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Talking with Jim Lee & Geoff Johns about ‘Justice League’ #1 and the DC Relaunch [Interview]

Before their signing of Justice League #1 at Midtown Comics on Tuesday night, ComicsAlliance had a few moments to talk with writer Geoff Johns and artist Jim Lee about DC Comics’ 52 relaunched titles. Read all about the duo’s Justice League plans, how they’re presenting it for readers old and new, their thoughts on the importance of continuity, and some of the titles they’re most excited for readers to discover after the jump.ComicsAlliance: So with the release here you can finally start showing to the world the new DC Universe after having all the excitement and expectations built up after the relaunch announcement. How does that feel?

Geoff Johns: It’s good. I guess it’s like, I’ve never had a kid but [to Lee] you can…

Jim Lee: I’ve never given birth, but I imagine if you were pregnant, and past your due date, this is what it would feel like.

CA: A large group of people involved in one enormous pregnancy, that’s finally here?

JL: There’s a certain sense of relief that the day has finally come. The time has flown by. I can remember when we first sat down and started this book and we’re just excited to share it with everybody. So much talk has been devoted to the September relaunch and Justice League‘s a big part of it. We want to see what people’s reactions are now.

CA: There’s been a lot of buzz since the announcement of the relaunch. How do you keep that excitement and energy going now that it’s finally here?

GJ & JL (Simultaneously): By delivering great stories.

JL: People have really been given the top line. These are the story beats, these are the things you have to look forward to, but even with Superman finding his costume in Action [Comics], that could be told in an infinite number of ways. So it really comes down to how Grant [Morrison] and Rags [Morales] do their job. They’re going to do a great job, I think, of really convincing people that this is a good thing to add to the mythology, good thing to change the mythology. But when you talk about keeping up the energy, to me it’s like running a marathon. It’s not a sprint as much as those deadlines really make it feel like a sprint. You always have to pace yourself. So I can say with conviction that issue #2′s better than issue #1, so if you like issue #1 . . .

GJ: And issue #3′s better than issue #2.

CA: In Justice League issue #1 and the new DC Universe in general, there’s a sense that superheroes are something that people are suspicious of, that people are afraid of. Can you talk about that a little bit?

GJ: Really, it’s a tone set in the early years of the DC Universe. One of the things that I wanted to do when we set out to do Justice League was [make it] the origin story of the superhero more than the origin of the Justice League. You see why the DCU is an optimistic place; why the people do look up to the heroes. How the DC Universe grows organically into what its best aspects are. We’re trying to accentuate that, from public perception to everything else. But there is that story of mistrust, and maybe just a little bit of apprehension. They’re unknown, these superhumans, and it unfolds into a story that shows us why the Justice League becomes the Justice League.

JL: It’s really a history of the origins of the DC Universe. Emergence of these super-powered beings, public anxiety as you noted, but it’s really about how the heroes turn that perception around. It develops in a very organic way, it actually comes through character. So much of the story, the way Geoff writes it, there’s a lot of humor, a lot of witty banter, you see the personalities behind the masks come out. And through that human interaction I think you start seeing why the League matters to people, how it humanizes the characters behind these iconic names, and how that’s important to the rest of society.

CA: In the new universe there’s a little bit of timeline juggling. You’ve got some stories taking place after the events in Justice League at the same time you’re publishing new origin stories like Justice League and Action Comics. Has it been tricky making all that work?

JL: I think there’s a loose time frame. I don’t think it serves the story to get too wrapped up in the minutiae of continuity and timeline. It’s always been kind of loosely handled before. People were happy and picked the stories that were the best stories and defined the characters and accept that into canon even if there were irregularities or conflicts. People have a way of creating their own continuity that works. And I think that same level of thought and same attitude should be approached going forward.

GJ: The best ideas stick. The best stories stick.

JL: Exactly. There’s no way there was 75 years worth of Batman stories that could all be condensed into one adulthood. That’s really what we’re asking for from the readers. Assume that the best stories happened but going forward we’re really talking about the future destinies of these characters. The future storylines that we hope to tap into with all these creative changes happening in September.

CA: One big focus of the relaunch is the ability to bring new readers in. More than the ability to bring in readers who already read comics, how vital is it to the future of comics to bring in people who haven’t read a comic in years, people who watched Smallville or The Dark Knight and loved it but have never picked up a comic? How important is that?

GJ: It’s really important to keep expanding the audience and bringing readers in. Obviously. That’s a loaded question, you know the answer to that. It’s yes, it’s super important. I think digital day-and-date helps tremendously. And hopefully the relaunches and the stories that people are trying to make accessible stories again introduce these characters to a new audience. But the hope is people pick them up. I think the key is making it accessible, both in an availability way and also in a story way.

CA: You’ve put a lot of work into your own books. But what are some of the books you’re most excited about that you haven’t gotten to touch?

GJ: I’ve said this a lot. I think Jeff Lemire’s books, Animal Man and Frankenstein, are terrific. Those are probably two of my favorite books out there right now. I’m excited to read the issue 2′s and 3′s.

JL: For me it’s the return of the Wildstorm characters back into print. Obviously it’s going to be handled a little differently because they’re going to be part of the DC Universe and kind of fill a niche in terms of the genres that the DC Universe covered. And that’s something I’ve been very purposefully hands-off on in terms of the creative development. Primarily because I didn’t want to steer that ship back towards the way it was before. So to me, with the editors and creators involved, they really took a lot of the notions and the concepts of the original Wildstorm Universe, Voodoo, Grifter, and later Stormwatch, and retooled them in the spirit of what we’re trying to do in September. Some of the things I might not necessarily have done myself, but I understand why they’re doing it and it keeps the concepts fresh and interesting to longtime readers and also to new readers.

[Editor's note: While at Midtown Chris Murphy was, in turn, interviewed himself by CNN. Catch the clip below]

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