While he's a relative newbie in terms of the DC Universe proper, Dwayne McDuffie certainly possesses a solid enough resume to be named the new writer of the publisher's flagship title – "Justice League of America." Perhaps best known as the co-founder of Milestone Media, the most successful black-owned comic book company in history, McDuffie is the co-creator of Static and his animated series "Static Shock." And as a veteran of all five years of the popular Cartoon Network series "Justice League" and "Justice League Unlimited," as both head writer and as a producer, McDuffie knows his way around the world's greatest heroes.
McDuffie begins his run with "JLA Wedding Special" #1 on September 12, two weeks before his first issue of the regular series, "Justice League of America" #13, illustrated by Joe Benitez and Victor Llamas (current artist Ed Benes is scheduled to return with #14). CBR News spoke with the Detroit, Michigan native about his new gig, what he has in store for his super friends and who may or may not be coming along for the ride in the Javelin-7.
"It's a big roster and there is a lot to play with," McDuffie told CBR News, when asked if the roster would remain the same after he inherits it from current "JLA" writer Brad Meltzer. "I am going to try it out and see how it goes, but right now, I don't see anybody leaving, really."
As for new members joining, the recently rediscovered Wally West is likely on many readers' minds. "I don't know anything about that," laughed McDuffie. "Nope, not a thing. I am sure I will be dealing with it at some point. We will be dealing with Flash one way or the other."
Wally West was of course re-introduced to DCU continuity last week at the close of the "Justice League of America" and "Justice Society of America" crossover "The Lightning Saga," and will start a new run of his own series on August 15 in "The Flash" #231. McDuffie admits that after Superman himself, the Fastest Man Alive may be the toughest superhero to write when it comes to pure strength. "The power level is astonishing when you think through it all," said McDuffie. "Superman and Flash particularly are just so powerful that you really have to be careful to set up situations that balance that because everything else being equal, fight's over. Although, with the Injustice League, I don't think it's going to be a problem."
The Injustice League is McDuffie's take on the classic Secret Society of Super Villains or, better yet, the Legion of Doom. "I think Eddie Berganza suggested it," explained McDuffie of the name change. "I don't know what the situation is with 'Legion of Doom.' I know we couldn't use the name on the ['Justice League'] TV show. The comics can do stuff that the TV show can't. But I think Injustice League is a pretty cool name. It's a nice throw back to Injustice Gang."
The Injustice League teaser image suggests Lex Luthor and the Joker may be vying for top billing in the organization, but when asked who was in charge, McDuffie quipped, "Luthor is running it. Just ask him."
And lest we forget, Gorilla Grodd is right there, as well. "You can not go wrong with a super-intelligent ape," remarked McDuffie.
While there are nearly fifty villains in the Injustice League teaser image, McDuffie said there still may be more to come. "In the words of Kurt Busiek: Wait and see. I can't say. But there is a lot of stuff going on in that picture," said McDuffie.
McDuffie, who has known he would be the book's writer for "four or five months," says no pitch was required. Editor Eddie Berganza "just called" him to see if he wanted the job. "I was just reading the book and loving it and they called me," recalled McDuffie, who now has an open-ended run ahead of him. "I pretended I had to think about it and said, 'Yes.' I'd like to do a good, long run. It's a lot of characters. Giving the initial cast a good workout will take a couple of years."
McDuffie's participation in the Black Canary-Green Arrow wedding one-shot actually came as an afterthought, following one of his early "Justice League of America" story pitches. "It was parallel," McDuffie explained. "I pitched my first 'JLA' story arc and we were going to do it and I got a call back from Eddie and he said, 'We are doing this wedding. And some of the stuff you are doing dovetails with it.' And we started talking about it and it gave me a chance to see some of the Justice League in a social situation and not have my first issue be people standing around and talking. We could do both. We could do the character stuff and we could do the big action that the Justice League calls for."
The veteran TV writer said his experience in the so-called DC Animated Universe will serve him well in his new role. "'Justice League Unlimited' had a much bigger cast than this," explained McDuffie, who names Hawkgirl as his favorite 'JLU' member. "And we did a pretty good job of giving everybody screen time. We had 13 episodes a year versus 12 issues now."
McDuffie said in preparing for his 'Justice League of America' run, he's gone back and re-read Meltzer's issues, but because of his critical involvement with the animated version of the team, he has actually been studying the Justice League's history for years. "I went back to it and read [Meltzer's run] again, but I also read some of it ahead of time because he was done with his whole run before I even got hired. So I had all these scripts to read. But when the comics came out, I read them again, just to get the voices and the tone," explained McDuffie, who actually started his career in comics 20 years ago as an assistant editor at Marvel, just after he finished film school.
"Six years ago, I read all of the DC 'Justice League' Archive Editions, and within the past five years I have read every Justice League trade paperback available," McDuffie said. "And I have dug into my own collection, which is pretty much mostly '70s and '80s stuff. I haven't re-read all of that again but I have read it once before. I have been going through it when I have time. I am really looking at all that stuff and seeing where stories come from and what kind of character dynamics there are and for opportunities that may have been missed that I can take advantage of."
McDuffie plans to make his Justice League accessible to all fans of the team, both new and old. "I think we did a real good job of that on the 'Justice League' show," he stated. "On the TV series, if you were a fanboy, there was all kinds of secret stuff in there for you, but if you weren't, it didn't matter at all. I am going to try and balance that. I don't have a great staff of writers and producers and directors to argue about the balance with, but I do have what they taught me. I am going to do the best I can to make this the center of the DC Universe book, where even if you don't read any of the books that the other characters are in, you will know who they are and what they are trying to do. And [you will] not have to understand that nine years ago, in the last issue, when they got cancelled, that Part 1 of the story happened. It's not going to be like that. Everything you need to know to understand this is going to be in 'Justice League of America,' with the exception of the wedding special where I start. I am going to do my very best to keep everything you need to know on the page. If there is a crossover, or if there is something going on in one of the other event books, if you are reading 'Justice League of America,' I am going to explain it in 'JLA' again as if it didn't happen in the other one."
Speaking of crossovers, McDuffie, as stated, wants his title front and center in the DCU, so anyone wanting to come in his sandbox is welcome, as long as they bring their own toys to share. "This is my first time playing in the actual DC Universe, so I am open to all that stuff," the writer said. "We'll just see what people come up with and what the readership wants and what the other guys at DC want and what my editor wants. We'll all bang heads and something will happen. But certainly, the main thing you get about working in TV is how collaborative storytelling is. So the chance to work with all these other cool guys on all these other cool books, I am probably up for it.
"The rest of the DC Universe will interact with the Justice League as much as we can. People are going to be joining the team right away. We are going to have a new member coming in the special before my run starts.
"Yes, in "JLA Wedding Special," the first new member joins," confirmed McDuffie. "And our first big guest shot is in #13. And whether or not that character stays, remains to be seen. I can't promise everybody is going to live through this."
Of his origins in the world of comics, McDuffie admitted, "I was more of a Marvel guy. I grew up reading Marvel although I watched 'Super Friends.' I loved the Superman movie and the really old 'Batman' TV show. You can't grow up in comics and not be familiar with those characters. I think when I started working on the 'Justice League' TV series I got dumped in the deep end and spent a few years reading pretty much anything that was available to me, just so I could understand what Bruce Timm and James Tucker were talking about.
As for his work as the regular writer for the first family of comics, McDuffie says penning "Fantastic Four" is an entirely different thing than commandeering the Justice League. "They are very different books," the writer explained. "The Fantastic Four is a family of explorers and the Justice League is the preeminent superhero force on the planet. It's a very different situation.
"I have been at both for a little bit now, I guess, three months now. It actually is a sort of a relief. You use different muscles for both," McDuffie quipped.
And quipping is important when you are scripting the world's greatest heroes.
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