SPOILER WARNING: Major spoilers lie ahead for "Flashpoint" #1, which went on sale yesterday. Consider yourself WARNED!
Geoff Johns isn't a man known for slowing down. As Chief Creative Officer of DC Comics, the writer has piled more and more on his plate of the last year in comics and movies. But with yesterday's release of Johns and artist Andy Kubert's "Flashpoint" #1 – the kick-off to DC's summer event – many fans may have done a dead stop at the revelations held within the comics pages.
In a world where Barry "The Flash" Allen is mysteriously the only hero who remembers what the regular DC Universe was like, there are a number of new and different faces for readers including an Aquaman and a Wonder Woman who wage war throughout Europe and a team of kids granted the combined power of S!H!A!Z!A!M! But most significantly, the final page of "Flashpoint" #1 revealed that the Batman of this world – a violent vigilante who swings over the Wayne Casinos of Gotham City – is actually Thomas Wayne, the millionaire doctor who watched his wife and son Bruce gunned down in an alley years ago.
With this startling change kicking off the entire "Flashpoint" epic, CBR News spoke to Johns about his entire scheme for the story including why Barry Allen and Thomas Wayne are his main characters, what significant changes and older, old school Batman hold for the world, what all the new heroes have to learn about loss and where villain Professor Zoom is lurking. Plus, DC has provided CBR with a first look at Kubert's cover to "Flashpoint" #4!
CBR News: Geoff, "Flashpoint" #1 had a lot going on and some surprising twists we'll get to in a second, but the one element a lot of people weren't expecting was the idea that Flash and Batman share time as the leads of the book. Why these two together? What do they have in common beyond being men of science...the unsolved mysteries in their lives?
Geoff Johns: I think it's totally that, and it's also the loss both of them have experienced in their lives.
Loss seems a major theme here outside the changes of history. How does that fit into the Flash's life?
Loss is, I think, something that everyone in life has felt. Everyone has lost someone and suffered a loss. You never get over it. You incorporate it. And how you incorporate it when loss happens and how people react to that is a central theme to "Flashpoint."
Let's focus on "our Batman" for this story: Thomas Wayne. Everyone knows that in the regular world, Bruce's response to loss was to build himself up as a perfect man. We've gotten a tease for what makes Thomas different, but what was the main factor for you in how he's responded?
Well, suffering the loss of a child – I speak from experience with my parents – is the worst thing that can happen to anybody. It really is. And what that would do to somebody – especially when they're approaching middle age – means you ask what do you do now? What path does that send you on? With the Wayne family and Gotham, it sent Thomas on a darker path than it set Bruce on. And you'll definitely see what that darker path did. Thomas has been Batman a lot longer than Bruce ever was. He's very low tech because he's old school. But he's a very different Batman. He looks the same in most ways with his cowl on, but once you get to know him he's really different. You saw that a little bit in this first issue, and you'll see that more in #2 and 3.
The two big teases that jumped out about him in this issue were in Batman's narration where he referred to having blood on his hands and then later where he keeps the gun in a case in the Batcave. Is part of the implication here that we'll see what went down in Crime Alley that night before the series is done?
You will learn a lot more about what happened in Crime Alley. A lot of that is explored in "Batman: Knight of Vengeance." Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso did an absolutely amazing job on that. It's an amazing, amazing book, and it's something that I think a lot of people are really going to enjoy. But it's dark.
You'll have to read it to see how that unfolds. It's not exactly what you expect.
Now that Flash and Batman have teamed up, what's the first step in solving this mystery?
That's really what issue #2 is about.
Cyborg seems central to the world in that way. While Barry and Thomas are dealing with these losses and this mystery. How does Vic Stone fit into that ideal?
Cyborg is loss. Look at him. His loss is himself, and that's what he's dealing with.
Well, then the other big mystery tease we've seen in this issue is Professor Zoom and how he's lurking around Barry's mom. Will he play a big role immediately or will he continue to float at the edges for now?
That's to be determined. [Laughs] I wouldn't want to talk too much about Zoom right now, but obviously he's there.
One thing I think everyone wants to talk about is the wide cast of heroes who are different in subtle ways from the DC cast we know from the S!H!A!Z!A!M! kids to Shade the Changing Man. You've obviously built a lot of these guys up to take off in their own series, but who's been your favorite to play with in the main book?
Thomas Wayne Batman. He's the most exciting to delve into, and he's the major character in the book next to Barry. Beyond that, Cyborg. I love Cyborg. The S!H!A!Z!A!M! kids are also really fun to write. They're great, great characters. I really like The Outsider as a brand new character. I love his attitude. I like Element Woman. I like everybody, really. They're there because I enjoy writing them. All those characters are organically part of this group. They all bring something different to the universe, and they're not the usual suspects, which is very, very important for me. I didn't want to do the usual ones that we always see. You have the main characters that we know like Batman and Flash, Wonder Woman and Aquaman, but beyond that I wanted to do new characters – I'd say a third of them are brand new characters, maybe more – and obscure characters like Shade The Changing Man and The Enchantress.
That's what's fun in this. It's not what you expect. It's not the same old, same old. That was very important to us doing the story. And it also makes this much more accessible, because you're meeting these guys for the first time, just like the Flash is. There are no other comics with The Outsider or Element Woman or Blackout or the S!H!A!Z!A!M! kids. These are all brand-new concepts that are there for the first time.
Oh, absolutely. There's a lot of collaboration with Batman and Brian – talking about Thomas Wayne and who he was to get deeper into the character. It's a great collaboration between everybody. Even talking to Jeff Lemire about the Creature Commandos and how they fit into this whole thing since they're tangentially tied into "Flashpoint" though everything dovetails back in...it's something we're constantly talking about. We've talked about this before, the idea that "Flashpoint" is the story – and it's an emotional story – but outside those five issues, you don't need to read everything else to understand what's going on. But everything in those comics is character-based. It's an exploration of the characters and the world of "Flashpoint." We wanted to be conscious of that. These are new characters. Some of them are familiar, like Batman, and some of them are brand new like The Outsider, but hopefully you're intrigued enough to want to learn more about these guys and their world.
The Grodd one-shot that's coming up is really good. It's probably the best Grodd story I've read in...I don't even remember a better Grodd story. It's really great – a great character piece.
While we won't know what happens in the story of this alternate world, I get the feeling these characters are going to have an impact back on the regular DCU. Is that something we can assume?
So now that these pieces are on the table with "Flashpoint" #1, what's got you most excited as the next step in understanding what's going on in this world?
I'm really proud to be a part of this project. I think Andy Kubert is doing the best work of his career on the book, and everybody's bringing their A game...their A+ game. I'm just happy to be along for the ride. And it's quick! It's the Flash, so it should be. [Laughs] But I love that this is not a year-long miniseries. Issues #4 and 5 both are out in August, so this is four months of a really great story, really strong minis and characters around the main story, and I just think that we're delivering a quality amount of work in a nice set time. This is truly a summer event.
"Flashpoint" #1 is in stores now. The saga continues on May 18 with "Booster Gold" #44 and then on June 1 when the first four of 16 tie-in series – including "Batman: Knight of Vengeance" #1 – begin their run.