The reign of Superman is over - but although the world of DC Entertainment's Injustice is no longer under the despotic rule of a Man of Steel gone bad, it doesn't mean that it's out of trouble. In fact, with the launch of the Injustice 2 digital comic series this week, things might be about to get a lot worse.
With the first chapter in the videogame tie-in to be released digitally Tuesday (the print edition is set for release May 3, with the videogame available May 16), Heat Vision talked to writer Tom Taylor, who wrote the first Injustice comics and returns to the alternate version of the DC Universe for this new series, about what lies ahead.
Superman almost comes across as surprisingly sympathetic in this first issue. It's unexpected, because while there's a lot of nuance (and tragedy) in the Injustice version of the character - especially in his comic book incarnation - he's also someone who has clearly overstepped many boundaries in both the first Injustice comic and the larger storyline of the franchise as a whole. Will Injustice 2 offer some kind of redemption for the character, especially as Supergirl gets to show up and could act as the moral compass Superman once was?
I don't think anything in Injustice is completely black and white, and a lot of grievances Superman has are pretty well-founded. The reasons for why he did what he did, in his mind, are still right. He may have overstepped - hell, he may have been a murdering tyrant - but he did stop wars. He was working for the environment. He was acting against inequality, even if it was all done with an iron fist.
Batman isn't exactly a shining beacon of good in all of this, either. He's done ... questionable things as well, and we'll see more of this in the early chapters [of the new series]. Supergirl certainly offers us something more pure. But this could turn when you realize why she comes to Earth.
You mention the Injustice Batman, and he's an interesting take on the character - in many ways, he feels like the paranoid/emotionally-closed-off idea on Batman taken to an extreme. In many ways, he matches the emotional journey of Superman because he, too, has lost his way as a result of everything that's happened - although he's aware of that, because he's Batman. I know you're a fan of the World's Finest concept of Batman and Superman as a crime-fighting duo - has that influenced the way you've written the collapse of their friendship?
I'm a huge fan of the World's Finest. I do think Clark and Bruce, outside of Injustice, bring the best out of each other. One of the cores of Injustice really is the break-up of the World's Finest friendship, and I think both men feel this. They both know what they've lost, and wish it were otherwise. If either had been able to compromise at the beginning, maybe everything wouldn't have gone off the rails. If Bruce had stood with Clark and accepted him after Joker's death, maybe the world could have changed for the better with both of them working together. If Superman had accepted he'd done the wrong thing, I think Batman would have done anything to help him. That's the problem with writing an epic tragedy, it all has to be a bit tragic.
Outside of those two core characters, one of the stars of the series has been Harley Quinn. Your take on the character has always been a lot of fun, and it feels like the character's growth in popularity in recent years - especially with regards to last year's Suicide Squad movie - is merely everyone else catching up to your love for her. In the first issue of Injustice 2, she's not only arguably the most trustworthy of the leads, but also the point-of-view character for the audience. What is it about her that draws you to her?
Harley can say anything. She can get away with anything. I've often said I love writing characters who can point out the Emperor is wearing no clothes. Harley is someone who can pull down the President's pants, giggle and put it on YouTube. She is as free as many of us wish we could be.
But she's also a complicated character. She isn't one-note. Behind the laughter, there's grief and loss and guilt within her. As a person, she's been through so much. She has a history of abuse, of putting her own needs far behind someone else's. But I truly believe when she's free of the Joker she becomes something else, something far better. And the strength she's showing as her redemption continues is great to tackle. She's no one's sidekick. She's not a victim.
One of the things that I loved about the first Injustice comic book series was that it went everywhere, folding in ideas and characters and mythologies that didn't seem obvious based on the game concept. Is the second series equally far-reaching? Where does Injustice 2 go?
It really is just as far-reaching. There will be characters who will only appear in the comics, not the game. There will be whole stories, which, while hopefully strengthening the game story, will only be seen in our pages. There will be battles, disasters and triumphs. The world will be rocked. Characters will fight and love and die in our pages. There may even be characters created solely for our story ... read and see.
The mention of characters created only for the comic leads me into this: How much of the comic is worked out in conjunction with the game studio versus how much are targets you have to reach but the journey is left up to you? It's proven to be a two-way street, with the second game picking up on your Green Arrow from the first series…
I have an immense amount of freedom on this book. It really is a dream project. There are certain events mentioned in the game that we want to expand on, or things we want to hit to strengthen the character motivations and alliances in the game story. But it basically comes down to me getting to play with some of the greatest toys in the world, writing a giant outline, not holding anything back, and editor Jim Chadwick and the guys at [game studio] NetherRealm supporting me. We've really hit the point where the Injustice comics and the games inform and enrich each other. It's like each season is a chapter of one giant story.
Anyone who has read the first series - or watched your animated series The Deep, or read your other comic work, for that matter - knows that you're a writer who likes to use comedy where necessary. Injustice, as a concept, is a pretty dark story, though; Superman goes rogue and becomes a dictator, after Lois Lane's death, turning heroes against each other. Is there ever a desire to write against the grain and come up with solutions for everything and leave with a happy ending, or are you having too much fun raining destruction and the occasional death on everyone's heads?
The Deep TV series is probably the most "me" in terms of natural storytelling, and I'm happy to say season two is coming to Netflix and elsewhere around the world later this year. I actually gravitate to happier places naturally. I like to have big shocks and down beats, but I always try to bring this back to places of triumph and joy. That's harder in Injustice, so I probably rely on humor more to balance it. Fortunately, we have great artists like Bruno Redondo and Mike S. Miller, who can sell the real emotion and the humor. It's why characters like Harley Quinn are so important for Injustice, and why there will always be room for left-field characters like John Constantine or Plastic Man or Detective Chimp to show up.
Well, now that you've brought up left-field characters, I have to ask one final question: All of the heroes in the DC universe are having Injustice-style, one-on-one brawls. Every single character. Which character is the last one standing?
The last hero standing will always be Plastic Man, but no one will know he's still standing because he'll be disguised as a lamp post.
The first chapter of Injustice 2 launches April 11, with new chapters being released digitally every week and available for download via the DC Comics App, readdcentertainment.com, iBooks, comixology.com, Google Play, Kindle Store and Nook Store. Read on below for a preview, with art by Bruno Redondo, Juan Albarran and Rex Lokus. The cover for the chapter (above) is by Jim Lee, Scott Williams and Alex Sinclair.