Note: The following interview was conducted prior to the announcement of the Justice Society of America's return in Justice League #31.
Since he stepped up to write DC's premier super-team title, Scott Snyder has been playing with the most familiar elements of Justice League. Now, with the turning point issue #25 in the books, the writer is ready to reveal the depth of his biggest plans for both the League and the Legion of Doom.
The recently released Justice League #25 saw the end of the "Sixth Dimension" arc, where the heroes faced down their cynical future counterparts in order to stop the cosmic heavy known as the World Forger from breaking the Multiverse even further. At issue's end, the Forger has aligned himself with the League as a new member, just as Lex Luthor makes his shocking public sacrifice to transform himself into a frightful ghoul and kick off the story that will reverberate throughout the DCU's Year of the Villain. But for Snyder, the real action is in the pages of Justice League, where the epic single-series event "Justice Doom War" will carry the saga that started in issue #1 to its biggest battle yet.
CBR spoke with Snyder about the ins and outs of issue #25, and the writer happily shared his theories about what makes the Justice League come together as a team. He also explains why Superman's solar reinvention couldn't have happened without artist Jorge Jimenez, and what shocking turns await the book once the full might of all Justice teams take on the Legion of Doom, including a few wild guest stars from across the multiverse thrown in.
CBR: Scott, you've had a mega-story for Justice League planned since it begun, but do you have everything plotted out to a specific number of issues, or is there wiggle room built in as you go? And where do you place issue #25 in the overall run?
Scott Snyder: There's a little wiggle room, but I've said since the beginning that we'll be about 40 or 50 issues, and it's landing pretty squarely in that zone. So this is right before the end of Act 2. In the three-act structure, Act 2 is the lowest possible point for the heroes. Right now is the moment right before everything goes south, and the only way they have to win is to enact the events of what we're going to start in issue #30. That's called "Justice Doom War," and it'll run about ten issues. That will bring the Legion of Doom including villains from across the DCU and the Justice League, including heroes from across the DCU to fight throughout the history of the DCU. [Laughs] We're bringing Hypertime into effect, and we're going to collapse it and go crazy. It's one of the biggest things I've ever been a part of, even though it's still just in our book. I'm really excited about finally getting to the nuttiest and most emotional part of our plan.
What's stood out in this arc, and issue #25 in particular, is the idea of the League as a league. It's about standing with someone else and being part of a collective and a higher purpose to that. Why did that become a central metaphor on this team, and will you be smashing that idea up as we go along?
Yeah! That's really the heart of our series. It's, "Why do they need to be a team when each of them are so powerful?" The answer isn't because they're physically more powerful together, even though they are. That's their material reason for coming together – to be a sort of shield for the earth. But really, the reason they're coming together is what this arc articulates in a clearer way than anything else we've done, and that's why it's my favorite arc and this my favorite issue, honestly.
It says pretty openly that there's a Justice League because they help each other imagine things that they wouldn't be able to do individually. They help each other see past the boundaries of their own expectations. Here, Superman might not be able to see through the darkness without the suns and the lanterns that Batman sets up for him. And Batman can't see a solution to fixing the multiverse beyond what the World Forger pitches. He agrees with the World Forger, but he knows that his friend Superman might be able to show him another way, so he sets a path for him to come back. It's all about saying, "I can't find a solution for myself, but with my friends I might be able to imagine something new I couldn't have seen otherwise."
That's what the book is about on a personal level for me, too. My kids are growing up right now in a time where there are these tremendously challenging global problems that feel like they're going to require a tremendous amount of unity and collective imagination. I think the big temptation is to say, "Who really cares about that? My life is now. I'll be fine. My little area is fine." That's Luthor. This book is about what the characters mean to each other on a personal level, but it's also about what they mean to all of us and why they're enduring. They do things for each other and for us as well. They say, "We're going to help you imagine how to be better versions of yourself."
James Tynion has been writing a lot of the Doom stuff, and in this issue you have Jorge Jimenez as a co-plotter and someone who's throwing in his own little flourishes, like a callback to All-Star Superman #1...
Oh, yeah -- in the sun, with his arms out wide?
Exactly. For moments like that, are you doing things more Marvel-style with him in terms of the creative process?
It is a little more Marvel-style. Basically, this arc came from the ideas for the Sixth Dimension, and Jorge came to me and said, "Listen, I have this idea for a Superman story that's been in my head for years. He's my favorite character, and I think what he should be about is this." He gave me his explanation, and it completely synched up with what I felt about Superman. I told him I thought I had a way to incorporate his story about Superman being isolated and exploring his past and his future as a way of showing that he's not one-dimensional while also incorporating it into my plans. I showed it to him, and he thought it was great, so I gave him story credit.
Jorge's been an inspiration to me, and it ties in to what I was saying about the League being an inspiration to each other. I couldn't be prouder of this arc and the book itself, and I do feel it's created in that same spirit. Jorge is incredibly energetic and young. He brings an energy to this book and the characters he's so passionate about that makes me write in a way that's new and unique to this storyline. And when I work with Jim Cheung, it's been different, and working with James Tynion makes me a far better write than I'd be on my own. I feel grateful for my creative partners on this book in a way that is difficult for me to even express. But in particular to Jorge, since that was part of the question, that guy makes me feel like a part of the Justice League. I'm beyond thrilled working with him, and he made me see things in this arc I would have never without his help.
The conclusion of this story also kicks the ball forward for your big plans. We've got this moment where Superman swoops in to save the day, but on the other side, Luthor is making his big move. Right in the middle of that is the Forger, who's been the antagonist of this arc, if not the villain. Now, he's joining up with the League, but what does having him in the mix say about the conflict to come now that he's on the side of the angels?
Well, we're not even sure that he is. The thing I wanted to do was give you a sense of closure with this arc and let it be something that stood on its own, but I wanted it to end in such a way that kicks things up to completely new levels. Especially since, in the end, the World Forger is a part of the Justice League. We have Aquaman coming back in a surprising way. We have the Forger saying, "The only way for us to win is for me to go after my two brothers, the Monitor and the Anti-Monitor, and to join them together in a way we haven't seen for eons. We have to trap Perpetua behind the wall once again." We also have Lex Luthor having won and getting the world on his side. We have Doom beginning to take form in the multiverse, and Perpetua rising. Lex Luthor saying, "All I need to do now is have Martian Manhunter sacrifice his soul and abilities to me so I can become the apex predator I was meant to be and lead humanity to this great future." And then, we have the whole mystery of Hawkgirl's wings.
To me, all this stuff is about to blow up. It really is. Basically, the next three issues is everybody trying to avoid war. They're trying to find some simple solution out of this. At least, the League is. The Legion of Doom is expanding to prepare for war. The Justice League is trying to find a way to undo what the Legion of Doom did, and when they realize they only way to do this is to make the League bigger than it's ever been. And then we're going to see them go to war, across the entire breadth of the DCU.
The issue's end contains a massive double-splash of teases for what's coming up. The big League shot contains teams we may expect to see, like Damian's Titans and The Terrifics, and it also has a few more far afield members, like Man-Bat and Krypto and Kyle Rayner. Have you been working to reflect the modern line of books, or are there some guest stars we can expect that haven't been on the board in a while?
It's pretty planned out. Man-Bat has been a part of Justice League Dark, which has been out sister book for a while, and that really comes in through some of the Wonder Woman stuff in "Justice Doom War." The Terrifics, because they've been functioning on a sort of multiversal level, they'll be coming in on the Monitor stuff later. And Kyle Rayner is essentially the only one who's ever traveled through the Source Wall, so he winds up being a great guide when it comes to some of the stuff that happens at the edge of the Multiverse. So everyone in there has a specific role to play in the story, but it's not just them. Guy Gardner has some of the best lines in issue #30. I just read it over! [Laughs] That's the first part of "Justice Doom War," and we're trying really hard to incorporate these guys in a way that reminds you of why we love them. We want them to play a big part and put them into action and set everything rolling.
We want you to have a big summer where you say, "Holy shit. Justice League is everything I've always wanted it to be." It's got all the heroes at their best and all the villains at their worst fighting in the highest stakes possible. And it's a highly emotional soap opera.
You're also pulling in the odder parts of the multiverse with things like the DC One Million Superman or Calvin Ellis, or even Captain Carrot. Were there parts of that canon that were in your own personal long box that you wanted to put in regardless or whether or not people would know them all?
[Laughs] I don't think there's anything that nobody else loves, but the Captain Carrot stuff in particular is great, and Red Rain is one of my all-time favorite Elseworlds stories. There's even Gotham By Gaslight making its way in. That stuff circulates throughout, and you'll see some of it in issue #30 as well. The beginning of "Justice Doom War" sees them recruit heroes from across the multiverse. But what we're building towards, and what we want you to feel, is the idea that all the stories you ever loved matter. All the characters you love matter. We're trying to activate that stuff for this story. Even though it's not an event – not technically, though it is an event in our book – this is the most emotional Justice League story we can possibly tell.
And trust me, for all the stuff you've seen, there are still a lot of things we're holding back to surprise you with. And there's some I think you will see coming that we've been building up to for a while.
The last piece of this issue and of the overall story to address is the villains' part in this. Unlike what we sometimes see, the members of the Legion of Doom have had their own story arcs as part of all this, but it seems like it must be hard to keep all those balls in the air as this cast grows.
It's really hard, honestly. There are a lot of things we wanted to do with the villains that we just ran out of time for. We had a mini arc we wanted to do around some of their new powers, and we just couldn't do it because of time constraints. What we wound up doing was fusing some of that into other areas. Some of the beats we wanted to do emotionally worked into Sixth Dimension with them, so I think it was for the best.
But this "Justice Doom War" story brings it all together. Really, what the heroes understand is, instead of trying to stop the villains from using these dark forces that kind of mirror the forces that they have – the seven lions that Luthor is unlocking to release doom and release Perpetua – they need to up their own powers. They need to up the Speed Force. They need to up the Emotional Spectrum. They need to up all of it. So in that way, it winds up being a battle of one set of powers against another. All that stuff comes back. The villains, like you're saying, have to have real arcs. The have to say, "Am I going to side with Luthor, or is there something for me on the other side?" And honestly, some of the heroes are thinking, "Maybe Luthor has a point. Maybe the only way to win is to turn the multiverse into a weapon and point it at these beings who are going to judge us." That's really what he's saying. He's saying, "Why let these things judge us for breaking the multiverse and essentially disintegrate us because they feel we're not worthy? Why don't we turn the multiverse into a spear and turn this all on its head?" There's a very tempting argument in that.
And, of course, one of the key conceptual hooks built into his pitch is the latest reinvention of the Luthor/Brainiac team, which we've seen on and off at DC for decades. It's really the latest kind of Saturday morning visual, but reinventing it Snyder-style. Is part of that gravitating towards the most horrific version of Luthor ever?
[Laughs] It's less that than it is what you said first. I want this book to be comfort food and your favorite Saturday morning cartoons, but done in a way that's adult and sophisticated and – without being dark – is surprising and new and fresh. That's always been my way. It's what we tried to do on [Dark Nights:] Metal. I want to lure you in with the idea that you think you know what this is. We start with the team from the animated series, and we've got the Legion of Doom and their swamp base. And you've got the Hall of Justice, so it looks like Super Friends. But then you get to the end of that first issue, and you see Vandal Savage die, and you learn that a part of the Source Wall has fallen, and a piece inside of it could change the entire multiverse. We're taking it seriously, and it could really change the future of the DCU.
It's about taking concepts that are kid/joy concepts and things from my own childhood like the Lex Luthor/Brainiac team-up and then doing them in a way that makes them scary. It's monstrous not because I like horror but because I want the story to be as emotional and dramatic as possible. I want you as an adult reader to feel riveted. It sounds silly, but it's like wanting things that you love from your childhood – Voltron and Transformers and Knight Rider – to be amazing now for you and your kids. That's the joy of a lot of what's being done in the movies and on television with these heroes, whether it's stuff like Swamp Thing on DC Universe or Infinity War. You watch it, and it takes these joyful childhood elements and treats them with sincerity. It makes them really compelling. That's really my goal.