DC's Dark Crisis on Infinite Earths #6: Joshua Williamson and Daniel Sampere tease a grand finale
Dark Crisis on Infinite Earths reaches its penultimate issue, with the fate of the DC Universe all hinging on the final, epic battle. Joshua Williamson and Daniel Sampere are here to highlight the issue’s big moments
With the fate of the entire DC Omniverse at stake, the epic crossover event Dark Crisis on Infinite Earths by Joshua Williamson and Daniel Sampere has reached its penultimate issue. A beleaguered collection of superheroes led by the Titans makes up the DC Universe’s last line of defense while Pariah and his Dark Army launch a decisive strike on the Hall of Justice. As the final battle is joined, the Justice League escapes from the pocket universes where Pariah had imprisoned them, however, not every hero is able to make the jump and return to the DCU as one fan-favorite character makes the ultimate sacrifice.
From Jon Kent launching in a desperate last stand against the most powerful supervillains in the history of the DCU to Jace Fox leaping into the frenetic fray, there are plenty of major character moments throughout Dark Crisis on Infinite Earths #6. And though the heroes were able to endure this brutal gauntlet bearing down on the heart of the DCU, the battle is far from over as Deathstroke observes the Great Darkness energy for himself to transform into the biggest single threat to the multiverse.
In an postgame interview with Popverse for Dark Crisis on Infinite Earths’ penultimate issue, Joshua Williamson and Daniel Sampere explain the big moments behind the issue, reveal what planned story beats were ultimately dropped, and tease what readers can expect from the grand finale. With one issue to go, the DCU is about to changed at its core and Williamson and Sampere are putting DC’s greatest heroes through the crucible to defend all of reality from the growing darkness.
Popverse: How was it kicking off this issue with the Titans against basically every supervillain in the DC Universe?
Joshua Williamson: I basically have a list of every single character in Dark Crisis and, a lot of times, I just grab that whole list, cut and paste it into the script, and go “Here you go, Daniel!” And then Daniel has to draw it all! [laughs]
Daniel Sampere: It’s been amazing because I’m a big fan of the Titans, ever since I read The New Teen Titans from George Perez and Marv Wolfman. Having the chance to work with these characters has been amazing from the beginning of the series. Getting to this point in issue #6, when everything explodes and the action is so heavy, it’s been a lot of fun. Having the chance to mix characters like Starfire, Cyborg, and Beast Boy against the most powerful villains in the DC Universe has been super fun.
We’ve seen Green Arrow step up on the hero’s journey ever since the start of Infinite Frontier, taking the leadership role on the Justice League during Brian Michael Bendis’ run. What was it about having him make the sacrifice play here?
Williamson: I think the origins of that comes from my own love of Green Arrow as a Green Arrow fan. I knew back when we were doing Justice League #75 that he was going to be the one to get the biggest hit in that story, Doomsday was going to hurt him the most out of everyone there. He was going to be the most on-the-page death of all the characters and, even when I was writing those scenes, I felt bad because I’ve been wanting to write Green Arrow for 20 years – since I was a kid! He was one of those characters that I wanted to write and I didn’t get to write him for a really long time. I was always trying to sneak Green Arrow into every book that I ever worked on and it never would work out.
I finally get to write this big Green Arrow scene, he’s the one who saves the day, he buys them time by stopping Pariah and the Dark Army and does what he needs to do – and then he gets killed. It was such a hard moment and then, having him here with the rest of the Justice League resurrected because of those worlds, it felt like the story with him isn’t over; this story we wanted to do with him and the Green Arrow family.
I went back and forth on it a lot, for him to be the character not to show up with [the Justice League] in Dark Crisis #6. What I started realizing is that the story of Green Arrow, in terms of Dark Crisis, was much bigger than we had room for in these two issues. When I started piecing it together, I wanted to continue the story with him but I wanted to do something with this. That meant that he had to be the one that gets left behind. He’s the one that doesn’t make it with everyone else and that creates a mystery of where he is and we can talk about that post-Dark Crisis.
You’ll see some stuff in issue #7 that tees some stuff up with him. It was a hard decision with him but I realized the stuff that we’re doing with him was getting bigger and bigger and it’s not just him, but with his entire family; with Black Canary, Connor Hawke, and Roy Harper. The story of the Green Arrow family, I could see it growing outside of Dark Crisis. I could tell that story in one panel or I could leave it on a bit of a cliffhanger and give it a little more mystery before that story gets picked up again.
That was the motivation on why he was the one who makes that sacrifice and he knows he’s the one that died. He says, “Everyday we live our secret hideouts to go out and fight crime and there’s always the chance that’s the day we don’t come back but that doesn’t stop us. We all know what we signed up for.” That’s why we gives that speech.
I knew early on that that speech was going to be an important piece of the story and it’s actually the first page that Daniel drew of the entire issue because we just knew it was an emotional moment with him. He’s also this character that’s a street-level character and you have him looking up at multiple worlds, red skies, and red lightning but he still looks back at them with a smirk on his face.
All these things went into that decision and it was a hard one, it was something I went back and forth on a lot but it was too cheap of a character to just show up; I felt like there was a lot more story there so we decided to leave his story on a cliffhanger. It was a very hard decision because it’s a character that I love but it’s not the first time Ollie’s been stranded someplace.
Daniel, how was it capturing the emotion of that scene while juxtaposing it with a cosmic background?
Sampere: These kinds of moments are my favorites to draw, when all the emotions and feelings are there. It’s when I have the most fun and the process is simple, I just spend some time trying to understand the feelings and what I myself would feel in this particular moment. I think of my gestures, my face, and my reactions and then I try to think of a shot that serves multiple purposes, not only for storytelling and to understand what is going on but also to make it beautiful with a specific shot that captures the tone and the feeling.
The feelings aren’t just in the characters, they’re everywhere. They’re in the shot, the angle, the lighting. It’s what I enjoy the most and I’m happy with that specific page. Alejandro Sanchez adds his magic with his colors and then everything is in the right place.
My favorite sequence in this issue is Jon’s last stand against Doomsday as he has flashbacks to lessons from his father. Walk me through that scene a bit.
Williamson: It was important to me that the Justice League didn’t save the day, essentially. Jon, Jace, Yara, and the Titans needed their own win; they are the ones that defeated Pariah. The Justice League is obviously going to be there by the ending to fight Deathstroke and the Dark Army but I wanted Pariah to be defeated by Jon, Jace, Yara, and the Titans; I wanted to show the Titans hold their own. With Jon, everyone always puts Jon down and, before, Black Adam is really putting Jon down. I wanted Jon to have his own heroic moment to really say “I am Superman.”
In this moment, Yara says they need to buy time, with Jace working with Mister Terrific, the Titans pushing back the Dark Army, Yara trying to distract Pariah, and all Jon has to do is just buy time. To me, it was very much a sequence of going the distance like Rocky – he doesn’t have to win, he just has to go the distance. Jon isn’t just fighting against Doomsday, he’s fighting against Darkseid, Ares, Nekron, and Eclipso. He’s fighting them and they’re beating the crap out of him and he keeps getting up and keeps standing. You get to see the influence of his father and mother and those are lines taken directly from Peter Tomasi’s early issues of Superman that he was doing when he was doing the Super-Sons.
I wanted to pay homage to the story he was doing because it set up so much stuff for Jon and the idea that he would one day become Superman and wanted to be in his father’s shoes and wear his father’s cape. I wanted to show those things and that those things mattered in this moment when he just goes up against all of them. I just wanted to show that he is Superman as he goes up against this impossible challenge. These guys killed the Justice League and all he’s trying to do is just go the distance, trying to buy enough time, and they beat the crap out of him.
He finally makes it and, in this moment in his mind, Jon’s like “I’m dead. I’m about to die and Doomsday is about to kill me. I hope I made my father proud.” That’s it, it was all about this emotional thing for him, to show Jon, Jace, and Yara having this big heroic moment, where they’re the ones to stop a stop to Pariah. To have Jon to have this emotional moment of sacrifice but also acceptance of it and then have his dad come in, I wanted to have that emotional thing.
There was a lot of thought that went into this and it was planned from the very beginning. These two issues have basically gone unchanged, aside from some small things, from what I planned before. Thankfully, we have the War Zone special but, with this, we just ran out of room. This sequence, of Jon going up against them by himself, was planned from the beginning. I didn’t want the Justice League to just jump in and save the day, I wanted those characters to have their own win and be the ones to stop Pariah – and not just stop Pariah but they break Pariah’s curse, finally after 37 years for us (For Pariah, it’s been longer). [laughs]
To have characters introduced in the last six or seven years be the ones to resolve something that had been this long, unresolved plot point going all the way back to the original Crisis on Infinite Earths, I thought that was something that was a big emotional moment for the book. All of that stuff was planned and, obviously, the last page of this issue was planned from the very beginning; we were always building to that moment.
It’s quite a cinematic scene. Daniel, how was it balancing action and emotion and did you include any callbacks yourself, to things like Patrick Gleason’s artwork?
Sampere: I remember this run on Superman well because I really like it and it wasn’t so long ago when I did Action Comics and I read a lot of Superman so I have it recent in my memory. I put in an Easter egg when Jon is in bed with his dad Clark, his pajamas are the same that Jorge Jimenez did in the first issue of Super-Sons when he has a moment with Damian; I wanted to put the same touch. I really like to add these touches for people to recognize and get familiar.
This scene is probably my favorite from the entire series, at least so far, and it was so much fun to do because it was very special. It’s a super emotional moment, with action and everything. Everything is there and we built up a lot for this moment. I tried to take to the highest level of intensity, being super brutal with the violence and super touching with the feelings, feeling every punch and the nice flashbacks. It was great and I was super excited to draw it.
In the past, the entire DC Universe has fought against one of these guys and Jon is here all alone to fight them all together. It’s crazy and is my favorite moment though this issue was really hard to draw. It was super stressful and so much to draw, with timing, but the impetus was to see what I was drawing. It was so exciting and great that even though it was stressful, with tight timing, it was amazing.
Right after Green Arrow’s speech, things are looking grim for our heroes, including Frankenstein being ripped in half. Is Pariah sending heroes like Blue Beetle and Booster Gold to their own pocket dimensional prisons when they confront him?
Williamson: Yeah, that was something we actually ran out of room for. I was going to originally have a shot of their worlds underneath them to where they were being [sent to] but there was just no room. [laughs] I was already killing Daniel so I had to slow down here and it was more important to land some of these emotional beats later. But yeah, the idea is that they’re going to their own little pocket worlds and I thought that was something we could maybe explore later.
Sampere: If I remember correctly, the next panel is a panel with a multiverse map and you see five new worlds appearing there so it gives you that clue.
Williamson: Yeah, we just didn’t show you what their dream was. It’s also established in the Worlds Without a Justice League specials that Pariah has to kind of craft those worlds with them a little bit. I feel like, for Pariah at this point, he’s just being sloppy because, at that point, he’s going crazy. He’s really just trying to do it all and dealing with the fact that he has this voice in his head that he thought was the Great Darkness the whole time.
He thinks someone else is telling him to do this and, when Yara gets the Lasso of Truth around him, she’s like “No, it was you the whole time.” He was obviously connected to the Great Darkness because of the time he spent in the Great Darkness and we explored this in The Deadly Green. Because the machine was there for so long, it was like a thorn-in-a-lion-paw sort of thing and, because of that, he was connected to it. In that moment, [Pariah realizes] he was not manipulated that it was all him, he did this.
The Great Darkness will always be up to shenanigans but this particular thing was because of Pariah and I just wanted to show that he was being ruthless, uncaring, and obsessed with getting this thing done that he wanted to do and that meant taking them out. No one actually dies in this event, that was something I wanted to make sure that we actually did. There’s definitely some major stuff coming that I think will make people be shocked but I don’t want to get too much into spoilers – wait until issue #7 comes out!
What was it about giving Jace Fox the killshot on Pariah, so to speak?
Williamson: Well, it’s him and Mister Terrific together. It made sense to me that, if someone was going to work with Mister Terrific, [it’d be Jace]. I actually talked to John Ridley about this because John did an issue of I Am Batman that connects to this issue and explains why Jace shows up to this fight. He’s raised by Lucius Fox and brothers with Luke Fox and he’s kind of rejected them. In that story, so much of what Jace does is run away – he runs away from his family, from responsibility, and from his mistakes.
When Jon comes to him and asks for his help, he runs away again and that’s what the I Am Batman issue is about. It’s him confronting the idea that he’s always running away from things, away from his destiny and himself. In this issue, for him to admit that he knows technology and can work with Mister Terrific and can help figure this out, that was a moment for him to turn around back on himself; he’s not running away from the things his father taught him.
There are elements of the relationships between parents and children throughout this story and the fact that we see Clark and Lois’ influence on Jon and Jace say that this was something that his father taught him. That was really the killshot, him using something that his father had taught him because, normally, Jace would run away from it and reject his father. That moment when he embraces something his father taught him, that’s the thing that stops Pariah just like Jon earlier doing the same thing. Something that Lois and Clark told him is what gives him the energy to keep fighting back.
In talking about the ending, how was it designing this super Deathstroke?
Williamson: We talked about that before we started; I think we were working on issue #1 when we started talking about it. We knew that there was going to be an evolution of Deathstroke.
Sampere: We had so much time to think about it because I knew this moment was coming almost from Day 1 like Josh was saying. I just thought of a Monster Deathstroke, not getting too crazy and adding anything weird but just making him this gross version of himself. I also thought it would be fun and proper to play with the chained stuff. The Darkness has been possessing people with the chains around their bodies so I thought it would be cool to make the chains coming out from inside of his body, like he’s producing the Darkness and it’s just spreading. You’ll see more of him in issue #7!
Williamson: I think one of our goals is making sure that McFarlane makes a Dark Crisis version of Deathstroke, so you can have a giant monster version of him. He likes to make those big toys so if we can get a Dark Crisis Deathstroke out of this, that would be amazing. [laughs]
Here we are, almost at the finish line. What can you tease about Dark Crisis on Infinite Earths #7?
Williamson: Even more characters. [laughs]
Sampere: They just keep coming. [laughs]
Williamson: In a lot of ways, this issue wraps up the Jon-Yara-Jace piece of the story, that and the Pariah piece of the story. Issue #7 is about Deathstroke, Nightwing, and Black Adam, those are the characters that shine in issue #7 the most. There are a lot of other big moments – Jace and Yara are there and stuff happens – but those three characters from the very beginning in issue #1 have played an important role in this book and the three of them together play a gigantic role in the final issue. Issue #7 sets up a lot of stuff that we’re doing in 2023 and I think if you want some clues about stuff that’s going to be happening in 2023, you have to read issue #7.
Written by Joshua Williamson, illustrated by Daniel Sampere, colored by Alejandro Sanchez, and lettered by Tom Napolitano, Dark Crisis on Infinite Earths #6 is on sale now. The series concludes with Dark Crisis on Infinite Earths #7, on sale Dec. 20 from DC Comics.
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