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Into the Fifth Dimension with Keith Champagne
JSA Inker turns JSA writer

Yes, Keith had a fine view of Pokemon rear all convention long.
We talked to Keith Champagne a while back when he had the one two punch of writing an issue of the previous Legion of Super-Heroes then launching a creator owned series, Armor X.

A lot has happened since then. Armor X met with critical and some financial success, and Geoff Johns decided that in the gearing up to Infinite Crisis, he might need to take a break from some of his books. To do that on JSA, Johns tapped Champagne, long-time inker on the series, to write three issues, then publicly announced and in effect anointed him on his own website.

JSA #78, 79, 80 will find Champagne on double-duty, writing and inking a tale of the JSA searching to reclaim Jakeem Thunder.

We had to check back in with Champagne about this dramatic (and deserved) boost to his career...

Derek McCaw: What did you do to or for Geoff Johns to get what you call the best gig you’ve ever had?

Keith Champagne: Of all the times to draw a blank! I know there's a hell of a joke in here somewhere but for the life of me...I can't come up with anything that works for an all ages audience.

Derek McCaw: Seriously, have the two of you conferenced about this? Was this arc you’re writing something he had planned to do, or did you approach DC with the idea?

Keith Champagne: We talked once just about continuity stuff before I started writing, to make sure all the stars were aligned and I'd be picking up where he left off and leaving off where he could pick things back up.

Basically, if Geoff had written these three issues, you would have had a completely different story that deals with resolving the same subplot. As it was, Geoff and Peter Tomasi were very open to my just taking the reigns and riding the sleigh anywhere I wanted to take it. These aren't filler issues at all. These books matter and very much have an effect on the team. Two characters aren't making it out of this one -- the stakes are pretty high.

Peter Tomasi first approached me about writing these issues. I'm pretty familiar with the status quo of the book because I've been working on it for four years now, I'm up to speed on the characters. And as I've been doing more writing in comics, I think it just made sense to plug me in. Once I was given the gig, I briefed Peter on what I wanted to do, Geoff gave the thumbs up, and it was off to the races.

Look for The Flash on JSA #78
I would like to publicly thank Geoff, he's been a great gentleman to step aside and let me take the reins for a few issues. I know he takes a LOT of pride in the lengthy run he put together on JSA and it wasn't easy for him to step aside and give that up. But I think the logistics of his schedule made it impossible to give his all for a bit and he put the book and characters first, rather than throwing together a hasty storyline. That's really something to be respected, I think.

Equal credit goes to Peter Tomasi for taking a chance and putting me in the game. There are a host of bigger names and better known writers that would have jumped at the chance to write a few issues of JSA but Pete gave me the nod and it's a huge opportunity for me to show what I can bring to the table. So thanks to both of them, and I think I repaid that show of faith by turning in three GREAT issues that took everybody by surprise, both in terms of quality and in terms of what happens.

Derek McCaw: Some of it obviously spins out of events in Day of Judgment and possibly leads into Infinite Crisis. How hard is it to work under the constraints of a massive crossover? Is there anything you would have done differently if you didn’t have those parameters?

Keith Champagne: Actually, I really enjoyed working "under the constraints of a massive crossover". It really made me feel like I was a part of something bigger, like I was contributing to this giant story unfolding in the DCU. It was fun. Logistically, there wasn't that much I really had to work in. One character specifically had to be moved to a certain square on the chessboard and there was some acknowledgement of some background elements happening in other DC titles but all in all, this is a pretty self-contained arc. It does tie in to Day of Judgement and Infinite Crisis but it's not beholden to either.

Derek McCaw: Your arc deals with The Fifth Dimension. How many Marilyn McCoo jokes will you be fitting in?

Keith Champagne: Zero.

Also, Batmite and Mxyzlptk are not in the book. They would have been but because I couldn't kill them off, they were thrown out.

Derek McCaw: To write this arc, how many obscure comic books did you have to read? Is there any old comic in particular that fans should be looking for?

Will Keith Champagne be the man of the hour?
Keith Champagne: Zero. There's nothing in here that newer fans will scratch their heads about. Older fans might perk up and say, "Hey, is that really so and so??" but it's more of an Easter Egg thing then a continuity nightmare.

Derek McCaw: When we last talked for Fanboy Planet, you were anxious about the reception of the first issue of Armor X. Now that it’s on the stands, how has the reception been for you?

Keith Champagne: I think Armor X flew under the radar a bit. Reviews for the book were solid at first and got better as we went. The fourth issue was five stars, dammit! I'm very proud of what Andy Smith, Across The Pond Comics, and I put together. The book is being collected into the trade format early next year and we're going to tweak things a bit and add some extra content to make it something special and to help it stand out a bit more.

I should mention that Armor X has jumped publishers to Speakeasy, who will be handling the trade and the new series next year. Did I just say new series? Oops!!

Derek McCaw: You’ve mentioned doing sequels to Armor X. Can you talk about those plans?

Keith Champagne: I could, in theory...

Derek McCaw: Okay, will you talk about those plans?

Keith Champagne: Oh. Sure. There's going to be an Armor X Vol. 2 next year, although the length and format are still being determined. Andy and I are really anxious to get back into that world. The last issue threw a huge curveball at people and I think we established that this is a book where literally ANYTHING can happen. When you play with the kind of power the armor possesses, all bets are off and not everyone makes it out alive.

Also, people who read the book should ask themselves: Why was that suit of armor just sitting there waiting for Carson to find it? Was Carson supposed to find it? Maybe it was meant for someone specific and that being might be pretty damn pissed right about now. And that might not bode well for Whitney.

Next year they'll need a bigger booth.
Derek McCaw: Rumors abound that creative teams will be thrown up in the air after Infinite Crisis. Where do you hope to land?

Keith Champagne: I haven't landed anywhere yet but I hope it's somewhere regular. I'm a monthly guy with a family to support so I've got to keep the gravy train running. I hope that writing these three issues of JSA leads to more solicited writing work. I also have a couple of pitches for projects that will be in the pipeline soon.

With all modesty aside and with no arrogance intended, I think I showed, without a doubt, that I can play with the big boys. I've been working behind the scenes for a long time for a chance to sit at the grown up table and I'm hungry to dig in. So knock on wood that more opportunity will present itself. In the meantime, it's up to me to make that opportunity happen.

Derek McCaw: If you got invited to the DC writers’ slumber party on a regular basis, which snack would you bring?

Keith Champagne: Everyone loves popcorn!!


Derek McCaw

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