As Jeff Lemire takes over Justice League Dark next week, he's scheming with Geoff Johns to make the title more central to the DCU.
Lemire begins on the title with Justice League Dark #9, working with regular series artist Mikel Janin. By working closely with Johns, who's DC's chief creative officer and writer of the best-selling Justice League, Lemire hopes to bring JL Dark closer to the overall Justice League franchise.
That's not to say the title won't still be involved with the other "dark" titles that DC Comics launched last year. Lemire told Newsarama he plans to involve the Frankenstein character he's been writing in Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E., as well as other "dark" characters from the DCU.
But he's also preparing the Justice League Dark series for a closer integration into the Justice League franchise, which is heading toward the "Trinity War" event teased within the pages of DC's Free Comic Book Day issue.
Lemire was also involved in populating the Black Room shown in that story, again working with Johns to guide the use of those mysterious items.The introduction of Lemire as the writer on Justice League Dark comes as he ended his run on Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E. this month, clearly setting that title up for possible storylines elsewhere in the DCU. He's also heading toward a crossover event with his Animal Man title, bringing that story into line with events in Swamp Thing. Lemire also recently announced that he will be ending his self-drawn Vertigo series Sweet Tooth with issue #40, although he told us he is already planning what he'll draw next for DC.
In this first installment of a three-part interview with Lemire, Newsarama talked to the creator to find out more about what he'll do with the characters from Frankenstein, and what's coming in Justice League Dark as he kicks off his run next week.
Newsarama: Jeff, the last two issues of Frankenstein: Agent of SHADE had a few things that were left hanging, not the least of which was Ray Palmer quitting SHADE and leaving the book. Will you be writing him or any other characters from Frankenstein in the future?
Jeff Lemire: Yeah, I will. I don't want to spoil the particulars. But in general, that's definitely not the last time I'm going to write Frankenstein. And yes, there are definite plans for me to pick some of the things that I left off in issue #9.
Nrama: These issues also switched tone for the comic a bit, with issue #8 being pretty sad for Frank. Was that your intent as you wrapped up your run?
Lemire: For the last two issues, I'd had enough of the big, over-the-top, fun, monsters-fighting-monsters stuff and I just thought it would be nice to kind of move it in a new direction, so I started to focus in more just on Frankenstein and the smaller cast.
And that's something I will be continuing to explore in other titles with him in the future.
Nrama: But the title is continuing, and I assume that the transition is pretty each because you know Matt Kindt so well.
Lemire: Yeah, Matt's probably my best friend in comics, along with Scott Snyder. We're really close. Matt and I have been friends since back in the days we were first doing books for Top Shelf. Matt got the job on my recommendation, and he was a big help with me in some of the early Frankenstein issues, brainstorming ideas and stuff. So it's like he's been part of the book from the beginning anyway.And then we wrote the Men of War Frankenstein appearance together. And he's just picking it up. So in a lot of ways, it's a continuation of what I was doing. Although I did hear a rumor that he has me strangled in-panel in the next issue. [Laughs.]
Nrama: I guess that's his way of saying you're officially gone.
Lemire: Yeah, and he can do what he wants.
Nrama: It was great that you got to go out with an Animal Man guest star story.
Lemire: Yeah. Issue #8 with the Spawn of Frankenstein was actually going to be my last issue, but then they offered me the chance to do an Animal Man tie-in for issue #9. And I thought that would be fun, so I stayed on and did it. And I got to pick up a couple of loose threads I'd left from the first arc in Animal Man and explored those with Frank, investigating some things that had happened. And also set up some stuff that's going to happen in the future with Frankenstein as well, because he will be a part of Animal Man's adventures very soon.
Nrama: With Justice League Dark, I know you also wanted to work closer with the other "dark" series, right?
Lemire: Yeah, for me, that book, the way I'm looking at it is that the core team of Justice League Dark is Constantine, Zatanna and Deadman. And I guess Xanadu as well, although she has a new role, as you'll see in my first issue.
So those three are the core of the team. And then the rest of the teammates will rotate throughout different arcs, based on different adventures and things that come up. So you'll see characters like I, Vampire and Frankenstein and a couple others I can't reveal yet. They'll pop up and become part of the team for awhile here and there.
It will be sort of a rotating cast, based on who Constantine needs to get the job done.
Nrama: While it's tied into the "dark" titles, is it also more tied into the Justice League book?
Lemire: I'm really working closely with Geoff Johns on the book. We want all the Justice League titles to be a cohesive franchise. For me, Justice League Dark is the book that bridges the mainstream DCU with the "dark" line. So it's a bridge between the two.It will be really strongly connected to the stuff Geoff and Jim [Lee] are doing in Justice League. So it will have one foot in the "dark" universe and one foot in the mainstream superhero universe, so it's a fun and interesting book in that way.
And for me, a lot of the fun of writing it is taking characters like Constantine or Deadman, who are normally in their own little universe, having come out of Vertigo, and then seeing those guys react to mainstream DCU stuff. So there's a lot of fun to be had there.
I feel like if you just try to write Justice League Dark like a Vertigo book and just play it as a straight-up dark, moody series, it ends up being kind of "Vertigo light," because you can't get away with the same stuff you can at Vertigo. So for me, if you're going to have this book in the DC Universe, you should have fun with it. So we're going to take advantage of that.
We're going to make Justice League Dark a big, fun action series with these really dark characters at the core, creating that contrast between these weirdo occult characters and what the DC Universe is.
It's been a blast to write so far.
Nrama: Are you building toward a long-form story?
Lemire: Yeah, I think we are. You know, Geoff and I just started having preliminary discussions about things that will tie the books together. I mean, we haven't gotten to the stage where we're planning some big crossover or some big storyline yet. But for me, I've written five issues so far, and I have at least the next five plotted pretty tightly, and it's an even bigger story that I'm telling with Constantine and Zatanna at the center of it.
And there are some big surprises at the end of my first issue. So it's hard for me to talk about it beyond that. But after you read the last page of issue #9, I think you'll get a sense of where things might be going.
Nrama: After the Free Comic Book Day issue, everyone's talking about Trinity War. Since we saw Deadman in that issue, fighting alongside other heroes, are you heading toward what Geoff's doing with that event in Justice League?
Lemire: I probably shouldn't say too much yet. But let's just repeat that I've been talking a lot to Geoff Johns. So you can speculate from that.But there are some things non-Trinity War specific in that Free Comic Book Day issue that Geoff did that set up what I'm doing in my series. You might not catch them until you read my first issue, and then you can go back and re-read the Free Comic Book Day thing. But he did some really cool stuff in there that I'm really appreciative of.
Nrama: We've been told that there's a lot of stuff in that issue beyond Trinity War.
Lemire: All kinds of stuff in there. Yeah, Trinity War is only one layer of stuff he sets up in that actually. There's stuff set up for a number of titles and a number of different storylines in there. It probably won't be obvious until those things start happening more.
Nrama: And does the Black Room have some things for Justice League Dark? We heard Constantine mentioned as it was shown.
Lemire: That's definitely "dark" stuff. A lot of the things you see in the Black Room was stuff that Geoff and I put together.I'm not even sure who came up with the idea of the Black Room itself. I think I might have had the initial idea, based on seeing the Red Room in Geoff's book and thinking it could be kind of a dark, occult version of that. And then we just started throwing ideas back and forth. So we have big plans for the Black Room for sure.
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