Justice League Dark writer previews Wonder Woman's new team of magic superheroes
James Tynion IV breaks down Diana's journey into the world of magic and 'The Witching Hour' crossover alongside Zatanna, Detective Chimp, Swamp Thing, and Man-Bat
It’s a new era in the world of DC comics. Following the conclusion of Dark Nights: Metal earlier this year, a hole was blown in the wall of the universe, and now anything can happen. The Justice League got their first taste of this “anything can happen” status quo in the four-part May comic event No Justice, which saw DC superheroes and supervillains alike assembled by Brainiac to prevent elder cosmic gods from destroying the universe. That crisis was averted, but there’s still a lot to do. As DC’s primary heroes embarks on a collision course with the Legion of Doom in Scott Snyder and Jim Cheung’s new Justice League comic (featuring, with one or two modifications, the same legendary lineup as the Justice League animated series), there are other crises to investigate, with more unusual characters. Later this month, writer James Tynion IV and artist Alvaro Martinez launch a new Justice League Dark ongoing series, which assembles a team of mystical misfits and outcasts to figure out what’s gone wrong with magic in the DC Universe.
There have been magically-focused Justice League Dark teams before, but this one has a pretty big addition. This time around, Wonder Woman herself will be leading the team. It’s the latest culmination of Diana’s journey over the last few years, which has seen her take her rightful place at the forefront of the DC Universe. The Gal Gadot-starring Wonder Woman films are the most beloved element of the DC film franchise, writer Greg Rucka’s run on the Wonder Woman comic was one of the biggest highlights of DC Rebirth, and now Ms. Marvel writer G. Willow Wilson will be coming over from Marvel to write Wonder Woman starting this fall. On top of all of that, Diana is now diving headfirst into the world of magic. This journey will stretch into a full Diana-centric crossover later this year called “The Witching Hour,” which will include issues of both Justice League Dark and Wonder Woman as the team battles the magical witch-goddess Hecate, who stored much of her magical power inside the Amazon princess.
To find out what Diana and her new teammates have to look forward to in Justice League Dark and “The Witching Hour,” EW caught up with Tynion to break down the new superhero lineup. Check that out below, along with a preview of Justice League Dark #1 (which hits stores July 25) and the covers for “The Witching Hour” issues Wonder Woman and the Justice League Dark: The Witching Hour #1, Justice League Dark #4, and Wonder Woman #58 (all three are due in October).
The important thing to know about Justice League Dark is that it’s not just a magical adventure; it’s also a horror story. That makes Diana’s status as an outsider to the world of magic doubly important.
“The magical side of DC Universe has fans like me who know these strange characters backwards and forwards, but to do a horror story you need to center it on people who still have things to discover, where it’s still a mystery to them,” Tynion tells EW. “The idea of creating a situation that would make Diana afraid, when you know how fearless and powerful she is, that makes it scary and makes the fear real to the reader.”
In the pages of No Justice, Diana discovered that she had an unexpectedly strong connection to magic. Her exploration of that connection will be a big thread in Justice League Dark, especially when “The Witching Hour” arrives in October.
“Obviously there’s a magic side of divinity, but magic itself, as a force of nature, is something she’s never really thought of herself as a part of. We’ll see that there have been forces in the dark watching her and marking her to be more involved in this world,” Tynion says. “That’s not something she’s going to be particularly thrilled about, and it’s not something some other figures in her mythology will be thrilled about. Getting to tell a real, powerful Wonder Woman story is a real honor and comes with tremendous weight.”
When Justice League Dark begins, magic is starting to go wrong. As DC’s premiere magical superhero, the backwards-talking Zatanna is one of the first to become aware of this crisis, and certainly one of the first magicians to see the value of working with Wonder Woman.
“One of the big story threads in the wake of No Justice is that magic is sort of in chaos. Magic isn’t working the way it’s supposed to, and a huge secret among the magic community is starting to come to surface,” Tynion says. “As she’s building this team, Diana is reaching out to the major players of magic, and they’re saying ‘no, we’re not gonna team up with Justice League, we’ll handle this ourselves.’ Zatanna is the one who says ‘no, we can’t wall ourselves off, because that’s how magic is going to die. We need to connect with Diana and the Justice League, we need to solve this with them because otherwise there’s no hope.’ Zatanna is really the touchstone to the deep magical history of the DC Universe, from her father Zatara to her relationship with John Constantine. She was raised in that magical community, she knows all the major players and they have known her since she was a child, but she’s going to learn things about what she was meant to be that will really shake her to her core. She’s the veteran on the team, the magic veteran.”
Tynion and Martinez previously told a Zatanna story in the pages of Detective Comics last year, which the writer says inspired them to team up long-term for this book. Slowly but surely, Tynion is even getting the hang of writing Zatanna’s magic, which involves spelling words backwards.
“When I first wrote Zatanna I would have to write the words forwards first and then switch them backwards, but now I’ve gotten to the point where I can write the words backwards the first time,” Tynion says. “That feels like a cool party trick, even though I can’t say any of them out loud. Maybe by the end of Justice League Dark I’ll be able to say backward language out loud.”
Everyone’s favorite wise-cracking anthropomorphic investigator finds himself in a new role in the wake of Metal. Detective Chimp had a big role in the magical DC universe back in 2005, when the miniseries event Day of Vengeance brought him together with other obscure heroes to form the Shadowpact. Now, the detective will have to increase his magical involvement once again.
“I’m having a real blast writing Detective Chimp,” Tynion says. “We’re coming off Metal where we saw the death of Nightmaster a.k.a. Jim Rook, a Shadowpact member. The Oblivion Bar and the Sword of Night were both left to Detective Chimp, which means Detective Chimp is effectively the new Nightmaster. He doesn’t really want to be, and now he has a whole new degree of responsibility and connection to the magical world.”
One early fan reaction to Martinez’s character designs for the new Justice League Dark was to point how much his bearded, long-haired Swamp Thing looked like Alan Moore, the legendary comics writer whose iconic run on Saga of the Swamp Thing paved the way for many modern comics. Though Tynion is quick to acknowledge Moore’s influence on the story, he says the visual homage was totally unintentional.
“The second the first person said that, I was like, ‘oh crap it does look like him,’ but it was not meant to be an homage,” Tynion says. “It’s more the idea that Swamp Thing has become more and more detached from the world around him, and he’s operating more as a hermit from both the magical community and the human community. We’re going to see that he’s contemplating giving it up and joining the Parliament of Trees, basically retiring for good. The decision of whether to do that or not do that is gonna be central in this story. He’s not sure that he believes in people anymore. It’s a scary moment.”
Tynion’s primary innovation during his time on Detective Comics was to assemble various Batman-affiliated Gotham heroes into a real superhero team for the first time. The standout addition was the formerly villainous Clayface, who quickly became a fan favorite due to his unusual powers and moral struggle. Another former Batman villain, Man-Bat, is set to provide a similar dynamic in Justice League Dark.
“Man-Bat is actually a character I was originally considering for the Detective Comics team. Tragic monsters are great characters, and I have a deep passion for them,” Tynion says. “I want Justice League Dark to really embrace lots of horror concepts across the board, and Man-Bat’s a mad scientist character! That’s a whole trove of horror stories. He is not a magic man-bat, but he is plugged in to the world of monsters and mad science, which is really gonna help the team as they come up against some of the villains they’ll face in this series.”