As DC begins a new direction for Justice League United, not only will the team temporarily recruit heroes and villains from wildly varied corners of the DCU, but they'll go on missions that writer Jeff Parker calls "unconventional."
Working with artists Travel Foreman and Jeromy Cox, Parker said the book, which has been on break since March, is coming back with the directive from DC to "try big things," and "to contemplate the unconventional."
According to DC's Sneak Peek for Justice League United, the team is now focusing on battling "anomalies" that were caused by the "cosmic convergence" — or in other words, DC's two-month-long Convergence mini-series that just ended. As Stargirl said in the Sneak Peek, they are "volatile spots that could undermine everything we understand."
As the new Justice League United direction launches this week with issue #11, Newsarama talked to Parker to find out more about the anomalies, whether this means the comic will deal with the Multiverse, and how the writer's going to juggle all these different characters who are appearing in Justice League United.
Newsarama: Jeff, now that we know, from the Sneak Peek, that the Justice League United team employs many more characters than readers might have expected, can you tell us who forms the core of this team?
Jeff Parker: The core are original JLU members Stargirl, Animal Man, Equinox, Alanna Strange, and I’m not sure if I can count him, but Adam Strange. He's at once the most peripheral and crucial member of the JLU.
As seen in the Divergence preview — and for reasons you will learn as this run proceeds — our jetpack anthropologist has been trapped within the Zeta Beam itself, the intergalactic teleportation technology which, as far as we know, was created by scientists on the planet Rann. Trapped within the beam, Adam is becoming something not quite human, and that is a problem that is going to have to be dealt with.
Nrama: Yet there are different missions where the core team brings in certain characters. As you move the book in this new direction, what will the structure of storylines be like? Shorter arcs featuring guest stars?
Parker: It’s short mission-based arcs that line up with each team that the JLU put together, but there’s an overall super-story that they build as they go.
Our first story is two issues; our second is three issues. Our third is one issue, where we back up and show in detail how this whole situation came about. We want to keep them tight and thematic, so a reader who digs a certain type of story and/or a certain character or characters will have no trouble knowing which JLU issues to read.
There’s definitely a super-story that will reward the dedicated reader and have consequences in future tales, but we also designed JLU to be accessible to the sort of reader who wants to drop in because they love Poison Ivy, or Swamp Thing, or Steel, or anyone else and be able to enjoy it without having to catch up on loads of other comics.
Nrama: You mentioned Poison Ivy, which just confirms that not all of these characters are considered "good guys." What do some of the more villainous characters bring to the line-up? Why are they chosen to join the heroes?
Parker: Adam Strange, or what’s left of him, is selecting the teams according to not only their skills but also what dynamics they might form with other mission members. And he doesn’t seem to care whether they’re criminals or not. All that matters is how well they would work.
Nrama: What's your hope for the characters you're utilizing in this first story — and in the comic overall?
Parker: It may sound presumptuous, but I want to obliterate the idea of "tiers" of characters. In JLU, the people you would consider most powerful in the DC universe aren’t necessarily the most effective, or even remotely the right ones for the job. Everyone has specialties and things they are the best at dealing with, and we deep-dive into that concept.
It levels the playing field. Many of the characters we’re using are longtime fan favorites; others are getting the spotlight for the first time in a while; others, like Equinox, are relatively new to the DC Universe.
In every case, they’re interacting with other heroes and villains you would never expect, and in ways that speak to the core of each character.
Nrama: How central to the storyline are these "anomalies" that were mentioned in the Sneak Peek, and what can you tell us about them?
Parker: The term the JLU use for them is ‘Breakers,’ which reflects their role in the stories and in the universe. They warp and bend the laws of physics wherever they appear, they can distort local time, gravity, biology, even personalities. Many of them occur off in space where they’re harmless, but if one is manifesting on Earth it’s very dangerous, often deadly as in the first story. There’s good reason it’s worth risking working with super criminals to destroy the Breakers.
Nrama: Since Convergence had so much to do with alternate timelines and earths, how much will those play a part in this series?
Parker: Not any; we don’t go to any alternate Earths.
Nrama: So this group doesn't travel to other worlds?
Parker: Nope, too much to handle in this one!
Nrama: Fair enough. Issue #13's solicitation announces the "long awaited return of a legendary DC Comics hero." Any hints who that can be?
Parker: Mineral aggregate. Effortless.
Nrama: Good, brief hints. And it looks like you've got a guest artist coming up when a new story kicks off in September — are the plans to have different artists for different storylines?
Parker: It could go that way. Paul Pelletier is absolutely perfect for the wild mix of what we have in the second arc. Travel is still lead artist and doing fantastic work. There are some mind-blowing images in these first two issues. Jeromy Cox is coloring and really getting inventive, which makes me push boundaries still more. A very cool dynamic happening with these collaborations. We make sure there are no "fill-ins"; stories are very deliberate and created in total cooperation with whoever’s drawing them. They’re as much a co-author of their issues as me and Jeromy and letterer Steve Wands. And don’t forget Tony Harris crushing it on covers!
Nrama: Overall, how would you say this book is differentiated from the other Justice League books?
Parker: This book bends genre pretty hard. It has a very distinct feel. What I like is the odd combinations bring out new sides to characters you wouldn’t ordinarily see.
Nrama: Anything else you want to tell potential readers about Justice League United?
Parker: I’m pretty sure you’ll be able to pick up on the creative teams’ enthusiasm once you start reading and there are cool big concepts and characters you thought lost still to come.
The challenge issued to the JLU creators was to try the things they’ve always wanted to try, and to contemplate the unconventional. And you can see that in the concept — you never know who’s going to show up in JLU — but you can also see that energy expressed on the page. I’d like to say we planned all the coolness, but I’ll freely admit we bumbled into a lot of it. Actually it’s more than that: New editor Andy Khouri made it very clear we’re free to try big things with the book, and the enthusiasm for that spread fast. It’s a great feeling when you know you’re onto something special.