Earlier this week, CBR News debuted the first look at Howard Porter’s designs for the upcoming “Justice League 3000,” which gave readers a glimpse of future versions of Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern and the Flash. The DC Comics series re-unites “Justice League” creators Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis and Kevin Maguire to take on a markedly different team than the one Maxwell Lord put together from the DCU’s second-tier roster in the late ’80s. This time, the trio has the full run of some of the future DCU’s most iconic characters — and they’re more than ready to take the plunge.
CBR News spoke with Giffen about the upcoming series, and while he couldn’t dive too deep into specifics, the writer discussed getting back into the swing of the creative process with DeMatteis and Maguire, teased who exactly the characters are and openly affirmed that the creative team will lie to you.
CBR News: Keith, so far the only glimpse we’ve seen of “Justice League 3000” are the designs by Howard Porter for the core cast —
Keith Giffen: Howard’s the best, I’ll tell you. By the way, those were his first shots! His first shots out of the box, and we flipped!
Wow. Well, this is very clearly a different Justice League than the one you, J.M. DeMatteis and Kevin Maguire introduced back in the Justice League International days. What’s the experience been like reuniting with those two? Is the creative process different for this book?
The process is not different at all. I’m even back to doing the plot and breakdowns like I did on the original “Justice League.” We’re doing the exact same system of working. What’s different is the big boys! When we did the Justice League, we took over and it didn’t exist. It had been cancelled — Justice League Detroit, and it was gone. It came out of — I believe it was John Byrne’s “Legends” — and we were handed the characters. We had a mixture of characters, but for the most part, they were characters that were orphans. They didn’t have their own book or they were kind of popular. It wasn’t like Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, the Flash, Green Lantern and Green Arrow and Aquaman and all those. It was really an eclectic group. We did our best to make that work, and for some odd reasons, the fans responded and we had a pretty good run.
This book — we’ve got the big boys! We’ve got the A-team! That’s a bit different, playing around with those characters. Let’s put it this way, if it was, “Hey, here’s Justice League 3000! It’s got Blue Beetle, Booster Gold and Fire and Ice and Guy Gardner,” I would refuse to do it because I’ve said before that I never want to tell a story with that Justice League again. That doesn’t mean there aren’t countless more interesting stories to be told with that Justice League — there are just no more I want to tell.
It’s the best of both worlds. I love the 31st Century, I’ve got connections within Justice League and I love working with Mark and Kevin. That’s a given. We always manage to have an extraordinarily good time when we’re together, and if we’re lucky, sell some comic books.
From the designs Howard did, it seems like you’ve given fans some hope that Wally West might be coming back to the New 52.
[Laughs] Fair enough! Is there anything you can tell us right now about these characters? They’re a huge mystery — nobody knows if they’re new, if they’re New 52 characters set in a future timeline, if they’re pre-“Flashpoint” character — nobody knows who they are!
“Pre-‘Flashpoint?'” Pre-“Flashpoint” doesn’t exist. It’s the New 52. New. I think a lot of people have got to get their heads on straight and realize that this is the reality with which I am presented every day — this is what I work in.
I should clarify — are they characters who have not yet appeared in the New 52, but existed before “Flashpoint” happened?
Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman and the Flash — they’ve appeared in the New 52.
They’re not who you think they are, but they’re everyone you think they are. It’s really weird. There’s not a lot I can say without giving away tons — but I can pretty much guarantee that once you think you know who they are, you’ll be wrong. You’ll probably be wrong a couple of times in the first year of the book. Of course, the reason you’ll be wrong is this is what we’ll be telling you, and we’re venerate liars.
Remember in the first year of the original “Justice League” that we did way back when dinosaurs roamed the Earth? The big mystery was “Who is Maxwell Lord?” It built to the 12th issue. I’d like to point out that when we finished the 11th issue — we still had no idea who Maxwell Lord was. We’d been dropping hints all along about a story that we didn’t know yet. At least now I know where the first year of “Justice League 3000” is going, and it’s going to pay off in a lot of different ways where people will cut us a break and stop screaming about, “They’re canceling the Legion for this?!” No. They cancelled the Legion because it wasn’t selling. Now we’re doing this book. I’m sure, somewhere down the line, the Legion will come back. Relax. Maybe more people should have bought the book. How about that? I know it’s a radical idea, but it’s something you might want to consider.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the Legion! The Legion is like a siren singing to me all the time. I keep returning to that book over and over again like a mental patient. But I’ll tell you one thing — the book wasn’t selling enough to continue. The end.
A lot of folks are already wondering where this might fall in continuity. Is there anything you can give us about the book’s timeline and future setting?
I always try to keep it 1000 years ahead, so it takes place in the 31st Century. It’s the future and all that entails. When in the 30th century is the interesting question. Last time I checked, a century is about 100 years long, so it could be 3001, could be 3016, could be 3032 — right now, we’re not telling. Unfortunately, it’s part of this sacred continuity. So, yes, we’ll be worshipping at the same altar as everyone else.
I’m not a big fan of continuity, I’m really not. I’m a big fan of consistency — and if you think about it, I think when a lot of people talk about continuity, they mean consistency. But yes, you can trace this Justice League back through time and come across the 20th century. I’ve thought the timeline through. I have a pretty good idea what happened between now and the 30th century. There will be some stuff there that people aren’t expecting. We are taking a good, hard look at the 30th century and thinking about what works, what doesn’t work.
Obviously, this book will take place in the 30th century, but how much of it will be filling in that 1000 year gap between the 20th century and the 30th century?
Well, never say never, because Lord knows — I don’t know how long I’ll be on the book. I’m sure, eventually, those years will be filled in, but my primary focus right now is introducing the characters and doing a book that lunges forward. One of the things I want to do is, I want to do a book you don’t have to read another DC book to get the full picture. What you read in “Justice League 3000,” just take it as gospel — except we’re lying to you. We’re going to do that a lot.
You don’t have to have read “Legion of Super Heroes.” You don’t have to be familiar with the 31st Century. You don’t have to read “Justice League” or any other books. We’re putting it down here as if it’s — it is a new book. You know what? I know it’s a radical thought, but we’re going to treat it like a brand new book. We’re going to introduce the characters, and maybe in the first issue we’ll ask a few more questions than we do in the second or third. We’ll start answering them, and hopefully tell an entertaining enough story that when you’ve read the book, you walk out of it feeling good for having read it and you don’t feel like you got screwed out of your money.
Nothing drives me crazier than picking up a book where immediately, you have to go buy another comic book to understand [it]. I’ve always thought that was a cheat. I don’t think that’s fair to the reader, and it’s certainly not fair to the fans who have kept this business afloat. When you buy a comic book, you buy that comic book and you should be able to enjoy that book for itself. Whatever stories are being told there will be clear to you, or as clear as you can be while telling a story. Everything will pay off. It won’t pay off in another book, it’ll be in this book.
I don’t want to play these games any more. I really don’t. I don’t want to play the precious game — “Oh, look how I’m writing here! Look how I’m writing words with five syllables” — or “I’m trying to transcend the comic book genre.” I don’t want to do European comics. I don’t want to do Manga. I just want to do a good, old-fashioned, what-I-remember, American comic book and hopefully entertain enough people so I can continue doing it.
I think Neal Adams had the best description of a comic book professional ever: You sit in a closet all alone, you draw, you write on the paper and when you’re done, you slide it under the closet door. If the guy on the other side likes what you did, he’ll slide some more paper under the door so you can keep on working. That’s all I want. Unapologetic comic books. I’m not trying to be great literature. It’s not going to cure cancer, but hopefully, it’ll help you while away 10-15 minutes.