Black Adam – The Secret Files of the Justice Society: Hawkman No. 1 (interview)

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Ahead of the Black Adam film in the DCEU, DC Comics is taking a closer look at the film’s main characters in a series of one-shots. First up is Black Adam: The Justice Society Secret Files: Hawkman #1. The story will focus on Carter Hall, where he currently is in the DCEU, and where readers might see his journey going next. Additionally, the comic will feature backup stories showcasing the beginnings of Black Adam, while also a look at Adrianna Tomaz in the present.

While Doctor Fate, Atom Smasher, and Cyclone will also get their own comic stories set in the DCEU, Hawkman will lead issue one, with the backup story focusing on Teth-Adam and Adrianna Tomaz. We got to talk with writers Cavan Scott and Bryan Q. Miller about the upcoming one-shots from DC Comics and what readers and fans excited for the Black Adam film can expect.

Related: The Rock & John Cena’s Best DCEU Meeting Isn’t A Battle

How did this project come to be, and how exciting was it to work with these characters?

Cavan Scott: I’d been working with editor Michael McCalister on a number of projects, including TITANS UNITED and a special Black Adam one shot that was going to be released with a McFarlane DC Direct action figure and, knowing how much I love Hawkman, he asked me if I’d be up for this series. I jumped at the chance.

Bryan Q. Miller: I think with Cavan [Scott] it was already kind of in motion. I don’t know how long it was with Cavan, but there was something else I had lined up with these good folks at DC that fell through, as it sometimes does, and they’re like, “How do you feel about Black Adam?” I’ve never really gotten to play in the sandbox over in that – it’s not trendy to say in that Marvel family, because it used to be Captain Marvel – but over in the Shazam family of books. I haven’t gotten to play just yet. 

I was super excited to jump over there. I know Adrianna and Black Adam from my time being introduced to them in 52, which was my first time. I knew Black Adam existed and the Shazam family existed, but I didn’t grow up with a comic book shop. A lot of stuff really came into play in my 20s, when I got to really be exposed to a lot of things and got to hit some back issues. Learning about the JSA and about Black Adam was really great.

The opportunity presented itself, so I jumped at it. I like solving puzzles, and since our comic takes place in the lead-up to the feature film, it was very fun to try and step backwards to reverse engineer the steps that bring Adrianna to where she starts the movie in the present in Kahndaq and then crafting a parallel story that happens in the far past in ancient Kahndaq that shines a light on some things happening in present-day Kahndaq between Teth-Adam and his son Hurut; their family and some stuff they’re going through in the empire. 

It was a lot of fun, and I was very happy to be included.

What was it like to re-introduce these DCEU versions of the Justice Society characters to a general audience? Do you feel any pressure with that ahead of the Black Adam film?

Cavan Scott: I hadn’t until you asked that! But it’s always a privilege dealing with classic characters like these, especially those who mean so much to you personally. I went into this job wanting to be true to the movie, but also try to reflect their comic book legacy. These characters had to feel familiar, even though they are new takes.

Bryan Q. Miller: Not really, just because it’s another form of adaptation. And that’s not to be cocky, it’s just 90% of what we do. I felt a little creaky because I haven’t done comics in a bit. It’s been a hot minute, and I’m very excited to start getting back in the comics. So, for that part of it, I felt the rust on the gears. But by the time we got through the chapters, the rust all flaked free. 

The movie’s a lot of fun. I’m super excited to see what I read in that script on the screen. It’s huge. It’s a huge movie, so it’s great to be a part of that.

When you were crafting this story, was there a very specific direction you had to choose? And how was it balancing that with Cavan’s story, because they do kind of interconnect?

Cavan Scott: I took the lead from what I read in the script. Knowing where we first meet them meant I could take a step back and try to imagine how they got there.

Bryan Q. Miller: They interconnect a little bit in, and I don’t want to spoil how because it’s almost an Easter egg. But with the movie kind of as the guiderails, that feature scripts, the marching order was, “Don’t do anything that’s in the movie because we want everyone to get new information.” 

In the comic, you’re gonna get new information. If you watch the movie, you’re not gonna see stuff you saw the comic and vice versa. They’re kind of symbiotic in that way.

One of the tragic elements of Hawkman is that he can never truly escape his past. What is he forced to confront in this issue?

 Cavan Scott: When we meet Carter in this issue he’s haunted by a past he feels he’s lost. The Justice Society has disbanded and has been largely forgotten. In a world of Supermen and Wonder Women, he feels increasingly irrelevant. Left behind. In the midst of all this, he lands slap bang in the middle of an Intergang heist and events soon take a tragic turn. Suddenly, our haunted hero finds himself in a literal haunting – and this ghost can kill!

Gentleman Ghost is an interesting choice for a villain in the one-shot. Considering he’s been a part of many Hawkman stories, how fun was it writing him?

Cavan Scott: Oh, I loved it, especially as writing this within the continuity of the movie meant that I could come up with a new origin for Craddock. Anyone who knows my work, knows how much of a horror fan, so it was fun to turn a Gentleman Ghost adventure into an full-on ghost story.

How was it writing Adrianna Tomaz? This is a character that has been seen off and on in the comics, and has been seen a little bit more in live-action stuff recently, but not in the DCEU?

Bryan Q. Miller: For our purposes, because I think there are some slight differences – without spoiling things in the movie, but I think it’s pretty basic in the solicit. She’s a professor of antiquities and ancient cultures at a university in Kahndaq. She also moonlights trying to liberate some of those antiquities from people who should not have them in a very Indiana Jones kind of way. 

But unlike Indy, who’s like, “It belongs in a museum!” I think there’s some modern sensibility added in, that if it goes into a museum, it should go in a museum in Kahndaq and not anywhere else in the world. They should not have their culture and their items and their relics appropriated by other people. That, I think, is a big part of Adrianna’s MO in this take. She is very much someone who knows about history, and the danger of repeating the errors of history in Kahndaq. She wants to preserve the best of the culture and move away from the worst of the culture. 

It’s hard for her, especially as a teacher with a son, to see history repeating itself a little bit with a different kind of empire trying to squeeze in on modern-day Kahndaq.

Can we expect other characters from the film to cameo in the issue?

 Cavan Scott: Maaaaaaybe. But I’d be tempting fate to say who.

We see a brief intro to Adam’s beginnings. How important was it to balance the past and the present while telling these converging stories?

Bryan Q. Miller: It was Adrianna first, and it certainly could have just been an all-Adrianna story. It’s a fairly limited page count on backups, but I really felt it was cheating to not have some visage of Dwayne Johnson in the comics somewhere. 

So, we built a parallel story in the past that takes place, before any of the flashbacks which you’re going to see in the film, that informs some of Teth-Adam and Hurut’s relationship as father and son in the movie. 

Nobody wanted to repeat anything that was going to be in the film. There was a little bit of a moving target with that, because sometimes with editing, certain scenes can wind up on the cutting room floor for a feature. But I think we finally hit the right balance of what was just enough and what wasn’t too much, so that viewers and readers get something new when they go to see the film.

What does Marco Santucci’s art bring to this project? One thing that stood out immediately was the classic Rock eyebrow.

Bryan Q. Miller: Yes! I called it out in the script too. It’s just one of those things were I’m like, “You know what? If you can do it, let’s do it.” It’s one of the most recognizable things in the world, that eyebrow. 

But with Santucci, there’s a very pleasant, kind of pulpy feel to what he’s doing, in a 40s serial way. Especially with the inks and stuff, it definitely has that vibe to it. It’s that quasi-Indiana Jones, quasi-Lara Croft, The Mummy and Scorpion King kind of vibe to it. It’s delightful to see, because that’s exactly what we were going for. I’m glad it turned out that way.

It’s interesting to see these characters come back to the forefront because – correct me if I’m wrong – there hasn’t been a JSA book in a little bit. What is it like seeing these characters come back in this way?

Bryan Q. Miller: It’s funny. I was on Smallville as a writer when Geoff Johns came over and we did the big two-hour JSA event. Being around twice now when the JSA gets to come around and get some attention and TLC is really nice, because they are very interesting. They are very different from the modern age of heroes. In my lizard brain, it’s a whole different set of colors than you see. It’s a whole different box of crayons with the JSA, and it’s been great to see them come back around again. 

I know Stargirl has some touches of that. There’s the younger generation and the older generation, and it’s always a generational story with the JSA. But it’s such a deep bench with DC characters, so it’s great whenever other players can hit the field. They’ve got the sanction of that big DC circle with the front of the movie, and certainly having Dwayne Johnson and all of the pedigree of the filmmakers connected – plus Cavan, and everybody on our side with the books – is super helpful for getting those guys out there. 

Because there’s so much to enjoy in DC. It’s more than Batman. There’s so much more than Batman, so it’s good to be able to tout that and yell it from the rooftops a little bit.

What can readers expect from this chapter, and going forward in the next three?

Cavan Scott: The stories all cover different aspects of Hawkman bringing the gang back together, finding new – and old – members of the Justice Society. We have four very different stories. There’s Hawkman’s ghost story, a story of urban justice for Cyclone, Atom Smasher’s first solo mission, and demonic possession for Dr. Fate. It’s been so much fun jumping from the different tones of the different characters as we send them hurtling towards their encounter with Black Adam.

Bryan Q. Miller: In chapter one, it’s very much an introduction to Teth-Adam and Hurut in the past, the political climate in Kahndaq in the past. And then immediately, it’s shining a light on how much has and has not changed, moving into the Kahndaq of the present vis a vis Adrianna, her son and her brother.

You’ll get to see some of what she does when she moonlights; when she’s not in the classroom. And that might get her into more trouble than she was expecting, coming out of chapter one and heading into chapter two, three and four.

Thank you so much to Cavan Scott and Bryan Q. Miller for taking the time for this inteview. Black Adam: The Justice Society Secret Files: Hawkman #1 from DC Comics arrives in comic book stores on July 1.