Society Summit

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Earlier today, DC Comics hosted a press conference to discuss the series re-launch of the original super-team, the Justice Society of America. Moderated by DC’s publicist Alex Segura, the conference included series writer Geoff Johns and special guest, artist Dale Eaglesham. By all indications, the pair has a "very ambitious first year" planned for the title.

What follows may contain SPOILERS, so if you have not yet read Justice Society of America #1 or do not wish to know about upcoming plotlines, read no further.

To begin with, Johns was asked what spurred the restart of the series. The writer commented that he had had to take a break from the series and had been off the book for about a year. However, due to his passion for the team, he soon discovered that he had more stories to tell. The infusion of new characters and new directions got him excited about the series once again. Johns also sited that the recent re-launch of sister book Justice League of America was an influence as well, as he and DC sought to coordinate their efforts to match the changes to that series. Although he expressed regret for not being able to write JSA #100 (the previous series ended with #87), Johns said that Justice Society is a book he could see himself writing for another hundred issues or more. His chance may yet arrive.

The first major point which the conference touched upon was the opening line of Justice Society #1: "World War III." Johns confirmed that, rather than being a reference to DC’s Infinite Crisis, this is in fact a hint about an upcoming story. The war will apparently be a "big event" towards the end of DC’s weekly series 52 in which the JSA will play a big part. This, the writer says, is the cornerstone of what leads to the JSA’s change in approach. While speaking of that change, Johns stated that he knew he wanted there to be significant differences in the series and the characters’ lives in order to justify the re-launch and the jump forward in time. "The only reason I came back," he said, "was that I felt I could make this a better book."

Johns was asked about the experience of working with Dale Eaglesham on the new book and said that Eaglesham really "gets the uniqueness and quirkiness" of the cast. Johns admires the way his collaborator plays with body language and cares about personality. At times, he even surprises the writer with unscripted moments, such as the new Starman’s graceful twirl as he enters a room in issue 1. In fact, Eaglesham revealed that he never draws Starman in his initial thumbnails but waits to add him to the final art, as "he’s so unpredictable." Johns believes that it’s these little touches that make Eaglesham an excellent addition to the book.

Almost every character that the writer (and cover artist/consultant Alex Ross) wanted to use will play a part in the series. Johns confirmed that he had wanted to use Captain Marvel but was unable to do so due to plans in the current Trials of Shazam miniseries. He also described an early Ross sketch of characters that at this point are not a part of the book, such as The Spectre, Dr. Fate, The Ray, and Mary Marvel. Johns said that the larger cast reflects a change in the DC Universe and comics as a whole, the fact that there are now so many heroes and metahumans around that "it actually is a society." The Justice Society’s role as the guides for this burgeoning community will play a big part in the book.

Eaglesham joined the conference at this point and spoke for a time about his thoughts on working on the series. He enjoys having so many characters to play with and stated that it fits in with his overall approach to comics in terms of the many styles and tones he has used in his art. All will be a part of the new JSA, from humor and fun to tragedy and hardship, as the group is so large and diverse. Eaglesham sees the series as "one big Petrie dish" in which he can try new things and turn stereotypes of the superhero genre on their head.

The floor was eventually opened up to questions from the press. The presence of the Earth-2 version of Robin in one of issue 1’s flashbacks prompted a question about just how much, if anything, the JSA remembers about DC’s Multiverse and its history. Johns revealed that this "will be a major storyline in the first year" and that Power Girl will be a central character, as a result.

The revelation that Wildcat has a son (the big reveal at issue 1’s conclusion) signifies a major change for the character. Johns stressed that Wildcat’s relationship with the young Tom "will be very different from what you expect." The next two issues of the book will focus on Tom to a great extent and Ted Grant’s reaction to being a father. Johns sees Ted as an important character on the team, in many ways "DC’s version of The Thing" in terms of a rough-edged blue collar hero.

When asked if the new series will be accessible to new readers or if it was aimed the crowd that knows the history "all the way back to when the dinosaurs were evolving," Johns insisted that he was keeping things new reader friendly. The introduction of the newer characters provided the perfect intro for new readers as well, as these heroes are becoming part of the JSA for the first time. Johns was asked how far he plans ahead and the writer responded that he has about twenty four issues already worked out to a great extent and a rough notion of more beyond that. Somewhere in there, we will see more about Hourman and Liberty Belle’s wedding, during which Johns said there was "juggling of tanks." The creative team said they would also love to do a Christmas issue.

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The unique preview page that closed issue 1 was analyzed, though the creators were hesitant to reveal too much just yet. They did reveal that the preview is more or less chronological in its layout, meaning that the events depicted will play out in that order in the coming year. First up will be a crossover with Justice League in issues 5 and 6, which will deal largely with Starman and The Sandman. Johns wants to restart the classic tradition of yearly team-ups between the JLA and JSA. The mysterious female hand in the preview was confirmed to indeed be Dawnstar of the Legion of Superheroes, but Johns kept mum on whether any other Legionnaires would be appearing. The apparent resurrection of Kal-L, the Earth-2 Superman, will follow this arc. And by year’s end, the world of Kingdom Come will play some part in the JSA’s adventures. Though the entire preview was sketched by Alex Ross, it was decided that Ross should also paint this last panel himself for the full effect. Johns said that they will likely do a similar preview in issue 12 to showcase their planned second year.

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When asked about their favorites of the new characters, both Johns and Eaglesham agreed that Maxine Hunkel is the winner. Eaglesham cited the character’s isolation, which makes her very relatable for readers and that "her personality makes her perfect to be a hero." Johns agreed, stating that Maxine is "very endearing and real" the way Eaglesham draws her. Not only this but "she’s cute as a button," he said.

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In closing, the creators hoped that whatever their previous history (or lack thereof) with these characters, readers would relate to the "emotional resonance" of the story. The idea of legacy, so important to the JSA, is one that Johns feels strikes a chord with anyone who has a family and strives to find their role in that setting. Eaglesham said that working on the book is "a challenge but a pure joy." Johns insisted that they are both in this for the long haul and that he himself hopes that the DC Universe will always have a JSA, "that I can be still reading about them when I’m fifty years old." With the foundation being laid by this team, the book seems to be off to a good start on that.

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