Exclusive: Milligan Comes Out of the DARK to Lead STORMWATCH

Peter Milligan on Writing STORMWATCH

DC Comics is continuing to announce tweaks to its creative team line-up on the "New 52" titles in its rebooted universe.

In May, writer Peter Milligan leaves Justice League Dark to take over DC's covert sci-fi team book, Stormwatch, joining current artist Miguel Sepulveda.

Justice League Dark will now be written by Jeff Lemire. Mikel Janin will stay on as artist.

DC didn't say why the change is being made, but early information indicates the switch will bring Justice League Dark closer to the Justice League superheroes of the DCU, while taking Stormwatch closer to its character-focused and darker WildStorm roots.

Lemire said his new direction for Justice League Dark will create connections with DC's best-selling comic, Justice League by Geoff Johns and Jim Lee. In fact, Lemire said he's working with Johns to tie the "Dark" team to the big guns of the DCU, and he teased an even closer relationship in "the near future."

"One of the things I’m anxious to explore is just why the name 'Justice League' is in the title of this book? I want to explore and create new connections between this team of mystical misfits and Geoff and Jim’s big guns in the Justice League," he said. "On that note, Geoff and I have had many discussions on how to link our two books and make the Justice League franchises connect in new and unexpected ways. More on that in the near future."

According to Lemire, who also writes the DC books Animal Man and Sweet Tooth, the characters in Justice League Dark are his "absolute favorites." Yet Lemire is already planning to add two new team members — hinting that one is a man, and one is a woman, while "one uses magic, one doesn't."

The "Dark" team will get a new headquarters out of an "old haunt," Lemire said, and Constantine will emerge as the clear leader of the team. "The book will also have an old Justice League villain re-imagined as the arch-enemy of the Justice League Dark," he said.

Milligan, who will still write Red Lanterns and Hellblazer, takes over Stormwatch after the departure of writer Paul Cornell, who launched the comic as part of DC's "New 52" initiative in September.

In between Cornell's departure with issue #6 and Milligan's entrance with #9, the book will feature a two-issue story by writer Paul Jenkins, who had indicated to Newsarama he was hoping to take over the book permanently. That's apparently not part of DC's plan for the title, which is already on its third writer before even being published a year.

Now that Milligan is announced as the new regular writer, Stormwatch will most likely get a new tone as it explores the unknown history of a team that includes Martian Manhunter, a few new characters, and heroes from the former WildStorm universe like Apollo and Midnighter.

His departure from Justice League Dark means Milligan will no longer be writing two characters that are associated with his name: Shade the Changing Man and John Constantine. But he'll continue to write his critically acclaimed John Constantine stories in the Vertigo comic, Hellblazer.

Newsarama talked with Milligan exclusively to find out more about the series.

Newsarama: Peter, what got you interested in working on Stormwatch?

Peter Milligan: I really like the set up. I like the way these guys are somewhat like Superheroes but are in fact nothing of the sort. They’d get very offended if you called them superheroes. And I like that because there are none of the really big hitters in the book (Batman or Superman or whoever) we’ll hopefully have a bit more license to push things around a bit. Also there was a lot hinted at so far but it seemed there was still plenty of room for me to come in and spread my own scent around a bit, make it my own.

Nrama: Why do you think your writing style fits with this team and comic?

Milligan: One of the things that makes this book interesting is its offbeat humor. And the fact that these characters don’t run around in super costumes but instead bear more of a likeness to “real” people—that almost makes them weirder. Offbeat and weird is my home territory, I think.

Nrama: What sets apart Stormwatch from other teams in the DCU? Besides their covert set-up, what makes them special as a group?

Milligan: One thing, though they’re incredibly powerful individuals, and their mission statement is as immense and important as any other “super” team, Stormwatch are watched over by a pretty mysterious and ambiguous crowd called the Shadow Lords. I think this makes them more human, and more empathetic. There is a feeling that to a greater or lesser degree these characters might not be completely in control of their destinies. Coupled with that, there is a real sense that Stormwatch has a history. It has mysteries in the past waiting to be discovered. Stormwatch is, in effect, a lot bigger than the lives of these particular characters and the stories that they’re involved with.

Nrama: Will you be shaking things up when you come on board, or is this title taking the same direction we've seen so far?

Milligan: Some of it I’ll be shaking up a bit but fundamentally it’s going to be taking a similar direction. This is a book that’s about the characters and there will be some pretty radical movements with them.

Nrama: The title has been throwing a lot of new concepts and characters at the readers over the first few issues. Will things slow down a little once you come on board, giving us more exploration of the characters?

Milligan: I want to dig deeper not only into the characters themselves but also the history and meaning of Stormwatch. The strange strategies they’ve employed to do what they do and remain covert.

Nrama: Which of the characters on the team do you think have potential for immediate exploration as you take over the comic? What are you hoping to explore about each of them?

Milligan: They all have potential. If they don’t, a terrible death or exit can be swiftly arranged, mate. Midnighter is a character that immediately screams out for greater exploration and we’ll certainly be doing that. The relationship between Harry Tanner and the team he tried to kill – he had a relationship with The Engineer and he and Midnighter came close to killing each other – will be addressed.

Nrama: A lot of people are interested in the Midnighter/Apollo relationship, and we've seen the beginnings of that in recent issues. Do you intend to take that relationship further?

Milligan: Yes. But things will not be easy or smooth for them.

Nrama: Will the team be similar to what we've seen so far? Any changes you can tease?

Milligan: Before I start throwing people off of the team I want to get deeper into them. However, we will have an appearance of a character who was around long before this team was formed who throws a different light on the life of a Stormwatch agent.

Nrama: What can you tell us about your first story on the comic?

Milligan: My first story deals with an intruder on earth from the planet Ysmault — he’s red and he’s got a lot of rage — and also a former Stormwatch member. We’ll also get deeper into the mind of Midnighter.

Nrama: The addition of a Red Lantern to the story is in keeping with some of the stories we've seen so far in Stormwatch, as its members have been tied to several other New 52 titles over the last few months. Will that interaction with other titles continue?

Milligan: I think so. Stormwatch operates in the DCU world and I think that’s what makes it tick. Its whole conceit is that in this world of superheroes here is a team of non-superheroes who are secretly going about saving the world. And trying not to go insane. I love that.

Nrama: Since we've already mentioned Red Lanterns, let's talk about what's coming up in that title. You just added a Red Lantern from Earth to the team. What will Rancorr bring to the issues coming up, and what will he be going through?

Milligan: Well, briefly, Rankorr will be going through all kinds of horrible shit. But he’ll bring a lot to the book. At the beginning he is constantly struggling to cling hold of his fading humanity and this tension. This conflict allows him to have a different kind of “take” on the Red Lanterns.

I mean, if you were dropped into the middle of Ysmault and all these hideous raging creatures, you really would think you’d died and gone to some kind of insane hell. And that is Rankorr’s first feeling. Later, though, his slightly more rational grip on things will play a big part in Atrocitus’ attempts to save his dying Red Lanterns. But in a way this is part of Rankorr’s tragedy. Because he has retained some of his humanity he is more sensitive to the daily horror that is the life of a Red Lantern.

Nrama: What else can you tell us about what's coming up in Red Lanterns?

Milligan: As Rankorr tries to settle in and not be killed he and we will discover he is unlike any other Red Lantern and has a “power” that none of the others have. This will coincide with a big and dramatic storyline that threatens the very future of the Red Lantern Corps. Even Ysmault, so long home to the Red Lanterns, seems to turn against them.

Nrama: You've set up John Constantine and other Justice League Dark characters in the DCU. Is it disappointing to leave the characters behind?

Milligan: Of course, I’m writing John Constantine over in Hellblazer. And I feel that Shade the Changing Man will always swing into my life from time to time. But yeah, at first it was a little disappointing but the more I get into Stormwatch, the more I’m really happy with the switch and feel that in some ways, Stormwatch is a more natural fit for me than what is at heart a “superhero” book.

Nrama: As you mentioned, John Constantine is still being written by you in Hellblazer. As you're finishing up "Another Season in Hell" in February, what else will we see in the title coming up?

Milligan: A storyline with the working title "The Curse of the Constantines." Bad blood, mad relatives, poetry and black magic.

Nrama: Then to finish up, Peter, is there anything else you want to tell fans about what you hope to bring to Stormwatch?

Milligan: It’s going to be weird and intense, oh, without doubt, but at its heart will be the great characters, their trails and tribulations. And of course we’ll explore and reveal some of the many secrets of Stormwatch.

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