Will Payton, the Starman who just showed up in Justice League, will get a new origin for his debut in “Rebirth” continuity, but according to writer James Tynion IV, it will pull from his original history.
Newsarama readers may have been warned by regular Justice League writer Scott Snyder that Will Payton was coming back, but his connection to the current storyline (and the Totality at the center of it) will be revealed in Tynion’s Justice League #8.
Tynion has been working with Snyder on Justice League, writing every few issues for what the two call “Legion of Doom”-focused chapters. In the net issue, Justice League #8, the story will focus on Lex Luthor and his surprise guest from last issue, the Batman Who Laughs.
But Tynion will also give readers a glimpse of how Starman’s history — or rather, his slightly tweaked/retconned history — fits into current DC continuity.
Tynion is also setting up story beats that lead into the “Drowned Earth” event that sees a crossover between Justice League and Aquaman. Tynion will be writing the framing issues for that event.
The writer is also guiding the current Justice League Dark, which currently loosely ties together with both Justice League and the soon-to-launch Justice League Odyssey, although Tynion says they’re all building toward a “huge moment” in the future.
Newsarama talked to Tynion about Justice League #8, why he likes rewriting origin stories to fit current continuity, and what else readers can expect from his work within the Justice League franchise.
Newsarama: James, we talked to Scott a bit about the Batman Who Laughs. What can you tell us about his scenes in your Justice League #8 as he interacts with Lex Luthor?
James Tynion IV: The thing Scott and I have talked about and we want to make sure we get across is, the Batman Who Laughs is not the Joker. He is Batman. He is Bruce Wayne. He got on the Justice League. He did all the same things as we know about Batman.
But all the morality has been completely stripped away.
So one of the key things we tried to tap into is to remind the reader that this is still Bruce. This is the most horrifying nightmare of what Bruce could become. The core of Batman at the center of that, the idea that Batman has planned for everything and Batman always wins — those are still fully embedded in that character and I think that’s what makes him so scary and so fun to write.
Nrama: The other surprise at the end of issue #7 was Starman showing up, although we’d had some hints from Scott that he was part of the story. Does he play a role in Justice League #8?
Tynion: We’re going to see a bit more about how Will Payton, this Starman, ended up as part of this story. And we’ll see where he fits on the larger tapestry of DC continuity.
I went back to the original Roger Stern and Tom Lyle Starman #1 in 1988 to actually pull elements from Will Payton’s original origin and really rest them firmly in the continuity of what we’re doing, in terms of the hunt for the Totality over DC history.
So it’s a lot of fun. I love doing those types of, like, archaeological digs, in some way, through my old comics. In my first “Legion of Doom” issue, I did a lot of direct references to Silver Age Lex Author stories that eagle-eyed readers can pick out.
But being able to dig into the 1980’s DC for a little bit here was a lot of fun. Because of the sliding timeline, I think this is one of the first times that that has been treated as a distinct era, rather than something that’s just moved on the sliding timeline up with us.
I like weird continuity. I ask myself a lot of the same questions that the fans do, and I like coming up with really interesting answers to those questions.
Nrama: Just to clarify, because Will Payton has had a few different things happen to his continuity: Are you saying that you’re sort of incorporating his origin into the current DCU?
Tynion: Yes, that is a good way of putting it.
Nrama: I know you, and I know you like pulling from the original histories and origins of DC characters. We’ve talked about a couple other characters you’ve done that with.
Tynion: Yeah. Whenever I write a character at DC, I try to go back and read their first appearance, because there’s always something valuable in that first appearance. If you look at the original intent for the character, even if the character’s changed, there’s always something in that original kernel. There’s an energy in the creation of a character that’s always revealing in a really interesting way.
Frankly, the experience of sitting down to read the 1988 Starman #1, I immediately saw how it fit into the tapestry of the story we were telling in Justice League, which is the story of the DC Universe from the beginning of time to the end of time.
It was honestly a kind of a powerful moment where I saw, oh, this is how you can embrace any story in the DC canon.
Nrama: I know this issue you’re writing mainly deals with the Legion of Doom, though. I know Lex Luthor’s going to be talking to the Batman Who Laughs, and as we just discussed, we’re going to hear the revamped history of Starman. What other characters are playing a role in this issue?
Tynion: The other two characters who come to the forefront in this issue are Cheetah and Black Manta. We had a small beat in the first Justice League arc where we saw the two of them acquire a couple of artifacts.
Now we’re going to see them start to put those artifacts to use. These are the drum beats leading up to “Drowned Earth,” the big event that we’re going to be telling in Justice League starting in November.
That’s something I don’t want to spoil just yet, but I loved writing the back and forth between Cheetah and Manta. I think they’re just phenomenal characters. I have the amazing job of getting to write them.
Nrama: We’ve learned in past issues that this group, which appears to be connected to Lex Luthor’s father, put together the doorknob in the past from a piece of the Totality. Will we see any more hints about that in issue #8?
Tynion: Yes, we will see more hints about that history, particularly how it ties into how we’re bringing Starman into this issue.
That is still a mystery. But the layers of the onion are being pulled back. We’re not quite at the heart yet. We do get more pieces to the puzzle.
Nrama: Are you going to be continuing to work on Justice League this way going forward?
Tynion: Yeah, I’m going to be working on Justice League for a good, long while, telling the story from the Legion of Doom perspective.
It’s hard to talk about because I know what we’re building toward. It’s hard to say what we’re up to without hinting directly at what we’re building.
So I can say that we’re building to a huge moment. As we see the larger tapestry of everything we’re doing in the Justice League books, from Justice League to Justice League Dark to Justice League Odyssey — they are working in unison toward a bigger DC moment.
Working closely with Scott, there are key Legion of Doom moments in the course of that story that I’m very, very excited about writing. The last few weeks, we’ve been plotting out in much more detail what we’re doing through 2019, and it’s honestly the most excited I’ve been to work on a DC story ever.