If you’ve been keeping up with DC comics in recent years, you’ll have noticed a strong horror theme sweeping across DC’s superheroes. For part of this we can certainly thank James Tynion IV who has been happily spreading evil, monsters, and malice through the comics universe.
Between his individual works like The Backstagers and The Woods through BOOM! Studios as well as his collaborative works like Justice League and Dark Nights: Metal with Scott Snyder, Tynion has established himself as being unafraid to bring the scare factor of the characters that we know and love. But with that fear comes a whole new set of building blocks within the DC Universe as well as to the individual histories of the characters.
With so many questions about what this new genre means for the fate of many heroes, I sat down with Tynion at San Diego Comic-Con to discuss where his love of horror came from and how he is hoping the ramifications of these evils will continue into the future.
Chloe Maveal: [Justice League Dark] seemed like a really big undertaking for you. You got to explain the multiverse in a sense. What was the process like for you? How do you go about explaining something so massive and so complex?
James Tynion IV: It’s incredibly intimidating. I’ve always been a huge DC [comics] nerd. I’ve been reading these stories for years and especially when they tap one the larger mythology —the biggest, most cosmic most epic level of storytelling where we’re dealing with monitors and anti-monitors and multiverses. Honestly, those have always been the stories that really gripped me. The most exciting thing about the last few years has been actually being able to tap into that rich tapestry and tell some really big stories with those characters. It’s been amazing. DC [comics] has kind off opened the toy box for us and poured all of the toys out for us to play with.
Maveal: You decided to bring Zatanna into this as a main role which is entirely fitting because the premise revolves around magic. But coming off of DeMatteis run of the same name years prior, Zatanna basically rejects the idea of being part of the team and even says that she is never going to be meant for it.
Tynion: Part of it was that when Justice League Dark starts it starts with Wonder Woman trying to form this tea of magic and everyone is saying no — including Zatanna. Zatanna turns her down flat out in the first few pages of the first issue. It isn’t until she gets the vision of her father Zatarra who warns her of the level of threat that is coming and that there are only a few people capable of turning the tide. That is when [Zatanna] realizes that she has to be a part of the team. [The original Justice League Dark] was something that I definitely wanted to nod to and acknowledge but it was also about creating a new, easy jump-on point for readers who want to be introduced to these characters as well as people who have loved these characters for years and years.
Maveal: In regards to Wonder Woman, I mean reading [Justice League Dark] initially I was like “What is Diana doing in a horror series?!” It turned out to be really amazing because so much of the horror stemmed out of [Wonder Woman]’s history and mythology. You really spent time building on that. Do you hope to see some of the mythology that you created carried on in the DC universe?
Tynion: I definitely hope so. I can say specifically that the next big arc of Justice League Dark is called The Witching War and it follows up on last year’s Witching Hour crossover. It brings Circe back to the forefront and follows up on a lot of what we’re done with Hecate and the witch mark and all of these new piece of Wonder Woman mythology. I’ve been talking very closely with the Wonder Woman office at DC and the creators all working on that book. Moving forward we’ve been mapping out how to make these books reflect each other and make sure these huge, dramatic moments in Wonder Women’s life are really reflected and carried forward and explored. There are some elements of that that I introduced that I won’t be able to get to in Justice League Dark that Woman Woman may and vise-versa.
Maveal: It all reads like this is something building and climbing towards something so much bigger. How do you feel like Justice League Dark has found it’s slot within the universe and with that bigger picture on the horizon?
Tynion: Honestly I think the thing that makes Justice League Dark special —and this is something that I learned while I was working on Detective Comics — aside from Wonder Woman who is obviously in Wonder Woman— most of the characters in our book only appear in our book. That means we can do big, dramatic things and when something happens that really shakes them as a character, it matters and it lasts. That’s something that we’ve talking about a lot at DC [Comics] in general. We have a huge tapestry that we’re building right now; not just with Justice League Dark but with the main Justice League title, the whole Year of The Villain, and everything that’s happening with The Batman Who Laughs and Superman. It’s all building up and it’s all going to culminate in a really, really epic story. I can’t hint any more than just that but it is all part of this larger tapestry and I really can’t wait for you all to see it.
Maveal: Because it’s just a piece in the tapestry, are you hoping that the way you’ve gone about writing [Justice League Dark] is going to pave more of a way for superhero horror continuing to be a bigger genre?
Tynion: I really hope so. Obviously I love the horror side of the DC universe and I love all of these characters. And its one of these things where even though I have a long runway and a lot of story to tell there is so much more story that I would love to tell with these characters and I’d love to see other people tell with these characters. I just hope that Justice League Dark helps create a new ground from which new stories can spring.
Maveal:The last thing I’ve been itching to ask you about is….well when I read Justice League Dark I honestly thought back the first thing I read of yours, The Backstagers, which made my queer little heart sing.
Maveal: So when I started reading Justice League Dark I was happy to see Wonder Woman and Constantine —both canonically queer characters— but it got me reading into the possible metaphors built into those choices. You tackle these characters who spend their time going after unrelenting monsters and are both “out”. Did you choose the characters or choose that metaphor purposefully or am I completely off-base?
Tynion: I think that there’s always been something there. Like, even just looking at metaphors like when everyone decided that the Babadook was a queer icon — I even bought the Pride blu-ray version. Like with that, honestly I think the queer community has always kind of coded itself with the monster character— specifically the sympathetic monsters — and I have a I team of sympathetic monsters. SO there’s something where it really is easy for me to get into and they’re the ones I gravitated towards. In terms of the queerness being built in…queerness is just built into the horror genre for me. It’s built into all of my work and its something that I view as the secret fuel of Justice League Dark. It’s also why I wanted to bring in Traci 13 as a key supporting character on the book. There’s lots of characters. I knew who I wanted to pull in to be a part of the DC magical universe and ground at the center of it.
Maveal: What can look forward to seeing from you next?
Tynion: In addition to the biggest story that we’ve told yet in Justice League Dark I’m also launching a creator-owned series from BOOM! Studios called Something is Killing the Children which is coming out the first week of September and is me getting back to my creator-owned horror roots. I am definitely looking forward to horror always being a part of my writing and part of my life. I’m very lucky and excited to write more of it.
Justice League Dark and Justice League are currently available in stores and through DC Comics. Tynion’s new creator-owned series Something is Killing The Children from BOOM! Studios will be available in stores September 4th.