Joshua Williamson has been working near the center of the DC Universe since the launch of the Rebirth Flash series back in 2016. Over the past six years he’s written stories in nearly every corner of the DCU, including a 100+-issue run on the fastest man alive’s solo series, an exploration of the cosmic DCU in Justice League Odyssey, plus tie-in arcs and one-shots for some of the publisher’s biggest events. This year Williamson’s found himself even further into the thick of it, helping spearhead DC’s Infinite Frontier initiative by anchoring a massive kick-off one-shot. That story sprung into a recently-wrapped, sprawling six-issue series that firmly re-established the multiverse as a major element of the DCU, shone a spotlight on some characters who’ve been underutilized, if not outright absent, from DC for quite a while, and restored one of the DCU’s preeminent villains to his rightful place at the top of the evil food chain. A sequel series to Infinite Frontier, Justice League Incarnate, arrives in November, a month before Williamson, who already writes the ongoing Robin series and has another title, Deathstroke, Inc., debuting this week, takes over writing chores for DC’s highest-profile title, Batman.
I had a chance to chat with Williamson at this month’s Rose City Comic Con. It was a discussion that covered a wide range of topics for all the various books Williamson is writing for DC, as well as his creator-owned work. Check out the first part of our interview below, in which Williamson reflects on working on Infinite Frontier, and looks ahead at what’s to come in Justice League Incarnate. Be sure to come back tomorrow for part two, which covers Williamson’s upcoming Batman run, plus Robin, Deathstroke Inc., and more.
Joe Grunenwald: You’re writing a lot of books right now.
Joshua Williamson: Yeah, so the total is, I write Robin, Deathstroke, Batman, and then Justice League Incarnate, which I co-wrote with Dennis Culver. And then I was writing Future State: Gotham with Dennis, but I’m leaving at issue 7, he’s taking over 8 for the next Joker storyline that he’s doing. And then I have a book that hasn’t been announced yet, that I finished writing already. And then I have another book that I’m working on for next year that’ll be a bigger book. Yeah, a lot of stuff going on.
Grunenwald: Is that bigger book the third part of the [Infinite Frontier] trilogy?
Williamson: Yeah, the third act of the trilogy. Then I’m done with my Infinite Frontier story. I mean, you see, like when I was on Flash, I was always trying to plan things out far in advance, and there’s always clues and little things. I’ll drop lines of dialogue that seem like they don’t matter, but they actually are important for down the line. I always try to give you the clues [for] what’s coming. And you can see that in Infinite Frontier, you can see that in Flash, and there’s all kinds of stuff, because all the books are connected. The stuff I’m doing in Robin and Deathstroke and Batman are all going to be connected. And they’re there if you start reading, start seeing some of those pieces.
But even then some of what’s going on over there is connected to the Infinite Frontier stuff, we just haven’t gotten there yet. At some point, you’re gonna be like, ‘Oh, that was all one big thing.’ It’s like, yeah, it’s all one big story, it just comes together. I talk to other writers, other artists about what they’re doing, and I talk to editorial every day. All the time. So I have a pretty good understanding of what’s going on, and [I’m] helping where I can on everything, but yeah, it’s a lot. It’s a lot of books.
Grunenwald: Well, I wanted to start talking about Infinite Frontier, which just wrapped this past week. How much fun was that to work on?
Williamson: It was a lot of fun, to basically do kind of an event book, but to be able to do it with a bunch of characters that hadn’t ever been able to have that spotlight, or at least not in a long time. And I’ve always liked Roy [Harper, aka Arsenal], and so I wanted to work with Roy. I’ve been a big fan of Alan [Scott, aka Green Lantern/Sentinel] and Todd [Rice, aka Obsidian] and Jenny[-Lynn Hyden, aka Jade] for years, like I’ve always wanted to work with those characters. When I was a kid, like a preteen, I always wanted to work with those three characters, particularly with Alan, Obsidian, and Jade. I always wanted Obsidian — this is back then, so this is a long time ago, but even back then I was like, ‘Obsidian should be a Green Lantern, too, but he should be like a Black Lantern or a Blue Lantern.’ I have all these drawings I drew back then of Todd with a blue domino mask and stuff. So I’ve always wanted to work on those characters. And then I love Cameron Chase. Like I freaking love Cameron Chase. So it was interesting, like Cameron Chase became a POV in a way that I didn’t intend.
Thomas Wayne came about because, I’d worked on “The Button,” but I felt like, and I’m just being mercenary when I tell you this, I felt like I needed a Batman. And so I was looking at everything, and this is really early on, like October last year. I’m looking at the plans. And I’m like, ‘You know what I’m missing? I’m missing a Batman.’ But I knew that, you know, I talked to James [Tynion IV] every day, he’s one of my best friends, so I knew all his plans. I knew that like every Bat-character was spoken for. Like James and Ben [Abernathy] and Mariko [Tamaki], everyone working on the Bat-books, they had this plan. So I’m like, ‘Oh man, every single character is spoken for.’ At one point I was gonna use Tim [Drake, aka Robin], and they were like, ‘Oh, we have plans for Tim.’ But obviously I was writing Robin, so I was getting Robin out of Gotham so I can tell a side story with him over here with the tournament. And I was like, ‘Alright, well, what about Thomas? I’ve always liked Thomas, and I wrote him in the past, and I feel like it was a character I had unfinished business with. There were little bits and pieces of things from “The Button” and stuff that Tom [King] had done that I wanted to kind of get back to. And so I was like, ‘How about Thomas?’ And they were like, ‘Yeah, sure.’
He kind of became a major part of it. The whole [pairing] of Thomas and President Superman was super-organic. That was not planned, I just started writing them together. There’s a moment in the first issue where Thomas is like, ‘I’m looking for Barry Allen,’ and [Superman]’s like, ‘Which one?’ and he’s like, ‘The Flash,’ and he’s like, ‘which one?’ And all of the sudden I knew them, and I knew their weird connections and how they were different. Like, President Superman is a loner the way Batman is, like the way Bruce Wayne is, right? Whereas Thomas was kind of like, almost obsessed with family in a way that Clark could be, like Clark was more of a family man. And so I was like, ‘Oh, that’s interesting. They’re kind of opposites of each other in a weird way. But they have different experiences.’ Once I started writing them together, it was like, I totally know these two characters, right? I totally understand how they are, and the roles they play in the book. So it was a lot of fun.
There were so many little pieces of that series. I remember thinking in the beginning, like talking to editorial where I was like, I had this huge whiteboard in my office, and I was just like, ‘Alright, here’s how it’s gonna go. It’s gonna be six separate storylines, and they’re all going to come into one at one point, but you got to, like, work with me here and let me show you this.’ And obviously, I was very influenced by 52, you know, and Brightest Day to some extent, but I knew what I wanted to do, and I was like, ‘I have these six separate storylines, but they’re all about one thing, and it’s going to take five issues to get there.’ Yeah, it was a lot of fun.
Grunenwald: So you’ve effectively taken Barry Allen completely off the board.
Williamson: Yeah, he’s off the board for now.
Williamson: Yeah. Flash.1. The ‘.1’ is important.
Grunenwald: Is that an overt Flashpoint reference?
Williamson: No, it’s about, there might be more.
Grunenwald: Okay. Gotcha.
Williamson: So yeah, that’s part of why. That was something I wanted to do for a while. But yeah, Barry’s off the map for a little bit. We’ll get back to Barry. Someone has to figure out where Barry is. So we’ll get there.
Grunenwald: So with Barry gone, for Justice League Incarnate, you’ve got Avery Ho coming back to join the team. And you’ve also got Doctor Multiverse. Can you talk a little bit about what those characters bring to the team?
Williamson: Well, Avery, you know, when you’re doing a team book, you need to have a character who is a point-of-view character, right, who is new to this. And we made it so that, in Barry’s emergency plan, he basically told President Superman, ‘If anything happens to me, you get Avery. I want Avery to do this particular role.’ So a lot of her story is about, why me, because [Barry] could have gone to Wallace, he could’ve gone to Wally, he could’ve gone to Jay, why did he pick Avery to be his person to replace him on Justice League Incarnate? Why was it like, ‘if there’s a problem, go get Avery?’ And so a part of her story is that, like, ‘Why me?’ And she’s never experienced anything on that scale before. She’s been involved in big stuff, she was involved in “Perfect Storm” in Flash and she did a lot of stuff in New Super-Man. But she’s never been on something of this multiversal level. And so I want to have her kind of be the new point-of-view character.
With Doctor Multiverse, she’s an analog for somebody else, because she’s from Earth-8. She’s an analog for a Marvel character. I don’t want to say who it is yet. I think people, once they see her, they’re gonna be like, ‘Oh, that’s who that is.’
Grunenwald: Not a strange character?
Williamson: It is not Doctor Strange. It’ll get really obvious once you see it.
Grunenwald: Throwing a curveball.
Williamson: Yeah. Her design is really cool, because it looks like — Dennis did the first drawing of it, and then Andrei Bressan, who was the artist on Birthright, he did another design on it. And then we had Brandon Peterson come in, and he took both of [them] and combined it. But the thing that’s cool is that her suit looks like the design from the Multiversity logo. She has multiversal powers. She has multi-vision. She’s great, she’s a really interesting character. And I think people will, once you start reading, be like, ‘Oh, I know who this is.’ And then you’ll see all their roles.
My hope is that they stay after that story is over, once we get to the end of this. I was actually just working on my plans and my thoughts of what I would want to do after the whole three acts are over, after the trilogy is over. I know what I want to do after, and I want [Doctor Multiverse] to stay around.
Grunenwald: The other artists that are working on Justice League Incarnate, are you able to say who any of those are yet?
Williamson: The only one I can say right now is Kyle Hotz. He’s doing Earth-13, it’s the Justice League Dark world where John Constantine’s a superhero. He’s literally called The Hellblazer, and he has a red cape. It’s the world that Jared Stephens Fate is from. They go to that world in [issue] 2, there’s a couple other worlds they go to throughout the book, and then eventually they’ll make their way to Earth-7, but they do bounce around and there’ll be some different artists. But Andrei’s on every issue. Whenever they’re in the House of Heroes, Andrei’s doing those sequences, and then eventually he’ll do a lot of the last issue, but there’ll be reasons why, you’ll see as we get there. Issue 1 is Brando, because for the most part we’re on Earth-8 in issue 1, issue 2 they’re on Earth-13 and then, by the time we get to issue 3 I think they’re on like three worlds by that time, they bounce around a bit more.
But it gets nuts. In issue 1, Darkseid is in it and he goes to Earth-8 and he fights somebody there. We haven’t seen Darkseid fight anybody yet. Yeah, he blasted Machinehead [in Infinite Frontier #6], but he finally has like a full-on fistfight with somebody on Earth-8. And it was one of the things, we were working on it, I figured out who he was gonna fight, and I was like, ‘Oh, this whole book just came together in my brain. Now I see it.’ So he has a fight with a character on Earth-8 that I think people will be excited by. It’s really fun.
Grunenwald: There was something teased at the end of Death Metal called the Elseworld. Is that coming up? Are we going to see that sooner rather than later?
Williamson: I don’t know when that’s coming. I know the people who are working on it. And they’re very busy. So at some point when their schedule allows them to, they will, but it is something they really want to work on. It’s just gonna take time.
Grunenwald: But it’s not you.
Williamson: It’s not me. I know what Elseworld is, and I was part of the planning for what Elseworld is and the pitching of what Elseworld is, but I’m not the person writing Elseworld. They’ll get around to it eventually, they’re just very, very busy.
Justice League Incarnate #1 (of 5) arrives in stores and digitally in November. Check back here tomorrow for part 2 of our interview with writer Joshua Williamson.