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Going to the scariest places in the DC Universe: James Tynion talks ‘Justice League Dark’

An interview with James Tynion IV from the San Diego Comic-Con floor.

San Diego Comic-Con is one of the best times for fans to connect with comic book creators as they’re all in one place and launching new books. One such book is Justice League Dark, which kicks off next Wednesday. We were lucky enough to get some time to talk to series writer James Tynion IV at SDCC about the new book where he opened up about his love of horror and gave us details on the new book and its characters. Tynion also discussed Detective Comics and his favorite character to write on Justice League Dark.

AiPT!: How long have you wanted to write this story?

James Tynion IV: A really long time. I think people will remember back to when I did my run on Constantine and there was another book I was supposed to be doing at the same time called Dark Universe which was me playing with a lot of similar ideas that I am now finally getting to do in this book. So this is the horror corner of the DC Universe. It’s the corner that I care the most about outside of Gotham. This is the other core of my DC passion. So getting to play with these characters, getting to write, like, my favorite monsters and do really scary things in a mainline DC superhero book is really, really exciting.

AiPT!: I got a chance to look at the issue already and there are some gory scenes in the morgue.

James Tynion IV: Oh yeah!

AiPT!: And the mouth…

James Tynion IV: Oh god.

AiPT!: Did you think of those things or was it a collaboration?

James Tynion IV: It was very much a collaboration. I would definitely point to my artist Alvaro Martinez whose work on this is just phenomenal beyond belief. I mentioned like, you know, John Carpenter’s The Thing and like [David] Cronenberg. I wanted to really pull some of those beats and really make the horror that kind of grisly body-horror in that moment. We’re going to be pushing the limits of what we could get away with. I’m sure I’m going to cross the line and DC is going to be like, “No, no no,” but I want this book to be scary.

AiPT!: The first issue is unnerving. It was unnerving to see that stuff.

James Tynion IV: [Laughs].

AiPT!: I showed my girlfriend and she screamed.

James Tynion IV: [Laughs]

AiPT!: It was really freaky, really cool. Speaking of DC maybe saying you shouldn’t be doing something, as a Justice League book, is there any fear of going too far?

The cover to ‘Justice League Dark’ #3. Courtesy of DC Comics.

James Tynion IV: That’s honestly the benefit of having these monsters on the team and on the covers and all of that. You know from the beginning that this isn’t just about a bright gleaming superheroes, like, do-gooding and all that. This is a book where they’re going into the shadows. I want to go to the scariest places in the DC Universe. I want the covers to look scary too. Particularly the cover to issue number three so far is like a terrifying image of the Upside Down Man, the villain of the first part of our run, and I’m really excited for people to meet him. Being able to put something really scary on a cover is like, that’s one of the things that I used to love about House of Mystery and House of Secrets, like the old or anthology books and they would just have these incredible covers. All those old voting rights and covers that are the scariest thing that you’ve ever seen. It’s like, “Oh I’ve got to read that book.” I want Justice Leauge Dark to have a bit of that in it.

AiPT!: I was speaking to the Vertigo team yesterday and one of the writers was saying it’s impossible to do a jump scare in a comic. Would you agree?

James Tynion IV: No!

AiPT!: I was going to say you turn the page and…

James Tynion IV: Honestly you can give more of a jump scare in a comic than you can necessarily in an actual prose book. If you get people captivated, pulled in, there are ways as a writer you draw a reader and make people like you know slow down how they’re reading and pace them out just perfectly so when they hit that page turn it’s like you want to drop the book.

AiPT!: There’s a manga called PTSD Radio and it has amazing jump scares. It’s one of the most exciting things I think.

James Tynion IV: Oh absolutely. I want I want this book to be scary. So if I do my job there will be some scared people out there.

AiPT!: So I have to ask, Guillermo Del Toro was supposed to make a Justice League Dark movie ages ago. Do you know anything about that project?

James Tynion IV: I have no idea whatsoever. This book came pretty much entirely from the work that we were doing starting with Metal and then into No Justice and to this. It came from those conversations. We want the biggest possible version of the Justice League. We want the Hall of Justice to be something where even the heroes outside of these three core teams you see them walking in the background of the hall. It’s a very central location in the DC universe and for it to have these different aspects. It was one of those first conversations where I was just like, “The corner I want is Justice League Dark.” And for a moment, they were like, “Are we sure we want to do that title? Maybe we want to play around. Maybe create a new title?” We came down to the three different core regions that are really affected.

AiPT!: Or realms.

James Tynion IV: Realms, yeah. That’s a good word for it.

A page from the first issue. Courtesy of DC Comics.

AiPT!: You must be tightly working with Joshua [Williamson] and Scott [Snyder]?

James Tynion IV: Oh absolutely. Particularly Scott. I’m writing all the Legion of Doom issues in the main Justice League book as well. Basically every fourth issue or fifth issue there will be a Legion of Doom one-shot that I write. It lets me explore a different type of dark. Writing villains is so much fun, especially the big core iconic villains.

AiPT!: Is there a character in the story in Justice League Dark you enjoy writing more than the others?

James Tynion IV: Right now I’m having the most fun with Man-Bat, because I’m taking what’s been done with the characters before, in the same way that I did with Clayface, where I kind of took elements from all my favorite iterations and then ran with them. I’m doing the same thing with Man-Bat and we have a character who’s trying to atone for what he’s done. But he’s a mad scientist. He’s trying to come up with new versions of the Man-Bat serum. When he shows up in the book for the first time he just has a bat head and a human body because of a botched injection. Alviro has these designs that I can’t wait to break out where he transforms into different types of bats to get different benefits that come from transforming into a different type of bat.

AiPT!: Speaking of transforming, Swamp Thing has got a new look going on.

James Tynion IV: Oh yeah.

A page from the first issue. Courtesy of DC Comics.

AiPT!: Is he going through something emotional?

James Tynion IV: He’s no longer sure that he wants to be protecting the human world. Where we start the book, he is really convinced that he wants to just pull back and he wants to finally enter the Parliament of Trees. Basically, retire and let there be a new guardian of the green. He’s been tasked with one final duty by the parliament before they’ll let him set his roots there. This is this is part of that mission. There are going to be some big things to come in terms of the Swamp Thing mythology, particularly connected to the Witching Hour event running this October.

AiPT!: Okay, so Swamp Thing is thinking about retiring. I instantly think, [what about] Animal Man?

James Tynion IV: I would love to write Animal Man. I will say I don’t have plans for him right now. Animal Man is a great character.

AiPT!: What Scott Snyder and Jeff Lemire did with the characters was so creepy. When I think of DC horror I think of that run they did together.

James Tynion IV: Oh yeah. The early New 52 made a strong push for horror books. And I was very grateful for that and I’m happy that they’re they’re willing to put their weight behind a new horror book as well.

AiPT!: Now that you’ve just come off Detective Comics, Are you done with the bat characters? Batman, Batwoman?

The cover to ‘Justice League Dark’ #4 by Riley Rossmo. Courtesy of DC Comics.

James Tynion IV: I don’t think I’ll ever be done with them, but I think I said what I set out to say. Do I have more stories? I could have just kept spinning my wheels and just putting them through more and more and more, but I was reaching the natural end to the story and then there were discussions about books that you can see taking shape right now in the pages of Detective Comics, so the book was going to change regardless and it felt like the moment I need to devote all of my heart and energy and into Justice League Dark. So it was the right moment to step away. But I love those characters. I will always love those characters, and there are a few stories I didn’t get to tell in that run. So we’ll see. But right now there’s no Gotham on the horizon for me. Aside from in the pages of Justice League.

You can preorder Justice League Dark digitally today.

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