As part of the 'Infinite Frontier' initiative, longtime partners Brian Michael Bendis and David Marquez are reuniting to take over the ongoing Justice League title.
The duo, who have worked on Miles Morales, the Defenders, Iron Man, and Civil War II are reuniting beginning with March 16's Justice League #59 - and using a mix of classic members along with some surprising ones like Hippolyta, newcomer Naomi, and the usually-a-villain Black Adam.
Ahead of this new era, Newsarama spoke with Brian Michael Bendis about his Justice League run, adding a character he created to the pantheon of the team, and how this works with the Justice League Dark secondary story in each isue.
Newsarama: Brian, to jump right in, what was the decision behind wrapping up Superman to write Justice League?
Brian Michael Bendis: I was only supposed to do 25 issues of the Superman books, each one, that was the original run. Then everything kind of stretched a little bit with pandemic and other things that were going on.
But it was funny; a year before I was done with Superman, they started talking to me about Justice League in a few different incarnations. And I was like, 'Ooh, I wonder if I'm going to do Justice League. I haven't committed to that, but I want to do it.'
Then finally they called and said 'We have an assignment for a new Justice League' and I was like 'Alright, let’s think about what that is and what we have to offer.'
I didn't want to do it when I first came to DC. I wanted to get to know the characters more. I wanted to embrace the world. Then I felt like after a year or two on Superman I had a much better sense of how to embrace the Justice League.
It's like the Avengers in that it's a central piece book. It's the place where all the characters meet. It's the place where all of the mythologies come together and embrace each other, and I wanted to make sure that we could do that 'justice.'
Nrama: Are there any story threads from your Superman run or Wonder Comics books you wanted to include in Justice League?
Bendis: It's certainly not up to me, but I was very happy to hear that they were continuing the mythology that we had built recently with Superman - particularly his coming out and stepping forward as Clark Kent and being that to the world and what that means. What it means to all of his relationships, they've all changed. When you bring a truth about yourself out there that brings people closer to you.
So, that particular thing is something that Justice League is perfect for because I had wrapped up all the personal issues in Superman, now we get to have him embrace all of these friendships and partnerships inside the Justice League.
Also, a move like that by someone as powerful as Superman does bring kind of like a domino effect of other things. It changes things. The Justice League is a perfect place to illustrate that.
And then the other part, and again I was so happy the world kind of turned to let this happen, is that by bringing Naomi onto the team as the rookie character; she's bringing with her an enormous amount of new ideas and new threats. The whole point of Naomi was not just her and her story, but that she was bringing with her a world of new conflict and ideas for the DC universe.
So, the Justice League is a grand opportunity for us to step on the gas on some of that stuff. By like our second issue, we are encountering Naomi’s birth world to confirm some new truths in the DC universe.
Nrama: What made you want to explore Naomi’s origins further in the Justice League series in particular?
Bendis: Originally, we were going to do it in the Wonder Comics book, and the only reason we haven't done another run on Naomi so far is we're just waiting for Jamal [Campbell, the series artist]. So, we’re clear, Jamal was supposed to do Far Sector before he met us, and we jumped in and kind of cut the line on Far Sector, which I didn't fully understand that's what we were doing at the time, but we did.
So, we were like 'Well, we'll do Naomi and then let Far Sector unfold. Then as soon as he's done with Far Sector we'll come back to Naomi.' But it's taken a little longer to do Far Sector than anybody had planned, but that's okay. It's a great book. And I'm always of the mindset as long as it's great, who cares.
So, while we're waiting for Naomi to come back the DC universe keeps turning, and then we had Naomi, her friends in Young Justice, and now with the threat that comes with her birth world comes a Justice League level threat.
So, that's the logic in what's behind the door is so huge that you're going to need everybody. And once Superman, Batman, and Aquaman find out what's going on in Naomi’s birth world they're going to have to involve themselves.
So, it's a Justice League situation. It just is. It’s actually a perfect Justice League situation. It's something they can't handle as individuals. They have to handle it as a group.
And because there some new members of the team, it's also an opportunity for them to get to experience some new things, see things from a different perspective, and embolden the team to go forward, including those perspectives and those experiences.
Nrama: With Naomi on the roster, will there be any other crossovers with the franchises from your Wonder Comics line or any other DC properties you’ve contributed to?
Bendis: All of the above. I will tell you that what we are going to attempt with Justice League is that you see this roster, but this roster is a base in which the whole DC universe is going to be invited to be part of anyone who has ever been in the Justice League. Anyone in the DC universe that the Justice League might need for an assignment, they're going to show up.
I look at the Justice League differently from other super teams as it should function for what the assignment or story needs. Like, oh, we're doing a big science story, get all the scientists together. There's a core base of warriors, but they also have a great many people they can call upon for whatever situation they find themselves in. A lot of experts in the DC universe!
Nrama: It’s every comic book writer’s dream to come up with a Justice League roster, how did you pick the members for your team?
Bendis: This was a lot of fun, and I've had this experience before, but we got to handpick who we wanted based on where they are right now in the big DC universe.
It's not just my favorite characters, but my favorite characters and what they're going through right this second. It's not only Superman and Batman, obviously going through some huge changes in their lives, but so is Aquaman, Hawkgirl, Black Adam, and Hippolyta. They're all going through very unique chapters in their lives. What an honor it is for me to bring them all together to confront it with each other.
And I've had this experience a couple of times, most profoundly on Avengers. In their solo books, they're each going through what would be just a big, giant classic life defining story. Now all together in the middle of classic life defining stories, defining each other as a group. So, we picked very carefully, based on that.
Half the team is very specifically people that love and know each other and have a grand history together and are a family established.
Now, we're adding a few elements into it or people they know and have different relationships with. Black Adam obviously being the most interesting example of a character that's in a bit of a change and conflict. So, having the Justice League be there for that and challenge it is very, very exciting. It's kind of like why you read DC Comics to start with.
Nrama: What’s been your favorite character dynamics to play with?
Bendis: Through the history of the other team books that I've written, I knew there were some dynamics that were going to unfold that I wasn’t aware of yet. The characters are going to kind of take over a little bit. I know it sounds weird maybe to people who don't write, but the characters kind of take over.
When I was writing Avengers, I didn't know that Luke Cage and Spider-Man were going to be such a delightful team to communicate with each other. Right now, I’m just delighted writing Hawkgirl and Black Canary as friends. Their friendship is established - it's great, and where they are on this team is a lot of fun to work with.
Nrama: David Marquez is a frequent collaborator of yours, what’s your dynamic been like on this book in particular?
Bendis: The collaboration is my absolute favorite part of this job. I met David early on and we immediately connected, and we did all those wonderful years on Miles Morales together. From that base, we got to really know each other and become good, good friends. And we've been creating fully aware of each other's strengths and desires as artists.
So, I get to write for him in a very specific way that I know what he wants out of life. I know what he wants out of his art. I know what kind of energy he wants to bring to the page. I really get to focus on that and making sure that I'm bringing in what I know he wants to draw or how he wants these characters to interact.
Being very selfishly focusing on him, the artwork and the dynamic between the characters come back at such a high level of craft and quality that it just blows me away, and I ended up rewriting so much because he brings so much to the page. I end up getting rid of a lot of dialogue.
He’s the one to say 'What happened to that line?' and I'm like 'It was there on the face. I was in the way.' I'm so blown away by David as a human being and a talent. Getting to share space with him is such an honor to me. I don't know how else to say that.
I spend a lot of time making sure that my script is worthy of his talent, to be honest with you.
The thing that we share the most is that we really want to give these characters their best moments like we want to be the ones that brought the oh remember that great moment with what's his face oh that was David. Like on Defenders, we did that as well. Where we're like, 'Well, let's make the greatest Iron Fist fight we could possibly think of.'
We're bringing that kind of mindset to all the characters on Justice League. Like, can we bring some of the greatest Aquaman/Hawkgirl/Black Canary moments ever into this book right now?
Nrama: Justice League has a back-up story with Justice League Dark - do you ever see the two teams crossing over in your main story?
Bendis: The minute I heard about this new format and the quality of the Justice League Dark people, I called around and I said this format is built for us to mess with.
So, after we establish our storylines, I want to get to a place where we start affecting each other's stories. In a way that doesn't punish anybody, but excites you. If you read their story you get to find out the other side of it to the point where we're going to be building towards a giant, mystical/magic event inside the Justice League book that will take over both sections of the story in unique and exciting ways.
So sometimes the backup will be the front story, and sometimes the 'backup' will be in the middle of the story. We're going to mess with it and have a lot of fun. And I was so excited Ram was into that idea.
Nrama: If you had to pick a baby, who has been your favorite character to write in Justice League thus far?
Bendis: Well so far Black Adam because this is the character that's being challenged the most by the narrative. I know the audience is most interested in seeing if we're going to be able to pull off whatever is going on with the character.
I was so grateful to the Rock for already planting the flag that this character is going to become more complex. I was quite honored. It was the one character that DC said, 'Hey, if you're interested in Black Adam, that's something we would be interested in having on this book.' And I was like, 'Yeah, I would love to write that.' It's almost a gift of something I wouldn’t have thought of by myself.
That's the great thing about doing books in a shared universe. I would never have thought of this on my own, and it's almost like a gift. Now, I’m a few issues ahead of everybody, so I know where we're going. I know how it's working out, and I'm very excited to challenge the audience with this character’s arc as we head forward. Not only the character’s arc, but the Justice League’s response to it and how they handle it as individuals and as people.
Nrama: Are there any DC characters that you haven’t worked on yet that you wanted to include in the Justice League?
Bendis: Yes, all of them.
Honestly, when I got to DC I ran in and started touching everything and then only to reveal how much stuff I loved so much, and I would love to dive in even further. So, I know the Justice League is a place where all of my favorites could show up at some point, but it has to be story first. So, the story has to justify my nerdiness and not vice versa.
Nrama: Any spin-off series planned?
Bendis: Absolutely. I treat every character in the book as the lead of the series. They all are. They all have led series. They are characters with a very strong theme on top of a lot of story. There’s a purpose to each one of these characters. It’s very strong and a lot of them are in concert with each other - that's what's great about having them on the team together. But as individuals, I think each one of these characters deserve a book right now. And a lot of them have and some are getting.
Including the return of Naomi, and when that does come back, just to be clear - this isn't instead of Naomi season two. This is in addition to Naomi season two, which will be starting soon on our end. Everything happening in Justice League will reflect hard in her life. Her life was turned upside down by what's happened. Justice League is just another example of how hard her life has been turned upside down.
Bendis' Justice League run doesn't begin until March 16, but you can read all of the best Justice League stories of all time now.