DC has separating its new 52 books out into distinct brands (“Edge”, “Dark”, “Young Justice”, etc) and this panel was focused on the Justice League line of books (tagline “Worlds Greatest Super Heroes”). This naturally includes Justice League (writer Geoff Johns and aritist Jim Lee) and Justice League International (writer Dan Jurgens), but also books like Captain Atom (JT Krul), Green Arrow (writer JT Krul, artist Jurgens), Hawkman (artist Philip Tan), Flash (Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato), Mister Terrific (writer Eric Wallace), were also present – plus Johns in his capacity as the writer of Aquaman and Green Lantern. The panel was moderated by DC’s Senior Vice-President of Sales Bob Wayne and Executive Editor Eddie Berganza.
You can find an MP3 download podcast of the panel on DC’s website. There were quite a few creators present, but the JLI and JLI books took up most of the discussion.
Jim Lee introduced the Justice League:
It’s been a real delight working with Geoff [Johns], we’ve talked about working together for a long time. And it’s great to be on a team book again, honestly. I’ve been working on single character books for a long time. All those characters have side kicks and foils and things like that to interact with, but it’s predominantly a single flavour that you get out of Superman or Batman. Doing a team book gives you a completely different dynamic. It’s all about the interaction between all these iconic characters and Geoff is just a master at exploring the personalities behind the masks. The characters have different ideologies and personalities, it’s great having that interaction between characters like Batman and Green Lantern.
There is a lot of humour, I actually laugh a lot each time I read the script, probably in places I’m not supposed to be. I always learn something working with new writers for the first time, he’s [Geoff] really brought out the humanity in these characters. I hope you guys get a kick out of it.
Later in the Aquaman segment Geoff Johns touched on the humour element.
I’m really trying to inject some humour into all my books this time around from Justice League, to Aquaman, to Green Lantern get back to, instead of superheroes talking with other superheroes all the time, have superheroes interacting with real people.
Geoff on Hawkman:
He’s also a member of the Justice League. Everybody’s having a meeting and they’re all talking and a big mace falls on the table. They look up and Hawkman’s there. He sits down and goes “don’t worry, it’s not my blood!
How Cyborg can be a founding member of the Justice League given that he was originally a the Teen Titans character will be addressed in Justice League. Adding Cyborg to the team is about shaking things up, Geoff Johns said that:
I didn’t want to do the same seven that everybody predicts. The Martian Manhunter, well you’ll see where the Martian Manhunter is at, in the storyline, the origin, but, I like Cyborg, I think he’s a great character. I’ve written him for years and years in the Titans and Flash and I really think he’s a modern-day superhero. I don’t know if anybody in here doesn’t have an online identity, but he’s online and offline all the time.
Jim Lee was asked whether the Justice League costumes were “Paul Gambini originals?”
The design on Justice League. We wanted them to be obviously a team and we had a chance to design the costumes in a way that subtly suggests that they are team-like so there are similarities between the costumes. The high collars, I just think they look more regal more majestic. If you look at a lot of the more open-collar costumes, like Superman and Aquaman, [they] harken back to the late 1930s and 40s strongman kind of appearance. So it was just giving it an update.
It was also noted that Ivan Reis had put that a high collar on Aquaman before Jim Lee came to do the JLA costume redesign.
Another questioner brought up the Manhunter issue and Johns reiterated that J’onzz’s status will be addressed somewhere in the first arc (“there is a story to be had there”), but from a larger perspective there is an in-universe reason in the New 52 as to why there is only one alien (to wit Superman) on the Justice League. Geoff jokes that “When everybody see him they’re like “its a Martian!” and Hal’s like “hey dude”. The Manhunter will be in Paul Cornell’s Stormwatch.
- Why isn’t Dick Grayson carried over in a team, even through he’s now Nightwing? Johns said that Nightwing was left out of the Justice League explicitly because he was such a good team player – an anti-social Batman makes for more interesting drama.
- A woman questioner commented that condensing the DC timeline into five years must make it “really traumatic five years” for those who had to live through it. Geoff Johns said that would be addressed.
- We’ll be getting new villains in JL. Something like the Legion of Doom, but not called the Legion of Doom, will show up Justice League next year.
Justice League International
Dan Jurgens introduced the new Justice League International:
The Justice League International is an officially United Nations sponsored group [that is] in part is a reaction to the JLA. Batman, Rocket Red, Fire, August General in Iron, Booster, Guy (kinda of in and out a little bit), Vixen, Ice, and its going to be a bit of a rotating membership. Because some of these guys think – and when I say “Guys” is that a clue – some of these guys might think that they deserve to be in a somewhat better group than JLI. So there is a little bit of coming and going as the roster changes and rotates, but it is a group that is put together in direct response to the JLA.
Aaron Lopresti is doing incredible artwork on this book, he’s knocked the ball out of the park page after page. It’s a lot of big open stuff as I think this page shows [the coloured page] and its one of those things that we’re really trying to bring back, I think a lot of action and movement into the DC Universe, lots of big visuals, lots of fun stuff. As you can see here too [surprised as second JLI page is shown], as we continue on JLI. Not yet coloured, but Aaron and inker Matt Ryan are really going fabulous work on this. There is just tremendous characterisation that is coming through in their artwork, all the figure work, and everything they do.
On the Batman’s inclusion in both teams:
With JLI – I’ve got to figure how to do without giving too much away – let’s put it this way: JLI is a sponsored United Nations organisation that it put together in response to the JLA right? Well the JLA kinda thinks that they have somebody attached to their team that the United Nations knows nothing about. So he’s [Batman] kind of the bridge between the two teams and it’s not like the Batman would ever do what the UN tells him to. So he’s there because he thinks that’s where he should be and building a bit of a conduit between the two groups.
Dan Jurgens later brought the JLI cover back up and pointed out that none of the characters, with the exception of Batman, were wearing masks:
One of the things we’re building in the new DC Universe, as it pertains to this group, is the idea that all these people are much more known than typical, and remember I said that Batman was there without the UN’s permission. They went though an exercise that said we don’t want people with masks and identities we don’t necessarily know, and we sure don’t want any aliens.
Issues about of the new line’s diversity was raised several times. Mister Terrific’s Eric Wallace stressed that the drive to increase diversity wasn’t limited to the headline characters, but there was also effort put in to increase the diversity of the supporting casts and the background characters.
The questions about diversity also prompted responses that revealed details that various writers may otherwise have held off until their books would have appeared. Dan Jurgens said that August-General-In-Iron had become one of his favourite characters in the JLI book. Geoff teased that there was a “smaller” character in Justice League who rhymed with “batom” (pretty much telegraphing that the Ryan Choi version of the Atom was to make an appearance).
There was an interesting and slightly tense debate on the prominence of, or lack of, women in the new DCU. This led Geoff to claim that DC has “by far and away more iconic and stronger female superheroes than any other company out there.” The questioner countered that most of those were “Girl” representations of “Man” characters and not adult “Women”. She made several very good points and the panel struggled to convince her that things were being addressed.
Just from my own survey of the Justice League books – Justice League International and Dark are both 50% male/female. The flagship JL title isn’t so balanced as it looks like just Wonder Woman, but there are other characters like Mera and Element Woman, who we haven’t seen yet so we may have to wait to pass judgement on that one.
It was unfortunate that Bob Wayne had to silence the audience at one point.