“Writer Brad Meltzer’s version of the DC super team is a hybrid, one that straddles the old and the new, a team that both looks back to its roots and inspiration, as well as looking forward to new, uncharted territory.”
Q. Let’s start back a while-take us back to your beginning in comics-when did you get into the hobby?
B. If you ask me about the first book I read, I immediately think of a comic book. My first comic that I remember getting that my Dad brought home was the Laughing Fish-the Joker story in Detective by Steve Englehart and Marshal Rogers. My Dad used to work at a place where there was an old bookstore, back before there were official ‘comic book stores’ and he used to grab a handful of beat up comics that the store had for ten cents or a quarter a piece. I remember he brought me that, and some time later, he brought me Justice League of America #150, which was a story that involved the Key, and I remember just losing my mind over it. There was one splash page that had all the JLA members stuck in these Key ‘prisons.’ All of the members were stacked up one on top of another. I remember looking at that page and thinking, ‘Oh my gosh-who should act first?’ And the addiction was born.
I think that’s how comic addictions are always born-just like drugs, the first couple are free, and then you know who to call or where to go if you want more.
Q. Could you take us through the process of selecting the membership of the new league (without giving anything away please)? How do you find the right balance between storytelling potential of a character and their worth to the team power-wise? Were there any characters that you wanted to include for one reason, but had to exclude for another (not an editorial decision)?
B. Picking “your” League is always a mixture of your brain and your heart. You know you can’t just put in only ego characters that prove you made a mark in history (brain). But you also have to put in characters you love (heart). I picked characters that I honestly believe “belong” in the League. They’ve been around. They’re established. They’re not lower tier in any way. They are the best of the best. But that’s just my opinion. Every character is lower-tier to someone. And top-tier to someone else. In the end, as the writer, there’s really only one reason to pick a character: because you have something to say about them.
When Green Arrow was the first member to join the original League, people I’m sure screamed (though not on any message board). But when the stories unfolded, people were happy. In my mind, the worst chosen characters are the ones that have no story in them. As for your second question, DC gave me everyone I asked for. Q. At the end of Identity Crisis, you quoted Arthur Miller: “An era can be said to end when its basic illusions are exhausted.”
Many people took that quote to mean you thought that the simplistic stories, childlike innocence, and some would say naiveté that characterized the JLA of the Silver and Bronze Ages needed to give way to a more realistic portrayal of how the members of the JLA would react to threats and challenges, sometimes in an ethically questionable manner.
Q. What quote reflects your feeling about the new “era” that is about to begin for the Justice League under your tenure as writer?
B. I love this question. And to first address the premise, I still think a few people have misinterpreted the quote. That quote was always meant to cut both ways: that the Silver Age could be examined with a current eye, but also, perhaps more important, that the current age needed to be reexamined with a Silver Age eye (hence the reestablishment of secret IDs, the refocus and re-embracing of the so-called “silly” characters, the loss of Batman’s invulnerability and overall dickish-ness, etc).
Q. One of the clear goals of Identity Crisis was to pull all those Silver Age stories back into continuity, and to acknowledge the glorious past. That doesn’t mean every story has to come in with the (way overused term) “grim and gritty.” But we also shouldn’t let them all be brushed aside either. So, that all being said, the quote for this League (which I almost put in issue #12): “Just because everything is different doesn’t mean that everything has changed.” – John F. Kennedy
Q. Would you mind explaining what it is about these characters that appeals to you so much that you want to write about them in particular? With the success you had with Identity Crisis, I’d imagine you’d be able to write almost any characters you had an inclination to…. so why the JLA? Is it the particular characters involved, or the context, or the interactions, or your familiarity with them… or is it something else entirely?
B. I sat here for a bit thinking about this. The decision to write the book was a primal one – one I leapt to without even thinking because I wanted it that bad. So, to truly pull it apart and see where the gears and levers are: I think it’s the interactions between the characters…which are so familiar…which in turn bring me so instantly back to my fondest moments of childhood. That’s the mix in the pot. When I was little, the JLA was the greatest ideal out there (even better than the ideals of Superman). The JLA ideal was simple: that if everything went wrong, if it all fell apart, there’d be friends who would help me, be there for me, hold me up – no matter what – when I needed them. I wish for that ideal today as much as I did when I was eight. It’s what every single one of my novels is about: the trust of your friends and loved ones. And the JLA was where it started. Q. What kind of threats are we gonna see this new team have to join forces to deal with? Classic League villains or brand-new earth-shattering menaces? And if it’s the classics, any hints as to how many and which ones?
B. Many old. And a few new, including the relative of a former Leaguer…
Q. Do you intend to show us more of the human side of the characters, how they interact with each other when they are not on missions, etc..?
B. That’s my number one goal. No joke.
Q. What is the Justice League’s function in the DC Universe? Is there a need for both a Justice League and a Justice Society, what do you see as the fundamental difference between the two? Will this be a continuity influenced or more iconically influenced book?
B. Continuity is iconic–they’re so the same, especially today. If it’s not iconic, it doesn’t survive that long. Sad but true. As for function, I think the JSA teaches. And the JLA fights. Hard. Q. As a writer, what do you prefer to see – the entire League taking on a cosmic menace, or small groups of Leaguers taking on smaller, more localized issues?
B. I like smaller groups realizing they need to be larger groups.
Q. Which former JLA creators do you feel deserve more credit for their work on the title?
B. Gardner Fox, who we’ve never done a fitting tribute for in the book. Mike Sekowsky — same reason. Even Len Wein. The point is, we tend to forget the older guys fast. That’s why you should donate to A.C.T.O.R. Plus, in the last few decades, Busiek for his old Paragon story. Didn’t even realize it was him until recently. The opening page alone…
Q. Are you a fan of the Super Friends version of the JLA? If so, any chance we’ll see Apache Chief, Black Vulcan, Rima, or the Legion of Doom in your run? Thanks.
B. Love the Super Friends — love them almost unhealthily. But don’t think the Chief or Vulcan ever had me convinced they were “real.” Legion of Doom though…
Q. I really enjoyed your run on Green Arrow and, of course, Identity Crisis. Will your approach to JLA be more similar in tone to G.A. (which was more light-hearted and fun) or I.C. (which was, definitely, the most ‘hard-core’ I’ve ever seen the core DCU characters)?
B. I see no difference in tone between the two. Both put the characters through their worst and best moments. The biggest battles in life aren’t always fistfights.
Q. Will you reveal how many members yet?
B. 10, then 11.
Q. When your deciding on which characters will and will not be apart of the new team do you look at things from a psychological and interpersonal point of view (i.e. who is more level headed or who gets along or doesn’t get along with each other, who is more or less a hot head and not worth dealing with…) or do you look at it from a more military point of view? (i.e.Superman is strong, Green Arrow has range and is low tech, Flash has speed, Elongated Man can slide under doors, Aquaman has advantage over / under water….)
B. I looked at it slightly from military, but mostly from a character POV – if I put this character in, what will be the reactions of these other characters? The more differences I can find, the more the characters start to find their own views, the more they’ll tell me what to do as a writer. Otherwise, I’m just pushing dead pieces around the board.
Q. I remember you mentioning on NPR how difficult it was to write Batman during Identity Crisis. Did you find it easier to write Batman this time around?
B. I did. Before Identity Crisis, I said I was determined to bring him back to Earth — to make him less superhuman and more human again. He’d gotten too…dicky. Now he’s a bit more accessible as we refind the man inside.
Q. What is your JLA philosophy? Who are these people as a group and how do they deal with the world’s problems?
B. They struggle — with the problems and with themselves. Just like the rest of us.
Q. How do you define the world’s greatest superheroes?
B. See above. I love that they’re flawed. I love that they’re us. And better than us. And worse than us.
Q. Who is your favorite Justice League member and why?
B. The new one. And Batman. I just love how they both bounce off of every other character they encounter.
Q. Any romance between any of the Leaguers??
B. Yes. Always.
Q. Will there be a roll call at the beginning of each issue?
B. Love the roll call. One of the first things I did.
Q. Will we see you use the JLofA as an opportunity to introduce any new heroes of your own creation?
B. No new heroes. One new villain. Dr. Impossible is coming to kill you.
Q. When many of us started reading comics in the 70’s and early 80’s most stories were two parts, with the occasional three-parter (the JLA/JSA crossover summer events being the easiest example) do you think the current trend of 6 and 8-parters makes it harder for new readers to “jump on board” and try new books, especially with books now being driven more strongly by creative teams than ever before? Thanks and I’m looking forward to seeing who makes the line-up. (Personally, I’m crossing my fingers for Vixen and Black Canary.)
B. Is it harder to jump onboard mid-arc, than with a clean, pristine number #1? Absolutely. That’s how I started reading comics. I read a great chapter and wanted more. But in my opinion, a book isn’t successful simply because it’s 2-parts, or 4-parts, or 12-parts. It’s successful because people are in the comic store raving about it and talking it up to their friends. Page counts can afford to rise and fall. Quality can’t.
Q. The main theme of Identity Crisis was that superheroes have families and loved ones too, and that they can be just as important as characters. Given that, how much are we going to be seeing of, for example, Lois Lane, Tim Drake, Connor Hawke, etc during your run, I don’t mean as members, or even helping the league in any way, but just being present in the storylines as family members? Or alternatively, will you be focusing just on the League as a league, and leaving the surrounding lives of the characters for their solo books to explore?
B. There was a great blog a few years back that said each hero is only as good as their “background characters.” (i.e., Superman has so many, so people can attach to that universe; J’onn has so few, so a monthly book for him is much more difficult). To be clear, this isn’t my thought. But it is an interesting concept. Is Ollie more popular now because his clan has been so developed while he was gone? Is Hal so removed and almost aloof for the same reason? All good questions. But as for who’ll be seen, you don’t need to come to the JLA to see Alfred. But for others, watch issue #1. Especially for Red Tornado, this is where the meat’s on the bone.