October will bring about some big changes for the DC Comics lineup, among them a brand new title for “Justice League Dark” writer J.M. DeMatteis, who will pen the upcoming monthly series “Trinity Of Sin,” and a new focus on the members of “Justice League Dark.”
DeMatteis originally followed writer Ray Fawkes on “Justice League Dark” last November, helming the title through the “Forever Evil: Blight” storyline while simultaneously tackling one third of the Trinity of Sin in “Phantom Stranger.” Now DeMatteis and artist Yvel Guichet will pick up the other two immortal wanderers in “Trinity Of Sin,” collaborating on the adventures of magically condemned sinners Pandora, Phantom Stranger and the Question. The writer will also remain on “Justice League Dark” with artist Andres Guinaldo, with the next arc focusing on Deadman and his September “Futures End” one-shot on Zatanna.
DeMatteis spoke with CBR News about his newly announced title, his focus on Deadman and Zatanna for “Justice League Dark” and “Futures End” and the other characters — both new and old — he plans to bring into his titles.
CBR News: After the events of “Blight” you really shook up “Justice League Dark” — transferring leadership to Zatanna, cutting loose some members and literally transforming others. As writer, what are your goals for the group and the book as we now move into the fall?
J.M. DeMatteis: Crossovers can be quite a burden to bear, but I have to say I enjoyed “Blight” more than any crossover I’ve ever worked on thanks in no small part to the pleasure of collaborating with Ray Fawkes.Â We really tried to make the story matter — for the DCU and for the individual characters. Still, when you’re doing a massive, eighteen-part story, individuals can get lost in the shuffle.Â I felt we really needed to take a breath, slow things down and focus even more intensely on the characters.
Since “Blight” ended, Zatanna has stepped squarely into the spotlight:Â we’re redefining her place on the team and her relationship with Constantine.Â We recently spent two issues delving deeper into the psychology and mythology of Nightmare Nurse and this summer we’re putting the focus squarely on Deadman.
Come the fall we jump ahead five years for “Futures End” — big changes there, especially for Zatanna — and then we’re really amping things up again with the “JLD Annual,” which comes out in October. That will lead in to a six-issue storyline that will shake things up yet again.Â We’ll also be bringing back a few characters we haven’t spotlighted for a while, so the ranks of the team will be significantly expanded.Â That said, we’ll be doing it in a way that will allow us to keep focus on the individual characters.
Let’s talk about the team dynamic. Despite “leaving,” John Constantine was pretty quickly sucked back into the Nightmare Nurse magical drama. Can John really give up his ties to Justice League Dark? Or is he somewhat doomed to keep returning and clashing with Zatanna?
John and Zee have been locked in an emotional loop for a while nowÂ — for all their differences, there’s an underlying love that keeps pulling them back together — but the story in the “JLD Annual” will see their relationship undergo a massive shift and it will also change John’s relationship to the team.
You’ve mentioned that you plan on bringing in some fan-favorite characters in the near future (such as a certain vampire, and a certain Demon in the September issue). How do you choose which characters to use in “Justice League Dark?” To your mind, what makes a good JLD member?
Some of it just comes down to my personal favorites. I love the supernatural corners of the DCU; there are so many incredible characters to choose from and I pick ones that excite me. The trick, of course, is making sure that these characters fit in and enhance the team dynamic.
During “Blight,” Swamp Thing — one of my all-time favorites — joined the JLD and the Demon — another of my all-time favorites — will be appearing in our “Futures End” issue in, I think, a very surprising way.Â In the fall we’ll see the return of Frankenstein, Black Orchid (two characters who have worked well as team members in the past (I felt their presence was missed) and Andrew Bennett.Â Bennett’s a special case; I created the character [in “I… Vampire”] when I first started in the business and I’m really looking forward to writing him again.
One of the great joys of “JLD” is that I can explore every dark corner of the DCU that intrigues me and I have access to some of the greatest supernatural characters in any comic book universe. It doesn’t get much better than that.
You mentioned being excited to bring Andrew Bennett onboard as he was a character you originally created. As the creator, have you read any of Joshua Fialkov’s New 52 “I, Vampire” series, and what are your thoughts on the current New 52 Andrew?
I read a little bit of Josh’s series and thought he did a wonderful job — not surprising, because he’s a very talented guy. In the end, I’m just delighted that Bennett is still around after all these years, instead of consigned to the dust heap of comic book history!
Looking at the story, what can you say about this next chapter, and what interested you in focusing on Deadman?
The Deadman story explores Boston Brand’s past as well as his connection to Nanda Parbat. It also introduces a new villain called Pantheon. Why Deadman? Despite being a ghost, Boston Brand is the most down-to-earth member of the JLD. He strikes a wonderful contrast with the others. In some ways, he’s our stand-in, the regular guy running around with swamp gods, demons and sorcerers and trying to make sense of it all. I can’t understate his value to the team.
Looking even further ahead, will the current arc tie into the “Justice League Dark: Futures End” one-shot at all? What can you say about that story, or Zatanna’s involvement?
The current arc doesn’t tie in to “Futures End” –Â that issue is a stand-alone — a destination that, over time, we’ll be heading for (take my word for it: it’s not a very pleasant destination).Â I don’t want to give away too much — otherwise where’s the fun? — but I will say that the team for “Futures End” consists of a drastically-changed Zatanna, the Demon, Nightmare Nurse, Black Orchid and Cassandra Craft, a character I recently reintroduced in “Phantom Stranger.”Â But Craft, like Zatanna, has been vastly altered by events leading up to the “Futures End” story.
You’re working with artist Andres Guinaldo on the main series and the “Futures End” one-shot. To your mind, what does he bring to the table in terms of drawing the cast, the House of Mystery and the magical mayhem visited upon the characters?
Drawing a team book is a tricky thing:Â the stories tend to be big, often cosmic in scope — so that requires a strong visual imagination –but the human elements, the interactions between characters, are essential.Â You’ve got to be able to balance those elements — which Andres does.Â He manages to go impressively big whenever we need it, but he doesn’t lose sight of the characters.Â He’s a very talented artist and I’m happy to have him along for the ride.
Switching gears for a second, you’re also the writer on the recently announced “Trinity Of Sin” series. How does this series differ from what you’ve been doing in “Phantom Stranger” or “Justice League Dark?”
The Stranger’s book was, for all the cosmic adventures, a very intimate story as we followed one man on his journey to redemption. JLD is a team that — whatever their differences — want to be together, want to do good.Â They’re a family:Â a highly dysfunctional, but a family nonetheless.Â With “Trinity Of Sin” we have three individuals forced by circumstance to work together:Â they’re not a team and don’t want to be.Â They’re also, in the view of many, three of the most powerful, and dangerous, beings in the universe.Â Sinners of the highest order.
My hope for “Trinity Of Sin” is that we’ll be able to combine the psychological intimacy of the Stranger’s book with the larger dynamics of JLD, but forging a unique identity based on the uniqueness of these three characters.Â The Question, of course, has the most untapped potential here, since he’s hasn’t had his own series.Â It’s a great challenge, and a lot of fun, writing a character that’s as much a mystery to himself as he is to the readers.
While you’ve written Phantom Stranger (and the Question a little), how do you tackle writing the full Trinity? How would you sum up their relationship to one another?
During the course of the “Blight” storyline, Pandora and the Stranger made a kind of peace.Â They worked together toward a common goal and both evolved as characters.Â As we start the new series, they’re on friendlier terms than ever — but once the story really kicks in, they start to butt heads again.Â Something happens that sends the Stranger over the edge and Pandora — who has really embraced her role as an agent of Light — has to try to reign Phantom Stranger in.Â Not an easy thing to do.
As for the Question:Â he despises Pandora and the Question, essentially holding them responsible for his predicament.Â His past is a blank to him, yet he’s certain (or at least he pretends to be certain, as an act of psychological self-preservation) that he’s not like them; that they’re the true sinners and he’s an innocent man who’s been railroaded by the Council.Â He’s confused, he’s angry, he’s incredibly powerful — and incredibly dangerous.Â The real wild card in the group.
In the end these are three people who shouldn’t be on a team together — who, to say the least, don’t play well with others — and, as we’ll see early on, that’s going to impact their ability to function as a force for good. In fact they’re going to fail. Spectacularly. And then learn from that failure, if they can.
Looking at “Trinity of Sin,” all three characters have been connected to big DC events: “Trinity War,” “Forever Evil,” and “Flashpoint” (in Pandora’s case). Will those big events and things like the merging of the timelines that created the New 52 impact your title? Will your book continue to set up events or large pieces of the New 52 DCU?
I really don’t think that way. My primary goal is to tell the best stories I can, to explore and expand the characters against the backdrop of interesting events. If anything we do has a lasting impact on the DCU, all the better.Â (In our first arc, we pretty much wipe out the entire universe, so we’re not thinking small!)
In that light, what can you say about that first arc, and the tone you’re aiming for with the book?
The first arc introduces Nimraa, the lone survivor of an antediluvian Dark Age who intends to literally bleed the sin out of the Trinity and use it to unleash an enchantment that will transform the world.Â Because of their vast differences and the ancient animosities between them, the Trinity’s attempts to stop Nimraa fail. The enchantment works, the Dark Age rises again — and things only get worse from there!
As for the tone, I guess you could say eerie, unsettling character-based Dark Fantasy.
You have a couple of different collaborations coming up this fall — Yvel Guichet working on the art for “Trinity” and you’re writing the dialogue for the “Phantom Stranger: Futures End” comic with Dan DiDio.
Yvel and I are just getting started but, based on what I’ve seen so far, he’s a great fit for this book. He can do character and emotion, go big and cosmic, get twisted and weird. And, most important, he knows how to tell a visual story with flow and clarity. I’m looking forward to the evolution of our collaboration.
I had a blast collaborating with Dan on “Phantom Stranger” — he created the wonderful mythology of the character and gave me the opportunity to play in that sandbox — and I think it’s very fitting that the guy who kicked the series off gets to end it. And I’m delighted, once again, to be along for the ride.
To end, is there anything you think it’s imperative readers keep an eye out for as we move into the September “Justice League Dark: Futures End” event and beyond?
All I can say is that I’m having a great time.Â The supernatural corners of the DCU are rich with potential and possibility. These are stories that, by their very nature, allow us to explore the individual characters in the most intimate ways and, at the same time, probe the bigger philosophical questions of our lives:Â God, death, sin, redemption — there’s really no limit.Â The inner landscape becomes the outer universe. The personal becomes the cosmic.Â What a playground!Â
“Justice League Dark” #33 is on sale now; “Justice League Dark: Futures End” is out September 24; “Trinity Of Sin” #1 debuts October 15; “Justice League Dark Annual” #2 goes on sale October 29.