The greatest trick the devil ever pulled off was convincing the world he didn't exist. Writer Judd Winick took these words to heart and to the page with the finale of the first issue of his DC Comics bi-weekly series "Justice League: Generation Lost." There, recently resurrected super villain Maxwell Lord mind wiped his existence from the entire planet - save for the members of his old team, the Justice League International. Now it's up to some of the most looked over heroes in the DCU to save the world from a madman that no one's even heard of.
"Generation Lost," at this point slightly past the quarter mark of the planned 24-issue run, ties into the also bi-weekly "Brightest Day" and centers on JLI members Booster Gold, Blue Beetle, Captain Atom, Fire and Ice, along with a new version of Rocket Red. In the first issue, Max Lord - onetime friend and financer of the JLI - used his mental powers to alter the memory of everyone on Earth and decided to wreak havoc on the lives of his former colleagues. Since then, the separate members of the team have once again come together to find and capture the intelligent evildoer. The first act of the story wrapped with issue #6, which told in flashback form Captain Atom's journey into the future, where Max Lord's action led to a global catastrophe. The issue raised even more questions in regards to both Captain Atom's actions in previous issues and Max's ultimate intentions.
While in the midst of playing chess with the lives of the JLI members, Winick spoke with CBR News about his plans for the series, the uncertain future of the world and the upcoming steamy encounter between Fire and Ice.
"I was a big fan of the JLI growing up. I was always engaged by who the characters were," Winick told us. "I always like how they interjected humor, but in a naturalistic kind of way. I'm not a big fan for the 'Bw ha ha' description of the JLI, which seems to be the prime description at this point. If you actually look back at it, the book wasn't a comedy book as much as people remember it. It did have some humor, which was shocking at the time, but the books are really, really serious. So, that was something that always attracted me. It's a really, really big thrill after 20 some odd years that I was reading them back then, and now I'm actually getting into the driver seat."
Along with Winick, the "International" version of the Justice League holds many fans throughout the comic community. Despite the team's generally high status amongst longtime readers, however, Winick admitted that he's not too sure of their level of universal recognition - but that just makes writing the title that much more appealing. "I don't know if they're popular characters," laughed the writer. "If you gathered up a thousand people on the street at random and ask them about any of these characters in this book, I don't think anyone is going to know any of them. But on the flip side, if you slide over the Justice League of America, they're going to know everybody. Booster Gold, Captain Atom, Fire and Ice, Blue Beetle and now Rocket Red. These are not popular characters. These are B and C-List characters that are much loved among fandom, much loved among long-term readers. This is a fanboy and fangirl book."
Despite that, Winick told CBR he still wanted to make sure the title is accessible to old-timers and newcomers alike. "I'm treating it like no one knows the characters at all," he said. "That's why we have a little bit here and there, the re-telling of the origins and also defining who the characters are. [For] a lot of people, this is the first time they're looking at them, and that's how we're treating it."
The writer said he is also making sure to keep the series in line with the events of "Brightest Day," talking egularly with friends and colleagues Geoff Johns and Pete Tomasi. "We actually all know each other and are very friendly. But for sanity's sake, everybody makes sure they know what everyone's doing," Winick said. "Everything is very elaborately outlined. We know pretty much what's going to happen in every issue going forward. We've known what that's going to be for months now."
As for what exactly the future holds, Winick revealed that the coming issues follow up on a number of threads laid out previously, calling the next chapter in the "Generation Lost" saga the more "action packed" second act. "Our team will have a direction. At the end of issue #5, the team found out that Max seems to be at Checkmate, so the decision is made that if that's where he is, [the JLIers are] going. So, they're going to break into Checkmate, which will be interesting and not go well and will lead to something else," he teased. "Basically, what's going to start happening is that the team is ultimately going to start being a lot more proactive. They're going to be going after Max in a real way. Our team is getting out there, not taking crap anymore and moving forward hot and angry."
Of course, as the team becomes more proactive in their chase after someone that no one else believes even exists, one has to questions what sort of attention they'll start bring to themselves and what the reaction of the superhero community will be. "I will say that you raise a very interesting point," said the writer cryptically. "What does happen when the guys get a little bit more proactive? That is part of the story."
Another aspect of the series' earlier issues Winick called special attention to is Captain Atom's trip to the future and back, during which the hero discovered that, along with sending the world into chaos, Max Lord also blows up the moon. "Where Atom goes with that information afterward remains to be seen because, the truth is, that issue was a flashback. He's known this all along and hasn't told anybody. He's basically known this since issue #1," Winick explained. "He's actually had this for a while. If you go back through the issues, you can see kind of where he head is at, kind of dour and pushing the gang to always go forward, while at the same time, questioning every move they might make. It's a hard thing to do with what could be a possible future. I will say that it takes a little while to say exactly what he knows and then what the team decides to do with this."
The writer also hinted that Captain Atom isn't the only member of the team dealing with some strangeness. Astute readers have noticed that Ice seems a bit harder and colder than usual, which, as October's solicitation for the title hints, leads to a violent confrontation with her best friend Fire. "I can tell you that's going to happen - a big, knockdown drag-out between Fire and Ice. A big one," said Winick. "I don't mean that they're at a coffee shop and someone spills a drink. I mean powers and fighting and complete rage. I'm pretty sure we've never seen that before.
"I haven't been too subtle with this: some crazy shit has been going on with Ice," he continued. "She's had this constant cacophony of 'I don't want to be here.' She seems to be trapped. She can't get out of this scene. She said she doesn't want to be a super hero anymore. She's frightened of dying again and placing herself in danger with these folks while chasing after some psychopath who mind wiped the world. It's not very stable ground. When Fire fights Ice, it's sort of when we come to a culmination of redefining who that character is."
Along with writing "Generation Lost," Winick also currently pens the ongoing "Power Girl" title. The eponymous star of that series once flew alongside the members of the JLI, and the first issues of both books featured story aspects that directly mirrored one another, with "Power Girl" showing the events of "Generation Lost" from her point of view. Winick said that the timing of him taking over PG's book helped prompt him to incorporate the former-JLIer into the mix and that he plans to continue to semi-crossover the two titles moving forward. "It just occurred when taking over the titles. Power Girl used to be part of the JLI, and I'd like to see her in there," admitted the writer. "In the discussions we had, it felt very compelling for us to jump start the story in a big way. It seemed to make sense, and that's the way the story took it, that she'd be a part of this. We opened [with the revelation] that Max Lord has mind wiped the world, and Power Girl is a part of that. I'll tell you, she will continue to be a part of that. In issue #15, things will be weaving in and out. She's very much a part of 'Generation Lost,' and as the months go on, we'll see those two books co-mingle."
However, despite the best efforts of the heroes involved, one man continuously stands in their way - it's just that readers aren't exactly sure why. Winick assured fans that the answers will arrivew - in due time, that is. "[Max is] up to many, many things, all of which will be revealed," he teased. "I can say this, he had three modus operandi for doing what he did. One was that he actually wanted to get the JLI back together, and he succeeded in doing that. Now, he has two other goals. But it's the journey and not the destination, and we will not be telling what exactly he's up to right away.
"That's what the JLI is trying to figure out. They don't know what he's doing, which is part of the story. Max is hiding in plain sight. He's erased his existence so he can go do something, but he still needs to do it in secret," he added. "All of this will be laid out - the two goals he has and part of his game plan from the very, very beginning. I assure everyone that we are going to a very big and strong ending, but don't expect in an upcoming issue for Max to pop up, twiddle his moustache and strap some damsel down to railroad tracks while monologuing and explaining what he's doing."
Continue to follow the adventures of the Justice League International every other week in DC Comics' "Justice League: Generation Lost"