Thursday at Comic-Con International saw Geoff Johns take the stage for a panel dedicated to the DC Comics writer and his hugely popular body of work. Longtime “Green Lantern” editor Eddie Berganza introduced Johns to incredible applause, after which the pair quickly listed Johns’ current projects, including the newly announced “Blackest Night: The Flash.” The project begins in December and will be illustrated by Scott Kollins, with whom Johns worked before on the “Flash” ongoing series. The book will “see some dead Rogues come back to say hello.”
The panel was quickly turned over to the large audience for questions, the first of which being, “What advice do you have for aspiring writers?” Johns said the best way to improve one’s craft is to simply write as much as possible, whether comics scripts, screenplays, prose or even journalism. He also recommended the book “The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure fo Writers” by Christopher Vogel, as well as the book “Shot By Shot.”
Asked whether Barry Allen’s return to the DC Universe is only temporary, Johns assured fans that was not the case; that Barry is here to stay, and that he is a primary star of “Blackest Night.”
Johns discussed the nature of the particularly gruesome violence seen in “Blackest Night” #1, saying, “It pushed the boundaries for sure,” but that “Blackest Night” is a horror story about superheroes, and is thusly super-horrifying. With respect to the murders of Hawkman and Hawkgirl – two characters Johns brought to prominence and that he said he had “a lot of love for” – Johns said their end was fitting given the couple’s dominant theme: love that was never to be. He added that the most horrifying Black Lanterns are the “lighter” characters like Ralph and Sue Dibney, a couple that represented “pure love,” making their murder of the Hawks “the most horrific way I could have played it.” Johns also said that beyond thematic resonance, there is an in-story reason why Black Hand chose the Dibneys to execute the Hawks, and that it will be revealed as “Blackest Night” continues.
A clever fan asked whether Hal Jordan will battle with an undead Abin Sur, to which Johns responded, “Absolutely.”
Another well-read Green Lantern fan asked if Sinestro’s sister or the disgraced Krona will be seen in Johns’ work, and the writer said they will.
The Green Lantern Corps has Ion. The Sinestro Corps has Parallax. The Black Lantern Corps has Black Hand. Who is the embodiment of the Star Sapphires’ power? Johns said the character is a male called Predator, who will be seen as events unfold.
Johns revealed his favorite Lantern character is Agent Orange, who he likened to Daffy Duck circa 1942.
Another clever fan asked Johns if Krypto the Super Dog would battle Dek-Starr, the ultra-violent feline of the Red Lantern Corps. “It was supposed to be a secret, but yes,” Johns confirmed to huge applause.
Briefly touching on his work on “Smallville,” Johns revealed that he and the show’s producers had discussed depicting the 31st century on the CW series, but that budget restraints made it impossible. For example, if such a direction had been pursued, Lightning Lad would not have been able to demonstrate any of his electricity powers, making the whole thing rather pointless.
An enthusiastic Geoff Johns fan from Scotland asked Johns about Hector Hammond, who has not been seen since the “Secret Origin” arc of “Green Lantern.” Johns answered by saying he will remain with the title for the foreseeable future, and that Hammond is a “major character” for the book throughout 2010 and 2011.
A longtime DC reader attempted to stump Johns with a decidedly involved Barry Allen question the writer had already received in CBR’s last edition of GEOFF JOHNS PRIME, where CBR reader Darthprincip broke it down thusly:
Barry Allen doesn’t look like Barry Allen anymore. Big Sir bashed his face in back in “Flash” #340 or thereabouts and Flash went to Gorilla City to get surgery on his face. While Solovar was repairing his face, Barry asked him to make some cosmetic changes as well, a major plot point when Barry’s lawyer unmasked him during the trial. “Flash” #350 established that Iris needed to get used to Barry’s “new face” and that they “lived happily ever after...for awhile,” which is a reference to “Crisis on Infinite Earths.”
During “Crisis,” Barry is never unmasked, to my memory, at least, so we can assume he still has his new face. He dies in “Crisis” #8, absorbed into the speed force or whatever only to return in “Final Crisis” #2 and his face is first shown in “Flash: Rebirth” # 1 – the wrong face. So what’s up with his face?
Johns answered, “The answer is simple. You assume he still had the “new” face, but between “Flash” #350 and “Crisis” #8 they had plenty of time for the Tornado Twins and reverting Barry’s face back to normal.”
A fan representing the Brian Michael Bendis’ Jinxworld forums asked if the Justice League of the 1970s indulged in “swinger parties.” “The JLA didn’t,” said Johns. “But the Teen Titans might have.”
Johns and Berganza confirmed DC will be distributing more free Lantern rings in the months ahead.
A dedicated Kyle Raynor fan took the opportunity to ask Johns why he had chosen to return Hal Jordan as the highest-profile Green Lantern, citing Kyle’s artistic abilities and consequently more interesting ring constructs. “I like Kyle a lot but for me, the artist thing is just a superficial visual. It’s a cool visual, but Green Lantern is all about overcoming fear. And I think we can all relate to overcoming fear more than we can about being able to create a giant green rocketship. If Hal Jordan wasn’t here, there would be no ‘Sinestro Corps War,’ there would be no ‘Blackest Night.’ Hal Jordan came back because I believe in the thematic of overcoming great fear.
“Every day, the news is saying things like, ‘Which meat is poisoned? Tune in at 11 to find out!’ So they’re scaring me into watching their TV show. I feel we’re bombarded with fear, terrorism… people are afraid to leave their house. It’s a prevalent thematic that we all deal with.”
Johns added that Kyle Raynor will “never” be killed off, and that he will become more of a focus in “Green Lantern Corps” as the book continues.
Asked directly if he’s working on anything Justice League-related for the future, Johns answered, “Maybe. I don’t know. I’m a terrible liar.”
Johns advised those interested in Green Lantern Sodom Yat to follow events in “Superman: New World of New Krypton,” where the Kryptonians and the Daxamites interact.
A fan asked about the Guardians’ nature as a co-ed organization. Johns said “there is a story there” and to keep reading “Green Lantern” for what he is presently calling “Secret Origin II.”
Johns indicated that something very important will happen with the Indigo Tribe by flatly refusing to discuss them at all. Keep an eye on them.
Johns confirmed that Starman’s “new quest” has nothing to do with “Blackest Night,” and will be depicted as a co-feature in “Adventure Comics.”
With respect to creator-owned work, Johns had this to say: “I have a book that I want to do but it’s all about time right now. But I have to say, in all honesty, I just love writing the DC superheroes. It’s what I like to do. I would like to do something at Vertigo just to do something completely out of the box. Superheroes are the only thing born in comics. You’ve got all your other genres in comics, but they all came from outside. I also like that this is the one place where you can do this kind of long form storytelling. I can be on ‘Green Lantern’ and tell one giant story, and for me that’s a great type of writing.”
“Aquaman: Rebirth?” asked a fan. Johns said he loves Aquaman and that the sea king has a big role to play in “Blackest Night.” Johns also said he loves writing Mera, who he likened to the Queen in “300.”
Will there be any Geoff Johns Flash work after “Blackest Night: The Flash?” Johns said, “The Magic 8-ball says, ‘In your favor.’”
Johns said that those eager to see Barry Allen interact with Kyle Raynor and Hal Jordan interact with Bart Allen, “You will see that. That’s part of the fun of having Barry back.”
A fan with 40 bucks riding on the answer asked this: “Back in ‘DC One Million’ we saw John talking to Kyle, saying he’d helped him through the darkest time in his life in the future. Is that going to tie-in to ‘Blackest Night’ in any way?”
Johns sighed deeply. The fan said, “I just won 40 bucks didn’t I?”
“You should cash that in,” said Johns.
Asked about Ryan Renyolds being cast as Hal Jordan, Johns said the actor had “the right swagger” for “early Hal Jordan,” and that he is looking forward to seeing Reynolds and director Martin Campbell working together.
“Will the Anti-Monitor ever come out of the Black Lantern power battery?” asked a young fan. Johns answered, “He’s the power source. He is imprisoned. I don’t think he is very happy in there.”
Johns concluded the panel by praising the work of his “Green Lantern” and “Blackest Night” collaborator Ivan Reis, who he said should win every art award in the comics industry. “You just can’t deny his talent.”
Johns also confirmed that DC will release an Absolute Edition of “Green Lantern: Rebirth” in 2010.