As Robert Venditti starts his run on Justice League, the writer is combining villains and characters from different team members to make the threats big enough to challenge the team - all meant to make them stronger for “what comes next.”
Venditti's run begins with next week’s Justice League #40, with Doug Mahnke and Aaron Lopresti rotating on the art for the first arc, which ends with #44. This debut arc will combine the threat of Superman villain Eradicator with an army of genetically-engineered Daxamites who want to take over the Earth.
Then in April's #45, Venditti will bring the Spectre into the book - combining his unique powers and challenges with elements of the Wonder Woman mythology to again create a threat large enough for the whole team.
Within these stories, Venditti will also be exploring the dynamics of the team and how they interact, showcasing the differences between the characters and how they overcome the challenges of working with other personalities.
Venditti, who’s known as the creator of Surrogates but won recent acclaim for his revamp of Hawkman's continuity, takes over the twice-monthly Justice League series after the departure of writer Scott Snyder.
Newsarama talked with the writer to find out more about his approach to Justice League.
Newsarama: Rob, the last time we talked, you said “team” was important to this series, and there’s already been a solicitation for a future issue that talks about the characters dealing with their “inner demons.” You have some pretty big threats, but how would you describe the overall approach you’re taking with this book?
Venditti: Yeah, the theme is team, which I guess rhymes. [Laughs]
But we’re looking at, what are the mechanics that come with that, and how do all these characters interact with each other? What happens when they don’t get along? What kind of feelings do they have buried deep?
What does one character feel about how Superman revealed his identity to the entire world but didn’t talk to that character first? You know?
This doesn’t make them bad people - they’re humans. What are there rivalries? What are their disagreements? In what ways do some characters group together and stand as a unit, and in other ways that unit fractures and becomes other units? You know? This is what teams are like.
Anybody who’s done anything from basketball, which I did, or drama or anything where you have a bunch of different personalities working together, all toward a common goal, even when everybody’s moving in the same direction, there still can be those disagreements among the group.
So what is that team like, and how do these disagreements test one another and make the team stronger as a whole as opposed to people who are always in lock-step? That theme idea of team will go across the stories.
Nrama: Your recent stories in Hawkman and Freedom Fighters have both dealt with a lot of history. Is your run delving into that at all on Justice League?
Venditti: No, I wouldn’t say as much. These stories are all very present.
I mean, Hawkman is a character who, by his nature, is a historical character, and specifically with the way we tried to address the mythology and unify the concepts. If you’re going after that, you’re reaching back by necessity to those concepts.
But what we’re doing in Justice League is very much in the here and now.
While it does pull from the mythology people might know from these characters’ history - like Eradicator or you know, the Spectre in the second story, and Themyscira and those kind of things - you are pushing them forward by combining them.
So if you’ve been reading comics forever, you know who Eradicator and the Daxamites are, but if you haven’t, you still know everything you need to know when you read these stories. And we’re taking those concepts forward into a sort of new direction.
It won’t be as much about the long histories of these characters as it will be about where they are now and where they’re going.
Nrama: Justice League will still be shipping twice-a-month. Any challenges there?
Venditti: I mean, there are always challenges with double-ship books, but it’s not anything new to me. I think - I don’t know if it’s true and I don’t even know how you would verify it -but I did all 51 issues of Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps all in a row, all on time with no break.
So it’s a lot about being organized, and you have to be doing multiple stories at once. Right now, there are four different artists, I think, drawing four different scripts.
But I tend to be an organized thinker by trade, so I actually quite liked working on Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps and doing double-ship books. In some ways, it’s easier to think about one thing twice-a-month than to think about two different things once a month, you know?
So I think it’s something I think I’m built for, in the way that I work, and also, I really like the idea of there always being new stories coming.
I try not to do seven-, eight-, nine-, 12-issue arcs of anything. I try to stick in the four, three, once in a while five range at the most. So a double-ship book, that means, at the worst, every two months, it’s a brand new story.
So you kind of get to pack more story in in a shorter amount of time, which I also like, because now you’re always having status quo changes and jumping-on points for readers and all that kind of stuff.
Nrama: As #40 is about to ship, can you tell us anything more about how the Eradicator puts together this “new brand of conquerors” who come from the Daxamites?
Venditti: The Eradicator is a character that we know from Superman’s mythology who had this machine-driven impulse to safeguard and protect the legacy of Krypton. With the planet destroyed, there’s obviously very limited ways in which Eradicator can do that. It’s tried doing it through Clark, and that hasn’t succeeded.
So what it has discovered, and if you’ve been paying attention and you read my Green Lantern stuff, it’s actually something that we seeded, but Eradicator discovered the Daxamites. He now knows there’s this legacy of Krypton that exists in some form, somewhere out in the universe.
But the Daxamites are isolated on their own planet. They’re very xenophobic. They don’t like to leave their planet. They don’t want anybody to come to their planet. And they’re very terrified of the outside universe.
Eradicator goes there and genetically engineers a new breed of Daxamite that would be able to thrive off their world, and actually come to Earth and be under our yellow sun. And now Daxamite culture would never have to exist from a place of fear where they’re hiding on this planet - they would now be on Earth beneath a yellow sun.
And from here, they would actually be able to be the most powerful entities in the universe, and they wouldn’t have to be in fear ever again.
So in some ways, it’s a story about xenophobia, but it also taps into the mythology of Superman and also the mythology of Green Lantern through the Daxamites. And it takes both of those mythologies and combines them into a new threat that is larger than they were separately.
It now creates a scenario so big and so pressing that it requires the involvement of the entire Justice League to combat it.
Nrama: We’ve seen solicitations for April — #44 takes place in Antarctica, and as you mentioned, #45 features the Spectre. Can you talk about those upcoming stories, particularly why you chose the Spectre as a guest character this early in your run?
Venditti: Yeah, it’s the idea of combining mythologies into something that’s grander than the separate pieces.
So what we’re going to have in the next storyline is pulling on the threads of some things that are elements of Wonder Woman’s mythology, and combining them with the mythology of the Spectre into something that’s even larger and more pressing so it requires the involvement of the whole group.
The Spectre, to me, is a character that’s always been very compelling, but also a challenge to deal with, because the power level of the Spectre is so huge. You know?
So I really wanted to look at the Spectre and Corrigan as well, and what it would mean to be Corrigan and have to carry the weight of the Spectre.
And what would the world be like if the Spectre wasn’t around? What would the threat be posed there? And the way that it connects to Wonder Woman’s mythology through the pit of Tartarus and some of the Greek mythological monsters and Themyscira and things like that.
Those are all things we’ll bring into the story, while at the same time, through this conflict, the team will be forced to confront and make loud these rivalries and grievances they have between each other after having been a team for as long as they have, and coming from such different backgrounds. These things will be brought to the surface.
So they will have to deal with those issues and resolve them so they can leave the story as an even stronger team for what comes next.
Nrama: We’re looking at some of the artwork from your first issue, featuring art by Doug Mahnke. How’s it been working with Doug on this storyline?
Venditti: Yeah, Doug is just amazing. His career and what he’s done with these characters individually ….
You know, if you think about where I came in at DC - I had done a handful of issues, and then I took Green Lantern over from Geoff [Johns] and Doug. So now, to be doing a Justice League book with John Stewart in it, and Doug is drawing it - that’s just amazing.
You can’t see me right now, but I’m totally smiling, thinking about where your career can take you.
And not just Green Lantern, you know. His ties to the Superman mythology and all these characters he’s drawn - he brings such power and such strength to these characters. They’re impressive. They look like tentpole characters when they’re on the page, and that’s certainly what we’re going for with the story, right? Threats that are so large that not even Superman and Wonder Woman or Batman or even those three together can deal with it. It takes the biggest heroes in all of comics to deal with this threat.
And Doug is beyond just being an amazing guy to work with. He’s such a great storyteller, and his rendering of these characters really communicates that power and that need and that scale and that scope that you want from a series like Justice League.