As the heroes of the Justice League deal with the ramifications of "Darkseid War," Green Lantern and Shazam are both battling supernatural beings while pondering the differences between humanity and gods.
As part of the series of one-shots titled Justice League: Darkseid War, writers Tom King and Steve Orlando are exploring what happens to Hal Jordan and Billy Batson in two tie-in issues due this week. Working with Scott Kolins, Orlando is writing Justice League: Darkseid War — Shazam #1. And teaming with artist Evan "Doc" Shaner, Tom King is writing Justice League: Darkseid War — Green Lantern.
King, who's best known for writing Grayson for DC, is picking up the story of Hal Jordan, who was last seen rushing toward Oa because parademons were on their way there after the death of Darkseid. In his issue, he's contrasting the difference between the free will of mankind with the power of gods.
Orlando, who's currently writing Midnighter for DC, will take over the story of young Billy Batson, whose connection with the gods who give him the power of Shazam was lost when Darkseid died. Now the Wizard has chosen New Gods for Billy to interact with, and things aren't going so well.
Newsarama talked to King and Orlando to find out more about the two issues of Justice League: Darkseid War, both due this week.
Newsarama: Steve and Tom, once each of you realized what you were going to be dealing with — these characters acting as gods — how did you land upon how to handle it specific to your character, and the angle at which to approach this?
Tom King: When I think of Green Lantern, I think of, like, what makes Hal — apart from a fun character to write — there's this idea that, at the center of Hal and at the center of being a Green Lantern is free will, and then the idea of what will is — the broad concept of will.
And then if you've spent anything thinking on religion, of course, God is also tied up with this idea of free will, and the idea if there's a huge being out there who controls everything and can see the future, what does it mean that we have responsibility for our actions and we have free will? What does it mean if he or she lets us have this will? Or doesn't?
So it seems such a natural connection to be, like, here's a character who's driven primarily by will dealing with the problem of becoming or not becoming a god, and what that means to his own will.
It wasn't one of those tough ideas to come up with. I was like, oh, there's just a natural connection there with God being so tied to free will.
Steve Orlando: In the case of Billy, this idea of gods is a very personal one for him, and he's also kind of over it, you know? He's like, gods? I've been dealing with them for a long time. You know? Especially if he was a wizard.
So this whole idea, there's a shaking up factor that's not true. It's more about, like, when you're a teenager, you think you know everything, but you really, like, barely know how to drive.
He thinks he's seen it all, but he's had sort of an easy walk, with these gods and the Wizard. But when Darkseid dies, that creates a momentary blip in his connection to his whole pantheon. And the Wizard has to scramble, to not necessary find the gods that he relies on, but the gods that are there.
And what that means is that there are a wider selection of gods across Roman and galactic culture, and they've got their own agendas. Billy's used to looking at gods as basically a vending machine for super strength and lightning powers, but now, he's forced to redefine what everything means. These gods aren't just locked up within. He's locked up with them too.
So he's got to find a way to make it work.
Before, he only had a small picture of what gods can be. Gods can be — they can certainly be altruistic. They can be vengeful, they can be self-serving. But at the end of the day, Shazam is the "Mightiest Mortal," and he's got to find a way to assert that.
Now that they've shown him who they are, Billy's got to show them who he is, and by that token, what Shazam really means, not just what they think it means.
Nrama: You mentioned Roman and galactic gods. Can you say which gods? Did you get to pick and play with different types of gods?
Orlando: You'll see very quickly who the New Gods are. It's an all-new, all-different, all-weird Shazam.
All his previous pantheon were just, like, there to root him all if they butted in at all. But with the new, I wanted gods that embodied things that, even within his head, were contrasting. Gods who are pushing and pulling him in different ways.
You have impulse, you have compassion, you have fire, art and death, you have resurrection. And you have a classic lightning god that we didn't even know what hiding out in the DCU.
So it's about giving him new things to shoot out of his hands and new ways to punch things, but it's also about giving him gods that are going to change his world view and change the way he looks at conflict.
Our story is about him dealing with who's in charge, but when he comes out of it, it's going to be a Shazam that looks at every fight in a different way.
Nrama: Tom, with Green Lantern, the last thing we knew in the Justice League story was that Hal was running off to Oa because the parademons were headed that way. Do you deal with the Green Lantern characters and what exists on Oa?
King: Yeah, no, I kill them all off on the first two pages. So I deal with them in a big way, but I do it quickly. [Laughs.]
Yeah, as the series begins, after the death of Darkseid, the parademons are sort of looking for guidance and they find their way to the most powerful planet in the world. And they consume Oa. They kill all the Lanterns. The Lanterns have had a last stand and they lose.
But they're still looking for someone to guide them. They're literally looking for a god. And they find this willpower. But the willpower on Oa is completely unguided. It's up to the Lanterns. The green energy without the person is absolutely nothing.
So now they're looking for a person to be their New God. And that's when Hal Jordan lands within the chaos, and he gets the offer to be a god.
Nrama: It's also a very personal story for Hal too, isn't it? We get to look at Hal from a couple different angles through his past.
King: Yeah. Anytime we're dealing with someone's decision of, you know, whether to take on a decision to emerge as a god, it's obviously a very personal decision. So it's going to go right back to who he is as a person, as a man, and his history and what shaped him. I think we sort of had to address that and had to go right at it.
There's so much that makes Hal Jordan an awesome character. I just wanted to bring some of that out as I was writing.
Nrama: Then let's back up a second for a more general "Darkseid War" question. Two parts: When you were approached about this, what did you think about not only the story you were getting to tell, but whatever you learned about "Darkseid War?" And then the second part is, what would you tell readers about what's coming up in "Darkseid War?"
King: Geoff's been planning this story for a super long time. So I had just written, had just finished, I don't know, #4 or #5 of Grayson. And I got an email from Geoff Johns, saying, like, do you want to work with me? And I just said "yes!" And then I read the rest of the email. It could have been, like, "do you want to work with me on cleaning my shoes at my house tonight?" And I would have said, "Sure!"
So that's how I came into the project.
But to me, the idea of "Darkseid War" is one of the best DC stories in the last decade. I love it. I can't get enough of it. It feels to me like a huge, company-wide event, and it's all taking place in one comic. As a writer, I almost, like, study the pages. I can't figure out how he did it.
Nrama: And cool stuff coming up for Green Lantern?
King: Uh…I know… I mean, I got the gift of seeing, like, some of Geoff's scripts. And they couldn't be cooler.
Like, if you were looking for the huge superhero adventure story in DC, read Grayson. And when you're done with that, read Omega Men. And then Justice League is pretty good too.
Nrama: Steve, what about you?
Orlando: My experience with the project is similar to Tom's. I got a message from Geoff early in the morning on, like, a Saturday. And I was like, this is interesting. The Justice League? Geoff wants to talk to me? And when we talked, he said, we're doing this thing in Justice League. And I was like, yeah, I will do it. I don't even care what it is.
And then when he mentioned it was going to be Shazam, it was just like — and working with Jack Kirby things and putting the Kirby castle into new parts of the DC Universe — I couldn't be more excited.
Finding out what's going on in "Darkseid War," Tom hits the nail on the head. The story, I think, is one of the biggest Justice League stories that have happened. I'm a kid that, like, one of my first mainstream comics was issue #2 of "Rock of Ages" in the Grant Morrison and Howard Porter JLA stories in the '90s. And it reminds me of that massive scale, sort of earth-shattering type story, that doesn't hold anything back, that doesn't really make allowances for budget, because there are no reasons to. You can blow everything up all the time. And you couldn't find a better time to do it, with Justice League and Geoff and Jay Fabok.
So being able to be part of that? Amazing! And being able to work with Shazam and put some new people in his head? Amazing!
And going forward, I think the most exciting thing, for me, is that Shazam is going to come out newly equipped for the "Darkseid War," which is not over. But it's got a new weapon in the fight with the new Shazam. And what Geoff does with it is going to be pretty damn cool.
So I'm excited for everyone to see it. I guess if you have to read Tom's books, read those but then maybe consider picking up Midnighter, where we're a little more violent…
King: There's no more violent comic than Midnighter. [Laughs.]
Orlando: It's true. But the "Darkseid War" is firing on all cylinders. So it would be ridiculous to miss out on it.