Teased in May’s Free Comic Book Day Issue aptly named, “DC Comics: The New 52” #1, DC Comics announced at Fan Expo Canada that the superstar creative team of writer Geoff Johns and artist David Finch are joining forces on “Justice League of America,” a companion title to the publisher’s top-selling series, “Justice League” by Johns and the legendary Jim Lee.
Finch spoke with CBR News about the already highly-anticipated series, specifically the team’s membership, the diversification of the roster and what new drawing techniques he’s utilizing on “Justice League of America.”
The DC Comics’ exclusive artist also discussed leaving his current series, “Batman: The Dark Knight” after two more issues, what otis that makes Katana so mysterious and why Stargirl and Vibe are as vital to the title’s success as more iconic JLAers like Martian Manhunter, Green Arrow and Hawkman.
CBR News: Geoff Johns. David Finch. “Justice League of America.” Doesn’t get any better than that, does it?
David Finch: Yeah, I’m pretty pumped. It’s nice to have it finally announced that it’s coming.
You’ve been at this for a while?
I’ve only drawn three pages, but we’ve talked about it a bunch and it starts up next February.
This marks the end of your run with “Batman: The Dark Knight,” correct?
Yeah, I only have another two issues of “Batman: The Dark Knight” and then I’m done.
When we spoke just after “Batman: The Dark Knight” was announced , you said the opportunity to draw and write Batman was a major reason for signing an exclusive deal with DC Comics. While this is “Justice League of America,” I’m not sure Katana and Vibe were on your bucket list too..
[Laughs] Vibe wasn’t really a character I was familiar with, but Katana is actually a character I really liked from doing “Birds of Prey” covers.
What is about Katana that you like?
I think she has a great costume design. It’s a lot of fun to draw. Also, I really like drawing a character that uses swords. And with her martial arts background, a lot of her stances and poses are really fun for me to draw too. I think there is a lot of mystery with the character too because of her mask.
Do you think you’ll learn to love Vibe? He’s been much maligned over the years, but Geoff and Ivan [Reis] have been able to transform Aquaman into a leading man, so why not Paco Ramone?
Absolutely. Not every character can be a huge, galactic, all-powerful character, and I think having a character like Vibe who is really new and really doesn’t know why he’s been picked to be on this team adds to the team dynamic. Vibe, as a character, wonders why he is on the team just as much as some readers are maybe wondering, and Geoff definitely has an answer to that people will enjoy.
I know you and Geoff have wanted to work on something for some time. I know it is early days, but what’s he like as a contributor?
Like you said, we talked about doing something quite a while ago and over the years. We’ve kept in touch and talked about doing something, but it never happened. I was excited about doing “Justice League of America,” but really, I was more excited about working with Geoff. I was all for whatever project he came up with, to be honest.
Over the years, I’ve really learned what a difference a great script and a great writer brings to a project. It’s not worth drawing if it’s not written well. I’m really lucky to be working with Gregg Hurwitz right now on “Batman: The Dark Knight.” His scripts are phenomenal. I love his stories, and now I am really, really lucky to be working with Geoff Johns.
DC has talked specifically since the launch of the New 52 about diversifying its line with superheroes of different races, gender and sexual orientation. It was recently confirmed that a new character, Baz, would be the first ever Arab-American Green Lantern, and he’s joining your team. He looks right in your wheelhouse as an artist. Are you excited to flesh him out in “Justice League of America?”
I really think so. I think he’s going to be a lot fun. But to be honest, I don’t really know a lot about him just yet, so he’s kind of an open book for me. That said, the stuff that Geoff has told me about him is going to be a lot of fun to explore. I love the fact that he is so new and so different. It just means that people aren’t going to know what to expect and I like that. You put some characters together and you really know what the dynamic is going to be, but this has a chance to be something really fresh and I think it’s going to go a lot of places that people didn’t expect. Or, that people may not be able to predict.
In the announcement , Geoff said, “David and I are really focused on delving deep into what it’s like to not be a member of the big seven and why, sometimes, the grass isn’t always greener on the other side.” I’m focusing on the word “green,” because Martian Manhunter, pre-New 52, was a member of the big seven. Is he going to be a major player in “Justice League of America?”
Without him, the team really doesn’t have a real tentpole, a powerful and experienced character. That’s why I put him in the center of the shot. Steve Trevor is really in charge of the team, but anybody who is on that team is going to look up to Martian Manhunter and say, “We’re legit.”
As we’ve stated, you are a self-professed Batman fan. Did you ask for Catwoman to be on the team?
To be totally honest, I talked to Geoff quite a bit about who he thought the characters are and just what the personalities would be — that was very important to me — but as far as the team goes, that was all Geoff. He had very specific reasons for each of the characters being in there. He had very specific reasons for why every character fit.
I mentioned Martian Manhunter, but there are some other long-serving heavy hitters featured in “Justice League of America,” namely Green Arrow and Hawkman.
Without some of those characters, it’s hard to call it the JLA, really. I think we have enough experienced JLA characters to give it that core, and enough new characters to make it really fresh and unpredictable.
Dating back to the legendary stories by Neal Adams and Dennis O’Neil, Green Lantern and Green Arrow have enjoyed a long history of team-ups and turmoil. Are we going to see Ollie and Baz’ rivalry/relationship explored?
That’s something I’m going to let Geoff talk about. [Laughs] It touches a little too close to something that I think he has planned.
The final member of the team is a character very close to Geoff’s heart, Stargirl, who he created for “Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E.” in 1999, was inspired by his sister, Courtney. Were you very familiar with her coming into this?
Truthfully, I really didn’t know about her at all, but I learned a lot about her talking to Geoff. And I have to tell you, the book wouldn’t be the same without her. She is such a positive, upbeat character, no matter what happens. She’s so openly optimistic and that’s really nice to have.
You’ve got a nice balance between male and female characters. Is that important to the team dynamic and what you and Geoff are trying to accomplish?
Of course it is. It’s great having the team being as diverse as possible, because society is culturally diverse. The more we learn about each other’s cultures, the better rounded we become as a society. For the book, it brings a great dimension to it.
Frankly, going to conventions, for our audience, I feel we’ve really started to break down the gap to bring in more female readers — unlike we’ve ever done before. I’m not sure what’s happened exactly to make that happen, but I think now, more than ever, it’s important to have strong female characters in teams.
Are you going to get to draw the superheroes from Geoff’s “Justice League” — Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman, Aquaman, Green Lantern, The Flash and Cyborg — in “Justice League of America?”
It’s a little early to be talking about which characters might appear in the book. That’s definitely something I’d like to leave to Geoff to talk about.
You have a history on team books with “Avengers” and “Ultimate X-Men” for Marvel, but do you have to get into a different headspace transitioning from “Batman: The Dark Knight” to “Justice League of America?”
Yeah, I really do, especially when every solo book I’ve ever done features a darker sort of a character. I really enjoy that, but it’s nice to stretch and draw some characters that are maybe a little brighter and the backgrounds are going to be a little more varied. You really get to flex some different muscles. I really like the interaction between characters, which I really don’t get to do with a solo character book.
Are you trying anything new technique-wise in “Justice League of America?”
Sure. First of all, I’m doing everything on the computer now. That’s something I’ve been doing for a couple of months. The last couple issues of “Batman: The Dark Knight” have all been done on the computer. And that means I am doing my own inks.
With “Justice League of America,” I am trying to be a little cleaner with the inks. With “Batman: The Dark Knight,” I went a little darker. It has black panel borders and there’s a lot more ink splatter going on. Obviously, I won’t be using as much of that on “Justice League of America.” It’s not really appropriate. I’d like to go with a cleaner line, but a clean line is really something I have to learn with inking. I think if I could do a cleaner line on “Batman: The Dark Knight,” I’d be doing it .[Laughs] I’m trying to work in that direction.
I’ve done a fair amount of inking, but Richard Friend, who I was working with before, has such a clean and beautiful line. I don’t know if I will ever get to that point.
The other thing that I’m doing is using a lot of 3D models, which is something that is becoming more and more prevalent in comics. A lot of us probably fought it for a while because ultimately, we’re artists, and when you start doing that kind of thing, where do you draw the line and say, “This isn’t art?” But I finally got to the point where I realized that this is the future — and comics are really the last artistic realm to embrace this sort of stuff — and the product is really what’s most important to me. And if I can make it a better product by using a 3D model and make something more consistent, I’m going to do it. Especially for shots when I’ve got a really extensive scene with lots going on, I think I can make it a lot stronger that way. There are things that I have in mind that I am really excited about putting on the page.
“Justice League of America” #1, written by Geoff Johns and featuring art by David Finch, is expected in February 2013.