Everybody knows that Batman and Superman are much more effective as teammates and friends than they are as enemies. Sure, the two most recognizable characters in the DC Universe might not have the same methods, and they certainly don’t always see eye-to-eye, but they’re the World’s Finest team for a reason, complementing each other’s many strengths and keeping each other honest.
And while DC long ago retired the “World’s Finest” title, they do look for any excuse to put Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne in a book together. The latest comes in the form of Batman/Superman by Joshua Williamson and David Marquez, which will see the pair take on the creepy, nihilistic evil of the Batman Who Laughs, who has secretly infected beloved DC Universe heroes with Joker toxin, making them as evil and unpredictable as the toxin’s namesake.
Here’s what we learned about the new series from Mr. Williamson at SDCC along with an exclusive look at the first issue!
Den of Geek: In Metal, the Batman Who Laughs wanted to destroy everything. And then lately it seems he’s just kind of trying to destroy various Batmen. What is he looking for now in Batman/ Superman?
Joshua Williamson: Well, the Batman Who Laughs, he still wants to destroy everything. But he’s taking a step back. So think about this. Batman has always been a master strategist and master planner. We know about things like the Tower of Babel and he has all these ideas like “this is what I would do if I ever need to do this.” Batman’s thought about it. You know Batman’s been like, “If I need to take over the world, this is how I do it. But I would never do that.” Whereas Batman Who Laughs is like, “I’m totally going to do that. This is a good idea.”
The stuff he wants to do, I don’t want you to hit you with spoilers, but his goal is to destroy everything that he sees as a threat. Anything that’s out there that he thinks could possibly take him down, he’s going to destroy before it can take him down. He’s essentially trying to assess stuff so that he can take out things that he sees as a threat. But he also doesn’t think…Batman thinks that life has value and the Batman Who Laughs doesn’t. And so he doesn’t think we need any of it. And so he still wants to destroy everything, but on a bigger scale, which I know sounds crazy.
So what kind of challenges does that present for you as a writer? Because this is a master strategist. If you’re not totally on top of your game, it could expose your weaknesses as a writer. If readers are able to outsmart the Batman Who Laughs you haven’t done your job, right?
Well, thankfully I’m not alone in this. I have James Tynion IV and Scott Snyder working with me and we developed a lot of this stuff. Because the stuff that’s going on in Batman/Superman, Batman Who Laughs, and Justice League, it really is part of a really big story that we’re building.
We’re really building this gigantic story within the DC Universe. I like to say we’re telling the story of the DCU. And you’ll see as this year goes on and as you get into 2020 the stuff that we’re doing in those books, it’s going to have a huge, massive impact. I feel sometimes like people aren’t ready for it. It’s going to be huge. It’s going to have an impact on the entire DCU.
This is a story we’ve been building for over two years. We started having conversations about some of this stuff involving Dark Nights: Metal in 2016 when it was stuff that Scott and James already were developing. And then I came in. We started talking about it more. We’ve been talking about this for a long time and so we’ve gamed it out. We’ve kicked the tires. We’ve thought of a lot of this stuff. We’ve thought about the Batman Who Laughs and this big thing that he’s building toward and what he wants. A lot of it ties into the stuff that’s going on in Justice League. And some of the things you’ll see as it continues with the multiverse, with Perpetua, with the Batman Who Laughs with some of the things that are on in the DCU. It’s interesting, you have someone like Lex Luthor who’s going out there and powering up all these villains. and then you have Batman Who Laughs going out there and he’s infecting all of these heroes and turning them evil.
At some point that might collide. I don’t know. Something might happen at some point that puts those things into conflict. But it’s hard sometimes because one of two things will happen. My brain is thinking about two years from now and I don’t want to accidentally spoil something that’s two years out and I don’t want to ruin most of the story by accident.
You’ve written Barry Allen and Bruce Wayne together before, and we’ve talked about the differences in their thought processes as detectives. So now you’re putting Clark and Bruce together. And we all know it’s been discussed forever about the differences in their overall approach. But how would you describe their friendship in your book?
I mean they’re definitely friends. I think that was the thing in the beginning. There was a concern of “are they going to be fighting each other? Are they going to have this conflict?” And I was like, “Oh, they’re friends.” They recognize that they need to work together to go up against this thing that’s horrible and they recognize they only trust each other in this situation because they are nervous. They don’t know who’s infected. They don’t know who has turned, they don’t know who’s a sleeper agent. And they see that they need to work together to fix this problem. They have to basically look at each other and say, “these are our best qualities together. Let’s just move forward with that.”
And there’s a couple of lines in the beginning, one of the things that’s been really interesting about doing this book with the Batman Who Laughs as the villain, is the Batman Who Laughs had his own Superman on his world that he killed. I think he regrets that. And so we get to kind of see his thoughts on that relationship too. It creates a weird dynamic of our Batman being like, “Well I’m like him.” And Superman being like, “No, you’re not. I know you. You’re not like this at all.” So there’s a lot of that. There’s a lot of back and forth.
You can hear their voices. I’ve know these characters so long. I can hear them going back and forth. That’s how I write the book. If I can hear them talking, then everything else I can shape the story around. But that’s what’s important, I can hear them talking to each other. But yeah, they’re friends.
I think in this situation, one of the things we’ve talked about a lot is that there are times in life when you see somebody who’s the bad guy. And you see the bad guy is winning a little and they’re winning because they lie and they cheat and they do things that are underhanded and you see it, you’re frustrated and there’s that part of you that is like, “You know, I’m struggling. If I cheated, I could win.” But then if you do that, of course, that means they win, right?
And so when they’re in this situation, this as part of the conversation between the two of them, is Superman at times is like, “We could never do that. We could never cheat to win. We can never lie or do the wrong thing to win because then they’re winning.” And then, but Batman has a darker concern. His concern is, “If you and I ever acted like them, ever lied and cheated the way the villains do, we would be worse villains that they could ever be.” And that’s why they don’t want to do that. So in this book, they can check each other and they try and make sure they never go down that path together.
Sounds kinda timely.
I don’t know what you’re talking about.
Is this your first time really writing Superman as a spotlight character?
Yeah, I mean, I wrote with him on Justice League vs. Suicide Squad. I’ve always tried to write Superman.
So here, let me tell you this story. So back in 2009 I was doing short stories for easy comics. I was just a kid, just a rookie coming in and trying new stuff. And I would do little short stories for them. And so one day at San Diego Comic-Con in 2009 one of the editors pulled me aside and said, “We want to have to do this thing called an inventory story.” Inventory stories are basically one shots…they’re kind of like tryouts in some places to test out how you are with an artist. But basically you’re upgraded and you’re not doing shorts any more, and also to see if you can tell a beginning, middle, end of story.
So he pulls me aside and he’s like, “I want you to do an inventory story. You can pick. You can do a Batman one or you can do a Superman one but don’t say Batman because everyone always says Batman.” And I was like, “All right, okay. How about this? Let me do a Batman/Superman one. Let me do a team up because I love the DC Universe and my favorite part of the DC Universe is the relationships between the characters. And if I’m trying to prove you that I can write DC characters, if I can’t prove to you that I can write Batman/Superman together, then what am I doing here?” And the editor was like, “No one has ever said that before. Yes you can do that. You can do a Batman/Superman story.” So I wrote a couple of these inventory stories and one of them was a Damian Wayne and Supergirl team up and that actually came out.
There’s a few that will never see light of day, but I wrote them to prove and that helped me get work with them. And ever since then I would ask him “Can I do Batman/ Superman? Can I do Batman/Superman.” Every few years I was like, “Let me do it for real, let me have that book.” And it was never able to work out. And then last year, more than a year and a half ago, DC finally came to me was like, “All right, all right. You helped with Metal. Metal is doing well, Flash is doing well, what do you want? What do you actually want?” I was like, “Dude, you know what I want, I want Batman/Superman.” And they were like, “All right, what’s the story? ” And then I told them the story I wanted to do and they finally gave it to me. So I got to actually do this book. And so yeah, now I get to write Superman. So I have experience writing Superman, but you’ve never read it basically.
Batman/Superman #1 hits on Aug. 28. Check out these covers!