Friday, August 9, 2013

JUSTICE SERVED - "IN GODS WE TRUST"



With my run on Justice League Beyond finished, it's time to wrap up some of my final thoughts on my last few stories. It's so weird to look back on this now, only because the team building I had planned for the future League barely got started before the change of direction was implemented. So I only got to add Flash, and for this story Captain Marvel (I know DC seems keen on the rename of Shazam, but it was Captain Marvel in the Justice League Unlimited show…and it's Captain Marvel in my storyline). I had planned to grow the team much more in offbeat ways. A story worth telling in a future post.

I don't know what first prompted me on wanting Captain Marvel to join the team. I guess it was a number of reasons. I've always loved the character as a real throwback to the fun superheroes of the past. It's one of the few that my dad remembers reading as a kid. And as a character of magic, it would be possible for Captain Marvel to still be around in this future (for reasons being…I won't divulge at the moment). I like the idea that he also had some history with Superman. Where things left off in the Justice League Unlimited episode he appeared in, he quit the League and was disappointed in Superman as the hero he once looked up to. I figured with enough time, there'd be a chance for them to consider their past actions and patch things over. And Captain Marvel would feel right to join the League this time around. And I also liked the fact that there was a chance to show Billy Batson and Mary, both still magically young. An age of stuck adolescence. And one of the few age appropriate characters that young Kai-Ro would be able to relate to.
 
Notice some familiar villains for Captain Marvel on the "Wanted" wall?
I also liked the idea of getting out of Neo-Gotham or Metropolis and showing some of the other areas in the Beyond universe. Fawcett City would be one of the few to remain untouched by society. No hi-tech future technology. No flying cars. A city from the past still frozen in time. Very "Mayberry" as I like to put it. I thought it would be a nice clash of cultures for the people living there and the League when they arrived.

For the villains, I always wanted to see more of Alan Burnett's creation of the "Brain Trust". Basically your sort of evil X-Men (or Brotherhood Of Evil Mutants) for DC's Beyond universe. A group that was going around and collecting special powered kids for some nefarious purpose. The shows they appeared in (Batman Beyond and later in Static Shock), they had such a small group. So this was a chance to build them up as well. Add more faculty to this teaching staff. So that's always fun to come up with names and powers to grow the enemy against the League. I even squeezed in a danger room sequence and a Blackbird type jet for them to fly off in, to keep the X-Men motif.
 
As a huge fan of these shows, part of writing Justice League Beyond was always my chance to throw in cameos and nods to not just the Batman Beyond show but the rest of the shows in that continuity. So "Krypto's" appearance here ties back to the Superman animated series with him being Bizarro's pet. I planned for so many of these special appearances to not be throwaways but actually followed up later for a reason. There would've been a story that involved Superman and the League being absent from earth, so in their place, Bizarro (with Krypto in tow) would end up "protecting" Metropolis in his own misguided way. Even though  I never got the chance to continue that story, it was fun to have Krypto in here briefly. I love that slobbering alien dog.
 

More cameos came in the form of some of the other teams operating in the Beyond universe that Bombshell would mention here. Little cues I could plant and come back to later if I wanted, or leave it open for the readers to guess at. I wanted to show that the League wasn't the only team operating out there. There would be others that could pose a threat to the Brain Trust. "The Circus Of The Dead" would be deceased members that formed a group to heroically haunt from the afterlife. Deadman being their leader, with Wildcat, the Creeper, and Vixen in there (which could always lead to some uncomfortable feelings if John Stewart and Shayera Hol showed up again in a story, since that tragic triangle was thought to have already played out).

The Terrific Trio were the media-publicized and disgraced "Fantastic Four" knockoff in the Batman Beyond show, that perished in their only appearance. I thought it would be a fun way to do what comics have always done…when one team is killed, disbands, or disappears; there's always an "ALL NEW" version that takes their place. Their team name would remain, but it would be composed of new members. And mimicking the Fantastic Four, they might have a few visual nods as well. Lead by an older version of Plastic Man (the stretchy Reed Richards of the group), the return of the Earth Mover (filling our "Thing" spot on the team, even though it looked like he died in the show), and Zeta (to keep this a "Trio"…although we maybe could include Ro in the "Sue" role, if it were to be more like the FF).

Bombshell would even mention a new Titans group in passing. At the time I was writing this story a year ago, there was the possibility of there being a Teen Titans Beyond title spinoff I had heard from my original editor. I didn't know who would be on it, neither the team members or the creators involved, or when it would come out, but I thought it would be fun to vaguely plant mention of them here. Of course, I kind of hoped I'd get a chance to write it and had some crazy ideas for it, but things changed. That editor left and any chance for a Titans Beyond title seemed to disappear with him.
 

Green Lantern Kai-Ro really grew into a favorite of mine, as well as Dustin's, while working over the course of this title. I loved the peaceful innocence and wide-eyed optimism that he brought to the team as well as the Beyond universe. And I always felt he might quietly struggle being the youngest member on the team. Maybe having trouble to relate with the adults around him and not really having any friends his own age. So featuring him in this story where he develops his first feelings towards a girl his own age, are moments I kind of miss in comics. There's always this focus on making things dark, depressing, and battle-worn. But it's the little moments of feelings and relationships these characters have towards one another that I always strive to find space for when I write. I want these characters to live and breathe less like action figures. Less like plastic toys being mashed against one another. And more like real people that love, argue, and care for one another. Of course to further complicate matters, is that Kai-Ro's crush happens to be a girl that shares the same body with a few other magical personalities. Imagine a first date between these two with a magical roulette wheel of possibilities of all the other Marvels appearing at any given moment, making every situation uncomfortable. No one said love is easy!

Lastly let's talk about the art. Anyone following JLB had seen Ben Caldwell's work drawing the "Beyond Origin" story to Barda. I always wanted to bring him back to draw the series regularly as the ongoing artist once Dustin had stepped down to concentrate on Li'l Gotham. So it was fun to get Ben on this story, with such a wide range of characters to draw and design. It was a bit nerve racking for me, since I was going to end up inking him on this. Artists I like as a fan, always puts more pressure on me to not ink them badly. I'd almost rather sit back and just watch them do the art as a reader. But I felt some ownership of wanting to keep the inking consistency over the ongoing story, that I've been a part of since issue one.

I've included some of the preliminary designs and pencils from Ben during the process of working on this. I think he was interested in doing a very youthful redesign of Captain Marvel, which in any other circumstance in the Beyond universe, would be the right idea to do a different take. But for Captain Marvel, I specifically wanted him to look exactly how we last saw him. That he's a living legend unchanged throughout time, and would still look the same. But you can see some of Ben's ideas in these rough pencils below. And also the great cover, from concept to execution, by artist Khary Randolph!



2 comments:

  1. I was sad to see you off of JL: Beyond but atleast you went out with a bang! Hopefully you'll enjoy your next project just as much as you did Justice League Beyond.

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    1. Batman Li'l Gotham is my only ongoing book I'm attached to currently. And various other stories here or there still waiting to surface. Would be nice to land on a longer project again, but they're hard to come by. It's a weird facet of the industry, where you'll see these insanely prolific writers that end up being given sometimes up to 7 different titles they're juggling. Doesn't leave much for the rest of us. So it's a matter of hitting the trenches, working up pitches, and dabbling in other areas than the company books. No rest for the weary. My ambitions won't be deterred for long.

      A couple more JLB posts and I'll put the end to my run on the book.

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