As comics fans gear up for DC Comics' re-release of the first 17 issues of the Eisner Award-winning "Starman" series in hardcover omnibus format next week, CBR News presents an extensive two-part interview with its superstar writer James Robinson. Yesterday's focus was on Robinson's upcoming "Justice League" book, with the spotlight shifting today to "Superman." Robinson's run as the ongoing title's new writer begins with issue #677, on sale June 25 in the US.
There is also some news about some upcoming "Superman"/"Action Comics" specials and what Robinson believes will be his magnum opus, an origin story of "Justice Society of America," set to be released in hardcover format.
Robinson told CBR News it's an honor to write the long-running "Superman" title, and the Last Son of Krypton's universally-accepted alien status in America is what the British-born writer truly loves about Kal-El. "I am a working class British guy who came to America and America has given me everything," explained Robinson. "If you work hard and do your best, this country will reward you. And I believe that. And Superman is the epitome of that. He came to this planet and he came to America. He is a good person and as a result, he is rewarded, in a way, by being the greatest hero the world has.
"And I know this sounds completely corny but I don't care, the fact that he, in a way, personifies the immigrant's idea of the American dream completely strikes my heart. That's what I feel. I love it."
Robinson has indicated at convention appearances and interviews that he and "Action Comics" writer Geoff Johns will this fall be designing their respective Superman series (along with "Supergirl") to become a super whole through the end of 2010. "I am looking forward to developing Superman with Geoff Johns. And I am especially looking forward to developing Jimmy Olsen and just the whole world of Metropolis," Robinson said. "We have so many ideas. A lot of them I can't tell you, but we have so many ideas."
Like Hal Jordan's Sector 2814 of the galaxy, Robinson agreed Johns has staked out his own corner of DCU and the two writers will look to conquer even more space and time moving forward. "It's a goal of ours to make that into an even bigger ripple," Robinson stated. "Into a little, cohesive world where there is interplay between the characters. It's lucky and it ended working out perfectly that Supergirl is in the new 'Justice League' book.
"We are actually going to make it a trinity of Superbooks - 'Action Comics,' 'Superman' and 'Supergirl' - where one book is as important as the next one. It's not going to be two books. It's going to be three books. You are going to care about Kara. You are going to like her. And it's one of our goals, to make 'Supergirl' into a big book for DC."
Indeed, the "Justice League" book will be an important component in the coming Robinson-Johns era of DCU. "A lot of the big things we have planned for the Superbooks, organically, will be a part of the stuff that is going on in 'Justice League.' It also has Green Lantern in it so, of course, it will go into Geoff's 'Green Lantern' books too."
Robinson said developing a master plan for the world's most recognizable superhero is exciting but it's challenging, as well. Many of the players in Superman's rogues' gallery have been re-imagined and re-interpreted literally dozens of times, and finding the right foil for the Man of Steel is no easy task. That's why, right of the gates, Robinson will feature the Jack Kirby-created Atlas for his first arc -- the writer revealed Atlas' presence will be felt in "Superman" far beyond the first four issues of his run.
The New Gods-influenced Atlas made his first and only appearance in "1st Issue Special," a short-lived anthology series that DC ran from 1975-76. Written and drawn by Kirby, "1st Issue Special" #1 featured the story "Atlas the Great" a character teased with the tag, "Is He Legend or Man?"
This is not the first time Robinson has revisited "1st Issue Special," as issue #12 featured Mikaal Tomas, the blue-skinned alien Starman, who of course became a major player in Robinson's breakout "Starman" title.
Robinson said his love all things Kirby was what originally brought him to Atlas as his choice for his first big baddie, but further developing the character was the real exciting part. "How can you not love Kirby? But there is no personality to that character," he explained. "And the idea of bringing Atlas into present day and having the Man of Tomorrow meet the Man of the Past is a lot of fun.
"At the same, in terms of Superman's rogues' gallery, yes, he has guys that can beat him punch for punch; fist for fist, Doomsday is obviously the prime example. But they all lack any sense of humanity. Atlas is going to have humanity. The way I like to look at him is like in the Marvel Universe, Namor is a hero but he really skates the fine line between being a hero and a villain, but he stays on the side of the hero.
"Atlas, skates that line between hero and villain but he ultimately always falls on the villain side."
Robinson said Atlas will become a major player in the Superman mythos moving forward and there will be some real twists to the character. "Again, I hate to be a broken record but there is stuff down the line that we don't want to reveal just yet," laughed Robinson. "And Atlas is going to be in the thick of it."
After his first four-issue arc running through #680, Robinson confirmed "Superman" will begin crossing over with "Action Comics." "This first arc is sort of my breaking-in period then we start crossing over, we have a special planned, actually we have a few specials planned. So get ready for those. Some of those will blow you away."
Robinson also had high praise for "Superman's" artwork, provided by Brazillians Renato Guedes and Jose Wilson Magalhaes. "I love working with them. There's a language barrier obviously, but ultimately I love the work they are doing and they are knocking themselves out and doing great work," said Robinson. "I am very excited to be a part of their creativity. They really care about these characters and they are doing great work."
And then there is that up-and-comer on cover art - Alex Ross. "Who is this guy?," quipped Robinson. "Actually, the thing about Alex Ross is he is a superstar but at the same time when we talk about covers, he is completely respectful of our ideas, our thoughts and we what we want. He's fantastic to work with."
With Robinson also writing a new "Justice League" book, his return to the world of the Justice Society of America, a legacy he helped redefine in the '90s with "Starman" and "JSA," seems likely. But when asked about the possibility of a crossover between the two titles, Robinson instead shared details about a super secret project that he has been working on for a while now.
"I don't see how me doing 'Justice League' and Geoff doing 'Justice Society of America' that we won't crossover," the writer said. "Obviously that's going to happen but let's have it happen organically. It's not in the cards in the near future but it has to happen and it will happen.
"But there is something else I am working on that actually brought me back into DC. And they have been very nice about giving me a huge amount of time to finish this thing but I have been working on a hardcover, origin of the Justice Society that will, I hope, I am crossing my fingers and my toes as I say this, be my masterpiece. That is my hope. We will see if it comes true."
Doesn't calling a book your 'masterpiece' before it's even released add a lot of pressure to the project? Said Robinson, "I put the pressure on myself but I feel that if you are allowed to deal with these classic characters, you owe to them to do the best work that you can. It's taking me a long time but I am trying to turn this into the best work that I have ever done in my life.
Robinson couldn't share too many more details but said the art on the project is "complicated" and will "take some time to complete."
And speaking of masterpieces, with DC re-releasing the first 17 issues of the Eisner Award-winning "Starman" series in hardcover omnibus format next week, CBR News asked Robinson if he has any more Jack Knight stories to tell?
"There's one story but I just don't know. I just don't know," he said. "I feel that I have closed the door on that. And I think I did it, really well. I hate to brag, but I think I did a really good job of ending that character with dignity. And God bless DC that they allowed me to do it and they have been respectful to me that they haven't let the character be used by another writer. I just feel leaving him now, it just feels right in away."
Robinson is thrilled with the omnibus treatment of "Starman" and hopes the format will bring new readers to the series. "The editor on the Omnibus is just fantastic in terms of the amount of work that he's put into it, the amount of care, the respect for me, for the material, his plans, how the series breaks up, volume by volume, I am absolutely thrilled.
"And it's at a great price [US$49.99]. Hopefully it will attract new readers who heard about the book and didn't pick it up the first time. It was a little bit convoluted, the storyline, so I can understand you might not pick it up at #50. So it's a chance for new readers to jump on board."
With art by Tony Harris ("Ex Machina"), the inaugural omnibus volume of "Starman" features a new cover by the artist and collects issues #0-16, originally published from 1994 to 1996.
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