On Monday, DC revealed the cover for March's Justice League of America #55, showing a couple of surprise visitors to the book.
"Saint" Walker, the Blue Lantern introduced last year by Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis in Green Lantern, will now be a member of the JLA, and Cyborg-Superman will show up to fight Doomsday and a still-"Dark" Supergirl as part of the "Reign of Doomsday" crossover event.
The idea behind Dark Supergirl gets a little clearer in this week's Justice League of America #52, but Kara Zor-El will remain in her black attire through the "Reign of Doomsday" event and next year's Superman/Batman Annual #5, which Robinson is writing.
It's all part of Robinson's plan to show why the new Batman, Supergirl and other team members deserve the label "Justice League of America." While the book will experience an artist change after the departure of Mark Bagley, Robinson will continue to mold the group into a powerful team as they head toward an epic Eclipso story arc next year.
In fact, Robinson promises he's starting to build the type of long-form, multi-layered story that is familiar to readers of his acclaimed run on Starman.
In the first installment of a two-part interview about Justice League of America, we talk with Robinson about Mark Bagley, Saint Walker, Cyborg-Superman, and Dark Supergirl. (Check back tomorrow to hear more about his upcoming Eclipso arc, how The Shade fits into the story, and what readers can expect from the new regular artist.)
Newsarama: James, we just saw the cover to Issue #55, and DC announced Bro'Dee "Saint" Walker is joining the team. How did you end up deciding to add Saint Walker to the Justice League? Was this something you coordinated with Green Lantern writer Geoff Johns?
James Robinson: I actually wanted to obtain that character from Day 1 for the JLA, but I had to wait until it worked with the overall Green Lantern continuity. Geoff was very keen also that I use the character, so it was just a matter of waiting until the right time. When I first saw him, I immediately liked Walker and I saw him as a potential sort of – I don't know, an alien figure, in the way it would fit my team, in the way that J'onn J'onzz would fit the Big 7. But we had to wait for the right time, coordinating it with Brightest Day and everything else the character was doing with the Green Lantern titles. By this point in time, with all the different Lanterns on Earth going about doing their crime-stopping in the various ways that they do, it works now that Walker can be a part of the Justice League. So he's joining in Issue #55.
Nrama: We already know that the energy of hope that is wielded by Saint Walker and other Blue Lanterns interacts with the powers of the Green Lanterns. Will this be explored in conjunction with Jade?
Robinson: That's something it'll be interesting to see, won’t it? Just how does Saint Walker improve or change the powers of Jade? Because her powers are derived differently from the Green Lanterns. You'll see that Saint Walker and Jade will develop a sort of a link. But it will be an interesting, different dynamic from any other Blue Lantern with any other Green Lantern character. And who’s to say Jade’s powers won’t affect Walker’s too?
Nrama: Let's talk about the other surprise in the cover to Issue #55. You'll also have Cyborg-Superman showing up? Is this all part of the "Reign of Doomsday" crossover?
Robinson: Right. The Eclipso arc is beginning [with February's Issue #54], but even as it does, in Issue #55, Cyborg-Superman, Doomsday, and Supergirl will all be involved in their own struggle. And that will lead into next year’s Superman/Batman Annual.
Nrama: The Justice League issue is part of a crossover with a Steel one-shot, The Outsiders and Superboy. With Hank Henshaw showing up, after the involvement of Superboy, Steel, and the Eradicator in the "Reign of Doomsday" storyline, it's pretty obvious this ties into Reign of the Superman, doesn’t it?
Robinson: Yes. Absolutely.
Nrama: And Supergirl is still functioning as this "Dark" Supergirl in Issue #55?
Robinson: Yes. That issue will begin to explain what's going on with Dark Supergirl, and why she changed. We'll deal with that partly during Issue #55, then moreso in the Annual.
She actually isn't going to be an "evil" Dark Supergirl. It's just exploring the darker sides of her personalities, based upon the tragedy that's been around her, with the destruction of Krypton and everything else. She's lost her parents. She's seen them die. She's seen her entire planet die. So all of that is partly what's brought about Dark Supergirl.
But the initial reasons why you think she might have changed aren't really the reasons, obviously. There are surprises along the way.
What you'll see in Issue #55 is that, just as she's dealing with the things that may have caused the transformation, and while she's coming to terms with the horror of Krypton's destruction, she has to confront another horror from out of the collective past of Krypton, which is Doomsday. And then at the same time, on top of that, she has to deal with Cyborg-Superman.
You'll also see Starman shine – no pun intended – in the issue in terms of his ability at space combat, and we'll get to introduce Saint Walker. But you'll also see a lot of exploration of Supergirl and find out why she became Dark Supergirl.
Nrama: Let's talk about what's happening in Justice League of America right now, because Dark Supergirl just emerged. During this storyline, you've got the members of the Justice League stuck under a dome with the Crime Syndicate of America, dealing with the Omega Man in a real battle for their lives. What were your thoughts behind this arc?
Robinson: One of the things I wanted to show here is that these characters are a real Justice League. It's the idea that these guys, in theory, may be in a situation that's too big for them, but there's always a way that the good guys can win if they have the moral and the valor to do it. I want to show that Dick Grayson is always thinking like Batman, Jessie Quick can be as fast as she needs to be, Donna Troy can be as fierce and as awe-inspiring a fighter as she needs to be. And I’m also continuing to play up Jade's power, which will be a constant theme that will carry through other arcs. Especially for next arc, which is the Eclipso arc.
I know that, for a lot of people, it might seem this isn't the Justice League. For them it's the Big 7 or nobody. And I appreciate that. I’m very loyal to favorite lineups of certain teams myself, so I completely appreciate how some fans may feel. But at the same time, I wanted to show that whoever is in the Justice League of America, by virtue of being in that team, steps up and faces the world, and does what only the Justice League of America can do.I also wanted to really focus on the five characters in my team that correspond to the Crime Syndicate the most. So for that reason, I eliminated Congorilla and Starman from the book for this arc and spun them off into their own one-shot — [the Starman/Congorilla special that comes out January 5th], which shows us what they're doing while all this is going on, and how it factors back into the dome that's around Washington, D.C., and how they're doing their bit to try to save their friends from the outside.
This is all part of a much bigger story. This is my first foray into the Crime Syndicate, but it isn't the last. Readers of my Starman series have seen me build a big, overriding storyline, and that's what I'm doing here with Justice League of America. All of what I'm doing with the Crime Syndicate, and the Omega Man, is a first salvo with these characters. They'll be coming back later for a much bigger role even than this one, in another storyline that I have cooking.
So that's the Omega arc currently underway. And for me it’s a bittersweet arc, because it's the last one that Mark Bagley will be doing. And ironically, maybe five minutes before you called, Mark sent in the artwork for the final page of Issue #53, which is the final part of that storyline, which is a beautiful final image.
Check back tomorrow to hear more about what's coming up in Justice League of America, including a discussion about next year's "epic" Eclipso arc, how The Shade fits into the story, and who will be the new regular artist now that Mark Bagley is gone. Plus, we'll ask about that "Hawkman" comment Robinson recently let slip.