Strangers In A Strange Land – Michael Walsh Talks Black Hammer/Justice League
by James Ferguson
We’re about halfway through Black Hammer / Justice League: Hammer of Justice!, a crossover from Dark Horse Comics and DC Comics creating an unlikely team-up of heroes. It has played with tropes of the genre and the idea of a crossover itself in a big way. A major part of that is artist Michael Walsh’s work, bringing out the core essence of every character from both universes. I was able to speak to him about the project and what’s coming down the line as we head into the final chapters.
James Ferguson: Your work is very expressive, highlighting the emotional turmoil going on within each character. How did you approach bringing the heroes of the Justice League into the Black Hammer universe?
Michael Walsh: As an artist, I focus a lot on the acting, the way characters emote, and their body language. I try to bring that into all the books I do. There are certain books that hinge on the characterizations and the way people are speaking to each other. With bringing in the Justice League, I wanted to focus on the humanity of the characters. That’s a big part of what Black Hammer is about, taking these big mythical, legendary figures and humanizes them in ways that you almost don’t even have time for in Big Two books sometimes. Getting to do those small, intimate moments with the Justice League was very important to me. I think that’s one of the strongest aspects of the book.
JF: Now to flip my previous question, taking the Black Hammer characters and putting them in the DC Universe is a very different set of circumstances. There’s a little less doom and gloom and a little more sunshine. Do you approach them any differently in that setting?
MW: Yes, especially in the colors. I wanted to have Metropolis bathed in golden sunlight, unlike the world the Black Hammer characters come from. Having this bright yellow palette with these characters that you’re so used to seeing in desaturated colors with a lot of greens, blues, and purples was a nice change. It played up how out of place they were in that world.
JF: There’s a great deal done with pacing in this book, such as the interrogation of the Black Hammer heroes from the remaining members of the Justice League where certain shots were held to emphasize a point or hit a punchline. How are scenes like that put together between you and writer Jeff Lemire?
MW: You have to think of it like a progressive dance building towards the punchline. In that sequence, we wanted to play with pacing in a way that is so structured with the nine panel grids. I can’t remember specifically if it was in the script that way or not. The way that Jeff writes, he trusts his artists in a way that a lot of writers don’t. I think that comes from him also being such a talented artist. He’ll write something and if he has a specific idea for it, he’ll put it in the script, but then say if you have a different idea that you think might work better for this scene, let’s talk about that. Maybe we can do that instead. That freedom to collaborate was very exciting for me. Getting to shape these scenes with Jeff was a great experience.
JF: Are there any other characters that you wanted to tackle from the DC Universe, but couldn’t figure out a way to fit in?
MW: I grew up as a comic book fan of everything from super hero books to indies. DC is such a rich universe of interesting characters that are extremely well designed with great personalities. I want to draw ALL of them. There are a hundred characters that I wish I could have drawn in this book, but hopefully in the future I’ll get to draw some. Darkseid would have been amazing to draw. Any Kirby designed character is a blast. Robin would have been great.
JF: Well…which Robin?
MW: I really like Tim. I’m a sucker for the classic Dick Grayson. You have to love Damian for what he is. He’s a totally new version.
JF: I’m with you. I’m a Tim guy.
MW: He’s a great change of pace from the different Robins we’ve seen. He fits so well with what Batman is.
JF: Anything you want to tease going into the latter half of Black Hammer / Justice League?
MW: I think that fans are thinking this is an out of continuity book, but the way it ends will open up a few more questions and get their wheels turning. The last issue has some of the strongest story elements in the whole series and there are a lot of great payoffs. I’m excited for it to get out there into people’s hands.
Black Hammer / Justice League: Hammer of Justice! currently has four of six issues available at your local comic shop or digitally through ComiXology and Amazon Kindle. Issue #5 is due out on November 13th, 2019. Comicon would like to thank Michael Walsh for taking the time to speak with us.