Spoilers ahead for Justice League #11.
In this week’s Justice League #11, the latest chapter in DC’s “Drowned Earth” event, Aquaman walked a space-plank, Wonder Woman used a cosmic super-bird to sail the Blood Reef, and superheroes searched the tomb of an ancient sea god for the Tear of Extinction.
If that all sounds crazy … well, even Justice League writer Scott Snyder admits that it is.
Working with artist Francis Manapul on the Justice League issues of “Drowned Earth,” Snyder has inserted the “Drowned Earth” event into a bigger story arc where Lex Luthor and his Legion of Doom are trying to thwart the Justice League.
With this latest chapter’s secrets revealed, Newsarama talked to Snyder to find out more about the events of Justice League #11 and what’s coming next in both the “Drowned Earth” event and the ongoing series.
Newsarama: Scott, even though Aquaman seems to have died in this week’s issue, it’s kind of obvious that he’s going to live because he’s got his own series with a new creative team coming up. So is this a situation where he has to hit rock bottom in your story so that you can explore a new side of him?
Scott Snyder: Yeah, you know, I just think he’s a character that has been done so well by so many people in the past, but I think a lot of it has been focused on Atlantis and Atlantis’ relationship to the surface and the politics of Atlantis and all those things, which are fascinating and great, but I think each of us is trying to kind of look at the character from a different angle while still staying true to his core.
When we were all talking - Kelly Sue DeConnick, Dan Abnett, and I as wel - we realized there’s a lot that’s been left unexplored, about Atlantis itself and its ancient past, but also about aspects of Arthur’s powers, aspects of his destiny, the reach of oceanic mythology beyond Earth. So there’s a lot of stuff we wanted to explore in different ways in our series.
For me, being on Batman for so long, you learn... you build him up and you tear him down, worse than he was. You build him up and you tear him down because it gives you a chance to really explore the character under extreme stress in different ways and see what makes them great.
I know that what Kelly Sue is going to do is very special and daring for the character as well.
Nrama: At the very end of Justice League #11 also features the Legion of Doom coming to the forefront of the story again. And it reminds us that Lex Luthor is actually the mastermind behind “Drowned Earth.” How did he know about all these different elements and forces and space characters and magic-like artifacts? Did he learn about all this from the doorknob?
Snyder: He did. Actually, issue #18 - and I know this seems forever from now - but issue #18 is a “Legion of Doom” issue all about the doorknob.
Doesn’t that sound like the most exciting issue you’ve ever read in your life?
Nrama: A comic book about a doorknob.
Snyder: It’s literally about a doorknob.
But it is an amazing issue. James wrote it. And it’s a history of this doorknob and what Lex has learned, piece by piece by piece. And you learn his connection to it, his father’s connection to it - all of it.
So you’re going to learn that in #18.
In #17, Martian Manhunter and Lex Luthor face off on Mars - secretly, because nobody knows they go there. But they go there to see if they have any way of bridging the gap between them because the events of Justice League Annual, which comes out in January, which we just finished, sort of ends our first half, where something catastrophic happens when they try to fix the source wall. And it brings back all the pieces of Justice League: No Justice, it brings back the Omega Titans, it brings back some other characters I think people will be excited to see.
And then because of what happens there, and the kind of catastrophe that happens there, they meet secretly on Mars to try to see if there’s any hope of bridging the gap between them.
It’s kind of like a Western.
You also get all the secrets of what Martian Manhunter learned from the Martian Keep and the history of Mars and his role in it.
And then in #18, you learn Lex’s history and what happened with the doorknob.
Nrama: I seems like you’ve really got it mapped out, issue by issue, and even the return of things you introduced months ago.
Snyder: I’ve never written like this before. It’s really fascinating and exciting. And if I could impart one thing to fans, it’s that we actually do have a plan. I’ve never built something that had a plan for three to four years.
I’ve built something that was a story that was long enough that it would take a year. And I built something while I was working on that story where I’m like, I’m going to do this in a couple years. Like Metal, I started building early, so I knew it was coming.
But I haven’t built one story with multiple arcs that happen over two to three years. That’s been incredibly exciting and new.
I try to keep each arc feeling like you can jump on, and you can read it without reading the uber-story and it can stand on its own. But I just want to keep hitting that note for people that sort of rings that it is one big story.
Even though there are arcs and you can pick it up and put it down arc to arc, something is building that will happen at the end summer into fall that will unite a lot of the Justice League books and other books into something special.
Nrama: So did the doorknob light up with the Tear of Extinction or the stuff that happened with Aquaman’s Life Force?
Snyder: It did! Yeah.
As of this, right now, they’ve discovered four forces - well, by the time this arc is over.
So this is a little spoiler-y.
But at the end of this arc, Luthor has unlocked the forces that correlate to Flash, John Stewart, Aquaman and Wonder Woman, essentially.
- The Speed Force,
- The Invisible Emotional Spectrum,
- The Life Force,
- And the Force of Divinity and Faith.
Each of those things has a dark underbelly, a kind of force that drives them toward entropy in a way.
Luthor, by the end of “Drowned Earth”, has four of those out of the seven he needs.
So we’re only halfway done and he’s more than halfway done. So they’re winning.
Nrama: Let’s get back to Justice League #11. I’m surprised how natural that bird feels that Wonder Woman picked up on the Blood Reef.
Snyder: Asteria. Yeah.
Nrama: I’m like, hell yes she’s got a cosmic mythological creature-bird. Of course she does.
Snyder: Right? When Francis draws them in the finale coming up, the whole Justice League together, and Superman has the patch that Batman has built for him and his suit that helps him heal faster, and Superman’s wearing - I don’t know why Francis drew him in this, but it’s amazing - he drew him in a leather jacket that he picks up on a ship. So he’s got a patch and a jacket.
Wonder Woman has this space-bird-parrot on her shoulder.
Flash is turning into a fish.
And Batman is in, like, a full body-cast thing still.
They just look so awesome. I can’t even wrap my head around it. And Aquaman there with his tattoos and his marks. And Mera…
It’s like pirate space alien Justice League.
When I saw it, I was like, I don’t care if anyone likes this. This is my favorite thing.
Nrama: That’s at the end of “Drowned Earth?” But Francis drew it? Is it in the special?
Snyder: Yeah, it’s in the last issue.
Basically, the way it goes is Justice League #10 is part one - and I know the special was listed as part one and Justice League #10 was listed as a prelude, but I’m trying to be pretty honest about it.
So part one is Justice League #10, which came out two weeks ago. Part two was the Drowned Earth special which just came out last week. Part three is Justice League #11. Part four is Justice League #12. And then part five is another special that’s 38 pages long with Howard Porter and Francis Manapul splitting it.
And that’s December.
Nrama: OK, so the special has artwork by Francis - the scene you described.
Snyder: Yeah, that’s the issue with the Justice League riding a space sailboat up together toward the space krakens, all pirated out.
So it’s sort of like, take it or leave it, but I’m having the time of my life. Because the stories are about things that matter to me.
Nrama: Things that matter to you? Are you talking about the themes you’re exploring and the journeys they’re on?
Snyder: Yeah, the reason I feel comfortable going so crazy with it is that it has a really centered emotional heart. What Aquaman and Mera and Black Manta are fighting over is all the same thing. Aquaman learns that his powers, Arion - I can’t spoil some of the twisty turns about the past, but … - what he kind of learns spiritually in the arc is that, regardless of the circumstances and how scary things are and how the oceans are seeming to become villainous to him, his role is to sail them to reach other civilizations, reach other people and connect people.
And even when it seems like there’s no hope and he should use his powers viciously, like he should use them to close things off, like the Tear of Extinction, he has to remain true to who he is, even if that means going down with the ship.
That lesson, to me, is relevant. I think it’s incredibly - it’s something I find really poignant personally, in the day-to-day nowadays when everyone is so divided and everything is so divisive and everyone’s entrenched in their positions.
It’s a story that speaks about the greatness of Aquaman in the abstract and the pure comic book way on the one hand, which just props him up and says this is what makes him so awesome. But it also has relevance in terms of the things that keep me up at night. You know? And worry me. About the way that we’ve become, the way of the future - all of that.
I’m trying to show that he’s a hero that can inspire the best in us. And he sees the best in us even when we don’t deserve it.
That, to me, allows for Jarro and, you know, space krakens, and Batman in a crazy body suit fighting at the center of the Earth against Cheetah and all the fun stuff that’s coming. You can get that if you have the heart.
I know it has it. I hope I’ve executed it well. I’m really proud of it. But you know, I’ve already written and put to bed the last issue, so… you know, it’s done. And I’m really excited.