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In his own words: Josh Williamson on killing heroes in 'The Death of the Justice League'

Comic Books

In his own words: Josh Williamson on killing heroes in ‘The Death of the Justice League’

A spoiler-riffic deep dive of DC’s big summer event.

All your favorite superheroes have died.

At least that’s what DC Comics has hyped as the centerpiece of Justice League #75, the aptly-titled “The Death of the Justice League” story. The blockbuster issue is out today (April 26), and just in time to commemorate the 30th anniversary of “The Death of Superman” story, setting in motion the upcoming DC Comics summer event Dark Crisis.

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Pariah and the Great Darkness are coming to destroy every last hero on Earth. Thanks to the heroics of the Justice League, and Green Arrow specifically, the heroes have a bit more time to save the day. Williamson spent some time with reporters a few weeks ago to further hype folks for the event — read AIPT’s coverage of that here — but he also spent half the time spoiling the entire saga.

Below, you’ll find Williamson’s complete thoughts on what comes next following the death of the Justice League. You might be surprised to find out what Dark Crisis will focus on first and how Williamson spent great care not to disturb ongoing stories by Tom Taylor, Jeremy Adams, and other creator. He also talks about why Green Arrow turned the tide, what makes Black Adam so special to be the only survivor, and what we might expect from tie-ins as the summer comics season unfolds.

On why Green Arrow turned the tide against Pariah

Josh Williamson: Because Green Arrow wasn’t even supposed to be there that day. I love Green Arrow and I wanted to give Green Arrow the spotlight and I wanted him to be the one. I wanted the justice league to basically be able to push back the dark long enough that the heroes of the Earth have a chance when we get to Dark Crisis. I wanted Green Arrow to be the one, the guy who is a very human member of that team. Right. And selfishly as a character, I want him to be the one to save the day, but I realized at that moment while I was writing and I’m like, oh, well, if he’s the one that saves the day, his death has to be the thing that turns the tide.

In his own words: Josh Williamson on killing them in 'The Death of the Justice League'

Green Arrow turns the tide. Courtesy of DC Comics.

On the heroes’ reaction Black Adam as sole survivor

JW: So Jon, for example, is like, “my dad vouched for him. My dad said he could be on the Justice League, so I’m gonna believe him.” And then you get characters like Hal Jordan that are like, “how many times have we fought this dude? How many times has this guy tried to kill us? Why is he the one that we’re believing on anything?” I wanted to show that balance between those. Some characters believe him and some don’t and then, how does that impact things going forward? And then Black Adam plays a major role, obviously in Dark Crisis being the survivor and his role across Dark Crisis, I think will surprise people. Because he has seen what is coming and he sees how bad it is. Does Black Adam feel the heroes of Earth are ready? Does he think they can measure up to the rest of the Justice League members? The answer is no. So how does that also impact him moving forward?

On Black Adam and survivor’s guilt

JW: Yeah. He has a lot of survivor’s guilt. We explore this in issue 1 a bit. He’s a very complicated person and I think a person who has lost a lot and when we started developing this whole idea I was looking at all the characters and what I thought legacy meant to them. What legacy was sort of part of their story? And Black Adam was interesting to me because the last time you had what you could call legacy characters, you know, was Isis and Osiris in the New 52 and they died. I wanted to explore that side of him. And so when he’s the only survivor, he has a lot of survivor’s guilt, but he’s also a very proud person. And so the fact that he is the survivor, I think there’s a part of shame there too. And almost embarrassment.

Justice League

The heroes before the storm. Courtesy of DC Comics.

On the grieving process and the battle with Pariah

JW: No, I wanted to make sure we had time to react to things. It’s interesting writing an event, right? Because we write an event, there are other writers involved and other artists involved, working on other stuff. That was the number one note I gave was people died. Let them react to that, let them react to the knowledge, you know?

When Hal finds out, Hal’s pissed off. When Jon finds out, you have a little bit here, but then later on is totally freaking out about it and Nightwing is there to kind of help him through that. Because Nightwing is very skeptical of the death of the justice league. I just wanted to make sure that people had room to react to it.

And that’s a big part of what The Road to Dark Crisis is. That issue is really about people reacting to finding out. That’s a big piece of that. Carrying it forward to a Dark Crisis and getting a couple of things on the board that I needed, but it’s mostly about letting people react. And that was what I wanted throughout the story.

On the roles of Pariah and the Great Darkness

JW: Once we really get going into our crisis, there’s a thing toward the beginning where it literally is like two weeks later. And then we’re delving into more of an action-packed aftermath because the heroes are grieving, but the villains are like, wait, wait, they’re gone? Oh, it’s party time. The stuff with Pariah and the Great Darkness, all that kind of comes up a little bit later in the book because the Justice League was able to push Pariah back, the cosmic attacks are not an immediate problem.

The immediate problem is the stuff on the ground where all the supervillains are reacting to the death of the Justice League. They’re excited. They’re gonna take advantage of this moment. The Justice League have always been here to bail these heroes out or bail the world out, but they’re not here. Let’s go, you know, it’s time to rock and roll. I wanted to make sure we got some time to react in some places. It doesn’t have to always be scenes of people punching each other. Sometimes you just wanna see two characters, sit down, eat and talk about what’s going on.

Joshua Williamson 'Death of the Justice League'

Pariah has come to fight. Courtesy of DC Comics.

On Dark Crisis‘ impact on other series?

JW: Yeah. Without getting too much into stuff we haven’t announced yet, there will definitely be more stuff coming. It was important to me, as I work on this event, and managed an event and show running event, the size, that I didn’t derail what anyone else was doing. Like, it was important to me to work with the editorial and talk with them about what was going on in the books and then reach out to the writers that I knew it could possibly touch.

Tom Taylor is one that I talk to frequently and Jeremy Adams and a few others were people and working with like the Wonder Woman editors and just talking with them about what we were planning. With the emphasis on, I always wanna be reflective of what everyone’s doing. I don’t wanna direct what everyone else is doing. We do have some more crossover stuff coming and there is some other stuff coming that’s too early to announce. There’s some really cool stuff coming. I think some of the stuff we have is gonna really surprise people. And there’s some weird stuff we’re doing. I saw one of the covers this morning to something that I think is fabulous and I was super excited about it, but I’m like, oh, people are gonna flip out when they see this, in a good way, they’re gonna be like, “What is going on.” I think they’ll be surprised by some of the stuff we have planned that we’re doing. I talked to Philip Kennedy Johnson a lot and I didn’t wanna derail what he was doing in action and I didn’t wanna necessarily destroy someone else’s plans, but I also knew that at some point all the stuff was gonna have to line up.

You’ll see as we go, it will all line up. It’s kind of like how Death Metal was coming out at the same time as Joker War. It didn’t derail it, it allowed those stories to act independently. And I looked at a lot of different events, like Final Crisis and Infinite Crisis, and a few others. How much did it derail these stories? And I found it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was or remembered it being. But as a writer working for DC, you know, it can be challenging when you suddenly find out you have to cross over to somebody else’s story or have to cross over with an event. Or somebody else does something in another book that can derail what you’re planning. I didn’t wanna wreck what anyone else was doing, but there’s a lot of cool stuff coming.

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