Jurgens Brings International Flavor to DCnU in Revamped JLI



This fall, the whole DC Universe will be subject to a relaunch of new #1 issues, with stories targeted toward new readers.

Among the brand new titles, Justice League International will take a concept first formed in 1986 and update it for new audiences. Written by Dan Jurgens, the comic will feature art by Aaron Lopresti as it re-introduces the JLI in a new way for modern audiences.

The first JLI team was formed decades ago, after the last major "reboot" DC tried, and it put together a band of lesser-known characters and Batman, incorporating humor into their stories. The comical style of the title, which was written by Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis, became known as "bwa-ha-ha," because it mixed the life-threatening, international adventures of the JLI with the team's joke-filled yet character-centered camaraderie.

But the team was abandoned in the mid-'90s, and the big guns of the DCU -- like Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and the Flash -- became the centerpieces of the new JLA.

Last year, DC got together the old JLI characters again for a special yearlong mini-series called Justice League: Generation Lost by writer Judd Winick. The response to that comic by fans was apparently positive enough that DC is now giving the team their own ongoing series.

As he launches the new title, Jurgens will have the task of introducing the JLI to contemporary audiences, presumably relying less on nostalgia for the team's glory days and more on the strength of the characters and their international missions. This isn't the first time Jurgens has worked on the team, having a short run on the JLA in 1992. But this is a whole different approach, with an even more diverse set of team members.

At the center of the team will be Booster Gold, a character that Jurgens created back in 1986. The hero, who currently has his own title by Jurgens, recently showed up in an episode of Smallville. Rounding out the team will be Batman, Fire, Ice, August-General-In-Iron, Vixen, Guy Gardner, Rocket Red, and an unidentified black-haired woman.

The comic will also be starting its life as a "second" Justice League title, likely taking a more minor role in the DCU compared to the Justice League comic being launched by none other than two of the most powerful executives at DC -- Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns and Co-Publisher Jim Lee -- complete with the most recognizable characters in the DCU. (And there's always the possibility we'll see more JLA titles announced for September, in which case the JLI may take even more of a back seat).

Because he's also an artist, Jurgens isn't only writing during this year's DCU revamp. He'll be drawing Green Arrow for writer J.T. Krul when it re-launches with a new #1 issue in September as well.

As he begins his writing stint on a brand new Justice League International, Newsarama talked with Jurgens to find out more about the team and his approach to their re-launch. Although he couldn't talk about the story he'll be writing, we did ask about the mysterious black-haired character and the diversity the team appears to have as it relaunched this fall.

Newsarama: Dan, what attracted you to writing the Justice League International?

Dan Jurgens: It's the Justice League! International style, yes, but it is still a vehicle for some of DC's best heroes, which as part of this new launch, is tremendously appealing.

I've always been drawn to books that allow for a wide range of stories that have a chance to be big in scope, and the JLI certainly fits that description. Plus, it's a chance to continue to lift Booster Gold's profile, which we've been working on the past few years.

Nrama: In keeping with the #1 issue on the front and DC's goals in September, how are you keeping new readers in mind as you write it?

Jurgens: I try to keep new readers in mind for most any book I write. For this particular series I'll go a little farther as we're going to be dealing with a lot of new sensibilities as far as some of these characters go. Some of the old assumptions that readers had may not necessarily apply any longer.

Rex Ogle is editing the book and we're constantly talking about how we want to present these characters to the audience.

Nrama: What is the basic idea behind the Justice League International that sets them apart for new readers from the other Justice League team?

Jurgens: One look at the issue's first cover should indicate that we are trying to build an international team here. Whether it's August General in Iron, who's from China, or Rocket Red, who's from Russia, this will be a team with a global sensibility.

Nrama: Yeah, the term "International" seems to really fit this comic, since there are representatives from many continents and countries. What was the thought behind the diversity in the team make-up?

Jurgens: The world we live in is a diverse one with many different people, thoughts, viewpoints and lifestyles. We need to do a better job of representing that overall. In this case, a team composed of representatives from a variety of nations is critical within the context of the DCU. There are some new attitudes at work here.

Nrama: OK, because of the cover, we know the line-up includes Booster Gold, Fire, Ice, Batman, August-General-In-Iron, Vixen, Guy Gardner, and Rocket Red. But who is the black-haired woman in the left bottom corner?

Jurgens: Some have speculated that it's either Wonder Woman or Donna Troy.

Both guesses are wrong.

Nrama: Is this the whole team?

Jurgens: This is the whole team for this issue! After that... things can change.

Nrama: Since you're sharing Batman with the Justice League book, how do you coordinate the character's actions with the other team?

Jurgens: Right now, we've worked that out so it isn't a problem. I think this entire DC September effort embodies a team first mentality, and I'm talking about the wide creative effort-- not the JLA or JLI when I say that.

Nrama: We know the JLI as a "bwa-ha-ha" team, since they originally had a lot of humor injected into their stories, but what's the overall tone of this new comic?

Jurgens: I don't know that we'd be quite that overt, but even so, any book with Booster will have a moment or two of humor. At the same time, these characters can also experience loss and tragedy.

Nrama: Was the genesis of this book prompted by the success of Justice League: Generation Lost? And how does that book inform this one?

Jurgens: I'm sure Justice League: Generation Lost might have made it easier for DC to contemplate doing a new JLI book. However, we're obviously dealing with a clean break and fresh start as well.

Nrama: Since you're starting fresh with these characters, what has the process been like as you've explored the basics of these characters in order to re-introduce them?

Jurgens: It's a matter of going back to square one on each of them. What are there basic personality traits? Why do they do what they do? How do they mix once they're thrown together? What makes them different from one another? Why do they do what they do?

After all, if the book is to reflect something of the international flavor of the DCU, there are bound to be some conflicting elements within the group.

Nrama: What have been some of the challenges of doing that? And how have you met them?

Jurgens: There are a couple of basic challenges in a group book, the first of which is making sure everyone gets enough screen time. Any insight as to who they are often comes in a quick glimpse of a word balloon or two.

It's also a question of trying to find something that makes them tick. For example, August General is quickly becoming a favorite of mine, if for no other reason than he such a vastly different character than Booster. It makes for an interesting mix.

Nrama: What does Aaron Lopresti bring to the comic?

Jurgens: As a writer and artist, I put a tremendous emphasis on storytelling. Aaron can tell a story far better than most. He's also a very, very talented draftsman and his recent work with GENERATION LOST showed that not only can he handle a group book, he can also handle the visual characterization of the individuals of the team, which is no easy task.

Nrama: How is his style appropriate for the JLI and this comic in particular?

Jurgens: Many ways. One, he can handle and elevate a team book. Many guys can't. Two, he can give the individual characters within the team their own sense of individualism and personality. Three, he's talented. Four, he's a good guy and joy to work with. You can't ask for more!

Nrama: Since you've been both writing and drawing Booster recently, what are the challenges or benefits to just writing his character and others for another artist to draw?

Jurgens: The challenge for me is to make sure that if I want something on the page, that I better mention it in whatever I write. When I draw my own stories, I tend to keep massaging the story all through the process, which is a bit of a luxury I won't have here.

At the same time, Aaron has thoughts and ideas on what we're doing as well. As part of the creative team, I want him to feel free to get some of those things on the page.

I'm a firm believer in the benefits of the collaborative process between writers and artists, which has kind of been lost over the past few years. We need to get some of that back. It makes for better stories and therefore, better experiences for the readers.

Nrama: Is there anything else you want to tell fans about Justice League International?

Jurgens: Only that if they have as much fun reading it as we're having sculpting it, it'll be a win/win for everybody.

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