Readers of Justice Society of America have suspected for awhile that Gog would show up. Ever since the letters "G" and "O" showed up in issue #10, the storyline has been building toward a showdown with the mysterious and powerful being in the DCU known as Gog.
We just didn't know which one.
With Justice Society of America #15, writer Geoff Johns and artist Dale Eaglesham have debuted a giant god-like being that solicitations for the next issue are calling the "one, true Gog." As the team has grown to include a slew of new, virtually untested heroes, they're all about to face an ancient force from the mysterious "Third World" whose motives are still unknown.
But the surprise ending to this issue that fans really weren’t expecting was that creators threw in one of those four-panel teasers again – echoing what was done at the end of Justice Society of America #1. Under the header, "Coming this year in the Pages of Justice Society of America," the four panels previewed a death in the JSA's future, a return of pre-Crisis characters on a new Earth-2, an Alex Ross-painted Magog, and a reunited Black Adam and Isis confronting Hawkman in the Rock of Eternity.
Newsarama talked to Johns to find out more about what those teases mean, what's going on now in Justice Society and what's coming next in the title.
Newsarama: Let’s start with this “Gog” who showed up at the end of this issue – are we going to get a more detailed explanation of him?
Geoff Johns: Yep. You learn all about Gog in the next issue, and Alex Ross painted his secret origin, which is beautiful.
NRAMA: He did interior pages?
GJ: He painted the whole sequence with Gog's origin. It's gorgeous. Just gorgeous. Alex will be doing a lot more interiors in stuff coming up as we build into this second part of our storyline, as we head toward the conclusion of the"One world under Gog" story and some other projects associated with JSoA that will be announced soon.
NRAMA: In the last issue, there were some hints that this involves gods from the "Third World." Will we see some explanation of what the Third World is?
GJ: You learn all about the Third World and Gog in JSA #16, which is out in two weeks. TWO WEEKS!
NRAMA: Since it's going to focus on the Third World, will it tie into the Death of the New Gods of the "Fourth World" or the introduction of the "Fifth World" that we've been told is coming in Final Crisis?
GJ: Not really. I mean, it's not a "tie-in." It's just part of the same mythology that Jack Kirby created.
NRAMA: We already saw Infinity Man show up in the last issue, and he was important to the story of the Fourth World in Death of the New Gods. But you're saying that's just because they're part of the same universe, but not necessarily part of the same overall story?
GJ: Right. It's just that we're dealing with the same backstories of these otherworldly gods.
NRAMA: OK, wait a second. Dale Eaglesham talked to us in New York about how the Justice Society feels comfortable pulling up lawn chairs to the conference table because they're a family, right?
GJ: Yeah. We always talk about it being superheroes by way of Norman Rockwell. That's what the JSA is to us.
NRAMA: But you're talking about these otherworldly gods and the Third World in this comic. You take these characters who make pancakes at the local firehouse, and you're putting them in a storyline with gods? Was that on purpose, to have this friendly, down-to-earth team be a part of something this epic in scale?
GJ: We've been wanting to do something very epic with these characters, and with this storyline, we're definitely building it into something epic. And yes, it's a little bit different to have a comic that builds the characters on this personal level and also does something epic. But Dale and I are always talking about how we don't want to do a book that's like every other comic. We don't want to do a mainstream team book that's all about plot. JSA's a different type of book. So you're going to get different looks at characters and different takes on superheroes. They're people just like us. And we don't want to just tell, hey, it's a four-issue arc of Justice Society where they fight the Crime Syndicate. That's not the book we're telling. We want to tell a story about these people and about how they're learning to be better people. About their lives and the lives of others they effect. Scenes like Stargirl and Lightning, Citizen Steel, Alan and Todd, the characters are what are important first and we want to take our time focusing on the exploration of character. That said, they're about to be turned inside out.
NRAMA: There has also been a serious balancing act going on in this series lately where the team was getting a lot bigger while getting closer to this confrontation with Gog. It appears that at the same time you're growing this team, you're also having them encounter this great god-like figure. Is there a reason for that happening all at the same time?
GJ: Yes. In the upcoming stuff we have, we make it really clear why we have the characters we have and why them joining the team was part of this story.
NRAMA: And there's a reason there are so many members on the team right now?
GJ: There's always a reason for everything. There's a specific reason Amazing Man's on the team. There's a specific reason Lightning's around. There's a specific reason that all those characters have been introduced: Lance and Steel and Wildcat. Everybody.
NRAMA: Some people suspect a few connections between these characters and Gog. But is there something that ties these characters together with each other? Do all these characters who are ending up on the Justice Society have a common theme?
GJ: Well, I think people have noticed that one of our main themes is that all the characters have something wrong with them, just like all of us do. They're flawed. That was one of the very important things Dale and I wanted to do when we first started.
Liberty Belle embodied it really well in her issue. Just because there's a crack in something doesn't mean you throw it away. And that carries through to every member of the Justice Society of America. Everybody has an issue they're dealing with. Everybody has either a piece of who they are, who they were, who they're going to be that isn't the norm, and that's what we're really revolving our book around.
NRAMA: So it’s like, for example, Citizen Steel being flawed in that he can’t feel, but he’s still finding a way to be heroic.
GJ: But it's not just about the physical. He didn't want to feel after he lost his leg. He self-medicated with pain pills and cut himself off from his family. That's what it's about. And the fact that his powers, being an indestructible man, give him what he wants is an issue. Because suddenly, that isn't what he wants, or needs. Citizen Steel is one of my absolute favorite characters in the entire Justice Society of America because of his situation. He's got so much personality and you can see his forethought as you watch his body language in the next several issues. You just see him doing things over the next few issues that come naturally. If you're not paying attention, you think it's part of the story, but if you look at him, he's got a very warm soul stuck in a body that can't feel anything.
NRAMA: It's a contrast between who he is inside and who he is externally.
GJ: Sure. That's what he's supposed to be. And Amazing Man is an example of someone who is all about transformation. He believes that you can transform yourself into the person you want to be. You need to believe that you can do it and it is a reality. It just takes hard work. He's a very spiritual person, and very confident and fair.
NRAMA: Wait, you just said he was spiritual?
GJ: Yeah. Well, obviously, by his costume.
NRAMA: Does that come into play as he comes up against this "god" whom the solicitation for the next issue calls "the Earth's future savior?" The "one, true Gog?"
GJ: It does, yes. And so does Dr. Mid-Nite. He's a stout Catholic. Mr. Terrific is the exact opposite. He's an atheist.
NRAMA: And that all comes into play in this storyline?
GJ: Yes. And you know, Amazing Man also helps to root the Justice Society a little more heavily in reality. Amazing Man and Lance Corporal David Reid are both examples of that. I really liked the Amazing Man character, and I wanted to explore what he did after the war. He definitely would have been part of the Civil Rights movement. He would have been a public figure. So I just pushed that as far as I could go when we introduced him and made him a Civil Rights leader in the DC Universe. And David Reid represents the man who founded the JSA: President Roosevelt. And I like that. He's an important legacy for the JSA.
He and Hawkman are going to be seeing eye to eye in the coming months.
NRAMA: Well that makes sense. They're both battle-minded.
GJ: They're both soldiers. Yeah. And we're going to learn a lot more about David in the next several issues.
NRAMA: It sounds like we'll be learning a lot more about these new characters in the coming issues?
GJ: Yeah. Judomaster has quite a bit coming up with her. Damage is trying to foster Judomaster's relationship with the JSA, but it's going to be very slow, and then something that happens in the next couple issues will change that dynamic. And Lightning has her own set of problems, since she's a teenager who can't touch anything electronic. And they're all going to be a big part of what's coming up.
I'll be getting into these characters with Troy Brownfield [here on Newsarama] very soon in an article with sketches and explorations of where these characters came from.
NRAMA: OK, then, one last question about the issue that we just have to know. The monkey who showed up in the JSA headquarters – is the monkey going to stick around?
GJ: The monkey stays.
NRAMA: Sweet! A good comic only gets better with a monkey. Let's talk about what's coming next. You mentioned issue #16 coming up in a couple weeks, then after that, you've got your Annual that focuses on Power Girl's trip to Earth-2, right?
GJ: I'll be able to talk about that soon, when we get closer to when it comes out in July. But I can tell you something we're doing in the Annual that's got me excited. The Annual is 38 pages long. And it's a 36-page story plus this beautiful double-page spread of the whole team. Dale's doing this great take, because we've got this spread that Dale has worked on. It's someone painting the JSA in this beautiful portrait. And the portrait is something you've seen done, but the image we're getting is like 30 seconds or 10 seconds after he said, "OK guys, I'm done." They've been sitting still for two or three hours, and now they're getting up and stretching and moving around.
NRAMA: It sounds a lot like what you were talking about earlier with Norman Rockwell. That captured moment.
GJ: Yeah, and it makes it a lot more real. That was all Dale. You get to see all the members and names and everything else. The JSA Annual is really an extension of what we're doing in the Justice Society of America. It's a big story, but we wanted to make it an Annual, so that a reader can enjoy just the Annual or not, but it's all part of the book.
NRAMA: Can we talk a little now about these four panels you had in this teaser page at the end of issue #15?
GJ: Sure. I don't know if I can say a lot about them. They're pretty self-explanatory.
NRAMA: In that first panel, it's pretty obvious that you're saying there's going to be a death.
GJ: It's something.
NRAMA: But this isn't just a throwaway character lying there, right?
GJ: It could be analyzed a hundred different ways.
NRAMA: [laughs] And that's OK with you if it is, right?
NRAMA: In the second panel, we're seeing the scene from the Annual that you've got coming out in July. That's Power Girl encountering Earth-2 characters?
NRAMA: Why show those four characters in particular in this tease?
GJ: Robin and Huntress are very important to the main story. Huntress is the main character, essentially, in the Annual. It's all really about her and Power Girl. And the other JSA-ers we see in this image are in the story and are part of it, but I chose them because they don't exist on this earth. Fury, to me, is representative of a character who doesn't exist in the DC Universe the way she was conceived as the daughter of Wonder Woman, grown up. That's why I wanted to include her. I like the idea of the combination of these characters: Robin grown up, Batman's daughter, Wonder Woman's daughter, and Green Lantern's daughter. And you get characters who don't exist in their forms here. For example, Obisdian's not in that image even though he does exist on Earth-2, but he also exists here, and in that image, I wanted to focus on characters that don't.
NRAMA: And in the third panel, that's Alex Ross depicting Magog.
GJ: Yep. And it makes sense for Alex to do that because Magog is his character.
NRAMA: We've seen the solicitation for the character's debut in the DCU in August's issue #18. Is that an extension of what we're seeing now with Gog?
GJ: Kind of. Like I said, you'll know more about Gog in the next issue, and you'll have to wait and see what happens with his herald, Magog.
NRAMA: The fourth panel tells us a little more about the Black Adam/Isis story you teased in New York. When does that storyline start?
GJ: It starts later this year.
NRAMA: And it looks like Black Adam finds Isis?
GJ: It does. The best thing about that image and why the image is conceived that way is that there is a whole story told in that one singular image. It really does tell a thousand words, you know? First off, you have Hawkman and Black Adam facing off who had a relationship, obviously, in the past. And you have Black Adam sitting on the throne of the Rock of Eternity with Isis at his side. So now you know he's found Isis at some point and they've taken the Rock of Eternity. In that one image, I can let people know is coming up. You already can see what it's going to be. Is it the war for the Rock of Eternity? What's going on? That one panel does more than maybe like six pages in a book could do.
NRAMA: You sound like you really like the way these teases turn out. It's become familiar to readers since you started doing it with Justice Society #1. Do you like utilizing these types of teases?
GJ: It all stated because, bottom line, I'd rather they learn about upcoming storylines from the comics themselves instead of Previews.
It's so easy to read ahead and feel like you're already three-months into the future from something like Previews. So if there's going to be information out there about our upcoming stories I'd like to do it first.
NRAMA: You've done it in more than one of your comics. We've seen something similar in Action Comics and Green Lantern.
GJ: I used it differently in Action Comics than how I did in JSA. In Green Lantern and Action Comics, I kind of did the trailers. Here in JSA, I do it a little differently, just showing you panels that are actual glimpses of what's coming up. They're by the artists who are doing the stories too, which is really cool. You've got Fernando [Pasarin], Jerry Ordway, Alex Ross and Dale.
Some of the stuff I'm working on now, I want to push beyond a 22-page format, like that stuff we've got coming up with Superman crosses over into Superman, Action Comics and Supergirl. But we'll also have one other thing that's tied to it because I want to experiment with the formats of both the 22-page comic and what a storyline is. Like with Blackest Night, I want to do specials on the different colored corps, not just to do specials, but because I want to explore them to a deeper level. Just those main characters, just that main Red Lantern, just that main Blue Lantern. Some of the stuff I'm doing just doesn't fit into 22 pages. I just want to do something a little bit different and a little bit more fun. Like in our Action Comics Annual, we had three spreads of the Superman Family and then the Daily Planet and the Phantom Zone at the end of our Annual. And I really wanted to do that because I love that extra stuff you're getting.
NRAMA: Everyone loves the extras.
GJ: It's a cool way to present these characters and tell people who might not be that familiar with them all about them. They've read this storyline and they just want more concrete information and a place to go to and refer to. So experimenting with format and stuff like trailers and teases or glimpses into the future -- that stuff is really all about letting the reader know where we're going. So if you want to hang around, if you're excited about this kind of stuff, stick around.
It's also like, OK, some of this stuff you look back in context of what you just read and it has more meaning to it. That's the kind of things that I like doing. Like in the Legion story, specifically with that trailer, it was a way of communicating that I don't think we've done in a long time. I don't think anyone's announced a book with something like that. I was really excited about the prospect that I get to work with George Perez with these characters and this giant storyline that I've had in my head for awhile, and I'm going to write in conjunction with Grant Morrison, one of my favorite writers of all time. I mean, I get to do that? I wanted to tell people how excited I was about it and share that excitement right there in the comic instead of announcing it in a magazine or online, I thought it would be a lot cooler and more satisfying for readers to read that issue, and if they enjoyed that storyline, then here's the next one, and here's who's doing it, and here's when it's coming out.
I'll try to experiment with a different format and keep adding to the books. I've done the trailers, and I've done the four panels of upcoming issues, and I've done the Annuals -- what's next? How can I make something else different? How can I expand the format and do a different kind of book and make my comics the best they can be?