DC’s Justice League line is getting a major rehaul after the events of Dark Nights: Metal, and writer Scott Snyder is leading the charge with a new Justice League #1, which introduces a new team and features the return of artist Jim Cheung to DC Comics after years at Marvel. Metal was one of the most exhilarating superhero events in recent memory, and the Justice League relaunch taps into that energy with a sprawling story that travels to all corners of the DC Universe. For the first time ever, the comic-book team features the full roster of the classic Justice League cartoon, with Martian Manhunter, Hawkgirl, and John Stewart’s Green Lantern joining their superhero comrades to fight a mix of new and familiar threats.
“Batman will always be my favorite character, but Justice League was the book that always represented the heart and soul of the DCU,” says Snyder. “To get to write it is quite honestly the greatest honor of my time at DC. It’s the book I’ve been building towards and training for. It’s sort of the golden ring to me. It’s a place where I can show all the love I have for these characters, but also take them to places I couldn’t otherwise. And this book really does have everything. It begins with the wall that holds the DC Universe together breaking. It’s about the heroes and the villains battling over the fate of everything. It has all the biggest characters, the heroes obviously, but not just the core Justice League! I want you to see heroes from all around the DCU in Justice League. You also have the villains; I have Lex Luthor leading the Legion of Doom, along with all your favorites: Joker, Black Manta, Cheetah, and some big surprises.”
Jim Cheung worked on DC books like The Flash and The Ray at the start of his career in the ’90s, and his art has evolved dramatically since then. He’s been a fixture at Marvel Comics for over a decade, but he’s excited about the new opportunities of this high-profile DC gig. “Being offered the opportunity to explore the DC Universe was wonderfully enticing in my decision to join Scott on Justice League,” says Cheung. “It had been so long since I ventured into DC territory, that I did feel a little trepidation when starting the book, given the iconic status of the characters and the need to make them all larger than life. But, now that it’s underway, I’m beginning to find my comfort level. After so many years playing in the Marvel sandbox, it’s been a lot of fun reacquainting myself with all these characters, whose adventures I read (and watched) as a boy. I couldn’t have asked for a better platform to return to DC on. Drawing the Justice League is like being offered everything on the desserts menu at once, with the only downside being the sugar crash afterwards!”
For Cheung, the fundamentals of great superhero art are dynamic pages and beautiful heroes, but there’s there are many more factors involved. “Aside from the basic necessity of having a strong comprehension of anatomy and perspective skills, I think clear and purposeful storytelling is important,” says Cheung. “The ability to show the quiet scenes, and then contrast them with the dynamic—where the absurd or extreme happens—works towards really capturing a reader’s attention. I try to make sure the pages all read clearly, because smooth story flow is what makes for an immersive experience, and that, at the end of the day, is what brings someone back to buy the next issue. If it’s not an enjoyable experience, then I’ll have failed at my job.”
“[Jim] is such a master of visual storytelling,” says Snyder. “The precision with which he approaches every scene to make sure it’s the most dramatic and affecting version, it’s really humbling and inspiring. It’s also thrilling because we get along. I started talking to Jim about Justice League a while ago, and we’ve met up in number of times to discuss the story and get to know each other. And it’s always a great bonus when your partner on a big project like this is a great person, and someone you actually enjoy spending time with. We’re working on a book about the Justice League! They’re the greatest union in comics, so it feels right that we’re genuine friends as well.”
“Scott has been incredibly open to ideas, and has helped immensely in bringing me up to speed with the DCU,” says Cheung. “So much has changed over the years. I needed to make sure I understood everything that was being written on the page, and Scott has been generous in providing me with the time to explain, and in doing so, displays such passion for the work that you can’t help but be excited and energized to work on the pages. So often, after hearing some of his ideas, I want to draw it all, but given my speed, I know I just have to let go. He’s also been patient, and good natured enough, to listen to my silly ideas, even when I ultimately default to what he’d originally written, because, well, there’s a reason why I’m not a writer. However, just having the ability to sound everything out with him, gives me a confidence to know that I’m not working alone in a vacuum (as I have done so often in the past), and that we’re part of a team.”
This collaboration has been the most rewarding aspect of the process for Cheung, and this exclusive preview of this week’s Justice League #1 spotlights how well Cheung works with Snyder, inker Mark Morales, and colorist Tomeu Morey. These pages are stunning, and this creative team’s enthusiasm comes through in the vibrant, lively visuals. That first page teases the massive scope of the story with unexpected faces like the DC One Million characters and Kamandi, and Cheung’s talent for powerful superhero imagery shines in the two-page introduction of the Justice League members.
“That very idea of being on a team is what I always strive for, on every project, especially having had such a profound experience of it at the Crossgen Comics studio,” says Cheung. “Regardless of whether it’s with the inker or colorist, I have since always tried to promote that sense of unity, so that everyone feels invested, because at the end of the day, I want everyone to be proud of what’s being produced. It may be a 10-minute experience for the reader, but it’s months of work for myself and everyone involved. Hopefully that sense of collaboration will be reflected in the pages of Justice League for all to see, and I look forward to it solidifying and strengthening over the coming months (and years) with stronger and better pages. I want this to be seen as a team book in every sense of the word!”