Comic Book Day: Preparing for “Trinity War” with Geoff Johns and Jeff Lemire
by Dan Casey on May 1, 2013
Since the inception of DC’s New 52 Universe, we have slowly, but surely been building towards one massive, catastrophic event: Trinity War. Since its reveal on last year’s Free Comic Book Day, readers have speculated what exactly could prompt some of the DCU’s biggest heroes to take up arms against one another. Revolving around the Trinity of Sin – Pandora, The Question and the Phantom Stranger – Trinity War will pit the Justice League, Justice League of America, and Justice League Dark against one another in an action-murder-mystery that will shake the DCU to its core. Although we have to wait until July for the six issue series to kick off, I was able to catch up with the event’s architects, Geoff Johns and Jeff Lemire, who gave us the inside scoop on what to expect, unexpected team-ups and battles, and who their favorite character to write was. So, brace yourselves because if the above artwork by Ivan Reis is any indication, Trinity War is going to be a bumpy ride.
Nerdist: Trinity War – we’re very excited for it. Is this basically the biggest PSA against inter-office relationships? What can we expect from this massive event?
Geoff Johns: Well, that’s pretty close. [laughs] I don’t know if you’ve seen the image out there, the covers for the first three parts that Ivan [Reis] did of all the heroes at war. Ivan and Joe [Prado] really did a great job on it. It sells an idea of obvious conflict between the three Justice Leagues, but when Geoff and I first tackled this story, we really wanted to make it, on first glance, hero vs. hero – and that’s definitely in there – but it’s also very philosophical. The story is so action-driven, but there’s a mystery there too. There’s kind of a controversial death that happens in issue one; it’s the death and the circumstances around it that kicks off the mystery, pitting the teams against each other and eventually the team members themselves. You know, kind of choosing different sides for a specific reason. When Geoff and I got together, we really wanted to focus on the mystery element, because I think we have a lot of great reveals we’ve planted in the books for some time now. In particular, Jeff’s issues really feed into that. I wish we could talk about it more. In the first issue, something happens that really defines what the story’s going to be about, but without spoiling it, it’s a little hard to get specific.
N: So this death is the primary catalyst that sends the DCU into all-out war?
GJ: Yeah, it’s definitely a catalyst for what that battle is. I think Trinity War as a title is a little misleading too because it isn’t just about these three Justice Leagues; there’s the Trinity of Sin, these three mysterious characters, and the answer to what the Trinity actually is and what the Trinity actually means will come out as well.
N: Let’s talk about the Trinity of Sin – Pandora, The Phantom and The Question. From their names alone, they ooze mystery. What’s the appeal of these characters such a major part of the story?
GJ: Well, Jeff, I think you can talk about The Question…
Jeff Lemire: The Question embodies mystery – it’s who he is. Like Jeff said, the story really is a big murder mystery, so he exemplifies that aspect of the story. The idea of the three Leagues, the Trinity, it’s sort of this underlying thing we’ve structured the whole story around. Each of those characters in the Trinity of Sin represents one aspect of the story that will unfold. You know, Phantom Stranger and Pandora have been seen quite a bit now, but The Question, he’s still a mystery – who he is, what he is, what his motivations are – so this is kind of his coming out party. He plays a pretty major role.
GJ: We’re taking kind of a cue from the animated series where he’s really bound in conspiracies and stuff, but this is a bigger one. The questions in his mind that kind of haunt him are things that he has to answer. He’ll be front and center at the mystery of it all.
N: Without spoiling anything, can you give us a hint of some of the superpowered slugfests we can look forward to?
GJ: I don’t know if you’ve read Justice League of America, but the team has been designed specifically to take on the Justice League, so some of those battles will come into play. Like Hawkman vs. Aquaman, Katana vs. Wonder Woman, and you’ll see Shazam take on Superman, which I always think is a lot of fun. Especially this Billy Batson/Shazam that’s more willing to throw the hardest punch he can to see what happens. You’ll see lots of confrontations; I mean, on the cover, you can see Wonder Woman with her lasso around Constantine’s neck, which has got to be the worst thing to ever happen to him. [laughs] So, there’ll be a lot of confrontations that you’ll see, and a lot of team-ups too. There are lots of characters doing a big Justice League event that’s specific to the teams. You’ll see these characters confront one another, team up, and figure out why they need to team up. Some of these groups don’t necessarily stay together; in fact, they don’t come out the same way they came in.
JL: As much as it is about heroes fighting one another, it’s also about seeing unexpected friendships develop, which is cool.
N: Speaking of unexpected friendships, who has been your favorite character to thrust into the spotlight that you didn’t anticipate going in?
GJ: For me, I’ve got to say – and I didn’t expect this at all – but I think Madame Xanadu. She’s actually the first character; I open up with her, and I wound up really, really liking her. She’s kind of an obscure character, but I really enjoyed writing her, and then, on the Justice League side, I find Superman and Batman are always a blast. Superman, in particular, especially with what happens throughout the issues of this storyline – he’s been the most fun to write.
JL: I’m surprised at how big of a role Madame Xanadu wound up taking in the actual story. That wasn’t something that we’d initially planned on. It came about in the scripting stage, which is cool. For me, I’m writing Green Arrow now, his solo book, and I was kind of surprised how fun it was to write that same character in a group setting, y’know, these group scenes.
N: Writing for one Justice League must be challenging enough, but what sort of challenges are involved in constructing and managing a massive event like this with three of the biggest teams in the DCU?
GJ: There’s a lot of challenges. I don’t think Jeff and I can give enough credit to the artists we’re working with on this – Ivan, Doug [Mahnke], and Mikel [Janin]. You can see that cover that Ivan did. We’re trying to tell the biggest story we can with all these characters, but without them, this story wouldn’t work. I think the challenges are that you have thirty characters here, and that’s a lot of characters. You want to keep the scope big, you want to see these characters team up. It’s really fun to see, but at the same time, there’s got to be an emotional core to the story. And that’s really the focus: who’s story is it? What is it all about? When Jeff and I sat down to hash it out, we said the laser is going to come in on these characters and this is the emotional through-line, this is what it’s all about. There’s a lot of characters and plot to juggle.
JL: The sheer choreography of all the characters throughout the issues itself can be a challenge. As a writer, you want to keep it lively, but also keep it personal and character-driven.
N: From more of a logistical standpoint, this will be a six issue series, but will it be its own separate Trinity War book or spread across the Justice League books?
GJ: It will just be in Justice League, Justice League of America and Justice League Dark, so six issues in July and August in the Justice League titles. We wanted to focus on the teams, define the teams and redefine them. Something is going to happen at the end that’s going to blow up a lot of stuff and change the layout. I think we’re going to be talking about it soon, but specifically in these three Justice League titles.
N: I’m sure it will have a pretty big impact on the DCU as a whole, but will there be tie-in books too in other titles?
GJ: There’s a couple books that have tie-ins. You don’t have to read them to get the whole story. There’s Constantine #5 in July that’s a Constantine/Shazam team-up that sort of spins out of what’s going on in Trinity War. It’s a really great story by Ray Fawkes. You’ve got Billy Batson who’s street smart and John Constantine who’s also… street smart – seeing how those two guys work together… I don’t know if you’ve read the Shazam stuff, but he’s different than past iterations.
N: He seems a little bit more contentious than the Billy Batsons we’ve seen in the past.
GJ: Yeah, he’s a good-hearted kid, but he’s got a chip on his shoulder. He doesn’t trust adults, so Constantine is probably the most distrusting person there is. It’s always fun to see them together. I think Ray did a great job. Then there’s Phantom Stranger #11 from [J.M.] DeMatteis and Pandora, also by Ray, which are going to have tie-ins as well. We’ll also finally answer what the hell is in that box and what that box is all about!
N: Thank god – the suspense was killing me. It’s like Marcellus Wallace’s briefcase.
GJ: [laughs] Yeah.
So, there you have it, friends. It looks like Trinity War is going to leave a trail of bodies and questions in its wake. What are you hoping to see happen once it drops in July? Let us know in the comments below.