The DC Universe found itself enmeshed in a superhero-zombie thriller with DCeased, by Tom Taylor, Trevor Hairsine, Stefano Gaudiano, Rain Beredo and Saida Temofonte, in which such icons as Batman, Wonder Woman and Superman fall victim to the techno virus. In the finale, a group of heroes were forced to abandon Earth and find a new home in the stars, while Cyborg was revealed to hold the key to a cure.
Unfortunately, that knowledge died with him, but the seed was planted for that plotline to be explored down the line. Of course, DC has already announced a follow-up in DCeased: Unkillables, a three-issue series that reveals what the villains of the DC Universe were up to while the heroes were fighting for survival.
With the DCeased hardcover due for release on Nov. 26, CBR had the opportunity to speak to Taylor ahead of the Issue 6 finale to find out what it's like to kill your favorite DC heroes, Green Arrow sticking it to Batman, the potential rise of a new Justice League and thoughts on a sequel.
CBR: By the time this interview goes up, DCeased #6 will be in stores. While it's obviously too early to gauge the reactions, I wanted to get your thoughts on how fans have reacted to the series overall.
Tom Taylor: The series has been described as a surprise hit, but we all knew we had something that felt pretty special. Our editor, Ben Abernathy, knew from Day 1 that we created something that was more than what people were expecting. Something full of heart and incredible moments. In issue #1 when we literally killed Batman on the last page, so we completely blew open people’s expectations from the get-go.
And bringing up that Batman moment. There's definitely been a lot of gut-wrenching moments in DCeased. But what also stuck out to me are the quieter, more personal moments between the heroes. When you were plotting the series out, how did you decide which characters to use and focus on? And how were the decisions made on who would live and who would die?
It was quite an organic process. I knew I wanted to kill Batman right away. I’m a Superman guy, so he was always my favorite hero growing up, and Batman was my second favorite [laughs]. But Batman always gets the moment where everyone reading it thinks, “Okay, Batman is going to have some genius plan to fix everything in the end. And he’ll out-think everyone.” But nope, we murder him right away.
So we want to continually pull the rug out from people. It wasn’t always a decision about which heroes should die, but which heroes should live? Which heroes should experience that death? What does that mean for the other heroes? Batman and Superman are the World’s Finest, and we remove that possibility at the end of the first issue. It was either about the emotion driving the story or what that set up for us. And a lot of it was also about removing the old guard.
We removed the Trinity, but at the same time we have Superboy Jon Kent, we’ve got Damian, we have Cassie as Wonder Girl. We’ve got Wally [West]. The Flash is gone, Green Lantern is gone and Dinah [Drake] is the new Green Lantern. So it’s not just about the destruction that’s come before, but an evolution.
It's funny you bring up getting rid of the Trinity, because that’s something I hadn’t noticed. With Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman being gone, you’ve basically almost set up an entirely new Justice League.
Not saying we're working towards anything, but that's where we're leaving it.
I was impressed with how the heroes came together to fight the Zombie Superman, instead of conceding defeat because of how strong he was. And once again, that gave us a heartbreaking moment of watching Jon Kent have to face off against his father. In a story where friends and teammates have been turned evil, how important is it to show heroes face impossible odds and still come out on top?
It's incredibly important. I mean, with the world ending, that’s a real bummer [laughs]. We have enough death and gloom in this world. And yes, I know it sounds ridiculous coming from someone who wrote DCeased to say that, but I did want there to always be hope. There has to be hope on every single page.
We’re going to destroy you along the way. We're going to have scenes like Superman saying goodbye to his family. And what Trevor and Stefano and everybody brought to that moment is just incredible, but at the same time Jon is still there, still fighting like his father wanted. It’s Superman still living on in him and in Lois. They're incredibly important and the fact that Superman telegraphs it by telling Jon he’s going to do things – he’s seen the universe and Jon is the best thing in it. But he’s going to go on to do great things, and Jon in that moment is the thing that stops the human race from dying.
Let's talk about the reveal that the cure to stop the virus is inside Cyborg, who we know is Patient Zero. Cyborg unfortunately dies with this knowledge before he can pass it on. Why did you decide to show the reader that there is a cure for the virus?
Because I’m a terrible person [laughs]. Because it just made sense. I mean, I always planned this out. I'd planned out exactly how the virus worked, and I wanted it to be something that could only exist in the DC Universe. It was the Anti-Life Equation being created through Cyborg, the sort of pinnacle of human technology crossed with Apokoliptan technology, and then that virus corrupted by Death itself with the Black Racer injected in Cyborg.
I’ve known since Day 1 that there was a cure. Every decision that every person has made, from Alfred shooting Batman, to Superman doing what he did to Flash, everything has brought with it pain. There is comedy in the book, but there is also a lot of tragedy. And who knows, it may mean that this is the end. If there is a cure, then that means there are people out there looking for it. And as you said, we have a whole new Justice League.
Speaking of Justice League, one of the many stars of the last issue was Green Arrow. He goes from being offended that Batman didn’t consider him a threat to proving him wrong by taking out a possessed Aquaman. Was it always in the plans to give Green Arrow this signature moment?
I love Green Arrow [laughs]. I’m a huge Green Arrow and Black Canary fan. If you’ve read any of Injustice you’ll know that I’ll write them any chance I get. But that moment is absolutely up there with my favorite moments of the whole series. You may have noticed that in this issue there are a lot more pages because there's so much we wanted to achieve, particularly with the Amazonians and Atlanteans.
We talked about it and talked about it and were finally able to fit it all in. But there was a point when Green Arrow’s moment wasn’t going to be quite so big, but I said, “No, it needs the page space.” That moment is when he shows Batman exactly how cool he is.
Were there any other moments that stick out to you that you also enjoyed?
It’s been a really enjoyable series to write. It sounds bizarre because here I am torturing the heroes I love. But there's been big moments throughout. Superman saying goodbye to Lois, Jon and his mom was heartbreaking. I’ve been contacted by a lot of people who cried during it. I heard Abernathy teared up as he was giving it to the letterer.
And those moments like that, where despite the fact that he's a guy, he's about to die, but he's still Superman in every single way and still stopping to inspire and to share love and to be a hero. Finding the time to do that in these last moments and think about everybody else.
And the same thing when Superman goes off to save his parents in Smallville. But he can't get there in time because he can't fly past all these other people in trouble. It’s just not who he is. And for me, even though I knew he had to go, I still wanted him to bond with Jon. Lois has been a writer as well, and the two of them sort of cast the biggest shadow over the series.
To wrap up, you alluded to it a few times already, but there definitely appears to be seeds planted for some type of follow up to the series, with the establishment of Earth-2 and the virus still being active. Have there been any talks of some type of follow up or discussions of a sequel?
There's probably not much I can say about that. But I would say that I would return to the universe in a heartbeat. Or an undead heartbeat. We have established a lot but first and foremost we wanted to wrap really well. We wanted this story to grab everybody’s attention, which it clearly has.
It's been amazing to have everybody buying into it and sticking with it as well, with all the variant covers and artists we’ve had on board. Yeah, I would definitely revisit it and I am certainly doing a lot more work at DC, I can tell you that. There’s Suicide Squad, I will plug that.
Do you have any closing thoughts you want to give to the fans and readers that have been reading and supporting the series from issue #1 to the end?
I just want to say a massive thank you to all the fans, to all the retailers who backed it so hard and stuck with it, to the readers who stuck with it, all the amazing variant artists who have produced jaw-dropping work. To Trevor Hairsine, Stefano Gaudiano and Saida Temofonte and all of our cover artists.
And especially to Ben Abernathy, the editor who came to me and said, “Tom, do you want to do a horror book?” To which I replied, “Gee, I don’t really know. I’m not a horror guy.” And he stuck with me and I came kept coming up with ridiculous ideas. He's just an incredible, wonderful ideas guy but also a really fantastic supporter of everything we’ve done on this series and it wouldn’t be possible without them.
The DCeased hardcover collection goes on sale Nov. 26 at bookstores and e-retailers.