The Founding Father: David Goyer talks 'JSA'

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Ever since the beginning of DC Comics' successful re-launch of "JSA," the one constant has been writer David Goyer and his creative talents have gathered a strong fan following. Whether it be his collaboration with co-writer James Robinson for the initial six-issue arc or the subsequent stories with then relatively new writer Geoff Johns, Goyer has been known for bringing a unique flavor to "JSA" and with issue #50, he'll no longer be co-writing the series. With his final story arc soon to get underway, CBR News spoke with the busy writer and movie producer about "JSA" and his perspective on the times past.

"The main theme of this series has always been legacies," says Goyer of what makes "JSA" such a unique series. "In the DCU, the JSA was the first super-hero team. They were the model for teams like the Justice League, the Titans, etc. Our original notion was that these super-heroes were the role-models which the other heroes (Superman, Batman, etc) looked up to.

"The current team is an amalgam of different generations. Some of the members were among the original JSA line-up (The Flash, Sentinel, Wildcat, Hawkman). Others are the sons and daughters and protégés (Dr. Mid-Nite, the Star-Spangled Kid, Atom Smasher, Hourman, etc.) I think some of the conflict and tension comes from the interplay between these various generations. Do the morals and methods of yesterday still apply to the battlefields of today? Are these older heroes still relevant?

"One of the other themes that we are constantly working with is the whole notion of the sins of the past. Many of the events that happened in the 40s still have ripples and repercussions in our world today. And the JSA is often called upon to deal with those repercussions. From time to time, we've also touched upon the price of super-heroing. We've explored this in regards to the original Hourman and his son. We've also explored this in regards to the relationship between Sentinel and Obsidian."

The long-time writer of "JSA" explains that the appeal of the super team, which should be noted was the first group of super heroes to be assembled in comic books when they originally formed the Justice Society of America, is their history and that's what has kept fans following the team even when there hasn't been a Justice Society ongoing series. "The JSA's strength is its rich history," contends Goyer. "There is a long, complex tapestry that's been woven with these characters. In a sense, many of them are the ultimate super-hero archetypes. Oddly enough, though, what I view as a strength many have previously regarded as a weakness. In previous incarnations, the JSA was perceived as a book about old fogeys. The back-story was considered to be too complex and dense. What makes them different as characters? I think the old-timers, because of their experience, aren't as easily intimidated as some of the newer heroes might be, which gives us a lot to work with as writers."

Even though Goyer doesn't play favorites when it comes to writing characters in the series, he does admit to having a few favorite characters in "JSA." "I've always liked Wildcat," said Goyer. "He's a rascal. A brawler. A beer-drinker. And although he's a good guy, he's probably the most slippery when it comes to bending some of the morality rules. He's had an on-again/off-again relationship with Cat Woman. He's also a bit of a womanizer, having slept around a fair amount in his career. I like him because I've always felt he was the more 'normal Joe' in the midst of all this super-hero insanity.

"I also like Sentinel quite a bit. He's always had a kind of quiet nobility-but also quite a bit of suffering and personal tragedy in his life."

The characters are the most fun part of "JSA," says Goyer, but with them they also bring some complex problems too. "By far, the hardest aspect is dealing with the continuity issues. Some of the stuff is so damn convoluted-it's hair-raising, really. Hawkman was a monstrosity in terms of screwed-up back-story. And Powergirl-yeesh!!!"

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Speaking of Wildcat, it should come as no surprise that when asked about his favorite issue of the current "JSA" series, Goyer names an issue that focuses on the feline brawer of the Justice Society. "My favorite single issue was the one with Wildcat and the Injustice Society. I also thought the 'Injustice Be Done' arc was a hoot. 'Stealing Thunder' was good. But honestly, this time travel arc that's occurring right now-I think Geoff and I were both surprised at how nicely it wrapped up."

It's become an expectation of "JSA" fans that each story arc will feature a story that ups the ante more than the last story, introducing a more threatening villain and a more terrifying threat, but this might make one wonder if the threat could ever become so big that the next story in "JSA" will seem too tame. "It's funny, when we were starting out, we were the little book that could," explains Goyer. "I read all these posts saying that the title would be canceled within the first year. Now, here we are in our 4th year, with a variety of awards and the book continues to go up in sales every month. We are the establishment now. And what you realize is, once you become popular, once you gain greater notice; you become a bigger target for people to criticize. People even begin to resent your book for being popular, for not being niche anymore.

"But in terms of scope-well, yes, to a certain extent, you have to keep upping the stakes. And it does get harder and harder to do. Honestly, I'm not sure how much longer we could have kept things spinning-even if time had allowed for Geoff and myself to continue past the mid-50s."

And if you're a fan worried that Goyer might, somewhere in the back of his head, secretly be concerned about "JSA's" future, the writer is quick to put those fears to rest. "Hey, maybe we will jump the shark," laughs Goyer. "You never know. I think things are coming together. What's important, ultimately, is that we stay true to the characters-and we do have quite a bit of important character interactions going on. Will some people be disappointed? Undoubtedly. But on the whole, I think fans will be satisfied. In retrospect, I think they will find the conclusion to this tale to be organic. The final arc also really tends to focus on the Big Four-Hawkman, Wildcat, Sentinel, and Jay Garrick. Of course Dr. Fate will get to shine as well. But we're very mindful of knowing who are the truly iconographic characters.

"And yes, there are obviously plans that extend beyond #50. At least eight issues or so."

Surprisingly, Goyer says he doesn't mind that sometimes people, both fans and the comic book press, forget to mention him as the co-writer of "JSA" and only mention Geoff Johns, something that happened in the opposite manner to Johns when he began co-writing "JSA."

"Honestly, this really doesn't bother me," says Goyer. "Comics are a hobby for me, really. My main job is film. Right now, I only co-write one book. Geoff is on at least four books, so in this field, he's much more visible. Also, I don't have time to do many conventions. I didn't even make it to ComicCon this year. It's natural that Geoff would get more press, etc. And I don't begrudge him any of that. He's a fantastic writer. I love working with him. The more play he gets, the more rubs off on the book. It's a win-win situation."

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This win-win situation, as Goyer describes it, also involves Goyer passing the proverbial torch to Johns and allowing the newer scribe to finish up some of the dangling subplots that have been around since the beginning of "JSA." "I wanted to wrap up all my subplots, but honestly, a couple of them will be left dangling," concedes the writer. "Geoff will get to those over the course of our last seven or eight issues together. I believe there will be 2 subplots left-although one of them will see some serious developments in our last arc."

Before leaving "JSA," Goyer's also had the chance to work with some of the top talent in the comic book industry today, from old partner James Robinson to Pulitzer prize winning Michael Chabon on the "JSA All-Stars" mini-series that is set for a May 2003 release. "Geoff did the heavy-lifting on 'All Stars.' But it's been great to see other people's interpretations of the characters-writers and artists. Our editor, Peter Tomasi, has kept a tight rein on spin-offs because he didn't want to dilute the book's appeal. But he's slowly starting to loosen things up. The 'Dr. Fate' mini looks quite good, in particular."

Goyer is quick to add to that he's been working with some "all-stars" of his own on the "JSA" ongoing series, namely the art teams and he has nothing but praise for those people. "Leonard Kirk and Keith Champagne have a different style," says the scribe of the current artists. "I see them as being somewhere in-between Sadowski/Bair (slightly more realistic) [referring to the previous artists] and Snejberg (more stylized). Sadowski was great with faces. Leonard is great with very dynamic layouts. He's also a great storyteller. Honestly, I've enjoyed working with both teams immensely. Leonard tends to make a few more suggestions now and them in terms of things that might effect the plot."

While he's happy to keep talking about the artists, ask Goyer for some hints regarding the upcoming "JSA" storyline and he'd rather fans have the joy of discovering the story for themselves. "Teasers. Aaarrgh. No! Not a one. Well, maybe this-the Black Adam storyline will not finish up in a way that people are probably expecting. Oh yeah-and something else. There will be a couple villains showing up during the final arc that will catch people by surprise."

The one thing that Goyer wants to make clear before leaving "JSA" is that it's been a blast and he's loved the interaction with the fans.

"It's been a privilege to work on the book, really. I never thought I would stay on the book for so long. I'd only planned on staying for a year. But I ended up enjoying working with Geoff so much that I just couldn't drag myself away.

"I'm sure I'll do more comics work at some point. But not for a year or two, at least."

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