McDuffie Updates the Justice League Lineup

Fri, January 4th, 2008 at 12:00am PST

Comic Books
Jeffrey Renaud, Staff Writer

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March's "Justice League of America" #19 - where's Red Tornado?
Life in the Justice League of America can be very hectic, to say the least.

As depicted in "Batman and the Outsiders" #3, DC Comics' Justice League roster was depleted by one, as it was revealed in that issue that Geo-Force, the Prince of Markovia, had been transferred to the Dark Knight's special ops team.

John Stewart came on board as the Justice League's resident Green Lantern en lieu of Hal Jordan. The hero Red Tornado is nowhere to be seen on March's solicited cover for "Justice League of America"#19, and The Flash and Firestorm are both in limbo in terms of their status.

As if that weren't enough, series writer Dwayne McDuffie himself is scripting only back-up features in "JLoA" #17-18, while "Superman: The Animted Series" veteran and "Batman/Superman" writer Alan Burnett steps in to pen the main stories in those issues, and takes #19 on solo.

With so much commotion, CBR News had to track down the "Static Shock" creator McDuffie to see who is and who isn't taking their turns on monitor duty on "Justice League of America."

"We have multiple artists on the book and I can only really write one a month because I am doing a couple of TV shows, so [splitting duties with Burnett] was a way to feed the artists and keep the book on schedule," Dwayne McDuffie told CBR News. "It also gives the next, bigger arc a little more time and quite frankly, gives me a little bit more time too."

The next, bigger arc runs from "JLoA" #22 through #25 and McDuffie confirmed the exploits of the time-traveling trio of Ultra-Humanite, Despero and Per Degaton --recently seen in "Justice League of America" #8-9 and "Booster Gold" #5-- will be explored.

Before that, however, McDuffie says there are some important stories to tell over the next five issues. "People who have been reading 'Justice League of America' since the beginning have noticed some strange things about Vixen's powers, " said McDuffie. "That stuff is going to come to a head. We are going to find out what's going on there in #17. Or at least, begin to. That's going to lead into Justice League meeting what I hope is going to be a major new villain for them. There is another backup dealing with Red Tornado's situation in #18, which is going someplace I don't think people are expecting."

McDuffie also confirmed that Vixen's story, while it will continue, is only featured in one back-up story.  "For some reason people think there are two [Vixen back-up stories]," remarked McDuffie. "There is a Vixen back-up and then a Red Tornado back-up. And both of those of those dovetail into the next major storyline. There is also a three-parter with Suicide Squad, written by Alan Burnett, that's really cool, that's starting immediately with issue #17.

"Justice League of America" #16 on sale now
"The major thing with Vixen is that she hasn't had 100 stories about her," explained McDuffie. "It's very difficult to do a Superman or a Batman story that touches on something that has never been touched on. Vixen is a relatively blank slate. She has a history but it's over a long period of time and she relatively few appearances over that time. So there are some major, major themes for her that has not been touched yet. One of the cool things about Justice League is that you get to shine the spotlight on some characters that are not as huge and well known as Superman and Batman."

Created by legendary writer Gerry Conway and artist Curt Swan in 1981, Vixen made her first appearance in "Action Comics" #521. African-born Mari Jiwe McCabe is able to mimic the abilities of any animal using the Tantu Totem but of late, her powers have been limited to copying only those of humans. 

The current series of "Justice League of America" is actually Vixen's second tour of duty with the World's Greatest Heroes, as she served under Aquaman during the Detroit Era after joining the Justice League in "Justice League of America Annual" #2 in 1984.

"I think what you have to do is show why Red Arrow or Black Lightning or Vixen or Red Tornado are just as compelling as Superman or Batman," stated McDuffie. "They may not be as compelling four times a month, but once a month, they have got a lot to say."

When McDuffie returns to full-time writing duties with "JLoA" #20, his first order of business is taking care of the world's fastest man, Wally West. During the "JLoA" and "Justice Society of America" crossover storyline, "Lightning Saga," Wally West and his family returned to Earth after being missing for nearly two years.

"The Flash has been really busy with his own book, sort of re-adjusting to his own life," said McDuffie.  "In ['JLoA'] #20, Wonder Woman goes and grabs Wally and basically says, 'Look. You are not doing your job.' And that's a pretty cool story that Ethan Van Scriver is working on right now. Actually, he's probably done with by now."

As to whether The Flash is actually in the Justice League or not, McDuffie laughed, "That's the story, so I don't want to say."

As for Wonder Woman's power of persuasion, McDuffie teased, "She wouldn't do it the way Superman or Batman would do it. She does it her way. I don't think Superman or Batman would do it the same way either."

"Justice League of America" #17 on sale January 16
In-between the Wonder Woman/Flash story and the arc featuring Ultra-Humanite, Despero and Per Degaton is another singl- issue tale that ties into Grant Morrison's "Final Crisis." "What's going on in the Ultra-Humanite arc is not directly involved with 'Final Crisis,'" McDfuffie confirmed. "However, there is an issue coming up relatively soon, I am writing out of order, so I can't remember, but I think it's #21 that ties directly in with 'Final Crisis.' I think the Ultra-Humanite arc starts with #22, if I am not mistaken. I think they just needed to shift some things around so everything would come out at the same time."

And while McDuffie was light on details surrounding the upcoming arc that has already been teased in "Justice League of America," he confirmed some answers were definitely coming. "I really can't say too much except for over the course of that run, almost every loose end that is currently in the book, will be resolved one way or another," said McDuffie.

The writer said that like his work with the hero Vixen, it's great to tell stories of villains like Ultra-Humanite, Despero and Per Degaton, who are not household names like Lex Luthor and the Joker.  "I think, again, what's fun is, we haven't seen those three come up against the Justice League and certainly not together, and rarely at all. I don't think people know what to expect from them. Certainly, their motivations are very different than anything we have seen before from Justice League villain. I think this will surprise people," explained McDuffie, who added that he had no discussions with the book's former writer Brad Meltzer in terms of what his plans were for the three-headed monster.

"I had no idea where he was going with those guys," laughed McDuffie. "I just picked up stuff where it was and kind of decided where to go. You'd really have to ask Brad. There's a lot of stuff, he didn't get to in his run. People were fans of the characters showing up in the book, so I felt I owed it to them and to Brad to pick it up and run with it."

And what of the trio's recent reveal in "Booster Gold" #5?

"I actually haven't read that yet so I better," laughed McDuffie. "Oh, I better check and make sure that meshes because I didn't know that."

McDuffie said there is more to come this year from the current Firestorm, Jason Rusch, who was welcomed into "Justice League of America" in #15 by Batman because, according to the Dark Knight, "Firestorm is too powerful to be left unsupervised." 

"We will definitely see more Firestorm," said McDuffie. "I think probably if not the next arc, the arc after that, maybe two arcs down the line. We need to deal with him. He's immensely powerful. And there are still all the Professor Stein questions. His major motivation is to find Professor Stein. That hasn't been dealt with."

Professor Martin Stein, the Noble Prize-winning scientist who formed half of the original Firestorm (with high school student Ronald Raymond after a nuclear accident) mysteriously disappeared in the pages of "Firestorm: The Nuclear Man." That solo series was cancelled in early 2007 at issue #35, with McDuffie writing the book's final three issues.

"Justice League of America" #17 on sale in February
With all that's going on in DC Universe in 2008, McDuffie still hopes to squeeze in another crossover with "Justice Society of America" and superstar writer Geoff Johns ("Action Comics," "Green Lantern," "Booster Gold").   "We have talked about that a couple of times," said McDuffie. "We both really want it to happen. He's pretty busy, so when he has the time, we will get back to it. "

And while he loves the crossovers, McDuffie is also anxious to have some down time with his "family" business. "We have been doing a lot of tying-in to other storylines, so I am looking forward to do something that's really getting down to Justice League business," said McDuffie. "I am hoping this next storyline will really be the beginning of really building the Justice League franchise some more.

"I'd rather people would just do their own stories. It's really fun tying-in and crossing over but fundamentally, as a fan of a particular book, you want to be able to read that book and see adventures with those characters."

As for sharing his cast with other writers, that comes with the territory. "the characters in the book are in other books," said McDuffie. "That's not that big a deal. What I am concerned about is just telling Justice League stories in the Justice League book. It will be fun when things are settled down enough that we can bear down and get to the business of Justice League."

McDuffie's run on "Fantastic Four," another team book, started in January 2007 with issue #542 and comes to an end of this month with #553, when Mark Millar ("Civil War," "The Ultimates") takes the reigns with artist Bryan Hitch ("The Ultimates," "The Authority") in February.      

"It was a lot of fun," said McDuffie. "'Fantastic Four' was my favorite book when I was a kid so it was particularly fun to play with those toys for a while. I had a great time but I think people will be remiss if they don't hang around for what's next because I have had a peek at it and it's going to be pretty cool."

Asked if he got everything out his run that he could, McDuffie quipped, "No, I wanted a 16 or 17-year run."

McDuffie's not done at Marvel, as he is penning the three-issue mini-series "WWH Aftersmash: Damage Control," beginning January 23. He also has a TV project in the works that keeps him very busy. "I have teamed up with Glen Murakami from the 'Teen Titans' animated series on a re-vamp of 'Ben 10' for Cartoon Network that is set five years in the future from the show that is currently running," explained McDuffie. "It's pretty much unlike anything people have ever seen."

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