As one of the writers behind JUSTICE LEAGUE: NO JUSTICE, the four-part event that leads directly up to DC new line of Justice League comics, Joshua Williamson has a big month ahead of him. Cowritten by Williamson, Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV, No Justice boasts a cosmic threat serious enough to make even Brainiac tremble in fear and is the first story to build out of the strange new DC Universe we were left with at the end of DARK NIGHTS: METAL (a storyline in which Williamson also played a role). Heroes will team with villains, worlds will be threatened, and when all is done, we’ll be left with three new Justice Leagues.
Not bad for a writer who’s still relatively new to the DCU, especially considering that No Justice is only the first DC event that Williamson is writing this month. He’s also behind “Flash War,” the crucial Flash storyline that will pit Barry Allen against his former sidekick Wally West and that kicks off later this month with THE FLASH #47. And that’s to say nothing about DEATHBED, his wildly imaginative Vertigo series with artist Riley Rossmo.
We recently got the chance to discuss all three with Williamson, who let us know who we should keep an eye on in No Justice, what Wally West fans will think of “Flash War,” and how ninjas are just so much cooler when they’re also mummies.
Okay, let’s start with the basics. For anyone who doesn’t yet know, what is Justice League: No Justice about?
At the end of Dark Nights: Metal, some really big, crazy stuff happened and it kind of changed the fabric of the DC Universe. It caused all this new stuff to pop up in all of these areas that we thought we knew, but now are learning are much bigger and crazier than we ever imagined. No Justice is one of the first things that spills out of that.
Basically, Brainiac is scared. All of these things are going on in space, and they’re making him nervous. So, he goes to the Justice League to get help, and he rearranges the groupings. He tells them, “You’ve been fighting in these combinations for so long, you’re predictable. If you go out in space in these combinations, you’ll lose. I’m going to show you how to win.”
So, he breaks the teams up and puts them in new assortments that he believes—based off of power levels and things like that—will help them win. But the thing he forgot about is the heart and the relationships between the characters.
That’s a big part of the book. There are these four cosmic energies—these gigantic space gods—that are now loose, and that haven’t been around for a while. They’re coming around and they’re going to start destroying planets, and one of the first planets they’re going for is Colu. So, the Justice League has to go to Colu and try and save it before they come to Earth.
One of the coolest things about this miniseries is you have heroes being forced to team up with villains in order to save the world. What are those dynamics like, and how has it been writing them? Are there any characters you’re having particular fun with?
Yeah, one of my favorite dynamics is Martian Manhunter and Lex Luthor. I think the relationship those two characters have is one of the throughlines of the whole series. You get Lobo hanging out with Beast Boy. There’s sort of a weird dynamic that comes from that. Harley with Cyborg, Superman and Sinestro, Starfire and Sinestro—there are all these little groups that you’ve never seen before. But it is great to see these villains interacting with the heroes, and knowing that they kind of have to.
From DC NATION #0 (art by Jorge Jimenez)
Without revealing too much, is there any villain that’s going to surprise us? Anyone we should keep an eye on throughout the story?
I would say Starro. Starro is always a lot of fun and he has a really fun role in this series.
You’re working on this with Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV. The three of you have been working together a lot. What’s the collaborative process like with them?
We just all share. The three of us, we get along really well. We have a lot of the same ideas. We really know what each of us brings and how we challenge each other, so we just share everything.
With No Justice in particular, it’s really gotten to where I’d write a part. I’d send it off, and then James would come in and tweak it, Scott would tweak it, and then James would write a scene, and I’d tweak it. There’s no single scene where I could say, “I wrote that.” Everything’s been touched by all of us, and as we’ve been working on this, it’s just become this thing where everything gets passed around. It’s a really great sort of hive mind of a working relationship. We’ve been able to just tell crazy stories and push each other to see what’s the thing we want to try to get away with.
Scott’s really great like that. He’s really good about amping up the emotional core of things. He pushes you. You’re thinking, “I’m going to do this.” And he’s like, “Well, how can you make that bigger?”
James is the same way. He’s very focused on the emotion and the drama. It’s an interesting sort of working relationship.
From JUSTICE LEAGUE: NO JUSTICE #1 (art by Francis Manapul)
As you’ve developed this relationship with James and Scott, have you noticed that you’re taking the same approach—pushing yourself to take risks and get to the core of what you want to say—with your work on THE FLASH?
Yeah, definitely. That’s a big part of what “Flash War” came from—it was conversations that Scott and I were having about Metal. He does push you. It’s funny because as you’re going back and forth, you start realizing that while you’re talking about Metal and No Justice, you’re figuring things out on Flash at the same time. I’m realizing, “Oh, I should do the same thing—I should find ways to amp it up.”
As I’m writing, I think about how I can really hit the emotional beats and the sort of big moments that I think Scott excels at with his own books.
Was bringing Hunter Zolomon to the story always part of the plan?
Hunter Zolomon was a character I always wanted to use, but Hunter Zolomon is a Wally bad guy, right? And I was writing a Barry Allen Flash book. I didn’t want to use Hunter Zolomon if I wasn’t using Wally. So, when I finally got the opportunity to use Wally, that was the first thing I thought of. Once I knew I was going to get Wally, and I was going to use Wally during the Grodd storyline, I was talking about what I wanted to do with “Flash War” and I had that moment where I asked, “Can I have Hunter?”
From THE FLASH ANNUAL #1 (art by Howard Porter)
There was no resistance to it at that point because I was using both Flashes, and he fit that role so well. I love Hunter Zolomon. He’s one of my favorite villains. I remember reading [his Wally West storyline] and I feel like I got tricked. I did not piece together that he was going to be Zoom. I remember reading THE FLASH #197 and being genuinely surprised that Hunter ended up becoming Zoom. I remember reading that issue by Geoff Johns and Scott Kolins and actually being surprised by it. Getting to use him now is just awesome.
And what’s great is that FLASH #46 is actually drawn by Scott Kolins and it’s a Hunter Zolomon issue. So, I was able to do all of these callbacks to #197, which was where we learned his identity in a storyline called “Blitz.” I feel like my favorite Flash story of all time is “The Return of Barry Allen” with Mark Waid, but I would say my second favorite of all time is probably “Blitz.” I’ve been able to play with the stuff that was built in both of those stories.
There are tons of Wally West fans out there. How much is Flash War going to appeal to them?
When I was a kid, my favorite speedster was Bart Allen. He was a teenager, I was a kid. I got to kind of live through him in the Flash family. I was a big Flash fan, but to have that, to have a character like Bart…
Then as I got older, I became really into Wally. When you get to Geoff’s run, I was in my late teens and early twenties, and I started to connect with Wally a lot. Now, as an adult, I’m older, and I really connect with Barry a lot. But I’m still a Wally West fan too, and I want to make sure that I’m able to really do that character justice because I do love him. I mean, I’m a Flash fan. Wally’s one of my favorite characters. I was a big fan of that run, and I really want to be able to elevate him.
I think if you’re a Flash fan, you’ll like this storyline. If you’re a Wally West fan, yeah, you’ll definitely be interested. I think there will be some parts where you’ll be really happy.
How many issues does "Flash War" run?
You’ve got a prelude in the Annual, Flash #46 is another prelude leading directly into it—kind of a “Road to Flash War” issue—FLASH #47-#50 is the main event, and then #51 is an epilogue. It gets pretty crazy. It’s all drawn by Howard Porter, and he’s doing amazing work on it. It’s really cool, but it’s going to be a rough ride for both of them. The conflict that Barry and Wally run into is really challenging for both. It’s going test them.
Readers who only follow DC’s superhero stuff may be surprised to learn that you actually have a third book from us in stores this month—DEATHBED, which is published by Vertigo. And that’s a shame because it’s so much fun. Where did the idea come from?
It came out of a lot of conversations [Deathbed artist] Riley Rossmo and I were having. We would have these conversations about legacy and death, but also about these crazy, larger-than-life, over-the-top characters. We would sit there and talk about these books, and these characters we were kind of thinking about, and then we started having conversations about what we wanted our last words to be.
All of this led to this character that just seemed insane, and us pushing ourselves to create this crazy world. With each issue, you get a little glimpse of it, but you don’t get to see all of it, and it’s all through the eyes of Antonio Luna and Val. It really came from me and Riley wanting to do something crazy, and having some over-the-top fun with the book.
From DEATHBED #1 (art by Riley Rossmo)
“Crazy” is kind of the best word for it. Are all of these ideas just pulled out of the ether by you two, or are there stories behind some of them? Where did the mummy ninjas come from?
I think Riley is a creative genius, and I wanted him to have fun this. I let him know, “Listen, in the script, I’m going to write ‘ninjas,’ you do whatever you want.” So, he calls me and is like, “I’m going to have them be mummies. They’ll be mummy ninjas.” I was like, “You do you. Yes, that sounds awesome.”
Riley will always amplify whatever I write and make it a million times better. The pages will come in and I’m just in awe. It’s a beautiful working arrangement. He takes everything and makes it so much better, and he adds so much personality. It’s really awesome.
What’s the thing you’re most excited for people to see in future issues?
That’s a tough one. I feel like right now it’s been getting nuttier and nuttier, but we really are tapping into the emotional core of the story. I think some of the stuff at the ending will be really powerful. There’s this sequence where Antonio Luna goes to this underwater pleasure garden where there are these jellyfish that feed on psychedelic algae. What happens is the jellyfish eat this algae, and then if they sting you, the sting will cause you trip out and force you to relive parts of your life. So, Luna dives in there and he lets himself get stung multiple times so he can relive certain parts of his life again, but with his current perspective. He can actually look at life moments with a fresh perspective.
It gets really crazy. He has a mullet in that part. It’s awesome. Riley just gave him a mullet!
JUSTICE LEAGUE: NO JUSTICE #1 by Scott Snyder, Joshua Williamson, James Tynion IV and Francis Manapul is in stores tomorrow.
THE FLASH #46, a prologue to “Flash War,” by Joshua Williamson, Scott Kolins and Luis Guerrero is in stores tomorrow.
DEATHBED #4 by Joshua Williamson, Riley Rossmo and Ivan Plascencia is in stores May 16th.