Fans of the Justice League are in for a double treat this week as they get TWO lead-ins to this summer’s Darkseid War event: Justice League #40, arriving in stores and online this Wednesday, and the Free Comic Book Day Divergence special, coming this Saturday to shops all around the country. We got to speak to the two masterminds behind the Justice League title, writer and DC Comics Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns and artist Jason Fabok, about how this story has been led up to since issue #1, the arrival of Mr. Miracle to the team, and the brand new role Wonder Woman will be taking on in the book.
[Also, confidential to a few of our old school fans: it’s pronounced Dark-side. Told you so.]
Matt Santori: This week, the Darkseid War begins and it’s very clear that it is built on everything you’ve done since issue #1 of the series. How has the planning been for both of you and is it all culminating the way you’d planned?
Geoff Johns: It’s gotten a little bit bigger, to be honest. Some of that is just the character work that Jay and I want to do in the book. Every character has a pretty big journey in Darkseid War, and the team itself has a journey. The scope is just elevated as we’ve added a lot of new characters and explored things. There are a lot of new relationships and a lot of new twists and turns that we’ve put into the story.
I don’t know if you’ve seen the cover to Justice League #42, but it’s just unbelievably beautiful. That cover best represents what we’re doing, that Wonder Woman is front and center and the focal point of this entire storyline. That cover is one of the most beautiful images of Wonder Woman Ive ever seen, but Jay has also built these epic covers to reflect what we’re trying to do in Darkseid War. What we’re hoping to do is just tell this sweeping, emotional, and very large scale storyline.
It’s still got the same big players and the same beats I had envisioned when I first started Justice League. This was always building from our very first arc, through Forever Evil, and to this confrontation between Darkseid and the Anti-Monitor. But with Jay on board, it’s gotten more epic.
And Diana has really bubbled to the top for me because of Jay. I give him all the credit in the world for drawing and illustrating her in such a powerful and dynamic way, that I just fell in love with the character all over again. She is, for me, the touchstone for what the League is all about and where we’re going to go in the future.
So, it has gotten bigger with new elements, and I attribute that to my great partnership with Jason Fabok.
MSG: And Jay, you’ve been really vocal online about your love for Wonder Woman and your design of her has been really well received. Can you talk a little about how your interest in her grew?
Jason Fabok: Wonder Woman, for me, has just recently become a character that I really enjoyed reading and getting into. I think one of the reasons I feel attracted to her artistically and storywise is… hmm. How do I put this? With a lot of other female characters, like Catwoman et al., it always seems like they’re very sexualized. I’ve never really wanted to go that way with my art and the way I draw.
With Wonder Woman, you can just draw this woman as powerful, confident, strong, but at the same time a loving and caring character, who is a real centerpiece of the Justice League. All of the characters in the Justice League respect her as much as she respects them. You don’t have to play any games with the way you draw Wonder Woman. You can make her the most awesome character on the page and it just always works. I’m just really attracted to that in a character.
I’ve always loved that strong female lead in the movies, thinking back to Terminator with Sarah Connor or Ripley from Aliens, where you can really play with the female characters and you don’t have to fall back on cheap tactics of selling her visually. For me, that’s been something I’ve really connected with in Wonder Woman.
I also love the whole thing where she’s this Greco-Roman warrior woman in a modern day setting. I love how we’ve played that up and let her go nuts. Geoff is pouring all of these great fight sequences into the book. It’s just so much fun. It’s a breath of fresh air after drawing Batman for so long, because with this character, you have to draw and approach her differently. It’s re-energized me and brought my art up to a different level.
GJ: I have to add to that, the illustration of her — and all the characters — is beautiful. When Jay first got the job, it’s because I saw this Wonder Woman piece online that he had done. I was just — wow — knocked out by the character. And as we worked on the book together, I was more drawn to the character. I’ve never written her solo. I’ve written her in team stuff, of course, but never as a focal point.
So, suddenly, she became this interesting focal point for me. I went back and reread hundreds of Wonder Woman comics and got inspired by so many of those great runs, but also by what Jay was doing. The story ideas organically started to point to her as a major figure, and a mythological figure, that we could explore, both from a human way and a mythic way. What her world extends to.
I’ve just had a blast. I’ve never loved writing her character like this, and I think it’s because Jay and I have found her together in a really big way. It’s pretty amazing for us. It’s very refreshing.
MSG: It’s funny you mention going back and reading those Wonder Woman issues, Geoff, because obviously your fans pay very close attention to the images of reading material you post on Instagram. Two other characters you’ve been doing deep dive research on are Mr. Miracle and Green Lantern John Stewart.
What can you tell us about their roles in the upcoming story?
GJ: Like Wonder Woman, these are characters I’ve never really had a chance to explore, so I’m really having a great time with Jay and [editor] Brian Cunningham too. I have to give him major props for helping keep Darkseid War together. It’s so massive and sprawling.
I’ve never really spent any time with the New Gods characters, and I really wanted to bring one of them into the book in a big way. I’ve always really liked the idea of Mr. Miracle, but I don’t think I had read every issue of the character’s appearances. I’d read most of them, but I went back and researched him.
There’s something really powerful about his story, and we really explore his origin in a little bit of a new way, but also true to what Jack Kirby did, in Justice League #40. He elevated to the top for me for interest. To have this tie to the New Gods, with Wonder Woman being the tie to the Old Gods, I really wanted to spend the time to get to know who Scott was, explore him in a new way, and stay true to who he is.
It’s a little bit like a mini-“Mr. Miracle: Rebirth” built inside of Justice League: Darkseid War. I wanted to reintroduce the character in a really powerful role.
Jay and I talked a lot about Blackest Night, because he was a big fan of that book. And he asked if we could do something as epic. Darkseid War is going to be that epic, but it’s going to be different. It’s going to be big and the sprawling stuff will be there, and the backdrop and consequences will be there.
But one of the things for me that was really exciting for me was finding Mera in that storyline. She had been very overlooked, and I don’t remember the last time she had appeared in a comic book before Blackest Night. It felt like an opportunity to take a character I’d really enjoyed and liked, but had never had the opportunity to be front and center. For a lot of people, they didn’t even know who she was. I knew we were going to rebuild Aquaman, and I thought she is such a great character to put forth and explore.
For me creatively, it paid off in such huge ways because I love writing her — and subsequently Aquaman — and she’s become one of my absolute favorite characters. It all started with Blackest Night. So, one of the things I wanted to do with Darkseid War is take this opportunity to find a character who was overlooked or underused, or maybe just not the focal point of anything in a while. Plus, I wanted to include someone from the New Gods, so Mr. Miracle came out of that.
And again, I’ve really fallen in love with the character and great things have come out of that. I don’t know how many hours Jay and I have talked about Mr. Miracle. Hours and hours and hours. Even minute details like, what’s on his his belt? Why would he ever go back to Apokolips once he escaped? So many conversations that might only lead to a panel or a line of dialogue, but we want to know this character inside and out in order to rebuild him from the ground up.
Mr. Miracle is the universe’s greatest escape artist, and that means a lot of things on a lot of levels: metaphorically, emotionally, and physically. That’s what we’re going to explore with the character in Darkseid War.
Jay and I both really got into him and we’re having a lot of fun with him. We hope that readers who either know him or don’t know him respond to Mr. Miracle here.
Because again, I love the DC Universe, and all I want to do is introduce these characters to other readers who will go, “Oh my God. I can’t believe I like Aquaman.” Or, there are so many Mera fans now. I don’t know if there were quite so many before Blackest Night. That’s just what we want to do: spread the passion we have for Mr. Miracle and Wonder Woman and the rest of these characters, and hopefully other people will pick that up and embrace these wonderful heroes.
On John Stewart, I don’t want to tip my hand too much, but with Hal Jordan back and Power Ring, there’s going to be some more elements of Green Lantern rolling into this storyline. One of the things I’m really excited about is that I took a little bit of a break from Green Lantern after I left the book and Hal left the team. So, to get back to it has been a lot of fun. We have a lot of interesting things for John and Hal and Jessica (and some other ones coming up).
MSG: Neat! Do you guys have any other teases for what fans can expect Wednesday with issue #40 or what’s coming up on Free Comic Book Day this Saturday?
GJ: The next issue is the prologue, and we have a lot of beautiful artists on there. When you read the book, it will become clear why, but we have Kevin Maguire, Phil Jimenez, Jim Lee, and of course Jay on that book. It starts to lay out the mythology of what we’ll be dealing with in Darkseid War, the consequences and the stakes. And some secrets that we’ll be exposing.
What we’re setting out to do is tell a really great story with characters that they love and explore them in new ways. And reveal a lot of new things about them. We’ll also be introducing new characters and a lot of new ideas.
I don’t want to spoil New Comic Book Day’s Divergence special too much, but I think it’s one of the most beautiful things Jay has ever drawn. It’s a short story (alongside short stories of Superman and Batman) that sets the stage for one of the major players in Darkseid War.
JF: We’ve been working really hard on this to make it the very best story we can. We want fans to come into this and feel like it’s the biggest blockbuster you’ve ever seen. We’re trying to amp things up and give the fans their money’s worth and give them everything they expect from a comic book. It’s going to deliver. I really feel confident about it.
Just wait. The story gets so cranked up, and it has an amazing ending. The fans are going to want to be along for this ride.
The Darkseid War prologue begins this Wednesday with Justice League #40 and continues just three days later on Free Comic Book Day with the DC Comics Divergence special.