UPDATE: Interior art from the series added
The Shadow. Doc Savage. Richard Benson, the Avenger. Three of the most iconic pulp heroes of all time. And all three have been comic book heroes as well. But they’ve never been comic book heroes in the same story.
Dynamite senior editor Joseph Rybandt said that this project has been in the planning stages for quite a while.
“Putting them together was always in the works. The timing took a bit longer to make that happen, but then we got lucky that Michael had already prepared a great story featuring the three of these characters.”
Enlisting Michael Uslan to tell this tale was a coup for Dynamite. Uslan, a veteran comics writer, is best known to fans as the originator and Executive Producer of the Batman/Dark Knight movie franchise. He is the man responsible for the alternate-future “Archie wedding” storylines and the Life With Archie series that grew out of it. And at Dynamite, he was the writer of the hit Shadow/Green Hornet: Dark Nights crossover series. And now he tops that project with this three-way pulp hero crossover event.
“It's truly beyond comprehension that in seventy-five years, the Trinity of Street & Smith pulps and comic books never teamed up,” Michael Uslan said. “Can you imagine if since 1939 DC never teamed-up Batman, Superman ,and Wonder Woman, or if Marvel/Timely never teamed-up Captain America, The Human Torch, and The Sub-Mariner? Before there was a Justice League... Before there was a Justice Society... there was Justice, Inc.!”
Uslan explained how he became involved in this history-making project. “My involvement began many years ago when I began my process of attempting to bring Doc Savage and The Shadow each to the silver screen. Marvel and DC had a strategy in place to bring individual heroes to the movies one-by-one, then joining them up in a group. Trying to think out-of-the-box, I proposed we bring the Street & Smith Trinity out first in one Justice, Inc. movie together, then followed that by splitting them up into separate films."
“To help sell my idea, I wrote a treatment for it. Ultimately, that treatment instead became the basis for this six-part comic book miniseries. When [Dynamite publisher] Nick Barrucci asked me if I'd be interested in returning to writing The Shadow after some 35-40 years when I wrote some of the 1970's DC run— and said that I would have the opportunity to write the first meeting of The Shadow and the Green Hornet—I couldn't resist. That entire experience was sensational from start to finish. From artist Keith Burns to the whole creative, editorial, production, marketing, sales staffs at Dynamite, they made the process a joy for me.
“Nick knew that back in the 1970's, I was the writer of the one and only meeting between The Shadow and The Avenger, a book I'm honored to say is held in keen regard by many pulp fans. That probably put me in his mind first to do this project once he secured the necessary rights. Also, after our The Shadow/Green Hornet: Dark Nights experience together, I sent Nick a copy of the original treatment and told him if he ever did get the rights, I would be interested. Due to my crazy schedule producing movies, animation and TV, I have very limited time to write graphic novels/comics. Last year, in addition to Dark Nights, I did in Batman Black & White a fun story with the great Dave Bullock in the form of a black and white silent movie. (If you haven't seen our "trailer" for this film, go to Youtube and check out: Batman Black and white Silent Knight.) And this year, in addition to Justice, Inc., I'm doing Farewell Betty & Veronica over at Archie which is going to change the dynamics of those comic books and Riverdale, itself.
“And writing this project is such a thrill! I knew and worked with Walter Gibson, the driving creative force behind The Shadow. I'm a producer with Neil Moritz and Ori Marmur on a movie version of Doc Savage. And I wrote The Avenger forty years ago for DC! I am a crazed fan-boy now in control of their words! I couldn't be more excited!”
It seems like Uslan has become a go-to guy for major crossover projects and significant comic events; does he prefer working on unique story arcs like this? “For me, everything is predicated on story, story, story, and on character arcs,” Uslan replied. “In Batman Black & White, that focal point was Batman and Batman alone. I love my comic books and I love history, so the chance to merge the two is always appealing. That's why I wrote the hard-back graphic novel some years back, Batman: Detective 27. I was inspired by books like The Alienist, Ragtime, and Carter Beats the Devil to combine fictional characters with real people in actual events of history. Additionally, a number of fans have recently started to notice how Detective 27 preceded Batman Begins by a few years and contains certain themes regarding the use of fear that seem to have resonated over time.
“I used that same approach in The Shadow/Green Hornet: Dark Nights and once again in Justice, Inc. However, my comic books and graphic novels contain pages of historical footnotes to explain the historical references. Fans seem to love those and I hope it enhances their enjoyment of my stories. In each case, I do three to six months of historical research before I start writing the comics. I do try to pour myself into each project. In the case of The Shadow, I always try to strive to please Walter Gibson, as if he was looking over my shoulder. That's a tough burden to carry, but I always try.”
What threat is significant enough to bring all three of these classic pulp heroes together? “This is very weird,” Uslan began. “My story... which I originally wrote long ago... starts with an airliner that mysteriously and suddenly disappears mid-flight. I was doing it as an homage to some of my favorite Twilight Zone tales. But just as the Justice Inc. project was to be announced, that Malaysian air-liner vanished. Truth is stranger than fiction, no doubt.”
Doc, the Shadow, and Richard Benson each have different modus operandi, different attitudes, and different philosophies. How does Uslan envision each character, and what makes them so different in your eyes? “See my 11th issue of The Shadow from 1975, which featured the story ‘Night of The Avenger.’ That proved to be a testy, strained relationship between The Avenger and The Shadow. In the new Justice, Inc., you will witness a very, very shaky relationship capable of exploding at any moment among these three men.
“To over-simplify things, The Avenger seeks Justice. He tends to define it according to the law. The Shadow defines Justice the way he himself so chooses, making him judge, jury and executioner. He finds a chasm of difference between ‘Justice’ and ‘the Law.’ Doc Savage is trying to operate above such ideologies. He is out for the common good of mankind with little regard for countries, politics, borders, and whose justice or whose laws. Of course, their methodologies are also at odds. The Shadow kills. The Avenger does not. Doc avoids it. Who dares judge the other?”
While Doc Savage and the Shadow are familiar to most comics readers, the Avenger is much less so. Just who is this enigmatic hero? “The last of the Street & Smith Trinity, The Avenger was created under the house name of Kenneth Robeson, making the character seem to be created by the creator of Doc Savage,” Uslan explained. “In actuality, Paul Ernst did the creating/writing on The Avenger initially. Lester Dent was the main man on Doc, and Walter Gibson had that role on The Shadow.
“If I was casting an actor to play The Avenger, I would not choose a hulking he-man type. I would pick a man perhaps 5'8" tall, with a resolute face capable of becoming lost in deep thought. He is a thinker first and a doer second. Without spoiling anything, you'll learn by the second issue of Justice, Inc. how The Avenger was born out of the darkest personal human tragedy. The toll it took on him physically is stark and shocking. The toll it took on him mentally and emotionally is incalculable.
“The Avenger has never in seventy-five years had the spotlight in comics. Think about this... In the 1940's, he was the back-up appearing in some issues of Doc Savage Comics or The Shadow Comics, never having his own The Avenger Comics. When someone named ‘The Avenger’ did get his own comic book (from ME Enterprises), it wasn't our boy. His name had been co-opted.
“In the 1970's, DC finally gave him his own comic book, but it could not use his name in the title, as in the ensuing decades, his name was co-opted by both the lovely Emma Peel and John Steed over in England, and by Stan and Jack over at Marvel. And so, it became Justice, Inc. (featuring The Avenger). That's when I got to use the character in my cross-over with The Shadow. His own book, however, lasted only four issues before being caught in the infamous DC Implosion that killed off many of its titles in one fell swoop. But get this... in that brief burst, The Avenger was drawn by both Joe Kubert and Jack "King" Kirby, among others. That's a "WOW!" DC would have The Avenger return as Justice Inc. for two prestige series over the years (thank you, Kyle Baker and Andy Helfer and others)... then return for the premiers of DC's ‘First Wave.’ During that ‘First Wave,’ Doc Savage re-arrived like a tsunami in his very own title, but The Avenger? Justice, Inc. returned once more as only a back-up series, an ebb tide amid the ‘First Wave.’
“But now? Things are gonna be different! The Justice, Inc. mini-series is the set-up and premier adventure that will shine the spotlight on The Avenger, leading him to the dawn of a brand new way to achieve and administer Justice in our society.”
Dynamite’s Doc Savage and Shadow series will have wrapped up by the time Justice Inc. begins. Will this crossover series serve as the launch pad for new books starring all three? “Doc Savage was always planned to be eight issues, just as The Shadow’s most recent series was planned to run twenty-five issues,” Rybandt said. “We will be doing new material with both, as well as adding in the Avenger to the mix. And we haven’t forgotten about our other pulp characters, rest assured!”
Is Justice, Inc. Uslan’s final pulp-hero-historical-adventure tale? Uslan certainly hopes not! “Coming up, I told Nick Barrucci that, if he wants me back to do more writing on these characters, I would love to do three more of what I call my ‘dream cross-overs’... if he can ever get the rights worked out. It may be my impossible dream, but if anyone can make it happen, Nick can!”
But for now, all of Dynamite’s pulp-hero focus is on Justice Inc. “This is a historic cross-over, and we couldn't be more pleased that Michael is the person spearheading the series,” Nick Barrucci said. “And the best part is that Michael will use his PR machine to help promote the series every issue to help create awareness for potential fans outside of the comics market... Nothing is more exciting than having a series reach as many readers as possible!"
Justice Inc. #1 by Michael Uslan & Giovanni Timpano, will be offered with a main cover by Alex Ross and variant covers by Francesco Francavilla, Gabriel Hardman, Ardian Syaf, and Stephen Segovia. The comic is scheduled for August 20th release.
Used by permission from CSN