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Welcome back to GEOFF JOHNS PRIME, CBR's bi-monthly visit with superstar DC Comics writer Geoff Johns.
Each time around, Johns answers a flurry of reader-generated questions in between co-writing “Brightest Day" and re-birthing Barry Allen and Hal Jordan in "The Flash" and "Green Lantern," respectively. Johns’ also DC Entertainment’s Chief Creative Officer, which keeps him busy overseeing DC’s multimedia ventures like the Green Lantern movie and upcoming animated series.
With the genre fiction community descending upon San Diego for what will no doubt be the biggest Comic-Con ever, Johns shares his thoughts on everything from the new Aqualad appearing in “Brighest Day” to those live-action Blue Beetle images that surfaced a few weeks back. He also answers questions about what’s ahead for Captain Marvel, Firestorm, Aquaman and Mera and re-confirms that he has no plans to leave the “Green Lantern” ongoing series anytime soon because he feels there is no limit to the amount of stories that can be told with Hal, Atrocitus, Larfleeze and Dex-Starr. That’s right, Dex-Starr.
So enough already, let's make like Aquaman and dive right in to GEOFF JOHNS PRIME.
CBR News: Is it safe to assume your new gig is keeping you pretty busy?
GEOFF JOHNS: It’s been very busy, right, but that’s a good thing. We’re getting the Green Lantern animated series up and running. We’re about four weeks out from wrapping up the Green Lantern movie. And I think we’re going to have some exciting stuff in development on the television front announced soon. I work with an incredible group of talented people both at Warner Bros. and DC.
Duskknight45 and several other CBR readers wanted to know how involved you are in the Green Lantern animated series. Are you writing episodes for the animated series?
Not yet. Maybe if I have time and they’ll have me, but I am working with Warner Bros. Animation on it. Creative collaboration is the best part of the day. I love writing, but the one thing I don’t love about writing is that most of the time it’s you in front of a computer solo, which I find boring. I like people and I like working with passionate people, especially when you’re brainstorming ideas together.
When will that series launch?
Not until fall 2011. It feels so far away, but I guess that’s right around the corner.
Before we get going with more reader questions, what’s the deal with those Blue Beetle test footage images that you released a few weeks back?
It’s a work-in-progress. I can’t really say more than that right now but there will be some Blue Beetle news of some kind very soon. And for everyone at San Diego, I’ll be showing the clip at a few panels.
Let’s start with “The Flash.” The first story arc is a lot of fun and Francis [Manapul] is really bringing his ‘A’ game.
Francis is a genius. And that’s the tone I wanted to do, very accessible and a lot of fun. That’s what The Flash is all about. I wanted the book to have a lot of heart, a bit like our run with Superboy in “Adventure Comics.” I love writing that book. Coming up, we’ll see a new supporting cast member, a new villain, the return of the Pied Piper, more on Captain Boomerang and, of course, the Flash Family as we race towards “Flashpoint.”
You’ve been writing Barry Allen for more than a year now. Is he the character you thought you were bringing back to the DCU? Or have you learned more about him as you write him every month?
You learn more about every character as you go. That certainly happened with JSA. I learned more about Atom Smasher, Mister Terrific, Power Girl and Hourman. When you’re writing these characters, it’s always a discovery. And sometimes you think you know the character, but the character takes you places that you didn’t expect.
My favorite thing about Barry Allen is the fact that his sense of right and wrong is so strong. He’s so grounded. And he has the ability – in both of his lives – to do good and to help people.
This question came from a number of readers, have you found some major differences between Barry and Wally, a character you are obviously very familiar with having written his series for nearly several years?
There is a major difference. I grew up with Wally. I love Wally [and former Wally writers] Mike Baron, [William] Messner-Loebs and [Mark] Waid. Then I wrote him for five years and that run is something I’m still incredibly proud of. So coming back to “Flash,” I wanted to approach it differently. And writing it with Barry is very different. So far, to be honest, the biggest difference is that Barry’s life outside the costume is just as important, if not more important, than his life as The Flash. So that pushes that character, Barry, and that world around him in a whole different direction for me. Barry’s life isn’t just about being The Flash. Barry’s life is about justice and fairness. And I like that. We get to go into the police precinct and dig into cold cases and new cases. It’s a little bit of an old school comic book where you have to balance a secret identity and a job. Not a lot of heroes’ personal lives are as integral to their superheroes stories as their personal lives. In fact, I’m having a hard time thinking of one. It’s really refreshing.
We’ve heard about “Flashpoint,” but reader Chris O’Halloran asked if you had a plan to feature Barry Allen in an epic event within the DCU or even a trilogy of universe-spanning stories like you did with Hal Jordan?
I can’t say much. “Flashpoint” is five-issue series that’s going to introduce a lot of new and familiar characters, focus on Barry Allen and the DCU and it’s out sometime next year.
And you’re working with Andy Kubert on “Flashpoint.”
Actually we’ve already started on it. We’re about halfway through the first issue. Andy is obviously one of the best artists working today and he comes from that great Kubert family. The way he approaches everything is really top-notch. There is a lot of design work in “Flashpoint.” I’m really fortunate to be able to work with someone like him.
William Schwartz had a question about continuity. He asked that you explain the continuity of Professor Zoom, a.k.a. Reverse Flash, between “Blackest Night,” “Blackest Night: Flash,” “Flash: Rebirth” and “Brightest Day.” He's alive and then imprisoned in “Flash: Rebirth,” which also hints at his soon-to-come resurrection. He's a Black Lantern in “Blackest Night: Flash” but also alive and imprisoned before being frozen by Captain Cold. He's then resurrected at the end of “Blackest Night” and escapes, yet he is still in prison. Is that right?
You’ll see more with Reverse Flash in “Brightest Day” and then “The Flash.” But he definitely has the timeline right. I mean, if you look at it from our point of view, in a linear timeline, he was resurrected by the Black Ring, brought back to life by the White Lantern, he then time traveled, brings Barry Allen back, gets stopped by Barry Allen and he’s get imprisoned in Iron Heights. I know. [laughs] Does anyone have an aspirin?
You mentioned, “Brightest Day” and that’s takes us into your next title. It’s a bi-weekly series. DC has had a lot of success dating back to “52,” another project you were involved with, with weekly serialized stories the last few years. How are you enjoying it this time around?
I can’t believe we’re already approaching the halfway mark. I love working with Peter Tomasi. And I love the characters involved in it. There’s a fairly major turning point in “Brightest Day” #7, and then from #7 on, the stories start to take a different focus. But yes, I’m really enjoying it. I always enjoy working with [co-writer] Peter [Tomasi]. Peter’s great. And the artists are amazing. Ivan Reis and Joe Prado are tackling Aquaman, Aqualad and Deadman. Scott Clark is doing Firestorm. Patrick Gleason is doing Martian Manhunter and Ardian Syaf is doing Hawkman. Peter and I are working with a stellar team. Also [editors] Eddie Berganza and Adam Schlagman are really pouring their all into this too.
Is that how you and Tomasi are breaking up the writing? Are you each taking different characters?
We work on everything together but yes, we do work on specific characters. One of the characters I’m enjoying the most is Aquaman. Aquaman, Mera and Aqualad. The fact that we got to sort of re-introduce Mera in “Blackest Night” and have been able to carry that all the way through to “Brightest Day” is important to me. She’s become one of the most intriguing characters in recent years, for me at least, to write. She just has so much potential to be one of the A-listers of the DCU.
Metageek has noticed that we’re five issues into “Brightest Day” and the general pace up until now has been dedicating three to four pages in each issue to each of the characters. This past issue, Aquaman and Mera were featured in nearly half the book. Will we start to see a gradual shift to where more pages are dedicated to specific characters to further their individual stories?
It all depends on the story. We wanted to balance all the characters out until #7. Then from there, that will give us a chance to really spotlight certain characters. Some books will feature everybody. Sometimes it will be two, whatever the story requires, but expect to see more of the issues dedicated to specific characters in the months ahead.
You introduced a new Aqualad in #4 and he was really well received online on the message boards. Were you expecting that kind of reaction?
Developing Aqualad with Warners Animation was literally the first thing I did when [DC Entertainment President] Diane Nelson brought me in as CCO so he’s a character I am incredibly invested in. And I think the excitement will only grow when people find out who he is and discover his secret origin in “Brightest Day” #9 and #10. He’s going to bring a lot to the table. There’s a lot more to him than just being the new Aqualad. We’re going to see his origin unfold throughout this whole series. Jackson plays a vital role in Aquaman and Mera’s story from here on out.
Ian Yoxon asked if you see “Brightest Day” as an opportunity to showcase individual characters with the hope of possibly launching new ongoing series once it’s complete like was done with “Booster Gold” after “52?” For instance, Aquaman and Mera’s story, perhaps more than anyone else’s, seems to be front and center in the book. So I’ll ask flat out, do you have plans for Aquaman and Mera post-“Brightest Day?”
There are plans for Aquaman, Mera and Aqualad after “Brightest Day,” yes.
Allen Thornton noted that many people, he included, missed a very significant clue in “Blackest Night” #8 that Deadman was the new White Lantern. It wasn't until it was mentioned to him that he saw the White Ring on his finger, which he then mentioned to a friend, passing the awareness on. His question is was there any other subtle clues like that in “Blackest Night” and “Brightest Day” that he and others may have missed and once they’re revealed will cause a collective head slap? And if there are clues, are you surprised that people are not seeing them?
There are clues for just about everything. There are clues about Firestorm. His story is just beginning and where Jason and Ronnie go, you can go back to “Blackest Night” and see some seeds that will be touched on. The stories were really set up because we knew we were going to be doing a lot with Jason and Mera post-“Blackest Night” and “Brightest Day,” so you should go back, and check out what was planted, especially with Mera and Firestorm, but there are other things too, with the White Lantern, specifically. The history of what the White Lantern is doing on Earth and where it’s going and what’s happening to it now, all comes to light in #7.
“The Flash” and “Brightest Day” have both achieved great success out of the gates but “Green Lantern” is the title, and now the franchise, that most people associate you with. You’ve been on the core title for nearly six years. Any creative fatigue with the character and the concept or are you still as passionate about Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps as ever?
Absolutely, and I spend most of my time on Green Lantern in all media right now. On the comic book writing front, I’ve got no plans for leaving “Green Lantern.” And the thing I love about “Green Lantern” is that we’re putting so many new characters out there that are actually sticking around. I mean, the reaction to Dex-Starr is beyond what [artist] Shane [Davis] and I ever dreamed of. Characters as minor as Dex-Starr and major as Saint Walker or Atrocitus or Indigo, it’s really great to have so many new characters capture people’s imagination. I enjoy writing them. Atrocitus, Indigo, all of these characters. And the Green Lantern universe is endless – an endless tapestry of writers and artists working together. That’s the best thing about it.
To have a little six-page story about Dex-Starr and have people connect to it emotionally is really special. And the reason that it worked is all the creators tell those great tales about the Green Lantern Corps, they were all about overcoming fear and when you’re able to tell tales of other things that we can relate to, for me, the story about Dex-Starr was a story about loss and relating to loss and the anger we feel as human beings. We all have emotions, universally as living beings we are constantly processing and projecting.
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Loss is something that I’ve dealt with personally, so being able to tell a story through these characters about what it’s like to be alive, for me that’s what Green Lantern is about. Once you master overcoming fear, there is still a lot left to life. Just because Hal has overcome fear and overcome struggles in his own life and interpreting what fear is compensates for his father’s death and being a hot-shot and a daredevil who shows off a bit, there’s still a lot more to deal with in life.
I like looking inward as much as outward. And for me, “Green Lantern” has always been about exploration. Among the “Star Wars,” superhero, color coalition of characters, it really is all about looking inward. And a little bit of self-awareness can go along way you’re dealing with your own emotions. When you have road rage, you lash out. You explode not because the guy just you off, there is something else going on. Most people blow it off, but if you explode, there is something bothering you already, whether it’s built-up frustration or anger. It’s projection. And that’s the thing I love about Green Lantern and expanding this universe. You can have a lot of fun with these characters. Dex-Starr is a lot of fun. Larfleeze is a lot of fun. But you can also tell tales about life and dealing with life. And that’s what “Blackest Night” was about. Despite the pitfalls we all face, it’s good to be alive.
I know you love these science questions. C F asks a question, which even he admits is slightly bizarre. If a yellow impurity caused by Parallax affected the Green rings by tainting them with fear, would using Ion on the other six Lantern Corps create a green impurity which would give them more control over their rings, especially the violet and red ones?
Yes, theoretically that might work. You’d have to not only use Ion, you’d have to imprison him in the central Yellow Power Battery, which would take immense power. I don’t know that anybody could accomplish that but the Guardians.
Chris Cordick, one of many self-described big fans of your work, noticed a striking similarity to the shackles given to William Hand by the Indigo Tribe and the remnants of the shackles worn by Nekron. Was this merely a coincidence? Or was Nekron at one time at the mercy of the Tribe, being made to feel compassion for the living?
Chris is very astute. You’ll learn more about the Indigo Tribe and what the Indigo Tribe is really all about in some upcoming issues. We haven’t even been to their home planet yet. We don’t know what the shackles mean or what the rings do or where the Tribe came from. And we haven’t checked in with Black Hand in awhile.
Joe in Bethlehem, PA wants to know what's on your pull list when you’re shopping at your store, Earth-2 Comics?
I mostly go by writer but I love “Sweet Tooth” from Vertigo. I love “Sweet Tooth.” “American Vampire.” “Northlanders.” I’m excited to see what’s coming up in “Action Comics” and “Superman.” I’m really excited to see what Grant [Morrison]’s going to do with Batman, especially, the finale of the “Return of Bruce Wayne.” And I’ve been enjoying “R.E.B.E.L.S.” and “Justice League: Generation Lost.” “Walking Dead,” “Fantastic Four” and anything by Eric Powell.
You mentioned “Sweet Tooth” and “Action Comics,” two books written by two of DC’s newest exclusive writers Jeff Lemire and Paul Cornell. In your role as DC’s Chief Creative Officer, how exciting is it to bring these new writers into the DCU stable, a stable you called in the last GEOFF JOHNS PRIME, the Justice League of Writers.
DC Co-Publishers] Jim [Lee] and Dan [DiDio] head up publishing and editorial and they are very dedicated to bringing in new talent, but we have talked a lot about is bringing in new voices and unleashing them in the DCU. I really love what Jeff Lemire does and I really love what Paul Cornell does. They’re such great writers. And you want new voices at every company. If you want to do something different, it’s important to bring in different voices. Scott Snyder (“American Vampire”) is another one. There is an increasing new wave of writers and artists to DC, like David Finch (“Batman: The Dark Knight”). That’s exciting to see.
One more question here from Dan Collins and he wants an update on Captain Marvel, specifically, if we’ll see Billy Batson back as Captain Marvel again this year?
Speaking on behalf of DC Entertainment, Captain Marvel is a big character for us. If you wanted to ask specifics about Captain Marvel, Billy Batson and the Marvel Family in comics, you’d have to ask Dan and Jim. Obviously, I know there is a lot of passion for Captain Marvel but just know, outside the comic books, he’s a character that we talk a lot about in Burbank. He’s a very important character. His whole mythology is terrific. I think Billy, Mary and Freddy and everybody have so much potential. It’s like Harry Potter and superheroes. It just a fantastic superhero universe and one that I think really needs to be further explored as do a lot of other people. I would expect Shazam to become an increasing presence, among many others.
Thank-you, Geoff. Drink lots of water this weekend.
Thanks so much and I hope to see you all at Comic-Con. All Will Be Well!