At Emerald City Comicon last weekend, writer Jeff Lemire took some time to talk to us about the completion of his mini-series Trillium, a high concept science fiction story about a love that could potentially end the universe, and the upcoming series Justice League United (originally titled Justice League Canada), launching April 23rd. Replacing the title Justice League of America, the new Justice League United team features characters such as Animal Man, Green Arrow, Supergirl, Martian Manhunter, Stargirl, Hawkman, and Adam and Alanna Strange.
Last week DC gave us our first look at new superhero Miiyahbin, aka Equinox, a Cree sixteen-year-old whose powers connect to the changing seasons. Equinox is inspired by Shannen Koostachin, a real-life Cree activist who lobbied for funding for First Nations education before her death in a car crash in 2010. She died shortly before her sixteenth birthday.
Here’s what Jeff had to share with us.
The Mary Sue: Jeff, you’ve just wrapped up your series Trillium. How does it feel? How’s the response been?
Jeff Lemire: The response has been overwhelming. I didn’t expect the book to be as successful as it was, so that’s been great. As for the experience of making it, that’s been really difficult for me since I wasn’t just writing it, I was watercolor painting a lot of it myself.
TMS: Do you think writing and doing the art makes it more your book than others you’ve done?
Lemire: It does, and I’m glad I did it. But you never know how hard something is until you do it, especially on a monthly schedule. I’m glad I did it, [but] I won’t be doing that kind of thing again where I’m painting as well as writing.
TMS: Do you have another sci-fi tale coming up that, like Trillium, is outside of the superhero world?
Lemire: I’ve got a creator-owned work on the horizon that’s sci-fi. I can’t talk about it yet.
TMS: Gotcha. Well, that brings us to Justice League United. When the New 52 started, we had the main Justice League team followed by Justice League International, a UN-sponsored team. That got cancelled and was replaced by the U.S. controlled Justice League of America, with a roster of people selected to take out each member of the main Justice League if it was deemed necessary. Now that’s book’s ending and Justice League United is replacing it. How will this series stand apart from its two predecessors?
Lemire: I felt that since the New 52 books, the League books have been very closely tied together through crossover stories and events like Trinity War and Forever Evil. I think both Geoff [Johns] and I felt that it’s time each Justice League book found its own personality for a while. It’s almost like Phase 2 of the Justice League franchise. There’s a clean break after Forever Evil. This team will find its own voice and have its own adventures.
TMS: So is there still a government controlling and directing them, as there was with the previous two teams?
Lemire: No, they’re done being tools and weapons, they’re done serving political agendas. They want to be independent and inspire the human race and other heroes to be bigger than political agendas and all that.
TMS: What menaces might we expect? With Hawkman, Martian Manhunter, Supergirl, and Alanna Strange on the team, that’s four aliens. Plus, Adam’s a space explorer/archeologist. Seems like we’re going to see more cosmic stories rather than Earth-bound ones.
Lemire: Oh, there’s definitely a lot of cosmic and alien stuff. The classic Hawkman villain Byth is going to appear in the first arc. You’ll see classic cosmic villains and some new ones as well. The DC Universe is a big place to explore.
TMS: Let’s talk about the members. Equinox is a teenager and one of the youngest members, next to Stargirl. What kind of character is she?
Lemire: She’s sixteen and is from a remote community called Moose Factory in Northern Ontario. She’s not been exposed to a lot of the world yet. She’s never really left her hometown and has lived a pretty isolated life. And then one day she’s off running into space with the Martian Manhunter and Adam Strange. Her whole perception of the universe is going to be blown wide open, but my key to this character is that no matter how big the adventure gets, she’s still connected to her home and her people.
TMS: So would it be fair to say she’s our “person on the street” character? Someone whose views reflect that of a new reader?
Lemire: Yes, she’s the most accessible and down-to-Earth member of the team. She’s the entry point for new readers. Things other superheroes take for granted are going to be new to her.
TMS: Will her family be around and aware of her life as a superhero?
Lemire: It’s hard to talk about without spoiling things. But her family, as well as a mystery surrounding her family, will definitely be part of the plot.
TMS: The New 52 started off Green Arrow as a high-tech hero fighting super-villains. When you took over the book, you brought Ollie Queen down to being a more street level vigilante again, a little more similar to how he’s seen in the show Arrow. Will this cause problems for how Ollie reacts to high-flying space adventures?
Lemire: This will be consistent with what I’ve been doing in Green Arrow. He’s still a street level character. But you’ll get to see him react to the new situations of being on a team with big, cosmic space adventures. He’ll have to adjust, and you’ll get to see him explore a new side to himself.
TMS: Hawkman’s on the team, and I’m a big fan of the Silver Age Hawkman and Hawkwoman, Katar and Shayera. I hoped the New 52 version of Shayera would resemble the version from the Justice League cartoon series. But the New 52 Shayera was a villain who hated Hawkman until she learned he wasn’t really her enemy and then she died to save him. Despite her apparent death, is it possible she might show up in Justice League United, now as a hero and ally?
Lemire: I don’t want to spoil things, but I’m an old school Hawkman fan too. Reinventing the Hawkman mythology and getting people to reinvest in it is a big priority for me in this book. It’ll be fun.
TMS: Supergirl has been through the ringer in the New 52. She thinks Superman is a jerk and they’ve fought nearly every time they’ve met, often physically as well as verbally. On top of that, she became a Red Lantern recently. How is she going to adjust to working in a group like this?
Lemire: Supergirl is a very interesting character to write. She starts off being what she’s been in the New 52 universe so far. She’s an angry loner who doesn’t get along with everyone. But then I want to take her somewhere completely different. I want to see her grow and change and become part of a family rather than just being a member of a team. She’s going to have an arc. You’ll see her evolve and become part of the universe more.
TMS: Originally, Adam Strange and Alanna were in love but often forced apart. They’d fight menaces on Alanna’s planet of Rann, and then the teleporting Zeta beam would throw Adam back to Earth and it would be a while before he could return. After they finally found a way to stay together, some stories just had Alanna be Adam’s love interest and sidekick who was occasionally taken hostage. How will Alanna be different in Justice League United? Is she there as Adam’s wife or a full member herself?
Lemire: Alanna’s definitely a full member. She might actually be more active as a superhero than Adam. He’s the brain, she’s more the adventurer. We have a new twist on them and the Zeta beam. You’ll see it when it happens. The cool thing is they’re never on the team at the same time, and they both have such different personalities. So when Alanna and Adam switch, the group dynamic switches with them.
TMS: This sounds like a really interesting team, man. You’ve got a great cast here.
Lemire: I like the more obscure characters, and I got to cherry pick this team to make it eclectic. I like having a quirky mix of heroes. You’ve got a street level hero, classic Justice League heroes, space heroes, a supernatural animal hero, a Superman family hero, young heroes, a brand new hero. You get different corners of the DC Universe represented in this one team. It’s going to be a lot of fun.