Over the last year or so, DC Comic’s JSA series has been rising up the sales charts steadily and earning quite a lot of critical praise at the same time. Featuring DC’s classic Golden Age heroes along with some successors to the namesakes, writers Geoff Johns (“Flash”, “Hawkman”) and David Goyer (“Blade,” “Blade 2”) have guided the series expertly and artist Stephen Sadowski has been the man creating the beautiful visual tapestry. With the ability to deftly meld the fantastic nature of the title characters and their adventures along with a strong sense of realism, Sadowski has turned a lot of heads and matched the high quality writing on the series with his equally exceptional art. It’d be a no-brainer to recommend rushing out to buy “JSA” in order to see his great work…except that he was let go from the series.
“Well, it was really a case of not being able to do 12 issues a year, and some bad timing,” says Sadowski of his departure from the series that was announced a short while ago. “After the ‘Return of Hawkman’ story, I had to jump ahead on to the next storyline (featuring the new villain Roulette). Added to the schedule was Geoff’s solo run, the weirdness of the ‘Joker: Last Laugh’ crossover which interrupted the issues I was working on and the stand-alone story for DC’s ‘Full Coverage’ month. It just became a scheduling mess. Also, David Goyer was adamant that the ‘Stealing Thunder’ arc be penciled by one artist, which is understandable, and so some tough decisions had to be made. A fill-in artist was chosen, and ultimately, I was let go. But, ultimately the responsibility is mine.” But Sadowski assures fans of the “JSA” creative team that this was not a messy separation nor do the various parties hold any hard feelings towards one another. “My relationship with DC is fine, I HOPE!” chuckles Sadowski. “Everyone has always been happy with the work. The real issue has always been the amount of work I can do while still pleasing myself! Geoff [Johns] is truly one of my best friends, at least as well as one can be over the phone. We are ALWAYS talking about stuff to work on in the future, and I’ll be mad if I’m not invited to his wedding! I don’t really speak with David, much.”
In addition to earning a reputation for strong storytelling and visual skills, Sadowski has also been seen as a “class act” by many fans that have been given the chance to interact with him on DC’s JSA Internet Message Board. The same integrity and character are two of the main reasons that Sadowski chose to break the news to the fans on the “JSA” board, admitting that it was his fault for being let go and not giving into the temptation to pass blame onto other people. “Why would I blame them?” says Sadowski to those who might have expected him to be the typical, bitter creator who blames DC. “I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t unhappy, but I DO understand the situation. Believe me, as I said, NO ONE wanted me to go, but apparently there was no room for me on the book after Leonard Kirk came on. He can easily handle the workload to himself.”
“I have turned in issue 38, with issue 39 tentative, depending on schedule,” says Sadowski of any upcoming “JSA” work. “After that I doubt that I will do anymore work on the “JSA” monthly.” But he has been quite happy with his run on the title and even has some favorite moments on the series too. “Well, the ‘Hawkman’ story was a lot of fun, just because of the largeness of the event,” says Sadowski in regards to the storyline that arguably thrust “JSA” to the forefront of fandom’s attention. “As the release date got closer, I was sweating, just hoping that readers would dig what I was doing. From an artistic point of view there were many highlights, but I was especially enjoying my growth as an artist. I always said that my favorite work was the newest stuff I did. My artistic approach is still the same as before, but if anything, I think I got more comfortable with the characters as I got to know them a little better. In the beginning, because I was so…well…NEW, it was a little overwhelming. The more secure I got in my work, the better the drawings became in my opinion. I also think that I just got a little better at positioning and stuff. As I said, it was a learning experience!!!” While reflecting on his labors during his “JSA” tenure, Sadowski finds that he is happy with the end result of his time on the series. “Well, I suppose I could have tried a little harder to keep up on the schedule,” admits Sadowski when asked about regrets. “But y’know, it’s been an AMAZING learning experience, and I wouldn’t trade THAT for ANYTHING!”
Another amazing experience for Sadowski has been his interaction with all the “JSA” fans and this has been especially true as he has been finishing up his work on the series. “The reaction has been great,” says Sadowski of how fans reacted to news of his departure. “Overall, they seem disappointed, as was I, but people have been really supportive and I truly appreciate it. A lot of people have E-mailed me personally, and said that they would leave the book and stuff, but I hope that they’ll reconsider. There are some tremendous stories coming up, and I think Leonard [Kirk] will do a great job.” In a move no doubt intended to whet the appetite of his fans, Sadowski adds that, “I do have hopes of returning to the characters, specifically with a proposal that Geoff and I have in mind, so you might not have seen the last of me with the ‘JSA,’ yet!!”
As bright as the last year has been for “JSA,” the New Year is already promising to be the biggest year yet for the little DC series that exceeded everyone’s expectations. In addition to being awarded the title of “Best Series of The Year” by comic book trade magazine Wizard, sales are steadily increasing on the series and the book has been the spotlight of many recent articles and interviews all over the Internet. “It’s VERY tough. I’ll ALWAYS see those characters as my babies, and to not have control over them, well, I guess its just part of the business,” concedes Sadowski in regards to the difficulty of seeing the book succeed without him. “It’s very frustrating to be part of something that is well received, and named ‘Book of the Year’ by “Wizard” and such, then losing it to someone else, but as I said, that is the nature of the business.”
Though the past is full of memories both good and bad, Sadowski is firmly focused on his bright future as a result of the high-profile work he did on “JSA,” even if he isn’t at liberty to tell much about what he has scheduled. “Well, a lot of it I can’t really talk about,” says Sadowski. “But I can say, I’m booked solid for the next year!! You WILL be seeing more of me in some, let’s just say, ‘interesting’ places.” One of those “interesting” places could easily be Marvel Comics, specifically on an “Avengers” related project for the industry giant, and this theory is led credibility by Sadowski’s own cagey answers. “Well, how do I put this?” asks Sadowski coyly. “Schedules are the big dilemma and I can’t really say ANYTHING until the people at Marvel say it’s okay to. Believe me, I’m ITCHING to talk about some of this stuff, but I was talking to some of the guys involved, and they just don’t want it to be ‘old news’ before it even IS news!!” In addition to the rave reviews from other creators regarding the atmosphere and opportunity at Marvel Comics, Sadowski also admits to have a life long passion for their heroes and their stories. “It’s funny, and I’ll be honest, I was weaned on DC, but I read almost everything that Marvel did in the 70’s,” explains Sadowski. “But when the pre-Image guys were at Marvel I couldn’t stand the art. It was just so, well, let’s just say it wasn’t my style. That being said, Marvel is doing some amazing things of late. Some have said that they’re just copying DC’s approach, but regardless whether that’s true or not, they are experiencing a new enthusiasm and vitality that is really exciting. Why do you think soooo many creators are doing work for them? They seem to have an ‘anything goes’ mentality that is exhilarating for a creator. As far as characters? Hmmm, I’ve always had a thing for Moon Knight. I think his true potential has never really been realized, so I would totally leap at the chance to do him. I really like the lesser-known guys such as Jack of Hearts, Cloak and Dagger, mainly stuff that would be fun to reinterpret. And the Avengers are great. I would like to try the X-Men but they seem impenetrable somehow.”
In his spare time, though limited as it is, Sadowski still finds time to indulge in a bit of comic book reading and has some recommendations for all comic book fans. “I read a lot of stuff,” admits the busy artist. “But I’ll still recommend ‘JSA,’ because even though I don’t work on it anymore, it’s STILL the best book out there! I’m also really enjoying the Bat-books.”
When it comes right down to it, how is life after “JSA” for Stephen Sadowski?
“HONESTLY? It’s frightening and exciting and full of possibilities!!!”