SPOILER WARNING: This article contains major spoilers for “Justice League: Darkseid War: Batman” #1, on sale now.
“Darkseid War” has turned the DC Universe upside down with Batman now armed with the godlike power of the Mobius Chair and taking on Metreon’s role as the god of knowledge. And while you might think that’s a good thing, as writer Peter J. Tomasi and artist Fernando Pasarin explore in today’s “Justice League: Darkseid War: Batman” one-shot, knowledge is power, but it can also be a burden.
Currently unfolding in the pages of “Justice League,” “Darkseid War” finds the League caught in the middle of a battle between Darkseid and the Anti-Monitor that could threaten the entire DCU. Too big to be contained in a single title, the event expands starting this week into six one-shots focusing on key characters involved in the conflict.
CBR News spoke with Tomasi and “Darkseid War: Batman” cover artist Francis Manapul about how the Dark Knight, arguably the smartest person in the DCU, deals with his new role as the God of Knowledge, what it means for him to confront Joe Chill — the man responsible for turning a young Bruce Wayne into Batman — and why Joker is next on his list. Manapul also discusses his two-issue run as interior artist on “Justice League” with Geoff Johns, the legacy of Jack Kirby and the New Gods, and teases the “Darkseid War: Lex Luthor” one-shot he’ll be writing next month.
CBR News: As “Darkseid War: Batman” opens, Batman — now fueled by the Mobius Chair — is declared the new God of Knowledge. Wasn’t he already the lower case ‘g’ god of knowledge?
Peter Tomasi: Yeah, but now he’s just real big. [Laughs] He’s got so much smarts his brains are about to pop out of his head.
Tomasi: That’s right. [Laughs] Batman has always been able to ‘tap’ in and always has his finger on the pulse and is always thinking five steps ahead of everyone, but now it’s 10 steps ahead. He has foresight that is giving him an incredible advantage over crime in Gotham and that’s what we explored in the book. And we explore how it affects his psyche and his physiology at the same time.
Mister Terrific — now enjoying increased public awareness thanks to his role on The CW’s “Arrow” — is widely considered the third smartest person in the DCU. You both have a long history with Batman, and Francis, you’re writing “Darkseid War: Lex Luthor.” Are Batman and Lex the first and second smartest people in the DCU? And between the two of them, Batman’s current ride not withstanding, who takes the top spot?
Francis Manapul: Batman is definitely number one. And I think what prevents Lex from being number one is his own ego. That’s basically the only difference. He can’t see things beyond himself, which prevents him from being number one.
Tomasi: Very well put, Francis.
The Mobius Chair — like so many other iconic persons, places and things in comics — was created by the legendary Jack Kirby. When writing and drawing comics featuring the New Gods and other Kirby creations, does it allow for and even encourage you to really unleash your talents talents considering Kirby was never afraid to go “all-in” with a concept or design?
Tomasi: Story and character dictate that really. Kirby obviously had a story that pushed the New Gods to have this epic feel but in “Darkseid War: Batman,” and my job and Fernando Pasarin’s was to really show what an element of Kirby’s epic-ness would do in a real world situation like Gotham and how Batman would utilize it. It was interesting to take an epic device and put it into a real world, smaller, non-epic feel and see how it played out.
Francis, your cover art for “Darkseid War: Batman” is very striking. Can you give us an idea of what inspired the design and perhaps explain more about your approach to the other “Darkseid War” one-shots?
Manapul: With a lot of them, they stem from the first “Justice League” cover that I did. From there, it starts to focus in on each of the characters featured in the one-shots. Jack Kirby’s art is very bombastic and dynamic and I wasn’t going to try and compete with that feel. I just tried to put in a design element that would tie it all in together. Kirby had very specific nuances with his art in the way that he designed technology and I tried to use some of those idiosyncrasies that he used in his art and used them as a design element so there is always patterns on each cover that tie the covers together. It’s a bit subtle but it’s there. The focus on each cover is really trying to feature each of these characters in an iconic way. Even when I redesigned a lot of the characters, it was very much with a Jack Kirby style in mind, specifically with the patterns and the way the uniforms or the costumes are. His art is very unique and it stands out right way when Jack Kirby designs something so I tried to do my best to keep it in that arena.
Peter, I want to jump back into the story of “Darkseid War: Batman.” I love that Jim Gordon and Alfred are the voices of reason in this issue, pleading with Batman to stand down from the Mobius Chair since it’s feeding on him and changing him — if not killing him — but the highlight for me was Batman’s confrontation with Joe Chill. When writing a meeting between these two characters — considering Chill’s actions were the impetus for the creation of the Dark Knight — how did you prepare for this scene and what did you want to deliver to readers with the climactic exchange?
Tomasi: It really just boiled down to Batman revealing himself to Joe Chill. Batman wanted to show him that what he did caused so much pain and wanted to see if he could understand what he did and what he created. Batman then threatens Joe Chill with telling the world that what he did actually created Batman. Once again, it was approaching the story from the character first because that was the scene, just Batman and Joe Chill confronting each other, that I built everything out from. That was the core of the story. Putting those two characters together just literally just gives you so much drama. I could have done pages and pages of them just going at it with each other. It just allows you to explore Batman’s open wound that continues to fester. Sometimes you think it’s gone and then it rears its ugly head and you continue to see that even though it’s not top of mind, it’s always there eating away at you. And in a way, that’s what the Mobius Chair represents because it’s eating away at Batman, too. This aspect of his life with Joe Chill and what he did with his parents is obviously something that continues to eat at him even though it’s something from so long ago.
The close of “Darkseid War: Batman” one-shot reveals what I, for one, was hoping for: Batman using his newfound powers to be an ‘absolute Batman dealing absolute justice.’ He has narrowed his focus from the many to the one. Francis, you’re drawing the next part of this story in “Justice League” #46, written by your frequent collaborator Geoff Johns. Peter, can you share your thoughts on the inevitable turn of the cowl’s gaze to the Joker? And Francis, what can you tease about what’s to come as “Darkseid War” marches on in “Justice League” #46?
Tomasi: Like you said, Francis is handling the next issue of the story but talk about two key figures in Batman’s life in terms of the horror it. And that’s his next step. Once Geoff [Johns] threw that out there that Batman asked the Mother Box, “Who is The Joker?” And it pings back with obvious information that makes Batman need to explore that now that he feels that he has dealt with the crime in Gotham City. He feels like he’s got that under control so he is going to turn his attention to his doppelgänger, the one that continues to cause rot and pain in Gotham and that’s what Geoff and Francis are going to explore in the next issue.
Manapul: And what can I share about The Joker? Nothing. [Laughs] I can tell you that the second issue of “Justice League” that I’m doing is still dealing with the Justice League and their new powers and their new roles. Each of the one-shots is really focusing on their interactions with their old lives. In “Darkseid War: Superman,” Superman returns to Metropolis a different guy with different morals. This changes everything. The Superman beat is very interesting because he’s no more powerful than he was before, the only difference is now that the gloves are off.
And in “Darkseid War: Lex Luthor,” we’re talking about a guy finally getting what he’s been after for a very long time. Not only does he have the powers of Darkseid but he’s surrounded by these people that are kneeling before him. What’s that going to be like? We’re going to be focusing on that in the one-shot. And that really ramps up in “Justice League” with the rest of Darkseid’s old emissaries, who are really battling it out with the Justice League.
Finally, Francis, can you talk about drawing “Justice League” as a team book? You’ve drawn most of the characters following your runs on “Detective Comics,” “The Flash” and others, but was it different drawing them together as a team?
The most exciting about my two-issue run on “Justice League” is that I am penciling, inking and coloring the interior, as well. I’ve been able to experiment a bit with my art, as well. I am used to having three jobs on a book so I thought since I wasn’t writing “Justice League,” I added another one. [Laughs] I am really enjoying working on the Jack Kirby characters, specifically Mister Miracle. The second issue of my run introduces another Fourth World character to the New 52, which I am very excited about. Jack Kirby is a huge part of comic book history and a brought a vast amount of ideas to the lexicon. It’s fun.
“Justice League: Darkseid War: Batman” by writer Peter Tomasi and artist Fernando Pasarin, featuring a cover by Francis Manapul, is on sale now.
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