An Interview With
Geoff Johns seemed to come
out of nowhere a few years ago, making a splash with his first book, Stars
and S.T.R.I.P.E. Though a critical favorite, it didn't quite make the
same impact on readers, despite Geoff personally mailing free copies to
anyone who asked. Now, of course, everyone loves it. Geoff has moved on,
picking up the reins of JSA and The Flash. His next move, as everyone
in comics knows, is to launch a new Hawkman series.
courtesy of Peter Hernandez
This past week
we caught up with Geoff, and he spoke at length about his dual careers
in the film industry and comics. Today we run the first part of that
interview, where Geoff talks about his start, where he got his love
of comics, and why his JSA is just so cool.
You started off professionally as an assistant to director Richard Donner.
How did you make the leap from his assistant to writer for DC?
I was working on a movie called Conspiracy Theory, that we shot
in New York City. I had gotten in touch with some people at DC, who
sent us some Big Book of Conspiracies stuff out with the movie,
because it was a Warner Brothers movie. And I invited the editors to
the set. We got to talking, I was a comic book junkie, and they said
"you should pitch us something. You should pitch us something."
So I did. And one
of the editors liked the idea, and that was Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E.
and it just sort of snowballed from there. It was supposed to just be
a side thing, but I had a great time doing it, and when other opportunities
came up, like JSA and The Flash and everything else, I
just really ran with it.
DM: So it
was actually your first pitch out of the gate?
I had a lot of, I mean I'd been working for a few years in the film
industry in screenplay development so I already had story sense. I had
a background that I could fall back on to sort of help me out. That
gave them a little bit more trust to let me try something.
Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E. had a warm following.
GJ: A small
my question. It's clear that there's a lot of affection for it within
DC. You're using Courtney for JSA, Pat Dugan has moved to Metropolis…
He's flying around there.
DM: So what
do you think happened with that book?
GJ: It was
the first thing I ever did. It just, I don't know, didn't catch on.
Who knows what happened?
hopes that you might be able to revive it someplace down the road?
GJ: We actually
have an idea we're going to pursue, but it's probably going to be quite
a while. It'll probably be about a year, year and a half away, but it
is something, an idea that we're talking about already, and bringing
it back in a different way.
did you go from there to getting the nod for The Flash and JSA?
you know, I had known James. He was leaving JSA and I had met
with Goyer and him on the Star Spangled Kid before they started the
book so they could figure out what she was all about. When James decided
to leave the book, David wanted another co-writer because he liked working
with somebody. And James suggested me. David also had known me already
in L.A., so we tried working together, and it obviously worked out really
well. So that was that.
On The Flash,
I'd heard it was open, and I asked to throw my name in the hat. (Editor
Joey) Cavalieri gave me a shot. That was it.
was the book you wanted to write from the very beginning. What is it
about The Flash?
Flash is just…the simple fact of a guy running fast is cool. I was always
enamored with his Rogues Gallery when I was a kid. I used to read my…I'm
only 28, but I grew up on
Silver Age comics, because my uncle had a
huge collection at my grandmother's house. When I'd go over there, I'd
read all these checkerboard DC comics, like Flash and everything else.
I used to love the Rogues, and I loved all these tricks The Flash could
He was just always the coolest character. And I liked him, too,
because like on The Challenge of the Super-Friends cartoon he
was like the guy you hardly ever saw, but when you did, he was really
courtesy of Peter Hernandez
Just like Green
Lantern. Green Lantern had that great…like Black Manta, we always loved
Black Manta because he had that great voice. I think that sort of f****d
me up, too, by brainwashing me a bit into grabbing hold of some of these
DC characters. Just like Captain Cold. I love Captain Cold, and I think
it goes back to one of the first Flash comics I read was with Captain
Cold, and also that damned Challenge of the Super-Friends cartoon.
the Slurpee cup. I think he was the most common Slurpee cup.
got two of those! And a Mirror Master one, too.
your love of the Silver Age, and being hooked on The Flash, does that
explain your affinity for JSA, or was that just that James liked
liked me and Goyer like me. We got on there. I didn't even…to be honest,
I had read a few Infinity, Inc.s growing up, and I'd never gotten
into All-Star Squadron or anything else, but I'd always loved
the original JSA. I just never thought about them that deeply because
I never thought they would ever come back. I love those characters.
I love Hourman - the original Hourman - I love Dr. Mid-Nite. They're
all great characters. Again, it's a book that I absolutely enjoy working
DM: Do you
wish you were able to work on the actual originals? You mentioned both
the original Hourman, the original Dr. Mid-Nite…
are the ones I used to love. I like the new ones now. I like diversity
in my comics, and for me to write about a bunch of white men is just
GJ: I mean,
they're great characters, but I don't want to write about a bunch of
fifty-year old white guys. I like that we have (Mr.) Terrific, I like
to keep (J.J.) Thunder, I like Hawkgirl and Star-Spangled Kid. All that
diversity is what makes the team cool. Diversity not just among ethnic
and religious backgrounds, but powers and origins and stuff like that.
It's just a nice mixture. So I'd much rather write about the current
DM: Do you
feel like you've gotten out of the shadow, or did you feel there was
a shadow, of Mark Waid on The Flash?
GJ: I did.
Yeah, I did. But I could either worry about it or not worry about it,
and I didn't worry about it. It was daunting at first, because I did
this "Mirrorworld" storyline, which I think was similar to some of Mark
Waid's themes. It wasn't different enough.
And then when we
got Scott (Kohlins) onboard, and we got everything else going, and I
was actually the regular writer, we got to seek out what was cool to
us about Flash and focus on Wally West and his villains more. I don't
know. It hasn't been as hard as we'd thought.
does it feel to be co-writing with David Goyer, co-plotting on JSA,
and now co-plotting with James Robinson for at least the first few issues
on the book for, as far as I know, he's on the book indefinitely. It's
fun. I love working with people. I love working with people I like,
both as creators and people.
courtesy of Peter Hernandez
DM: In San
Diego James Robinson mentioned that he's clearly, if metaphorically,
passed the rod of Starman to Courtney, being his way of passing the
mantle of all these characters to you. Do you feel that the co-writing
relationships have changed as a result of that?
I thought that was the nicest thing he could have ever done. We'll just
keep trying to tell good stories. That's all that matters.
Waid was obviously working out some of his own stuff on The Flash.
James Robinson clearly is Starman. Which of your characters is you?
That's tough. You know what? There's a little bit of me in every character,
from Captain Cold to Flash to Mr. Terrific, to even the Star-Spangled
Kid. You relate to everybody. But there's no one character where I'd
say, okay, that's me. Not really. Not in comics.
in scripts and stuff, but not in comics.
did you manage to keep your ongoing plotlines for The Flash and
JSA out of Our Worlds At War? You just ended up having
these two specials instead.
GJ: They just asked. We were so far
ahead on our scripts that we just couldn't tie into Our Worlds At
War in the monthly books, and we didn't want to, because we had
the specials to do it.
We will be tying
into the Jokers event coming up. Even with a cross-over that
is a surprise and something that you don't want to bother with, sometimes
you can tell a really great story. I think our JSA/Jokers cross-over
turned out to be a really good story, even though it's hardly involved
with the cross-over. You don't need to know about the cross-over to
read it. It forced us to do a story focusing on certain characters and
exploring them a bit more. So it can be good and bad.
talk about the specials for a moment. I really enjoyed the JSA,
but The Flash felt kind of weird. Your choice to use The Black
Actually, I got the outline for Our Worlds At War, and they weren't
going to use The Black Racer at all. And I said, "I'm going to use The
Black Racer," and after I wrote the special, they went back and put
(him) in their books. It turned out cool. I'm glad that we brought Cyborg
DM: I thought
you handled The Black Racer better than anybody I've ever read. I just
can't stand the character.
I know. A lot of people don't like Black Racer. You know what? I didn't
like Black Racer much, but when they said Apokolips was involved, I
said, "you know what? Let's do a race between The Black Racer and Flash
because that would be fun." I didn't really like the character, and
I decided to write it from his P.O.V. When I got into his head, and
into his origin, I sort of liked him more, despite his obviously goofy
we'll say that.
for the JSA special, I found it funny that you have the JLA involved
in this war, and in their special you open with J'onn J'onnz with his
eye ripped out, you lose Aquaman, supposedly, allegedly, whatever, all
kinds of casualties. And the JSA comes out pretty good, in fact handles
it much better than the JLA. On purpose?
They're pros. Everybody was saying "kill, kill, kill." I heard about
all these characters dying, and I was like, I'm not even going to kill
the lamest of the bunch, you know, Patriot, the lamest of the bunch.
I'm not even going to kill him. I even had him survive.
It's just because
it's supposed to be a big victory. We wanted to do something different.
I didn't want to kill anybody and I wanted to have a lot of fun characters
in it, and just make the point that the JSA are pros. A round of death,
relatively, they look great, coming out of it unscathed.
At this point,
Geoff had to stop and take a phone call from his editor. He called back
a few minutes later, and we spoke further. On Monday, we'll share that
conversation, looking to the future of his books, and some of the plans
Geoff has that will spin out of The Flash: Iron Heights.
to Part 2