Marc Guggenheim (“Amazing Spider-Man,” “Flash: The Fastest Man Alive”) returns to DC Comics this fall as the new writer of “Justice Society of America” as announced via The Source. James Robinson (“Starman”) is currently writing the title as it crosses over with his “Justice League of America” for the next few issues under DCU’s “Brightest Day” banner. A new artist for the title has not yet been announced.
Busy writing Hollywood scripts or treatments for “Leonardo da Vinci and the Soldiers of Forever,” “Arabian Knights” and “Green Lantern 2,” Guggenheim is also serving as consulting producer on ABC’s “No Ordinary Family,” starring Michael Chiklis. But Guggenheim always finds time for his first love, comics, especially when the project is helming a new era for the first team of superheroes in comic book history.
Created by editor Sheldon Mayer, writer Gardner Fox and artist Sheldon Mayer, the JSA first appeared in “All Star Comics” #3 in 1940. The current series was launched in 2006 by superstar writer Geoff Johns and fan favorite artist Dale Eaglesham with Alex Ross on covers. When the creative team stepped down, Bill Willingham and Matt Sturges came aboard as the new writers. After their first arc, Sturges left to write “JSA All-Stars” with half the JSA’s ever-growing roster while Willingham stayed to lead “Justice Society of America,” notably featuring the Big 3 of Jay Garrick (The Golden Age Flash), Alan Scott (The Golden Age Green Lantern) and Ted Grant (the original Wildcat).
Guggenheim told CBR News that Flash, Green Lantern and Wildcat will feature prominently in his opening arc, as will Mister Terrific, Doctor Fate and Lightning, with the original superhero team being entrusted to build a new society within the DCU unlike we’ve ever seen before.
CBR News: How did your involvement in “Justice Society of America” come about?
Marc Guggenheim: Basically, Mike Carlin and I started talking about JSA. Initially, Mike had come to me to write an inventory arc and we started kicking around various ideas. While this was going on Bill Willingham made his decision to leave the book, so our idea started evolving into a long-term, open-ended commitment. As we were talking, Mike made the point that he always wanted to see the Justice Society evolve into an actual society, like a city of superheroes. I started thinking about the circumstances under which something like that might happen.
What I hit upon was the idea of the JSA adopting a city, essentially. I always like to look at various comic book conventions that we sort of all take for granted as reader,s and try and re-examine them from a new point of view. One of things that occurred to me was that we’re always seeing these big superhero/supervillain fights that devastate the city, and then we never return to the city, or the city is repaired between the panels and the consequences of all the collateral damage are never really explored. It occurred to me, wile we’re exploring it now with a particular city, there might be the makings of A) an interesting story and B) an exploration of the kind of society that Mike had suggested. So that’s really how it evolved. It was very organic. It came out of just really good decisions between me and Michael.
Will you be featuring the current roster from “Justice Society of America”, or will the team from “JSA All-Stars” be there too?
It’s a pared-down version of the folks that they have in the “Justice Society of America” book right now. I felt like six characters was the maximum I could reasonably handle at the outset, and my goal is to, as the city builds itself up, slowly bring in more and more characters until it is, like I said, a society. But that’s an evolution that will happen over time, and it won’t affect “JSA All-Stars” at all.
Who is the mayor of JSA-ville?
Good question. It’s an excellent question and I’ll just answer it straight out. Jay Garrick will be the center of the universe here. Whether he turns out to actually be mayor, well, you’ll have to continue to read the book. I think it will be interesting to watch Jay evolve and grow as a character.
Which other JSA members will be featured?
You’ll see Alan Scott. You’ll see Lightning. You’ll see Mister Terrific. You’ll see Doctor Fate and you’ll see Wildcat. If you’re going to write a book like “Justice Society of America,” the whole point is that you get to play with the big toys, so we get to have all the heavy hitters. I want to slowly populate the book with more characters, and not necessarily characters that are sort of related to the JSA or even only legacy heroes.
Can you talk about JSA’s trinity of Jay, Allan and Ted and how these three iconic heroes will interact with each other during your run?
One of things that I’ve actually really enjoyed in writing the book is the dynamic between these three characters. It’s rare in comic books to have three male characters that know each other so well and have grown so close to each other, and I think it’s a lot of fun to see that dynamic at work. It’s something you don’t usually get to see. It’s either three characters that don’t know each other so well or a lot more than three characters in the context of a much larger group. It’s a fun to write a male relationship like this. It’s also fun to see the way these guys relate to each other after knowing each other for so long.
Where does the always mysterious Doctor Fate fit into the mix, and what does he bring to the team dynamic?
He’s a big gun. That’s how I’ve been referring to him in the book. From a tactical, action-oriented perspective, it’s good to have a guy that has access to his power set. But I’d have to say, long-term, my goal for Doctor Fate is to flesh out the character a little bit more and make him more of a three-dimensional character. I think the problem with mystic/magic oriented characters is that they stop being real people and they become just a set of mystical powers that makes them an impenetrable mystery. It’s something you can’t dive into and do the very first issue, but long-term I’d like to see Nelson transform into as three-dimensional a character as, say, Mister Terrific is, or Alan or Jay or Ted.
As the third smartest person on Earth, Mister Terrific obviously plays a big part in the team dynamic.
I think the question you have to ask yourself is, how long will he be the smartest person on the team? That’s a story we start teeing off in the very first issue. I’m actually looking forward to where we’re going with Mister Terrific because he’ll be facing a challenge that he’s never faced before. I think I’ll leave it at that.
OK. The last JSAer you mentioned was Lightning. She’s the only member from the new breed of superheroes that’s been introduced since the book was re-launched in 2006. Why include Jennifer Pierce, Black Lightning’s daughter?
In all honesty, I felt like I needed some estrogen on the team and Lightning struck me as having the most potential while being one of the youngest guns. There is just more room for where she can go. So it was a combination of a couple of different factors.
Will you be explaining in the book what’s happening with the rest of the team, like Doctor Mid-Nite and Liberty Belle, while this story unfolds?
It will be explained. They’re not gone from the team. They’ll be slowly coming back into the page of the book. My goal was to, rather than overwhelm the reader with too many main characters in the first issue, was to start with these six and then rotate back in Doctor Mid-Nite and the other non-JSA All-Star, JSAers. I also think Jesse Quick might be hanging with the JLA for a while.
One of my goals, long-term, with the book is to open up the JSA beyond the scope that we’ve typically seen it.
So would you describe this as a “West Wing” version of a superhero book, looking at the politicking of how a superhero team operates, or will we still see big action and big battles every issue?
That’s a very fair question. I would say that there are still a lot of big battles. It’s still a superhero book. I wouldn’t say it’s particularly “West Wing,” but what’s happening with the city is something that A) will happen in the background and B) something that will create the springboard for the big sort of widescreen superhero stories. So it will be the same superhero stories that you’re used to in terms of scope, but they’ll come out of this city as opposed to coming out of the JSA’s past, like World War II.
You talked about a trigger point that kicks off this story. Can you share any details on what or who that is?
It’s a new villain named Scythe. My goal, like I said, is to look forward with the characters a bit. I feel like with the JSA that it’s always very tempting to go to the Nazi place and bring up Nazi-oriented characters. I was very conscious of wanting to introduce a new character that didn’t have those sort of trappings, but instead was very much of the 21st century and very timely and deals with sort of current events.
The advantage of bringing in a new character instead of taking an old character is that…the whole first issue is sort of, in many ways, a metaphor for what I’m trying to do with the book, which is a loud smack upside the head. The JSA starts off in the first issue thinking, “OK. This is a new supervillain. It’s another day at the office. This is a run-of-the-mill challenge.” Then, of course, something very violent and shocking happens in the first issue which is this huge warning cry to indicate this is not like a villain they have ever faced before and this is not a normal day at the office. I’m really trying to throw them off their game.
With a name like Scythe, it makes me think about the Grim Reaper and death and dying. Are we going to see some death and dying in this book?
You very well may [Laughs]. Read the book.
Guggenheim’s run begins in October with “Justice Society of America” #44.