With the events of Justice League #45 changing the status quo of several DC heroes — such as Lex Luthor's transformation into Darkseid's replacement and Batman's use of the all-knowing Mobius chair — the stage is set for DC's upcoming Darkseid War one-shots.
The weekly tie-in books, which start with this week's Justice League: The Darkseid War — Batman by Peter Tomasi and Fernando Pasarin, will explore the ramifications of some of DC's most beloved heroes getting god-like powers, including Batman, Lex Luthor, The Flash, Superman, Green Lantern and Shazam.
Tying into the Justice League story by writer and DC Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns, the one-shots feature covers by superstar artist/writer Francis Manapul, who's drawing the interiors of this month and next month's Justice League issues. Manapul is also writing the one-shots looking at Superman and Lex Luthor.
Newsarama talked to Tomasi and Manapul, finding out more about this week's Batman issue, what's coming up in Superman/Wonder Woman now that the couple's broken up, and how Manapul's story about Lex Luthor gives the villain the opportunity to be the hero he always thought he was.
Newsarama: Peter, let's start with this week's Justice League: Darkseid War - Batman. How did you find out about what Geoff was doing with Batman, putting him in Metron's Mobius Chair, and how did you start thinking about what he'd do with that chair and the knowledge it gave him?
Peter Tomasi: Yeah, my buddy Geoff was like, "Hey, you want to be a part of these Darkseid War one-shots?" And I was like, "of course!" Anytime I get a chance to work with him is always a lot of fun. And then he said, "Want to do Batman?" And I was like "Of course I want to do Batman." So it was pretty easy.
He really had a clear vision on what he wanted these to be, which was very character-oriented pieces to show the ramifications of what our heroes would be dealing with with these new powers. So I came up with the story and he loved it. And that was it.
And then I got to talk with Francis about a lot of stuff. That's the key part of this stuff — working with Geoff and Francis, and it doesn't feel like work. It just feels like a bunch of guys sitting around, talking through stories and throwing ideas out. It was a blast and a pleasure to be a part of this thing.
Nrama: Francis, I know you and Geoff are also friends, having worked together in the past. Was your process the same as what happened with Pete?
Francis Manapul: Yeah, to be honest, it was just Geoff and I catching up for some drinks. He was in Toronto. At the time, I think I told him I was going to pull the trigger and leave Detective Comics. We were discussing stories, and he was telling me about this story he wanted to do in Justice League with Mister Miracle. And he'd mentioned that Jason was going to take some personal time off.
And you know, the timing of this couldn't work out better. I love working with Geoff, and it just made sense.
There, it was just going to be the two issues of Justice League, and then it expanded into these one-shots. Geoff knows I also enjoy writing, and he gave me the opportunity to write the Superman and Lex one-shots as well.
With the art, I'm getting to do all the covers, and the interiors for Justice League and coloring them.
Nrama: So much work.
Manapul: It was a pretty big undertaking for me. I feel like I've been running around the track for a while on this.
Nrama: Are you an expert on each of these "god" versions of the Justice League?
Manapul: Visually, I am — Geoff and I discussed what was going on with each character, and I tried to make sure the visuals reflected where they were going with the character. And then I know a lot about where Superman and Lex are going. Each of the individual writers took the ball and ran, expanding on what Geoff had planned out.
Nrama: And that was the goal of the one-shots?
Manapul: Yeah, the whole point of the one-shots was to get a look at these characters individually. The Justice League story is a big, bombastic story, and sometimes you need these little side-projects to focus in on the characters and the way it's affected and changed them, both physically and emotionally. Each book is allowing the writers to do their thing. And that's exciting.
Nrama: Pete, let's talk about what the Batman issue explores. How would you describe what core part of Batman this chair is tapping into?
Tomasi: Yeah, the core aspect of it is protecting the innocent, protecting the 8-year-old Bruce Wayne, protecting the 38-year-old Bruce Wayne, and the men and women and boys and girls throughout Gotham. To him, it's about how many more people he can save, how many more people he can stop from coming up against being a victim of crime.
And he can certainly do that in a much bigger way then when he's on a regular night shift as Batman, so this is something he embraces in a big way. Being a human being on that god-like chair is messing with not just his physiology, but it's messing with him psychologically too. So it's a lot of fun to play with, to see what happens, when suddenly a regular guy becomes god-like.
Nrama: And that's what this issue is all about? This idea of being so obsessed with protecting people from being victims like his parents and his younger self were?
Tomasi: Yeah, the central theme of Justice League: Darkseid War - Batman is something very personal to him, and it allows him to explore major events of his life and the repercussions that has, obviously, on protecting the innocent and that core concept of Batman's mission.
Nrama: Francis, we saw Lex Luthor as this new god of Apokolips. What were your thoughts about the way he looked, and how does his new powers play into what you're doing with Justice League: Darkseid War — Lex Luthor?
Manapul: I think with him, visually, we're seeing the rock formation — he's already bald, so he can put on the Darkseid helmet very easily.
In the one-shot I'm writing, it's really focusing in on the fact that, here's an opportunity for Lex to have the kind of power that he's coveted for so long. You can put on as much machinery on your body as you can, but inside, he knows he's physically a human being.
Now, here he is with the powers of Darkseid. But he's also stuck on Apokolips. What's he going to do.
Suddenly he has all these people who believe he's the hero that was destined to save them. The lie and perception of who he think he is is ironically who Lex sees himself as. He sees himself as the greatest hero, rather than the greatest villain.
So here he is on Apokolips with the opportunity to perhaps embrace that role.
Of course, he's still Lex Luthor. He thinks about himself. Add in a bunch of people who will be relying on him now, and it's going to be a very interesting story.
Nrama: Pete, I know we're talking about the Justice League: Darkseid War — Batman issue, but this is the first time I've gotten to talk to you since Superman and Wonder Woman broke up. Can you talk about how their relationship is going to change in that book going forward? I assume it's going to be very different?
Tomasi: You are right. But that's about all I can say right now. Everybody saw that last issue where he said, "I don't know if I love you anymore." But there's a lot more coming up. So stay tuned and see what happens to our star-crossed lovers as the adventures of Superman and Wonder Woman continue.
Nrama: And they can't exactly get away from each other either. That's the bad thing about dating your co-worker.
Tomasi: That is true.
But in some ways they don't want to. They're teammates first. Their relationship came about second. So right now they're just looking at each other as people who want to help each other out when the going gets tough.
Nrama: Peter, we also just saw your first issue of Detective Comics. I know you're exploring a Justice League story with Jim Gordon, and then you've got a "Robin War" issue. Can you talk about the direction you're going to be taking in the book overall? Is that something that really kicks off in January?
Tomasi: Actually, I can't talk about it right now. There are a lot of moving parts right now. The first Detective Comics story is a two-parter. And then Robin War kicks in in the December issue. But I'm actually not going to be writing that now. I'm going to be moving ahead and getting on to the 2016 Detective Comics story.
Just trying to get up to speed and work on some new, cool stuff coming up.
Nrama: Is it still Jim Gordon starring in your book in January? Is that safe to assume?
Tomasi: Yeah, you can assume that right now.
Nrama: Then Francis and Peter, let's finish up by just talking about what's coming up in Darkseid War. What can readers expect in the books you're working on?
Tomasi: There are two big reveals in Darkseid War — Batman. I think people will be pleasantly surprised and shocked, and there's a lot of heavy drama.
And in regards to Detective Comics and Superman/Wonder Woman, there are a lot of big plans and real heavy character stuff coming everybody's way. I hope everybody enjoys it as we move forward. I just really appreciate the people who are reading the books.
Manapul: With Justice League: Darkseid War — Lex Luthor you'll him with his new powers, him adjusting to that. And of course he's going to be approaching it with the sort of bravado that's different from your typical hero.
And with Darkseid War — Superman, we get a look at how heroic Jimmy Olsen can be, and we get to watch Superman eat some pie.
Tomasi: Can't beat that.
Manapul: No, I mean, it's pie, right?
And I have some stuff lined up for the next few years, but I can't really say for the moment.