As Justice League Dark starts collaborating more with the rest of the DCU over the coming months, writer Jeff Lemire is also collaborating with his friend and new co-writer, Ray Fawkes.
The two writers, both based in Toronto, start working together on Justice League Dark with this month's issue #14, which also takes the book into a brand new storyline. And as readers of the recent Justice League Dark Annual #1 found out, the team has a new threat and new mission. The team also has one new team member, Frankenstein, who guest starred in the Annual along with Amethyst (of Sword of Sorcery) and Andrew Bennett (of I, Vampire).
Justice League Dark is also getting attention from fans because of last week's announcement that the Vertigo series Hellblazer is ending with February's issue #300, while a new Constantine title will begin in the DCU in March 2013. Currently, the DCU John Constantine is seen within the pages of Justice League Dark.
According to Lemire, Constantine will still be a big part of Justice League Dark in the future, despite getting his own series. And the change isn't currently influencing their plans for the team's book.
In fact, Constantine will play an important role in Justice League Dark going forward, as Fawkes and Lemire will be having the character enlist help as needed from the rest of the DCU. "Each story arc, we'll have our core group of Constantine, Deadman, Frank, Xanadu and Zatanna," Lemire explained. "And then depending on the mission, Constantine might recruit different people -- not always mystics either. It could be Batwoman or Flash or whoever, depending on the story arc."
"Constantine, basically, he's the guy who's going to get the job done," Fawkes added. "So he'll take whoever's the best choice."
Both writers also hinted that Constantine might have a big role in all the Justice League-related events in 2013 surrounding Trinity War.
Fawkes has a long list of indie titles to his credit, including The Apocalipstix and Mnemovore, and has also done some work at Marvel. But with Justice League Dark, he joins a growing list of new DC writers who are helping define the new direction of the relaunched New 52.
Newsarama talked to Lemire and Fawkes to find out more about their plans for the series.
Newsarama: How did it come about that you guys started co-writing Justice League Dark?
Jeff Lemire: You know, actually, Ray and I have become really close friends over the last two or three years. We're both in Toronto here, and we both started off as independent cartoonist, writing and drawing our own stuff.
I remember before I even knew Ray, we were always at the same small press shows, like Comic Connection in Toronto. You know, in our booths, trying to sell our book. So we've knows each other for along time.
And then the last couple years, especially, we got closer and just started hanging out a lot.
I had started working at DC, so like Scott and Matt Kindt, Ray is just a close friend. So we'd just talk about whatever I was working on, and bounce ideas back and forth.
Ray, like me, is a huge fan of the old classic Vertigo era characters, like Swamp Thing and Hellblazer and all that stuff. And he knows those characters really well.
So when I got the Green Arrow assignment, I knew my schedule was going to tighten up quite a bit. And I had a decision to make. Would I leave Dark, which I didn't really want to do? Because I really liked the characters in the book and feel like we've been getting some momentum going. So it just seemed like a good opportunity for me to ask Ray to come in and co-write with me, and help me schedule this stuff.
To start, when I needed the most help, we would talk the stuff together, and Ray would do the bulk of the scripting, and then we'd go over it together. So it really helped free my time quite a bit. That's how it started. And now, it's become, pretty much full collaboration, where we're both really 50/50, writing the thing. It's been really fun.Ray, you can tell your side of that story.
Ray Fawkes: Yeah, that's basically the story. Obviously, for me, just talking about Jeff's work on the book and his ideas was a blast. And then when he said, "Do you want to co-write this with me?" Obviously, there was no hesitation at all.
And it's totally fun working with Jeff on this. I get to work with these amazing characters, and we get to have a great time.
Nrama: With the Justice League Dark Annual, we saw some characters that were seen elsewhere in the DCU, like Amethyst and Frankenstein and Andrew Bennett. Are they going to be a more permanent part of the team going forward, or are they going to be interacting more with the team in the future?
Lemire: Frankenstein is definitely a permanent member. He's going to join the core group of the team now. Obviously, I love that character, and I did a lot of work to develop him in the Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E. series when the New 52 launched. So when I found out his book was getting canceled, for me, it was almost a blessing, because I really missed that book and I missed writing that character. So the chance to get him back full time was great.
And then, with Amethyst and Bennett, what Ray and I have planned moving forward is to really go a bit further with the idea I originally had for the book, where you have a core set of four or five members. And then, depending on the issue or story arc, Constantine would either recruit or manipulate other characters from the DC Universe into helping them as they need them.
So for the Annual, we saw Bennett and Amethyst join for a bit.
And that's how we're going to approach it moving forward. Each story arc, we'll have our core group of Constantine, Deadman, Frank, Xanadu and Zatanna. And then depending on the mission, Constantine might recruit different people -- not always mystics either. It could be Batwoman or Flash or whoever, depending on the story arc.
Fawkes: Constantine, basically, he's the guy who's going to get the job done. So he'll take whoever's the best choice.
And you're going to see some pretty surprising people out of the DCU -- not just heroes, but every once in awhile, he might pull a villain in and make them do a bit of work for the Justice League.
Nrama: We've seen a lot of attention on Deadman and Madame Xanadu recently, and as you mentioned, Constantine plays a central role. Will we see more of a spotlight on Zatanna anytime soon? Or are there other characters that get the focus in coming stories?
Fawkes: In the next storyline -- the one that follows this current "Books of Magic" one, there is a pretty strong focus on Zatanna and Tim Hunter.
I love Zatanna. If I get my way, we're going to see a lot of her.
But overall, we sort of shift the focus around from character to character so the readers will get to know all of them. This isn't just a John Constantine book or a Deadman book or whatever. This is all the members of the Justice League Dark, and they're all really interesting characters. And so we're going to focus on all of them, and often one at a time.
Lemire: You know, as I work back on the work I've done from issue #9 to the Annual, and I'm assessing what I've done, I think one weakness in that run of books is probably that Zatanna didn't get enough attention on her. And I think, in hindsight, the reason that happened is because she can be so powerful with her power set, that I almost was afraid to use her as a "get out of jail free" card. You know? Whenever they were in an out-of-control situation, using her to get out of it. So I kept shying away from using her or de-powering her, just to avoid that happening. And as a result, I didn't really get a chance to get into her character much.
So that's something I think we want to course correct, because she's a great character and deserves to be developed a lot more, I think.
Fawkes: Yeah, we actually take a little bit of a 180 on that.
Lemire: Yeah, instead of de-powering her, without giving anything away, in the next arc, she kind of gets ultra-powered.
Nrama: One of the fun things about this book, especially now that we're seeing some of these other characters from the DCU come in, is that Justice League Dark has really been exploring what magic is in the DCU. How would you describe what you've established about "magic," and what you hope to do going forward?
Fawkes: We kind of see magic in the DCU as something that gives you the potential to be very powerful, even approaching a god-like level, but the problem with it is it gets every other magic user in the DCU interested in you. And they see you as a potential threat or ally. So it's not like anyone just gains magic and then goes, "Oh, this is great! I'm going to be rich and famous and powerful and get everything I want," because as soon as they start trying to do stuff, someone like, say, Frankenstein, is breathing down their necks, being like, "hey, hey, no evil." Or a bad guy like Faust is charging around and saying, "Oh, this is somebody who could be useful to me."
So it's very much an extremely potentially powerful thing that comes with a very high price.
Lemire: Yeah, I think the key is that anytime magic is used in the DC Universe, it comes with a cost, either to the magic user, or because the other parts of the DC Universe -- the non-magical elements, like ARGUS and Steve Trevor or the regular Justice League -- are so afraid of magic because they don't understand it and they can't control it. So they're constantly trying to clamp down on Constantine and control.What we'll see at the end of the next arc will be Constantine breaking free from ARGUS and Trevor, or at least trying to go on his own. So that will be an interesting tension going forward, where maybe the other heroes in the DC Universe aren't as comfortable.
Nrama: A lot of the non-magical characters also have a vulnerability to magic, particularly the most powerful characters like Batman or Superman.
Lemire: Yeah, and that's why the other heroes need these guys. But at the same time, they're afraid of them. You know what I mean? So it's like they can't get rid of them, but they really need to keep tabs on them.
Fawkes: Well, and to be perfectly honest, even the good guys -- even the Justice League Dark guys -- are all pretty shaky characters. If I was Batman, it's not like I would be quick to trust somebody like Constantine.
Lemire: Yeah, I think the only one they would probably trust is Deadman. He's a pretty straightforward guy.
Nrama: It looks like, in the solicitations for the upcoming issues, you've got science fiction elements coming into the story, with them allegedly visiting another planet. How would you describe the upcoming stories, and does the tie into what we saw in the Annual?
Lemire: For people who haven't read the Annual, I'll try not to spoil it, but basically, Timothy Hunter and Zatanna disappear. I won't say much more than that.
The next arc, they awaken, and are transported to another dimension or another world where all magic has been blotted out and outlawed and restricted. Science and technology have grown well beyond what they are on Earth. And any magical creatures or magical users have been oppressed and pushed into hiding.
So we get this totalitarian sort of science militia running this highly advanced technological world. Tim and Zatanna are transported there and meet up and join up with the magical resistance there.
And we learn a lot of what's behind this mystery behind Timothy Hunter's destiny and his past. It's all tied to this other world.
So John and the rest of the team that were left behind have to find a way to get there, and to help them and get them back.
I guess we shouldn't spoil any more than that.
Let's just say, when John and the others find a way to cross over, it alters each of them dramatically. And we have some fun with that.
Nrama: So it sounds like you're really delving into Tim Hunter's destiny in this arc?
Lemire: Yeah, you know, Tim Hunter, the way he was played in the past was that he was destined to become the world's greatest major magician. And then I kind of played it up that the Books of Magic were sort of the gateway to this destiny. But as we saw in the Annual, the Books of Magic were not what anyone expected them to be.
And now we're discover what his real destiny always was. And it's tied to this other world.
Nrama: So what we saw at the end of the Annual... and how they were seemingly transported at the end of the Annual... will that be revealed and explored a little bit more?
Lemire: Yes, that will be fully explained. Yes.
Nrama: Is Mikel Janin staying on the book? I noticed you've got a one-month fill-in coming up.
Lemire: Oh yeah. He's amazing. He took a break after the Annual, just because it was a 40-pager. So he took a month off and picked up again at issue #15. So issue #14 will be a fill-in artist, but then he's back full-time.He's one of those rare guys who has produced such high quality work on a monthly schedule, so he's so valuable and consistent. He's sticking around for the long haul for sure.
Nrama: I also wanted to ask you about this new character who's going to be in issue #16, from the SyFy show Face Off.
Lemire: Yeah, they had a contest on the show, where they got to design a character that would appear in a DC Comic. And they asked us to try to find a way to put this character into the story. We actually had some fun with it.
Nrama: Does the end of Hellblazer or the related announcements concerning the character influence your portrayal of — or plans for — John Constantine at all?
Lemire: I will say that I'm sorry to see Hellblazer go. It's been my favorite comic since I was 14. But at this point, [it] doesn't influence our plans for the character.
Nrama: In the past, you've talked about the fact that the Justice League Dark comic will be bumping up against the regular Justice League title by Geoff Johns, and presumably his new Justice League of America title as well. We know there are some big things coming in 2013, including Trinity War, and we've seen at least one tease indicating Deadman's involved. Will the Justice League Dark team be a part of that?
Lemire: Geoff Johns and Scott [Snyder] and Pete Tomasi and Scott Lobdell and I were all in New York after the Comic Con there, and we had a writers summit with editorial. And we made plans.
Yes, the Justice League Dark team and the members -- we have plans for all those guys throughout that, and we have plans to tie closer to what Geoff's doing.
Geoff and I also want to do something in the future with the Justice League Dark team and what he's doing with magic in Shazam.
So there are a lot of opportunities to keep this book closely tied with what's going on in the bigger universe.
Fawkes: During Trinity War, readers are going to want to keep a really close eye on what John Constantine is up to.
Lemire: Yeah. But don't say anymore. We have a pretty fun plan for him.
Nrama: Then to finish up, is there anything else you want to tell fans about what 2013 is going to bring for Justice League Dark?
Fawkes: We've got some amazing plans for these guys. We'll be showing people how the magic part of the DC Universe is really, really fun, but really, really dangerous.
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