Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV have been writing DC comics together for more than a decade. But as 2019 inches to its close, the collaborators are finding new roles for themselves.
First up, the flagship DC Universe title Justice League is rocketing toward a finale that's been in the planning since the pair helped launch the Dark Nights: Metal event more than a year ago. The major "Justice Doom War" story is just the start of an endgame that reaches into Justice League Dark and the incoming Year of the Villain: Hell Arisen miniseries, which ties back in the Batman Who Laughs. But beyond that, January sees Tynion take over as lead writer on Batman, a gig that made his friend and mentor Snyder a household name among superhero fans.
With one phase of their collaboration ending, and the next one seeing their stewardship of the Dark Knight in a role reversal, CBR caught up with the creators on why the big battles ahead for Justice League are part of an evolving plan, how characters like Martian Manhunter and Hawkgirl have finally regained their prominence, and how Tynion's Batman will be an ambitious story set to challenge who Bruce Wayne really is.
CBR: Justice League is entering its final phase with "Justice Doom War," and the many stories and ideas flowing out of it through DC's "Year of the Villain." How much would you say this story has changed since you set out the initial plan?
James Tynion IV: A plan always has to be flexible. You always have to allow it to evolve and change. You don't want to get one year into a three-year plan and realize a cooler idea and not be able to do that. So there's always room for bending to the cool idea of the moment and to reflect what's working, what isn't. But the amazing thing is that we have had – really since the start of Metal with Dark Days, The Forge and The Casting – is this incredible roadmap that we didn't think DC was going to let us do. But we have this kind of rough sketch of how we were going to tell one of the biggest stories in the history of DC Comics. And that was going to start in that storyline with the Source Wall breaking wide open and symbolically like ripping open the possibilities of storytelling in the DC Universe. And then we'd tell the biggest Justice League story ever. And not just in the biggest story... but the biggest cosmic Justice League story in Odyssey, the biggest magic Justice League story in Justice League Dark and then also at the same time, play with the storyline with the Batman Who Laughs as this creeping nightmare remaining in the world and building his own plan.
And that's the thing that's so exciting about right now. Right at this moment we are in the middle of "Justice Doom War." We are building towards Year of the Villain: Hell Arisen in December, and this is the moment where all those threads start to converge. And the plan that has been in the making since we first sat in a room and started dreaming up Dark Nights: Metal – well, everything that we planned is coming to a head, and it is one of the most exciting moments as a storyteller and a comic book writer and a DC fan that I've ever been a part of.
Specifically for you, James, I know Wonder Woman has become a bigger part of the puzzle in your hands as you've played with her in the magic realm of DC in Justice League Dark. What made you want to chart that relatively new territory for the character there?
Tynion: I think that there's an inherent part of magic to Wonder Woman. And I think that that's something that I personally really want to play with. I love Diana. She's one of my favorite characters in all of comic books. And DC magic is one of my favorite arenas of the DC Universe. But over the last 30 years, it's kind of been segmented because a group of those characters were off in Vertigo for a long, long time, and then other characters kind of fell to the backside, and then new characters rose up to sort of fill their space. So it's been kind of broken up. And being able to take a character like Wonder Woman who's so central to the DC Comics mythos and be able to rally all of [these characters] together and and then tell a really big story where she is kind of the outsider but where she's also purely of the world of magic...it's just like she's an outsider and an insider all at once. And that was that's what really drew me to putting her at the center of Justice League Dark.
While the other big piece on the board for all these books is the Batman Who Laughs, I wonder who you feel has been the glue of this run in a way that fans may not immediately recognize?
Scott Snyder: For us, we really from the beginning thought of it as a Luthor, Martian Manhunter and Hawkgirl story. It really was something that I think sort of oscillates between those three characters. And the Martian Manhunter is sort of the new chairman of the League. He deeply believes that connectivity and sort of a collectivism is the spirit and the heart of the Justice League, and it's what led to the demise of his planet, the lack of that. Luthor is the opposite. He believes in solipsism and is completely selfish with a cruel self interest. And he believes that humanity is designed to follow that path behind him. And then Kendra really is in the middle in a way where she understands – having lived so many lives – the pragmatism of just needing to say, "We're going to kill Luthor" or "We're going to end that and not have this grand argument."
And yet to win, the entire narrative of the entire story of Justice League is a matter of faith. You have to believe one or the other: you have to believe in justice or you have to believe in Doom. And so, those those three characters have been fascinating to write because I've never written them before Justice League, except a little ways. Like in Superman I wrote Luthor to some extent. But you know, they're so rich and interesting that those were the breakouts for me, and those are the characters that were the big threads that I've been pulling with James.
It's interesting you mention those characters because all three of them were ones who were somewhat off the table back when the New 52 started at DC. Do you think it gives them more power when they've been taken off the table for a while?
Snyder: I think the reason they're enduring is because they have core qualities. So Luthor, even when he's a hero he's still selfish. He's doing it because he wants everyone to recognize that he's the greatest hero. He's a better Superman than Superman. And Martian Manhunter when you rest him after he's been used in all kinds of different ways in the New 52 – they tried to re-explore him and have him be more of a detective or have him be a little bit more menacing – I think you put him away for a little bit and then returned to core. The core is always there no matter what, and it's what makes them so special. For me, getting to play them a little bit closer to the bone – closer to who they who they originally were – it's been a lot of fun. Because other characters we're using like Jarro as a version of Starro or our take on John Stewart and other characters as well are slightly off. They're left of center or off-center in terms of us making them kind of our own. Our Starman, Will Payton, is like that too.
Of course, we can't talk with both of you guys without talking about James' upcoming run as the lead writer on Batman. Scott, have you been leaning into your mentor role in this time and trying to give James any advice on how to take on maybe the most prestigious monthly gig at DC?
Snyder: I tried to murder him and take it back. [Laughter] If I could just speak for one second about it, what I'd say is that we met when I was a kid and he was a kid. I've known James must be 12 years ago or more... I don't even know if I had my first kid when I met you, and now I have three! And what I'd say is that James has always had the best story compass of anyone I know – even when he was my student and I was 20-something-year-old teacher. And that's why we gravitated towards each other professionally, and now as friend. He's my best friend. He's my brother. And I know that what he's gonna do with Batman having seen the plans, and all of it is better than what I could have done. His sense of stories, his love of these characters, his ambition for what can be done with them has always been a North Star for me. It's why I sound check everything with him – everything I do, every crazy idea. So for him finally to get the steering wheel with Batman? For me as a fan it's like, this is going to be amazing. I can't wait.
Tynion: I really appreciate everything Scott just said. It's been a tremendous honor to spend so much of my career in Gotham City. But the one the biggest thing that I come back to over and over – and this was something when I stepped off of Detective that I felt very strongly – was [the idea that] I have spent my eight years working in comic books in Gotham City working on the supporting cast of the bat family and even more obscure characters than that. But I have never really told a Bruce Wayne Batman story. So that is incredibly exciting!
And just because I haven't told it yet doesn't mean I don't have lots of ideas for him. And now I had the opportunity to weave them all together and tell the biggest story I've ever told in comics – something that I think is going to cut right to the heart of Bruce and be really fun and scary and all of the things that I want a Batman comic to be – it's a tremendous honor. It's a tremendous responsibility. And I've written the first issue and I've spent an hour talking to Tony Daniel about it yesterday. We are so excited about what we're building, and I just can't wait for people to read it.