On August 20th, a legendary cross-over begins at Dynamite Entertainment. The Shadow, Doc Savage, and The Avenger meet in a six issue mini-series entitled JUSTICE INC written by Michael Uslan and drawn by Giovanni Timpano. Mark Waid talked to Uslan about this upcoming series and how it came together.
MARK WAID: I've read the overview of the series, sir (even though it's the size and length of a doctoral dissertation, it's entertaining as hell)--what are the origins of this series?
MICHAEL USLAN: "Justice, Inc." began for me a number of years ago as a potential live action feature film project. I wrote a 39 page treatment for it in three acts. Knowing how both Warner/DC and Marvel were positioning their super-heroes first in individual films before teaming them up in a "Justice League" or "Avengers" movie, my thought was to do the reverse with the Conde Nast/Street & Smith super-heroes We'd launch the branded franchise as "Justice, Inc." and then break them off individually in their own films. That plan ultimately was fated not to work and we instead worked individually on a "Doc Savage" movie and a "Shadow" movie, the former with Shane Black and the latter with Sam Raimi. But I always thought my secret origin story for "Justice, Inc." was a fun one and was disappointed it would not see the light of day.
After writing the graphic novel/comic book mini-series, "The Shadow/Green Hornet: Dark Nights" for Dynamite Comics, and pleased it was so well received by fans and critics, I was very happy to have picked up the reins of writing a character I had first written in comics in the mid-1970's. Under the mentorship of the legendary Denny O'Neil, I wrote issues of the 1970's DC Comics run and was particularly proud to have had my covers drawn by Shadow luminary/artist Michael Kaluta and by all-time great Joe Kubert! It was then that Dynamite head honcho, Nick Barrucci, asked me what it would take to pull me away from my movie, TV and animation producing duties to write another g.n./mini for him. I gave him a list of three dream team-ups of The Shadow I would not be able to resist writing. One of those was to do the first ever team-up of the trinity of Street & Smith pulp heroes, The Shadow, Doc Savage and The Avenger. In the 75 years since the creation of The Avenger, the last of those three classic characters, no one has ever teamed them all up. I did, however, almost forty years ago, have the honor of writing the first cross-over of The Shadow and The Avenger for DC Comics' "The Shadow" #11. Nick fondly remembered that story and wanted me back to handle what would be a three-way cross-over. Jazzed, I sent Nick my old treatment for the movie and he green-lit it. "Justice, Inc. would finally get made... but as a graphic novel/comic book mini-series rather than as a live action feature film.
MW: Can you tell readers what you've envisioned that's a big enough threat to challenge Doc Savage, the Shadow, AND the Avenger?
MU: Three incredibly powerful and mysterious super-villains, for starters. The Voodoo Master probably came the closest of any villain to doing in The Shadow during their three deadly encounters in the bloody pulps.
MW: What sets the Avenger apart from the Shadow and Doc Savage, in your mind?
MU: Because his pulp came last, I always pictured him physically younger (and smaller) than Doc or The Shadow. That made Richard Henry Benson primed to need training if he was to become The Avenger," and who better to train and mentor him than the already experienced Doc Savage and The Shadow? Philosophically, Doc is only interested in the betterment of all mankind, The Shadow is only interested in destroying crime wherever he finds it and defines it. But The Avenger, who swears never to take a life, demands Justice! There's a fine lime between "Justice" and "The Law." Our three heroes explore the depth of that as, despite their best efforts, they begin to bond, and the shaky alliance of "Justice, Inc." seems to hold.
MW: What subtle changes (or not so subtle ones) have you made to the Avenger's origin?
MU: I like to think I've expanded the story rather than changed it. Everyone who has known The Avenger's story over the past 75 years, was shocked to see it "borrowed" by Jodie Foster in one of her last movies. That put added pressure on me to enhance The Avenger's tale and try to distance it from that film swipe. But then, the puzzle piece started to fall quickly into place: 1. The Voodoo Master hated wealthy corporate men and hastened their demise and the demise of their companies; 2. Benson, Cranston and Doc are very wealthy. powerful men from big business to investment banking, thus all being prospective targets of The Voodoo Master; 3. Benson is thrown out of a plane and lands in a huge snowbank in the middle of nowhere...and The Shadow came out of Chow Lee's mountain monastery in the frozen lands of the Far east, while Doc Savage had a Fortress in the frozen north. 4. Benson will need weapons, a uniform, training, and inspiration, all of which emanate from The Shadow and Doc Savage. After all, The Shadow has his agents and Doc Savage has his team. What will The Avenger be inspired to do?
MW: Complete this phrase: If you're fan of ____________ and _____________, you'll really dig this series!
MU: Batman and Superman! After all, the shadow was the very direct influence on the creation of the batman, and doc savage was the primary influence on the creation of superman. If you're unsure of the latter, catch clark savage, "the man of bronze," using his super-strength while in his fortress of solitude in the arctic. Then catch clark kent, "the man of steel," using his super-strength while in his fortress of solitude in the arctic. And in 1933, five years before the debut of superman, what one word did street & smith use in its ads to describe doc savage? "superman!"
Make sure to check out JUSTICE INC when it launches on Wednesday, August 20th!