Since we last talked to DC Editor Brian Cunningham about the events of Trinity War, the most shocking news about the series hasn't come from inside the story as much as it has outside the event.
As Trinity War co-writer Geoff Johns revealed earlier this month, the villains who are responsible for the evil events of Trinity War are the Crime Syndicate of America. And they will be the main threat in Johns' follow-up mini-series, Forever Evil, which starts in September.
In the latest installment of our "Trinity War Weekly," Newsarama talked to Cunningham to find out more about the decision to release information about the Crime Syndicate, and what's coming next as we head toward the end of Trinity War.
Newsarama: Brian, we found out a big spoiler for this story earlier this month, when it was revealed that the Crime Syndicate is behind much of the trouble in Trinity War. What was behind DC's decision to release that information before the characters were revealed in the story?
Brian Cunningham: Originally, we were going to let the Crime Syndicate reveal be a surprise, which I was all for. Between advance solicitations and Internet scuttlebutt, I kinda feel comics have really lost a lot of the element of surprise, so withholding some info for the benefit of the reading experience felt like the right thing to do for our audience. Despite the reality of Internet spoilers, I genuinely feel people prefer to be surprised and be rewarded for not indulging in spoilers. I know I do.
But as there were more discussions about whether to reveal or not, my opinion evolved simply because the debate was bigger than just the ending of a Justice League story. If this was just a Justice League story that ended in issue #23, then keeping the ending a surprise makes a lot of sense. But the surprise ending of Trinity War was really just the beginning of Forever Evil, a much larger event that impacts the entire DC Universe.
We were hiding the ball on Forever Evil, and the audience deserves to know a little more about what they're getting.
Nrama: Now that we know the true villains behind the scenes, are there clues about the CSA that we should notice from the Justice League titles?
Cunningham: There are definitely clues. And just because the Crime Syndicate has been revealed does not mean that there are no surprises to be found within "Trinity War." We've intentionally withheld some of those. Like, who is the traitor among the three Leagues? I still hold firm that that particular reveal is one of the coolest and grossest moments we'll ever see in a comic book without an advisory label. Ivan Reis knocked himself out drawing that scene, believe me.
Nrama: Since you brought up Ivan, can you describe how it's been working with each of the artists that are involved in this event. What does each of them uniquely bring to the project?
Cunningham: It's been an absolute delight working with all the artists involved. Truly. I am an extremely fortunate editor to be able to work with the level of talent and quality on these three series.
Ivan Reis, Joe Prado and Rod Reis are the nicest, most professional and closely knit guys I know. I've worked a lot with Joe and Rod in the past, but this is really my first time working with Ivan, and just when I think the guy has drawn the "best this" or "best that," he finds a way to top it every single time. When these three guys shifted from Aquaman to Justice League, the then-Aquaman editor Pat McCallum told me, "You are in for a treat. These guys are the real deal." And he was so right.
Doug Mahnke I've worked with on Green Lantern, and I just plain love the guy and his work. I love just chatting with him on the phone about how awesome John Buscema is. And if George Klein was a better inker on Big John than Tom Palmer was -- all fun stuff that I don't get to talk about with a lot of people. Doug's art style mixes a mainstream sensibility with a touch of "quirky" to make something very unique and imaginative. You know when you're reading a Doug Mahnke comic.
Mikel Janín is a relative rookie by comparison, but I feel his "Trinity War" art has evolved leaps and bounds from an already impressive iconic style.
The thing about Mikel that I admire is his drive to do better than before. If someone has an idea to improve something, he will pounce on it and change the art. I'm sure I've made my share of terrible suggestions to Mikel, and he's indulged me most of the time. Mikel is a force to be reckoned with, and I'm thrilled that Trinity War has provided an opportunity for more people to see what I've always seen in his work.
Really, I want to work with these guys forever. I feel a kinship with them both professionally and personally. They're all such great people. I'm really blessed to know them.
Nrama: In Justice League of America #7, we see Lex Luthor introduced into the story. How much does he understand what's going on?
Cunningham: Lex is pretty quick on the uptake. He probably knows more than he lets on.
Nrama: He didn't really have a chance against Wonder Woman without his armor, did he?
Cunningham: Not many folks do have a chance against Wonder Woman...
Nrama: It looks like he's going to put the armor to good use in Forever Evil though...
Cunningham: Just wait and see.
Nrama: While Wonder Woman's reaction to holding Pandora's box was similar to Superman's, it was different too. What should we notice about it? And why was there a difference?
Cunningham: Everyone is different, so there will be subtle differences. It all depends on the person.
Nrama: Some of our readers have commented that we never really saw what happened to Black Adam's ashes in the first issue of Trinity War. Did they get scattered in Kahndaq?
Cunningham: For that answer, you'll need to read the Black Adam one-shot in September. That story picks up the threads of "Trinity War."
Nrama: When Shazam touched Pandora's box, it affected a lot of characters -- not only from the New 52 earth, but from Earth 2 and Gemworld as well. What was their connection?
Cunningham: Call it a magical ripple effect. It also teases some secrets about the Box itself.
Nrama: So does magic have a similar source on all 52 Earths in the DCU?
Cunningham: Maybe. But that remains to be seen thus far.
Nrama: It also affected Animal Man and Swamp Thing. Is Shazam connected to the concepts being explored in those titles, of "The Red" and "The Green?"
Cunningham: Yup. It's a powerful force to be reckoned with. As we shall see toward the conclusion of Trinity War.
Nrama: Shazam's costume also changes to black and yellow. Does that mean he's a Steelers fan now?
Cunningham: Ha! Well, Billy's from Philly, so I imagine he hates the Steelers along with every other Eagles fan.
Nrama: Ah, so with him being turned into this Black Adam knock-off, is this connected to how Black Adam is back alive in Forever Evil?
Cunningham: I highly recommend picking up the Black Adam one-shot in September for more on that dude.
Nrama: OK, OK, I'll pick up the book. But one thing I've noticed is that we keep seeing the heroes fighting each other, but instead of being a calculated war, which I think was implied by Waller's plans for the JLA, this is really about a bunch of young superheroes being incredibly reactionary and manipulated, isn't it?
Cunningham: That's really minimizing the powerful effects of Pandora's Box.
Nrama: Maybe. But do you think, if this happened to the older, wiser heroes of Earth 2 (when Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman were still alive), that they would have handled it better?
Cunningham: Not necessarily. Remember, those "older, wiser" heroes ultimately died at the hands of Darkseid's invasion forces, whereas their younger counterparts (albeit with the rest of the Justice League) defeated him.
Nrama: Oh, good point. OK, so everyone is being affected by Pandora's Box except Constantine, and that's because he's so corrupt anyway. But that begs the question -- why can Pandora carry it around without being affected?
Cunningham: It's part of her curse.
Nrama: I knew you'd say something simple like that. In Pandora #3, which came out this week, we see that she's figured out how to battle the Seven Deadly Sins -- by apparently embracing the vices within herself. That will obviously play out in her series when it picks up again in October. Does it pertain at all to the rest of Trinity War?
Cunningham: No, and don't be too sure that's where Pandora is going, either. When Pandora #4 opens up, it has a huge "what the heck?" moment. It sets Pandora on the path of her next big story within the world of Forever Evil.
Nrama: Ah, so Pandora ties into Forever Evil? Because I noticed that The Question isn't with Superman and his team anymore (at least, not that I can see...), and Phantom Stranger is erased from existence. Pandora seems to be on her own mission, separate from Wonder Woman and the rest of the heroes she's near. Is their association with Trinity War over?
Cunningham: With that specific story, yes, but the effects of Trinity War will resonate with those characters for the next several months.
Nrama: At the end of this week's issue, we find out the true nature of Pandora's Box. (And one example of a rookie mistake from the Justice League is that Superman and the heroes with him are aware of the Secret Society's involvement, but they didn't communicate that to Batman's team, who are now in the crosshairs of the Society. Oops.)
Cunningham: The Secret Society capitalizes on every potential misstep the heroes have made, and the consequences of each misstep will haunt the entire DC Universe in the months to come.
Nrama: So what's next? Will the heroes try to stop the Secret Society from getting Pandora's box?
Cunningham: Yes, but the Secret Society leader is an extremely meticulous planner. He's the kind of guy that no one will see him coming, and that'll make it very difficult for our heroes to plan around. Not impossible, but very, very difficult.
Nrama: So what else can we expect from the final chapter next week?
Cunningham: Insanely crazy moments with insanely crazy Ivan Reis art! People will be buzzing about this one, so if anyone is reading this, know that if you read this, you too will be buzzing about this!