Considered a rising star at DC Comics during his early stints on “Teen Titans” and “Titans,” writer J.T. Krul has cemented himself as a mainstay for the publisher having shepherded multiple titles, tie-in miniseries and one-shots over the past few years under the “Blackest Night” and “Brightest Day” banners, including a lengthy run scripting the adventures of Oliver Queen in “Green Arrow.”
So when DC Comics rolled out its first wave of titles as part of its line-wide relaunch in September, it came to no one’s surprise that Krul was writing not one but two titles. Having already taken the Emerald Archer on a treacherous quest before and during “Brightest Day,” the first was a no-brainer — a new “Green Arrow” series, featuring art by fan favorite creator Dan Jurgens (“Booster Gold”).
But few would have guessed Krul’s second series coming out in September would be a relaunched “Captain Atom” with artist artist Freddie Williams II (“Robin”). Indeed, the new title will be the superhero’s first appearance in a solo series since the early 1990s.
Created by writer Joe Gill and artist/co-writer Steve Ditko, Captain Atom first appeared in “Space Adventures” #33 in 1960. Originally, a Charlton Comics’ property, Captain Atom was acquired by DC Comics and revised for its post-“Crisis” continuity.
The inspiration for Doctor Manhattan in Alan Moore’s “Watchmen,” DC’s retelling of the origin consists of Air Force pilot Nathaniel Adam becoming Captain Atom after being blasted by nuclear energy during a military science experiment. Blessed with superhuman strength and endurance, as well as flight and an ability to shoot energy blasts, Captain Atom became a member of the Justice League of America and later served as the leader of Extreme Justice.
Krul told CBR News that while “Green Arrow” is a natural progression of the work he was already doing with Oliver Queen, his “Captain Atom” is “big, epic science fiction storytelling with a solid human core.”
CBR News: I know there are probably larger chasms between two DCU superheroes, but it doesn’t get much wider than Green Arrow and Captain Atom, an ageless archer and an atomized air force pilot. So, first things first — how did these two projects come about? Obviously, you’ve been telling Ollie’s tale the past year in “Green Arrow,” but Captain Atom is kind of out of left field.
J.T. Krul: Yes, these are two very different characters, and two very different books. Obviously, DC knows my love for Green Arrow. I’ve been writing him for a little under two years now and was thrilled to be able to usher Green Arrow into this new era. Captain Atom is playing in a new part of the DC Universe for me. I’ve actually never written him before, but the focus and the direction of the book is right up my alley. From the first conversations with Mike Marts and Eddie Berganza to developing it with Rachel Gluckstern and Freddie Williams II, everything just seemed to click. We were all on the same page in terms of what this book could and should be. Sometimes, launching into a new series with new characters can be daunting, but this one really flowed organically from day one.
What separates what you were doing with Ollie in the forest and Star City this past year with what’s to come in September, because when reading the solicitation for the first issue, it almost sounds like you’re doing young Ollie, or at least his origin story?
It’s ironic because even though this is another relaunch, in many ways it’s simply the progression of the story that I was already telling. Through “Fall of Green Arrow” and into “Brightest Day,” it was about stripping everything away from Oliver Queen and forcing him to evaluate who he is as a person. And whether or not he can be a hero. Everything with the forest and Galahad and Jason Blood tied into that general theme of looking beyond past mistakes and getting on with one’s life.
In the last page of “Green Arrow” #12, Ollie emerges from the forest with renewed vigor and sense of purpose. He is a hero, plain and simple, fighting against abuses of power in every form. That’s the core of Green Arrow, and that’s not changing. We’re not doing an origin story. This is simply honing in on everything that makes Green Arrow such an incredible, cool and fun character in the DC Universe.
Having spent that time with Ollie, what have you learned about him that you didn’t know when you were simply a fan of the character? And are there things that you wanted to explore personality-wise with Ollie that you didn’t have a chance to that makes getting a second run with him an even greater opportunity?
I always knew he was hard on himself, but I didn’t realize the extent to which he was his own worst critic. He’s smart and brash and capable, but there is a strong sense of being unworthy deep in his soul, like he’s forever paying for some past transgression or failure. I always said that I enjoy writing flawed characters, but the truth is that we are all flawed in our own ways. Nobody is perfect. Most people are able to accept that notion, but Ollie can only forgive others. He has a hard time forgiving himself.
One of the things I was looking forward to exploring — again, something that was coming anyway — is mainly getting Green Arrow back to that heroic foundation. He may make mistakes, but at the end of the day, he’s doing everything he can to make his corner of the world a better place. He’s still going to have that nagging feeling inside, but he’s done beating himself up so much. It’s not that the book is going to be light, but we’ve been in heavy, emotional territory for a while now. It’s fun getting back to the action and adventure aspect of the book.
What can we expect from the supporting cast in “Green Arrow?” And seeing as this title was released under the “New Justice” banner, will he be a member of the newly formed JLA?
I can’t talk much about story points or his supporting cast in the book, but as with my previous work, it’s really important for me to keep this book focused on Green Arrow and Oliver Queen. This is his book. He’s definitely got people coming in and out of his life, but it’s still vital to keep him at the center.
How important is wealth to Ollie’s characterization? And if that wealth was stripped from him, would you have something very different to work with?
Ollie’s relationship, if you will, with his wealth is a very key aspect to who the character is. It goes back to the kind of life he was leading before he became Green Arrow. You know how those billionaire playboys can be. Again, it hits on this notion of purpose and responsibility. Ollie is compelled to do everything he can to help people and that relates to a lot more than simply grabbing a bow and arrow and jumping along rooftops.
You must be pretty excited to be working with Dan Jurgens.
Absolutely. He’s not only a tremendous artist, but he’s a writer as well, which has been invaluable as we’ve gone through this process together.
Let’s shift to your other relaunch title, now. I can still remember picking up the first issue of “Captain Atom” written by Cary Bates back in 1986. Was that your introduction to the character, as well?
My first exposure with Captain Atom was actually in the pages of “Justice League International,” but it eventually led me to what Carey Bates did with the character in the solo book. As we developed this relaunch, I revisited everything, learning everything I could about the character. Lucky for me, current readers have been getting a great look at Captain Atom in Judd Winick’s “Generation Lost” book, which was probably my favorite “Brightest Day” series.
Assuming you’ve been writing or at least plotting this new “Captain Atom” series for a few months, what have you learned about him as a character? Because as a superpowered hero, he is almost without equal. In fact, the solicitation teases that he may even lose himself in all of his power.
In a word: isolation. While this book holds true to the core of who Captain Atom is, it is also a very different book from what’s come before, especially since we’ve mostly seen Captain Atom in team settings. Again, I can’t go into story details, but it’s about how Captain Atom sees the world given all the powers he possesses and the difficulties he has finding his place in it. We are really tapping into an almost science-fiction vibe as we explore the actual ways in which Captain Atom interacts with the world around him and the difficulties that can represent giving what he is capable of.
While he has a rich history within the DCU, Captain Atom is obviously not as well known as heroes like Green Arrow or most of the Teen Titans. How much exploring of his origins and powers will you have to do to set this series up for new readers?
We’re not doing origin stories. Obviously, who Captain Atom is and how he came to be is going to be integrated into the story we are telling, but right out of the gate you’ll see Captain Atom in spectacular fashion. in terms of exploring his powers, that’s actually a key component of the book; we’ll see Captain Atom discover and cope with these wondrous yet plaguing powers that he now possesses.
I guess a good question here would be, how would you sum Captain Atom up for new readers?
Captain Atom was just an Air Force Pilot until an experiment went horribly wrong. Instead of killing him, it gave him vast nuclear powers. He is a man living on Earth, possessing the near limitless powers of a god, which isn’t always as grand as it sounds. It’s a story of how he uses those powers as a hero, but more importantly, how he copes with the burden of such abilities while trying to maintain his humanity.
The solicitation teases that you and Freddie Williams II take the character in a bold new direction. Any teases of what that will be?
Again, I can’t talk specifics, but overall the new direction relates to the type of book this will be. We’re exploring Captain Atom is a new way with a very different feel and look. Freddie Williams II art is nothing short of stunning and I believe people will be blown away by what they see. It’s big, epic science fiction storytelling with a solid human core.
Like Ollie, with this series being announced under the “New Justice” banner, will Captain Atom be a member of the new JLA?
The two books sound pretty different, but is there any chance this series will crossover with “Green Arrow?”
In the short term, I doubt it, but you never know.