Judd Winick (“Batman”) can bring the funny. His earliest published works included a series of cartoons for the “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to…” series of books and his created-owned, critically-acclaimed “The Adventures of Barry Ween, Boy Genius” for Image Comics, which was later re-published as a collected work by Oni Press.
So the fact he’s co-writing DC Comics’ “Justice League: Generation Lost” with the master of the bwa-ha-ha, Keith Giffen (“Magog” and “Doom Patrol”) should come to no surprise. The dynamic duo will be writing the Justice League International iteration of the team – which Giffen invigorated in the eighties and nineties with his partners in crime, J.M. DeMatteis and Kevin Maguire – for the 26-issue series that kick off on May 12.
And if the grind of a bi-weekly series isn’t keeping Winick busy enough, not only did he write the upcoming six-issue miniseries “Red Hood: Lost Days” for DC Comics and the “Batman: Under the Red Hood” animated film for Warner Bros., but just this past week, he was announced as the new regular writer of the “Power Girl” ongoing series.
Writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray (“Jonah Hex”) decided to leave “Power Girl” a year after the title’s debut when artist Amanda Conner completed her initial 12-issue commitment to the project and decided not to continue. Power Girl, the Earth-Two counterpart of Supergirl and the first cousin of Kal-L, the Superman of pre-Crisis Earth-Two, was originally introduced as a member of Justice Society of America in “All Star Comics” #58 in 1976, later joining Justice League International in #24.
CBR News spoke with Winick about “Generation Lost” and “Power Girl” and he revealed that not only does the bi-weekly series tie into the monthly adventures of Kara Zor-L, but working on the former has made Fire and Ice two of his favorite characters in the entire DCU.
CBR News: Were you a fan of “Justice League International” during its original run in the eighties and nineties?
Judd Winick: Yes, totally. When the book came out it was the era of “Dark Knight Returns,” so this was a very interesting twist side to that. Essentially, because it played for laughs a lot. So yeah, I really, really dug it.
I talked about this with Keith [Giffen], and, with deference to everybody, and please, take this with a grain of salt, when people talk about the Justice League, the only one that really sticks in their mind is the one with the Big Guys – Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Flash and maybe Martian Manhunter and Aquaman are thrown in there. Those are the big ones when people are talking about the Justice League of America. But the other one that really, really sticks out for there for readers, and they always come back to, is JLI, for whatever reason. And I don’t think it’s just purely longevity because of the number of issues that came out under that mantle. I think there was a lot of character with those characters. That run really breathed a whole lot of life into those guys, and I think that’s why they stuck. So again, when people think about the Justice League of America, they think about the gods that walked as men – you know, the Trinity-plus, and then you get the JLI in there. And I agree, because it was always stuck with me too.
I’m just so happy that when we started talking about [my working on] one bi-weekly that it became this one. I was just thrilled for opportunity to write these characters and to write these characters with Keith.
What has it been like working with Keith, the master, along with J.M. DeMatteis, of the bwa-ha-ha? I’ve spoken with him a number of times and he’s very serious and passionate about his work, but as a collaborator, is he an off-the-wall, laugh-a-minute type of guy or is he a real thoughtful, pensive co-creator who doesn’t goof around too much?
I think he’s somewhere in between. Keith and I like to yuck it up a lot, and we’re having a whole lot of fun with this at the same time. But at the same time, a lot of this is about the business of making a good story. I should say writing jokes is a very serious business. It kind of is. You do laugh when you come up with one. You can stop for a minute, “OK. I got it.” But to tee it up and get it just so is a really serious endeavor.
It’s not like, “OK, that’s funny – let’s move on.” It’s more like, “That joke’s not quite working. What if we do this instead because it’s funnier this way?” Or, “Let’s cut the first line. Is there a beat to this scene? Can we get one more line out of it? Too much? OK. Let’s leave it for now, we’ll come back to it later.” And sometimes, it clicks right away and we’re good. Comedy is a very specific thing. It’s very much like any other writing. It’s more fun in the end when you’re reading. But the truth is, writing comics is hard, but writing jokes is harder. Because a dramatic beat can be just that. Something terrible will happen. Comedy, it has to fly. It has to be funny.
Can you run through the roster and maybe talk about some of your favorite characters? Specifically, were there some members you were really looking forward to writing and now that you have them, you love them even more, or some that you weren’t to sure about that now that you’re writing them, you’ve really grown to love?
I’ll tell you what, it’s a little bit of both. That’s an excellent question. It’s a little bit of both. There are characters that I was always interested in, like Booster Gold. I love tackling him.
I was interested in doing Captain Atom. Because I felt that, well to put it simply, anybody reading this should go to Captain Atom’s Wikipedia page. Just go to it. Look at his page. It’s like 45 pages long. It’s just immense. Immense. It goes in every direction imaginable. There are so many stories and directions, and I think a lot of it has taken away from the core of what he could be. In this series, we’re going to get to the core of what Captain Atom can be. I think there is a fascinating aspect that wasn’t really grounded. It doesn’t matter where he came from or where he’s going. So he was someone I wanted to tackle.
One character I was about to mention, I can’t [laughs]. We can’t mention him yet.
For Fire and Ice, they did not interest me in such a grand way before we started. But as we got into it, it was about finding the voices of these characters. Over the years, Fire has been developed and Ice has been underdeveloped. She died. She came back and what not. But who is Ice? Who is Tora? Now Fire and Ice are two of my favorite characters, and I look forward to the direction that we’re taking them.
Is that everybody I can talk about? Yes, the rest, I need to remain mum about.
Will you be telling an origin story to set these characters up for new readers or for fans of the original JLI run in order to re-set where they’ve been?
We don’t do an origin story, per se. You can give the origins of the Justice League International in one sentence: Max Lord re-formed the Justice League. And that was it. Unlike many other Justice League incarnations in which some cases they are thrown together by incidents or “these members of the Justice League break off here, so these guys take up the mantle” or what not, this is Max Lord stepping in and trying to rebuild the team and he says, “Here’s Booster Gold from the future. I want him to be on the team.”
“But who the hell are you Max Lord?”
That’s what brought them together.
In this case, I don’t think I’m giving too much of a spoiler that they are drawn back together. They don’t decide, “Hey, let’s do Justice League International again.” They are pulled back together by outside forces.
A villain perhaps?
Sure, we can say that [laughs].
Are there callbacks to the original JLI run, and should folks go back and read those issues before jumping into “Justice League: Generation Lost”?
Yeah, I mean, kind of. The fact that they’re all here together in this way is a callback. They have no business being together except that they’ve been together before. I think part of the message of this is that this is a team that is at its best when it is together. These individuals actually make a greater difference when they are fighting side by side. And, hell, yeah, you should go back and read that old run. Not just for the source material, but for the sheer pleasure of reading them. It is really, really good stuff that holds up really well. It’s funny. It’s fun.
I think, and Keith would probably agree with me, we’re taking a less comedic approach in this one, especially initially. It’s the nature of the story, just where we start off. The incident that gets the ball rolling is set in a pretty dark place.
I think the comedy comes from not necessarily what they do, but from how they react with one another. They’re funny together. They don’t really get along and they give each other grief, a lot, but in a fun way. That’s where we find the humor. We’re coming to this place, ignoring chronology, that they were probably still the Justice League maybe three years ago. When I read these guys, I was 16 and now most of them are in their late 20s, early 30s and here I am in my late 30s. But we are treating them as people that have a long history together. We’re getting the band back together. It’s the family reunion.
So the series is set in current DCU continuity.
Will events that occur in the bi-weekly be touched on in other series?
Yeah, probably. This won’t be a bi-weekly that sort of threads throughout the DCU. “Brightest Day” involves the Green Lantern books, “Justice League of America” and “Flash,” but as of now, we’re staying here for the most part.
Our inciting incident that happens in “Generation Lost” appears in “Brightest Day.” So for those reading “Brightest Day,” something very major will happen in that title which will be picked up in ours.
We’re writing #4 right now and we’re going at a pretty break-neck pace to this point. We’ll actually probably be ahead of the DCU by the time we get going, but with that said, we’ve got 26 issues, so who knows, at the halfway mark, it might be like, “This may be good over here in this book.”
Right now, the only one it has a direct effect on is “Power Girl.” But it’s more because what sets “Generation Lost” in motion is the same thing that will be setting “Power Girl” in motion for a while.
Did your taking over as the new ongoing writer of “Power Girl” spin out of you working with her on “Generation Lost” or did the two projects dovetail serendipitously?
It was actually the latter. Jimmy, Justin and Amanda were finishing up their run and Dan [DiDio] and Geoff [Johns] came to me and asked if I’d be interested in “Power Girl.” I said, “I love the character, but I have not put one iota of thought into what a story would be for her.” It wasn’t as if I had one just sitting around in my back pocket. And it’s that way with a lot of characters. I don’t have a Superman story sitting in my back pocket, right? But I love the character. And I don’t have a Spider-Man story sitting in my back pocket, but I love the character.
Don’t get me wrong: Power Girl is terrific. But I really hadn’t put 10 minutes of thought into it. So I did just that when it was posed to me. When they asked me if I was interested, I said, “Let me think about it, because I don’t have a story.” And this germ of an idea kind of sat there in my brain, so I said, “You know what? I think it would be really interesting if we weave her into what’s going on in ‘Generation Lost.'” What happens to them, kind of involves her in this way, and that’s when I went back to editorial and said, “This is what I want to do.” And they said, “That’s great. That’s very, very cool.” It’s a very interesting jumping off point.
Now that you have spent some time with Kara, what have you learned about her?
I think I had a very good understanding of her from Jimmy, Justin and Amanda’s run. I thought they did a really good job of crystallizing and clarifying who she is as a character, as well as her tone. It obviously all started when Geoff and Amanda did that great miniseries, which kind of solidified her origin. It was all about looking back at what she was. And Jimmy, Justin and Amanda have focused more on who she is now. She’s in New York, she has a job, she has a company, she has friends around her and she’s finally, slowly, finding her place in the world.
Something that I’m going to explore a bit is that I see Power Girl as a tragic character. She is really a person without a home – a couple of times over. Like Superman, she’s a lost child of Krypton, she’s a cousin of Superman, but not of this world, she’s from Earth Two, which is now gone. She’s lost her planet two times over. So she’s kind of a doppelganger and she knows there is a cousin of Superman on this Earth. So what does that make her? She’s kind of a woman out of time, out of place, and I like that aspect of her. I still feel that she really hasn’t found her place. She joined the JSA and sort of established herself with her company and is making a life for herself, but I think she still feels a little bit alone. That’s what I’m going to try and concentrate on in this.
Can you share any specific details about your opening arc, villains she might face or what the big threat is, at least?
Two villains – I’ll say that. Power Girl is going to be developing a bit of a rogues gallery. We wanted some new bad guys so she/he/they are Power Girl’s villains. That’s what we’re going to be looking at for the first couple of arcs. It’s tied to “Generation Lost,” but it’s still very much her story and we’re going to be shaking things up. Jimmy, Justin and Amanda created this rich story and set her up, but we’re going to re-shuffle it a bit to keep it interesting. Not in a big way. All of the characters are still there, but we’re going to go in there and flip the checkers up in the air and see where they end up on the board.