Sturges and Williams II: All-Stars of the New JSA

The Justice Society of America is one of the hottest franchises at DC Comics right now, with both Power Girl and Magog having recently spun out of the team title into their own solo series. Now, while Bill Willingham and Jesus Merino have the "Justice Society of America" title well in hand, DC is launching a second ensemble title featuring characters from the team, written by current JSA co-writer Matt Sturges with Freddie E. Williams handling the art.

With their brand new "JSA All-Stars" title set to hit the stands in December, Sturges and Williams II spoke with CBR to let fans know how the All-Stars will differ from their JSA counterparts, how Power Girl and Magog will co-exist as team leaders and what else to expect from the upcoming series.

CBR: Just to clear things up, now that the JSA has two monthly comics, you will be writing "All-Stars" and Bill Willingham will now be writing the "Justice Society of America" title alone?

Matt Sturges: Correct.

Are the two teams completely separate, or is the separation only for the titles?

MS: The JSA hasn't disbanded. They're all still technically members of the same team, they still use the same stationery, and Jesse pays both electricity bills when she hits QuickBooks.

Freddie E. Williams II: And there will be some inter-mingling with the characters, showing up in each other's books, having coffee and what-not.

The genesis of "JSA All-Stars" stems from a fundamental disagreement between members of the two teams on how to approach their crimefighting. Why not have an amicable relationship? Why the difficult split between the teams?

MS: Well, it wouldn't be very dramatic for one thing. "You know, this would work better if we had two separate teams with different priorities," and "You are SO right! Let's go get Thai food." Hardly the stuff of great drama. But from a story perspective, there's been this split in the team that's been growing for some time, that really came to a head in the "Thy Kingdom Come" storyline. So we thought it would make more sense to play off of that than just invent something out of whole cloth.

FW: Mmm, Thai food is yummy - oh, and - any group of people gets large enough, there will eventually be a divergence in the way they think. This is just exploring that dichotomy.

Will the new team refer to themselves the JSA All-Stars?

MS: Not at first; but by the end of the first issue, you'll learn why then end up with that name. They have an "official" name that Magog came up with, but everybody hates it except for him.

How will this comic look and feel different from the current "JSA" title?

FW: In my continuing discussions with Matt, we want to convey a visceral feel to the action - make it count, so it's not just a throw away element of the story - oh, and LOTS of collateral damage - I love it when glass is shattering, and buildings are collapsing!

MS: Freddie has an inimitable style that's both detailed and iconic and very elegant at the same time. I've already seen a few roughs of some early pages from issue one, and I can attest that so far the book has a gorgeous, majestic look to it. From the writing side, this is a new team with a new mission, so what they don't have is that sense of security that they had when they were in the main JSA team. They're trying to find their way together, and that's the primary focus of the first story arc, called "Constellations."

Will "JSA All-Stars" only feature the kids, or will the roster include some of the Golden Age Heroes?

MS: There aren't any Golden Age characters on the All-Stars. At first. Sort of. I'm trying to be as vague as possible in my response to this question. Is it working?

FW: The roster will not be static for sure.

Doesn't that lose the inter-generational aspect of JSA?

MS: Yes and no. Not all of the kids came with Power Girl and Magog to start this new team, so some of them are still over with the other team. And on the All-Stars side, you've got Power Girl and Hourman teaching the lessons of the "second generation" of JSAers to the "third generation" kids like Cyclone and Citizen Steel.

It's an interesting question, since the original intent of the JSA had nothing to do with training younger heroes; it was like a social club where the Golden Age heroes got together and solved the occasional mystery, and even then they mostly split up and worked on their own. So the notion of the JSA as this intergenerational community of heroes is something that it evolved into over decades. This is just the next step in that evolution.

The Kids are all different ages. How do you deal with that?

FW: There are many ways - it's usually has to do with their body shape, their body language, and proportions. I like the idea of having diversity in the cast, so I'm trying to have those differences be clear to the reader.

What does the age differences do to their interactions?

MS: One of the things that we talk about beginning in the first issue is that age is far less important than experience. Stargirl is one of the most experienced members of the team, and she's only 17. There was some speculation about how old she turned on her birthday in issue 26 -- it was 17; I checked.

Why have both Power Girl and Magog as team captains?

FW: Well, they both look awesome, so I'm certainly happy with drawing them together! Their leadership styles are pretty different though, which makes for some good drama.

MS: A lot of this stuff will become really clear when you read the first issue, but the basic idea is that Power Girl is the chairwoman of the team, and Magog is the drill sergeant and combat leader. Of course, they don't necessarily agree about who's in charge of what and when. Both of these characters are known for being a tad headstrong.

The All-Stars will be moving to a new town and setting up a new headquarters. Freddie, did you get to design everything from scratch?

FW: With Matt's instruction, I am designing everything from scratch. Matt and I have spoken quite a bit about the feel of the new headquarters, making it still feel "JSA" but unique to the "All-Stars".

What type of notes were you given when designing the new headquarters?

FW: Rustic... Majestic... Isolated... "The Searchers" meets "Fraggle Rock..." That sort of thing.

MS: "Fraggle Rock" was the inspiration for a lot of what's going on in "JSA All-Stars." There's a one-to-one character mapping between Magog and Gobo and between Power Girl and Red and, well, okay none of that is true at all. But I think we'd all like to see the All-Stars fight the Gorgs.

Neither Power Girl nor Magog have been strong "team" players in the past, and both have been know as hotheads. What makes them fit to instruct the next generation of JSAers?

MS: Power Girl and Magog have a very clear goal, which is to mold these kids into the most effective heroes they can possibly be. The JSA teaches you how to be a great hero in the moral sense. The goal of the All-Stars is to supplement that instruction with serious training in things that will help them fight and survive. There's a LOT of training, instruction, drills, strategy, that kind of thing. It's "JSA" by way of "An Officer and a Gentleman."

FW: Magog and Power Girl may not be cuddly, but they're both strong people with powerful senses of duty and justice, and they both take their work very seriously.

Both of them also happen to have their own series. Does that impact what you can do with them in the team comic?

MS: I think it's appropriate to take cues on that sort of thing from the creative team on the solo books. If they give Power Girl a love interest over in her solo series, then it would be pretty awkward for me to have her make out with Magog, no matter how much he might enjoy it.

The Marvel Family and Black Marvel Family have been a strong part of the JSA. On which team do they belong?

MS: For the time being, neither. But if, say, Mary or Freddy were to express interest in All-Stars membership at a future date, we would certainly fast track their applications.

FW: Freddy drawn by Freddie? That would be awesome!

Dan DiDio said that Liberty Bell and Hourman would be important in 2010. Are they effectively split us with the two separate teams?

MS: Split up? Liberty Belle and Hourman? That would certainly be a tragedy.

December also sees the release of" JSA: Blackest Night." With the dead visiting the main JSA team, will we be seeing any Black Lanterns showing up in "All-Stars?"

FW: At the San Diego Con this year, we took a blood oath - so my lips are sealed!

MS: All of the BN stuff with respect to JSA will happen in "JSA: Blackest Night." There will be some serious fallout from "Blackest Night" in "All-Stars" down the road, but I can't talk about that yet.

Even though you've split the team in half, you still have a rather large cast. Will storylines be broken up in order to focus on a few members for each arc, or will every issue be a big team gathering?

FW: Yeah, having 10 members on a team AFTER a split is amazing to me! But I am really happy with who I am getting to draw. Matt is one of those writers that knows how to punch the dramatics of a scene to make it important to the story and visually interesting to draw. Apart from that is having both these big team moments, where everyone is in the spotlight, coupled with these smaller character moments. The team is always important, but the individuals are not lost in the shuffle!

MS: The way I have it envisioned, each arc will focus on a smaller set of characters, and then those characters might take a backseat for a bit to let other characters come to the fore. For instance, the first arc has a LOT of Stargirl in it, but after that, she might be relegated to B and C plots for a while. The ultimate goal is to make sure that everyone has something going on, even if they're not the primary focus of a given issue. If your favorite character doesn't seem to be doing much at first, give us time -- there's plenty of stuff getting set in motion in these first issues!

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