Killing the Justice League (For Real) with Joshua Williamson

Here’s a claim that would be tough to dispute: in 2022, Joshua Williamson is the busiest writer in the DC Universe. Last month alone, Williamson’s ongoing storytelling duties on Batman, Robin and Deathstroke Inc. all converged into Shadow War, an event which may prove to permanently redefine its lead characters. He took the multiverse’s greatest heroes in a journey through infinite possibility in Justice League Incarnate. He launched a DC Black Label series, rogues, where Captain Cold puts together a heist crew for one last job in Gorilla City. But Williamson’s most ambitious moves are yet to come, such as, just by way of example, killing off the entire Justice League in Justice League #75, the series finale. We took some time out of the upcoming Dark Crisis writer’s busy schedule to ask him the one question on all of our minds: really? Like, for real?

So…are we really killing off the entire Justice League? Like, aren’t they the main characters in a bunch of other books right now?

Yeah, I mean, if you read #75, it’s brutal. There are no spoilers. I was talking about this with the editors a couple weeks ago, like, “Oh, I’m curious about what I should say, or post online about them dying,” and (the editors were) basically like, “The title is the spoiler.” (laughs)

Like, I’m not ruining anything for you. We’ve already given away what happens in that issue. But the answer is yes. You know, everything is going to line up, and I think you’ll see as we start getting deeper into some of the crossovers, the minis and the one-shots, you’ll see how it starts to line up. And, you know, you’ll see how it all connects. But they definitely all die in that issue.

So, we’ll see this reflected through the whole line? It’s not just Justice League?

Well, you’ll see. It’s going to take some time to get there, for these things to kind of line up. I mean, you look at how Death Metal was, right? People forget this, but Death Metal and Joker War were coming out at the same time. It took until the ending for things to start to line up and reflect, right? And I think that’s the same thing here. It’s going to take some time, but there’ll be some stuff that will come up that you’ll start seeing as it goes.

Some books are going to connect more directly, but for me, it was also important that I didn’t wreck anyone else’s book, or derail anyone else’s story. We talked a lot about this with editorial. There were certain creators I reached out to because I knew they were going to be more directly affected by it, or maybe had opportunities for them to connect sooner. I presented this stuff to editorial a lot over the last year. So, that was a big piece of it, just making sure I didn’t mess up anyone else’s plans and take over somebody else’s book. I wouldn’t want somebody to do that to me, so I didn’t want to do that to anybody else. But you will See some stuff that connects much sooner than others.

Until now, the Justice League has managed to rise to every challenge they’ve ever faced. You could always count on the home team to bring back a win. What makes this time different? How can the Dark Army succeed where so many others have failed?

You know, there’s a couple lines throughout, this, and in Dark Crisis, where I think there’s kind of an attitude of like, “Well, this is what we do. You know, we stop Crises. So, we know how to do it this time.” But there are a couple curveballs in here that they just don’t see coming, you know? And obviously, when you look at the roster of who is in the Dark Army—normally, in the past, it would take the whole Justice League or a whole bunch of characters. Like with Nekron,, it took a whole bunch of Green Lanterns, plus Sinestro and with the whole Justice League. Even then they could barely stop Neron, and it came down to Shazam. Billy Batson had to be the one to stop Neron.

Hawkgirl says it in the issue. Hawkgirl is just like, “Normally in the past, it’s taken all of us to take one of these down. How are we going to do this, where there are this many of them?” The army of characters that we’ve shown so far isn’t even the full roster. It isn’t the full army. You’ll see it as #75 rolls out. There’s more going on. It is an impossible situation, and they get close—they get real, real close. But at the end, they’re mostly just able to stop this attack from happening. Like, they want to stop this army from coming to Earth, and that to them is kind of a win, but then there’s a whole other twist to the story.

If you’ve been reading from the beginning, if you read Infinite Frontier and Justice League Incarnate, you kind of know what’s coming, and you know what’s going to happen. And then you get to see the aftermath for it.

And that’s kind of what we’re doing with the Free Comic Book Day comic, and the Road to Dark Crisis story. You get to see how all these characters on Earth react to the news that the Justice League has died. Some characters believe it and some don’t! There’s a story coming with Jon Kent and Nightwing, it’s in Road to Dark Crisis, where Jon is freaking out. He’s like, “They’re dead.” And he’s having a panic attack about the whole thing, and then Nightwing is sort of like, “You know they died before, right?” And Jon is kind of like, “Not everyone has your experience with this. Not everyone is so hopeful, and people are scared, and they’re worried.”

That was part of what this story was about to me, showing an event like this, a crisis event, from different points of view. It was really interesting, because I wrote a lot of this stuff a long time ago, right? We’re really far ahead on this project, probably more than I’ve ever seen on an event in my time at DC. So, with some of this book, there is a lot of conversation about, “Do we believe or not believe that they’re dead?” And I use that to kind of talk about what death means in the DCU now.

A few years ago, we were working on some projects about what we were going to do post-Death Metal. We had made this chart of a certain era of DC history. I was staring at it, and I started marking some stuff down, and I was like, “Man, there was this ten year time period where every character died twice. What does that do to them?”

They’re functionally immortal. What do we do about that?

Yeah, yeah! So, what does that mean in this world? I wanted to explore those ideas. I wanted to explore what death meant. And, again, some people believe, and some don’t. Some are just like, “They’re going to come back, don’t worry about it.” And some people are like, “I’m very worried about it.” And then you have some characters, some of the villains, who are like, “Well, if they’re gone now, we’re going to take our shot. We’re going to take advantage of this now.”

The parallels here with the 25th anniversary of The Death of Superman are readily apparent. But after The Death of Superman, there was the just as iconic Reign of the Supermen. So, what’s coming to fill the vacuum left by the Justice League’s absence?

You’ll see. One thing that I keep pushing on people is: there is no Justice League. There’s not going to be a Justice League for a while. And even when you read the book, you’re going to see how much there is no Justice League. It’s a major plot point of the whole series, that you can’t just make a Justice League. You can’t just be like “We’re the Justice League now. This is what we’re going to do.” It doesn’t work that way. That is very spelled out to them by certain characters throughout the story. There are going to be different groups of people who are going to try to make Justice Leagues, and you’ll see how that goes, and how it’s not easy to just make one.

I think it’ll be really surprising to people. It’s really fascinating to watch, but there are certain images that have been put out there that we’ve put out on purpose to kind of mislead people into where they think the story’s going, and it is not going to go that way. I think it’s going to be a very unexpected story for some people once we start getting more into it. Particularly in issue one, there are a couple big twists in there that people are going to be like, “Oh, I thought this was going to happen.” And it’s like, “Nope, nope, nope. It’s not going to happen.” And part of that is that there is no Justice League.

Well, to borrow a phrase from Superman in Final Crisis, let’s all pray for a swift resurrection.

(laughs) You’re going to see! It’s going to be really fascinating to watch how this story plays out for people. We’ve really done a lot of work in keeping certain pieces secret. I love surprises. And I really hope we surprise some people.

Justice League #75 by Joshua Williamson, Rafa Sandoval and Jordi Tarragona is available this week in print and as a digital comic book.

Death of the Justice League and Dark Crisis are just a few of the high-profile books Joshua Williamson is writing for DC. Click here for the first part of this interview, which covers Rogues and Shadow War!

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