Scott Snyder’s Justice League run has already established all sorts of past continuity for the DC Universe, from Perpetua’s pre-existing predatory universe to the formation of the Source Wall itself.
But with Justice League #17, Snyder and artist Jim Cheung added another new wrinkle to the past of the DCU, this one more personal for two of its best known characters. Martian Manhunter and Lex Luthor knew each other as children, and their time together was all connected to Perpetua and the secret universe that existed before the DCU.
Justice League #16, co-written by Snyder and James Tynion IV, introduced this previous universe, explaining that Perpetua had an army of immortal creatures that were part Martian and part human.
Now another part of DCU history has been revealed that includes Lionel Luthor abducting a young Martian Manhunter, using his DNA to attempt the recreation of Perpetua’s creatures.
And as a boy, Lex Luthor became friends with the young captured J’onn J’onzz.
Why did Snyder add this story to the characters’ pasts? Why was Lionel (and now Luthor) so obsessed with creating Perpetua’s creatures? And what’s behind the revelations about Perpetua being the mother of the Monitor, the Anti-Monitor and the World-Forger? Newsarama talked to Snyder to find out more.
Newsarama: Scott, you’ve added a whole new story into the continuity of J’onn J’onzz and Lex Luthor in Justice League. According to this story, the two characters met when they were children. Where did the idea come from to add this meeting, and why?
Scott Snyder: It was something we talked about when we first planned Justice League. I wanted it to be this deep and intensive battle between two competing ideologies.
For me, Martian Manhunter represents, at his core, this idea of community, this idea of home and shared experience. His whole power set is that he’s telepathic and can link people. And that’s why we made him leader of the Justice League. He unites us to each other, but also to our greatest ideals.
Lex Luthor, on the other hand, is almost heroic, but he’s so deeply driven by ego that he can’t let himself be self-sacrificing in any way. It always has to be in service of Lex. Lex always has to get credit.
That sense of ego and sense of self is completely at odds to what Martian Manhunter is about. So we made Lex the leader of the Legion of Doom.
And the Legion of Doom is all about, not just evil, but selfishness. It’s a sense that life is short, so get yours; be somebody who wins at all costs, and make yourself important. It’s the opposite of what the Justice League is all about self-sacrifice and committing yourself to things that are larger than you.
So they’re almost like opposite energies.
We had this idea that not only would they be opposed as leaders, but they would have a shared history where they each saw the other in a very different light. It had to be this shared experience that nobody else knew about.
So it was planned from the start. There’s even hints of it when Martian Manhunter receives a kind of telepathic message from Vandal Savage as he’s dying.
Nrama: What you established wasn’t just this shared history. These two characters had a real bond in the past, didn’t they?
Snyder: Yeah. It was important to me to create a really deep bond between these two characters, without changing too much of their continuity. I think it works, because it keeps what’s there intact, but it adds, I hope, a new layer to both of them.
Nrama: Were both of their memories of this meeting taken from them? Is that the idea here?
Snyder: Yeah, they were both forced to forget. When Martian Manhunter came back, the Martian Keep, who is in charge of the collective Martian memory, decided this was too disruptive to the Martian experience. It was too close to the truths about Perpetua and the things that were supposed to stay buried. So they erased it from Martian Manhunter’s mind.
Similarly for Lex, the Legionnaire’s Club wiped these memories from both his father and from him.
Nrama: Yes, we found out more about this organization, and that they were pursued by the Blackhawks?
Snyder: Yeah, the organization that Kendra eventually runs, in the past, were always kind of chasing this Legionnaire’s Club that was secretly after the deep secrets of humanity’s origin and the secret first universe that happened before ours.
Nrama: So the “doorknob,” which we now know is a fragment of the Totality, was left by Lionel for Lex to find?
Snyder: Well, the idea is that Lionel knew that they were coming after him.
To back up a little bit, and I don’t know if this is confusing, but when the Totality fell to Earth, at the beginning of Justice League, it was moving so fast that it phased through time. And in phasing through time, it left pieces of itself in different eras.
Ultimately, Lionel found one of these pieces along with the Legionnaire’s Club, in the past. And it was leading him toward the other pieces of the Totality and toward these secrets.
Eventually, when he’s expelled from the Legionnaire’s Club, he takes a fragment of the piece that they found and carves it and leaves it for himself to find, or his son to find eventually, because he knows his memory’s going to be erased.
So he kind of hides it.
Nrama: But once Lionel’s memory was erased…
Snyder: Yeah, he never found it again. But Luthor is eventually able to see it. So when he finds it, he’s sort of picking up where his father left off, with this great quest, this path that Lionel started on.
And the path was about discovering that, in the universe that was originally created by Perpetua with her sons, the Monitor, the Anti-Monitor and World-Forger, it was started in an unnatural way with seven dark versions of the forces that are supposed to create universes.
In doing so, Perpetua created a universe where humans were at the center, but they were a different animal than we are now. They were a combination of Martians, Thanagarians, human DNA … but they were kind of a perfect predatory monster that would never die. They would live forever. They were kind of her pets that would help her conquer the beings that sentenced every universe to be ephemeral and to eventually die and be mortal.
When her sons turn her in for this, when they realize what she’s doing and the Monitor, Anti-Monitor and World-Forger turn her in, she’s imprisoned in the Source Wall with her soldiers and her minions, with some of those figures you see in the Wall.
When that happened, the universe was restarted and everything was split apart. And humans actually became one of the weakest creatures in the universe. We have no power. We live very short lives. We can’t fly. We have no telepathic abilities.
And so Luthor has felt this great loss more deeply than most characters and believes in his core that it’s time to restore who we are.
Both father and son discovered the true origins and purpose and destiny of humanity.
Nrama: The last issue also showed these monsters on Mars, called Quonars, who feed on regret. That seems very much like something you’d come up with, Scott. Monsters who feed on retreat.
Snyder: Yeah, I love those things. And that’s the same thing he became in issue #1.
Nrama: Martian Manhunter?
Snyder: Yeah, Martian Manhunter becomes one of those dragons when he blows up the moon in the first issue.
Nrama: I forgot about that! So that’s the shape he took? A Quonar?
Nrama: Interesting. OK, going back to these creatures that Perpetua made in the previous universe. You said just a minute ago that they were a combination of Martians, humans and … Thanagarians? I knew they were part Martian and part human, but has that last part been revealed about them also being Thanagarian?
Snyder: No, but we’re going to learn that soon.
The two biggest components in the biological mix of these original creatures that were called “humans” were human and Martian. But there are other things, like what became Thanagarian.
We really were the original beings, and she intended these “humans,” with our DNA being the predominant one, to be our great creation. They would live forever, be smart, powerful, you know, invulnerable…
They were going to be a new form of life.
Because it’s unnatural and kind of an abomination in the universal or multiversal rulebook of things, for her type of being, the beings that she’s one of, they punish her for this. It’s like creating something you’re not supposed to create.
So they come in and lock her away.
But it’s almost like if you take the most powerful beings in the DC Universe, different species, and you mix their DNA, with human being the absolute biggest component in that, that’s what we used to be.
Nrama: And this is what Lionel wanted to recreate. And Lex too?
Snyder: Yes, Lex is trying to get back to that. He wants humans to reclaim their throne as the most powerful living organism in the universe.