Darkseid War is coming! It's going to shake the DCU to its core. So far we've seen a huge glimpse into what we can expect with the DIVERGENCE Free Comic Book Day issue as well as JUSTICE LEAGUE #40, the prologue to the story.
We had to chance to extensively speak to both Geoff Johns and Jason Fabok about Grail (Darkseid's daughter, this story arc, and how they're elevating the series into having a bigger impact on the DCU.
COMIC VINE: From the DIVERGENCE FCBD issue and JUSTICE LEAGUE #40, can we assume Darkseid’s Daughter, Grail, will play a big role?
GEOFF JOHNS: Yes, she will. It’s a pivotal role.
CV: She proclaims “Death to Darkseid” but does that necessarily mean she’ll be on the Justice League’s side? Especially with the image of her shown.
JOHNS: Yeah, I she has an agenda of her own. This whole storyline, Darkseid War, and in 41 we really start to peel back the layers, it’s all about agendas. The Justice League is a force for good caught between a war between the god of destruction and the dark god, Anti-Monitor and Darkseid. Really what Grail’s role in all this—her exact role will be revealed in the storyline, she’s definitely the catalyst for all of this. There’s a reason behind everything she’s doing, just like there’s a reason behind what Anti-Monitor’s doing, what Darkseid’s doing, and also what the Justice League has to do. She’s a bit of a character of mystery and we’re going to reveal that mystery and her connections, which go very deep obviously to Wonder Woman and the Amazons, over the course of the story.
CV: Does Wonder Woman have any knowledge of her story, birth, and leaving Themyscira?
JOHNS: Diana’s really going to be the central figure in this storyline along with the rest of the Justice League and Mister Miracle. She has no knowledge of Grail but she’ll quickly learn of her. There’s a lot more to Grail and her mother Myrina and everything else that we set up in DIVERGENCE than we revealed. There’s a lot of moving parts here and a lot of secrets to Grail and her connection to the old and New Gods. She’s basically a bridge. She exists, part old god and part new. She actually thinks she’s doing the right thing for everybody. We’ll get into that but she’s a pretty great character. Jay and I have had a lot of fun in designer her and talking about her. We really wanted to introduce some new concepts and characters in Darkseid War and JUSTICE LEAGUE. She’s one of those characters and probably the main new one that we’ll be tackling.
CV: How would you describe the character or her look?
JASON FABOK: Geoff and I had talked a lot about visuals as well as the reasons behind these characters and what their motivations are. I remember back in art school, they told us whenever you’re designing a character, you want to try to fuse a lot of their personality and whatnot into the character in order to give a clear visual representation of who this character is. As soon as you look at them, you know who they are and what they’re about. That’s something we wanted to do with Grail. She’s the daughter of Darkseid so on one hand she’s like this monster. On the other hand, she’s also a daughter of an Amazon. We want to take both sides and bring them together.
Geoff had requested we not make her monstrous or anything like that. He wanted her to look more like an Amazon with a little bit of beauty to her but also a bit of an edge. I kind of just followed my instincts with the character. In the costume, you can see there’s some cues to the current Darkseid costume. The Omega symbol is in there but its flipped upside down. That makes it just a little bit off so Grail is keeping some of that connection to Darkseid, even with her color scheme. At the same time, she has the Amazon heritage in there too. I wanted her to look like she was part sci-fi, like from space-kind of deal but also have that fantasy/Greco-Roman elements to her as well.
JOHNS: The whole idea behind her is to really introduce a character that has a very personal side to Wonder Woman. This storyline becomes very very personal. There’s a lot of things are going to happen in it that will affect Diana, and the Justice League but specifically Diana, in a lot of new ways.
FABOK: I also decided it’d be cool if half of her head was shaved so it gives her a kind of different silhouette on the page. You can instantly pick her out from Wonder Woman or from Myrina Black. Designing her was just something that sort of came. It was like one shot and it was done. I just felt very happy with it. When that happens, when you’re designing a character, it’s really rewarding. It also makes it that much more fun to draw that character when you’re drawing them page after page. You automatically have a connection to that character.
Personally, whenever I’m working on a project and even if it’s a reoccurring character, I try to infuse some of my own likes and design choices into the character to make them my own. Sometimes I find when I’m drawing characters that have been designed by someone else, especially when I don’t like that design, I find it harder to connect with the character. Every character I come across, even a character like Green Lantern, who has a very standard outfit, I tweak it here and there just to feel like I’m bringing something to that character’s overall look.
CV: Is this the same character mentioned back in JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA’S VIBE #1?
JOHNS: Yeah. This is a character I’d been planning on introducing since JUSTICE LEAGUE #1
CV: Any reason it took this long to finally see her? Was it a matter of setting everything up?
JOHNS: I don’t really think it’s taken long. I really wanted to introduce Darkseid and the fallout of that then Atlantis, Forever Evil and put Anti-Monitor on the board and bring Lex Luthor on the team. It’s always about the long term. When I know I’m going to be on a book for a while, I tend to plot years in advanced. I like the story arcs to build into one another. They can stand on their own, you can read Throne of Atlantis but there’s things in it that actually spill out and play into JUSTICE LEAGUE. The same with Forever Evil, all roads lead to Darkseid War. That’s part of the fun with monthly comic books to me—long term story telling. We don’t have that as much as we used to. I love subplots and things that are planned in and paid off. It feels more mythic or organic. Shows like Game of Thrones, I really enjoy it because of that stuff. I’m not in such a rush when I know I’m going to be on a monthly book for a while. I can really let it build organically. I’ve always wanted Lex Luthor on that team since day one but I had to have it happen at the right moment in the right storyline. I think the League is in a place now where they’re ready for all this to come to a head. So for me, it’s very organic and natural.
CV: I’m just impatient, I guess.
CV: Is Myrina involved with the story? Are we going to find out more about her?
FABOK: Yeah, she’s going to be in the story. Geoff has such a great storyline with all these different characters coming together. It’s a lot of fun to draw these sorts of things. Like I said, we’ve discussed the story, all the ins and outs of it. We know where it’s going so that allows me to put things into the story, even from the first issue, that’s going to be relevant all the way to the end. She’s going to be in there with lots of Grail.
CV: Will it be explained how Mister Miracle and Big Barda are in this story after EARTH 2? I might have missed something.
JOHNS: You don’t really need to know anything going into JUSTICE LEAGUE #41. I catch you up on everything you need to know. There’s nothing really need to know except he’s the universe’s greatest escape artist.
CV: What was it like having the double-page spread with all the prophecies in the FCBD knowing people would be analyzing ever detail?
JOHNS: That’s why we put it in there—so they would analyze every little detail. There’s a bunch of stuff in there people still haven’t analyzed correctly.
CV: We posted an article and I know we barely touched on everything in it.
JOHNS: Yeah, you were close on a few and far away on a couple and there were a few you didn’t even mention. But that’s part of the fun.
FABOK: Because I had read about things Geoff had done in the past, with the Trinity War thing for Free Comic Book Day, I remember reading up all the comments online about what people were thinking. It was all pretty much straight forward but I tried to be a little less revealing in some areas. Like we haven’t actually shown our full redesign of Mister Miracle but actually on that page, the Mister Miracle shot, that was the first redesign. We decided later, when were were starting issue 41, that we wanted to change the character’s design. Part of it is Geoff and I have this thing where we believe these superhero characters would have many different looks. I think Meredith Finch once said in an interview when talking about Wonder Woman, “She’s a woman. She would have a whole closet full of different looks and outfits that she would pick depending on the situation that she’s in."
For me, if the costume isn’t fully consistent throughout different things, I just accept that maybe the character has different looks. Maybe we’ll see that original Mister Miracle look in the book. I don’t know. Knowing that people are going to scrutinize and look at every little detail in there, I actually went and read some of the comments to see what people were saying, some people had ideas that were totally out there. I love reading those kinds of comments and seeing that a page can spark that in the fan base. It makes it a lot of fun to draw those kind of images.
JOHNS: Jay and I we’re like, if we’re going to do an eight-page story, come off the monthly book and do a cool eight-page story that’s going to be a bit of its own thing for Darkseid War, we really wanted to make sure it was something important and the origin of Grail certainly was but on top of that, allowing Jay to show the scope of what this war was going to be when you see Darkseid and the Anti-Monitor together facing off. It also would give everyone a little preview of what’s to come. Every character has a storyline that’s going to explode in a big way in Darkseid War. We want everyone to know we’ve been working on this story for a long long time. I thought it out meticulously and Jay and I have talked about it for months and months and months. I think we take a lot of pride in that as epic and sprawling as the story is going to be, we’ve really focused a lot of it on character.
Our characters are the Justice League and we’ll focus on both the ones people know, like Green Lantern and Batman and the others ones they don’t like Mister Miracle and Power Ring. It’s important to us to let everyone know that we’ve got a lot of plans coming and a lot of interesting things happening with the characters. Hopefully it’ll be a really fun ride for everybody. The goal is to make JUSTICE LEAGUE an event book every month and make it feel character driven and fun with high stakes and real surprises. The concepts we introduce and revitalize are big and grand. Very true to DC mythology, stories like this, from the very first time the Justice League met the Justice Society back in the 60s, stories like this that break the barriers of the universe and break the rules, and again, focus on the characters, is kind of a tradition DC. We want to update that tradition with JUSTICE LEAGUE, the book itself, and also get back to the event stories being in a monthly book. We want to make sure JUSTICE LEAGUE is at the center of the DC Universe and is really utilizing every aspect of the DC Universe. Any character can appear in this book because it does affect the entire DCU. We want it to feel worth everyone’s time. There’s so many books out there. Jay and I really focused our energy on making this one that hopefully everyone thinks and believes is worth their time and money.
CV: Jason, when we spoke in February, you said Batman was a character you enjoyed drawing along with Wonder Woman and Lex. Is that still the same or has anyone else moved towards the top of your list?
FABOK: Yeah, those characters are still up there. I really really enjoy drawing them every chance I get. As Geoff has mentioned, Darkseid War is going to focus a lot more on Wonder Woman. That kind of evolved naturally out of our Amazo Virus arc where we just found that we really liked that character. So we’ve been kinda moving towards that in Darkseid War. Another character in there
I’ve mentioned is Mister Miracle. Drawing him in this series has been a lot of fun. It’s been difficult. He’s a harder character to draw than you’d think. This happens with all characters but I’ll draw them in one issue and after that issue’s done I always go back and look at the artwork. I say, “What can I do differently? What do I like? What don’t I like?” In all honestly, you do pages everyday. You pretty much have a day to draw one page. If you go with your gut instinct and keep moving because you have to keep pace, sometimes you’ll look at the characters actions and say, “Man, I could’ve done this better. I could’ve done that better.” I’m sure Mister Miracle will kind of evolve through the first couple issues that you see him. He’s a lot of fun to play with as a character. I had a lot of fun taking some of his memorable gadgets and things that he has as a character and rethinking them in some fun and interesting sci-fi ways. I’m trying to bring the character into a modern day and age feel and yet still keep the legacy and look staying classic.
Grail has been a lot of fun too. Again, I think that goes back to the fact that I got to design the character. I feel very invested in her and that carries through in the artwork as you’re doing a book.
CV: How did you tackle the Anti-Monitor’s look and what elements did you want to carry over from the pre-52?
FABOK: What had happened was in FOREVER EVIL, David Finch did that last page. He had drawn the Anti-Monitor there. That design was based off of the original appearance of Anti-Monitor in CRISIS, his first look before it changes into a different look later in that book, that we’d seen in Geoff’s GREEN LANTERN run and whatnot. Geoff wanted the character to resemble that CRISIS look. I wanted to keep the character essentially looking similar to that, but I wanted to create a dynamic between Darkseid and Anti-Monitor. Darkseid, while he’s angular in certain respects with his rocky kind of shape, he’s still a very organic kind of character. He’s designed in the same way as a Batman or a Superman where it’s a male figure and you slap some lines on him and there you go. You have a very organic-shaped character.
With Anti-Monitor, I wanted him to be angular and squares and armor and those kind of shapes so that the two have two kind of looks to them with the way their appearances look. I looked at the original design and a bunch of cool concept art from different video games and movies for stuff coming out today. I tried to merge all of these things into a new look which is essentially the original look brought to 2015. It was a character in which in the past, I didn’t really know too much about him. As Geoff explained the character and where we were going with him, I felt so much more invested in the character. The design just kind of came and Jim Lee, I gotta give him a good shout out because in issue 40 of JUSTICE LEAGUE, there’s that whole sequence of him and Metron. Jim just took the design I had and took it to another level. I’ve used that design and evolved my original design so the character has evolved a couple times.
CV: Some have questioned the continuity. Is this just a matter of everyone letting that go and enjoying this incredible story?
JOHNS: Our story is set in continuity. Readers can worry about it however they want to worry about it. We’re not worried about it and it’s not something I’m interested in dissecting. In the DCU, things will all catch up. The continuity is not like day to day but it is in continuity. There is a way it factors in but Darkseid War runs for a while. It’s pretty long.
CV: Are we going to see Simon Baz anytime soon?
JOHNS: Yes, you will see a lot of Green Lanterns throughout this whole storyline. Including Simon, he’s a great character.
CV: Is Batman becoming a New God?
FABOK: I can’t answer that. That would be a spoiler.
CV: I had to ask. How was it drawing that one single panel with the glowing blue piping on Batman in the Free Comic Book Day issue?
FABOK: Again, it’s the kind of thing where you’re trying to hint at things. Sometimes you want people to bite on a hook. You want them to bite on that and start a rumor. In the end, fans are going to be pretty excited about the direction Geoff is taking these characters.
The things that Geoff always does is he takes those fanboy fantasies about comic books and he brings them to life in the comic. Fans always debate different things. They’ll say, “Wouldn’t it be cool if Batman got a Green Lantern ring?” That’s where Geoff Johns comes in. So we’re going to be touching on some of those things in the book and there’s a lot of really cool twists and turns that we’re going to be going down. Fans will be excited. They’ll be really excited and happy with the direction we’re going.
The prologue to Darkseid War in JUSTICE LEAGUE #40 is now on sale. The action begins in JUSTICE LEAGUE #41, on sale June 3. You won't want to miss it.