In case you haven’t heard, the Justice League of America is dead.
The latest iteration of the DC Comics superteam were created for one purpose — to stand up against the original Justice League and to fight back the tide of the Secret Society’s villainous invasion of earth. But with the end of DC’s “Trinity War” crossover, both ends were crushed as Society backers the Crime Syndicate of America entered to take the DCU to a new criminal dawn. Now the majority of the government sponsored JLA are M.I.A., and it’s up to writer Matt Kindt to lead the way forward.
Already working on the book since issue #2 as writer of the “Martian Manhunter” backups, Kindt comes on as lead writer for an arc starting with October’s “Justice League of America” #8. Drawn by Doug Mahnke and Christian Alamy, the story will check in with the broken team and follow the action of DC’s new “Forever Evil” event as sole survivors Martian Manhunter and Stargirl make a break for their freedom.
CBR News spoke with the writer about the arc that will run across “Forever Evil’s” first half and toward Jeff Lemire’s eventual reinvention of the book as “Justice League of Canada.” Below, Kindt explains how the arc allows him to tap deeper into Manhunter J’onn J’ones and Stargirl Courtney Whitmore for a story that continues on the building blocks set by Geoff Johns while also presenting a character-focused “JLA” run of mysteries, histories and fights for freedom.
CBR News: Matt, it’s feeling like the early part of “Forever Evil” is one of those rare instances in superhero comics where there’s a lot of stuff that people are genuinely in the dark about going into the series. But before we get to how you’re pulling back the curtain, let’s talk about how you got here. You’ve been writing the “Martian Manhunter” backups in “Justice League of America” since issue #2. How did you get tapped to take on the main book?
Matt Kindt: I don’t know about all the behind the scenes stuff. I think I just happened to be in the room when they said, “Who’s writing [‘JLA’] next?” [Laughs] It was like, “I’ll do it!” I think everybody just liked what I was doing on “Manhunter,” and when it came time for a change on the series, I was the next man up, and I’d proven what I could do with one of the characters. And I really wanted more of that. I’ve had a great time working on the Martian Manhunter, so I was ready to say, “Let’s do it.” Then they told me this would tie-in with “Forever Evil,” and without thinking about it I said, “Of course I’ll do that.” And then they said, “Everyone will be dead.” [Laughter] I kind of felt like, “Oh… okay.” But then I realized I could get Manhunter, and I pitched the idea of having him and Stargirl as the leads of the series. They said that was fine, and I feel like those are the two characters in the series who are the most interesting and fun to write.
It’s sort of the perfect storm of what’s happening with the book and in “Forever Evil.” It lets this arc be its own kind of thing for the series. I don’t think “JLA” is ever going to be this kind of book again unless something else happens. For me, it’s a chance to really focus on two characters who deserve to be A-list characters. A lot of people already think they are, and I think they are — Manhunter especially, but Stargirl really hasn’t gotten enough “screen time” just yet. To me, that’s what became cool about this. It’s not a team book at this point because everyone got stripped away or killed, and now it’s going to be more of a character-building book between Manhunter and Stargirl. That’s right up my alley. It’s the kind of story I love to write.
How do you view each of those characters on their own and as a team? Manhunter in “JLA’s” main feature was a super competent bad ass, but you dug into his vulnerable side. Does that make him a match for Courtney Whitmore?
They are different in a lot of ways. Manhunter is experienced. He’s overpowered — like Superman but stronger. He comes with this idea that he can do anything or solve anything, and he’s also got this zen side to him. I also found this weird element in him where he’s vulnerable to fire. He really shouldn’t be. There’s no physical reason why fire would ever hurt him. But he’s scared of it, and he’s damaged in a lot of ways because of the history he has with his planet and the death of his homeworld. That gives him a weakness. It’s not like he has Kryptonite. Fire is like his Kryptonite, but it can’t really hurt him. His flaw is a mental one, and that’s the most interesting thing to me. It also makes him different to me — a weakness brought about by his backstory.
So he comes into this as the wizened, damaged character who has gotten some of his powers stripped from him because of what’s happened. When we see him in this story, he’s sort of half-powered and doesn’t have everything he usually does. He still feels like he’s invulnerable, but he’s actually weaker. That sort of messes with his mind.
On the other hand, we’ve got Stargirl who in a lot of ways was still waiting in the wings to be utilized. She’s on this team going, “I’m on the Justice League… let’s go!” and then they say, “No, you wait right here.” In a lot of ways, she still wants to get in there and do it, but now she’s in a position where J’onn is saying, “We need you. You’re all that’s left. You’re going to do more than just pull your own weight. You’re going to have to do a lot more, even though you’re only a teenager.” Her story is dealing with all that extra weight that’s been put on her and also worrying about her family. It’s the kind of stuff you’d worry about in real life if you were put in this situation where you’re on the run.
Putting both of those characters together in this situation and then putting them on the road where they’re fighting a bunch of villains along the way, that will be fun for me to write.
You mention Courtney’s family, and it brings up the question of who Stargirl is in the New 52. Longtime fans of the character know that she was originally part of “Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E.” and at the beginning of “Justice League of America,” we got some hints to what happened to Sylvester Pemberton — her stepfather and partner — in this new universe. Will that be a thread you pick up on?
Yeah. We’re going to get into that. The first issue will get really close to them. They’re kind of stuck in a prison, so at the beginning it’s all about, “We’ve got to get out of here. Where are we going?” And in that, there are these little moments about who she is. Then there’s more as you go along. That’s the beauty of boiling this Justice League down to just these two. Now we’re able to explore her character and see more of her backstory — to see what made her the way she is. She’s famous. Why is she famous? There are all sorts of questions that are going to be answered including where all her stuff came from. I think that’s something that can get lost in a team book when you have so many characters to juggle. But thank God they killed off most of them, so now we’ve got a chance to spend some time with people like Stargirl. Although I’m sorry about those other guys! [Laughs] I’m really sorry about it.
From the art being released this week, it seems as though you’re getting to pick up directly from the end of “Trinity War” and then going into “Forever Evil.” Is a part of this arc filling in those gaps on what happened to the Justice Leagues?
Yeah, there’s definitely a connection in this to the whole series, and there will be some of that idea at the beginning and then at the very end. We’ll explain everything and shows what happened in the aftermath of the battle. But that’s the part I can’t talk about, which is why I’m trying to keep quiet. Let’s talk about Stargirl some more! [Laughter]
Let’s talk instead about you working with Doug Mahnke and Christian Alamy. They’ve done a number of these big event stories before, and I think at this point they’ve done a few stories that have featured massive amounts of dead superheroes laying around. What are you doing to play to their strengths in this story?
It’s cool. I’ve been fans of them for a long time, and as soon as I knew they were drawing it, I went, “How can I get Frankenstein in here in some way?” [Laughter] I’m still trying to figure out a way, so we’ll see. But those guys are pros, and they’re making this exactly the kind of story it should be.
We know that eventually this book will be handed off to Jeff Lemire to become “Justice League of Canada.” Is this arc a metaphor for life? If everything went to hell in America, would you jump in a car with a trusted friend and then head straight to Canada?
NO! [Laughs] I have told Jeff things like, “Jeff, I’m going to leave the JLA in the worst possible position for you. It’s going to be impossible for you to figure out what team to put together!” But I think he’s up to the challenge.
“Justice League of America” #8 goes on sale October 9 from DC Comics.