Two of the DC Universe's biggest teams are about to collide in Justice League vs. The Legion of Super-Heroes #1, which comes from writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Scott Godlewski. A tale that includes these two teams is bound to be epic, and that is certainly the case in the series' first issue, which presents a threat that must be solved rather than punched, and it will take all of them working together to get to the bottom of the mystery. ComicBook.com had a chance to speak to Bendis and Godlewski all about the series' debut, and we've even got a new preview for you starting on the next slide!
While the series does have vs in the title, the first issue is less about conflict. Don't worry though, because the conflict between the two powerhouse teams will become clear.
"Well, great note, because yes, you're right. There's no versus going on in the first issue because they're all thoughtful, heroic people, Bendis said. "Their first instinct isn't to punch the thing that they just met. So first, we absolutely have the grand opportunity to introduce the Justice League to the Legion of Super-Heroes. These concepts have not met each other before in this DC Universe that we have, so it was very exciting to do that. And then it's throughout the story, the conflict becomes very clear. Where do they have to draw the line in the sand, and also, I'll be very honest with you, it isn't the idea of Justice League versus the idea of Legion, it's going to be a crossover of teammates that believe in different things from the story."
Early on we get to see just how deep and versatile the Legion is in a marvelous splash page filled to the brim with characters. The sheer number of small details on display is quite impressive, and while Godlewski does admit it was challenging, that's far from a bad thing.
"Challenge is a good word. It is that. But challenge is different from problem, right? It was challenging but still fun. So a challenging, fun thing makes something rewarding," Godlewski said. "I have to give all the credit to the editors for doing the legwork, to get me the reference for everything, for all of the modern costumes for everything. Because stuff changes so quickly that they have to be on top of all that stuff. Sometimes by the time I'm done drawing something that they sent me, it's already changed. For that particular one though, that was really early in that first issue when I was still sort of getting my Legion bearings."
"So I had my character sheet next to me, and as I'm penciling it, when they're all just sort of stick figures and stuff, you have to go back and count how many characters you have on your reference sheet and come back and make sure you've got all the right ones before you actually know who's who," Godlewski said. "But no, it was great, and now it kind of just feels like another thing that's just part of the job. It's not something I'm learning anymore. It's just a thing that happens."
One of those many small details in this sequence is much appreciated, as each Legionnaire has a name tag built into their costumes, and for those new to the Legion, it will be incredibly helpful. It's also an evolution of an idea that Matt Fraction introduced during his X-Men run, and Bendis is thrilled to be able to use the idea and run with it with the Legion.
"It's actually hard to pull off on our end and I appreciate you saying that. So the idea came from when that Matt Fraction was writing the X-Men, he invented something called the dad tags, and what it was, was a little blurb of information for each X-Men, that Matt's actual father would then understand who the X-Men was," Bendis said. "So that's why he called them dad tags. Even my dad will know who Pixie is now if I do this, right? And because Matt is Matt, they slowly turned into these brilliant bits of not only character, but comedy. It would be like, 'Wolverine. Claws, blood, beer.' And that's all he would write. Again, it's so great. It's just like this little... And to the point where I said to Matt, I go, 'I sit here envious. Envious of the dad tags. And I don't live in envy of others, but man, that was a good one.' And it was like, right there, we're all dancing around it, you nailed it. And he literally, for my birthday years ago, 10 years ago, gave me the dad tags."
"He said, 'I'm giving you permission to use the dad tags, and you won't be a hack.' Because I said, 'I want to steal them.' He goes, 'Steal them.' I go, 'Then I'm a hack.' I know that's your idea that I've stolen. It's not like I'm guessing or I'm homaging. I know I'm stealing it because I couldn't think of it," Bendis said. "So he gave me permission to do them, and yet still I wouldn't do it. I go, 'No, I know in my heart that's the hack line, I can't do it.' Blah, blah, blah. And then Legion came on and I was able to take the dad tags and put them in the story. So now they're not just a reader interaction, they're a reader interaction and a story interaction. They need name tags. There's too many of them."
"And also, wouldn't it be interesting if we had... and then I started inventing. It's a piece of wearable tech, and you walk up to someone and it gives them the information they need for you. You can skip, here are all the liner notes. So while the conversation's happening, 'Oh yeah, your kid. How's Susie? How's Susie doing?' Wouldn't that be nice? And no one's offended by it because there are all these different species and different planetary systems and different customs, and so you just let people know what they need to know to address this person. So that would be a nice and formal way to do it, and it lets me steal the dad tags and gets the information to the reader. So thank you, a lot of thought went into it."
Much of the initial part of the issue is from the point of view of Kala Lour, the Gold Lantern, and while we've seen pieces of his mysterious origin revealed in Legion, this series will unleash all of the history and secrets fans have been waiting or since his debut.
"The subtitle to this series is the Gold Lantern Saga, so with that comes the absolute promise, you're getting all of it here. So all of the answers to the Gold Lantern, where the powers come from, what OA is, what it evolved into, why it's connected to some great darkness, all of this will be revealed within the series itself. That's the story, so yes to everything," Bendis said. "We introduced Gold Lantern in our series with Ryan Sook the last run, and we were delighted by the response to it. They liked the idea of it. They liked the thought of it. The issue he sold out went to a couple of printings. I was thrilled because the Lantern Corps and the mythology that so many people have built up over the years, it means a lot to people, it's immersive, it feels complete. So to add anything to it, it could be dicey, and I was thrilled that the overall feel was, 'What is that? Show me.' That's the good thing about Legion. We have a thousand-year buffer. A lot can happen in a thousand years. From the most casual reader of fiction to the most immersed science fiction lore reader, or just watching history of the world itself, a lot's going to happen in a thousand years."
"And even if we look back at a thousand years on Earth and all that's happened, and what's happened in the last hundred years compared to the... more has happened the last hundred years than happened in the last 900 years combined. The foot's on the gas of society, so imagine that going for another thousand years, and that's the kind of world we get to write into. What a treat for us that we get to leave the pandemic and go visit the Legion in the 31st century and then get to invite the audience to come with us. What a gift. If comics had a gift, that's it, right there along. I love that so much, and to share that with people on social is amazing. What the Lantern ideal and concept has evolved into over a thousand years is what we're going to reveal in this series," Bendis said.
While there are some big differences between Gold Lantern and the Green Lanterns we know, the hallmarks of the Lanterns we all know are still there, and evolving and expanding those concepts has been a thrill for Godlewski.
"I think one of the neat differences is having a character with that ability to create the constructs and whatever they can imagine, and applying that to somebody without sight, and what kind of things they would conceptualize," Godlewski said. "So it's not going to be the things you traditionally see, it's not going to be big machine guns and it's not going to be rocket launchers and giant arrows and stuff because they don't have any concept of what that looks like. That's a really interesting idea to me. Is to get into being able to visualize something from someone without sight is really interesting."
"Also, he's not from earth, so the things he would visualize, the sorts of inventions than an Earth Lantern would," Bendis added.
One of the most entertaining scenes in the issue is when the Legion and the League finally come together, and though there are already some big issues to deal with, there's still quite a bit of lighthearted fun and even some mysterious foreshadowing in this sequence, as the Legion has the chance to meet the Legends they've always heard so much about in person.
"Well, first of all, and on top of everything you just said, that's literally the list of things to do in that scene. It is interesting interactions, finding stuff that if I'm surprised as a writer by how these two people are talking to each other, I immediately want to share that with the reader," Bendis said. "I know that someone's going to feel the same way I do, and sometimes the characters do, they surprise you. You put them in the room and you're surprised how you feel about Batman. You thought you're a big fan of Batman till you're standing there with Batman. It's a different feeling. Also, there's a, almost like a historical precedence to these kinds of spreads, and Legion actually has them. Someone posted recently on my Twitter feed some of the great Legion hanging around and eating spreads. Which I was stealing from my Avengers run, but they would gather, and the gathering itself with them standing around talking to each other would in itself be epic. Just the meeting. I honestly think that even subconsciously, some readers, that's why they're buying it. The fight's the fight, but really, I want to see the party and the after-party. So having that interaction."
Time travel is a major part of this series, but there is a twist to it that allows for more of those amazing moments to occur without wrecking all of continuity in the process. "And then also we have this incredible time travel conceit, that time travel does not hurt the universe or the time stream, and the Legion knows about the Justice League, and there are parts of it they know a lot about, and there are other parts they don't know anything about.," Bendis said. "There's an age of heroes that has a valued history, and then it kind of dissipates. And not unlike our world history, there are parts that we know a lot about because it was chronicled and recorded, and there are other parts that we're still trying to figure out what happened during this era and that era and putting the pieces together, and it's cloudy. So I thought it's interesting that the Legion has full awareness of the Justice League and want to be them, but have a cloudy look at what their outcome is. So they actually don't know when the day Batman dies. They don't know, they couldn't tell them. So we get our cake and eat it too."
Those who have been reading Justice League know that one of the best elements of the current series is Black Adam, who has perhaps started to enjoy this whole hero thing and has even cracked a smile or two. We get another hint of that here and even the hint of a smirk, and Godlewski has quite enjoyed bringing this new and improved Black Adam to life.
"I think he's been the surprise favorite for me of characters to draw. Yeah, because I feel like there's... Obviously, for a character as old as he is, there's no set version of him, so you can kind of just find what works for you as an illustrator, but it's been super fun," Godlewski said. "I draw him... In my head, he's kind of like the guy who thinks he's the baddest guy in the room, but then you've also got Batman on the team who knows he's the baddest guy in the room. So I think they have a sort of a fun dynamic."
Another MVP of the issue is Triplicate Girl, who ends up right in the middle of this time-spanning adventure. Her plight brings up all sorts of intriguing questions and mystery, but it's still a very personal story, and more than a few fans might leave with a new appreciation for the character as a result.
"I am so happy to hear you say that because when I was a young'un reading Legion, the creators were doing really interesting things always with her. Even the idea for those who don't know that she was Triplicate Girl, and then for a long time she was Duo Damsel. One of them didn't make it, and that idea rattled me when I first read it, I go, 'Oh my God, what is that like?' I had never seen that idea done before, so the fact that we were able to stay with Legion long enough to set them up and then do this was very exciting.
And also, it speaks to the stakes. This is a messy situation they find themselves in and they do not know what will happen to them. So her standing there going, 'S***, look what just happened to me,' and we've only been doing this for six pages is kind of like a harbinger of what could happen later in the series. But thank you, that was particularly a character that captivated me as a reader, so it's exciting to do that for people as a writer."
With so many compelling combinations of characters in this book, it's quite easy to pull out several that could take on their own mini-series, so we wanted to know who their dream team-up would be.
"Such a good question, because I got to tell you, the variant covers of this series by Travis Moore are actually illustrations of six really interesting team-ups," Bendis said. "And you look at just the variants, it looks like some kick-ass Brave and The Bold that I would like to buy. And every one of those... It's just one of the great treats of this job is that these covers come in and you see them months before everybody else. It's just sometimes a variant cover can inspire all kinds of thoughts like, 'Oh, I do want to see Dawnstar-Hawkgirl team up." That sounds great. But I think for me, and I'm writing a little bit of it right now in the series itself, I like, because I'm not a smart person, I really like writing smart people meeting each other. With the Illuminati, when people have different expertise, you're technically brilliant, you're intuitively brilliant, and you come together and solve a problem. This allows us a little bit of that with like Batman and Brainiac 5 having a conversation, I could write a one-act play of them every day just having lunch. I absolutely love it so much. I don't know how much of that would actually make this final series, but boy, oh boy. It's not like solving a crime, it's just talking. But wouldn't Brainiac 5 just be completely, it's like meeting one of the great... A cultural icon of all time who invented everything. It's like meeting Will Eisner. 'Oh, you invented all of this?' Anyway. Scott?'
"I wouldn't mind doing a Naomi and Monster Boy book. I think that would be fun. Just based on characters that I like to draw," Godlewski said.
You can check out the full preview starting on the next slide, and you can check out the full issue of Justice League vs. The Legion of Super-Heroes #1on ComiXology or at your local come store on January 11th.
Are you excited for the issue? Let us know in the comments or as always you can talk all things DC and comics with me on Twitter @MattAguilarCB!