DC fans were treated to Human Target #1 this week, getting their first glimpse at Tom King and Greg Smallwood’s highly-anticipated collaboration. The twelve-issue miniseries chronicles an unexpected story involving Christopher Chance / Human Target, as he has to investigate the plot that might lead to his accidental death. Co-starring alongside Chance in the book is a comprehensive roster of the Justice League International, the more eclectic incarnation of DC’s premiere superhero team that first popped up in the 1980s. During a roundtable interview attended by ComicBook.com, King spoke about how the JLI came to be in Human Target— beginning with one of the team’s members, Tora Olafsdotter / Ice.
“It’s the least exciting of stories,” King explained. “My seven-year-old son, his favorite superhero is Ice. It’s his favorite superhero in the whole world. Every day at dinner, throughout this whole pandemic, we talked about — I’m writing constantly, and what are you writing for the day? And my son always says, ‘Why aren’t you working with Ice? When are you going to do Ice? Please do Ice.’ So when I came up with this premise, which involved a murder and suspects, I decided that the suspect should be part of the JLI, just so I could put Ice in the book, and I could get my two year old to stop moaning at me. It blossomed from there. The JLI was the Justice League of my youth. It’s the first Justice League I encountered when I opened up a book. [Keith] Giffen, [J.M.] DeMatteis, and [Kevin] Maguire are three of my heroes in comics. The chance to go into that world and into that very goofy family — but that dealt with, actually, very dark issues — became very appealing to me. And especially the character of Ice, who’s the co-head of the book as we go forward, began to shine as a bright spot, as another Big Barda [in Mister Miracle] or Alanna Strange [in Strange Adventures].”
A splash page at the end of Issue #1 showcased the JLI roster that will be factoring into the book — Mister Miracle, Fire, Ice, Rocket Red, G’nort, Guy Gardner, Blue Beetle, Booster Gold, Martian Manhunter, Batman, Captain Atom, and Black Canary. As Human Target stretches on and its titular character attempts to weed out potential suspects, the JLI are expected to play an even larger role, with King revealing that the remaining eleven issues will center around each team member in some capacity.
“The onus is entirely on me to introduce you,” King argued. “I don’t want anyone picking up this book and being like, ‘Oh, if I’m not sentimental about the JLI, it won’t work.’ Each issue is devoted to one of the members or two of members. And in each issue, it’s my job to — almost like an old DC Comics Presents or a Marvel Two-in-One — to present a hero in a new light and tell you what’s interesting about this hero, and what’s fundamentally flawed about them. Hopefully, I pull it off, but it’s easy when each of these characters has so much depth.”
“You have Martian Manhunter, who’s like the ultimate symbol of repression; a guy who just takes all of his emotions and locks him down under a fake form,” King continued. “Or you have Booster Gold — my favorite character to write in all of fiction — who is always trying to do good, and always slipping on the banana peel. You’ve got Ice and Fire, these two people that should be exact opposite, but are actually bonded at their soul. You’ve got Guy Gardner, one of the few superheroes who’s allowed to be a d-ckhead, and we can see consequences of that. There’s so much depth in these characters.”
Later on in the interview, King shed light on his approach to some of the other JLI members, which will be spotlighted in those future issues.
“Guy Gardner as the bad ex-boyfriend — it’s not like he’s fun to write, but it’s fun to talk to the jock who always thinks he wins, to be like, ‘Okay, you’re not always winning,'” King explained. “G’nort was super fun. I like doing him as the guy sitting in his trailer drinking too much beer, kind of like the big puppy dog. He’s trying to do good, but he’s just too lazy to do it. It was like the big sit out. Yeah, G’nort was super fun. Rocket Red was great — working with a bitter, but very motivated Russian.”
“What Giffen and DeMatteis put into these characters, they all feel very fleshed out,” King added. “They all feel very real. When you picture them in your head, you just see that Kevin Maguire face looking up at you. They’re very easy and very fun to write. The thing I most love to do in comics is to take silly ideas seriously and find the depths in them, and tnd that concept was all over this — the idea that these little silly flaws that are implanted in these characters actually show real heart and real depth. Like I wrote this thing for Booster, why Booster’s good. And the idea is, Human Target expressed my opinion on Booster as ‘Booster is a joke. He makes mistakes all the time, but he doesn’t hide them. He shows himself. He is himself. Booster is Booster. Yeah, he’s a joke, but everyone is. At least Booster’s funny.’ That kind of stuff is incredibly fun to do. These characters have such potential — each one of them could launch their own series.”
Human Target #1 is now available wherever comics are sold.