Dark Crisis #1 kicked off a month-long event at DC Comics, and now Dark Crisis #2 is out today to further complicate the lives of superheroes. More specifically, the creative team of Joshua Williamson and Daniel Sampere are exploring the legacy and the next generation of heroes in a way with some real stakes attached.
Dark Crisis is an event that spun directly out Justice League #75 and the death of all of the mainline DC Comics heroes. Pariah and the Great Darkness are teaming up (or so we think…) to clean up the multiple Earth dilemma plaguing the DCU. Meanwhile, on Earth, Jon Kent is attempting to form a new Justice League when heroes are needed the most — while Deathstroke aims to kill them all and clean the slate of these legacy heroes.
After speaking to Williamson twice now about the event itself, not to mention the death of the Justice League, we sat down with him and Sampere to discuss what comes after Dark Crisis #2. We also tackled the newly-revealed Red Canary; Sampere detailed what went into the epic double-page splash of Nightwing versus Deathstroke; and we go over much, much more.
AIPT: What does next generation mean to you as comics fans? What was the next generation when you were getting into DC or other types of comics?
Joshua Williamson: So for me, when I started reading what was considered, I guess the next generation the ’90s, early ’90s crew. You have Tim Drake, you have Connor, you have Bart, you have Kyle Rainer, you have Cassie. To me that was the next generation when I started reading in a lot of ways, I still feel like that’s the next generation. Maybe I’m in the wrong in doing this. I kind of lump together a lot of the characters from post Crisis to now I feel like one big grouping. Obviously, the Injustice kids sometimes get left behind every once in a while, which is why we try to not do that here. That’s why we had the Young Justice book.
That’s, that’s what I kind of consider being the next generation, those characters that came post Crisis. There’s been a lot of great ones that have kind of sprinkled in the last 30 years, but then we also have the characters that have arrived post-New 52 post-Rebirth. And then now post Future State, like those are all these different characters that have kind of sprinkled in. I like it when all these newer characters are sort of together at the same time, kind of unified that’s part of what Dark Crisis is about all those characters kind of come together as one generation.
Daniel Sampere: I think it’s a difficult question for me. I was thinking what’s my generation and I’m not sure if I can tell you because when I started reading hardcore it was like 10 years ago, I think the New 52. I the new comic books of The New 52 with my interest in older comic books. So I was like in a giant spiral of reading DC, but in different eras, I took the Green Lantern books from Geoff Johns. Then I jumped to the first Crisis on Infinite Earths. So it was like all the same time, you know? To me, the new generations means the best part of it, making it grow, make it richer, always adding more interest, more new stories, and more amazing characters. Some people feel it like replacing, and I think that’s super wrong because never it’s replacing, it’s just adding more to the DC universe and making it bigger and more exciting, you know? And that’s what new generations mean to me, new opportunities.
AIPT: It’s kind of exciting to know there are 25 years, 30 years of adventures prior to a potential starting point for new readers. You can go backward and forward.
JW: Have you ever had like, something you got into that was like a fandom thing, and then you start watching it or reading it or whatever. And then you’re like, this thing is great, but it’s so new that I can read or watch all of it in the space of like a day or two. There’s something special to the idea that, if you dive into say the DC universe there is unlimited, there’s so much you can consume and you can kind of just jump right in and start absorbing. I guess I’m kind of lucky in that when I started reading, there were a lot of new characters creating entry points. So like Tim Drake, when I started reading Batman-like obsessively reading Batman is when Tim Drake was introduced.
I got to read as if it was happening. And they used Tim Drake as a window into the Batman world, the same way that Kyle Rainer was used as a window into the Green Lantern world or Bart, you know? And so I feel like I definitely got lucky at that moment that I was able to like enter into DC as a young kid, through a bunch of kids that were all coming in. I think that’s why a lot of those characters, I have a special place in like my heart for all those characters in that time period. And I think that we need to have that, like what Daniel was saying, it’s not about replacing, it’s just about creating new windows into this massive mythology.
AIPT: In Dark Crisis #2 you’ve got someone mentioning “next generation.” You also have Deathstroke saying legacy is dead. So there’s this juxtaposition going on. What does Deathstroke mean by that?
JW: I think that he wants to make sure there are no more heroes. So with Deathstroke, he’s interesting, because he’s this character who can never take responsibility for himself, or his actions. Look at everything that’s happened with his children, who died, come back, died again, had all these different problems and his quote-unquote family life has been dismantled. And I think even when he was given an opportunity at the end of Christopher Priest’s Deathstroke run, where he was finally given an opportunity for that family, he rejected it and he went on the run again. And I think he just can never take responsibility for his own actions. When we started talking about Dark Crisis and what he was gonna be doing, I wanted to get into this mental head state where he finally is like, “oh no, I know what the problem is.”
Which is also something the Great Darkness feels. The Great Darkness is like “superheroes are the problem.” And Pariah is like, “Superheroes are the problem.” I want them because they’re also manipulating Deathstroke. Like that’s important to this, the idea that Deathstroke is being manipulated by the Great Darkness and Pariah. I wanted Deathstroke to sort of come to the same conclusion in his head. This is what he says to Nightwing. “When are you gonna realize putting on these costumes and all of this stuff, this is what’s causing our life to be hell.” So in his mind, I think there’s part of Deathstroke that kind of feels like he’s almost doing everybody a favor. If we stop picking up the torch, if we stop trying to be heroes, if we stop fighting, we can actually save lives.
And it’s not a rational thing because Deathstroke is not a rational person. He’s driven by emotional anger. And he’s always been that way. Even when he is this calm, stoic person, he’s still very emotionally unbalanced. And so I wanted to play up with those ideas of him looking out at the Titans. He blames the Titan, he blames legacy heroes. He blames the kids. He’s come to this mission and will play up more of this stuff later in issues three and four when you start to learn more and more about what Pariah actually wants him to do, he’s just like, all right, what I’m gonna do is I’m gonna destroy a legacy. I’m gonna stop this from ever happening. Like there will be no more heroes. The legacy of this, the legacy of Justice League, the legacy of JSA will be gone. That’s how he sees it.
AIPT: When you mention there’ll be no more heroes, I think maybe that’s good for Daniel because then he doesn’t have to draw so many characters per page.
JW: Oh man. You have no idea.
AIPT: You’ve got the entire Green Lantern Corps, you got JSA and then you got everybody else. How do you keep track of all of these costume designs on a single panel or page?
DS: Yeah, this is the nightmare part of this job. <laugh>, you know, I’m enjoying every bit except the custom references. This is pretty hard, but I think we’re doing fine because Josh really helps me a lot with this. He knows everything. I’m trying to, to get first, all the references, all the correct costumes. And then I have like all the folders, for every group for every character. But yeah, it’s, it’s a part of the process, which things slow down because even if it’s just a small character on a panel, I need to double-check with the references and try to make, make it look good. It’s a tedious part of the job. Lucky I have a good memory and I’m starting to memorize most of them so I can move faster.
AIPT: That second issue is impressive. There are a lot of characters in that single issue right there. It creates that event-level quality. Where it’s like, oh my God, there are so many characters, everyone’s involved in this. I loved the double-page layout where you have the smaller panels. How do you figure out where each punch is going in each one of those panels?
DS: That was a really fun part of the issue. I wanted to try to make this fight very brutal, not in a fancy way. I was like trying to make a street fight, even if Deathstroke and Nightwing are characters that are super skilled at fighting. It was anger, rage, emotions, and punches.
DS: So that’s why the layout has no specific reading order. I wanted to show some chaos.
AIPT: You guys have been teasing some things the last couple of days, for instance, today you teased the JSA. You also teased Red Canary. What can you tell us about Red Canary?
DS: Top secret.
JW: Yeah, top secret. She has her first appearance in issue three, and then she’ll be in the event a little bit. I’m not sure we’ve announced everything with her yet. Cuz she’s gonna be in some of the one-shots that we’re doing. She’s in the War Zone one shot and then another one that I don’t know if I’m supposed to reveal yet, but she’s gonna be in some stuff that we’re planning and it’s way too early to talk about her. The most I would say is that obviously she was influenced by the the death of Black Canary to become Red Canary. That’s the most I could say right now.
AIPT: Okay. So we have a Black Canary. We have a Red Canary. Might we assume then we have a Pink, Yellow, Purple Canary down the road?
JW: There is a White Canary.
AIPT: We’ve practically got a Power Rangers of canaries going on.
JW: I mean, whoever gets to write a Green Arrow or Black Canary book, they should totally run with that idea. <laughs>
AIPT: When it comes to Pariah, the costume design, I noticed there are three circles on his chest. Is there anything you could tell us about those circles and what that signifies?
JW: It’s supposed to signify the multiverse and the idea of the multiverse coming back together and that being his goal. We knew we wanted him to have a logo on his chest because we wanted to mix it up. He’s wearing the Anti-Monitor armor, his own version of the Anti-Monitor armor. And so we knew we needed something there to kind of, you know, like when you look at the one, the Super Boy Prime was wearing it still had the Superman logo. And so we knew here, we wanted to give a logo.
AIPT: It’s all about branding for these villains.
JW: Yeah. We wanted to symbolize something about the idea of infinite Earths and the idea of there being, new Earths coming out of it. That was the reasoning for that logo.
AIPT: Do you have big plans for Cyborg Superman in Dark Crisis?
JW: You see what happens in issue two? So I mean, that’s sort of the end of him being in Dark Crisis. He might show up in some of the later fights. The thing that’s funny is that when we get into the big epic battles that’ll happen later I have to be careful about how many characters I add because otherwise, Daniel will kill me <laugh>. Once we get around to issue five and issue six…three and four are still kind of like a slow burn. It’s still about the mystery. It’s still about these characters coming together for a challenge and the feeling of defeat that they’re feeling. And then by the time they start stepping up to join this fight. Then by the time they get to five like five has a lot of characters in it. And then we get to six, six is nuts. And so I feel like if I add Cyborg Superman to that fight, Daniel will–even though Daniel draws like the coolest looking Cyborg Superman–I don’t wanna add to that cause we’re already having so much.
DS: Cyborg Superman is super fun to do, but every artist when they read the word cyborg on the screen they start shaking, you know, because <laugh> everything Cyborg takes too much work to draw. <laugh>
JW: He’s still cool though. I wanted to have a character that felt like they worked thematically for that fight for someone to be the one to go up against Jon here.
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