EXCLUSIVE: Lemire Hellblazes "Justice League Dark"

No doubt based on the success of his "Animal Man" relaunch, Jeff Lemire's next major assignment for DC Comics is re-tooling another former Vertigo mainstay for the New 52.

The publisher announced today that Eisner Award-nominated cartoonist Lemire will assume writing duties on "Justice League Dark," which serves as a starring vehicle for DC's resident hellblazer John Constantine, following the title's crossover with "I, Vampire" in #7 and 8.

Lemire takes the reins from Peter Milligan, the fan-favorite British scribe who has written Constantine stories for both DC and Vertigo. Mikel Janin remains following Milligan's departure as the series' artist.

Speaking with CBR News exclusively, Lemire said he considers "Justice League Dark" his dream gig at DC Comics because Constantine is one of his all-time favorite characters -- not just in comics, but in all fiction. Lemire also teased that while Constantine, Zatanna and Deadman would remain on the roster, the team would change in his opening arc and expand -- not unlike the animated series "Justice League Unlimited" -- moving forward.

CBR News: How did you end up taking over "Justice League Dark" after Peter Milligan's opening run, and what drew you to the book in the first place?

Jeff Lemire: When DC Comics came to me with the offer, it took me about three seconds to say "yes." Writing these characters really is my dream job at DC -- Constantine especially. He is one of my favorite characters in all of comics and maybe in all of fiction that I've read. The chance to write him and the other cult characters of DC, I just could not pass it up. I'm super excited about it.

"Justice League Dark" is really your first team book. Are you enjoying writing for a larger cast?

I would argue that "Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E." is a team book for the most part. But, yeah, it's definitely fun. I like to balance the two. Again, "Animal Man" isn't really a solo book either because it's about the family, but it's nice to have an actual team book and a solo book and to be able to do both sort of storytelling. Zatanna, Constantine and Deadman are such fun characters with such distinct personalities. And playing them off each other is so much fun. Actually, playing anyone off of Constantine is fun.

What is it about Constantine that you like so much?

God, I don't know. It's like asking someone what they like about The Beatles? What got me really, really interested in comics was Alan Moore's "Swamp Thing" run, so I feel like Constantine's always been a part of my life as a reader of comics. He's such a simple character yet so compelling and he just never gets old. I love that he's back in the DC Universe because I love seeing him interact with all of these things that he despises, like superheroes. He just really doesn't want to be a part of the bigger DCU but he doesn't have much choice and that creates an interesting tension, which I like exploring.

You mention Moore's "Swamp Thing," and Constantine certainly has a long history with that character. Right now, your "Animal Man" series is racing towards a head-on collision with Scott Snyder's "Swamp Thing." Any chance we will see "Justice League Dark" intersect with these titles, as well?

Not really. At least not right away. The stuff Scott and I are doing in "Swamp Thing" and "Animal Man" is already established and is really kind of its own thing. And we already have it all planned out so the "Justice League Dark" stuff doesn't play into right away. But what we want to do and what I want to do is try to align "Justice League Dark" more with the other Dark books, like "Frankenstein," "Resurrection Man," "I, Vampire" and "Demon Knights" and try to approach it in a way that, in some ways, is a smaller version of what they did with the "Justice League Unlimited" cartoon where depending on the mission or the situation that they were dealing with, they would recruit different members from around the DC Universe to be the team for that mission. And I want to play it kind of similar where we'll have a core team led by Constantine but depending on the mission or the storyline, you could pull in some of those other characters for a specific mission. Frankenstein might appear in a couple of issues or Andrew Bennett from "I, Vampire" may join the team for a little while. There is a lot of interplay to be had there.

Will the core team remain largely intact when your rub begins?

No, it will not. The team is changing dramatically with my first issue. I don't want to say who is going to be on it right now but two members will leave and three new members will join.

Is it safe to assume Constantine is sticking around, at least?

Yes. And he's definitely the leader. During Pete's run, I didn't feel that there was a clear leader. By the nature of the story that he was telling, basically the team was still assembling. But you find out very quickly in "Justice League Dark" #9 that John is very much the leader of the team or at least the manipulator of this group.

With the roster rotating from mission to mission, will your stories -- at least early on -- be done-in-one adventures or more traditional, multi-part arcs?

My first storyline is four issues long, and it really sets up a much bigger storyline, just like I am doing with "Animal Man." It really is just one big story. I am approaching the two books exactly the same way. The first four-issue arc is really going to establish the team, why they do what they do and what their connections to the other Justice Leagues are. And that sets up a big story that will affect all the other Dark books moving forward.

When we learned you'd be writing another series for DC, there was some speculation it would be "The Robins," as rumored at Bleeding Cool. Any truth to those rumors?

[Laughs] No comment.

"Justice League Dark" #9 by Jeff Lemire and Mikel Janin arrives in May.

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