David Marquez describes his and Brian Michael Bendis' recent Justice League #59 as like "the first 10 minutes of when the title rolls in for a movie."
Now that everyone's in their seats and the stage is set, the real "heart of the story," as Marquez says, begins.
In April 20's Justice League #60, the duo continues to staff up their new Justice League team with queen Hippolyta of the Amazons. She joins an already interesting line-up that includes other new recruits like Black Adam and Naomi for a story that'll criss-cross the known (and unknown) worlds of the DC Omniverse. Destinations include the mysterious homeworld of Naomi, and on a more conceptual level, a crossover with Justice League Dark.
Ahead of the next issue, Newsarama spoke with Bendis and Marquez about the impending crossover, its ties to the Checkmate limited series, big changes for Green Arrow, and a push for new characters - and some that only recently made their debut in Bendis' recently concluded Superman run.
Newsarama: Brian, we talked a few weeks ago and you mentioned a Justice League and Justice League Dark crossover. Is there more you can tease about that? Maybe when we can expect it?
Brian Michael Bendis: The first storyline we're going to do is obviously very focused on Naomi's homeworld and the convergence of this new team. The coalescence of the team members, trying to find each other's energy. It's a nice mix of classic heroes who have a history with each other and some others that don't or certainly need a new path to find friendship.
So, we're dealing with that right now, but soon after this storyline - when I was told what the unique format of Justice League would be, when we would have this backup with Justice League Dark and it was written by Ram V, who is one of my favorite new writers.
I get very excited about anything about reformatting, that we can mess with or screw around with. And I was told all of this while I was working on a new batch of characters for DC comics in our last issues of Superman. Kevin Maguire and I, with Riley Rossmo's help, invented a new Lord of Chaos named Xanadoth, who's been buried away for so long that not even Superman, Batman, or anybody even knew about it.
This is the worst of the Lords of Chaos, and I told Ram about this and that we kind of have just already set up for whatever we want to do with it. But what I thought would be most interesting is to mess with the actual format of the book. So, it's not so much a main story and a backup, but a mixture of our pages. In a unique way as possible to make the storytelling surprising and delightful. And it offers us an opportunity to step up the magic elements of DC and the 'Infinite Frontier' landscape, which we're pretty excited about.
Nrama: Speaking of teases, David, are there any big moments visually that you are excited for fans to see in the immediate or not so immediate future of Justice League
David Marquez: One of the things that Brian and I ended up doing a lot when you work together is there's - I mean, this is good storytelling in general. I think it was totally a crescendo in the storytelling throughout the first arc.
The first issue definitely teases the connection of Naomi to the big threat Brutus, who has shown up. Then the rest of the arc has to do with basically the Justice League pursuing Brutus, and there's a lot of information we give about Naomi's homeworld and stuff.
Basically, I get to draw the Justice League, throwing down. I'll put it that way as simply as possible.
Brian gives me a lot of room to explore what I'm drawing and action scenes specifically. So, there are a lot of really cool moments. Each character has their own big moment throughout the arc as the story builds bigger and bigger and bigger and bigger. The kind of like penultimate fight that takes place, I'm actually drawing it right now, is a blast. It helps me stretch my legs in terms of layout and storytelling. So, I think it's landing and I hope that readers enjoy it too.
Bendis: Not to answer for him, but I know that we've both been personally inspired by some of these characters. Black Canary has a diehard fan base that has been eagerly rooting us on to let us know how they're out there. It's just been a reminder to us that every one of these characters - Hawkgirl, Black Canary, Green Arrow have a real passionate fan base and are hungry, if not starved, for big moments with these characters.
Though, Superman, Batman, and Aquaman will have moments as well. It's books like Justice League where characters like Black Canary can really bring her thunder in a way that's so exciting. The readers have been excellent at reminding us in the nicest way possible that these characters deserve their moments, and we've been tailoring all of our scenes towards that.
Nrama: With the connection to Justice League Dark, do you feel like when those threads start to tie together that you'll have a chance to flex your style into a darker direction, David?
Marquez: We will have to wait and see. The book is double shipping over the summer. So, we're figuring out who's handling what art chores for what part of the story. To address the heart of your question, one of the cool things about a team book like Justice League is the varying members of the team can lead to lots of different styles of story and storytelling.
It gives an opportunity to really flex your muscles as an artist and get out of your comfort zone. There are space-faring Justice League stories, espionage stories, exploration stores, magical stories - you can go all these different directions.
Even this first arc is going in a bit of a different direction than I was expecting from my initial conversations with Brian, as we got the cast figured out. It's already forcing me to stretch as an artist. To bounce a sense of menace that we have in the story arc with the setting that we're in, while also maintaining and pushing the core element of hope that we're really trying to hammer home with the story.
So, a little bit tangential to what your question was because I can't answer that, but in terms of having to stretch myself, that's already happening.
Nrama: It was recently announced that Checkmate has returned to the slate, and ties heavily into Green Arrow's life. How are you going to connect these two series?
Bendis: That's a big spoiler, so I don't want to spoil it, but you worded that correctly.
Last year when we were working on Checkmate, we were headed towards a different destination then what we have now. There was just a different publishing plan going on, but with 'Infinite Frontier' and us on Justice League, it offered a very strong and robust placement for us to tailor it. With Green Arrow being the connective tissue, there's a surprise with Green Arrow.
A genuine surprise with the character that's going to connect both series in a way that as a fan of the character, I'm excited about. It was something we had a run of the flagpole because it's one of those things that it's going to reflect in all DC books that revolve around Justice League or Green Arrow. It's a new truth with him. That reveal will come in Justice League first, then it will pay off in Checkmate. That wasn't a solid answer, but it is a spoiler.
Nrama: David, are there Leviathan/Checkmate characters that you had the chance to draw?
Nrama: Speaking specifically about Justice League #60, we haven't seen Hippolyta just yet. Can you tease how she joins the team?
Bendis: She also gets sucked into the attacks on our world that are coming from Naomi's world. She battles it back pretty hard then is met with the Justice League who has now teamed up with Black Adam for this story, and that's going to bring a lot of tension because Black Adam and the Queen do not get along right now.
They speak to a very long history together and a longer history of the DC universe. So, it's going to be pretty cool to watch them wrestle with their history together.
Nrama: Will we get any mention of the changes in Themyscira from Infinite Frontier and Wonder Woman's new journey since Death Metal?
Bendis: I got a couple of people online saying, 'Are we going to bring it up?' I'm like, 'Yes, things have to play out in other books.'
Lessons we learned, when I was on Avengers where if you reference stuff too early, you can spoil stuff. Even if the audience today thinks they absolutely know what's going on with the character. It very well may be that I and the other writers know something that you don't know yet, and we're waiting for that to happen before we reference anything. And it all works out in the end.
That's really always the case. David was on a call with us the other day, where I was running down every single character making sure that I knew all the details of where everything is going well into the fall and the winter times that we could plan and reference.
It's one of my favorite things about writing a book like this. It's not just that it's a team book, but it's, what we talked about a couple of weeks ago, it's like a convergence book. It's where all of the subgenres of the superhero universe can come together and live and breathe together in a unique way. It's literally the only place you'll see something like that. It's where magic, spies, and all kinds of cosmic nonsense can smash up together and feel real and mean something.
So, we're focused on that, and with that comes all of the continuity as it were. Anything that's major, anything that literally affects the DNA of the DC universe, anything that emotionally affects these characters - one of them, two of them, or all of them, it absolutely will be reflected in our book. When I was on Avengers, that's why some people bought Avengers - to see how they're all going to deal with what just happened.
Nrama: Brian, you are the master at creating new characters, can we expect any new creations to pop up?
Bendis: Right off the bat, we've introduced Brutus, a new villain from Naomi's homeworld. Even though he is birthed out of Jamal's design palette from Naomi, this is a brand new character with a whole world around him that's different from what we discovered in Naomi.
Number two, we have a couple of new characters that are brand new that have just been seen once. Both of which debuted in Superman in my last few issues.
They debuted in Superman specifically knowing that I was coming to Justice League. We do that cool kind of build them up slowly. They'll be returning very quickly to Justice League on top of - just this morning, we have a very special artist who's going to be doing the Justice League Annual this year. I just got a text that says, 'Can we invent a new character?' I'm like, 'Yes.' So, I think there will be a new character being introduced in the Justice League Annual.
Nrama: David, did you get to design any new characters at all? Is there anything in the Justice League you'd like to design in particular?
Marquez: From the very first conversations that Brian and I had, we started talking about what the cast would look like. How many new characters there would be – villains and heroes? There was something that Brian loves to do, and I know I've talked about this in previous interviews as well, he loves to have us haul out our sketchbook and then just like steal anything that looks cool.
There've been lots of different conversations about new characters. The ones that are concretely in this first arc - Brutus is a big one.
Then I did some tweaking to pre-existing characters. So, I redesigned Hippolyta's costume, which we don't see initially when she shows up, but later in the arc, she shows up in her whole new costume.
I also tweaked Black Canary's costume, which is the other fun one. It's a very minor tweak in the sense of it's visually meant to remind everybody of what her traditional costume looks like, but just like a couple of subtle upgrades just to put my flavor on it.
Bendis: Her entire butt is covered by cloth. [laughs]
Marquez: For the first arc, that's the main design work I've done. That said, when we see where Brutus is from, hopefully this isn't too much of a spoiler, there's a lot of design work there going on.
Bendis: I was going to say please don't discount how much work that was for the entire world. We're entering a part of Naomi's home that we haven't seen before.
Naomi, for people who read the Naomi: Season One mini-series, we only got one like three-page taste of what her world looks like and from one perspective. As we know from the world we live in, to go to a billion different places, see a million different things. So, that is one of the opportunities we had here. Let David go nuts with it.
Marquez: The story that people have seen thus far in Justice League #59, it's the first 10 minutes of when the title rolls in for a movie. It's just throwing us into the situation. There's a lot of reveals we have yet to do, and the real heart of the story is still coming.
Nrama: To wrap, what character arc do you think fans are going to be most surprised by?
Bendis: Hopefully all of them. I actually made a long list of what each character can take, even with characters like Superman, who have a couple of solo titles, this is a unique relationship to him. This is work. He's different in the Justice League than he is with anybody else. These are his peers. I look at all of these characters as gaining something they deeply need, whether it be emotionally or physically, from the relationship with the Justice League.
I think almost each of them will take something unique from this. Also, some of them have had major changes in their life in their solo titles. One by me, with Superman and his outing of himself. But there's also, what's going on in the Batman and The Flash titles. There's a lot going on with these characters and it's when they come together that they can really deal with aspects of it that they can't even deal with if they're in their solo lives, if it were, because these are the peers that understand the unique journey that they're on. But Green Arrow is the answer. [laughs]
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