If there's one thing Keith Giffen wants readers of Justice League 3000 to know it's this:
They're not clones!
Yes, he admits there have been comments that lead the reader to believe the members of the future Justice League are clones. But… well, they're not.
Set in the future, Justice League 3000 depicts a team of heroes who appear to be the same Justice League characters that readers know and love only…. well, they're very different. The reason they exist 1,000 years in the future is a mystery, although several clues have been given to readers. But one things that's clear — this future version of the Justice League isn't quite as effective as their predecessors from present day, and they have a tough time getting along.
While the Justice League doesn't get along with each other, Giffen is proving his people skills by writing more than one DC comic as part of a team. He works with frequent collaborator J.M. DeMatteis on both Justice League 3000 and Larfleeze for DC — plus Giffen is one of the writers on the upcoming weekly series New 52: Futures End, along with three other writers. He's also providing layouts for the book, giving a visual template to the artists on the newest DC weekly, which launches in May.
Newsarama talked to Giffen about the Justice League 3000, whether the Flash really just died, and why he has red hair.
Newsarama: Keith, Justice League 3000 did pretty well in sales. Did you expect the reaction you've seen from fans?
Keith Giffen: No, I did not! I never, in my entire career, have been able to predict my books that will succeed. I thought Lobo was going to be four issues and out the door. I thought it was too radical and two weird. And on Justice League, all of us (myself, DeMatteis and Kevin Maguire) we all thought Justice League was doomed. We thought people would read the humor in it and hate it. We were looking for new job already before we got the sales figures in.
So I just always put the book out there and cross my fingers, and hope the fans will embrace it.
So far, Justice League 3000 seems to be doing well. Everyone out there may not love us, but everyone out there seems willing to give us a chance. And that's all I request from them.
Nrama: In issue #2, we saw the death of the Flash.
Nrama: Should we be alarmed about that?
Giffen: I hope so.
Nrama: And the book called him "Barry," but he had red hair. You do know you got Wally West fans excited with the early images of this redhead.
Giffen: I know, I know. I saw the red hair and just thought, well, we can attribute that to incomplete records and the process. I wanted to avoid the "he's Wally!" or the "he's Kon-El!" No, they're not. Please stop saying that. I'm not lying to you about that. They're really, really not. All you're doing is setting yourself up for a disappointment, if you're going in that direction. That was not Wally.
Nrama: Also in issue #2, did Green Lantern just get eaten?
Giffen: Yeah. Well, no, he's not eaten. He's been swallowed for safekeeping.
Nrama: Issue #2 introduced this new threat, a girl named Locus who's on Flatmus 12. But the story seems to mostly be focusing on these five characters and who they are.
Giffen: Right. In issue #2, we introduced a new villain and we started showing readers who the five are. And we edged closer and closer to #4, wherein we will once and for all show the readers how they exist.
Nrama: OK, yeah. The "fallen for it" comment earlier referred to this. Everyone assumes they're clones, because Keith, that's what you're implying in the story.
Giffen: Yeah, everyone is out there saying, "Oh, they're clones!"
But they're not clones!
Nrama: Well, you have given quite a few clues about a "regeneration process."
Giffen: I seem to recall giving an interview, way back when, when I point blank stated that the first five or six issues, I'm going to just lie to you. I'm going to lie to you. I'm going to mislead you.
Nrama: I have the quote in front of me here. You said, "The first couple issues, the comic will lie to you about how they're there, or at least make you believe something about them that isn't true. But then in the fourth or fifth issue, you'll learn how they really can exist in the 31st Century. And it's probably one of the darker places I've ever gone."
Giffen: Right. So I hope people will remember that and say, OK, he's pointing us toward clones, but he said he was going to lie to us.
Nrama: Yeah, and to be fair, the comic has never come out and said "clones." There have only been hints. But wait - are you saying the clues are lies?
Giffen: No, I'm not going to drop clues and then say, "Oh, that clue I dropped has nothing to do with it." That's a cheat. That's like writing a mystery book, and every clue points toward the butler, and then you bring in a character in the last chapter that did it. That's a cheat. No, we are hinting at what they are, where they came from, what their story is - it's just that it's not what you think. That's all I can say.
And if you're thinking clones - come on. Give me credit. Give me half and ounce of credit, would ya?
Giffen: Yeah, the next couple issues will nudge the fans closer and closer to the partial revelation that we have coming up in #4. And hopefully along the line, they'll also start feeling more comfortable with the characters and the setting and everything that's happening.
Nrama: So only a couple more issues until we get some answers.
Giffen: Yeah, we aren't going to string you along too long. I know the fans love having the Cliff Notes version of the book before the book comes out.
Just hang in there. And I think we've got something here that will at least get the fans talking.
And I'll tell you - we're having a ball with the book. Everyone on the book loves the book. We're just having so much fun with this book. And I'm hoping that that shows through. Once we get you past issues #4 and #5, we just hit the ground running.
Nrama: In the issues, Superman is obviously very different from Clark Kent.
Giffen: He's a douchebag.
Nrama: Yeah, that's a good word for it.
Giffen: Douchebag in a cape.
Nrama: And that's because the influence of the Kents isn't there. I mean, can you say why he's the way he is? There's a reason he's this way, right?
Giffen: Of course! We didn't just throw these characters out there and do it on the fly.
We thought about what these characters would be like if certain key elements in their lives were either removed or muted.
So we have a Superman who - he has some memories about being raised by the Kents, but no emotional connection to it. So we have a Superman who is powerful (although not as powerful as he thinks he is), and he doesn't have the guiding hand of the Kents. So he's kind of a self-centered jerk - he's what the Kents would have never wanted him to become.
We've got a Batman who, again, doesn't really have the emotional trauma of his parents' death. He probably has a memory - yeah, my parents died awhile back, but again, it's like somebody saying, "my uncle's parents died." And you go, "oh, that's too bad." But there's no emotional connection to it.
Each one of them came out - I'm going to say "flawed" right now. But I don't consider it to be flaws. These are things that they will eventually overcome without outside help. In other words, I don't think Bruce Wayne can help but become Batman, even if he doesn't have the trauma of his parents' death. I don't think Superman can help becoming Superman, and becoming that iconic figure, even if he doesn't have the guiding hand of the Kents, or if it's muted to the point where it really becomes an abstraction to him.
I think that who they are has got to surface.
How it will surface? That will be interesting.
Nrama: And the interesting thing is that they're not evil. They seem to desire doing "good."
Giffen: No, no, I don't think they're evil at all. Just imagine if you woke up a thousand years in the future, and you're immediately told, "go attack that person!" If anything, they're just being rushed into the system. They're obviously not prepared.
And it's rare that I get to work on a book about a group that's not prepared. That has to learn how to work together.
I've got a Bruce Wayne who really - since he was "born" in the 30th Century - does not have any history of being a detective.
Nrama: Is there a reason why their memories are muted or fractionalized?
Giffen: Yes. There's a reason for it. And there's a reason why Cadmus found it so difficult to bring them back to life. I know that in the 20th Century universe, they've got cloning down pat, so why wouldn't they have cloning down pat in the 30th Century? Well, first of all, they're not clones. And second of all - it hasn't been a smooth trip to the future.
For about 200 years, Earth was in bad shape because of something that happened.
Nrama: With the Flash being destroyed in issue #2, and Green Lantern getting swallowed, I'm assuming this team is not above being killed? They're the one Justice League that can die?
Giffen: Yes. One of the things missing from comic books is that you kind of know, when you're reading the Teen Titans and there are four Teen Titans, you kind of know, at the end they'll all come out of it. If they introduce a new guy, you say to yourself, "Oh, that one's going to die."
I like comics where you walk into it and you don't know what's going to happen in the issue. You don't trust the creative team - I mean to say that in a good way [laughs].
DeMatteis and I are trying to write a book where - the minute you get comfortable, we're going to make you uncomfortable. We want to keep the readers on their toes. And if you come along with us, we'll take you for a ride.
Nrama: I know you guys aren't ready to talk about the story in the weekly, but didn't you tell me once that you really didn't want to work on a weekly again?
Giffen: Well, it's like - how many kids do you have?
Giffen: After the agony of having the first one, why did you have the second one?
Nrama: Good point.
Giffen: I actually look at the weekly that way. I did two in a row - I spent two years doing weeklies - and I walked out of it swearing, never again!
But as the years go by, you tend to forget the pain. And someone comes along and says, you want to do it again? And like a woman, you start thinking, well, the first kid turned out OK. And you say, "yeah, sure!" But then you're halfway into it and you say, "Oh my God! The pain!!"
Nrama: [Laughs.] But it's different this time. With 52 and Countdown, you were more of, like, a story consultant and layout guy, right?
Giffen: No, no, I actually wasn't a story consultant or anything like that. I was the breakdown guy. It wasn't because we didn't trust the artists to tell the story. On a weekly book, you're picking it up every seven days, so you really need to make sure the visual rhythms aren't changing to the point of being jarring. You have to have a certain visual rhythm.
Beyond that, I was also a "threat." The threat was, if for any reason, if the writer looks like he's going to be late, and the book is in jeopardy, Keith will write it. I was just there as a safety valve. It wasn't necessary. I wasn't needed on 52 or on Countdown, but I was there just in case.
Nrama: But on the new one, you're writing.
Giffen: Right. I'm still doing the breakdowns and I'm one of the writers. It's the first time I've been one of the writing crew on the weekly comic. On 52 and Countdown, when they did the conference calls to talk about the story, I wasn't part of them. I was reading the scripts right before I did the breakdowns, reading them just like the readers read them.
Now I'm part of the writing process. And I think we've got some good stories going. And this book is different from those other weeklies. Fans should be prepared for something different. And so far, it's a lot of fun putting together all these ideas we've got going.