Justice League: Gods and Monsters, the animated feature that takes the familiar DC Trinity and changes everything fans know about it isn't coming out until July 28, but there is a new daily digital series from DC comics, which started on July 1 and runs until July 18, featuring these new characters and this new world. Writer J.M. DeMatteis talked to us over the phone about the new project.
COMIC VINE: What is the book about?
J.M. DeMATTEIS: As you probably know, this spins out of the animated movie. It's a whole new uiniverse created by Bruce Timm, with very different versions of Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman, and what we're doing with the comic book series is creating the prequel to the movie. What we're getting in this story is the origin of this Justice League and each of the member gets their own solo comic which allows us to really build into their back story, the supporting cast, and their psychological and emotional journeys. The fun for me was there was a lot of room to play and a lot of unexplained back story and I was given a lot of room to really explore these characters and world and really add to this mythology that Bruce has created.
CV: From what we've seen in the Machinima shorts, it's very dark. Will this book be keeping in the same tone?
JD: Each of the stories is a little bit different because each of the characters are a little different. So Wonder Woman is the character with the most life, so her story contains the most light. Batman, in a lot of ways, is the character who struggles and suffers the most and in many ways, may be the darkest. I think the Batman story may be the darkest of the three. The Superman story falls somewhere in between. He's a much darker Superman, but as we get into his back story and we see his family and how he was raised, that aspect and quality of the story brings a little more light into there. Batman, as a person, is a good and decent person, struggling with something that leads him deeper and deeper into darkness. If you know my work, I'm not someone who likes to revel in the dark. I'm always looking towards the light and that remains true here.
CV: What was it like to work on a project that essentially is an Elseworlds story? Did you feel there was a lot more freedom in the writing process?
JD: I've been lucky. I've had a lot of freedom, to do what I want, with virtually everything I've done whether it's for Marvel, DC, or creator-owned stuff. It's not a question of freedom, but a question of a blank slate. You're writing Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, and even with the New 52, there's a very established world. Here, it's a virgin universe and there's lots of room to play. However much you know from the movie, there's that much more we don't know. What was great with working with Bruce on this that he gave me all the room I needed to go off and create characters and add to the mythology and hopefully enrich it.
There was a lot of freedom. It's always a little constraining, no matter how fun it is, to work in an established universe, which has been around for 50 years. Here, we have a brand new universe. It's square one and day one so that's what made this so much fun.
CV: You mentioned new characters. What are you bringing to the world?
JD: The main villain in the origin story and I don't want to say too much about it because I like people to experience the story first hand when they read it, but we're setting the main villain up in the Wonder Woman story who also turns out to be the main villain in the origin story. One of the things we get to do is we're pulling familiar names we've seen before and creating a new characters around them. The villain, at least initially, is called Dr Psycho. There was one in the DCU but this is not that Dr Psycho. We meet the Forever People in the origin story, but it's not those ones you know, it's a whole other ball of wax here. One of the main antagonists in the Batman story is Joe Chill, but he's unlike anything we've seen before. He becomes a villain that's very suited to this vampiric Batman. He's a very interesting and creepy villain. That's another level of the fun we're having.
CV: Have you seen the film, or read the script prior to writing the book?
JD: Yeah. I saw an early version of the film that I don't think was totally complete. Enough where I got to see the whole story and I got to see the script and the scripts for the shorts. Most importantly, I got to collaborate with Bruce. He knew it all and was the experts on all of these characters. He was our final authority on everything. The greatest thing was besides the fact could have been territorial and try to control everything, he didn't. He really gave me a lot of room to play and develop these characters.
CV: So it was a very laid back atmosphere with creating this book and working with Bruce?
JD: Yeah. It was. It absolutely was. They're Bruce's characters and anytime something came up where he said "this isn't going to work," I'd trust him on that because they're his characters. He wasn't going out of his way to do that. He gave me a lot of room to play and I really appreciated that.
CV: This is going to be daily digital series from July 1 to the 18. Was it hectic trying to get this all put together, as a daily book?
JD: It's been very hectic, but it's been fun at the same time because I've been jumping around between the stories. There's a certain level fun to the pressure cooker or freelance life, when it doesn't completely blow up and luckily, this one hasn't. It's been actually kind of exhilarating jumping between these four different stories and each story has a very specific tone. The origin feels almost like it's own animated story. It's big, action packed and over-the-top. The other stories are a lot more personal and each story has a very different flavor. Each artist brings a distinct flavor to each story.
CV: Who are some of the artists working on this?
JD: On the origin, we have Thony Silas. We've got Rick Leonardi, inked by Dan Green, which is beautiful combination, on the Wonder Woman story. We have Moritat doing the Superman story and a friend of mine Matthew Dow Smith on the Batman story and what's great is that each guy is completely suited to the story they're working on. Matt is a guy who does the shadow and the dark and there's this ultra-realism to it. Moritat's stuff is very direct and emotional and sleek. Leonardi's work is very elegant. Thony is very dynamic and almost has an animated feel to it. They're all very different and unique.
CV: If you got to do a second volume, what kind of characters would you like to explore?
JD: First of all, there's so much more to explore with these characters I feel like I've just scratched the surface and I'd love to continue to explore these characters with these artists. Let's see what else happened to Superman before the Justice League. I know Batman's journey was a long one before he got to the Justice League. We reference a whole backstory between Superman and Batman that we explore a little bit but don't get into completely. Maybe there's a team up story there. Is there other Justice League characters we can get into? Is there a Martian Manhunter or Flash out there that's very different from the characters we know. It really is a virgin universe. If we get a chance to do it, I'll be signing up on day one because I'd love to continue working with these characters.
Thanks a lot to J.M. DeMatteis for talking to us and make sure to check out JUSTICE LEAGUE: GODS AND MONSTERS, which is available digitally right now.