Filed under: Interviews | Tags: DCNew52, frankenstein, Hellblazer, Jeff Lemire, JLDark, Mikel Janin, Peter Milligan, Red Lanterns, Stormwatch
I have seen it heralded as the Ultimate-Comic-Book-Fan-Fear, where a favourite book is cancelled or treasured personnel shifted around to work on other titles. I’ve also seen it heralded as the Ultimate-Comic-Book-Company-Marketing-Tactic and in light of recent high profile cancellations from Marvel (Generation Hope, Daken etc) I think DC fans got off lightly by comparison. This somewhat sweeping statement makes reference to DC’s recent switching around of writers on JLDark, Stormwatch and Frankenstein, which was so unexpected we had to get in touch with Lemire, Milligan and Janin to ascertain exactly had had gone on and what we could expect from the changes.
Comics Anonymous last spoke to Milligan and Lemire at the Thought Bubble festival in November of last year. Milligan, at that time, was bubbling over with story ideas and excitement for the characters of JLDark. He’ll finish up his run on this book with issue number 8 which is considerably sooner than we would have thought, or hoped for a book of this quality. Here’s what he told us:
Peter Milligan: ‘There were more stories I was planning to tell – but there was pressure to change the direction of the book, to make it less ‘Dark’ and more ‘JL’ so it would have been increasingly difficult to tell the darker and more twisted stories I was planning to tell anyway.’
This notion of the ‘balancing act’, of writing an intentionally dark book for a mainstream publisher, is not new to Milligan. His replacement Jeff Lemire has very different ideas for the book, ‘I intend to write JLDark much more like a super hero book with an occult twist’, and has hinted elsewhere on the internet that a cross over with the somewhat disappointing flagship title Justice League is likely. This signals a fundamental shift in the title as Lemire moves to focus on the Justice League, the traditional super hero elements which took a back seat under Milligan.
Jeff Lemire: ‘I will tweak the line-up a bit. Certain characters will leave the team, but maybe not the book. On a whole I want to do it a bit more upbeat, more action and a bit more humor as well. And at the end of the day I really want to make this John Constantine’s team and his book.’
Milligan will also be leaving behind Mindwarp, his own creation, and hints at lineup changes in JLDark and future reappearances elsewhere:
PM: ‘Mindwarp was a pretty personal character. But that’s the nature of comic books. You create a character knowing that somewhere down the line someone else will be doing their own thing with them. One of the characters in JLDark will be bowing out, and I’ll probably run into him in the future’
One constant of Justice League Dark is the art team of Mikel Janin and Ulises Areola. Lemire insists they are staying with the book: ‘Mikel and Ulises are incredible and I couldn’t ask for a better collaborator. Mikel has these characters down and I’m really excited to be working with him!’. Janin is currently working on new character designs and whilst he admits he is disappointed to see Milligan leave the book, insists that Lemire will bring something all of his own.
Mikel Janin: ‘Jeff will bring more action, dynamism and adventure, as well as defining clear roles for each member of the team. The horror elements and overall craziness will remain integral to JLDark.’
With Milligan taking over as writer of Stormwatch we’ll see this troubled title pick up its third writer in under a year. The aim of attaching a name like Milligan to what should be the flagship book of DCs ‘Edge’ line of comics may be to help sales in this area, but what we’re concerned with at Comics Anonymous is the production of great comic books. Milligan thinks Stormwatch and its associated characters are ripe for exploitation by his own inimitable style of writing.
PM: ‘I think the darkness of Apollo and some of the other characters will really suit my style. Its ironic, I’ve come off a title with ‘dark’ in its title….so now I can get dark’
With Lemire talking over JLDark he has now left Frankenstein, but continues with Animal Man:
JL: ‘I will stay with Animal Man for as long as DC will let me. There is literally nothing they could ever offer me that I would choose to write over Animal Man. But as announced yesterday I will be leaving Frankenstein. I had to pick my battles and I really felt I had taken Frank just about as far as I could. Matt Kindt, a good friend of mine and a very talented guy is taking that book over. Matt had actually been helping me with Frank from the start, so fans should really like what he has planned.’
JLDark has been of a consistently high quality since its initial release and so I am disappointed that DC has felt it appropriate to change key personnel at this stage. I can appreciate their reasons, although I may not agree with them. I was really into the idea of a ‘Dark’ section of the DC stable, bridging that territory between Vertigo and the mainstream, and thought that this was being achieved. The Justice League itself is a big property, possibly worth more than any associated ‘darkness’, so I can see why it would be desirable for them to pursue this path. Lemire is both a great writer and artist so I’m hugely interested to see how he takes this book forward. I think we’ll also see Stormwatch become much more interesting.
In associated news Milligan described things with the Red Lanterns and Hellblazer as ‘Business as unusual’:
PM: ‘I’m writing a huge storyline in Red Lanterns that changes the Red Lantern corps forever, one where we’ll see how Rankorr the human Red Lantern, gets on. With Hellblazer I’m just starting a storyline called ‘Curse of the Constantines’; this deals, unsurprisingly, with the curse that seems to run through the Constantine bloodline and has John Constantine going in search of a long lost family member. And reading poetry.’
You can read Milligan’s work in Hellblazer, Red Lanterns and now Stormwatch.
Jeff Lemire’s new creator owned book that deals with his experience of becoming a new father is called The Underwater Welder and it will be published this July from Top Shelf.
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