The Justice Society of America has been going through a lot of changes lately, but next month's "jumping-on point" issue #50 will establish the team's new path with its ongoing creative team.
Writer Marc Guggenheim, who co-wrote the upcoming Green Lantern movie, is writing all 46 pages of what he calls an "inspirational" issue #50, working with artists like George Pérez, Freddie Williams, Howard Chaykin and Tom Derenick. The anniversary issue will feature a cover by Felipe Massafera and a variant by Darwyn Cooke.
Guggenheim took over the comic in October with regular series artist Scott Kolins. Since their first story arc started, the book has seen the JSA helping clean up after a catastrophe in a town called Monument Point.
But several mysteries and dark challenges have emerged since the team arrived in Monument Point, and more team members just recently showed up. In fact, several of them are from the just-canceled series JSA All-Stars, which seems to imply that both teams are joining together in one book again.Next week's issue #49 will finish this story arc, and according to Guggenheim, next month's oversized Justice Society of America #50 will lighten things up a little while it kicks off the ongoing direction for the team.
Along with the older members of the JSA and the younger All-Stars, a few new characters are showing up in the series, including Darknight, Red Beetle and Ri.
So who are these new characters? What's the new tone for the title? And what does it mean that the All-Stars showed up at the end of issue #48? In the first installment of our two-part interview with Guggenheim, Newsarama talked with the writer to find out more.
Newsarama: Marc, so far in the series, it seems like there's a real gravity to the events, from Monument Point's destruction to the villains' beat-down of the heroes. Will that type of darkness continue, or does it change tone a little?
Marc Guggenheim: It definitely does change tones. I had said in all my early interviews that I would spend the first bunch of issues tearing the team apart, and then put them back together. Certainly, starting with issue #50 and going into #51, we start the process of putting the team back together.
As a result of that, there is a tonal shift back to a less dark version of the Justice Society.
I came onto the book with a very clear plan, and while I'm a big believer of letting the story tell itself, but as far as the tonal shifts are concerned, with the first arc being dark and the second arc being more inspirational, that was the plan from Day 1. And it's been laying out exactly the way I had intended.
You see that tonal shift in a big was with the 50th issue. There are a lot of inspirational moments. George Pérez has drawn a beautiful 10-page story that provides a new perspective for how the Justice Society fits into the larger DC Universe. You've got the return of Per Degaton, which harkens back to an earlier era of the Justice Society. You have Jay Garrick getting sworn in as the mayor of Monument Point.
So there are all sorts of tonal shifts that go on with issue #50.And there's also a lot more humor. I have definitely found, writing issues #50 and #51, and starting to write #52 now, that I'm injecting a lot more humor into the book.
Nrama: We've seen what looks like the basic team roster so far, including characters that were called "freelancers," like Blue Devil. Are all the characters we've seen going to be sticking around for a while?
Guggenheim: Everyone that has shown up by the final spread of Issue #48 will be sticking around for a while. The only exception is Power Girl, who has her own monthly series and is just on loan to me. There will be others showing up from time to time, but you've seen the majority of our key characters.
Nrama: At the end of issue #48, most of the JSA All-Stars showed up. Are they part of your book now that their own title is canceled?
Guggenheim: Yes, they are. I had to be coy about it originally, because I had to wait for the announcement of JSA All-Stars' cancelation. But now that the cat's out of the bag, I can officially say that, with the exception of Power Girl, all the JSA All-Stars will move over to Justice Society.
Nrama: There are a few who weren't pictured in that spread. Is there a reason why?
Guggenheim: Poor Scott Kolins. I gave him a list of all these characters, and it was sort of like, okay, how many can we fit into a single spread?
But yes, there are a handful of All-Stars who didn't make that spread. I'm just waiting for the right organic moment to bring them into the book.
Nrama: For long-time JSA fans, it was a little scary not to see Atom Smasher there.
Guggenheim: Oh yeah. I love Atom Smasher. He's one of my favorites. Like I said, in many respects we had an embarrassment of riches in terms of characters. Poor Scott Kolins isn't George Pérez, so we couldn't fit five kajillion characters in there. Plus I was cognizant of the fact that all of the characters that make their appearance at the end of issue #48 had to be serviced in #49. With only 20 pages to play with, you don't want to overload the book.
I do love Atom Smasher. I love Anna Fortune. And there are a lot of characters from the All-Stars that I definitely want to see in Justice Society. The whole exercise of writing a cast this large is recognizing that you're not going to be able to service every character in every issue. You have to make all these really hard choices about who we're going to see and when. But my hope is that, within a few issues, my hope is everyone will be satisfied and all the different characters will be represented.
Nrama: Okay, now we have to talk about these new heroes. The Chinese heroine is from your Batman Confidential arc, right?
Guggenheim: Yeah, I was actually very gratified to see that people recognized Ri. I have to give a shout out to Mike Carlin. That was his idea. He edited the Batman Confidential arc. Even though it was written five years ago, we were publishing it right when we were planning out these early issues of JSA. Mike suggested I bring Ri over from the Batman Confidential arc, and I thought that was a terrific idea. I certainly liked the synergy. And I'm glad people have recognized her from that story.
She plays a very large role in issue #51. A pretty pivotal role. But you really don't need to have read Batman Confidential in order to get who she is. In that story, she's the member of a Chinese superhero team that was responsible for adding to Bruce Wayne's training, back when he was traveling around the Far East before he became Batman. And they may have influenced his decision to adopt the costume, or an iconic superhero outfit.
Ri brings along with her another character, who is spun off in a less direct way, from that superhero group. Before Bruce Wayne was Batman, he was given a new identity that was "Dark Knight" in Chinese. And he was given a costume, which you saw if you read the Batman Confidential arc, was the precursor for his Batman costume.
So Jerry Bingham designed this really cool "early" Batman costume. And I thought, what a shame to just let that beautiful costume design go to waste.
With issue #48, we get the first official appearance of Darknight, a new character wearing this sort of "proto-Batman" costume. And my hope is that I'll have the opportunity to elaborate on who is in that costume and what his back-story is. But the chance to make use of this great costume design and introduce a new Chinese superhero into the DC Universe was just too great an opportunity to pass up.
Nrama: There's both a Liberty Belle and a Jesse Quick. Is that a mistake?
Guggenheim: No, that's not a mistake. Let me give a tip of the hat to James Robinson, who had suggested this to me. He pointed out that the original Liberty Belle from the Golden Age, Jesse's mom, was still alive and kicking. We both thought, why not bring her back into the Liberty Belle costume, since that identity has been freed up by Jesse Quick being Jesse Quick? We might as well have a Liberty Belle running around the DC Universe. So we brought back the original.
Nrama: Can you tell us who the new "Red" Beetle is?
Guggenheim: I can't really comment on who she is under the mask, but the character's name is definitely Red Beetle. She is obviously using some Blue Beetle technology and gadgetry. And she continues to make use of it throughout the series.
I want to play this sort of coy, letting us have a few mysteries about who exactly that character is.One of the things I'm going to be doing in the second arc is answering a lot of the mysteries set up in the first arc. You'll learn what's under Monument Point. You'll learn what's behind Mr. Terrific's loss of intelligence. You'll learn what the final state of Lightning is. So I'm answering a lot of questions and I'm solving a lot of mysteries, but I always like to add new mysteries to replace the old ones. And certainly, who Red Beetle is will be one of those little mysteries.
Check back tomorrow for Part 2 of our interview, when we talk with Guggenheim about the upcoming appearance of Per Degaton and what else is coming up in the coming months of Justice Society of America.