James Robinson took the stage at WonderCon 2013 for an intimate spotlight panel that covered Robinson’s long career, ideas in comics and plans for his bestselling DC Comics series, “Earth 2.” Robinson opened up the panel to questions immediately, and was immediately hit with a question about whether he planned a return to “Starman.”
“A great magician doesn’t repeat his tricks,” said Robinson of the fan-favorite series. “When you do something because you think you should, but not because you want to, it doesn’t turn out well. There is a Starman on ‘Earth 2,’ though. The new Starman, the new Ted Knight will be an English astronomer with a large nose. But Jack Knight, I think I closed the door on him.”
The writer went on to speak about the process of creating or developing a character with what could be a sole defining characteristic. “I think when the decision is made to do something like that, to make a character gay that wasn’t gay or make a character an amputee, any trait you have to be very careful not to make it the only defining trait of that character. Not so much now, but ten years ago, gay characters, that was their only trait.” Robinson said he tried to deal with those types of characteristics, but at the same time doesn’t want to drag down the character. “Everybody has normal aspects of their life, so I think it’s important to walk that knife’s edge.”
Robinson also further teased the big story coming up that involves “Earth 2” meeting the heroes of the main DC Universe Earth. “If I’m talking about a big event that’s happening in 2014, it’s all these characters meeting each other,” said Robinson, citing “Crisis on Infinite Earths.” Robinson also said his goal was to make sure the writers involved in the event were invested in the story, and described himself as “the point guy” when it comes to the event, saying that Scott Snyder, Geoff Johns and Dan DiDio are also very involved.
“It was always my plan to make it Justice Society,” he said of the “Earth 2” heroes. “I think at a point where you have the heroes of Earth 2 meeting the main Earth, you have to have the Justice Society. As the book moves forward in the next five months, you’re going to have more a sense of this team taking shape.”
In terms of “Earth 2” versions of characters, the writer said he hopes he’s been able to distinguish them personality-wise from their DCU proper counterparts. “I’m especially proud of how I’ve handled Jay Garrick, and in issue #11, you’ll see how integral he is,” said Robinson. “So when he meets Barry Allen, you can see the differences in their personalities even if they’re in shirts, or jeans and t-shirts. That’s what I’m trying to pull off.”
During the course of the panel, Robinson also teased that readers will see the original Trinity as well as the appearance of Earth 2’s Green Arrow, known as Red Arrow, in issue #14. It’s a small appearance in the files of Wonders, and the character’s name is Roy McQueen. In addition to Red Arrow, Robinson plans to introduce both Hourman and Wildcat in the near future.
“Hourman was going to be quite soon, but he’s a bit further off. Wildcat, you’ll see Ted Grant in approximately issue 14 or 15 and you’ll see Wildcat issue #19.”
Further, Robinson stated plans to bring Mister Miracle and Barda into the series, but he couldn’t say much more about the possibility of more Fourth World characters in the future.
“I’m very lucky they’re allowing me to write Mister Miracle and Barda,” he said. “The only thing I will say is that there are mainly New Genesis characters on the main prime. On Earth 2, it’s mostly Apokolips villains and Mister Miracle and Barda. … Some of the characters you’re going to be seeing are Bedlam and Kanto.”
One fan asked a question about villains, and Robinson teased two new villains called Solitaire and Rhapsody. Solitaire is a reinterpreted Gambler and Rhapsody is a reinterpretation of The Fiddler. “There is the opportunity for me to create a lot of new villains, as well,” said Robinson. Ultra Humanite is also on the table for a possible “Earth 2” villain.
Robinson said that editorial input was a trade-off for writing a story that had as many iconic characters as “Earth 2.” “It’s one thing when you’re doing ‘I, Vampire’ or a book like ‘Frankenstein’ where you can do your own story, but when you’re doing a big book, you have to understand is that you’re a part of the DC monolith,” he said. “But in return, you get to write all these cool characters.”
One of those cool characters, Alan Scott, lost his partner Sam in the first issue of the series, but Sam’s death isn’t quite completely dealt with yet. “Breaking [Alan Scott’s] heart at the start is just good drama.” In “Earth 2” #12, the mystery of why Sam was killed leads into the arc about Wildcat. “His death leads into other storylines.”
The writer also spoke briefly on the designs of the “Earth 2” cast, citing Jay Garrick’s costume as one of his least favorites. “I cared greatly about how they looked. I’ve been far from happy with Jay Garrick, but I think Alan Scott’s costume is quite good,” he said. “For some reason, they were adamant about the costume for Jay Garrick. I hate the gold stripes up the leg. That drives me nuts.”
The question of whether Robinson might do stories for Marvel came up, and the writer responded with his dream cast for a book. “If I was to do it, the characters I like at Marvel are the odd ones,” he said. “If they offered me ‘Secret Avengers,’ it would be the Black Knight, Quicksilver, the original Human Torch, Black Bolt — that’s who I like. I think other people are doing much better jobs with [Thor and Iron Man] than I ever could.”
When a fan asked a question about Robinson’s recent “The Shade” miniseries, the writer said a follow-up was unlikely. “‘The Shade’ series did not sell well. It came out the month after the launch of the New 52, it got no promotion and it definitely underperformed,” said Robinson. “I was told that if things didn’t improve, it would be cancelled at issue #8. … I don’t know that I could get them to let me do another ‘Shade’ series.” Robinson said he did have an idea for another series that would feature both The Shade and Batman, but he was concentrating more on “Earth 2.”
The subject of digital comics came up and Robinson gave a shout out to Brian K. Vaughan and Marcos Martin’s new digital endeavor, “The Private Eye,” and said that moving to full digital was a problem because it kills the local comic book store. “With Amazon downloads of songs, of music, what that killed was Tower Records and all of that, but the record stores that are still around are the ones that were selling vinyl,” he said. “I don’t know what the vinyl is [comic book stores] would sell. When you download stuff, it’s very insular, I think. You’ve got message boards, but I think people enjoy that human contact. For me, the comic book store is an important thing.”
Speaking of creator-owned, Robinson said he had more creator-owned work coming down the line. “At San Diego last year, we announced a book I was doing with J. Bone and I have two other ideas that I’m talking to pretty well-known artists about working with and they’d probably be at Image, too,” he said, saying his project with J. Bone had been delayed because the artist had been offered “Rocketeer.” “You’ll be seeing more creator-owned things from me.”