Although comic books fans have known for awhile about DC's plans to turn September into Villains Month, this week revealed a few new details about what the event means.
But what causes all this villainy in the DCU? And what does it mean for upcoming stories involving the universe's most beloved characters?
Newsarama pulled together some information we noticed in solicitations and publicity for the event:
Heroes ... Dead?
DC always promised that the end of Trinity War, would lead to something big.
Now we know it's "big" enough to take out all the heroes of the DCU.
"As Trinity War and Forever Evil writer Geoff Johns told USA Today:
"The Justice League is dead, the villains inherit the Earth."
Wait a minute... dead?
Obviously, DC isn't going to kill Superman and Batman. In the solicitation for Aquaman, the language is more like "may be dead," which we're more prepared to believe.
But something does happen at the end of Trinity War that makes all the heroes disappear before September's titles begin.
Are they sucked through a wormhole? Are they sent forward in time? Or does Pandora's box end their very existence?
The official DC press release used the word "fall," as in "what happens when the heroes of the DC Universe fall and there's nobody left to stop the villains from taking over?" Other words used in recent publicity include "out of commission" and "off the table."
That said, there's indication that some of the Villains Month titles still involve heroes. For example, Darkseid's solicitation says the villain will "confront" the Man of Steel, The Creeper's copy mentions Katana, and Trigon implies that he'll interact with Raven.
There will also be "the unlikely rise of some heroes to combat" the villains during Forever Evil and its tie-ins, which means we'll get a focus on either new or lesser-known heroes for awhile.
"You'll know who the good guys are by issue 2 [of Forever Evil] that are going to take center stage," Johns said.
But make no mistake: September's titles and the Forever Evil event will mean...
The chance to really examine the darker side of the DCU should be a field day for writers and artists. For example, David Finch allegedly has a "piece of art in Forever Evil #1 that Johns teases 'is the coolest thing I could ever imagine for something that celebrates villainy.'"
There's plenty of space for creators to have fun over the coming months. In total, there are more than 74 issues dedicated to villains, including:
- 52 issues in September as part of "Villains Month."
- The seven-issue Forever Evil by Johns and Finch, which starts in September.
- An arc beginning in October in Justice League, which Johns will continue to write, with "certain villains" and "unlikely heroes."
- Forever Evil tie-ins in "comics such as Teen Titans and Suicide Squad."
- The five-issue tie-in book Forever Evil: Rogues by Brian Buccellato and Patrick Zircher, which starts in October.
- Forever Evil: Arkham War by Peter Tomasi and Scot Eaton, which also starts in October and runs for five issues.
- Another five issues of Forever Evil: A.R.G.U.S. by Matt Kindt and an unnamed artist.
And undoubtedly several more that we don't know about yet.
Trouble in the Ranks
The Secret Society of Supervillains takes center stage for the event, and according to solicitations, several stories explore what happens when the group starts recruiting new members.
Not everyone is going to gladly join the team. Ocean Master declines, Two-Face flips a coin, Clayface has to audition, and Joker's Daughter gets "hordes of followers" of her own.
"Some of them might not like how it's being run. Some of them might like the old way better," Johns said. "Once the heroes are off the table, what's that mean for the villains? What can they accomplish together?"
There will be never-before-seen team-ups of villains, and a few battles. There's a fight between villains in Gotham, where the more crazed rogues are waging a "battle for Arkham Asylum." And we're told that the Secret Society attacks Kahndaq, which probably won't go over too well with Black Adam.
Johns also revealed that Lex Luthor, Superman's archenemy, is the main character of the Forever Evil mini-series. "What happens with him and to him and what he does is going to have pretty major repercussions through the DC Universe," Johns says. "There's a lot of things in issue #1 with him that I think are going to surprise people."
Martian Manhunter also becomes important, as Matt Kindt takes over Justice League of America for five issues beginning in October. According to DC's publicity, "Manhunter will be picking up what's left of the Justice League."
At the end of Justice League of America #4, Catwoman was shot through the head, and it sure looked like she was dead. But (as we pointed out in a spoiler-y examination of the issue, it was pretty evident she didn't really die in that scene.
Now we have confirmation that Catwoman lives. According to Johns, she has "an integral part in Forever Evil and other future stories from Johns.
The writer said "everything began to revolve around her" in the stories he was writing. "In my mind, she is unstoppable," he said. "Her longing for finding out answers about some things in her past that we've set up is key for her drive over the next big story."
Some of DC's villain-centered comics in September explore present day activities among the rogues-run-wild. But others will put a past-tense focus on major villains of the DCU.
Solicitation copy indicates we'll see the New 52 origin stories for Deadshot, Reverse-Flash, the new Ventriloquist, Solomon Grundy, General Zod, Bizarro and Brainiac.
We'll see Doomsday's past on Krypton, an "early adventure" for The Joker, "early moments" for The Riddler, Harley Quinn's "time with her beloved Mr. J," and a tale involving Sinestro's time as a Green Lantern, ruling over Korugar,
Other issues will simply continue stories that have been running through the New 52 titles so far, such as the First Born story from Wonder Woman, the H'El saga from the Superman titles, or the Relic event running that will cross through the Green Lantern titles this fall.
Not only lots of villains, but lots of Geoff Johns too
When Geoff Johns was named DC's chief creative officer, some fans might have expected him to slow down on his comic book writing.
Oh, ye of little faith.
The writer has proven that even though he works full time at Warner Brothers' Burbank offices (connected to projects like the Booster Gold TV show), and even though he's a screenwriter for television (including the current CW show Arrow) — and even though he has a life (we hope) — he somehow finds time to write, co-write and oversee plenty of comic books. And they're usually comics at the center of what's driving the direction for the whole DC Universe.
September is no different — or at least, it's only different because there's even more comics in the solicitations with the name "Geoff Johns" next to them.
For Villains Month, Geoff Johns is:
- Writing Forever Evil #1.
- Co-writing Black Manta with Tony Bedard.
- Co-writing Ocean Master with Tony Bedard.
- Co-writing Secret Society with Sterling Gates.
- Co-writing Black Adam with Sterling Gates.
(And now we know why he had John Ostrander help him out by writing an issue of Aquaman last month.)
As mentioned above, after September, Johns is taking a five-issue break from Justice League of America while Kindt takes over. And it sounds like he'll need the break. Of course, there's always the chance he could launch something new in October, which brings us to...
As any comic fan knows, Forever Evil isn't going to actually last "forever." But the mini-series is running a long time. A lot of people were surprised when Trinity War only ended up lasting a couple months. But Forever Evil is a whopping seven issues, so we're going to be following the story of all these villains for awhile.
That said, the "villains take over" does seem to be limited to the month of September. And the fact that so many DC titles— and often, their writers and artists — are taking a break in September clears the way for DC to do some housecleaning of old titles and creators while also tweaking its line-up of new titles.
There's other evidence that DC will have a new "wave" of titles come October. Not only were several DC titles canceled in August, but DC was already running a little bit short of their implied 52-DCU-titles-a-month quantity. That leaves lots of room for a new slate of titles.
Titles like Phantom Stranger and Pandora might also have lost their effectiveness after Trinity War's conclusion.
There have also been a few creators who have said they have "things in the works" at DC, which hints at a batch of newly pitched comics in October. Some of the company's go-to creators like Keith Giffen and Paul Levitz just got room on their slates thanks to cancelations. And (lest we forget) some of DC's top-selling writers could get tapped again — the usually prolific Scott Snyder might have finished his scripts for The Wake by then, and Geoff Johns and Jeff Lemire will have finished Trinity War, possibly making a little space in their busy schedules. (In the fight for market share, DC will surely try to fill those schedules up.)
We can also expect quite a few creative shake-ups on titles, as some of the New 52-launched titles have reached their two-year mark (weren't there a few writers who said in 2011 that they had a two-year plan?). There may even be some continued titles with changed names. After all, there's less of a reason these days for Batman titles to carry qualifiers like "Inc." and "Robin."