James Robinson’s “Starman” series may very well go down as the Eisner Award-winning writer’s magnum opus, but his critically-acclaimed four-issue miniseries, “The Golden Age” reinvigorated an otherwise stagnant sector of the DC Universe, leading to updated versions of the Justice Society of America starring in not one but two titles, one of which he co-wrote with “Dark Knight” screenwriter David Goyer.
Noticeably absent from DC Comics’ New 52 relaunch last fall was a “Justice Society of America” series, notwithstanding a short-lived “Mister Terrific” title, but the publisher has since announced that beginning this May, “Earth 2” will feature the likes of Jay Garrick and Alan Scott — reimagined Golden Age versions of The Flash and Green Lantern — and more importantly, Robinson will write the title. Rising star Nicola Scott provides interiors while DC go-to guys Ivan Reis and Joe Prado will provide covers.
First appearing in “The Flash” #123 in 1961, Earth-Two was initially devised by the legendary Gardner Fox to explain how Silver Age versions of superheroes like The Flash (Barry Allen) and Green Lantern (Hal Jordan) inhabiting Earth-One could appear alongside their Golden Age counterparts in crossover stories.
Earth-Two continuity includes Golden Age versions of DC icons such as Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman, as well as the Justice Society of America. In the 1985 “Crisis on Infinite Earths” miniseries by Marv Wolfman and George Perez, Earth-Two, along with the four other surviving Earths of the DC Multiverse, were merged into one. The Multiverse returned to the DCU proper in the final issue of the weekly series “52” in 2007.
If that’s confusing, fear not. Robinson told CBR News the launch of the New 52 allows Earth-Two a fresh start and an excellent jumping-on point for the new readers. And for long-time fans of the concept, Robinson assured those readers there is lots for you too in “Earth 2” as the series very much returns the alternate world to its base elements.
CBR News: Part of the success of the New 52 is the instant accessibility the relaunch created. Readers don’t need to have read 50-plus years of sometimes convoluted continuity to jump onto “Earth 2” in May, do they?
James Robinson: I don’t think the concept of Earth-Two is that hard to understand, especially in the worlds of comics, genre television or science fiction. One of things that I am trying to do with this world is not make it so alien that you have to scratch your head too much. This world of Earth-Two, whilst being different in very key ways based on events that have happened and things that have occurred in this world in the past, will have a familiarity to it, at the same time. It is my job as a writer to make the idea of an alternate world, and the fact that it exists, as easy for readers as possible to get their heads around. And I intend to do that.
In terms of the relaunch of the New DC Universe, I don’t think that readers will have any problem getting their heads around what this book is and how it fits into the main DC Universe with the main DC Universe books that are out there already.
What about long-time DC readers who love the Earth-Two concept? Has the storytelling and continuity of the past fifty years been erased?
Quite honestly, this is a return to the old pre-“Crisis” Earth-Two. This is what we had for decades before “Crisis on Infinite Earths.” Since then, there has been this generational thing with an old Jay Garrick, an old Alan Scott and various other characters living in the same world as the main heroes. We’re going back to the roots of what it used to be. These heroes are not old anymore. They are all in their twenties, anywhere between 21 and 28. But at the same time, I have made it very clear that there are differences to their powers and how they have their powers and why they have their powers. There is something that makes them unique to themselves and I think that’s what made the original Earth-Two fun. We’re bringing that concept back so I think readers of the old DC continuity, if they have an open mind and aren’t too closed off to trying new things, will ultimately enjoy and get a lot out of it.
Are the events of this series unfolding in step with what’s unfolding in the New 52 or is “Earth Two” set in the recent past, like Geoff Johns’ “Justice League of America” and Grant Morrison’s “Action Comics?”
I don’t want to say too much but there is definitely elements of that, which I think readers will enjoy in the early issues of the series.
Is this series set solely on Earth-Two or will we see Earth-One, as well?
Again, I don’t want to say too much but obviously if this book is part of the big DC world, things like that are talked about. And there may or may not have been some discussions about those kind of things with other writers. [Laughs] But for now, the book is in its own world and getting that world set up is the main priority. Remember, I am building a world a here. I am not just building a team. I don’t want to just cram them all together. It’s not going to be the first issue where they all meet and say, “Hey, we’re building a team. Let’s go fight Brainwave. Or the Sportsmaster,” and they are off to the races. It is a little bit more involved than that. We explore how the team evolves, how the characters meet whilst there are ongoing threats, some of which are new exciting additions. Others are things that you might expect the Justice Society to meet and face and eventually attack. And again, other things are completely new and unique to Earth-Two and the differences that exist on this world.
Non comic book readers know about the Trinity of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman but on Earth-Two, while these characters exist, there is a different Trinity of Jay Garrick, Alan Scott and Al Pratt. Can you shed some light on these characters?
One of things that I have been trying to do is — because everyone knows that I love the concept of Earth-Two, and they know I love the Justice Society — I wanted to distinguish what makes those characters such unique personalities. Even though these aren’t 40 and 50 year-old characters anymore, they are young characters in their twenties, there are elements that I felt were strong in original characters, which still resonate.
With Al Pratt, beginning with the first issue, we see part of his journey on Earth-Two is his life as a soldier. He’s defending the country and the world. We see this resilient, brave character. He’s short on stature but he’s big of heart. He’s a committed soldier that doesn’t back down from any threat despite not having the degree of power that other people might have, in terms of his size. And I really wanted that to shine in the first issue so that as all the fantastic stuff starts to happen to him, as the book unfolds, that element of his personality will stay and will remain a consistent element of Al Pratt.
Alan Scott really is the big guy of Earth-Two. Quite literally. He’s very tall, he’s dynamic, he’s charismatic and he’s also the bravest, most gallant man on the planet. He’s like the great knight defending the Earth. He would die for his planet, he would die for his people. He is the epitome of what a hero should be. And I think even if he wasn’t that way when he first began in the 1940s, he is kind of evolved to that in terms of his place in the Justice Society. I have always felt that he was that character and I have tried to keep that spirit and element of him alive.
And Jay Garrick, what’s there to say? I’ve always loved Jay Garrick because there is this sense that he’s this everyman. He’s this guy that you trust and that you would hang out with and he brings humility. He’s represents middle America. He’s grounded, almost like a Will Rogers-type of character. I don’t know if people will get that reference but he has that kind, sincere, everyman quality that I would like to keep going.
I am very, very proud about how I have begun to let him grow as a character in the four that I have written. He’s 21. He’s starting out his life. And then he basically has to become a hero. Some people are born into greatness and some people have it thrust upon them, he’s very much a character that has his greatness thrust upon him. He accepts it and goes about his duties as a hero all the while looking at this world with fresh eyes and wonder. He’s a way, as a writer, that I can explain things to the reader, including all the concepts of Earth-Two, and make it clear for them to understand and enjoy the comic book.
Are Jay Garrick, Alan Scott and Al Pratt The Flash, Green Lantern, and The Atom on page 1 of “Earth 2” #1 or do we see these characters become these superheroes?
I don’t want to reveal too much about that, Jeffrey. That will be a part of the fun. I know people are a bit maddened about how elusive and vague some of these interviews are about revealing too much but I don’t want to get into it for now. I would like readers to enjoy [that] part of the experience.
While The Flash, Green Lantern and The Atom drive Earth-Two, Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman are also major players. But again, these are alternate versions, correct?
Just like the Justice Society comic back in the 1940s, the Big 3, especially Batman and Superman, didn’t have that much to do in it. But if you look at the overall picture, their presence was still felt and evoked by those heroes. To answer your question, yes the Trinity is a very important part of “Earth 2,” but I will be focusing on Jay Garrick, Alan Scott and Al Pratt and only elements of the Trinity, as well as characters that will surprise you that are different again from any ones that people expect.
Will your book tie into Paul Levitz’s “World’s Finest” series?
There are definite links that you will see unfold as the two series solidify and reveal what they are. And this will include me and Paul having some fun.
Is Huntress still Bruce Wayne’s daughter?
That’s something you have to ask Paul Levitz. Remember, it’s his character. I would be disrespectful to say too much about Huntress.
You are working with Nicola Scott, who is a great fit for the concept. What’s she like as a collaborator?
You are always asked what it’s like working with this person or that person and there is generally lip-service given in interviews. With Nicola, I am genuinely, genuinely thrilled by everything that she is doing. The work that she is doing is superb. She’s really cutting loose with the action. It’s dynamic and exciting. Trevor Scott is doing a fantastic job on the inks. He’s bringing an extra level of weight to the pages but at no point has he overshadowed her beautiful pencils. And I think she’s very excited to do something that she hasn’t been asked to do before which is big, dynamic, world-building, team concept kind of work.
And Ivan Reis is doing covers, which is obviously a fantastic thing.
One last question. You mentioned Sportsmaster, who is one of my all-time favorite villains. Does he play a part in this series?
Anything is possible, Jeffrey. I actually mentioned him because I think he is one of the goofier aspects of Earth-Two, but you know what, maybe that’s a challenge. Maybe I can think of a way to make him into one of the coolest villains in DC Universe. Let’s see if we can have fun in the future.
“Earth 2” by James Robinson and Nicola Scott launches May 2.