The abrupt departure of James Robinson from DC's Earth 2 comic, especially after he'd sounded like he was settling in for the long haul and excitedly talking about spin-off books earlier in the year, made fans of the new-school Justice Society of America nervous about its future, particularly since it tied in with the arrival of a new Earth 2 Batman that could threaten to take the focus off the JSA. When Tom Taylor was tapped to replace Robinson, although with series artist Nicola Scott remaining on board, some of us weren't sure what to think. At least the some of us who hadn't checked into DC's hugely successful digital comic series Injustice: Gods Among Us, of which I must sheepishly admit I was one.
After meeting with the funny and charming Australian writer, though, I'm much more at ease about the future of Earth 2, and I may even finally be sold on buying his video-game tie-in series, too. He sold it that well. Check out our conversation, exclusively here at Crave Online.
CRAVE ONLINE: So, you're taking over Earth 2. What's been your standard response to the fans who are a bit concerned about the direction of the book after the oddly abrupt departure of James Robinson?
TOM TAYLOR: Generally a hug? I just hold them gently and cradle them and rock them, and I find that that nervousness leaves them. And a whole new nervousness takes over. Honestly, I tell them 'look, James has created an incredible world with Nicola, and we're going to take that and run with it.' We're building on that world. We're not razing it.
CRAVE ONLINE: You mentioned at the Comic-Con panel that there would be a big focus on the new Earth 2 Batman.
TAYLOR: He's a large part of it. I think a lot of people got a bit worried when they heard that and went 'what? It's just another Batbook?' It's not just another Batbook. Yes, there's Earth 2 Batman, but there are also going to be some characters nobody's ever experienced before coming along as well, as well as the established ones.
CRAVE ONLINE: New or brand new – as in, new characters entirely and not just new versions of older characters?
TAYLOR: I'll just leave that at 'no comment.'
CRAVE ONLINE: At some point, I'm going to ask you about when Dr. Mid-Nite is showing up, as he was my favorite JSAer.
TAYLOR: He looks great!
CRAVE ONLINE: Do you get to decide who Earth 2 Batman is, if James left before establishing his identity in canon, or will you be running with what James and Nicola originally planned?
TAYLOR: I don't actually know who he is, because I lifted the cowl and there were just fists flying, and that's all I got a look at.
CRAVE ONLINE: (laughs) He could be a weird alien fist-face dude. I'd buy that.
TAYLOR: No, basically we don't want to change things up too much. James had a vision, Nicola had a vision, and I agree with that, and I agree with who that is.
CRAVE ONLINE: Now, it was clarified recently that in Greg Pak's Batman/Superman series, the young Batman and Superman are being thrown across the breach to meet up with the young Batman and Superman of Earth 2. Are you aware of that?
TAYLOR: Not really. Good! That's okay, because they're dead. I don't have to worry about them. Dead, dead, dead, dead.
CRAVE ONLINE: Given that there's someone new under the Batman cowl on Earth 2, might we expect the same for the Superman cape, or can we keep the focus on the JSA and not that Trinity?
TAYLOR: That's a great question that I can't answer. Who knows? We'll see.
CRAVE ONLINE: That's what I was afraid of. I've got all these questions about Earth 2, since I'm a big fan, and you probably can't answer any of them.
TAYLOR: Yeah, the problem is that James' run hasn't finished yet, and his run actually ends with a big shift. He goes out with a bang. So I don't want to say anything that's going to spoil what he's got going. Issue 16 ends with a big bang.
CRAVE ONLINE: How far ahead have you managed to get now?
TAYLOR: I haven't been on too long, but I'm plotting the long game. So, yes, I know what happens in the first three issues. Yes, I know what happens in the first seven. Yes, I know how it all wraps up around my first 18 and what I'd like to do after that. So long game. We're not just going 'hmm, what should we do this week?' 'I don't know, uh, Earth 2 Batman meets The Porcupine.' Hilarity ensues… and spines!
CRAVE ONLINE: I think I would read that, actually.
TAYLOR: Be impressed that I called them spines, by the way, because I think that's an Americanism. I just call them pointy things.
CRAVE ONLINE: Quills, I believe.
TAYLOR: Quills! That's what I would've called them. We're not off-topic at all!
CRAVE ONLINE: How about we jump to Injustice?
TAYLOR: That, I can talk about!
CRAVE ONLINE: Okay, then. So this is a very dark alternate reality. With all of the recent hullabaloo about the question of whether or not Superman kills, how did you feel making him straight-up murder people?
TAYLOR: I hate it. I hate it. I hate it. Superman is my absolute hero, and in my mind, I hated doing that to him. Absolutely hated doing that to him, but I think that's possibly why it works. My reluctance to see that happen to him – I didn't want that to happen, so I'm still writing him in a way that you can relate to him and feel sorry for him all the way through. It's a slow transition. I think some people wanted to see 'oh, the death of Lois and he snaps and now he's evil! And he strokes a white cat and laser beams the Eiffel Tower' or something, I don't know. For me, I really didn't want that to happen, I didn't want that to happen to Lois, I didn't want that to happen to Batman and Superman. What I'm writing, essentially, is the breakup of the World's Finest friendship, and once their relationship is irreparable, then my story is done.
We do have a lot of people saying 'yes, I agree with what Superman is doing.' I don't know if you're up to date at all, but we had Apokolips come along and attack. The entire world full of Parademons and people dying every single second, and Superman makes a snap decision. He's basically taking out Kalibak, and Kalibak is saying 'you can hear the screams, can't you? You can hear everybody dying all around the world.' We've got these little word balloons of people screaming 'help' in different languages all around him, and he just loses it. He flies to somewhere like Manila, where Flash is, and they have a time-stopped conversation where Superman is basically pleading with him for another answer, because he knows that every second he wastes, thousands, millions are going to die. He just says "it sounds like you've come to me for permission to kill, and I can't give that to you." And Superman just takes off, looks at the Earth for a second and then flies back down and Parademons all around the world just start exploding everywhere. It's actually him demonstrating his true power.
CRAVE ONLINE: You might've just sold me on that. To be honest, I was hesitant to check Injustice out, on the prejudicial notion that it was a comic based on a fighting game, and…
TAYLOR: It IS like the number one selling digital comic in the world. There are people who like it and everything!
CRAVE ONLINE: I'm aware of that! But I have a personal sort of antipathy towards fighting games in general, and there's a history of video-game tie-in comics that aren't so great.
TAYLOR: I know. Believe me, I know. I completely understand.
CRAVE ONLINE: So I had some reticence, but that sounds very compelling.
TAYLOR: But I told them – I said from day one that I didn't want to tell a video game story. I wanted to tell the best DC universe story I could possibly tell. I was getting my hands on my favorite toys and my favorite heroes, and I was going to do the absolute best job I could do. Despite the fact that this is a prequel to a fighting game, we had Superman and Flash play super-speed chess for an entire issue while discussing big ideas like gun control. That was the whole issue – and Ma and Pa Kent talking to Lex Luthor at the Fortress of Solitude. No one gets hit, nothing explodes and people loved it. So we're doing some very different things, and I've had a lot of freedom on that book.
CRAVE ONLINE: Very good to hear. I will most certainly pick that up. And I told you at some point I'd have to ask you about Dr. Mid-Nite in Earth 2.
TAYLOR: I'm not saying yet.
CRAVE ONLINE: I thought not. But who is your favorite JSAer that you WILL be writing in this book?
TAYLOR: Hmmm. HMMM. I think Green Lantern is probably the most important character in that current book. His role is the most prominently openly gay character in the DCU. That made national news in Australia, so I think he's incredibly important. There are actually a couple of characters coming up that I'm probably most excited to write, but I can't tell you who they are yet. There are two in particular and you'll know them very, very soon, and you'll go 'oh…'
CRAVE ONLINE: Can you tell us why you're excited about them without revealing who they are?
TAYLOR: No. Well, I can tell you that there's going to be a very big emotional core to the book. The last few issues have just been people being pounded on. A lot of death and disaster. We're finding ourselves an emotional core, something that has a real resonance, and I'm very happy to be writing that. Don't worry, there are still explosions and hits, too. People still get punched in the face.