Ramifications of a Wish: An Interview with Steve Orlando

JLA 25

For nearly a year now, Steve Orlando has brought us an abundance of stories in Justice League of America. As you all know, I struggled with the title early on, but as of late, my opinion has changed. I’ve come to develop a fondness for Justice League of America, and it’s future truly is looking brighter than ever. With so many elements and plots converging together, I reached out to the Might Beyond the Mirror for an interview with Steve Orlando, and had that wish granted. From the Microverse, to racial diversity, to people’s deepest desires… We’re discussing everything, and nothing is off the table!

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Josh McDonald: Hello, Steve! Thank you for taking time out of your week to speak with us! You’re a busy guy! You’re currently writing Justice League of AmericaThe Shadow/ Batman, Supergirl, The Unexpected (an upcoming book that’s part of the New Age of DC Heroes), as well as a number of specials and pick-ups… So, congratulations on your success! Any Midnighter news? We can create some Midnighter rumors if you’d like. I’ll take full responsibility.

Steve Orlando I will always accept rumors! You’ve got a pretty comprehensive list there, but there might be another story coming up that features one of DC’s iconic and unique couples, though it’s not Midnighter and Apollo.

JM: Ah! We’ll have to create some speculation… Did I miss any titles that have been announced?

SO: We have MILK WARS.

JM: Ah, yes! I’m sorry about that!

SO: It’s the January/February 2018 event I am co-writing and overseeing with Gerard Way, featuring the JLA as well as the heroes of DC’s YOUNG ANIMAL in an event of epic, dairy-based proportions. This is the Justice League and the Doom Patrol saving us from the perils of the monoculture, and I couldn’t be more proud of how it’s been coming to life. The collaboration with Gerard has just been super creative, and wonderfully strange.

JM: “Wonderfully strange” sounds intriguing, and, subsequently, a perfect way to describe Gerard’s creativity. Uh, for the moment, I want to focus on Justice League of America. To give our readers a little context, you and I spoke briefly following the finale of Panic in the Microverse, and I immediately pushed for an interview. Panic in the Microverse is a grand story that you literally created an entire universe for! What inspired your approach to the Microverse?

SO: The approach for Panic in the Microverse was inspired by the Science Fantasy epics of old, the Star Wars and the John Carter, but as well, we wanted to emulate the massive, additive, and creative storytelling that Geoff and Jay brought to Justice League during Forever Evil or Blackest Night – stories that got big (or small, in this case), and also went in depth with the Crime Syndicate or Black Hand. In The Null, we had a villain with a tragic beginning and a primal obsession, like Black Hand, but his aims spiraled out in a cosmos-threatening plot.

We want to show a massive part of the DCU that has never been seen before. A world previously based in science, driven to faith by tragedy. It’s at war with itself, threatening to explode thanks to the events of, and damage caused by, DC Rebirth.

Huge locales, new spins on concepts such as Moz-Ga – we’ve seen living planets, but here is a planet inhabited by a formerly evil wizard, who has gained perspective, and changed, with the addition of planetary perspective. Here, being a thinking planet has driven Moz-Ga’s growth as an entity, of the Docent Folk, taking line-of-sight teleportation and bringing it to a cosmic scale. We have love letters to the DCU, such as the Faceless Champions, alluding to the first appearance of the Faceless Hunters, who were noted as coming from a microscopic home within the Rings of Saturn. As well, like Luke finally escaping Tatooine, it’s a chance for Ryan Choi to step out into his own.

JM: Speaking of the Atom and Rebirth, Panic in the Microverse continued Ray Palmer’s story that was established by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank in DC Universe: Rebirth #1. I was extremely happy to see Ray return and had high hopes that he would join Batman and the JLAbut he chose to stay behind in the Microverse. Initially, I was a little letdown, but after digesting the story, I’ve come to realize that it is the heroic thing for Ray to do. Are we going to explore the Microverse with Ray in the near future?

SO: I hope so! I love what we’ve built in the Microverse and there is so much more to explore. As Batman noted, he has had experiences, between his battle with Lord Havok, and The Button, with alternate universes. And if Palmer is right, and the Microverse does secretly connect the Multiverse, then Batman has a new mission for Ray Palmer. Remember, Batman told Lord Havok he was going to save Angor, a world we saw was destroyed at the hands of Havok. But maybe, with what Batman’s learned, even the end of a world isn’t the end.

JM: Ok, I’m getting excited. Now, your approach to storytelling. In general, I’ve noticed that your format and pacing for Justice League of America is different than what has become standard for comics today. You seem to harken back to a classic feel that reminds me of Grant Morrison and Howard Porter’s JLA. Is this the idea you were shooting for?

SO: It absolutely is! The ’97 JLA is what got me into modern comics, after years of buying out of bargain bins and flea markets. And we aspire to that, in style and pacing. Grant and Howard’s stories moved. They offered never before seen spectacle in every issue. This was the book where Batman defeated a team of Martians, where Superman wrestled an Angel, where the Atom and Green Arrow defeated Darkseid. Each issue you got something new, creative, and additive. And that’s what we hope for here, in the lineage of Grant and Gardner Fox, a book that is always building and showing readers new faces, new places, new uses of powers, and a new facet of the DC Universe. Grant pioneered super-compression in All-Star Superman, and while we could only hope to match that, the hope is to give more and more with each issue, on a scale as grand as it possibly can be.

JM: Nice! I feel like all of these elements are really coming together now, and starting to show for your narrative. My excitement has definitely been growing lately. Now, the characters. On the main roster, you have Vixen, The Ray, and the Atom (Ryan). All of these characters add diversity to the team, and, in one way or another, are considered minorities. While you’ve touched on the political climate of our country in previous stories, do you have any plans to address some of the racial tension our country is currently experiencing?

SO: I think the team’s very existence is a statement in relation to this. This is a JLA that knows we can’t stand at all if we don’t stand together, and we have to be bigger than our fear or prejudice. To protect and empower has always been the goal of the JLA, and that approach, being a resource for communities instead of an authority, is how we hope to address these issues. This is a diverse team that wants to be there for anyone in need, maybe even people that might not trust them, but they know that to make it to the future, we have no choice but to overcome our isolation and fear of each other.

JM: I like that. “The team’s very existence is a statement.” It really is. Speaking of characters and their representation… Lobo. Lobo is the one character that shouldn’t work with this team, but is the character I’m the most excited to read every other week! In Justice League of America Annual #1, you give him the spotlight. What can we expect, and is there even the slightest chance of you writing a Lobo book in the future?

SO: I would love to do it! Lobo has been a surprise for me as well. With a team of human heroes (and yes, every member of the team started out as human, even if they now have superpowers through chance of providence), Lobo was an odd fit. But he had another use on the team, a specific need of Batman’s that will be revealed in the JLA Annual.  And his grudging relationship with Ryan Choi, his intelligence, despite looking and acting like he does, has been a surprise gift to me. Lobo sees himself in Ryan, someone who is judged by how he looks. And in the Annual, we’ll see why.

JM: And Black Canary will be joining Lobo in the Annual, correct?

SO: You’ll see Black Canary and Lobo in space after one of the worst of the worst. After all, we know the Main Man can’t stand to see a dolphin cry…so what do you think he does when someone makes a space dolphin bleed?

JM: You had me at space dolphin!

As much as I love the main roster, I find myself getting even more excited about the supporting characters you’re bringing into the fold! You utilized Terrorsmith from Bloodlines for an arc, introduced Blue Jay,  and hinted at Aztek’s return. These are all obscure characters that new readers may not be aware of. Do you have any recommended reading that could hint at upcoming characters or stories?

SO: Aztek especially is something I’m so excited for! Readers of the ROCK OF AGES arc of JLA know the legacy of Aztek is one that goes out into many possible futures. And I could not be more excited to continue it. Plus, that helmet is just cool as hell. I would recommend people check out Aztek: the Ultimate Man for background on Aztek, as well as the WORLD WAR 3 arc of the ’97 JLA. And as for Blue Jay, his original appearances in Justice League International are wonderful.

JM: Any other “New Bloods” on the horizon?

SO: Stay tuned! We have more on the horizon, as always. We have cosmic arbiters that have not appeared since BEFORE Crisis on Infinite Earths, as Batman’s promise to Havok, to do what he couldn’t and save Angor, becomes more and more real.

JM: The current story is Surgical Strike. Prometheus is the main villain, and anyone who is familiar with Grant Morrison’s run of JLA – as well as your spectacular run of Midnighter – knows how dangerous Prometheus is! If that weren’t enough, he’s partnered up with Afterthought. It’s been quite the battle so far!

SO: Prometheus’s parents were revolutionaries who committed suicide by cop. He doesn’t believe power can be anything but corrupt. So, a Justice League that’s saying “hey, we’re a team, and you’re all on the team with us,” is something Prometheus is too broken and jaded to believe in. He no longer believes power structures can ever be on the side of the common people. In Prometheus’s mind, he’s protecting people from the JLA’s lies, which he considers more dangerous than himself. He’s, as always, in his heart, self-righteous, and that’s as much a reason he’s as dangerous as his technology.

JM: Prometheus seems like the perfect villain for the JLA. With Vixen’s decision to go public with the team, he’s clearly set his sites on her. I’m assuming he’s going to make this personal?

SO: You’re spot on. Prometheus has righteous passion and a broken heart, which to me is his tragedy. He thinks he’s enlightening us to the truths of life, but they’re only true if you have no hope. Me? I think with hope, Prometheus could’ve been ON the Justice League instead of trying to kill them, but no one ever took the time to care for him until it was too late.

Because Vixen has been the most vocal about what the JLA is about. Because she doesn’t have a secret identity, Prometheus sees her as the focal point of the JLA’s dangerous, toxic lie. So, he’s there to not just destroy the JLA to protect people from them, but to prove his point, to prove what they stand for is a lie. And there’s no better symbol for that than Vixen’s Tantu Totem, which according to Vixen, connects her to every living thing on the planet.

Prometheus wants people to watch as that Tantu Totem is destroyed, proving that the JLA’s message only goes as far as their own self-interest, just like anyone else’s faulty ideals.

JM: In the final issue of Panic in the Microverse we learned that Prometheus is actually one of the wishers that had a wish granted by the Might Beyond the Mirror. I’ve noticed that the wishes characters have made seem to be more personal than grand, but I feel that there hasn’t been enough of a commentary from readers concerning this plot.

SO: You’re exactly right! Often in stories with Wishes, we see people with massive, get rich quick, revenge on my enemies wishes. And yes, some of us would make that our wish if we could have but one wish. But with the MIGHT BEYOND THE MIRROR and the WISHERS, which started in JLA 2, we wanted to say something a bit different. As you noted, for many of us, what is most important can be small, but have huge meaning. It can be a decision we made long ago, that we wish we’d made differently. It can be more time playing catch with our father. It can be the time we didn’t stand up for someone when we wanted to… And these things matter. Not everything that is huge to us personally is huge to everyone else. We see characters that just want more power, like Terrorsmith. But we see people who wanted their childhood home back (as in JLA 10), or want a respite from Fibromyalgia, which some people don’t even believe is real. Or they want what Havok wanted, which though Batman thinks he knows, we haven’t truly seen yet, have we?

But the point is, the heart of it is, we all have crosses we’d like to have lifted off us. And sometimes even if it seems small, what bothers us, the one thing we’d want to change, can have enormous, enormous ramifications.

JM: In a number of my early reviews, I expressed a desire to understand the purpose of this team. Why did Batman form the Justice League of America? What are they preparing for? Etc. It appears that the Might Beyond the Mirror is the answer to this question, and that we’ll explore this in-depth during Queen of Fables. We know Batman was approached with an opportunity to make a wish, but will we learn if other team members were offered wishes as well?

SO: Some may yet be offered a Wish! We’re not there yet! Batman, as we saw, was offered a Wish. So, he could only assume other DC heroes would be too. And we see as the story builds that each of these heroes has lived a life that has shown them that there is no such thing as an easy way out. Like Batman, who struggled through the death of his parents, each member of the Justice League has struggled. They know when something is too good to be true, they’ve fought for everything they’ve gotten in life. And because of that, they know how to resist a Wish. They know no matter how good the offer, overcoming strife isn’t a wish, it’s a daily struggle. That’s what Batman thinks at least.

JM: There are many fan theories floating around the internet about what is currently taking place, and what will take place. I have a personal favorite, but I’m curious to know what some of your favorite fan theories are!

SO: All I’ll say is, characters are coming to JLA that no one has guessed, that have massive ramifications on where these heroes land on the other side of Queen of Fables. We strive to give readers the imagination, the raw ideas they deserve, twice a month in and out. And sometimes even the end of the world…isn’t the end of the world.

JM: One final question… Prepare yourself, because it’s a tough one! When can we expect a Midnighter and Lobo, R-rated, buddy-cop adventure? (I had to ask…)

SO: That is an R-Rated adventure I am more than ready to write at a moment’s notice. Start the letter writing campaign today! That’s @dccomics on Twitter, by the way.

JM: Steve, thank you again for taking time out of your week – and holiday – to speak with us!

  • Justice League of America Annual #1 is due in comic shops and other retailers on November 29, 2017.
  • Surgical Strike wraps up in Justice League of America #20, slated for December 13, 2017.
  • Current trades: Justice League of America: Road to Rebirth, Justice League of America Vol. 1: The Extremists, and Justice League of America Vol. 2: Curse of the King Butcher are on sale now!
  • Also, keep an eye out for Midnighter & Lobo: Bastiches on a Bike Ridepotentially arriving sometime in the near future. (*cough* Tweet @dccomics *cough*)!

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