“Earth 2,” writer James Robinson and artist Nicola Scott’s DC Comics alternate Earth comic book series, saw the death of the world’s biggest heroes as Wonder Woman, Batman and Superman sacrificed themselves to save the day in issue #1.
But as a new batch of superhumans begin to emerge from the rubble, September’s “Earth 2” #0, written by Robinson with art by Tomas Giorello, will throw readers back to the heyday of the Trinity and trace the rise of “Earth 2” villain Terry Sloan.
In the initial issues of “Earth 2,” readers experienced firsthand the new origins of Jay Garrick as the Flash, his powers gifted by the Roman god Mercury, and Alan Scott as the Green Lantern and the champion of the Earth 2 Green. As more familiar yet slightly different Justice Society faces have begun to appear, notably Hawkgirl and the Atom, Robinson and Scott also unleashed their version of Solomon Grundy and set their characters on a collision course, the arc concluding after #0.
With the #0 “origin” issue of “Earth 2” rolling back the clock, Robinson spoke with CBR about the role the Trinity and Terry Sloan play in the issue and the series, as well as his approach to reinventing Grundy and the parallels between the Grey and the Rot.
CBR News: James, for this very first “Earth 2” arc, why did you bring back Solomon Grundy specifically? What was the appeal of him versus some other JSA or Golden Age villains?
James Robinson: I thought his powers worked really well in relation to Green Lantern’s in terms of my origin for the new Alan Scott Green Lantern on this new Earth 2; there is also the fact is that I used him quite considerably in the first few arcs of “Starman.” In fact, I was actually the person who came up with the explanation why every time Grundy was depicted by one writer or another he had a different personality. So he’s always been a character that’s been close to my heart. With his look and powers and everything else, the idea of him being the agent from the Grey who’s brought back to life due to the fact that the Grey suddenly senses the creation of the Green’s avatar just made sense to me. Of course, Solomon Grundy was a Golden Age Green Lantern villain before he was a Justice Society villain. His origin was in “All-American Comics,” but he was a Green Lantern villain first, so returning him to the role of Green Lantern’s arch foe made sense to me.
The whole idea with the Grey — when I came up with the idea it was just early enough that I didn’t know the extent of what Scott Snyder was planning with Jeff Lemire with “the green” and “the red” and everything they’re doing now with “Swamp Thing” and “Animal Man,” which are books I’m very much enjoying. So it was a bit of a coincidence, but I think a happy one as it could definitely all tie together at some point in the future maybe. The other thing I’m borrowing from is Rick Veitch’s run of “Swamp Thing” where Swamp Thing fought the Grey. It’s a combination of things, but it ties in nicely with everything that Scott and Jeff are doing which, like I said, I’m a huge fan of. That’s really the why of Solomon Grundy as opposed to another villain that you might think would be a good adversary for the heroes of Earth 2 — remember they haven’t actually formed the Justice Society yet.
It seems the new heroes are still getting their feet wet, and you’ve just introduced the Atom and hinted at his and Kendra’s unknown history.
Yes, and that’s all tied into an arc to come. Issues #7 and #8 are both single stories that focus on different aspects of Earth 2 and will feature subject matter and characters that will be a surprise for readers. I think, they’ll be very excited by who we’re focusing on. Then issue #9, the next arc I’m doing, focuses on magic on Earth 2. I’m not going to say who I introduce in that arc, but it doesn’t take a brain surgeon to work out! We will be coming back to Hawkgirl’s relationship to the World Army and the government, which will be something that will lead off in directions people won’t be expecting. I think they will be very excited and happy about it when they do find out what [those directions] are.
Your Earth 2 definitely has a more mystical bent than the main DC Universe Earth. Is that something you see as a large part of how this Earth 2 is different from the main DCU and what’s come before?
Absolutely, there is much more of a metaphysical/mystical bent to it. The Earth is much more of a player in its own drama, so to speak. Eventually we will see science-based heroes, but it was a deliberate thing; the rules are that all these heroes’ powers on “Earth 2” for now come from a mystical place and all the powers come with a price. Sometimes that price is the death of the love of your life and sometimes it’s that you’re now forced to wear wings forever and are not able to walk among people as a normal person ever again.
This all started really for me wanting to change the Flash’s origin. I love Jay Garrick, he’s always been my favorite Flash and one of my favorite characters, but when origins are goofy because it was done in a simpler time like the 1940s and you don’t fix it later, it bugs me. With the hard water origin — breathing in weird fumes didn’t work for me. It’s funny because while I don’t buy that at all, splashed by chemicals and hit by lightning I completely buy one hundred percent, so there you go! I wanted to fix that and then used Mercury, establishing that we have this Roman pantheon and not the Greek pantheon that you’re seeing in Wonder Woman. [The pantheon] looks different, and by the time we begun the present day part of the first issue, they’re all dead anyway. It’s all things I enjoy doing, so that’s why I chose the path I did for people’s powers. I should say even the Atom who, based on getting consumed in this nuclear blast, it seems a very “Incredible Hulk”-like origin and science-based in that regard, you’re going to find out that even that has a mystical aspect you don’t realize is part of it.
Speaking of the deaths in the first issue, “Earth 2” #0 looks like it’s a story about those dead Trinity characters. How does that fit into what’s going on with the heroes right now?
It is the Trinity, but it gives us a little bit more idea of the past. It actually reveals there were eight wonders and the eighth wonder, Mr. 8 as he was known, is Terry Sloan. This story really explains why Terry Sloan goes from being a hero who fought beside the Trinity and the other heroes who were around at the time to how he’s now this sort of anti-hero, to use the best term. This is setting up Sloan who becomes a bigger character in the “Earth 2” drama as everything unfolds in the arc after the one we’re doing now — although actually you’ll be seeing him again in issues #5 and #6.
I don’t know if everybody tries to do this with their #0 issues, but what I wanted to do is make a #0 issue that explains some aspect of what happened before issue #1, but also was a springboard for future stories at the same time. So with that in mind, setting up who Terry Sloan is will help to springboard stories in the future.
Does this #0 issue lead into the Apokolips war and the events of issue #1?
This takes place in an earlier moment in the Apokolips war.
Looking at #0 art-wise, Tomas Giorello fills in for series artist Nicola Scott. What does Tomas bring out in “Earth 2” #0 versus what Nicola’s been doing in the overall series?
Nicola has a lot to do in that she not only has to tell these exciting stories and make them great through her art, which she does every month, but she’s helping me to build the whole entire world. With the #0 issue, it was one specific adventure, one specific place where it all happens, so I was able to just concentrate on coming up with compelling action and hopefully good visuals for Tomas. And he came through with flying colors and did a really great job.
You’ve said before you want to get back to the roots of a lot of these heroes. In terms of look, do you and Nicola have a lot of conversations about balancing the costumes of the old Golden Age heroes with what a contemporary hero would wear on Earth 2?
That is not just Nicola and I. There are different people who do the design for different characters. Nicola designed the Trinity back when; she did a great job with that, and she’ll definitely be designing some characters you’ll be meeting in the next few issues. Other people were involved in designing Jay Garrick and Alan Scott, but we all put our opinions in, including Nicola. I was really quite proud of the Atom. Because these are young heroes now you can’t really have the same multi-generational dynamic that there used to be where you have a Golden Age Atom and then you had Atom Smasher and then you had Damage — you had all these different versions of the same character, basically. What we’re trying to do is consolidate these iconic bits of when there are multiple versions of the character into one overall character. I was very happy with the costumes for the new Atom because I can see bits of the original Golden Age Atom, bits of Atom Smasher, obviously bits of Damage. That’s what we’re trying to do in the future. When there’re multiple versions, you’ll see us try to create a new amalgam, which hopefully will resonate with people who are fans of any one of those characters, and it will resonate for everybody.
Speaking about reinventing these characters, now that the initial news over Green Lantern’s sexuality has blown over, are you still hearing people talking about it, or has the furor died down now that you’ve got more issues out?
When it all started it was interesting and a bit surprising. It was a conversation I was having about the Atom, actually, of all people, with Dan DiDio and I brought up that now Obsidian is no longer around I’d like to make Alan Scott gay. Dan was talking about something regarding the Atom but he stopped and thought about Alan Scott being gay a second and said, “Yeah, okay, fine!” And then went back to the Atom. That was how little it mattered to him or to me. It shouldn’t really be that big a deal. So when he mentioned it in an offhand comment and it became this whole big thing we were all a bit surprised by that. I treated it as a “Who cares, just get on with your lives, it’s more about him as an overall person and it’s just one aspect,” and I think that’s how I’m writing the character. After the initial comments and excitement and whatnot now people are more interested in the ongoing drama, and with the appearance of the Atom people are interested about that. I’m glad and I’m trying to bring something fresh with every issue, so hopefully they’ll keep being excited about what the next issue is.
What’s next for “Earth 2?” We’ve obviously got more heroes coming up after the #0 issue — is your hope or plan to reassemble the entire original Golden Age JSA or are you playing with other characters who weren’t in the original mold?
A little bit of both. I’m going to do my best to try and bring as many of the characters I can. Some of them have become part of the main DC Universe. As an example, Vandal Savage, who I wrote recently for “DC Universe Presents,” he was a Golden Age Flash villain who went on to be a Justice Society villain who is now just a part of the main Earth. So I’m not using him on “Earth 2.” There are the odd heroes like that, but where I can I’ll try to incorporate the characters and make them fresh and new but still honoring and trying to instill the essence of what they were when they appeared in the 1940s.
“Earth 2” #0 by James Robinson with art by Tomas Giorello is now in stores. Check out a five-page preview of “Earth 2” #0 right here on CBR.