Recently, Josh Green got the chance to catch up with James Robinson to chat about all of Robinson’s newest projects. This interview provides us a unique look into the upcoming Superman titles and Robinson’s upcoming run on Justice League of America.
Josh Green: You are obviously most known for your Starman run from the 1990’s, but then you disappeared from comic books for a little bit. Why did you leave? What did you do when you weren’t writing comics? And what brought you back?
James Robinson: Starman for eight years, and ultimately it was quite an opus. That, coupled with the general events that were going on in my life privately, just sort of burnt me out creatively on comic books. At no point did I ever say I was leaving comics for good, I just sort of took a leave of absence, so to speak, to recharge my energy in terms of sequential narrative.
I was doing screenplays and I directed a movie, so I worked in Hollywood steadily for that time. I came back to comics with the One Year Later “Face the Face” Batman series. Ultimately I wasn’t happy with it. I thought I could have done a better job. I thought there were problems with it that were primarily my fault. So then I thought that maybe meant I shouldn’t come back to comics after all. But then Geoff asked me to help him on Superman and through that I became involved with this whole collaborative group — Geoff, Greg, Sterling and Matt Idelson our editor, where we’re constantly feeding each other new ideas by talking to each other. We are a very supportive group, the Superman team, and as a result it reinvigorated me. Starman was off in its own little corner of the DCU pretty much, whereas with all the Superman books we are right in the heart of everything. That’s how a Superman book should be. I really have been enjoying that, and I am going to enjoy it more-so when I take over Justice League of America and make that into an important book in the DC universe.
JG: In less than a year since your official return, you have become an instrumental figure in both the worlds of Superman and Justice League. Do you prefer writing books in your own corner of the DCU like in Starman or do you prefer mainstream sweeping epics like in Superman and Justice League books?
JR: When I wrote Starman, like you say I was off in my own corner. That suited the title; where I was free to tell the tale I wanted without having the constant distraction of the on-going continuity of the DC line as a whole. Having done that, however, now I really enjoy the set of challenges that working within the main DCU gives me. I am very gratified that I get to be one of the front-line writers in everything going on at the moment, which means I get to talk to a lot of editors and creators. And it’s a very different writing experience. Like I say it has its own set of challenges sure, but along with that it has its triumphs, and it’s a real blast.
JR: This is not necessarily a particularly interesting answer. Geoff had some initial ideas even before I was a part of things. Then I came along and we worked together to create more ideas, and it all just came together little bit by little bit. Some of it just came out the blue. The one thing that I am quite proud of, I won’t deny, is that I was the one who came up with the idea of the Guilds so as to explain the different Kryptonians. But long story short, I don’t really remember the origins of how Geoff and I came up with “New Krypton”, except that Geoff came up with lots of it.
JG: Why did you choose to tackle Mon-El and the Guardian within the proper Superman title? The Guardian was never as fleshed out of a character as he is currently, so how do you view him as a character?
JR: I’ll answer the first part of the question second. So, second part of the question — I always loved The Guardian, but I always felt that he was such a blank slate. I guess I loved him more for his potential than what had been done with him. I don’t know of any story — I mean I’m sure there’s probably one story that I’m not recalling — but I can’t think of a story that touches on the fact that he probably has the memories of the original Jim Harper. He had no personality, and I thought there was so much more we could do with him. So as we put together the idea that Superman would leave for New Krypton, we were trying to figure out which characters would appear in which books. For instance originally we were going to have Superboy in Action Comics.
The one thing we did like — we being me, Geoff, Matt and Dan Didio — is the idea that people were filling in for Superman on Earth. And Mon-El seemed like an obvious choice. I have always loved the character and, again, I thought he was another blank slate. So in Metropolis it takes The Guardian, Mon-El, Steel (to a lesser degree), and the Science Police; to fill in for Superman. And even then, you need Superman. This is always something that I will be exploring, which I’ll be dove-tailing all these things into Superman as the book gets closer and closer to issue #700.
JG: You and Greg are knocking it out of the park on Superman: World of New Krypton. This is amazing to me because you two weren’t originally supposed to be the writers on this book. Tell me about your writing process and how you guys are seamlessly writing what I feel to be the strongest title in the Superman line.
JR: We had a lot of people in-line to do Superman: World of New Krypton. And for one reason or another, they chose not to do it. Mark Waid was offered the book and he declined it ultimately. And with Andrew Kreisberg, he was given a slight misrepresentation in what the book was. On the surface it appears that Superman is off on his own little world on New Krypton, but Superman: World of New Krypton is still going to be the engine that is driving everything. So we talk every week and we are constantly trading ideas, and I think when Andrew agreed to do the book he thought he was going to do a book that was more self-contained and more off on its own. And outside of comics he has such a busy schedule with his TV work while also writing Green Arrow/Black Canary. It became quite clear to him after our first conference call that it was probably not going to be a good marriage. So he backed out. But by then the Superman books were too far along, so Gregg (Rucka) and I had to do it because there were too many things already rolling. So we started, and it just really meshed. We have different strengths, but we’re respectful of them. While talking through the plot, we break it down, and we try the closest we can to get 11 pages each issue. Sometimes it is 10 to 12, but it is normally 11 pages. So when you read it, it is hard to tell who has written what pages. I don’t know how that happened, but it’s a really good marriage of the pair of us.
JG: What more can you tell me about the “Codename: Patriot” story?
JG: Your Captain Atom second feature just began in Action Comics. What can you tell us about this story, and how does it tie into the “New Krypton” epic?
JR: I can assure you that it all ties together and it is all a part of the DC Universe. Until you read all of “Codename: Patriot”, I can’t tell you more than that. Captain Atom will come back to our world in the fourth part, but this other world will be a part of the mythology that we are continuing with.
JR: CAFU, isn’t he great? And he’s taking over as cover artist for Superman and Action Comics.
JG: How much of the characters and premise will carry over from Justice League: Cry for Justice to your main title? Will it have ramifications beyond your Justice League of America book?
JR: Yes it will. I can’t say very much now, but it will affect characters in the Justice League. It will affect some characters very very specifically. Justice League: Cry for Justice and Blackest Night will be the elements that will bring about the new Justice League line-up.
JG: Can you comment on who will be in the new Justice League line-up?
JR: Well Dan Didio commented (in his DC Nation comic book afterward) that a “Golden Gorilla” would be on the team. So it is pretty obvious that Congorilla is going to be on the team. And we had Mark Bagley do the cover for the new line-up, and you will only see four members and the rest are blacked out. I’ll tell you that those four members are Dick Grayson Batman, Mon-El, Donna Troy, and Hal Jordan. I’m going to make Donna Troy kick ass!
JR: I am really picking up from the ashes of this team that is in disarray. They don’t know if there really is even a league anymore and there is one issue where they admit that fact. There will also be the rise of Intergang, while we also focus on key class Justice League villains where I will make them cool and sharp again.
JG: Will Superman, Superman: World of New Krypton, Justice League: Cry for Justice, or Justice League of America tie-into Blackest Night at all? What can you tell us about your Blackest Night: Superman story?
JR: What DC wants to do with Blackest Night, is to do them in separate mini-series. But a couple of books are getting actual tie-ins, but it is still very contained. So we have two Justice League of America issues tying in to Blackest Night. Anything pertaining to Superman will be in my book, Blackest Night: Superman. But what makes Justice League: Cry for Justice deliberately pre-Blackest Night is that it has the last appearance in the Justice League of Hawkman and Hawkgirl.
JG: Do you have anything left to add about your current slate of DC projects?
JR: Just that I’m excited to be a part of all the exciting events to come for the DCU as we enter 2010.