On May 1st, just days before Free Comic Book Day, DC Comics will be bringing the villainy. On that fateful day, for just one shiny quarter, fans can purchase DC’s Year of the Villain, an oversized one-shot that leads in to a year long event that will see Lex Luthor and the Legion of Doom take center stage as they help some of DC’s villainous pantheon reach their full evil potential.
The one shot features a Justice League story featuring Luthor by Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV, and Jim Cheung and a Superman tale focused on the villainous organization Leviathan by Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev. All that for a quarter? Hell yeah!
We had the opportunity to enter the vile lair of Year of the Villain mastermind Scott Snyder to discuss all things evil, and the set up and repercussions of the most villainous year in comic book history!
Den of Geek: In your own words, hit us with premise for Year of the Villain.
Scott Snyder: Year of the Villain is the culmination of everything we’ve been building since Metal. The core of the story is that Lex Luthor finally believes in something bigger than himself. He believes in evil in a way that he never has before. He believes that if he can get humanity to believe what he believes, it will evolve to the greatest potential possible. It’s the first time he’s been religious about anything. So instead of going out and telling people to believe in Lex Luthor, he’s saying, “Believe in doom. Believe in fate. Believe in evil.”
In Year of the Villain, he makes every villain in the DC Universe an offer. And that offer will play out in July, but in May, in this issue, he approaches every villain and he says, “I believe in this so much, I’m going to make a sacrifice that will shock you.” The sacrifice he makes is meant to show how deeply he believes in his purpose. So he’s leveling up the entire DCU, the rogues galleries, the villains, he’s offering something across the board that will allow them to destroy their heroes once and for all. So it’s going to ratchet up into this battle between the heroes and villains, the biggest one possible. As a response, the heroes are going to have to recruit everyone possible, everybody that’s ever fought on the side of good to stop this plan.
What’s the focus of the debut issue’s story?
So we want you to have a summer with Year of the Villain that’s all your biggest heroes and all your biggest villains going at it on a scale you’ve never seen before. We want this to be a summer of fun, of bombast, of the craziest, high stakes storytelling possible, and at the end, in November, when you see who won, we’re going to go ever further; we’re going to bring you… I can’t tell you what it is yet.
In November, what just happened in the Year of the Villain will bring you to the final showdown that has been led up to since the DCU was created. Meaning, with all the stuff we’ve done in Justice League, we’re trying to show you that Justice League, Metal, Batman Who Laughs, all of this ties together and says that everything in the DCU has led to this fight, and here’s the fight. We’re going as big as we can. Fans deserve it; readers deserve it. If you’re going to put down $3.99 for a book, $2.99, $4.99, we want you to feel like the story matters. And this story will change the DCU forever once you get to the end of it, we want you to feel like you got more than your money’s worth.
DC has kind of avoided the epic crossover these past few years, what about Year of the Villain made DC pull the trigger.
I’m really glad that DC doesn’t pull the trigger on crossovers as frequently as they could. I think that’s because they want fans to get very individuated reading experiences; they’re not being forced to read multiple books at once. That said, part of my job – I have a writing contract with DC and I have a corporate contract with DC – part of my job is to look at the line and say when people are ready for stories that tie some of their favorite elements together, like Metal. Metal was part of my job to say that if we’re going to do an event, it better be worth it. That it was time to build from everything we built in Batman and look at a lot of the things Grant Morrison did, a lot of things Neil Gaiman did, I wanted to bring everything in and say “Thank you for reading our books. Here’s a nod to every great story you’ve read before this one. Let’s have some fun.” And if I’m going to do it again with Year of the Villain and maybe something after, then I want it to feel even more fulfilling.
If we’re doing a crossover such as Year of the Villain, it’s going to lead to something that matters. What I do like about it is this, and I want to make it really clear to people who might be wondering how much they have to buy, and DC will kill me for this, but you don’t have to buy anything. Meaning, you can buy Year of the Villain and then you can buy your favorite book, and you can see how it plays out in your favorite book and nothing else. Or you can buy all the books and see how it plays out across the line. Luthor’s offer is very specific for each villain. It’s not about making your book fit into an uberstory and wrenching away anything. It’s Luthor going to the main villain of your book, or to the villain that the writer has said is the core villain at this moment, and Luthor saying, “I have a way of making the fight with your hero ten times better for you.” It ratchets up the stakes in those books under their own terms.
I love Year of the Villain because it doesn’t force a plot into your book. It allows your book to make the plot even bigger, and that’s what we tried to do in “Court of Owls.” If you wanted a Talon in your book, you can make that Talon specific to your character’s narrative. That’s what we did with Joker. If he goes after your characters, it’s up to you to decide what way he goes after them, that’s up to you as a writer. That’s what we did with Metal. If you wanted to be part of Metal, you did it in a way that was organic to your story. Here it’s the same thing, but on a larger scale. It’s a crossover that honors what has been happening in your books so far, and then it elevates, and then, at the end, it allows someone to pay off with big, new creative opportunities.
Why make Lex Luthor the center of the DCU?
It really comes down to the journey Lex has been on since Geoff Johns was writing him as a hero in Justice League. I loved those stories, but I felt deep down that Lex is one of the most sympathetic villains compared to Joker or Brainiac. Lex is us. Lex is essentially someone who can’t think bigger than his ego and Lex falls victim to that.
Also, in that way, he’s the perfect villain in this moment in time given the world. Meaning, at this particular moment, the problems we’re facing, the problems seem more multi-layered and systemic than ever before. Whether you’re talking global warming or geopolitical issues, everything feels entrenched and impossible to solve. Luthor says, “Why even bother?” he says, “These heroes are trying to get us to be bigger than ourselves, to reward us with the legacy of our actions, why not just say our nature is not meant to be this? Our nature is meant to be selfish and predatory. We’re meant to be self-interested and that’s it.”
Perpetua, that’s sort of the original celestial being of the DCU, says, “Everything you’ve ever felt like that is true. I’ve made you in my image, when the universe first started; I created humans to be an everlasting, immoral predator, the most glorious divine child in creation. Instead, when my people found out I was doing that destroyed my universe and made you weak and small and ephemeral. Why not embrace all the things you’re supposed to be?”
Luthor, to me, speaks to this moment that I think about for my children and for myself. It’s the most relevant way in for superheroes I can find for myself. Luthor is making an argument I can sympathize with. He’s saying, “Get yours, live your best life. Your best life is as a villain. You’re never going to get anything good out of life being good. Heroes are a fallacy. Get yours right now.” I think we have people in power all across the world that speak to that message.
On the other side of the message, Martian Manhunter says, “We are small and selfish. We are designed to just live for a matter of minutes on the cosmic scale. What is great about us is that we can be better than your biology, than our DNA, our lifespan, all of it. Be better than yourself.” He says, “Give something better than yourself.” Lex is the opposite. Lex is the perfect villain for this moment in time and for this story. He believes in his argument; he’s not trying to trick you. He believes he is the greatest hero in the history for humanity for saying, “I always knew it; we were meant to be selfish, immortal, and we are meant to be gods.” He says things that in my bones are meant to be compelling.
What other Legion of Doom members can fans expect to step up and play a role in this coming crossover?
They’re all in it. Essentially, everyone takes a key role in this. Grodd takes a key role, Black Manta, Cheetah. All the Legion of Doomers are there. Brainiac plays a key role. Joker is there. Batman Who Laughs plays a big part. I mean, it’s about celebrating our villains and why they’re appealing. We don’t want to do it in a superficial way and be like, “Hey look, there’s Despero!” We want to look at why these characters can be appealing on a deep, resonant level and enduring.
In May, you’ll learn that Lex learns about something bigger than himself and he explains what that is. He learns we are meant to be evil, and he says, “I’m going to make a sacrifice” that shows you how deeply he believes in this. In July, his offer goes out to the villains and you see them take it or deny it. In July to November, the Year of the Villain rages across the DCU where our villains are at odds with the heroes on a scale above anything we’ve ever tried before. In November, you’ll see the culmination of that and depending on who wins we might see the biggest confrontation ever across the multiverse. We want you to feel like everything counts. If you’re going to put down money for these, books, you’ll feel like you got your money’s worth.
Talk about the Fourth World and what Jack Kirby elements fans can expect in the crossover.
Kirby elements are in Justice League Odyssey in a really big way. Darkseid is after the Fourth World because he wants to create a new Apokolips which creates a story beat that will be taken up in multiple Justice League books.
Any villains that might take a role in the event that might surprise the DC faithful?
Well, everybody. Anti-Monitor plays a big role. Batman Who Laughs will surprise people, and Joker will surprise people. So those three take on roles that you might be shocked by.
Give us a little tease, after the Year of the Villain, what could the DC Universe look like?
Oh man, believe me, Year of the Villain ends with a shocking thing that then engenders the thing that we’ve building to since Metal. We want it to seem that the multiverse is sliding towards its doom. Every character in the history of the DCU is now engaged, and we want to give you the biggest battle you’ve ever seen since Crisis on Infinite Earths. With Metal, I didn’t have all the pieces. Metal was like, “Hey, can I do an event? Let me try. Let me try and do something and celebrate everything going on.” But with the architecture set up in Justice League from 2017 to now, all the pieces are in play from the JSA to the Justice League 1,000,000, spanning all that, from Kamandi down. The villains start that thing that’s like, “Here you go, here is everything you love about DC in one place.”
And then I’ll just write very small books for Vertigo. I’ll write American Vampire. I want Year of the Villain to be the crescendo of everything I’ve done for DC these past ten years.
DC’s Year of the Villain hits on May 1.