DC Comics writer Tom Taylor on Injustice and its comic book prequel
GAME NAME: Injustice: Gods Among Us
PLATFORM(S): Wii U, PS3, Xbox 360
RELEASE DATE(S): 17 April 2013
During last weekend’s Battle Arena Melbourne event, we had the opportunity to sit down and speak with Tom Taylor (above right; also, not the Star Wars dude, nor Felicia Day), writer of DC Comics’ Injustice: Gods Among Us comic book prequel. Tom was able to offer a ton of insight on the comic series, breaking into the industry, his work on Star Wars and his own creator-owned project The Deep… and, of course, the Injustice game too.
Also, before you continue on, please be aware that there are some minor spoilers pertaining to issues 1 to 18 of the Injustice prequel in this interview.
Stevivor: It’s taking me a lot of willpower here – I should be in the Green Lantern Corps because of it -- to not ask super fanboy questions like, “Whoa! We thought we knew who Nightwing was, but now clearly we don’t! Can you confirm that he is now who we think he is?” You know, that kind of stuff.
Tom: You’re allowed to ask those questions. I won’t answer them, but you can ask. *laughs*
Stevivor: I’ll try to behave. So, we thought Injustice was going to run twelve issues, and now we’re at eighteen… does the series have a set amount of issues in its run?
Tom Taylor: It was a certain period, and then it became a longer period... and now it’s an even longer period!
Injustice has been crazy successful; on Amazon, our first eighteen issues are the top eighteen issues in terms of single-issue comic sales. Comixology is the same; we’re selling really, really well. And, we’ve got a lot more story to tell. Because the game is set five years after this prequel, we have a lot of leeway in terms of what we can do.
I do know where Injustice’s story is going to end now. It is finite; it’s not ongoing. I can tell you I’ve just finished writing chapter twenty five, so it’s at least going to that. Also, I can say I haven’t finished writing there.
Stevivor: How much of that five year period is in your head, right now?
Tom: I don’t have the whole five years mapped out, but I do know that I’m not going to go right up to the game. For me, Injustice is kind of like the break-up of the World’s Finest friendship.
Stevivor: Aww! That idea is just really sad.
Tom: It is. We see Superman and Batman happy at the start of Injustice. Superman’s going to be a Dad, and Batman’s going to be the Godfather… and, they’re happy. Now, the whole world’s going nuts of course, but the important thing to me -- at the core of the book -- is the friendship between Superman and Batman and how I’ve had to break that down.
Stevivor: Is that core the reason why these comics have been so successful?
Tom: Oh, yeah. Superman and Batman can’t end up like this in the regular DC Universe. There’s a sense of permanence about Injustice, and people know that. Spoiler alert, but in the first chapter, we shot Jimmy Olsen in the head. That wasn’t in the game bible or anything, but I put it in there to show people how far we’d go. And no one at NetherRealm or DC even batted an eyelid.
Stevivor: How much of Injustice is yours, and what’s NetherRealm’s? Did you come up with all this, or…?
Tom: It was definitely started by NetherRealm. I was brought onto this by DC and given a game script, but I was able to work towards the game however I wanted. I wrote to that, and I had a huge amount of freedom.
Yes, Lois had to die, but it was really up to me to decide how that happened. I tried to do it in a way that was tragic, but also was as non-violent as possible. I didn’t actually want to see Superman hit Lois…
I’ve had a remarkable amount of freedom. I talk to the game writers quite a lot, and I know that they’re happy with what I’m doing. And, I think they did an incredible job on the game too.
Stevivor: There have been some great, personal moments in your run so far. Immediately coming to mind are sequences with Green Arrow and Harley Quinn in “The Quiver,” or Flash running through Australia. Do you have favourite characters to write for?
Tom: Green Arrow and Harley Quinn’s little story is still my favourite. I’ve developed this insane love for Harley since I’ve been writing her; I mean, I’ve always loved her, but I do even more now. I’ve just written some new stuff with Green Arrow, and I love him too.
I have this one person who’s officially my reader; the person who gets to see my stuff before anyone else sees it – so let’s throw a shout-out to Kym Bagley. Anyways, I was showing the new Green Arrow stuff to Kym, and she went, “You realise he’s the actual hero of Injustice, right?” He really is; he’s the beating heart of the piece. But really, I could sit here and list every single character.
Stevivor: Speaking of all characters, do you have to write to a specific quota per in-game character to ensure they’re in included the comic? Raven, as an example, hasn’t featured too much but has made a quick appearance in issue 18…
Tom: Nope, it’s all up to me. I obviously want to touch upon each character that’s in the game, but we’ve only got ten pages per week; we can’t really do everybody justice in Injustice, but I wish we could. I’d love to be able to say I’m writing a ten-pager about Raven, but I just can’t.
Next week, we do have a ten-pager that features Shazam, and we’ve just done a bit on Catwoman. The bit with Flash in Australia was great to do to…
Stevivor: Actually, on that: our readers wanted to know why that Australian chapter featured Melbourne over Sydney…
Tom: Well, Melbourne is the greatest city in the world, according to the United Nations.
Stevivor: Sure is! And Vancouver was before that.
Tom: It was, but then you had hockey riots. So, thanks for those.
Stevivor: Anytime, eh? *laughs*
Tom: So, really, it wasn’t my choice in the end. Melbourne is better, though.
Stevivor: We should move on, and quickly. In terms of other characters, we’ve seen Batwoman and Huntress as examples in the book so far. Beyond that, NetherRealm’s introducing four new characters as DLC – Lobo and Batgirl are known as of today. Are you planning on working those DLC characters into the story in more prominent roles?
Tom: I didn’t know who the DLC characters were going to be early on– I do now, though, and I know many other things that are definitely going to excite people playing this game. Some characters, I’d happened to have written for already, and others I hadn’t… so, let’s just say you’ll see. But I won’t shove those characters into my story if they won’t fit.
Stevivor: That’s the way it should be. Now, we’ve had a ton of community members asking questions, and chief among them is a burning desire for tips on how to break into the industry. Can you speak on that a bit?
Tom: Well, I wouldn’t just start by emailing DC Comics; that’s probably not realistic. People do try that quite a bit, though!
It’s very difficult to break in to the industry, and no one is going to suggest otherwise. I’m one of the only people in Australia, from a writing point of view, who has ever done it. At the moment, I think I am the only full time comic writer in the country. It’s very hard.
What I’d suggest is, have something done already. You can’t go up to DC, or Dark Horse, or Marvel, or even Image without having some sort of track record. I mean, I was a multi-award winning playwright before I was a comic book writer. That sounds impressive, but that means I made about $50…
Stevivor: I’m a journalist; I’m in that same boat.
Tom: So you understand. *laughs* But, that helped. I had one play of mine -- which was my most successful play -- adapted into a comic book by a guy called Colin Wilson with Gestalt Publishing. I think people saw enough from that comic to take a chance on me; from that one comic, I was given a Star Wars series.
Now, with the internet, you can tweet a link to an editor, and there’s a chance they may look at some of your work online. We live in a world where we’re very connected, and if you think some of your work is great, there’s a chance that others will too.
Stevivor: In terms of technology and connectivity, I’d be remiss not to talk about Comixology. What do services like that mean to you? Are they helping the industry, or killing it? Does it affect you personally?
Tom: It’s brilliant. There was a lot of fear, early on, that digital was going to come in and be the death of brick and mortar stores. What we’ve found is the exact opposite; these services have come along, and they just mean that more people have access to comics. We’re seeing that quite a lot of people buy digitally and then walk into a store and buy a physical copy of a book too. All sales are up across the board, and that’s a great thing.
Stevivor: Great to hear. Now, you’ve been involved with Star Wars, Injustice, and your own work, The Deep. What’s your favourite book to work on?
Tom: Oh, The Deep. It’s my baby.
Stevivor: The floor is yours; tell us about it.
Tom: The Deep is my own creator-owned series about a multi-ethnic family who live on a submarine, and their adventures. I’ve two boys myself, and I found that when I was writing comics early on, there was nothing that I felt was good enough for kids. There are kids comics, but they were dull and boring, and I wanted to slam my head against the wall as I read them to my children. They weren’t written for kids; they weren’t really written for anybody – they were simply written to avoid controversy.
So, I wrote a couple of Star Wars adventure stories; little graphic novels for an all-ages audience, but ACTUALLY for an all-ages audience. They’re more like a Pixar story -- something that I’d want to read to my kids myself and have them enjoy it too. That’s The Deep.
It’s been optioned by Technicolour, and we’re currently developing it into a 24 episode CG animated series. The book really has gone from strength to strength, and it really makes me happy. The thing just fills your heart with rainbows as you read it.
Stevivor: Any Tridents? Or the option for a fighting game down the track?
Tom: *laughs* I don’t think so. There’s actually no violence in the book at all; it’s all peril-based. But, it’s gotten a huge buzz, and people love it all over the world. Pick it up, people!
Stevivor: Just to finish up, let’s delve into the game a bit. Have you played any Injustice?
Tom: Yep! I went through story mode with a bunch of my mates one night.
Stevivor: Favourite characters?
Tom: I do like Aquaman and his Trident. It’s fun slamming it into the ground, and you can use it to feed people to a shark. Green Arrow’s quite fun to play with as well.
Stevivor: Since we’re at a fighting game tournament, are you going to pick up a controller and have a go at Injustice?
Tom: Oh, no. I’m too scared. You’ve seen the quality of fighters in this room; I just know I’d get my ass kicked. I might try Tekken though, because I’ve played Tekken for a lot longer than I’ve played Injustice. I think I’d be very, very embarrassed if I picked up Injustice, and I don’t want to disappoint all our great fans.
We'd like to thank Tom for a great chat!