Interview: Geoff Johns Wages War On Aquaman And The Justice League With ‘Throne of Atlantis’

Starting with a prelude in “Aquaman” #14 and continuing for 5 issues in the pages of “Aquaman” and “Justice League,” Geoff Johns and artists Ivan Reis and Joe Prado will launch an Atlantean attack on Arthur Curry and his super friends with the crossover event “Throne of Atlantis.” I spoke with Johns about putting Aquaman up front for his own crossover, the motivations of Aquaman’s homewold invaders, what role Arthur’s brother Orm (Ocean Master) will play in the battle, and what The New 52’s version of Atlantis will be like.

Read on for the full scoop. Plus, see newly released pages from “Justice League #15″ and read an exclusive preview of “Aquaman” #14.

MTV Geek: Give us an overview of what “Throne of Atlantis” is.

Geoff Johns: Sure, it’s the Justice League going up against Atlantis. The complexities to that, what Atlantis is, why they attack, what are their view points is really at the heart of the story. The politics and the laws of Atlantis are extremely different than ours and the reasons they attack are a set of circumstances that are a mystery at the center of the story. What triggers the war is a part of the mystery that unravels throughout the story and why it happens, and the central figure of Atlantis, Aquaman’s younger brother Orm, who’s a pure Atlantean, and the current King of Atlantis. His viewpoint–and you see it a little bit in “Aquaman” #14, then it’s specifically explored and it’s in the background in “Justice League” #15, and then full-on in “Aquaman” #15–is Orm is not–Aquaman says it–he’s not a supervillain. He’s a leader of these people, and the last thing he wants to do is attack the surface world. He has no interest in the surface world. He doesn’t like the surface world, and why and what that history is between them is explored in the series and how Aquaman is tied into it. But the events that lead to a confrontation and ultimately a war and why that all happens are what the story’s all about. He’s not even called Ocean Master yet, he kinda earns that name in this story and doesn’t harbor any ill will towards his brother, he doesn’t understand his brother or why his brother would want to spend all his time up here. When he first even talks to his brother he assumes he’s king of the surface world. He has no idea why he would even stay up here if he wasn’t the leader of it. He has no sense of borders or of different cultures; it’s all very foreign to him.

GEEK: What prompted you to want to tell this story, to put Aquaman front-and-center in this crossover?

GJ: It goes back to what Ivan and Joe and I wanted to do with Aquaman when we started the series. We reintroduced Mera way back in “Blackest Night” and the idea was to kinda build Aquaman’s world up a little bit. When we launched the series over a year ago now, it was putting Aquaman at the front-and-center of the DC Universe because that’s where he belongs and certainly he is character that everyone knows and underestimates. So this is just a natural progression of that, if we can introduce him, and people see him as a character worth reading about, or a character who’s important to the DC universe–and ultimately the first big story I wanted to do in “Justice League” was going to focus on him and have his world come into the Justice League’s. That’s really what the second year of the “Justice League” is all about, the League learning more and getting more involved in the lives and worlds of its members.

GEEK: The Justice League is really coming together as a team now, how is this going to challenge them?

GJ: Well, it will challenge them in a way, I think I’m expected to ultimately get them to understand Aquaman and where he’s from and what his viewpoint is a bit more and explore Aquaman’s role on the team and the team itself. They’ve fought a lot of threats and things like this, but to have a threat as large as this come up, and to have them incapacitated at the time. They have to make some pretty big choices throughout the book and that leads to the next storyline.

GEEK: You just introduced a few new members onto the team, with Shazam, can you talk about how they’re going to be integrated into this story, if at all?

GJ: Shazam is not in this story just yet. His backup continues, he’s on the cover because his backup continues through these issues but he’s going to be on the team very shortly though.

GEEK: There’s the “Trinity War” event coming up, is this leading into it? Is it going to run alongside it?

GJ: No this is its own story, there’s a piece that kinda builds to the bigger story with the “Justice League” and the “Justice League of America” but “Throne of Atlantis” is an Aquaman Justice League story more than anything else, and again there are things that lead to and build into the next story organically, but really “Throne of Atlantis” is a story between these two books that stands alone.

GEEK: This is the first time we’re seeing Atlantis in the New 52, can you talk about what fans can expect or what you were thinking about when you were coming up with how it was going to look and feel?

GJ: Talking with Ivan and Joe a lot with the first “Justice League” issue, which is issue 15, which is the start of the “Throne of Atlantis” story really made sense because these guys have owned Aquaman and that world for so long. We’ve talked a lot about Atlantis and we wanted to keep Atlantis off because as interesting as Atlantis is, and as much a part of the world of “Aquaman” as it is, we really wanted to have Aquaman out of the water and interacting with things that were new. So we worked on “The Trench” and others and we really wanted to build his world outside of Atlantis and leave Atlantis there in the background as sort of a mystery because for him, Aquaman doesn’t really, Arthur doesn’t really want to go back to Atlantis. He doesn’t really, there’s reasons that we’ll see, and there’s more reasons coming up that he just doesn’t feel like…I mean, he obviously didn’t grow up there so he doesn’t really have a connection there. His mother’s not there, he never really spent a lot of time there. We’ll learn more about the time he did spend there, when he was on the throne after he went on the search for his mother and ultimately found Atlantis. He did take the throne and he was there for a while but he turned his back on it for a lot of different reasons. So we wanted to keep Atlantis out there and alive and things from Atlantis in our stories, but waiting to get Atlantis until we have the story to tell. So Atlantis is not a place, it’s just like another city, he can walk to or go to or whatever. It’s a very dangerous place, a very different culture; it’s a place of fear. They don’t like outsiders and Aquaman is, to them, partly an outsider, but they have to respect that he is, by blood, the king, but when he abandons the throne, that all changes. His younger brother takes the throne and there’s even a bid in it where Orm says to Arthur, and he’s sincere, “the Throne is yours, I don’t want it but you left.” Hopefully, we don’t want Atlantis to be seen as the Bad guys, they’re not just an army that wants to destroy us for no reason and I’m hoping the story we talked about was trying to use the complexities of war today–cause war is very complex–and put it over this scenario of Atlantis and the surface.

GEEK: Mera’s been very important in Aquaman’s story so far. What kind of role is she going to play in “Throne of Atlantis”?

GJ: She’s central. And she’ll be seen in “Justice League” after this, but she’s central to this story as she’s been to every story. Mera is to us, an interesting character also because she’s not from Atlantis, she probably feels even harsher about Atlantis than Arthur does, yet she’s also not from the surface. She’s an outsider in a lot of ways that Arthur is and that’s why they connect so well. When Mera first went to Arthur, went to Atlantis she was on a completely different mission. She was trained to be an assassin and kill the king of Atlantis. Ultimately seeing Atlantis and meeting Arthur, a lot of the time when you meet and get to know the people you’re supposed to hate, you don’t hate them any more you understand them. That’s what this arc is all about, is understanding the motivations of other people, that people might not be different from you, there might not be bad guys, that really it’s all gray. So when Mera ultimately met Arthur and saw a different side of him that goes against everything she’s ever been told, that relationship started to develop and that really was the catalyst that sent Arthur away from Atlantis because he knew he could find a life without it. He’s searching desperately for another life and the Justice League and Mera provided that for him. So that’ll be, we’ll explore that as well, what does the Justice League mean to Arthur and how does Mera fit into his life.

“Aquaman #14″ hits shelves on November 28. Read our exclusive preview by clicking the image below.