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Absolute Power: Mark Waid Reveals The Truth Behind The Fall Of DC Superheroes - Exclusive Interview

Amanda Waller's quest to take out all metahumans in the DC Universe comes to a head in "Absolute Power" (by Mark Waid, Dan Mora, Alejandro Sanchez, and Ariana Maher), as the upcoming event makes the greatest heroes and villains powerless.

With the help of Failsafe, an android designed to take out Batman should he ever go rogue (created by the Batman of Zur-En-Arrh), and the power-absorbing Brainiac Queen, Waller can steal the super powers of anyone who stands in her way. The usual Suicide Squad leader will use Amazo Robots with stolen abilities to recreate the Justice League, forming Task Force VII to replace the greatest heroes on Earth. It will be up to the powerless heroes and villains, led by Batman — fighting alongside some unlikely allies — to overthrow Waller's army and return the world back to some semblance of normality.

"Absolute Power" sees Waid and Mora, the talented team behind "Batman/Superman: World's Finest" – one of the best DC Comics out right now – work together for the exciting event. In an exclusive interview, Xoop spoke with Waid about what to expect in the storyline, Waller's rise to power, and what long-ranging effects "Absolute Power" may have on the DC Universe.

On making a statement with Absolute Power

Your work on "Batman/Superman: World's Finest" with Dan Mora is tonally the opposite of "Absolute Power" — what was it like to make that shift, and was it important to maintain that visual thread through his art in both stories?

It wasn't as hard to make that shift as you would think. With "World's Finest" the stories are fun and they have consequences, they have stakes and they have heart and pathos. They're not just goofy silver age stories, but at the same time, there's only so much you can do about raising the stakes because there's story set in the past and therefore there's not going to be any permanent changes happening there. Whereas with this, with the latitude, the leeway to be able to do things on a bigger worldwide scale that actually have lasting consequences, the goal in my part was to leave the heroes completely helpless at the end of issue one. I'm a big fan of cliffhangers that are not, "Gee, will he live?" or "Gee, will she be able to escape this trap?" but more cliffhangers that are like, no, there is no hope. The villain has won and you cannot possibly fight back.

On the surface, "Absolute Power" is about loss; in a more literal sense, the loss of super powers, but also the loss of belief in heroes, not just as gods, but as a benevolent force in the world, undermined as they are by a clandestine plot laid against them by malicious actors. We see a citizenry, twisted by misinformation, taking arms against institutions. We see a hostile takeover of the mainstream media at the Daily Planet. We see holes quite literally shot through the living symbol for truth, justice, and the American way. You're no stranger to making bold and powerful statements in and outside of your comics career, of course, and it seems — at least in part — that the current political landscape is reflected from the very first issue. But were there particular flash-points (no DC pun intended) that inspired the table dressing for this story, as well as its inevitable outcome, or is this a more general representation of something?

It is more general representation of something. I wrote this thing back many months ago and started planning this thing out even earlier. It was pretty obvious that as we roll into the 2024 elections, regardless of what political stance you take, AI and deep fakes are going to be an even more pernicious and scary part of the process, and the ability to misuse them is not just theoretical. So being able to apply that here is something that I felt was very resonant with what's going on today.

Amanda Waller becoming the big bad of the DC Universe

Amanda Waller has become the biggest threat to metahumans in the DC Universe. What was it like writing her at her most terrifying?

It was challenging because I have to get in that head. I have to get in the head of somebody who legitimately believes that she is 100% right in saying that we are better off without superheroes, and they are on the whole, a menace to society. She generally believes that at the same time, she's not a mustache twirling villain. There's a line in issue two that I really like, which is that somebody else is asking, "Okay, now do we go after the loved ones and the friends of the heroes to keep turning the screws?" And Amanda cuts them off and says, "No. Those are the people we are here to protect. I'm not a sociopath." She says it to people sort of chuckling around the room, but she generally believes that if you're wearing a cape and you're calling yourself a superhero, then you're a menace. If you're not doing that, then you may be some sort of threat, but not of that level, so she's not going to — she has lines she won't cross.

This might be getting in her head a little bit, but does she have finality in mind? Does she have a final point she wants to get to, or like you said, she won't cross certain lines ... Does that make her end mission that much more difficult to achieve?

In a way. She doesn't just need this to happen. She wants this to happen, and as I am paraphrasing something I wrote in issue one, there's a difference between need and want. Need you can solve. Need has an end, right? You need something, you get it, the need is over. But want just keeps getting more and more, want is omnivorous, want is something that in a lot of cases can never be sated, and that is her problem — that she wants this to happen, and therefore, as it all begins to come to fruition, her mind cannot help but process, "Okay. What next?"

"Absolute Power" definitely seems to have its main villains in Amanda Waller and the surprising "traitor" Green Arrow, but its protagonists are more of an ensemble, at least as it stands now, with a group in disarray. But is/are there a main protagonist(s), and why did you choose them to stand as such for this story? (At the end of the first issue, for example, we see Jon Kent — or at least something shaped like Jon Kent — teasing a much bigger role potentially, and frankly looking a bit messianic with holes in his hands and a wound at his side.)

Well, that's interesting. I don't feel like I chose them. I feel like they chose me. I feel like as I got into the book, it was a good story and will take you to places that you didn't know it was going to take you, both as a reader and as a writer. And it really surprised me that by taking Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman largely off the table for issue three (because they've got their side missions in their own books to deal with that all come back to the main book), it gave me a chance to elevate other characters: John Kent, Dreamer Nightwing, a couple of other surprising sort of B-listers, and in some cases some C-listers get a chance to shine. And some of the toys from the DC universe that we don't get to see very often are brought into play because the Justice League has access to some of this stuff. When was the last time you saw the helmet of Aztec? Well, if you were a big Aztec fan, this is the series for you.

On Absolute Power being a different kind of crisis

"Absolute Power" feels like a different kind of DC "Crisis" book, one grounded in a more ideological sense of the word, which makes its existential threat feel unique to others of its kind, using superheroes as symbols of ill-gotten or undeserved power. That, as a concept, has long been part of superhero stories, but it seems to be more and more prevalent in mainstream books and adaptations into other media; that is, the idea that superheroes act as mechanisms with which to address the battle for ideology and the myths we ascribe to systems of power.

Well, I was going to say, part of it is that I just don't do cosmic very well in my opinion, and also as you say, the last few DC events from "Dark Crisis" and "Death Metal" and so on have been so gigantic in scale that I really, I can't do that. I can't compete with that. My brain just doesn't work that way. They're great stories, but that's not what I do. So coming up with a more grounded threat gives me a chance to not have to spend so much time explaining cosmology and instead just getting to the heart of here's what's happening to these heroes. Here's how they feel about it. Do they all feel the same? Not necessarily. For some of these heroes, say Negative Man, having powers taken away is a blessing. You can finally act with other human beings again instead of being swaddled with radioactive bandages, so there's some variety of viewpoints in the heroes.

How do you think "Absolute Power" stands with the conversation alongside other books such as "The Boys" addressing mistrust and misinformation around heroes and the institutions they represent?

I hope it stands pretty solidly with that stuff, although that is not really the focus of a past issue one; that is more just one of Amanda's tactics to seal off the DC heroes from any avenue of escape. They can't even turn to ordinary people to help them at this point because again, they're cut off from space. They're cut off from time, they're cut off from the microverse, they're cut off from ordinary human beings. They're cut off from everything, and so there's the situation as of the end of issue one.

It's always great to see Amazo — or in this case, Amazos — in a story, but their use here seems to be more poignant or pointed, particularly as the only tie-in satellites around the event focuses on each member of the Amazo-populated Task Force VII. Do they represent something specific in the commentary of "Absolute Power" — the wresting or co-opting of power, perhaps? The dangers of AI? Or should we expect something completely unexpected from their presence?

I haven't given a whole lot of thought in a real meta sense, but they certainly are a good symbol of AI gone rogue. But what's interesting is that, as you'll see with a "Task Force VII" series, each one focusing on a different Amazo is that their abilities ... how do I put this? What Amanda did not foresee is if you're absorbing the powers of superheroes, if you're going at it as hardcore as the Amazos are, you run the risk of also absorbing some of the spirit of superheroes. And so each encounter with each of the seven Amazos, they go into battle with the same point of view and the same remit and the same objectives, but as each of them has their own story, each of them sort of grows in a slightly different direction.

Working with Dan Mora and their collaboration

Your work with Dan Mora is incredible; "Batman/Superman: World's Finest" is probably my favorite book on the stands right now just because it feels like a throw back to kind of some earlier DC stuff, and the "Kingdom Come" tie-in was really well done. What was it like to continue to work with Dan on this book and as I mentioned earlier, tackle an entirely different world, but with a lot of the same heroes, just kind of in much more perilous situations?

It's great. First off, Dan can draw anybody and make them look cool, and when you look at some of the D-listers that I have peppered the story with, you will have to agree, but there's an energy he brings to it. For somebody who can draw goofy and silly stuff like Bat-Mite as well as he does, it's astounding that he can also draw genuine moments of absolute terror. His versatility is astounding, and the fact that he is as good and as fast as he is, is unspeakably amazing.

A book like this allows you to explore the DC Universe and just go to random little sides that you might not have seen in a while, for example, with Animal Man and characters like that. What is it like in the event book to just kind of go wherever you want? What was it like to tackle some of these lesser-seen characters?

It is great because, again, I get to touch on some of the characters that I really like that I've never gotten a chance to write before, but beyond that, what it's like is just having the whole toy box open to you and being able to dive through that like Uncle Scrooge through the money bin or a Porpoise through the water, being able to just go through — and I did, believe me, I went through the entire DC pantheon. I didn't just put down the superheroes that I could remember off the top of my head when I wrote those books. I went through and combed through the last few years of DC comics to make sure that I was accounting for as best I could, every superhero that we had functioning today.

There are still some who just didn't make the cut because there's no way you can put 300 superheroes in one story, but at least all of them get some sort of lip service at the very least, and those who are actually in the story, I work very hard to make sure that each of them has a moment. Each of them has some characterization to them that is unique to them.

Lastly, this book is setting a lot of things up. Will there be kind of long-ranging effects on the status quo in the DC universe when it's said and done?

Absolutely. I can think off the top of my head of at least three things that are coming out of this. You will not feel like you didn't get the finale, or you didn't get the closure that you wanted, but at the same time, leading out of this, there are at least three things. One of them super major and the other two, pretty big two that are going to be leading out of this.

Absolute Power is coming soon

Amanda Waller's mission to gain control of the DC Universe and powerless metahumans' attempts to stop her officially begins when "Absolute Power" #1 by DC Comics arrives in comic book stores and online retailers on July 3. Check out Dan Mora's main cover for issue one, featuring the Justice League, Task Force VII, and Waller together as the fight for the DC Universe soon begins. The text solicit for the issue follows.

THE HEROES OF THE DC UNIVERSE ARE POWERLESS! THE TRINITY OF EVIL HAS WON! ...THE RESISTANCE MUST RISE! DC's epic summer event kicks off with a bang, as the combined might of FAILSAFE and the BRAINIAC QUEEN has at last given Amanda Waller the ability to steal the metahuman abilities of every hero and villain on planet Earth. As chaos erupts in the streets and a massive misinformation campaign sways public opinion to her side, the founder of the Suicide Squad methodically targets each superhero dynasty one at a time, starting with SUPERMAN. But even in this darkest of hours, a resistance is forming... and BATMAN is out for vengeance. It's a shocking blitzkrieg across the globe that is decades in the making — and will shape the course of the DC Universe for years to come! Brought to you by the superstar talents of MARK WAID and DAN MORA — it all starts here!

This interview has been edited for clarity.