The biggest secret in the history of the DC Comics Universe has finally been revealed. Thankfully, the writers of the Justice League series are here to help explain the mysterious 'Perpetua,' the creator of DC's first universe. As this week's Justice League Annual #1 approaches, DC's heroes are uniting to save the entire cosmos... the one built after Perpetua was imprisoned for eternity.
As readers of Justice League know, the events of Dark Nights: METAL revealed the true origin of the DC Universe, and the worlds within it. Since then Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV have led a team of writers ushering in the next chapter. It quickly seemed that to establish the new order, the old truths would have to go. The Source Wall safeguarding the universe? Broken. The DC Universe? Dying. And Perpetua, the woman who created the very first DC Universe out of nothingness? Well... she may be part of the way out of her prison already.
Screen Rant had the chance to speak with both Snyder and Tynion ahead of Justice League Annual's release this Wednesday, an issue they promise will bring even more answers that fans have been craving for months. Answers that seem destined to change the DC Universe for years to come, and which may change just how much readers believe possible in the next chapters of this Justice League epic.
For as much fun as it's been reading the Justice League series to this point, I definitely understood what Hawkgirl meant when she said in a recent issue that "secrets are piling on top of secrets and I hate it."
Justice League #16 felt like a lot of the fans' questions are finally starting to be answered. It's all leading to the Justice League Annual this week, with the biggest answer not a thing, but a person in Perpetua. A character that Dark Nights: Metal, Justice League: No Justice, and the past year have been building to. Is that overstating things, or is that how you want readers to feel?
Scott: That's exactly what we want them to feel is coming.
James: Yeah. Yeah. [Laughs]
Is that meant to be a breath of relief at all? Because it feels like a world-altering thing--do we refer to the entire DC Universe that people know as 'DC's SECOND Universe' now?
James: Well, the big thing is--we are definitely tapping right into some of the biggest pieces of the DC cosmos, and the creation of the DC Universe. And some of the various origin stories that we've seen play out in stories going back decades. We're sort of weaving them all together. The thing that's been really exciting is we've seen in all of that, there was this room for a character like the one we're creating here, Perpetua. And the more we write of her and even the more research we do, the more integral she is to everything. So it is really exciting to finally have her unveiled to the reader.
This is something that we have been building to... I remember back during the writing of Metal, Scott was out in L.A. when I was living out there and we were writing it all on the whiteboard in my apartment. And the first time we wrote the name Perpetua--like we wrote down the heroes, the Seven Energies of Creation and the characters tied to them, and then we write in big letters on that board, PERPETUA. And that's almost a year and a half ago.
Scott: Yeah, a year and a half, which is crazy.
James: So the fact that now she's out in the open... this is the real starting point, the Justice League Annual.
Was that the closest you've ever felt to the Guardians of the Universe? Writing the name on the board, then wiping it off and swearing never to speak about this to anyone ever again?
Scott: [Laughs] Well I think in some ways, it is really intimidating stuff, you know? This is the universe that we grew up with loving and are reverent about, entirely. But the thing you realize when you go back and you look at some of these stories--both at Marvel and DC--that were your favorites as a kid and as an adult as well, they're the ones that take the risk to build on the mythology that's there before. From Kirby all the way through to Infinity Gauntlet and so on, they just go for it. Some of the stuff that Geoff Johns did, some of the stuff that you see in Crisis on Infinite Earths, the creation of the Anti-Monitor... they just build, you know? Our hope, at least, is that as long as you understand the material, and love the material that forms that kind of founding mythos, it's baked into the DNA of what you add to it... you want it to be seamlessly applicable to that stuff. But also additive.
So for us, Perpetua is a really robust character. She's somebody who embodies a lot of the ideas and a lot of the motivations that began Metal, but takes them to a place that allows us to explore a lot about the DC Universe that we wouldn't get to otherwise. Not just in terms of plot but in terms of emotionality, in terms of purpose, in terms of meaning. She has a very, I think, unique psychology. And we want readers to encounter her and say, 'That's my new favorite villain, because I kind of understand where she's coming from in a certain way.' And then also it gives a kind of unity to a lot of cosmic and mythological elements that--as integral as they are to DC also--can feel kind of disparate. Sometimes the Anti-Monitor and the Monitor, and the new takes on the Monitors, and Chrona, and the different energies such as the Speed Force that kind of govern the cosmology of the DCU... as overlapping as they can be, they also sometimes seem if not at odds with eachother, at least somewhat separate from eachother.
What we wanted to do with this is create a really thorough cosmological map for the DCU. One of the things coming up in the next arc of justice League, when we do "The Sixth Dimension" which starts at #19, we actually offer a giant, three-dimensional map of the different forces that govern the DCU. The different aspects of the Multiverse from Dark to positive, to Anti-Matter, all of that stuff. That's part of the fun: to be able to create something that's cohesive, and big, and exciting, and new, but built on all the stuff that you love from childhood to now.
Another example of that is what appears to be an explanation of why Earth, and humans play so large a role in the universe's history. What can you tell us about the reveal of Perpetua's "Grand Army"... which sounds like it may become more important in the future?
James: Yes, humans are profoundly important in this story, and obviously there's a reason that Earth is the turning point of all of these epic stories, and all of these Crises, you know? And not just because we live here and we're the readers of that universe. In the story, there is a lot of importance built into Earth. What we're building with Perpetua's army will be hinted at in #16. Honestly the next issue of Justice League, Issue #17 that Scott wrote with Jim Cheung is going to start answering a lot of those questions. That's the most exciting thing about this stretch of issues, from Hawkworld--from #16 through the Annual, through #17 through #18-- this block of issues really delivers a lot of the major answers of the mythology that lay the full groundwork of what we're going to be building toward for the next year. So those answers are coming pretty quick.
Scott: Yeah, and the two things that I would add to that are just... agreeing with James that if we can impress upon readers anything about these coming issues, but also what they signal about the whole series, is that what's so exciting for us is that this has been the design that stretches all the way back to before Metal. And reaches all the way through 2020 for us. So this is a seminal moment that begins Act 2 of our series. And we want you to see that these three issues--16, Annual, 17--are these huge concussive bursts of revelation. But even beyond that, we hope it gives proof that our design and our plan that runs from Metal to No Justice which comes back here, to all of the stuff that we've been seeding in Justice League is building towards something even bigger. And hope that it brings people in.
On an emotional level, the second thing I would say is that going off of your question, we want people to realize how personal this story is. This is, for me at least, I wanted this to be the superhero story that I could leave as the last thing I ever did if I stopped writing superhero comics, you know? I've never done anything like... fifty issues for one big narrative, even though it's broken into arcs. It's a giant exploration of the stuff that you said, where Luthor has always had this feeling of frustration at how small we are as a species. And he himself wants to be Superman, he wants to be bigger. He always feels there's something missing from who we are. We are unable to become what we're supposed to be. Perpetua and this mythology grants him an answer and he follows that down a very dark road that, to me, has been something that fascinates me about all the old myths, from Gilgamesh on. That search for not just immortality, but knowledge and understanding--but at a very dark price. Because the road he's following is one that's unnatural.
So in that way it's largely about the ways in which superheroes teach us not just to be great, but to be humble. It's at a moment right now that I hope is reosnant, because I think we're at a particular period where not only is everything extremely divisive and entrenched but we're constantly being appealed to on the basis of our worst impulses, I think. And our most subjective perceptions of things. This story is about those things very deeply. It's huge and it's over-sized in terms of its majesty and grandeur and plot. We want people to understand that this is a joy, and the immersive reading pleasure of comics... but it's also deeply intimate and personal. I want people to see that with these issues too. Especially with this, and then with #17 which is, for me, one of the most emotional issues that I've written in a while.
There are a lot of mysteries but I'm intrigued, James, by the wording that you used earlier. That the cosmic side of the DC Universe "allowed room" for Perpetua. The motive isn't to 'make all of this make sense,' but that this story came first.
James: Oh yes, the story absolutely came first. The thing that was exciting in building this story, and coming at the story with the idea that we wanted to incorporate and lash together a Unified Theory of DC Cosmology, that encompasses every corner of DC mythos. You would think given all of the disparate mythologies that Scott was just talking about, it would feel like you would have to cancel out some pieces of continuity. But what we found over and over and over is in this story we're building, it allows us to incorporate everything--all of our big, favorite stories--without negating anything. Everything we've loved that we wanted to incorporate, this story allows us to incorporate it in full. It's a thrilling feeling as a writer when you go back and hypothetically, if a person were to sit back down with Crisis on Infinite Earths to look at an upcoming issue of the series, realizing that, 'Oh, what we're doing now actually is additive. it won't subtract anything from the original narrative.' That is a powerful feeling.
Scott: The last thing I would say is that we also just want to express our gratitude to readers. We don't take this job lightly at all. When you're doing stories that touch this stuff that's very sacred to people, about the kind of keystone mythology that governs the universe they grew up with... we're not doing things to be sensational. We're not doing things without a tremendous amount of deliberation with other writers and other creators at DC and all of that.
The fact that people have responded so positively to what we've been trying to do with Justice League so far, and Justice League Dark, and Justice League Odyssey-- you know the story we're telling runs through multiple books--the fact that they seem willing to follow us all over the DCU really means a lot. We can promise them that what we're going to deliver is bigger than what they think, too.
Justice League Annual #1 will be released on January 30th, 2019 from DC Comics.