What happens when you mix time travel, planetary mind-wipes, OMACs, the Justice League International, armageddon and the possible death of Blue Beetle at the hands of Maxwell Lord (again)? You get Judd Winick’s “Justice League: Generation Lost,” an action-packed, twenty-four issue series currently running bi-weekly alongside DC Comics’ “Brightest Day.”
“Justice League: Generation Lost” sees the members of Justice League International — Captain Atom, Booster Gold, Fire and Ice, joined by newcomers Blue Beetle and Rocket Red — atttempting to take down the resurrected Max Lord before he kills Wonder Woman and destroys the world in the process. The problem? Other than the JLI, Max has brainwashed the entire planet into not only forgetting his existence. Beyond that, even when a hero is faced directly with proof of Lord and his plans, they’re quickly distracted and forget about him all over again. Thus far Lord has manipulated the JLI at every turn, first setting them up as patsies for killing Magog, an act the White Lantern Entity deemed necessary for Max’s return, then unwittingly helping him win back control over Checkmate, with the team arriving seconds too late to stop Lord from murdering Jaime Reyes, Ted Kord-style.
With only five issues remaining until Lord’s endgame, CBR spoke to Winick about how he feels “Generation Lost” is wrapping up, the challenges of writing the villainous Maxwell Lord and the accidental gift J. Michael Straczinsky gave the series.
CBR News: First off, Max Lord shot another Blue Beetle in the head! Can you tell us if he is officially dead?
Judd Winick: I can honestly dodge the question by saying you’ll have to read next issue! I will say it was a hard decision to come to, and I’ll leave it at that.
Other than the symmetry of Max Lord shooting another Blue Beetle, what’s the larger story reason behind this — does this play directly into the climax of the series?
Oh, yeah. As much as folks think we’re doing it for shock value, nothing we did in the story was for shock value. In my opinion, everything that’s done builds upon other things. The Creature Commandos don’t show up just because I think they’re cool, they show up because they are part of some larger purpose. Something as big as Jaime getting one in the head, I don’t do that because I think its cool. But also, it has that horrible symmetry, too. That’s what makes it a little more terrible.
Between Jaime getting shot, Captain Atom time traveling, and Ice’s back-story revamp, a lot has happened to these characters. As we get towards the end, are there more personal challenges for individual JLI members to face?
I’d say the next two issues get extremely personal for everybody. It delves heavily into who and what everybody is. Next issue there are obviously things going on with Jaime, coupled with the story of Max Lord. We will finally get his back-story laid out for everybody, as well as the big “why.” Why Max Lord is the way he is — that’ll be answered.
I think for a lot of our longer readers, myself included, Max just went bad for the sake of going bad. I actually wanted to explain who Max is, where he comes from, why and what brought him here today — a monster to some, but a guy who’s trying to save the world, in his head. A lot of people, including internally, talked about it, that as much as this arc is about the current incarnation of Justice League International, this has really been about the story of Max Lord. So in these final issues, especially these couple coming up right now, we’ll be getting into how these guys tick. But the action is going to amp up in a ridiculous way in these last couple of issues. The big fight at the end takes place over a couple of issues.
Throughout the course of “Generation Lost,” and even before, Max Lord has been an ambiguous character — he’s a bad guy who keeps saying he’s good. Was it a real challenge for you to turn him into a three dimensional character?
That’s something we looked at from the outset. Right from the beginning, it’s all about [the question of] who is Max and why is he doing this, which was my question when we started. I didn’t really want him just to be a bad guy for bad guy’s sake. I didn’t want him to be insane. He’s not the Joker, he’s not Lex Luthor. Lex has very specific reasons for why he’s doing things, and I wanted Max to have reasons as well. What is he trying to accomplish? What is he trying to do? Over the course of the series, I think we’re making clear there’s a rhyme and reason for what he’s doing. He’s not just bad for bad’s sake. When he says things like, he brought the Justice League back together because he thinks they’ll do good in the world, he really meant that. And [when] he let Jaime know that he brought the JLI together to help him discredit Checkmate, that was true, too! He knows that they’re great heroes, but at the same time, he will use them to get what he needs, which is to take down Checkmate and Talib so he can take over the entire organization. It’s instantly more fun — it provides you with a place to go as far as story, and you get to say things like, “Well, that’s not something Max Lord would do,” or “That would be something Max would do.” By creating three-dimensional characters, a lot of the stories start writing themselves.
You once stated that Fire and Ice are your favorite characters to write. Are they still your favorites?
At this point, I’m a little bit in love with everybody. There’s nobody who doesn’t occupy a very special place in my heart, for a number of reasons. I love where we went with Ice. There’s a very tiny but loud contingent of people on the web who didn’t like that we revamped her origin, but I thought it was more acceptable to what we were doing. Fire, who is probably the most, in my view, underserved character in the series — it just turned out that way.
That’s the thing. When we talk about these internally, it’s usually about serving the story, not just serving the characters. Its not like we say, we need more of Fire in these issues — no one says that! These things happen organically; they plan big stories as they go, but some characters tend to get slightly underused. So I think of all the ones we found out the least about, the one who grew the least might be Fire, and that just happened.
To answer you question another way, she’s someone who I’d actually like to revisit a little later, flesh out a little better than we have. Everybody, I think, we really got to know. Not Rocket Red, but his whole story will be told a little later. But I’m pleased that he turned out to be so much fun for everybody, because he was a lot of fun for us.
How do you feel about the way things are wrapping up for Captain Atom and Booster? Do you have anything planned for them that you haven’t been able to do in this series?
I planned out the story as much as possible. I think that the planning stages of “Generation Lost,” twenty-four issues, was the longest long-view story I ever planned. We usually plot things out six to twelve issues ahead of ourselves, you know? Get those six issues concise, know where you’re going and then do the back end six issues — that’s how a lot of us plan things. This is twenty-four issues of us trying to see where this entire road map will go, and the further away that the issues were, the thinner the story gets. We knew what the ending was, and certain things here or there, [but] little things get dropped along the way. Lots of things that were supposed to happen just didn’t work, things get bumped because you can’t do that because we’re doing that over here, no this is happening in this issue over here, over here with Wonder Woman, blah blah blah.
We were in the early stages but definitely down the road, I forget what issue I was working on, when we found out that J. Michael Straczynski was doing this whole bit with Wonder Woman: that the world will have forgotten Wonder Woman, and Wonder Woman will have forgotten as well.
I was saddled with that suddenly, and I was like, OK, there’s a major thing coming up with Wonder Woman because she killed Max Lord! And [when] I sat down, I was like, oh, this is good! This is actually good! This is going to be really, really fun, this is going to make Max crazy that suddenly the whole world has forgotten Wonder Woman — just like he made the whole world forget him! Oh, my God! It’s great! That was not by my design at all, I wasn’t doing this to Wonder Woman, but it was coming from an outside source, and I just made lemonade. Really, it’s one of my favorite issues, because when Max finds out that the world has forgotten — I like how angry it makes him. He’s tossing stuff around and he’s screaming, “What the fuck do you mean, you don’t know who Wonder Woman is?” [Laughs]
On that note, is what you’re doing in “Generation Lost” going to cross over into the “Wonder Woman” ongoing series or stay in the pages of your book?
The latter. It’s more about Wonder Woman having been alluded to in a couple of places, [such as] in issue fourteen when Captain Atom went back to the future again and finds out the death of Wonder Woman by Max Lord somehow changes everything, everything’s crazy. We’re not leaving that dangling. Something very important with Wonder Woman is coming up, and the fact that the world does not remember was something that we got to play with and build upon. I like where it went because of it.
You’re writing “Power Girl” as well, where you tie in with “Generatino Lost” as Kara is also working to stop Max Lord. Is the fallout from “Generation Lost” going to affect the “Power Girl” series?
Yes, a little bit. For her, it’s been about eight or so odd issues tied to “Generation Lost,” but when it wraps up, that’s a jumping off point for the next thing that will happen with her. So I guess I’m saying it will give us some place to go, but if people are jumping on after we finish “Generation Lost,” they’re not going to be totally clueless. We’re wrapping up one arc, and then we’ll be starting another one. I’m about three or four issues in right now.
Will the events of “Generation Lost” have a big impact on the DC Universe?
Yes! Absolutely yes, yes to all of that! It will impact the DCU, it’ll impact the characters, and there’s consequences. It’s one of the things we’re concentrating very hard on, especially with events. That is something we’re working on very, very hard. So absolutely, because of “Generation Lost,” things will change.
Now that we’re down to the final issues, how do you feel about the series as a whole? Did it accomplish everything you set out to do?
Yes, I really think so. I’ve never had the opportunity to write something quite like this. It’s mostly about the immediacy of doing a book that comes out every two weeks. I’ve pretty much been writing “Generation Lost” all the time — it’s been about a year now — and you get devoted to it. Usually, with monthly books, you get a little breathing time; on this we didn’t. You just have to keep moving and moving quickly. A lot of it was just making sure the story we planned out initially worked really, really well. You get your curveballs, or the things that weren’t working well that we adjusted, midflight as it were, but the core of the story was there. It was very, very challenging, a lot of work, but I’m really pleased. People really seem to like it, and that’s one of the most heartening things you can probably say. The general buzz on it is that the folks who read JLI from way back when are very pleased with it, and the new readers coming in are pleased with it too. So I’ve got no complaints.
Is writing a bi-weekly series something you’d want to do again?
Definitely. It’s not a matter of the workload. I write three or four monthly books, and between “Power Girl” and “Generation Lost,” I was writing three monthlies. So it isn’t something that work or time-wise I have an issue with. I think the difficulty came in of the immediacy of it. There’s no down time. If things aren’t working, we have to make them work very quickly, and we did. There isn’t anything I look back on and regret or say we should [have done] this differently or that differently. I think it really, truly holds up. Especially when folks have the opportunity down the road to read the collections, I think we’ll be very proud about how the story holds up chapter to chapter. So yeah, I’d love to do it again at some point.
Is there talk of getting the JLI back together as an ongoing series?
That falls into a big old, “we’ll see.” We’ll see!
Is there anything you can tell us (or hint at us) to what’s coming up in the final issues?
We’re going to see a knock-down, drag-out fight like none other. These upcoming two issues are slightly talky and a little bit more internal, but when the action starts to cook up, oh boy! At the end, I was writing a three issue-long fight, which is kind of stunning. It’s one of those things where people complain about the big fight at the end, but this is going to be really, really, really big. This is where it all comes together. Twenty-four issues have led up to this.
“Justice League: Generation Lost” #20 hits stores this Wednesday.