Johns & Lee talk DC Relaunch in Hollywood

Sun, June 12th, 2011 at 7:00pm PDT | Updated: June 13th, 2011 at 7:15am

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Josie Campbell, Staff Writer

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Grant Morrison: "We hope everyone’s going to get involved and join us in this voyage into the unknown.”

At the LA Times Hero Complex Film Festival, held at the Chinese Six Theatre in Hollywood, CA, DC Comics Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns and Co-Publisher Jim Lee sat down in front of a live audience to talk about the DC Comics company-wide September relaunch, which sees the renumbering of ongoing comics and the introduction of brand new titles to DC’s line.

“Its not just renumbering all these books, its about going systematically through the DC universe and re-energizing and re-imagining a lot of stuff that formed these characters and their back stories,” Lee told the packed audience.

Directly following the Festival’s screening of Richard Donner’s “Superman,” Johns and Lee began by touching on the importance of that movie to them as both comic book creators and as kids.

“I remember my parents taking me to see that movie when I was twelve, and like every kid in America I ran with my hands out, flying around the parking lot,” said Lee. With a laugh he added, “Then last night I saw ‘X-Men: First Class’ with our ten-year-old and his memory was, ‘Wolverine said the f-word!’ He had a different memory than I did!”

Johns and Lee then divulged details about their new “Justice League” comic book series due August 31st. Johns emphasized their comic would get back to basics by focusing on the League’s core team members: Wonder Woman, Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, Flash, and Aquaman.

“I did a run on ‘Batman,’ I did a run on ‘Superman,’ but this really is the ultimate book,” said Lee. “I was a huge DC fan as a little kid; ‘Justice League’ back when Cary Bates was writing it [with] that kind of classic, iconic seven members, that was the run on ‘Justice League’ that really inspired me.”

Revealing that the first “Justice League” story arc will take place in the past and sees the formation of the League, Lee stated that their intention for the comic was to give the League an “awesome” modern reason for existing as well as reestablish the characters.

“One thing I’m really interested in is how these guys get along. Like, Green Lantern when he first meets Batman he is like, ‘So what are your powers?’ Because you assume that this guy that dresses up like a bat and fights bad guys, he cant be crazy, he has to have powers!” laughed Johns. Johns, who actually got his start in the business working as Richard Donner’s assistant, also stated that playing with the team’s dynamic was a big draw for him.

"Justice League" #1

“Jim and I talked a lot about what these guys’ first opinion would be of each other. If Green Lantern is on Earth on patrol for extraterrestrial trouble, what would he do with Superman? One of the lines I use in my script is, ‘they are not gods, they are the Justice League.’ So what are the people like behind the mask?” said Johns.

The pair also reiterated their commitment to drawing in new readers as a large part of why they are undertaking the renumbering, reminiscing about how they first got into comics. “I remember when they relaunched ‘Superman’ #1 back in the days of John Byrne, that got me super excited about that storyline – even though everyone knew the origin of Superman, the fact that it was being done in a contemporary fashion made it feel special. it made it feel like my own version,” said Lee.

Johns also took the time to address fans concerns about the relaunch, comparing it to the initial backlash he received for his “Green Lantern: Rebirth” storyline, which brought Hal Jordan back into comics continuity.

“The funny thing is, comics are always changing. If Superman didn’t change from 1938 he wouldn’t have super villains, he wouldn’t be able to fly,” said Johns. “I think if you do it with care…[and are] true to the emotional ideals and the morality ideals that are in the heroes, that’s the goal.”

The audience cheered when Lee and Johns dimmed the lights to present a special video message from comic book writer Grant Morrison, who the pair officially announced as the writer half of the new creative team on the relaunched “Action Comics” (Ralph “Rags” Morales will handle the art side). Calling Superman the “greatest idea we’ve had as a human species,” Morrison stated that “Action” would serve to retell Superman’s origins, bringing a modern perspective to the title that first introduced the character in 1938.

“Its time to make a new language for comics, a new kind of philosophy, a new kind of propulsive storytelling that will do things that the movies can’t even catch up with,” declared Morrison. “We hope everyone’s going to get involved and join us in this voyage into the unknown.”

Like “Justice League,” the new number one issue of “Action Comics” will take place in the past to establish Superman’s back-story. Both Lee and Johns expressed excitement about having Morrison take the first crack at the mythos of the Man of Steel.

LA Times' Geoff Boucher, Jim Lee & Geoff Johns. Photo by Mel Caylo.

“Grant Morrison is the best comic book writer of our time…the amount of new ideas he throws out there is pretty awe inspiring,” said Johns.

The two also took a moment to promote DC’s day-and-date digital releases for all the new titles. Johns admitted to some skepticism when the idea was first broached, but said he was won over when he actually got the chance to use the DC comics reader app. “The way you can read them panel by panel is fascinating,” said Johns.

Bringing their talk to a quick close, Lee and Johns said their overall goal for the relaunch, as well as the DC Entertainment movies and TV shows, is to create new fans and draw new readers into the fold.

“The North Star for me right now is that a kid comes up to me and says the [Green Lantern] Oath,” laughed Johns. “I’d love to see a generation of kids find ‘Green Lantern’ the way I found ‘Star Wars!’”

We want to know which of these new titles you plan to pick up -- answer our DC relaunch survey right now and return Wednesday for the results.

TAGS:  dc relaunch, dc comics, geoff johns, jim lee, action comics, justice league, grant morrison

 
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