Dan Jurgens must be experiencing some weird feelings of deja vu right about now.
The prolific writer and artist, best known for the controversial move of killing off Superman in the 1990s, is spending his time revisiting some of his more popular creations from the past 20 years.
First off, Jurgens is serving as penciller on the sleeper hit DC Comics series "Booster Gold." Jurgens created Booster in 1986 in a series he both wrote and drew. Booster has come a long way since sneaking through Rip Hunter's time machine in the 25th century to find himself in the modern day DC Universe, and now acts as a time-cop investigating continuity glitches throughout the 52 universes. The book is written by Geoff Johns and Jeff Katz, who was interviewed in this very column several weeks ago.
Jurgens is also revisiting the Tangent universe, originally conceived a decade ago as a five-week event that revamped and re-imagined established DC characters in a new way. Now Jurgens is writing "Tangent: Superman's Reign," a twelve-issue, yearlong miniseries that is crossing the Tangent characters over into the DC universe.
CBR News spoke with Jurgens about "Booster Gold," "Tangent: Superman's Reign" and more .
Robert Taylor: Dan, what are you working on right now?
Dan Jurgens: Right this very second, I would be drawing page four of "Booster Gold" #1,000,000. DC did the "DC One Million" crossover some years ago, and we are in that era of the future right now.
RT: And that is going to be Jeff Katz and Geoff Johns' final issue, right?
RT: And are you staying onboard afterward?
DJ: I will be staying on, yeah. We have a couple of issues written by a special guest writer coming up, but I will be hanging around.
RT: Let's talk about you revisiting Booster, but this time as the artist, not the writer.
DJ: Obviously, Jeff and Geoff have taken the book in a tremendous direction where we have been able to do a lot of fun stories, not just for us but for readers as well. That goes back to my theory that if you do something that excites the creative team, you will excite the readers as well.
They have provided a set-up and twelve issues of the book that have been great to draw.
RT: Which era you've visited has been the most fun for you to draw?
DJ: I think the Batgirl issue was a lot of fun. That is something that is going to resonate with Booster as we go down the road.
As we discussed the series and how things would work in it, one of the things I mentioned to Geoff Johns was a big problem with time travel. There can be many, frankly, but the one I mentioned was this: Let's say you go back in time to stop a particular editor at a newspaper from printing a certain headline. You fail. Because of time travel you could, in theory, go back a thousand times until you get it right.
When Geoff and I talked about that and how Booster needed to realize that some things are meant to be and cannot be changed, and that led to the sequence where Booster kept going back over and over to try and save Barbara Gordon. When he realized it wouldn't work, that had to resonate going forward.
RT: You have a very universal art style that matches many of the time periods presented well, but were any of the times or places you visited especially difficult to portray?
DJ: I don't think anything has been very difficult. A lot of it has been comfortable to draw. If there was one that was more challenging to draw, it would be issue #3 with Jonah Hex. Throughout my tenure at DC, I hadn't really drawn Jonah Hex, so I had to switch gears and put on my cowboy hat.
RT: How was it revisiting the characters from "Zero Hour"?
DJ: At one point I told the guys that it didn't have to be a Dan Jurgens-retro book all the time. [laughs]
For all the grief people have dished out over the years in regards to Hal Jordan and Parallax and all that, it's still a great character design and it was fun to draw him again, if only for a couple of panels.
RT: What is coming up leading into the #1,000,000 issue?
DJ: What we are in the middle of right now is Booster's attempt to bring back Ted Kord, and that is what much of it has been about since issue #1. Right now Booster and Ted are teamed up again, which is so much fun. There is still a huge amount of fandom who want to see Blue and Gold. People are responding to it extremely well.
RT: Why don't we talk about the fan response a little, because "Booster Gold" has been a huge hit, some would say surprisingly so. Why do you think it's clicked so well with the public?
DJ: I have a laundry list of reasons. It has a very clear concept in an environment where books are kind of cloudy and tend to meander through their storylines. We are clear and crisp. It's also different because it has a sense of fun, flavor and frivolity to it, and that is missing from the DCU. And DC is really restructuring a lot of its characters right now, but it went back to the original blueprint of who the character is. Look at the "Blue Beetle" book right now, because it is a very different Blue Beetle. "Firestorm" suffered from that as well. Recently there has been an "Infinity Inc." book that has been different from the original concept.
RT: Don't forget about "The All-New Atom."
DJ: Exactly. My theory is that when I write a book with a preexisting character, I take a look at what makes the character click, and chances are you will find it within the first thirty or forty issues because that is the truest example of who the character is.
While it's true that we've changed up some of Booster's elements -- he's a time cop now --in terms of who Booster is, it's still very consistent with who he is from issue #1. A lot of times, when things are restructured, it turns into a mishmash because there are too many hands in the pot, and what made the book special in the first place is thrown out.
I don't want to sound egotistical when I say this, but the book also has a creative team that gets it. There are far too many titles out now where, by the third issue, there is another artist on the book! That interrupts the ability of the creative team to fashion an identity for the book in the marketplace. Because Jeff, Geoff, [inker/finisher] Norm [Rapmund] and I have been there since day one doing every panel of the book, there has been a consistency to it that has always been an underrated aspect of what makes a title work.
RT: Let's talk about working with Jeff Katz and Geoff Johns.
DJ: It's a lot of fun. The fun that you sense coming across on the page is absolutely there in the scripts. A long time ago, Dick Giordano told me, "The job of the writer is to excite the artist, the job of the artist is to excite the inker, and if they do their jobs they excite the reader." That is exactly what happened here.
Besides the great dramatic beats, it's got the humor and spot-on understanding of who Booster Gold is, as well as the other characters in the book. Trust me when I tell you this, there are many instances where a penciller gets a script from a writer, reads it, then sits back and rolls his eyes while thinking "Oh God, I have to draw this!?" My experience on "Booster Gold" is 180 degrees in the opposite direction. I can't wait to get started every time I get the script.
RT: How do you feel when you see things that you set up years ago, especially within the DC Universe, being used today? In essence, seeing toys you put into the toy box being played with by others?
DJ: It depends on the example. Overall, it's cool to know that you, as a creator, created something of value that is still being used today. On the other hand, sometimes you see things happen that might trash things that you did earlier, or make adjustments to it that are not appropriate. It's at that point where you say "Couldn't you have created something on your own instead of ruining something I did?" That's rare though. The more common reaction is that it is cool to see something come back.
RT: Let's move on to "Metamorpho: Year One." Looking back, how do you feel about the miniseries?
DJ: My biggest disappointment was that I was not able to draw the entire miniseries, since that had been the idea since day one. But the way things were stacking up, partially because of "Booster Gold" and the other DC stuff, it just because impossible.
RT: How do you think it holds up as an origin story?
DJ: It holds up because, by and large, it was very loyal to the root story it was drawn from. There were changes made to the time era, but in terms of who the characters are and how it was pulled together, it was very consistent with who the character was from day one.
RT: Let's talk about "Tangent Comics: Superman's Reign." How's it feel to revisit the world after so many years?
DJ: It's a lot of fun, mostly because we put so much work into it in the first place. It was always our hope and intention to bring the Tangent stuff back at some point. As we were putting it together, it was supposed to be a fifth-week stunt, but we wanted to do more. Then there were changes in the industry and the fifth-week stunts died off, no one knew how to bring it back, and there was weariness within the marketplace aimed at other universes. Now we are finally able to bring it back. There are still a tremendous amount of ideas there that make it worthwhile.
RT: Did you always have this story idea in mind since you created the universe, or is it something you developed recently?
DJ: In terms of the specific story, we always had it in mind as a general formula that would be used to cross the Tangent characters over with the DC characters. And of lot of it would hinge on the Tangent Green Lantern's lantern working as a doorway between universes.
RT: How difficult was it in the first issue to get new readers up to date with everything that the Tangent universe represented while still hooking returning readers with the new storyline?
DJ: It's always a delicate line for any writer to walk at any time. Having the trade paperbacks out there helps readers who may not have encountered these characters in ten years, but we are also having back-ups that are five pages, written by Ron Marz. They are quick hitters on the Tangent timeline that cover a character. We are filling in the blanks as we go while still having the back-ups to help, which is very important.
RT: Who was your favorite Tangent character to create?
DJ: I think I've always been partial to Green Lantern. But when you say "I created," you have to understand that I may have written the basic idea that it's someone who wanders the cemetery and brings people back to life to avenge one wrong, but the secret of Tangent was the creative contributions that were brought to the page by so many writers and artists. In the case of Green Lantern it was James Robinson.
RT: Let's talk about "Tangent: Superman's Reign" articles Matthew Clark and Jamal Igle.
DJ: With the second issue we have Jamal Igle drawing the book. The theory on this is that we have always wanted to use a variety of artists. What Matthew brought to the first issue was the ability to set the time and place of the Tangent universe different than our own. Matthew made it clear within the first few pages that this was not the DC earth and not the earth outside your window.
Jamal uses wonderfully nuances expressions and the ability to make characters different. When you deal with a team book, and this is a team book because there is a cast of thousands, the risk you run into is that too many of the characters can end up looking alike. Jamal brings distinct looks to each of the characters.
Matt set us up, and Jamal is building on the characters.
RT: Lightning round time! What do you think your biggest strength as a writer is?
DJ: I am more of a concept guy. If you look at the stuff I've done over the years, they tend to be big stories that are grandiose.
RT: Greatest weakness?
DJ: Probably the really subtle stuff. I'll go exactly in the opposite direction. If I have a wide, sweeping story where Booster goes to the moon and finds Martians, I tend to omit some of the subtle, quiet moments that might work.
RT: Let's say you were writing a yearlong weekly series with three other writers. Who are they?
DJ: It would depend on the subject matter. We all have things we do well, and things we don't do so well. But if we keep it strictly on a general line, I'd say Geoff Johns, Mark Waid and Chuck Dixon. Then, if you threw in the idea that we had to do some weird, far-out stuff, then Grant Morrison.
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