Bryan Hitch has long been known for his skill at rendering exciting super hero action at the largest scale. And now, having recently completed a dozen issues of JUSTICE LEAGUE and ten of the pre-Rebirth JLA, he’s shown that he’s just as adept at writing it as well. Of course, the fact that he’s been partnered with Tony S. Daniel for the bulk of the issues has certainly helped, as has Hitch’s willingness to take on some of the art duties himself like he did in the series launching JUSTICE LEAGUE: REBIRTH one-shot. However, it’s Hitch’s writing that’s been the real surprise here. Over his first dozen issues, he’s introduced threats both gargantuan, like the massive Kindred, and refreshingly straightforward, such as when the League’s tech turned against them in the recent “Outbreak” arc.
Even more impressive, Hitch has done all this while mixing in some insightful and downright emotional character moments throughout the series, building on the Superman and Lois relationship that’s been at the heart of the ongoing Superman books, and establishing new bonds between characters, like Barry Allen and Jessica Cruz.
With the first Justice League: Rebirth collection, JUSTICE LEAGUE VOL. 1: THE EXTINCTION MACHINES, now available, we thought we’d look back on this first arc which set the tone for how DC’s premiere team would interact and paved the way for recent events like JUSTICE LEAGUE VS. SUICIDE SQUAD.
Had you worked with artists Tony S. Daniel before Justice League?
I’ve never written for another artist before. JLA was essentially my first writing assignment. I’ve written creator-owned stuff, but that’s not quite the same as writing a company comic on this kind of schedule. Fortunately, I’m a fast writer, slow artist.
I didn’t realize you hadn’t written for other artists before!
No, it’s all been a bit of a learning curve, honestly. Fortunately, though, with artists that good, you just need to give them the right amount of information and let them get on with what they do best.
I spoke with Tony Daniel shortly after this comic was announced and he was extremely complimentary about working with you. The fact that you’re a fellow artist seemed to make the whole process that much more exciting for him.
I think it’s really just about giving him as much information as he needs and no more than that. I know what it’s like when someone’s telling you where to put every detail—“Put this on the right! Put this in the background!” That doesn’t give an artist the freedom to be expressive, and what you want is for them to be inspired. So really, I think it’s just about getting the pacing and the beats right, and giving them the information they need to be able to set scenes.
I’m delighted with everything Tony’s doing. It’s just fabulous work. The first issue has got an opening sequence with Wonder Woman that I can guarantee will just knock everybody’s socks off. It’s extraordinary.
Set this up a bit for new readers. What can you tell us about the new Justice League?
There’s a slightly different character dynamic to the Justice League now. We still have Superman, Batman, Flash, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Cyborg and Aquaman, so it still seems like it’s the same core characters. However, we have a different Superman. We have two Green Lanterns now, both of whom have very different experiences with the team. The team arrested Simon Baz, while Jessica Cruz tried to kill them, but she also had a long term relationship with the team. That’s going to bring a different dynamic than we had with Hal in the group. Having two rookies in the group also changes Victor’s perspective on the team because he’s no longer the rookie.
Victor and Simon have very similar backgrounds. They’re both from Detroit and to a degree they have both felt a little isolated and that they didn’t particularly belong anywhere. We also have a Superman that none of them know. I mean, at first glance he’s Clark. He’s Kal-El and Superman, but he has a whole wealth of experience that the other Superman didn’t have, and it’s a different experience. So there’s no relationship with them to start with. It’s a surface relationship. They know who he is, but Batman, who learned to trust the other Superman, is now working with someone new that he doesn’t trust. All the time Batman’s had a friendship with Superman, there was another Superman here all along. Why? What does that mean?
There’s going to be a reason for it and that’s going to drive their relationship in the early story arc.
That Superman also would have had a relationship and experience with the prior Justice League. Is that something that also creeps into the story?
Absolutely. It’s right there in Justice League: Rebirth. There’s a scene where chaos is raining down on the planet, and the League as it currently exists, without the two Green Lanterns and without Superman, are dealing with it. Superman sees stuff happening, but he’s been used to taking a back seat.
His real touchstone to the super hero world on this Earth is Lois. That’s his anchor and his heart—his family. The fact that this Superman is married and does have a child, that’s something you can’t conveniently forget just because you’re doing big scale Justice League stories. That emotion still has to drive through whatever you’re throwing at them, and it does. There are actually scenes between Batman and Lois which are just really powerful, emotionally speaking.
Superman comes into the first arc because they need him. Frankly, he’s the only one who can do what they need. Nobody else on Earth would have a chance at surviving, and Batman has to go and ask him to do it. But the driving force behind that scene is what he has to say to Lois. This could mean goodbye because there’s no guarantee he’s going to come back. It’s such a big thing that it’s doubtful that even Superman will survive it. But he has to do it because if he doesn’t, nobody on Earth will survive.
Rebirth is really bringing tighter continuity back to the DC Universe. When you started JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA, DC was taking something of a different approach. As a writer, is this tighter continuity proving to be a challenge? What are your thoughts on that?
The position we have here is that although all of these characters have their own books, this is the one book they share. This is where all of the connective tissue comes together. FLASH, GREEN LANTERNS, AQUAMAN, SUPERMAN, BATMAN, WONDER WOMAN and CYBORG, all those books have a relationship with each other. This book has to drive those relationships. It’s the cornerstone of how those relationships play out across the individual books. I’ve been talking about this with the other writers and editors, and seeing where we could pay that off in their titles.
Following DC Rebirth, the world's greatest superheroes—the Justice League—come together again to face new, more devastating threats!