One of the most anticipated comic book video games of 2013 is NetherRealm Studios' DC Comics fighting game, "Injustice: Gods Among Us," which pits DC heroes and villains against one another in a brutal battle for supremacy. The game hits stores in April, but those wanting a little more backstory on the "Injustice" world have a new opportunity to start exploring the origin of the conflict with a digital first "Injustice" comic available today.
Written by Tom Taylor with art by Jheremy Raapack, the "Injustice: Gods Among Us" digital series is the latest in DC's digital first initiatives with plans for it to be collected later in print. Taylor is no stranger to the digital first realm, helming a "Legends of the Dark Knight" installment for the publisher last year. "Injustice" explores the brutal and unforgiving world the DCU characters find themselves in during the conflict of the video game.
CBR spoke with Taylor about exploring the world of the video game, the pain of writing his favorite character in the "Injustice" universe, the rest of the cast and his opinion on the changing digital comics landscape.
CBR News: Tom, how does the "Injustice" comic link up with the video game that NetherRealm Studios has planned for release later this year?
Tom Taylor: The "Injustice" game is a brutal, unforgiving, violent story of a new world order that sees heroes wanting to tear each others' throats out. Our series shows the tragic, soul-destroying events leading up to this brave new world. Don't expect a lot of rainbows and kittens.
Continuity wise, is this its own thing or will it link up somehow to other stories in the DC Universe proper?
These are still mostly the characters you know and love (and hate) but this is very much its own thing.
On your blog announcing the project, you mentioned that writing Superman was always your goal in comics -- how does it feel to have that goal realized and how are you bringing your own spin to the character while sticking with who he is in the game?
Growing up, Superman was my hero. I believed a man could fly. That movie was the movie. I grabbed all of the black and white Australian reprint comics. As a five-year-old, I remember proudly wearing my red underpants over the top of blue jeans while walking down the street in red gumboots.
As far as my own spin, I don't think I'm bringing my own spin, I think I'm just writing Superman how I've always seen him. He's an incredible, non-cynical, pure force for good; an alien with almost infinite power who is perhaps more human than any of us and just wants to help.
Writing Superman is a dream come true, but with "Injustice," that dream has quickly become a nightmare. The events in this series are just -- horrible. I think my love for this character meant I knew exactly how to hurt him. I'm not lying when I say this has been the hardest thing I've ever written. No one should have to do this to their hero. No one.
Beyond Superman, who else have you gotten a chance to play with in a major way for this series?
A number of the characters in the game haven't been revealed yet, but the story features a huge cast of some of the most well-known heroes and villains in the DC Universe. While our series focuses largely on a few characters and their impact on the rest of the world, it also features a number of single chapters focused on one or two characters. I've so far written feature stories for Green Arrow and Harley Quinn, Wonder Woman, and Flash. These small stories are some of my favorites in the series. The Green Arrow and Harley Quinn story, illustrated by Bruno Redondo, became a surprisingly sweet and funny one-shot.
Considering the source material of a fighting game, it seems like you might have a little more room to work with these characters in a turbo-violent setting. How did the source material and setting affect the story and the way you went about telling it?
The source material and the great game script Brian Chard, Dominic Cianciolo, John Vogel and the people at NetherRealm put together has really informed this series. There's no doubt that our book has a darker tone than anything I've ever written before and that's largely because of the work that has come before, rather than the darkness lurking in my own mind. I guess what I'm saying is, "blame them."
Tell us a bit about your collaboration with artist Jheremy Raapack. How were you both able to work together to capture the feel of the game in a comic?
Jheremy's doing a great job on this series so far. I think there's a real challenge when you're taking three-dimensional costumes from a game and making them work in a comic, and Jheremy has made this very natural. He's also doing a great job with the massive action and the small emotional moments. Having said that, this comic is 40 pages per month, and that's too much for any one artist. We also have Bruno Redondo (whom Star Wars fans will know from our "Darth Maul: Death Sentence" miniseries), Axel Giminez and Mike S. Miller working with us on the series, with all of it colored by the machine, Andy Elder, and ably brought together by editors, Jim Chadwick and Sarah Litt.
The "Injustice" prequel is a digital-first comic that will be collected into printed issues -- much like your "Legends of the Dark Knight" story. Why do you think digital-first is a good way to go for the story you tell in "Injustice?"
For a start, there's something I absolutely love about the ten-page chapter you get with digital first. As a playwright, I've written a lot of ten minute theatre and musicals. I've also written ten-minute films. I have no attention span. I assume I'm not alone. Writing a ten minute play means economy; it's like the tweet of the theatre world, and a ten page comic is similar.
Writing a good ten page comic takes just as much effort, if not more, than writing a twenty page. I actually try to pack as much into each ten-page chapter as I would a standard sized comic, meaning there's no room for filler -- it's 'just the good bits.' No one can accuse us of padding in this series.
I think digital offers another way to follow the story, a more immediate way. There's something wonderful about knowing another part of the story is on your tablet or phone every week. Being able to follow the series like this is exactly right for some people, others will wait to follow it once a month in the print edition, others will get the sixty page comic in the collector's version of the game and some will wait for the trades. However you want your story, you can have it that way.
What was the most challenging aspect of working on "Injustice?"
I'm still working on it, and it's still challenging, but I think the most challenging aspect, aside from putting out a ten page comic every week on top of what I'm doing in television, is what I mentioned before. This series really is the most tragic thing I've ever written. My creator-owned series, "The Deep," is this all-ages cynicism free, joyous, hopeful adventure story. With "Injustice: Gods Among Us," I'm taking heroes I've loved for as long as I can remember and I'm tearing them apart. Now, if anyone wants me, I'll be huddled in the corner wearing red underpants over my jeans.
"Injustice: Gods Among Us" #1 by Tom Taylor and Jheremy Raapack is available now digitally from DC Comics.