DC’s new Batman/Superman book is more than just a World’s Finest team up story. Instead, it’s a meditation on what makes Batman and Superman so different from each other, and a celebration of the shared values that make them heroes and friends. But it also explores the nature of heroism in the DC Universe, by exploring the very opposite of that with the villainous Batman Who Laughs, and his quest to “infect” various DC heroes with a toxin that turns them into evil versions of themselves.
Batman/Superman comes from the creative team of Joshua Williamson and David Marquez, and it’s one of the most important titles in the DC line at the moment. Of course, what’s the point of having evil superheroes running around if you don’t have amazing visuals to go with them, right? Fortunately, Williamson has David Marquez in his corner. “He’s one of the best artists out there. he’s amazing,” Williamson says. “There’s stuff in the books he’s doing that’s just beautiful, and I feel like each issue just gets better and better. Him and Alejandro [Sanchez, the Batman/Superman colorist) the stuff they’re doing is just so awesome.”
Williamson says that Marquez was his first choice for the book, but he didn’t think he would be available. It was during a conversation with Brian Michael Bendis that Marquez’s name first came up for the title, and things escalated from there. “I went to David’s house and I said, ‘All right, here’s our three-year epic. Let me explain everything. Here is every little step of the way, all the way to 2021. Are you interested in this?'”
Fortunately, Marquez was interested. “Once I pitched him everything we give him all this stuff to read,” Williamson says. “Then he got into it, and then we just started talking more and more…[We] had known each other for a while before that, so we were already friends.”
Along with Justice League and various Year of the Villain tie-ins, Batman/Superman is laying the foundation for some kind of massive event coming in 2020, one thing being the inevitable confrontation between “Apex” Lex Luthor and The Batman Who Laughs. And those infected DC heroes are one of the keys to The Batman Who Laughs’ plans. But taking heroes and turning them into villains requires a lot of planning in the real world, too. Williamson, along with Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV, and DC editorial made a list of DC heroes they thought would work for the machinations of the Batman Who Laughs. Then they had to warn the various creators responsible for crafting those characters’ adventures each month, asking if they could make certain elements work within the larger story.
“We started building this list out of the ones we thought would be fun, and the ones that we thought would have something to actually say about those characters during the storyline,” Williamson tells us. “Then it was like, ‘Who’s cool?’, too.”
Here’s what went into choosing each member of DC’s “infected” heroes.
“I think Shazam was the one that we thought was never going to happen. We really were just like, ‘There’s no way they’re going to let us use Shazam.’ He was the biggest get. He was the biggest heavy hitter. Gradually, it seemed like everyone was kind of like, ‘Yeah, this makes the most sense. This would be really cool.’ Then I wrote issue one and I wrote that scene where he says, ‘my name is Billy Batson,’ and they were like, ‘All right, it has to be him.'”
“I wanted a character that had been underestimated. I love Blue Beetle, I love Jaime Reyes. I wanted somebody that I felt had been ignored by characters of the DCU. They underestimated him. I wanted somebody you would look at him and be like, ‘Oh, he’s just a kid.’ But he’s smart, he’s powerful, he’s a good hero, but he also doesn’t want to be a hero. You can go back and look at his origins. You can go back and look at the Rebirth special. He was talking about how he didn’t want to be a hero and Ted Kord kind of ignored that. I wanted to play with that idea for him.”
“Gordon was somebody that we knew way ahead of time. Gordon was actually the first one picked. It was about who would The Batman Who Laughs go after if he wanted to actually hurt Bruce in a way that would surprise you.”
“Hawkman was one that was built in because of his connections already to Dark Nights: Metal. The stuff that was going on with him during the Metal storyline with him being in the World Forge and all that.”
“I selected Donna Troy because I felt like of all the DC characters, she was one that would be angry. She’s pissed off, you know? Everything that’s happened to her friends, everything that’s happened with the Titans, she’s mad about it. The Batman Who Laughs knows that and wants to manipulate that and use it. But then usually when you actually see her in the book, she’s not raging. She’s not Joker-crazy, she’s mad. She’s like, ‘This is what happened to my friends, and it was your fault.’ She’s always been able to bury those feelings, and now she’s not burying them anymore. [The Infected] are not really bad guys in some instances. Sometimes they’re just really pissed off and now they feel like they’re going to give in to that anger a little bit.”
“I can’t really talk about Supergirl too much, because Kara is one of the ones that you’ll see as the story goes on what happens with her. She’s the only one I can’t talk about. You’ll see when you get to issue four. There’s actually reasons why she was picked that are very tied into the story. So, you’ll see.”