It’s a new day for the Justice League, as the DC Universe’s legendary team of heroes returns under the creative vision of new writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist David Marquez. The acclaimed creative team is back together and set to begin taking the JLA to new heights with today’s Justice League #59.
“We're good friends,” Marquez says, describing his working relationship with Bendis. “Shortly after we began working together at Marvel, I moved to Portland so we could work even more closely together and see each other in person. We always have an ongoing conversation, whether it's work related, or we just chat on our own.”
“We challenge each other in the best way, and we inspire each other in the best way,” shares Bendis. “There hasn't been a page I haven't felt that way on. What I've attempted to do ever since I met him is try to write towards his unique voice and not to waste one page of it.”
Although the League’s roster will contain familiar faces like Superman and Batman, there will also be some new members who will shake up the status quo. Black Adam, who’s perhaps better known for tormenting the Shazam Family, is arguably the most surprising new addition.
“Let's make it clear, most of the team is not on board with this,” Bendis reiterates. “It's Superman's idea, but they're not on board, so it is discussed. It is an ongoing concern. His appearance really challenges the idea of the Justice League and these teammates that have known each other for a very long time.”
Bendis noted that it’s important to remember that Black Adam is centuries older than most of his teammates, which gives him a different perspective.
“He's been around for a very long time and with that comes shifting perspectives and things change,” he reveals. “Even in our short lifetimes, you live long enough to see things differently than you did a few years ago. The world has changed a lot, so Black Adam is responding to that.”
Bendis also took the opportunity to debunk any rumors about Black Adam changing his name to Shazadam. “Just so we're very clear, at no time ever, in the history of the planning of this book, in any format, in any stage, in any way has the production ever been about Black Adam changing his name, his legacy or anything,” he states. “His name is Black Adam and someone else calls him something in the book.”
Dwayne Johnson recently captured the world’s attention when he presented a first look at his Black Adam movie during last summer’s DC FanDome event and Bendis enjoyed that bit of unintentional synergy. “We will be forever grateful to the Rock for stepping out with this before us because we didn't know that was coming. It surely makes people look at what we're doing with a curious eyebrow.”
However, Black Adam isn’t the only new recruit on the League’s roster. Naomi McDuffie, a character who Bendis helped introduce in her 2019 limited series, will also be stepping up into the big leagues. This move means a lot to Bendis, who co-created the character with David F. Walker.
“Someone brought up Naomi,” Bendis recalls. “Honestly, it wasn't me. I got very into that and I called David Walker. I said, we have an opportunity here to do something new with her hero's journey that we weren't even going to do and that's pretty exciting as well.”
Marquez had a lot of fun putting together scenes where Naomi interacts with her new teammates.
“One combination that Brian had a lot of fun with clearly in the scripts is Batman and Naomi,” he shares. “In the issue I just finished drawing, there's a whole sequence with them together, and the way they bounce off each other is a lot of fun.”
“Naomi is as raw a character that this team has ever had and Batman historically has an apprenticeship mindset, so he immediately starts lecturing and tutoring whether he's been asked to or not,” Bendis adds.
Readers who have read Naomi: Season One will enjoy seeing the characters and settings from that miniseries return, though even if you’ve never read the book, you won’t be lost.
“From our very first issue here, we're opening up a very big door into what that universe is,” Bendis promises. “So, people who read the original Naomi miniseries will be like, 'Oh, okay, we're going right in.' And then for people who haven't read the Naomi series, we're about to introduce something to you that no one has seen before.”
Bendis also has some exciting news for fans hoping for a Naomi: Season Two—it’s still happening and her adventures with the League will help set up the story.
“This is all being planned with David Walker,” he says. “The idea was that Naomi is going to return to her world rattled by what's happened to her so far. She's gotten a pretty intense view of the DC Universe quickly.”
Naomi and Black Adam fighting alongside classic Justice League members was a visual that excited David Marquez from the beginning.
“When Brian first pitched Justice League to me as a book for us to kind of go into the DCU with together,” he shares, “I think the way he phrased it was, 'We want this to be like, who are the coolest characters today.' And part of that is not just who are they individually—how they bounce off each other is everything. Having that contrast between characters with different points of view and that represent different parts of the DCU were all important considerations that we talked a lot about.”
Each issue of Justice League will contain a Justice League Dark backup story from writer Ram V and artist Xermanico.
“We have this great new format, where our backup story is Justice League Dark and it actually takes place in the same building sometimes,” reveals Bendis. “Not only are we sharing a book, but we're sharing a location, which just opens up all kinds of interesting possibilities. After the story we're telling right now, we're going to dive into a very big magic-themed story. It's basically a Justice League and Justice League Dark team-up story, but the format of the book allows us a very unique way to tell the story.”
Bendis and Marquez have both been Justice League fans for years, and some of their favorite stories helped inspire their run.
“I'm a huge fan of the book,” Bendis admits. “I have said very loudly for many years that Justice League #200 may be like the perfect superhero comic. There are like ten perfect superhero comics, and that's one of them. And Brian Meltzer's Justice League is one I really aspire to, and I don't want to leave anybody out, but I’ve also got to say the Justice League cartoon has been an enormous influence on the energy of our run. Sometimes the cartoon is really excellent in just distilling the characters down to their basic character while still always reflecting an enormous legacy. You always feel like there's an enormous legacy behind each character.”
“I was getting back into comics when Grant Morrison was writing Justice League, so that kind of has a special place in my heart,” Marquez shares. “I like what he brought to it. Also, and this is kind of a weird one off to the side, but I really loved Alan Davis's Justice League: The Nail. It's Elseworlds, it's weird, but thematically what it does is similar to what we're doing—what is the core point of the Justice League? What makes the Justice League the Justice League?”
That question proved to be a crucial one for Bendis and Marquez as they began plotting out their run.
“It was really important as we were conceptualizing the series, when we're talking about the Justice League—justice for whom?” Marquez explains. “That was the core conversation, the mission statement for us for the first two or three months we were talking about doing this book. The word absolutely means something. When you're solving problems, at which point is the problem solved? Is this a mission that ultimately will never end, always requiring effort at every minute, every step of the way for everybody? I don't think you can be cynical when you look at the world that way.”
Justice League #59 by Brian Michael Bendis, David Marquez and Tamra Bonvillain is now available in print and as a digital comic book. Have you already read it? Let us know what you thought of it in the DC Community!
Joshua Lapin-Bertone writes about TV, movies and comics for DCComics.com, is a regular contributor to the Couch Club and writes our monthly Batman column, "Gotham Gazette." Follow him on Twitter at @TBUJosh.