Eisner Award winner James Robinson (“Starman”) gives his version of the Big 5 their biggest test yet in the next arc of “Justice League of America,” which kicks off this week in the 56-page 50th issue of the title. Entitled “Omega,” the four-issue story features the Crime Syndicate, the supervillain team consisting of evil alternate universe versions of DC’s biggest and best superheroes. Created by Gardner Fox and Mike Sekowsky, the Crime Syndicate first appeared in “Justice League of America” #29 (Vol. 1) in 1964.
Since the acclaimed British writer grabbed the reins of the world’s greatest heroes in “Justice League of America” #38 last year, Robinson has been assembling a roster which now consists of heirs apparent to DC Comics’ iconic Big 5 of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern and The Flash. Led by Dick Grayson, the new Batman, the JLA’s current membership also includes Supergirl, the original Wonder Girl Donna Troy, Alan Scott’s daughter Jade and Johnny Quick and Liberty Belle’s daughter Jesse Quick. Congorilla and Mikaal Tomas fill out the roster but the dynamic duo is unavailable for the JLA’s next challenge as they are off on their own adventure in an upcoming one-shot as revealed in DC’s January solicitations.
In the first part of a special two-part DAYBREAK, Robinson shares his reasoning for using the Crime Syndicate as the latest big bads the JLA must face while hinting that a new supervillain will be introduced in issue #50 as well.
CBR News: Hot off the heels of writing a massive crossover in the pages of “Justice League of America” and “Justice Society of America,” you’re unleashing the Crime Syndicate on the JLA in an arc that kicks off this week in “Justice League of America” #50. Is this something you’ve been building towards since you took over the book last year?
James Robinson: Well, I can’t say that, but when I was conceiving this team, which is sort of my version of the Big 5, the idea of them taking on the Crime Syndicate, a team that’s fought the JLA to a standstill in the past, really appealed to me. There’s a scene in “Justice League of America” #51, which I wrote a little while ago, that will, I hope, really hammer home that’s this is now the Justice League and they are up for saving the world and taking on whatever threats that come their way. What better way to prove it than to have the Crime Syndicate fight my Justice League?
Also, through the machinations of Doctor Impossible, there’s actually a new villain that I will be introducing at the end of #50, another threat that the Justice League has to deal with in order to save everybody in Washington, D.C., including the President. So there is plenty of big stakes stuff for the Justice League to handle.
It’s Dick and super girls going up against the Crime Syndicate?
Yes. It’s Dick, Donna, Supergirl, Jade and Jesse Quick, who I am having a lot of fun with actually. I really am. It’s fun to write her and it’s fun to have a speedster on the team, just having her appear literally everywhere, all at once. As a fan Mort Weisinger and Johnny Quick from the 1940s, it’s just nice to write that character.
So where are Bill and Mikaal?
This is the thing. I wanted to give the Crime Syndicate and their opposite number, their moment. And Bill and Mikaal kind of got in the way of that, so they’re off on a separate adventure that we will pick up on in the “Starman/Congorilla” one-shot in January.
Let’s come back to that, because it looks great, but first, what about the Crime Syndicate? Will we see the classic team of Johnny Quick, Power Ring, Superwoman, Ultraman and Owlman.
Yes, absolutely. And we’ll be picking up on the dynamic of the untrustworthiness and infidelity that exists within the team – and the drug addiction – and everything else that Grant Morrison put into the Crime Syndicate that made the team so interesting and delightful.
These two teams virtually mirror each other. Does that make the Crime Syndicate the ultimate test for the JLA?
Well, I think that the best villains are either mirror images or they are the antitheses. You have the contained order and discipline of Batman versus the insanity and chaos of the Joker. You have the might, strength and goodness of Superman versus the evil intelligence of Luthor. You can have those fantastic confrontations, and that’s why those two villains are the greatest villains in comics and resound and are constantly being used. But then, obviously, you also have great stories with Sinestro as a villain fighting against Green Lantern and Professor Zoom fighting The Flash, where you have the evil counterpart to that character. That can work too.
I think with the Crime Syndicate, the beauty of them is they haven’t actually been used that much. In my mind, they’ve been used a lot, but they’ve really only been used of late in the Grant Morrison graphic novel and then Kurt Busiek and Ron Garney in the “JLA” arc called, “Syndicate Rules.” It’s been a while, so it’s nice to take these out of the closet, dust off the mothballs and see if I can do something good with them.
Is there one member or aspect of the Crime Syndicate that you’ve enjoyed writing more than the rest?
What I enjoyed most was writing the relationship between Owlman, Super Woman and Ultraman. It’s this triangle of love and hatred and dependency and everything strange and twisted that Grant Morrison did do brilliantly and I’m just sort of continuing. And to be fair, Kurt Busiek also continued very effectively, I’m just doing my bit to keep it going. That’s why it’s a lot of fun to write.
We’ve got the Crime Syndicate, but you also mentioned a new villain. Can you shed any light on him or her?
There are some unexpected twists that lead to the creation of a new villain and whether this villain takes off or is successful or not, it’s always a crapshoot. But the fact is, one of the things that I think that the DC Universe could improve on is having more villains. And so, I just intend to keep on trying to invent new villains while I’m doing “Justice League of America” instead of just relying on the same villains. Quite honestly, Batman has some fantastic villains, and The Flash and Superman, every major character, really has a nice rogues gallery, except, ironically, the Justice League. I’ve always thought that the Justice League’s gallery of Amazo, Starro and Starbreaker, aren’t particularly well conceived. They certainly don’t feel like a perfect complement to the Justice League as the individual heroes’ rogues are. So we’ll see if the one that I’ve come up with is any good. People might hate it and in which case, I won’t use it again. I’m just going to keep trying and swinging for the fences, and hopefully, at some point, I’ll be adding a couple of good, new supervilliains for the DCU and the Justice League. So this is the first of them and I don’t want to give you his name or his powers or anything just yet. I want that to emerge, so it can be judged on its own merit. But yes, there will be a new villain and it’s bringing a world-threatening situation where the only people that can stop it is this team of Justice League members. It isn’t anybody else.
What’s ahead for the Justice League after they deal with the Crime Syndicate and this new villain?
This arc is called “Omega” and it’s four parts and runs from #50 to #53 and then we’ll be going straight into “Shadow War,” which is the next arc. It picks up on Jade’s vision from “Brightest Day” and again, it’s a huge, world-threatening crisis that this Justice League has to solve.
The Shadow War isn’t back to the moon for more than a couple of pages. We’re on Earth and in other parts of the DC Universe that you perhaps wouldn’t expect. I’ll be cryptic about that.
Check back tomorrow when James Robinson discusses the “Starman/Congorilla” one-shot and his upcoming “Shade” miniseries.
All 56 pages of “Justice League of America” #50, featuring art by Mark Bagley, Pow Rodrix, Rob Hunter and Norm Rapund, a gatefold cover by Ethan Van Sciver and variant covers by Jim Lee and Bagley, goes on sale this week.