Geoff Johns and Alex Ross begin their epic "Thy Kingdom Come" tale with the introduction of Kingdom Come Superman in "Justice Society of America" #10, shipping October 31. But the big news surrounding the top-selling DC Comics title has to do with issue #12, specifically, who are the new superheroes bursting out of the cover?
While the tease, seen in Monday's release of DC's January 2008 solicitations, boasts the return of JSA'er Jakeem Thunder to the team, plus the new Mr. America, Judomaster and Amazing Man, there are two additional characters whose names have not been revealed – until now.
Geoff Johns told CBR News exclusively, "We are introducing Lightning, who is on the cover there, too, and a totally new character, and this is the first time I have said his name -- he's Lance Corporal David Ried, he doesn't have a superhero name yet, but they call him Lance and we'll get more on him.
"The idea is to introduce the next wave of heroes. They are not exactly going to go the same direction as the first wave went (Cyclone, Starman and Damage)."
Johns, who also writes or co-writes "Action Comics," "Green Lantern" and "Booster Gold," further explained the introduction of the six new characters to the Society and just exactly what role each of them might play. "You actually see Judo Master and Mr. America in #11; actually a lot of Judo Master," Johns said. "And then we are going to be introduced to Amazing Man, Lightning and David Ried, in #12.
"These characters are a little more aggressive. They are characters that the Society is reaching out to and like Starman and Cyclone and Damage, when we first met them. These characters also have their quirks and their roles and their mission statements. Some of them might not completely line-up with what the Justice Society wants them to do.
"You will see some of them become associates of the Society and some of them will become full-pledged members.
"The idea is to use the word 'society' and make it a true word. It's a society so some characters come in and out of 'JSA' and won't be around a lot. Jakeem Thunder hasn't been around until issue #12. We will always have our core guys like Alan Scott (the Golden Age Green Lantern) and Jay Garrick (the Golden Age Flash) and Ted Grant (Wildcat) and all of these other characters revolving around them. We'll change the spotlight here and there, Cyclone and Stargirl are pretty big mainstays, Starman's a mainstay, Power Girl is, of course, the Chairwoman, and then the other characters will feed in and out of the storyline."
In essence, with a roster that now includes 23 members and associates, Johns has created with "Justice Society of America" his own pocket universe of heroes unto itself. "That's kind of the idea," laughed Johns. "And having a diverse cast, both personality and power-wise."
It doesn't get more "diverse" than when you start adding characters from Earth-22, home of "Kingdom Come's" alternate universe. Johns says although he was always a huge fan of the 1997 Eisner Award-winning series by artist Alex Ross and writer Mark Waid, it never occurred to him to bring its characters into mainstream DCU until a decade later, when he started working with Ross on "JSA" in 2006.
"'Kingdom Come' was a great book with a great message; I didn't really have any thoughts [about a crossover] until Alex and I got together and we became friends," Johns explained. "He started doing some covers for 'JSA' and we started talking about ideas. He always had more ideas for 'Kingdom Come' stories and he always wanted to return to the characters.
"And the funny thing with 'JSA' is that it is kind of counterpoint to 'Kingdom Come' in that there was nobody there to usher in the new era of heroes and they went overboard," continued Johns. "We started talking more and more, and we saw how a lot of his themes were playing into the themes I was working on with 'JSA' and the stories just came together."
The first arc of the "Thy Kingdom Come" story ends with "Justice Society of America" #12 and a second one begins with issue #13. "It's a pretty long story and it builds to something pretty big," teased Johns. "I am really excited for the issues to start coming out and for people to just see, again, an example of how important the Justice Society of America is to the rest of the world and also, how it plays out with the reaction to another Superman coming to the DCU.
"That affects Power Girl and it affects everyone else in JSA and everyone else in the DC Universe, in general. And ['Kingdom Come' Superman's] reaction to everything on this planet is a big part of the story, as well."
With the 2006 re-launch of "Justice Society of America" approaching its first anniversary at the end of this year, Johns is incredibly pleased with the response the book has received both critically and in terms of sales. "'Justice Society of America' has averaged more than 90,000 books sold per month through the first eight reported issues and regularly finishes behind only 'Justice League of America' as DC's second best selling ongoing series," said Johns, who wrote nearly the entire 87 issue-run of the original "JSA" title from 2000-2006 by himself or with co-writers.
"Our audience has doubled [since the re-launch]," confirmed Johns, "and I think you want to treat 'JSA' as important as 'JLA' and so if we are going to do a big push for 'Justice League,' then 'Justice Society' deserves a big re-launch too. And really, it was the right time for it. The team had been around for a while, the new team has existed and it was time to go to the next level. I like staying in step with our brother book. ['JSA'] deserves to be treated with as much importance and respect as 'Justice League.'
"And it's really exciting. The most rewarding thing is the fact that there will always be a 'Justice Society of America' book now. I think these characters, like the new Mr. Terrific and Stargirl and Doctor Mid-Nite, are compelling enough characters to carry a book. With Alan Scott and Jay Garrick and Wildcat, I think they have a really important role in the DC Universe that needs to be there now. It's rewarding to know 'JSA' was out of the spotlight, they hadn't had their own book in so long, and now that they do and it has become one of DC's flagship titles and a cornerstone of the DC Universe is the biggest reward. Having people come up and say, I love Hourman or Cyclone or anybody, the new Starman, it's really rewarding.
"And also, other times, you have kids who say, 'I grew up reading Damage. I am glad he is in the book and I like where he is going.' It's fun to get a whole new generation reading all of these generations. We have a character like Damage from the 1990s and character like Jay Garrick from the 1940s and a character like Cyclone that is brand new, mixing it up with everybody else, that's what the book is all about. It's about generations.
"The JSA has a lot of history without a lot of story behind it. They have been around a long time – well, actually, only a couple have been around a long time. A lot of these characters are new now but that's part of the fun. A lot of these characters really haven't had a lot of adventures."
Johns himself has more adventures planned for 2008 as he will continue on "Booster Gold" with co-writer Jeff Katz until at least issue #6, and has a few more projects yet-to-be announced as well. "I plan to stay longer [on 'Booster Gold'] if I am able to. It all depends on some other projects," teased Johns. "There's a pretty big project coming up for '08 that I have got to start getting ready for but it's going to take up a hell of a lot more time."
Johns confirmed he actually has two projects for 2008 that will likely be announced by the end of the year and that he is currently working with some of the pertinent characters right now.
"Justice Society of America," Part 1 of "Thy Kingdom Come" is in stores October 31.
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