Fan favorite artist Dale Eaglesham's final issue of "Justice Society of America" arrives in comic book stores this week. Both he and series writer Geoff Johns are leaving the top-selling title following #26, and while Johns is staying put with DC Comics, Eaglesham is moving to Marvel Comics as an exclusive contract artist.
Eaglesham's first ongoing assignment at the House of Ideas is working with rising star Jonathan Hickman on "Fantastic Four." Many of his fans are expected to follow Eaglesham to that series, and he will be dearly missed in the pages of "Justice Society of America."
CBR News checked in with Eaglesham for some parting thoughts on "JSA," and learned the Canadian penciller's final issue was to include a dedication on the last page, but due to various reasons, it was left out. That dedication was to read thus:
I dedicate this issue and my entire JSA run to my late father, who introduced me to the wondrous world of art. The day he drew me a "cat-man" made of circles when I was six years old, my life changed forever. It's been a magical ride ever since. -- Dale, December 31, 2008
CBR: Dale, you and Geoff Johns are leaving what will be remembered as a landmark run on "Justice Society of America." Did you anticipate the success you've enjoyed when you initially signed on for the project?
Dale Eaglesham: ["JSA"] was re-launched [as "Justice Society of America" to accompany the change in tone that Geoff was pursuing in the JSA, and I was really looking forward to working with Geoff and Alex [Ross] on the title. Beyond that, there were no expectations for the book, from us or editorial, that it would aspire to anything more than it already had. Success-wise, a status quo destiny seemed a safe bet because we were working with a collection of classic old-timers in dated costumes and unproven, quirky newbies. These aren't exactly headline-grabbing ingredients, so there wasn't any serious hoopla surrounding the re-launch.
Industry-wide, I would say we flew in under the radar and caught people by surprise. I was very excited to be working on the JSA and planned to give it my all, but I never thought it would do as well as it did. We expanded the boundaries of what is acceptable team book behavior and readers responded completely in favor. That is the real success here.
What is Geoff Johns like as a collaborator?
To work with someone as talented as Geoff is inspiring. His stories make every line worthwhile, no matter how late you have to work. Geoff enjoys a live, creative process, the back-and-forth exchange of ideas and giving feedback on the pages sent to him. There is a great energy to working with Geoff and I'll miss it.
What else will you miss about "Justice Society of America?"
I will miss the depth of this book more than anything. In a testament to the depth of character in this book, we had 24 members at one point, including Frankie the monkey, and they were all individuals. What I will miss most of all, though, was the sense of humor we displayed, humor that became all-out comedy in few places. Mixing humor with superheroes seems to be some kind of a no-no in mainstream superhero comics, but it's part of the human experience and it needs to be represented. We could show intense drama and then turn on a dime and deliver some comedy and not skip a beat. I was pushing for an issue featuring the Inferior Five but unfortunately, we ran out of time.
Did you have a favorite JSA member? What did you love about him/her?
It's a toss up between Wildcat, Jay and Cyclone. Ted is my fave of the old timers because contrary to what his street language may indicate, he is keenly observant, a strategist and very intelligent. He was the most honest "emotions on your sleeve" character in the JSA. I liked the changes he was going through as well. He cut a lonely figure until he found out he had a son in young Tommy Bronson.
A very close second was the Flash. Jay had great leprechaun-like energy to him. He was a commanding presence but always had a twinkle in his eye no matter what. I loved capturing that.
And then there's Maxine Hunkel, A.K.A. Cyclone, an odd and poignant character. She is a kind person and a unique individual in every sense of the word. That people disliked her costume somehow made me like it even more. I added the witchy-poo hat in defiance of readers rejecting the crazy witchy suit she had and when I saw it on her, I knew that I would never want her costume to change. The costume is childish, representing a hanging-on to lost innocence. It hides a very complex character that grieves from past traumas and that makes it so much more than just a goofy costume. We only skimmed the surface of her personality and that is a shame.
What about a favorite issue or arc?
"Justice Society of America" #9 is my favorite because we had lots of big and small moments, lots of emotionally contrasting scenes, including a tough scene with Power Girl verifying the death of her cousin.
We juxtaposed superheroes with real heroes in featuring the pancake breakfast at the firehouse. The boxing match between the two Wildcats was a chance to dip into some serious comedy and that scene unfolded into a very serious event, the emergence in this reality of the Kingdom Come Superman. In #9, Geoff brought us up and down without pity. As an artist, it was a joy to draw.
Any similarities between "Justice Society of America" and your next assignment, "Fantastic Four?"
Both teams are close-knit families with similar dysfunctions. The Fantastic Four character base is much smaller, of course, but they are every bit as layered and nuanced as the JSA. I hope to bring all I learned from the JSA to the Fantastic Four, and then some.
Any major differences?
Smaller cast, yay!
Will readers of "Fantastic Four" notice any change in your artwork from "Justice Society of America?"
My work changes incrementally with every new project. The project material will dictate to me where the art needs to go, but the change is rarely radical. I plan on continuing the "Rockwell" approach to characterization I established on the JSA, but I feel creative storm clouds gathering over the Fantastic Four material and I am very excited to see where my style will lead me.
"Justice Society of America" #26 is on sale now from DC Comics.