Nearly 20 years ago, a massive monster of a supervillain tore through the DC Universe on his way to a showdown with the Man of Steel that would stop Superman cold and temporarily kill the beast known as Doomsday. This year, the publisher revives not just the villain, but his path of destruction as well, with a few familiar guest stars standing in the way.
Beginning in January’s “Steel” one-shot, DC’s “Reign of Doomsday” event is following a newly-powered Doomsday as he works his way through the four Supermen who briefly replaced the Last Son of Krypton in the ’90s. The hammer-swinging John Henry Irons fell first, and his survival-status remains unknown. Next, Doomsday targeted the Eradicator in “Outsiders” #37 and again, the antihero’s vitals and whereabouts are unknown.
Today, the Kryptonian Killer takes on Cyborg Superman in “Justice League of America” #55, a story that continues in two weeks in “Superman/Batman” Annual #5. Later, Doomsday takes on Conner Kent in “Superboy” #6 on April 13 before facing Superman himself in “Action Comics” #900 on April 27.
Keeping up with the ongoing path of destruction, CBR News is checking in with some of the creative minds behind the event in REIGN OF THE DOOMSAYERS. Today we present James Robinson, the writer of “Justice League of America” and the upcoming “Superman/Batman” Annual #5.
Created by Dan Jurgens, Hank Henshaw made his debut as Cyborg Superman in “Adventures of Superman” #500 after Doomsday killed Superman in 1992’s “Superman” #75.
CBR News: We’re obviously here to talk about Doomsday, but first, a relative newcomer to the DCU is joining the World’s Greatest Heroes in this week’s issue of “Justice League of America.” Why was it time for Blue Lantern Saint Walker to answer the roll call?
James Robinson: I always liked the character. I said to Geoff Johns a long time ago how much I liked him and that I would like to use him in the Justice League. Obviously, Geoff is enthusiastic to have his multi-colored Lanterns used in different parts of the DC Universe to make them more accessible and seen by everybody, but with everything that was going on in the “Green Lantern” book at the time, it wasn’t really the right time to do it. So I’ve sort of been waiting, and at this point in time, with the Lanterns operating on Earth and around the universe, it was fine and I could do it.
In this issue, Saint Walker chances upon some of the Justice League and ultimately becomes an element in their ongoing adventures. It felt like the right time to bring him in because it was the Doomsday issue and Alpha Lantern Boodikka, to a slightly less degree, is involved in the Doomsday crossover. It seemed to all work organically and thematically.
Readers have responded very positively to Saint Walker since his introduction in “Final Crisis: Rage of the Red Lanterns # 1.” While he has questioned his faith at times over the past two years, he is a character fueled by hope with the ability to give hope to others. Does his strong faith play into the events of the “Reign of Doomsday” storyline, and more importantly, his ongoing relationship with the other members of the JLA?
It does. He also has clarity and an ability to see people for who they are, which actually allows him, as this narrative continues over the next few issues, to help one of the Justice League realize their full potential, something that they were never fully aware of him or herself. So he works in a lot of ways. The Blue Lanterns, if you think of it, are a very reactive group. They have more power when they are around a Green Lantern’s power by proximity. I’m also having fun, and you’ll see it all unfold along the way, with how the Blue Lantern’s power interacts with Jade and her father, Alan Scott, who have the power of the Starheart within them, which is green energy, but a different kind.
Also, I’m just hoping to make Saint Walker a character that can be a bigger and more important element of the Justice League. We find out the chemistry of Starman’s power gem also affects Saint Walker’s powers while helping Starman. So I’m trying to make a character that interacts and works well with various members of the team in different ways.
Doomsday is the feature attraction in this week’s issue, but the JLA are currently in thick with Eclipso as the main villain of your current arc. What specific challenge does he pose for Batman, Supergirl and the rest of the team and why were you eager to bring Eclipso back to center stage in the DCU?
There isn’t an eclipse planned, or one that’s forthcoming at any time, and yet, Bruce Gordon changes into Eclipso by being taken completely by surprise, which happened during the Starheart storyline I told in the JLA/JSA crossover. People have already read “Justice League of America” #54 where I did that. Those first pages, where Bruce Gordon is on the island and he first became Eclipso, are happening at the same time as the events of “The Dark Things.”
There are people online who have criticized me and said, “Well, Eclipso isn’t magic” and, “James Robinson goofed.” But what I’m saying is that with the Starheart affecting the moon, it was the moon that brings Eclipso back.
One of the things that interested me about the character was that he was the embodiment of the Wrath of God, prior to the Spectre, so I’m giving him an agenda of basical hatred towards God, which is part of his master plan. I don’t want to reveal too much beyond that, but the covers probably give some indication of what he’s got planned in that it ties in with the moon, specifically the inhabitants of the Emerald City on the moon that Alan Scott has created that now has most of Earth’s magical characters.
This story also ties in with what is going in “Brightest Day” and the fact that Earth is such a focal point in the universe. It all ties together in ways readers will hopefully enjoy as they see it all unfold and they’re reading “Brightest Day,” as well.
So, you’re moving along nicely, telling a multi-layered story and then all of sudden, whammo! — Doomsday crash lands in your book! Is he the big elephant in the room or were you able to make his appearance tie into the other things you’re doing?
First off, he’s a great character but yes, it was odd that in the second part of an arc of mine, the main story kind of takes a bit of a back seat to Doomsday in “Justice League of America” #55. But I managed to tie it all together so that certain characters are in certain places and everything in the two storylines is kind of organically, hopefully, feeding off of each other to a degree.
In terms of those sorts of challenges, where you are rolling along and then suddenly you have an issue that involves a completely incongruous element based on the bigger picture of the DC Universe — and I’m sure it happens to writers working in the Marvel Universe as well — it just goes with the territory. I remember back when I was writing “Starman,” which was a much more closed off part of the DC Universe, those types of things like tie-ins and crossovers, although I did them, there wasn’t as much of a demand for me to do that. But if you’re writing a book like “Justice League of America” and you don’t expect those things to happen, you’re an idiot. Of course they’re going to happen! You have to regard them as part of the job and a fun challenge to try and rise to the occasion and meet. Hopefully I’ve done that.
While he played a major role in arguably the biggest event in comic book history, namely “The Death of Superman,” Doomsday isn’t the most multi-layered character. He basically runs around wreaking havoc and destroying anyone and anything that gets in his way. Is he a tough nut to crack in terms of character development?
That is a problem with the character, I won’t lie. What I’ve tried to do is deal with the feelings and the personalities and the emotions of those who are around him, this force of nature who is wreaking havoc. So in “Justice League of America” #55, I’m doing that with Batman, Supergirl, Starman and Saint Walker. I had a lot of playing up the feelings and emotions and everything of the Cyborg Superman who, it’s no secret, is also a part of this.
The Doomsday element of #55 carries over to “Superman/Batman” Annual #5, which I’m also writing. We encounter a lot more of Cyborg Superman and again, I got into the idea of what he’s thinking at this point and what’s he’s experiencing. Obviously he’s had experiences with Doomsday before in that he actually defeated Doomsday and did one better than Superman in the past. But the thing with Doomsday is that every time you defeat him, he kind of rebuilds himself so that he’s better than the last time and you can’t do the same thing to him twice. So you have someone like Cyborg Superman who has to deal with a Doomsday that is better and is unbeatable, unlike he was the last time. Again, it’s a fun challenge, and I think if you tried to give Doomsday a personality, it would take away from who he is, which is this sort of juggernaut-like destructive force.
Should readers expect a cliffhanger in “Justice League of America” that will tie right into “Superman/Batman” Annual #5?
You’ll see that some plotlines in “Justice League of America” #55 continue in #56 and other plotlines from the issue continue in “Superman/Batman” Annual #5.
Your love of the Golden Age of comics is well documented, but how do you feel “The Death of Superman” storyline from the early nineties holds up after nearly 20 years, specifically the fact that Doomsday — not Lex Luthor or even Brainiac — got to be the villain who killed, albeit temporarily, the Man of Steel?
That character is fortunate that he was used for that purpose, but he hasn’t been mined to death. The problem is, and this is something that happens with any comic book company, if you have success with the character, you can go nutty and suddenly he’s appearing everywhere and he’s crossing over everywhere.
See: Wilson, Wade.
Right. Or like Lobo. Lobo is cool again, but there was a time when he wasn’t as cool because he was just used too much. And I think with Doomsday, he hasn’t had that over exposure so it’s still a bit of an event when he appears. So that’s a very fortunate thing and a very smart thing. As a result, it’s fun to be a part of this event.
We always seem to end on this question, but I feel I have to ask. You have Dick Grayson, Supergirl, Congorilla, now Saint Walker — this ain’t your father’s Justice League of America, or even your big brother’s. Are you still enjoying writing this incarnation of the World’s Greatest Heroes?
It’s more fun for me than it is for most of the readers. [Laughs] I can tell that they want the Big 7 back, and I’m sure they’ll get that at some point, but for me, I’m having fun with this team and writing Donna Troy and Dick Grayson. The characters that I have, I’m enjoying very much so it hasn’t lost its appeal to me yet. No, not at all.
“Justice League of America” #55, written by James Robinson and featuring art by Brett Booth and Norm Rapmund, is in stores today.