For most of us, the only frightening things we’re likely to find in the basement are our father’s fluorescent parachute pants and maybe a mouse or squirrel who has met an untimely demise. We’re not likely to find any dragon skeletons, human-bat hybrids, or nightmarishly mutated cadavers.
Then again, none of us live in the Hall of Justice.
The magicians and monsters who form the latest version of the JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK operate in the shadowy lower levels of the otherwise shining home of the World’s Greatest Heroes. Comprised of Zatanna, Swamp Thing, Man-Bat, Detective Chimp and surprisingly, Wonder Woman, the team and their ever-so-slightly-sinister lair debut today in an issue #1 written by James Tynion IV and drawn by Alvaro Martinez Bueno that manages to strike the perfect balance of mystery and horror. Written in close collaboration with the other two Justice League titles—JUSTICE LEAGUE and the upcoming JUSTICE LEAGUE ODYSSEY—Justice League Dark promises to bring even greater relevance to some of DC’s less…traditional heroes.
We had the chance to talk to Tynion this weekend at San Diego Comic-Con about his approach to the series, the team’s intriguing new lineup and its role in the greater universe. Also, if you think some of the JLD’s members are scary, well, just wait until you see their first villain.
The Justice League Dark is a concept that’s been around for a little while now. Was it a book you always wanted to take a crack at?
Oh, absolutely. When it was first announced, I thought it was exactly the type of book that I always wanted to write. My favorite corner of the DC mythology outside of Gotham City is the horror corner of DC comics, going back to Alan Moore’s SWAMP THING, HOUSE OF MYSTERY and HOUSE OF SECRETS. Those are stories that really informed me as a reader. Getting to do a book that taps into that whole world means a lot.
You’ve written Constantine before, but you’ve largely focused on traditional superheroes at DC. Does that mean you have tons of untapped ideas for a book like this?
Honestly, some of the ideas that I’m finally getting to do in this book are ideas that I’ve had for years, and DC has known that I’ve wanted to do them for years. Writing a scary, terrifying DC comic book—that’s my real goal here.
What was your role in shaping the new lineup?
I chose the full lineup! These are the characters I wanted. I wanted all of my weird monsters. I wanted a mad scientist on the team, which we have in Man-Bat. I wanted Detective Chimp as a thread to one of my favorite DC magic titles, SHADOWPACT. I wanted Zatanna because her mythology is something that I was really interested in exploring. Wonder Woman became a part of it very early in the process because we were wondering how to make the book stand out and be distinct from what came before. I think part of it was we wanted the Justice League Dark team to have a direct tie to the core Justice League book that’s coming out right now. The Justice League Dark operate out of the basement in the Hall of Justice, and Wonder Woman is their throughline to the core league.
At first glance, Wonder Woman is kind of an odd choice to be a part of the team, but what’s equally surprising are some of the characters who aren’t on the team, like John Constantine. Why not use him?
He’s in pretty much every single issue. The thing with John is I’ve always felt that he’s not a team player. He’s someone who I want to walk out of the shadows, say five things that cut your heart into pieces and then walk back into the shadows. Writing John is like riding a razor blade. That’s the edge I want to give the character. He always knows a bit too much and is always up to something. But he’s not someone that the Justice League is going to give a pass to enter the Hall of Justice. That’s the real reason. But he is a core supporting character in the series in the vein of what Alan Moore did with him in Swamp Thing.
How would you describe the dynamic of the team considering the eclectic lineup?
Wonder Woman believes that she can get to the bottom of what’s disturbing the magical world and solve it in the same way that she and Justice League solve the problems they face, and all these magical characters don’t think it’s going to be that easy. They’re basically telling her, “No, no, no, you should be afraid of what’s in the dark. That fear is important and you really need to hold it inside of you. If you do that, then hopefully you’ll be prepared for what’s to come.”
That dynamic is especially strong between Zatanna and Diana. They’re on the same side, but they have very different viewpoints of what magic is and what their responsibility to magic is.
That brings up another interesting point. Two of the core members of this team—arguably the two people know best—are female characters. Is it nice being able to have a more diverse, female fronted team?
Yeah, you have two women and three monsters! It’s a good lineup!
I wanted all of these characters. That was really the heart of it.
You’re really close with Scott Snyder and Joshua Williamson. How would you describe the process of the Justice League books right now, and how you work independently, but also together?
Scott, Josh and I talk all of the time. We know what’s happening in each of these books—which engines are activating at different moments. All of this was designed with a kind of singular vision, and it’s all building towards something. Unfortunately, I can’t yet hint at what that something is, but we’re building to it. From the moment the Source Wall broke, everything has been heading towards a certain point, and each of these stories shows a different aspect of the journey.
So, what’s the thing you’re most excited about in this debut storyline?
I’ve created the most terrifying character that I’ve ever written, called the Upside Down Man. I think the artist on the book, Alvaro Martinez, who was my collaborator on DETECTIVE COMICS and whose art is absolutely phenomenal, has designed one of DC’s scariest characters. So, I’m very excited to give Justice League Dark a villain really worthy of the title.
Want more Justice League from Tynion? Be sure to check out JUSTICE LEAGUE #5, written by Tynion and featuring the Legion of Doom. It lands in stores on August 1st!