With "Darkseid War" about to erupt in Justice League, readers are beginning to realize the scope of the story thanks to a couple previews in the last few weeks — the multiverse-spanning Justice League #40 and the introduction of Darkseid's daughter in DC's Free Comic Book Day issue.
Written by DC Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns with art by Jason Fabok, Justice League kicks off its "Darkseid War" storyline in June after after months of anticipation — ever since the Anti-Monitor showed up at the end of last year's Forever Evil.
Billed as a war between Darkseid and the Anti-Monitor, with the Justice League caught between them, "Darkseid War" is has been revealed to be delving into the very history of the DC Universe, from the New Gods mythology to Wonder Woman's pantheon, while also challenging members of the Justice League to stop the destruction of reality itself.
Newsarama talked to Johns and Fabok about the latest developments in their Justice League previews, their approach to some of these new characters they're introducing, and what readers can expect from "Darkseid War."
Newsarama: Geoff, in Justice League #40 we learned that you've taken the Anti-Monitor and made him almost… part of the New Gods mythology with the idea of him being Mobius. Where did that idea come from? It feels like you're making him like a New God — or rather, an Anti-God. Am I reading that right?
Geoff Johns: Yeah, it's like the Anti-God, the god of destruction. He is a god. And for me, when Jay and I were talking about the storyline, one of the things I really wanted to do was, if I was going to use the Anti-Monitor again — if I was going to go to the character again — I wanted to explore him in a new way.
Researching the New Gods, I read — I mean, I think I've read every New Gods comic now, and specifically Mister Miracle comics.
I really grew to love the characters, and to see some potential in the characters that I could have fun with. And I always knew I wanted to bring the New Gods characters in.
But there were some characters that caught my attention, like Mister Miracle, like Kanto — I don't know why, Jay and I probably talked about him 12 hours once. I just got into that character, because he's so bizarre. When I read about him and I read his stories, and he was connected to Mister Miracle and he's Darkseid's assassin. But he has actually spent, like, years and years on Earth. He escaped Apokolips and came to Earth for years and was here during the Renaissance era, which was reflected in his costume, which kind of explained why he looked the way he did. But more importantly, it gave him a different perspective than I think a lot of the other characters who were closely tied to Darkseid.
I just thought, what an interesting perspective he must have, to have been here during that time and left and returned.
And he has a whole backstory about how he was recruited back to Apokolips, where Darkseid's assassin came after him to bring him back, and he killed the assassin, and Darkseid says, "You're my new assassin and this is your duty now."
All these characters have such interesting storylines!
So when I got to the Anti-Monitor, you know, he's been in a lot of great stories. And I've used him as kind of a background force of evil in a couple stories, but never as a central character.
And to use him as a central character, and to spend the time on him, he had to be, quite honestly, as interesting as some of these other characters we were bringing in.
For me, it was all about, can we peel another layer back on this character?
So I was looking at Metron, and we were talking about Metron.
Nrama: With his Mobius Chair.
Johns: Yeah, and the Mobius Chair was so cool. And it's going to play a big part in "Darkseid War."
But there's a really big secret to it that I want to unfold. Some of that was revealed in #40, just by giving Anti-Monitor a real name. He was once known as Mobius.
And that chair belonged to him. That alone conjures up a thousand different stories. You can wonder what that means, where that goes, who he was, how'd he do it, what did he do with the chair, how did Metron get the chair?
Suddenly, it turns the Anti-Monitor into a mystery and a character that wants something different, and that now is something destructive. And he's tired of being forced into this role.
He really wants to get his old form back.
I thought it was an interesting angle on Anti-Monitor and the way to explore him, so that's where the idea came from, and it plays out in "Darkseid War."
But there's a reason he's become what he is. There's a reason that Metron has the chair now. There's a reason for all of that.
Nrama: Is Metron just injured after that confrontation with Darkseid's daughter? Or is he dead now?
Johns: No, no, you'll see him in the story.
He got hit hard, but he's still alive.
Nrama: Jason, you came up with a redesign for Anti-Monitor. What was behind the new approach to his look?
Jason Fabok: Geoff and I had looked at some of the older designs from the original Crisis On Infinite Earths. And Dave Finch had kind of drawn Anti-Monitor. In Forever Evil, at the very end, Dave Finch drew a big splash of Anti-Monitor. And the design that Dave had drawn from was the original look from Crisis On Infinite Earths.
As we were discussing a look for the Anti-Monitor, I wanted to take the original design but just update it a little bit, simplify it in some areas — I know I'm going to have to draw this guy a bunch of times in the book. I want him detailed, but I also want his look to reflect a little bit of me and what I wanted to bring out of it.
So I looked at the original design and tried to play with the same kind of shapes. I tried to create a visual shape language for the character.
Whereas Darkseid is a very organic character, in the sense that he just wears a skin suit or whatever — he's very organic looking — I wanted Anti-Monitor to be more angular and armored. And you can see that from his helmet and through his body and through his shoulder pads and all that stuff.
But he still reflects some of the classic Crisis On Infinite Earths Anti-Monitor, and the Anti-Monitor you see after that, kind of the second design of him.
In the end, I think we really came up with a cool look for the character.
In Justice League #40 Jim Lee took it to another level, and so you're going to see him in the future books as well.
I'm happy with the design, and I tried to create something that is a balance to what Darkseid looks like, respecting the character's legacy but also moving it forward.
That's the same thing we did with Metron. That's the same thing we're doing with Mister Miracle.
We're just trying to update them a little bit more, bring them into a modern look, but still make the fans of those characters happy that the characters aren't altered to the point where you don't recognize them. You still recognize the classic Jack Kirby look for all these characters. We're just evolving them a bit into a more modern look.
Nrama: Geoff, you've indicated in the past that Wonder Woman is an important part of this story. Now that we've met Grail, who's half-Amazon, and her Amazon mother Myrina, is it right to assume those characters will be the reasons for Wonder Woman's focus in this story?
Johns: Yeah, absolutely. And thematically, and what the truth behind the instigation of this war, and what this war means — it all ties back to Wonder Woman.
For me, Wonder Woman has become one of my absolute favorite characters to work on. A lot of that, I attribute to Jay getting on the book. His costume design for her, and visually, what he was doing with her, it just drew me to the character. She looks so powerful and strong. I just loved his design.
It was his initial design, actually, found online, that made me want to get Jason on the book in the first place.
So when Jay kept turning in these beautiful pages, I just got more and more intrigued by the character. And as this storyline evolved, she was always going to be a focal point to "Darkseid War," but she just rose up quickly.
I went back and — I had read them before, but I re-read all the George Pérez stuff and Phil Jimenez's Wonder Woman, which I thought was a super under-rated run. It was a great run. I just read a bunch of Wonder Woman comics and started thinking more about the character and got more into the character, and just became fascinated with her.
I feel like there's a lot of untapped potential in her, and expanding her mythology and the characters that are connected to her.
The storylines we have upcoming, they really do focus on her, and "Darkseid War" focuses on her in a way. There are a lot of interesting twists and turns that we have.
But this is a storyline that she has to be there for. The story doesn't work without her, and she's a central figure in this, both literally and thematically in what we're trying to accomplish. And that will be clearer in the story, I think, when it finally unfolds.
I don't want to spoil it too much, and I don't want to speak too much about what we're doing with her. But the character has become very important for us.
Nrama: Jay, we got a really good look at Darkseid's daughter, and Myrina in that great-looking Free Comic Book Day story you drew. What was your thought process as you came up with the way Grail looks?
Fabok: I'm really proud of the design of Grail that we came up with. I love designing stuff. I love taking cracks at classic characters and just giving it a little bit of a twist. I feel that the fan reaction to the new Wonder Woman design we're doing in our book has been really, really positive.
When you design a bunch of characters, and you're getting positive response from the fan base, that really just gives you the confidence to keep moving forward with some of this stuff. I did a lot of little redesigns of characters when I was working on Detective Comics. I redesigned the Wrath. I got a good reaction to that.
So when it came to Grail, Geoff had said he wanted her to be posing and strong and confident — and a little scary, but at the same time beautiful. Somebody that was attractive to look at. And drawing attractive characters is fun for me as an artist as well.
So with her design, I just wanted to reflect both sides of her heritage — the heritage of Darkseid and the heritage as an Amazon.
She's kind of designed as an Anti-Wonder Woman. Her costume's color scheme is kind of Darkseid-based. She's got the Omega symbol on there, but it's upside down. Little things like that. So she's kind of clinging to both worlds.
But I still wanted it to look sci-fi and partially fantasy-based.
I've been looking through different influences from new games and movies and all kinds of stuff, and when it comes out right, it always makes that character so much fun to draw.
One of the things we discussed was shaving the side of her head, you know? Geoff, at first, I don't think he really wanted to go that direction, but I felt that that gave her a unique look compared to Wonder Woman or even Myrina Black or any of these other characters — just gives her a unique personality thing that makes her different from other characters.
I really love designing some of these characters and it's a lot of fun to draw them in the book as well.
Johns: Yeah, I have to give Jay major props on Grail. I think it's a great design. And wait until people see her in Justice League #41.
Nrama: Are we going to see other new characters over the course of the ….how long is the storyline?
Johns: I don't want to say how long it is. But you will see some new characters. You will see some characters that are revitalized.
There are some pretty big reveals, using all these characters.
And there are more characters to come!
There are going to be some New Gods characters in this storyline. Some of them will be prominent. Some of them might appear briefly.
One of the characters that Jay and I are bringing onto the stage is Mister Miracle.
Like Wonder Woman, I've really grown to love this character in a way that… it's funny. When I first wrote Power Girl, I didn't know a lot about her, and she became a character that I absolutely loved. And there's characters like this where, Mister Miracle, I liked but I never had the opportunity to really write him.
And to spend time with him and suddenly get inside his head — because I always wanted to bring a New Gods character into the center of it all — he really popped forward, and I just can't get enough of the character.
He's fun and interesting and unique in the DC Universe.
Nrama: OK, can you describe him? Why does he make sense for this storyline?
Johns: He's ultimately the very best character that can go up against Darkseid, who is all about crushing free will and controlling everything. Mister Miracle is the ultimate free spirit. He's an escape artist. He's all about free will. And he's all about freedom.
His name's literally Free. And he just became the perfect character to bring bring forward in the story.
Nrama: The Free Comic Book Day issue showed the history of Grail, and #40 showed the history of… well, everything.
Johns: Yes, yes. There's a reason for the way we did the Free Comic Book Day, when we did that eight-page story — and it is beautiful. I think Jay did an absolutely amazing job, and the colors are unbelievable. We wanted to tell a story that was substantial. If we're going to tell an eight-page story and break away from the monthly book and give people a look at what we want to do, we want to make sure it's the very, very best we can possibly put forward.
And an important story like the origin of Grail, the origin of Darkseid's daughter, and then also a look at the epic scope of the war — just seeing Darkseid and the Anti-Monitor in that big panel across the pages that Jay did.
Nrama: And then the teases at the bottom of that page, about Batman and Green Lantern and what might be coming?
Johns: Yeah, we gave you a peek at some of what's going to happen to the Justice League.
That's been dissected. I've seen people talk about… oh, this means that, and this means that. Some are right and some are wrong. And some people have some of the clues. But other clues, people haven't really picked up on yet, which is really exciting and fun.
But we wanted to make sure that if we were going to do that break away from the monthly book and show people a glimpse of the Justice League, it had to be the very best we could make it.
Nrama: I think what's surprising in Justice League #40 and the Free Comic Book Day story is just how much world-building you're doing in this story. These are two pretty familiar characters, but you're adding so much to their mythos and to the history of the DCU. I mean, you're going to have to show the history of Mobius, of Metron, of Darkseid, of Darkseid's daughter, of Myrina — it's not just two bad guys coming to Earth.
Johns: No, I think on the surface, you can say it's a war that erupts between Darkseid and Anti-Monitor, and the Justice League's got to save reality in between it. But it's much more complicated than that, obviously. And there's a lot more to it. And there's a strategy behind the war, and a reason it's happening, and a reason it's erupting from a bunch of different sides.
Jay and I have talked about it for months and months now. And I've laid it all out. Jay and I really wanted to go for it.