In October, DC will reunite the legendary creative team of Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis and Kevin Maguire for Justice League 3000, a comic set in distant the future of the DCU.
Announced yesterday by DC, the comic features characters that look a lot like the Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern and Flash of the present day DCU — even though the comic is set a thousand years in the future.
Known best for their run on Justice League in the 1980s, the trio normally works with Giffen on plots, DeMatteis on dialogue, and Maguire on art. Their drama-with-laughs style got to be known as "bwa-ha-ha," and they've been reunited a few times since because of their enthusiastic and loyal fan base.
Giffen and DeMatteis are already working together on DC's new monthly Larfleeze comic, which launches next week. DeMatteis is also writing Trinity of Sin: Phantom Stranger for DC, while Giffen is crossing over the DCU with the He-Man universe this fall after launching an ongoing He-Man and the Masters of the Universe comic earlier this year.
Now they turn their attention to the 31st Century of the DCU, but as readers have already started buzzing about... there's another DC comic that is usually set in the 31st Century: Legion of Super-Heroes, the publisher's oft-relaunched team book about super-powered teens in the future. Giffen has worked on the book several times — most recently just a few months ago, when he briefly drew the comic for writer Paul Levitz.
But the latest iteration of the Legion is ending in August, so it's worth considering whether Justice League 3000 is a sequel. Or a prequel. Or some other Legion-related comic.
The ending of Legion of Super-Heroes should provide some clues. As Levitz told Newsarama, readers will be left pondering the Legion's "place in the DC universe" after they read that final issue. Drawn by Kevin Maguire, the solicitation Legion of Super-Heroes #22 also says the "nature of the Legion is questioned."
Newsarama talked to Giffen and DeMatteis about Justice League 3000 to ask about whether it's connected to the Legion, who those Justice League members are, and whether readers can expect the bwa-ha-ha to return.
Newsarama: The two of you have been working on Larfleeze together and several other projects, but having Kevin along is a quite a big deal, isn't it?
Keith Giffen: Yeah, it is. Kevin, more than any other artist that Marc and I have worked with, gets it. We've worked with other spectacular artists, and this is not a slight to them at all. But it always feels like something is kind of missing without Kevin on board.
Kevin did Justice League before we did, and we had other artists after him. But the whole genre of "bwa-ha-ha" was started with Kevin. He was one of the architects of it. So yeah, it's special. I'm just glad to be back with these guys. There's a comfort zone there that's incredible.
J.M. DeMatteis: You can't explain chemistry—whether it's personal or creative—and when the three of us get together on a project something just...happens. A kind of creative magic. (I can only imagine that Andy Helfer, who put us all together back in the Justice League days, is either psychic or a sorcerer.)
Kevin, of course, is one of a kind...a genre unto himself. He created a style of storytelling—based in large part on facial expressions, body language, emotional reactions—that's uniquely his (and that artists have been copying since the 80's). That style is perfectly suited to the kinds of stories we tell, since so much of it is rooted in character interplay.
Nrama: OK, one of you mentioned "bwa-ha-ha." Does this book fall into that category?
DeMatteis: This is us doing what we've always done. Or, as Keith likes to say, "it is exactly what you think it will be."
Giffen: Yes. If there was a poster for this book, it would be:
"Justice League 3000, Giffen, DeMatteis, Maguire: YES, it's exactly what you think it is."
When we started doing this, it became kind of our calling card, even though it was almost inadvertent the way it all came about. And we've gotten together since to do Formerly Known as the Justice League, and I Can't Believe It's Not the Justice League, and we went over to Marvel and did The Defenders, and it all worked out fine. So we figured, let's get together and see if lightning strikes again.
It's good to be back, and it would be insane for us to say, "We're coming out with a book together and we're going to do twinkly superhero relationship comics." That's not what we do. It's not what we do.
We're coming on board, and when you think Giffen, DeMatteis and Maguire, you're thinking right. That's what you're getting.
DeMatteis: That said, don't forget that our old Justice League wasn't all laughs: we took plenty of dark turns along the way. And you'll see that in Justice League 3000 as well. These are big, cosmic adventure stories, after all. But there will be ample servings of "bwah-ha-ha" with the adventure. And, of course, these are different characters — no Beetle or Booster in sight — with different chemistry, so the humor will have a different flavor.
Giffen: And because I realize we did Justice League back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, if you're a newcomer to the book, then, like I say with every book, give us a shot! Maybe you'll like us.
Nrama: We've seen designs by Howard Porter. Keith, I know you have a long-standing relationship with Howard, having worked with him on Magog and several projects since. Did you work with him on these designs?
Giffen: What happened was, we were playing around with costume designs, and Kevin played around with some, and I played around with some. But then they gave them to Howard, and on his first run-through, he nailed it.
These are his first run-through! This is not, like, five versions later. This is his first take on our characters. Bam. They're perfect. Just what we need for these characters. It's like he was reading our minds. I've never had that happen before, where it just goes across the board, from Dan DiDio all the way down, and everyone looks at it and says, "Yes, that's them. That's what you need."
So props to Howard. He's one of the most underrated talents in comics right now.
Nrama: Keith, I'm going to ask you this, because you're so indelibly linked to the Legion of Super-Heroes. With that book ending in August, and since Justice League 3000 takes place in the 31st Century... does Justice League 3000 tie into the Legion of Super-Heroes?
Giffen: It's the future. It's the 31st Century. The book is its own entity, and it's really not tied into much of anything at all. I mean, everyone knows who the Justice League is, so it's tied into the DCU that way. But it would be unfair to put out a book that insists you're familiar with another book.
So to answer your question, no. This is its own entity.
Nrama: Well they look like the Justice League we know: Bruce Wayne, Clark Kent, Diana of Themyscira, etcetera.
Giffen: They're the Justice League! That's all I can say. They're the Justice League.
Nrama: Is this all new characters in the 31st Century?
DeMatteis: I don't know. Are they?
Giffen: No comment.
Nrama: Are they mostly new?
Giffen: You know what? I'll just say that this is the Justice League. But there's no time travel involved. So everyone who thinks it's time travel, that's not involved.
And when we do explain it to you, one thing is going to jump out and go, "Oh no! Not that again!" But... trust us.
Nrama: Just wait and give it chance, huh?
You know, I have never danced around an answer so delicately in my entire life.
Nrama: It seems like there's a lot of mystery to this group.
DeMatteis: I'm sworn to secrecy.
Nrama: But Keith, I know you are all about new concepts and characters. And since you're plotting this, I assume this isn't just a rehashing of the Justice League, set in the future.
Giffen: No, no. It's the Justice League in the 31st Century, and the rest is new. The rest is going to be new.
Yes, it's the Justice League. I realize that's a concept we know. But it's not a comic about five people. There are a whole bunch of characters around the Justice League. There are some characters that you're going to look at and say, "Oh my God! I can't believe they did that!"
Nrama: But it's not the Justice League inside the world of the Legion and those characters.
Giffen: No. The other characters you meet in the comic are going to be new. If I need a guy who can throw fireballs around, you can guarantee it's not going to be Sun Boy. Let's think of somebody new. I'm tired of treading old ground. I have as much affection for the Legion of Super-Heroes as anybody -- maybe more than most, since I kept returning to the book like a mental patient. But this isn't the Legion. And it shouldn't be judged on Legion of Super-Heroes terms. Sorry Legion fans, but you're going to have to wait until somebody comes up with a take on the Legion. This is not a Legion of Super-Heroes book. They're not going to be going to Braal. Trust me.
Nrama: Tied into the past at all? Or things from the present?
Giffen: Well, it's the Justice League, so it's kind of tied into the present. But there's no time travel.
This is a book that you can sit down and read, and if we say it in the book, you saw it happen. We're not going to reference something from Adventure Comics from 1954. It's self-contained.
Nrama: Then to finish up, is there anything else you want to tell fans about Justice League 3000?
DeMatteis: The three of us have been looking for a new project to do together for some time now—we've discussed everything from New Gods to Inferior Five —and this one really is a perfect fit for what we do. We're all incredibly excited about Justice League 3000 —it's such a great concept that allows us so much room to play—and I think that excitement is being translated to the page. We'll all know come October!
Giffen: We're just trying to tell a good, fun comic book that you can read through, and hopefully, at the end, you'll walk out with a little chuckle and a smile, and the feeling that you just read a good comic.
Check back soon for our interview with DeMatteis about what's coming up in "Phantom Stranger" as DC becomes immersed in "Trinity War."