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Joshua Williamson, Daniel Sampere hint at the forthcoming 'Dark Crisis'

Comic Books

Joshua Williamson, Daniel Sampere hint at the forthcoming ‘Dark Crisis’

The writer and artist talk about influences, objectives, and the power of legacy.

A new crisis is coming to the DC Universe — Dark Crisis.

Announced just last week, the latest DC super-event is the brain-child of writer Joshua Williamson and the creative team of artist Daniel Sampere, colorist Alejandro Sánchez, and letterer Tom Napolitano. The seven-issue saga dates all the way back to Infinite Frontier, and even with some “threads” stretching into Death Metal, according to Williamson. The story itself deals with Pariah — from the original Crisis on Infinite Earths — implementing the aforementioned Darkness as a weapon on a “path to rebirth and vengeance.” It’s not nearly as dark as its title seems (again, even with “The Great Darkness” involved), and instead Williamson sees it as a giant “love letter to these characters and this universe.”

While the event proper won’t launch till June (with prologue issues in May) — coming right out of the blockbuster “Death of the Justice League” in Justice League #75 — the creative team is already in hype mode. During a recent chat with both Williamson and Sampere, the pair discussed as much of the book as they could, including how it starts, the influence of other big DC events from yesteryear, the overall mission statement, the event’s look and feel, and even some things to look forward to (sans spoilers, of course). It’s clear from this Q&A that, whenever your take on big-time DC events, this is going to be an intriguing mix of celebration, storytelling, and history.

For more details on Dark Crisis, be sure to read our extended introductory guide.

Some questions and answers have been edited for clarity.

AIPT: What’s the condensed elevator pitch for how long this story’s been building? It goes back to Death Metal, right?

Joshua Williamson: We’re definitely saying there are pieces of Death Metal that push some of this forward. But really, the point to start looking is Infinite Frontier #0, which we released a year ago. That’s really where we started the real groundwork for it.

There’s obviously some stuff from Death Metal; there had been a cost to the universe being rebuilt, and that Wonder Woman was aware of what that cost was going to be — or, maybe not aware of it, but she went looking for it. And now you’re starting to really see what that cost was with the stuff with The Great Darkness.

AIPT: Josh, you’ve talked about some of the more “celebratory” aspects of this event, and how it’s a kind of “love letter” to the DCU. Why is that so important?

JW: When I first started reading comic books, when I first started really getting like hardcore at DC, it was a t time where DC was introducing a lot of elements. Like, you had Tim Drake, Cassie [Sandsmark], Kyle [Rayner], and Connor Hawke — all of these pieces are being introduced around that time period.

What those things did was it highlighted these how much this stuff is generational, right? Like, how much of a big piece of DC is the generational legacy. At the same time this was happening, you also had Wally West, who at that point had been the Flash for a few years. But the entire time period, so much of it was about him living in the shadow of Barry [Allen]. And then you get to the return of Barry Allen, and it’s about him stepping out of that shadow while also embracing what had come before.

All this stuff — the idea of the generational history and the legacy characters and new characters, the sidekicks, particularly with Nightwing, becoming one of the most respected parts of the DCU — all those things are really important to me. When look at like the aftermath of New 52, the aftermath of Flashpoint, a lot of that stuff got kind of pushed to the side a little bit. When we got to Rebirth, we were able to reestablish the core of the DCU.

To me, this is also taking all those other parts and really elevating [it] again. And that’s why this stuff was really important to me — to show that all the new stuff and all of the classic stuff can all live together, and it can actually give you an entry point into this gigantic DC world has been built over the last 85 years.

All that being said, I’ve seen some of these big events through the points of view of Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman. If you go back and look at the original Crisis on Infinite Earths, those characters don’t really appear the first few issues. It’s mostly about Pariah, and the other worlds and the people that he’s saving. You start to see those characters, but the cast of the original Crisis is massive. And I wanted to look back at that and say, ‘OK, how do I tell a story in the DC right now? One about legacy and about the new while also honoring everything that came before? So all of that stuff is really what came into the evolution of Dark Crisis.

Dark Crisis

Courtesy of DC Comics.

AIPT: Daniel, from a visual or artistic standpoint, how do you balance all of that?

Daniel Sampere: I’m trying to honor what it’s already been done while trying to mix it with my own vision. So I’m trying to create a balance about using the all visuals, what’s already been established in the previous [Crisis events] by George Perez and Phil Jimenez and all these amazing artists. I’m taking a lot of the stuff that they created and they build for these iconic DC visuals, all the multiple layers of this stuff. And I’m trying to pay tribute to those comic books and those visuals, but at the same time, I’m trying something new, to mix it with a more modern comic book look. But it’s not just about these characters, and DC also has a visual legacy. So I’m trying to take care of it and trying to expand it while always looking and using the previous art.

AIPT: DC obviously has a rich history of events, but some of them tend to be done for the sake of retconning. So if this event is different, and we’re not rewriting the universe, what are the big stakes?

JW: Without getting too much into spoilers, there’s a lot more like emotional stakes then everything blowing up all the time. It’s definitely more about the characters.

It’s not about reboots or retcons, but there are going to be some really big things that happen in the story that will carry forward. There’ll be some changes with some characters and some evolutions and some leveling up of some characters. There will be some things in the DCU that are different afterward. But there are a lot of what is going to be these kinds of emotional character growth for those characters. There will be some pieces moving around by the end — but it’s way too early to talk about.

It’s not about replacing, like taking the new and replacing the classic, it’s not about that at all. It’s really about showing why all of these characters are important, and honoring all of them and showing why they’re all crucial. The idea of honoring what came before but also introducing the new is so crucial to the DCU.

We were talking about the beginning how, when I first started becoming a DC Comics addict and all this new stuff was being introduced around them, I really wanted to come back to that and show why that was so so cool. We already saw the universe destroyed, even in Death Metal, and I didn’t want to repeat that. I wanted to find ways to make it less of ‘Oh, this is the end of the world’ and make it more about the characters. That being said, a lot of these characters have different reactions because they’ve also lived through those big Crisis events.

Like, imagine what living through all of these gigantic end-of-the world events would consistently do to a person. That’s a big part of what our motivation is: when you go back and look at Crisis on Infinite Earths, Pariah is responsible for his own world being destroyed. It was the first world that was destroyed, and he’s responsible for it. And then he was forced to watch an infinite number of worlds destroyed, and go into those realms. So he’s actually lived through a lot of them and it did something to him. It has definitely done something to him to motivate him to essentially be the villain of this story. And I want to show that with the other characters — having the Justice League die again, how does that impact some of the characters. It’s much more about these kinds of characteristics and not just, like, the world’s going to blow up again, because you’ve seen it.

DC Comics launching 'Dark Crisis' summer event about legacy

Courtesy of DC Comics.

It’s been interesting to write those scenes and characters. There’s one scene, in one of the special issues, where Dick [Grayson] and Jon [Kent] are talking about this, and Jon is panicking. So Dick says, ‘You know your dad died, right?’ So there are scenes about that sort of impact it, but none of it undercuts what’s coming. There’s still a massive danger that is coming, and it will impact the DC going forward.

AIPT: It kind of sounds like one of my favorite events, Blackest Night. Lots of things happened there, but it was very much testing people to their mental and emotional extremes.

JW: We definitely looked at Blackest Night. Daniel and I are both fans of that story. Daniel’s a huge Green Lantern fan, and tell me if I’m wrong, also a huge Ivan Reis fan.

DS: Yeah yeah.

JW: So we looked at that event for sure. I would say the four events we looked at the most were probably Crisis on Infinite Earths, Infinite Crisis, Final Crisis, and Blackest Night. I had those behind me for the last two years, and I’d look at them constantly to figure out certain pieces and how do I build off those events.

AIPT: This event comes right after Justice League #75, the “Death of The Justice League.” How do these two things work together, and does one expand the other?

JW: We didn’t say it at the time, but I think we’ll probably start saying it now. It’s a prelude issue — issue #75 leads directly into the event. We built issue one of Dark Crisis so that you could read it by yourself. We have scenes in there that essentially tell you what is up and what is going on. But if you want the big picture, you would need to read issue #75. The “Death of The Justice League” only takes place in #75, and then we immediately go into the zero issue and then…issue one — they’re very much connected. It’s the aftermath of what the world is like when those characters are gone, and how people on earth react to the news essentially. That, and some heroes react one way and some villains react to one way and you’ll see how that all kind of comes to a head in issue #1.

AIPT: There’s also going to be some prologue issues. What can you tell us about those and how do they feed into or enhance the larger story?

JW: It’s all connected. If this our giant omnibus, you would you would go from #75 to the zero issue. But, again, you can read if you want by itself. So issue one is the beginning of the event. All that stuff just preludes to it, and the zero issue is showing how people, and one in particular without spoiling it, is how they’re reacting to the Justice League being gone.

DC Comics launching 'Dark Crisis' summer event about legacy

Courtesy of DC Comics.

Then the Road To… special is five short stories involving two heroes, mostly two heroes, meeting and then dealing with what this world is like. One of the stories is written by Jeremy Adams, who writes a Flash book, and it’s a story about Wallace and Wally [West] realizing that Barry’s gone and has been missing for a while and also Avery’s been missing. But they’re also realizing, ‘Oh there’s a bunch of villains that are just acting nuts because the League’s gone, and they’re running around.’ But that [the Wally story] is picked up again in Dark Crisis #1.

So it’s really this big tapestry that we’re building, and we’ve spent the last year putting all of these pieces on the table and constantly adding more pieces and more pieces and more pieces. And all of those pieces suddenly collide with our crisis.

AIPT: Obviously without any spoilers, are there any big moments to look out for? Or anything that you think will blow the tops of people’s heads off?

JW: The art we’ve shown [already] kind of gives a glimpse of it. The stuff that Daniel and Alejandro are doing is so amazing. Like, every page comes in, and you’re just like, ‘Oh, crap.’ I think we opened in such a different way. Like, most crisis events open with some big disaster. So we said, ‘No, let’s start someplace else, and we started with that first page showing Batman with Dick, taking the oath to become Robin and the beginning of legacy and the DCU.

I think a lot of stuff will really surprise people, but there are other moments, I mean, where it’s going to get nuts. And Daniel has done amazing work drawing it. I mean, the sheer scope of it, like the event goes back and forth between these like small intimate moments between the characters, and then there are things that happen that are just like ‘Holy crap.’

But it’s called Dark Crisis, and so there are some dark moments. It’s not an easy time for these heroes, and they go through the wringer a bit. There are moments that I think will be very fan pleasing and very exciting for people who are DC fans and have been reading these characters and loving these characters. Daniel has some moments that are really big and really cool that he’s done. There’ll also be moments of, ‘Oh, my God, our heroes are screwed.’ But then you balance it out with just [moments of] ‘Hell yeah.’

So that’s really our goal…whenever we talk about these events. I always think about roller coasters, right? Like, you get on a roller coaster. You’re going to get off at the end and you’re going to be OK. But it’s still kind of nervous, and you’re still kind of scared. Then that roller coaster takes off, and there’s these moments where you’re going up and you’re going out for a moment and things are really calm — you get to look at the beautiful view. Then it just drops and you’re screaming going through twists and the ups and downs. That is how I feel about our crisis.

AIPT: Daniel, anything for you?

DS: I’m a huge, crazy DC fan. I feel like I’m constantly working and drawing things that as a fan I would say, ‘Oh, wow!’ Every piece that comes in for a new cover… I need to start thinking how to grow. I’m having so much fun, because I’m a fan that has the chance to grow what will happen [in] the story. It’s just full of moments that I think that that readers are going to flip out and enjoy a lot.

The following images are courtesy of DC Comics.

DC Comics launching 'Dark Crisis' summer event about legacy DC Comics launching 'Dark Crisis' summer event about legacy Dark Crisis DC Comics launching 'Dark Crisis' summer event about legacy

DC Comics launching 'Dark Crisis' summer event about legacy

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