Nick Kazden writes for Bleeding Cool…
Geoff Johns is one of the closest things the comic book universe has to a celebrity at this point. Not only is the prolific author returning to comics soon with Doomsday Clock this November, but he is also in charge with guiding DC’s film future. DC Co-Publisher Dan Didio led a conversation that went over Johns’ history in comics and how he gets things done. Didio commented on the fact that they have developed a great friendship and teamwork in their 15 years of working together.
“It doesn’t feel a day over 14 years,” Johns joked.
While he may be a big star now, it all started back when he was a kid finding comics in Michigan drug stores. The first character he ever identified with was the Flash because he “watched him on Super Friends and thought he looked cool,” as well as having some of the coolest villains in comics.
He said he wanted to make comic books in middle school, but shifted more towards film and directing in high school and college. He admitted that he briefly considered going to the Kubert school of art, but he ultimately took a job being Richard Donner’s assistant. He always had his sights set on being a writer, but he admits that the recognition that he was a professional snuck up on him.
“You don’t know it’s your profession until it’s you profession. I think the day I signed exclusively with DC I went ‘Oh my god I’m a writer!’”
Johns, who has made a career writing characters infused with a sense of hope and optimism, said he “skews more towards the lighter heroes,” like Superman and Wonder Woman, but he still has a deep love for some of the darker vigilante characters in the DC catalog.
Even though he’s included Batman in some of his work and developed the Earth One version of the character, he admitted that he “want[s] to do a run on Batman.” While he loves Batman, he’s excited that some of the smaller characters are becoming increasingly popular.
“There are no bad characters, only bad writers and bad stories.”
The conversation turned to some of the times Johns and Didio worked on projects that others in the industry considered a bad idea. Specifically Johns’ run on Teen Titans (one of the first books I ever followed on a monthly basis) got a lot of push back but Didio said Johns was able to persuade him with his solid pitch and dedication to inserting heart into the story.
Johns doesn’t remember which Con it was, but he recalls “walking around for a half-hour, an hour, and I pitched him the whole story.” Didio then chimed in saying he immediately approved the book right after the conversation.
Talk then briefly turned to Green Lantern: Rebirth. Both of them said they faced a lot of pushback, but ultimately Didio let Johns tell the story because he had faith in the emotional value of it all. For Johns, heart is more important than logic in a story. Even in a crazy story where someone comes back to life in order to keep fighting their fears, the logic works itself out.
“I think fear and overcoming fear will be pressing for years to come,” Johns said.
Despite the fact that he was constantly told “you may want to reconsider,” some of his choices like writing a book about Booster Gold, but he said Didio’s support always pushed him forward.
“Yeah, there ae people who will question what you’re gonna do. Take the feedback but tell your story if you think it’s worth telling. […] Don’t listen to them, just do it!”
Talk eventually moved to the Rebirth one-shot and the upcoming Doomsday Clock. Johns said the Thanksgiving release for Doomsday Clock was very important to him because he has a vivid memory of buying comics as a kid the day before Thanksgiving and remembering joy happy he was that he had so much time to read it.
With Rebirth, Johns said he was hesitant to use that term again due to his relationship with books deemed Rebirth. After a discussion with Didio though, Johns said he knew he it was the right idea but that he wanted to lay down a framework the rest of the DCU could jump off of.
“I wanted to write an issue that wouldn’t just put the heart back in the DCU, but I wanted people to cry at the end with Wally West.”
Johns, who said he did cry while writing the final scene and even said writing Rebirth made him more emotional than anything else he’s worked on. It’s all about how much he wanted the warmth and heart that comes from DC characters’ deep relationships to return to the DCU. He specifically mentioned thinking something was missing whenever he saw Green Arrow and Black Canary separated.
His biggest fear with the book was the Doctor Manhattan reveal would overshadow the reunion between Wally West and Barry Allen. For Johns, that rekindled relationship signifies the “return of the heart and hope,” in the DCU. He descibed the whole event as a chance to do something that’s “never been done before” and he’s excited about how risky and challenging it feels.
“I don’t want it to be a gimmick,” he said describing the introduction of Doctor Manhattan. Throughout the panel he repeated the fact that he only tells a story if he believes in it, so he’s probably constructed something pretty good for fans.
Even though the Doomsday Clock makes you think the story might be about Watchmen, he said the story is actually about Superman. While he didn’t share any more details because he wants the fans to “experience it,” he said that both he and his parner-in-crime Gary Frank believe in the story and are dedicated to doing the best job they can.
“The book is a celebration of all of it. From Action Comics #1 until today and tomorrow.”