Writer Joshua Williamson said the unusual team in Justice League Odyssey - which includes such unlikely teammates as Darkseid and Azrael - is formed specifically because of the way outer space is changing after the conclusion of Dark Nights: Metal.
Williamson, who spoke to Newsarama at WonderCon this weekend, will be writing the new Justice League Odyssey title as part of DC's launch of a "New Justice" line of books this summer. He'll be working with artist Stjepan Sejic on the new book.
The writer says that Metal causes the "whole fabric" of space to change, and that leads into May's No Justice event.
"You’ll start to see that even characters like Brainiac are coming to the Justice League and saying, 'I need your help with something,'" Williamson said.
When the Justice League realizes the magnitude of the changes in DC's magic and space, Williamson said, they assign individual teams to those areas. This leads to the formation of the magic-based team Justice League Dark (the new book launching by James Tynion IV and Alvaro Martinez) and Justice League Odyssey.
"Things are changing, things are getting crazy," Williamson said. "The Justice League sort of realizes that we need someone out there to help, to be the Justice League in space."
The Odyssey team is made up of Jessica Cruz, Starfire, Azrael, Cyborg and Darkseid.
"I’m really excited with these characters, and the dynamic with them," Williamson said. "I like writing Cyborg, Darkseid is really fun to write, Starfire’s really awesome, Jessica Cruz..."
"Azrael was the one I kind of threw in there," the writer continued. "I said, 'What about Azrael?' And they were like, 'Yes.' And I was like, cool, because I’ve always loved that character. So now I get to play with that character, we get to give him a cool new armor that’s kind of a mix of the Azrael and the Bat-Armor that’s gold and red. "
Of course, the most surprising character in the line-up is the unusual villain, Darkseid, although Williamson pointed out that this is a version of Darkseid that just grew up from baby form.
"It’s definitely adult Darkseid, but he hasn’t hit giant evil Darkseid yet," the writer explained. "He’s going through some changes. He was turned into a baby after the end of Darkseid War,, you saw him in Metal, he’s been in Wonder Woman recently, but at the end of all that, he’s going through some changes, so we’ll see all that.
"With the team, [Darkseid is] kind of the Hannibal Lecter of the team - he’s there to sort of help them," Williamson said. "They need his help, and he needs their help to deal with all these changes going on in space. So there’s this relationship between him and Cyborg, where Cyborg is sort of the Will Graham to his Hannibal. So they’re sort of working together to fix this."
Sejic, Williamson's collaborator on Justice League Odyssey, is coming off a run on Aquaman.
"He’s done a lot of creator-owned books that have been very popular," Williamson said. "He's great. He’s a genius, so I’m really excited to be working with him. You’ve seen the art - it’s a beautiful book."
Williamson said Justice League Odyssey gets its name from Cosmic Odyssey, the 1988 mini-series by Jim Starlin and Mike Mignola. The series was one of several stories Williamson talked about when discussing the new direction of the Justice League books with Tynion and Justice League writer Scott Snyder.
"We talked about JLA a lot, Grant Morrison’s JLA. That was a big one - that’s probably the one we talk about the most, that whole run," Williamson said. "But all of us know the Justice League really well. I think between the three of us, we got it on lockdown. Between the three of us, we’ve all read that stuff, and almost everything is included. There’s very little we leave untouched, we talk about all of it."
"With Justice League Odyssey, one book we talked about a lot is Cosmic Odyssey," Williamson said, echoing Snyder's mention of that book in his recent Newsarama interview. "That’s a book we all really loved, so we talked about that a lot when we were working on No Justice and Justice League Odyssey. That’s why it has that name."
Williamson said the "New Justice" banner will start being used on all the Justice League-associated books this summer will help readers find books that are linked. "It really helps us create a banner, so if you’re looking for these kinds of Justice League books, this is the kind of stuff we’re doing," he said.
"There’s a lot of stuff coming from that, and our three books aren’t the only books coming out of that," Williamson added. "There’s a lot stuff coming, some stuff that’s been hinted at, some that’s kind of obvious if you’re been paying attention. We have a lot of cool stuff coming that’s more than these three books - it’s more than just this Justice League run. We want to make sure we’re doing the kind of book that feels like a part of the DC Universe."
The link doesn't stop with just the name, though. Williamson, who also writes The Flash for DC, said the team on books that are linked to Justice League talk about and coordinate what's coming in their books as well.
"Scott and I talk about the Flash a lot now, so whenever he does something with the Flash in Justice League, he’s sure it’s connected to something I’m doing in The Flash," he said. "So that’s a big part of what 'New Justice' is."
During Newsarama's discussion with Williamson, the writer also explained how his collaboration with Snyder and Tynion came about, uniting them on first No Justice and then "New Justice."
"I’ve known Scott for a long time," Williamson said. "We’d go to summits together, hang out at conventions together, and Scott and James already have this really close friendship, so both of them just became my buddies. Scott always says we’re like brothers in arms at DC - we all love the DC Universe a lot, and we want to try to help as best as we can to kind of continue to elevate the DC Universe."
Eventually, that led to Tynion and Williamson tying their comic books into Metal last year.
"We want to keep that energy going," Williamson said. "We think Metal was successful, and we had a lot of fun with that, so we just wanted to keep that running.
"So now I talk to Scott almost everyday," Williamson explained. "James and I are chat buddies, I literally get up in my office every morning and am like, 'Good morning.' We start talking, we start working some stuff out, just passing some scripts back and forth, just talking about what we want to do, talking about the direction of the DC Universe, where we want to go. And then we go, we come up with all these crazy ideas, and then we just pitch them to DC and see what happens."
The collaboration works so seamlessly that the three are truly co-writing No Justice - "everybody’s working on everybody," as Williamson put it.
"There’s nothing there that wasn’t written by all of us, or something that we all didn’t touch," Williamson said. "We passed stuff around constantly, working around in circles with the scripts, and handing them to each other. It’s a really fluid system.
"Sometimes we’d just talk things through on the phone," he said. "One time, James and I were on the phone, and we were talking about a scene, and we were going back and forth on it, and he was like, 'Cool, I’ll just write this scene up,' and I was like, 'Dude, I wrote it while we were talking.' I typed it up and sent it to him, and he sent it to Scott, and he messed with it, and then Scott messed with it, and we just went in these little circles like that.
"They call it the Hive Mind," he said, "but it just works. So all of us, we just get to share and have fun."
That excitement has been extended to artist Francis Manapul on No Justice, Williamson said.
"The work he’s been doing on No Justice is crazy good, dude. Right now we’re showing some art, little by little," he said. "It looks amazing, but we haven’t even been able to show the best stuff. We can’t even show the best stuff until Metal comes out."