In a new arc, which kicks off next month, Fawkes, Lemire and artist Mikel Janin are introducing Doctor Destiny to the New 52 and DC Comics has teased, via solicitations, that the sinister supervillain will reveal to John Constantine, Frankenstein and the rest of the team how each of them will die.
That’s bad timing for the two heavyweights who are joining the roster specifically to deal with Doctor Destiny — the Justice League Dark’s worst nightmare come-to-life.
With the expected (Swamp Thing) and unexpected (The Flash) guest stars joining the team in time for “Justice League Dark” #19, on sale April 24, CBR News connected with Fawkes, who shared details about the demons, personal and otherwise, the team must face in the coming arc, as well as what he loves most about Swamp Thing and what Constantine hates most about The Flash.
CBR News: You are starting a new arc, which is always an excellent time to grow readership, but you are also introducing a new cast member, at least for now. As a self-professed fan of Swamp Thing, was this your ask/demand, in adding him to the team, Jeff Lemire’s, or did the opportunity simply present itself?
Ray Fawkes: My memory is going to be hazy on this because a lot of our meetings fly pretty fast and furious but I think this was actually a synergy thing. The story came up, this thing was happening and me and Jeff both looked up and said, “You know who would be perfect for this? Swamp Thing.” So I think it was a mutual ask. I don’t think one of us fired that out first.
We usually throw out names of characters that we’d like to use but not in this case. I know that Jeff was the one who suggested The Flash, which was a brilliant idea.
But Swamp Thing was more of a mutual thing. It was like, “Swamp Thing. Yeah.” There was no discord on that one.
I want to ask you more about Swamp Thing and The Flash but what is this thing that’s happening in this arc?
This thing is a challenge of nightmarish proportions that presents itself to the Justice League Dark. And it’s a situation where having access to the Green would really, really help. And for those unfamiliar, the Green is the collective lifeforce of all vegetation on Earth and has a sort of semi-consciousness of which the Swamp Thing embodies and can access.
Looking at the problem that the Justice League Dark has presented to them, which I don’t want to give away, but it’s epically large and horrible. John Constantine is the one who says, “You know who would be perfect for this is Swamp Thing. We need Swamp Thing.” Get the specialist on the Green in here. Stat.
I like how you mentioned bringing in a specialist because I think inherently, the Justice League Dark shouldn’t work as a team. There are a lot of individuals; you could almost call them loners, who traditionally work better solo. Does the very makeup of a team of non-team players drive a series like “Justice League Dark”?
That’s what it’s all about, man. A lot of the problems that they face and the situations that encounter demand a very specialized understanding of very specific things. The perfect person at this point and time is Deadman. Or the perfect person at this point and time is Frankenstein. Or Xanadu. Or Zatanna. Or Swamp Thing. Or The Flash.
These characters may not all get along but there is an understanding that they need each other because magic is such a chaotic and bizarre and shifting sort of energy within the DC Universe that it does need certain people’s outlook and certain other people’s approaches to address the problems that it presents.
Through solicitations, DC Comics has teased that the members of Justice League Dark will learn how each of them dies in this arc. I can see that being problematic for you or me, or most superheroes for that matter. I would imagine, for this magic-based team, this information will come with its own positives and negatives. Except for Deadman, who I’m guessing already knows how he dies.
Definitely. I think when someone like Constantine finds out he is going to die, right at that very moment he’ll start trying to figure out how he can sidestep it or make it work to his advantage. Or make it happen in a way that he would prefer. Other characters would acknowledge that information exactly the way the rest of us would, which is some of them would be horrified and some of them would be relieved. It all depends on what they see too. But because these are magical characters, and some of them are very powerful magical characters, it gives us the opportunity to have a look at what their reactions are going to be like, which is nothing like a normal person’s — most of the time.
The one delivering all of this gloom and doom is Doctor Destiny, a classic supervillain that I love who was created in the 1960s by Gardner Fox and Mike Sekowsky. Obviously when you are reintroducing, and at times reimagining, these long-standing DCU heroes and villains you pay tribute and respect what’s come before you. When it’s a legend like Gardner Fox or Mike Sekowsky is that sense of reverence elevated?
Man, personally, I feel nothing but respect for all those original creations. A lot of those creations have a lot to do with why I was so excited about comic books when I was younger. These are fantastic pieces of work. That said, I think the best way to respect these guys is not to churn out a half-assed or hand-tied version of the character because we loved the original one so much but I think the best way to respect them is to be just as creative as they were and raise just as many eyebrows as they did.
What we don’t want is people looking at this character and saying, “Oh yeah. He used to be pretty cool.” We want people looking at these characters and saying, “My god. I cannot believe this guy. My mind is blown. I can’t wait to see what he does next.” That’s what I used to do when I read books by Gardner Fox and his contemporaries. And that’s what we want people to do now.
How is your Doctor Destiny going to raise eyebrows?
He is really, really, really, really horrible. [Laughs] He is this semi-prophetic, dark messiah who honestly believes that he has his own god-like destiny and right to power. Like I said before, he is quite literally the Justice League Dark’s worst nightmare come-to-life.
Off the top, we talked about the introduction of Swamp Thing to your series? What is it that you love about him as a character?
What I love about the Swamp Thing is that he is this guy that is connected to this vast, essentially divine, power. It’s also an alien power. It isn’t human at all. And yet at his heart and his core, he is one of the most humane and emotionally-pure characters, I think, in the entire DC Universe.
To me, he’s amazing. The source of his power — his entire perception — is colored by this intelligence that’s inhuman and these needs that are inhuman, and yet he has this really sympathetic, personal internal monologue that I have just always loved.
Awesome. One final question, you and Jeff add one of the brightest and upbeat superheroes — by way of The Flash — to the dark side of the DCU for this arc, as well. Quite honestly, not sure there is a more polar opposite, in terms of a character, that goes about his business differently than John Constantine. All part of the master plan, correct?
Exactly. For him, it’s like coming to an alien world. These are characters, that on first glance, are monsters or at least, they come across as monsters and even, somewhat, sort of semi-villains. It’s going to be something that he has to wrap his head around that they’re allies.
For them, being with Flash, it depends on their personalities. To be perfectly honest, some members of the Justice League Dark feel a little bit of hero worship. The Flash is one of the big, bright good guys. He’s a big name in the DCU. There are other members of the Justice League Dark that I don’t need to hint too strongly about — and obviously Constantine is one that I am talking about — who feel almost contempt for a hero with such a bright and cheery outlook. They would almost think of The Flash as naive.
It’s really, really fun crashing them together and making them face a situation where they need each other and perhaps, both sides of the spectrum can learn a little bit from each other.
“Justice League Dark” #19 by Ray Fawkes and Jeff Lemire and featuring art by Mikel Janin is available April 24.