ECCC: Secret Origins with James Robinson

Impressed by the mellow vibe of Seattle, James Robinson sat down for an intimate chat with Matt Pizzolo Saturday afternoon at Emerald City Comic Con.

Robinson, who is best known for his work with DC Comics on "Starman" and more recently "Earth 2", spent time with the audience discussing his current video game obsessions as technical difficulties were worked out behind the scenes. Unlike the frantic atmosphere of other comic conventions, Robinson finds ECCC a great place to connect with fans.

"It's wonderful to meet the people who read your books. On the Internet, you get a lot of negativity and it can wear you down if you pay attention to that stuff. Nobody brings a book for you to sign and says 'this is crap,'" Robinson said.

Besides face time with fans, a major part of the writer's attendance at comic conventions is announcing new titles. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case this year. "I was supposed to announce something and it has been delayed. It will be announced in a few months," said Robinson.

His future plans include developing something for DC, but Robinson wasn't able to share the details. Still in the pipeline for a tentative summer release from Image Comics is "The Saviors," which was announced last year at Comic-Con International.

"I hate when there's an announcement, and the book isn't out by the following San Diego con. So that's my personal goal, to get the book out by then," Robinson said.

The first five-issue arc of the horror/sci-fi mash-up, drawn by Eisner Award nominated J. Bone, will be a cross between "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" and John Carpenter's "The Thing." Robinson warns future readers not to get attached to any character. "I'm borrowing a little bit from 'The Walking Dead' and Tim Burton's 'Mars Attacks.' Any character can die at any moment."

Robinson went on to discuss the challenges of reintroducing Golden Age characters for "Earth 2."

"The one thing about The New 52 is that you can't reintroduce these characters twice. You have to make sure when you do it; you do it right," Robinson said. "If you look at them across the line, there are some books where they've done a great job reintroducing characters and some where they've done a terrible job."

He has tasked himself with the job of reintroducing these characters as young people with the same inherent personalities, remaining true to the essence of their Golden Age selves but with some modernization. His focus is laying the seeds now for Earth 2 and the main Earth to meet by approximately the end of next year, a plot line which was announced at the ECCC: DC Comics The New 52 panel earlier in the day. "Even though that seems a long way off, I've got to start setting that up," he said.

Robinson has worked in both comics and Hollywood. Although he enjoyed mixed success, he still remains proud of his original version of 2003's "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" script. He compares the editorial changes to "writing 'Star Wars' and then having it re-written to be 'James Bond.' It's so different."

After 20 years of writing, Robinson has developed a thick skin toward criticism. Adapting "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" presented him with a creative dilemma: how do you flesh out a story while being asked to remove characters like Fu Manchu and add a young lead like Mark Twain? Although he admits it wasn't a good film, he found it a rewarding experience.

Robinson concluded the interview by talking about his current work on "Earth 2", and specifically the motivations behind writing Alan Scott as gay. He lamented the loss of Obsidian, Alan Scott's son, who was a gay character featured in "Justice Society of America."

"There are so few gay characters, I felt like it was a shame to have one of these iconic characters go away. It occurred to me why not make Alan Scott gay, and make him this cool guy?" Robinson said.

Alan Scott was so well received that Robinson received a GLADD nomination for his work. "Having a gay character is part of diversity," he said.

The sexual orientation of Alan Scott didn't faze DC publisher Dan DiDio, who supported Robinson's decision. Warner Brothers, however, was confused: did this mean that star Ryan Reynolds, who played Hal Jordan in the 2011 film adaptation of "Green Lantern," would be gay?

"Geoff (Johns) had to go in and explain that there were lots of Green Lanterns, and this was just one of them," Robinson said.

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