With the Justice League caught between the Anti-Monitor and the forces of Apokolips in the conclusion of this week's Justice League #43, the heroes are also starting to transform into versions of gods themselves.
In the story by DC Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns and artist Jason Fabok, Batman has already become what the creators call "Bat-Tron" — able to learn the answer to anything after jumping onto the the Mobius Chair and accessing its vast knowledge of the universe.
And at the end of Justice League #43, Apokolips had turned Superman into a corrupted version of himself, presumably with new powers of his own.
It's all heading toward an event beginning in October called Justice League: Gods and Men, which explores what happens when the Justice League characters are given the powers of gods.
After our discussion with Fabok about the issue earlier this week, Newsarama talked to Johns about Justice League #43, the Gods and Men event, and what's coming up next in "Darkseid War."
Newsarama: Geoff, we talked a lot last time about the New Gods characters you're introducing to this story, but one of the key changes we've seen in the last couple issues is the transformation of Batman into a New God-like character, after he sat in the Mobius Chair. It was said that he's the one person who could handle it. Can he handle it?
Geoff Johns: Well, the "can he" part is obviously part of the story. But I think it's clear that the reason the Justice League members, and specifically Cyborg says if any one of us can handle it, you can, is because Bruce's mind is his ultimate weapon. And the Mobius Chair taps right into it.
Being able to access knowledge about anything, anyone, anywhere, past and present across the universe is a real powerful thing, and you know, whether or not Bruce can control that and survive that unchanged is to be determined.
And of course, his friends are going to be concerned for his well-being. They don't know anything about this Mobius Chair. And Batman isn't completely conscious of the fact that it is altering his personality a little bit.
Nrama: Yeah, I talked to Jason a little bit, and he mentioned changing his smile — I think to look a little more smug. I assume with that amount of knowledge, it would be tough not to be a little smug.
Johns: It's also a little more confidence. You know, I think there are a lot of interesting things we're playing with and I think people will dig it.
Nrama: Let's talk about the part of the story that has Lex Luthor and Superman working together, separated from the rest of the Justice League. There's obviously a problem coming with Superman corrupted at the end of Justice League #43. You and I have talked quite a bit over the years about who Lex Luthor is at his core, and his hatred for Superman, but you've been tweaking that in Justice League the last year or so. Now that Superman's the more evil one, what are you exploring with these two characters?
Johns: Yeah, you'll see Luthor and Superman deal with the events that unfold at the end of Justice League #44 — specifically Superman's powers.
I don't want to spoil it too much, but this storyline is very much challenging our Justice League characters. And as you'll at the apex of "Darkseid War," what Jay and I wanted to do was push our characters further.
Does more power make them more godlike? We wanted to explore that.
What is the definition of a god? Is it power? Is it humanity? Is it action? There are a lot of different things there.
So it's just our characters going through changes, and Superman specifically, on Apokolips, this will play out for quite awhile.
Nrama: And that leads into Justice League: Gods and Men, which includes the issues with Francis Manapul on art and a series of one-shots that begin in October. Did you need this extra space to explore that idea you mentioned — what makes a god?
Johns: Yeah, part of it is the nature of the story. There were just so many things going on with the characters and we just thought it would be exciting and interesting to explore them individually.
So in the Batman special, the Superman special, the Lex Luthor special — because of what happens in "Darkseid War," each one of those will examine the character and what's happened to them deeper.
It will be much more clear why we're doing it at the end of #44. Francis Manapul and I are reuniting for those two issues (Justice League #45 and #46) as they focus in on some of these characters.
And focus closer, particularly, on Mister Miracle and Wonder Woman, as there's a big shift in the storyline of "Darkseid War."
And then Jay comes back on the book with the next issue.
Nrama: OK, I noticed that, among the Gods and Men individual issues, there isn't one for Wonder Woman. So I take it she's the center of the main Justice League issues those months?
Johns: Yes, the first part of that in October really deals with everybody. And then Diana and Mister Miracle take center stage in November.
Nrama: What's it been like for you to explore Wonder Woman and the Amazons this way? You're obviously building some mystery with Wonder Woman's connections to Myrina and Grail.
Johns: Yeah, she was always going to be a major character in "Darkseid War," and honestly, the main character. And when Jason and I first started on the book together and were working on "The Amazo Virus," she just started to bubble up as a character that… Jay just drew her so powerful and strong and exciting. I just started to focus in on her more and more and more.
But she was always going to play a big role in "Darkseid War," she's going to take center stage because of the nature of the storyline and the thematics we were playing with and the characters we were playing with. And she's been an amazing character to write.
I kind of fell in love with her all over again and went back and read all these great runs of hers by so many great writers and artists. And it's an interesting character to explore, because I think she's incredibly complex and incredibly intriguing. There are a lot of facets to her that I gravitate toward, and Jay's the same exact way. And we found ourselves talking a lot about that character.
Every scene she's in, it just feels like there's an extra layer of complexity to what she's doing, her actions — everything's so thought through with a perspective that I don't think any of the other League members have.
So really, that's what we're trying to do is elevate that character and explore that character, and have fun with Wonder Woman.
Nrama: Because there are different approaches to characters like Green Lantern and Batman in their current solo titles, where does this Justice League story fall within continuity?
Johns: Well, continuity-wise, one thing that Dan DiDio and Jim Lee have done with June is that not everything has to line up immediately. But it all takes place in that world, and it will all eventually make sense. But things happen and change and alter, and I don't want to spoil where this falls because it affects some things.
But it takes place in the DC Universe now. It's just like a lot of other books — you know, what's happening in Cyborg doesn't line up exactly where Justice League is, but it all does line up.
But I like that they've taken off the shackles and haven't forced anyone to end a story or change things, just for the sake of continuity. They encourage us to do it, but they also encourage us not to be a slave to that, to tell great stories.
Nrama: Power Ring — can you tell us how she's connected to all this?
Johns: You'll see more of that develop in upcoming issues.
Nrama: And then the teases we saw when the oracle at the birth of Grail — are those all things that will happen? Or were they just visions of what could happen?
Johns: You will see them.
Nrama: And we'll find out more about the Anti-Monitor's secret origin? There's more behind the story of him on the Mobius Chair, right?
Johns: Yeah, we haven't revealed his exact connection to the Mobius Chair, why he created it and who he used to be. But that will be revealed in upcoming story arcs.
You know, Jay and I talked a lot about the Anti-Monitor, and there is an aspect of him we wanted to play with that would change and alter how we're presenting him. But that's something that's going to be seen in upcoming issues.
Nrama: Anything else you're working on that you'll be announcing soon?
Johns: No. I'm just working with Jay on this book and Gary Frank and I are working on Batman Earth One: Volume 3.
But I'm glad people are enjoying "Darkseid War." Jay and I both feel incredibly lucky to be working on this book and are really grateful that people seem to be digging what we're doing. And we've got a lot of great ideas coming up.