Brightening the stars of the DC Universe
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Geoff Johns has just about done is all in the DC Universe over the past seven years â€” and done it well.
He's made himself a household name for comic book fans with terrific stories on The Flash, JSA, JLA and Hawkman and continues to do so with Teen Titans and Green Lantern. He earned the honour of penning DC's mega-series, Infinite Crisis and is one of four top writers â€” along with Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka and Mark Waid â€” collaborating on the ambitious weekly comic, 52.
Ahead of his appearance at this weekend's Fan Expo Canada at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre (www.fanexpocanada.com), Johns took some time out of his busy schedule to talk with Jonathan P. Kuehlein about what's coming up in his monthly titles, his upcoming arc on Action Comics and what to do when you meet him in person.
JPK: Of all the projects you're working on right now, what's the one you want fans to like the most?
GJ: "Green Lantern is pretty close to my heart. And with Ivan Reis on the book, I just think it's one of the best-looking books out there.
"I think he's the greatest solo hero concept in comics â€” by far."
JPK: Why so?
GJ: "Because of the background, the fact that he belongs to a Green Lantern Corps and there's a big mythology to it all. There's just something really great about it."
JPK: What's in store for Green Lantern over the coming months?
GJ: "There's a huge price on his head in the current book and he's got to find out who's trying to kill him and why. At the same time, Sinestro, the renegade Green Lantern, is forming his own version of a corps. So we're going to be rolling toward that huge, climactic war between the both corps.
"It's all about what is the purpose of the corps. Is Hal there to protect and serve the universe or are there other hidden things underneath that ideal? And there are!"
JPK: What do you have in store for the upcoming re-launch of the Justice Society Of AmericaÂ and what do you think is going to make it stand apart from its successful predecessor, JSA?
GJ: "First off we're going to be expanding the concept of what the Justice Society Of America is. So it's really taking the very first superheroes that ever appeared in the DC Universe and ushering in a new generation â€” making it a real society.
"It has ties to every single corner of the DCU now. It's going to interact and be more of a DCU cornerstone book. It embraces the whole concept of the DC Universe and pushing it forward and paying respects to its past and utilizing everything it has ever been and is going to be.
"We're also trying to make it a lot more accessible, as far as storylines go. It's going to be very character based, but with the epic scope in the background.
"It's going to be Justice League Of America's brother book and it's going to be kind of a big brother book. We're just trying to craft the book in a way so that it's in the centre of the DCU. It has ties to nearly ever DCU hero there is â€” and villain â€” and we're going to be exploring all those ties and what it means to be a hero. The tagline of our book is: "The World Needs Better Good Guys" and that's what the team's all about."
JPK: For fans of the JSA series, how much carryover are they going to see?
GJ: "Close to 100 per cent. There're a few regular characters that won't be in there â€” Hawkgirl's in Justice League, but we'll have Hawkman â€” and we're adding a bunch of new guys to the mix.
"If you're a fan of JSA, you'll be a fan of this book. I think you'll probably find that we're peeling back the onion layers on the characters back a little bit more, getting more into their heads. We're getting more into why they do this and where they're going."
JPK: With issue 50 of Teen Titans fast approaching, what does the future hold for that series?
GJ: "Right now we're doing a series called Titans Around The World, where you really get a chance to meet all the Titans that served on the team in the missing year. [Editor's note: All DCU books fast forwarded in an event called One Year Later earlier this year.]
"You're going to meet a lot of character's like Ms. Martian, Zatarra, Bombshell â€” who's this cool army brat that's coated in the same metal Captain Atom has â€” and a few other guys. And we're going to be bringing Raven back to the team.
"It's really about what happened to the Titans in that missing year and why did all those people quit the team. You'll see that a lot of the members that were on the team are very jaded about their experience with the team and it's very personal to each member.
"Titans Around The World is really about whether this new team will fall apart like every other team they had during that missing year. It's about how this team can stay together and why the Teen Titans should exist in the first place."
JPK: Do you have a timeframe for you run on Titans?
GJ: "I'll stay on until I'm out of stories. I've been on the book a while, but I've still got a few more stories left to tell."
JPK: How are you enjoying working on DC's big weekly book, 52?
GJ: "It's terrific. We're in the late 30s and the stories are all hitting big moments and big spots and some crazy stuff's happening, so it's really exciting to write."
JPK: How has the collaborative process of having four writers working on one book been?
GJ: "It's been great. We met for two weeks in a room together and we just sat and rapped and talked about storylines and planned everything out. It's been a lot of fun because you learn something from working with guys like Greg [Rucka], who takes a very street point of view to the DC Universe and Mark [Waid], who is the really, really old-school fanboy and Grant [Morrison], who says one thing and it changes everything we're doing because his ideas are massive and original as hell. So it's inspiring to work in that group."
JPK: The next big project you've got coming up is a run on Action Comics, co-written with your old boss, Hollywood director Richard Donner (Superman The Movie, Lethal Weapon). How did this collaboration come about?
GJ: "I worked for him for five years as his assistant, as probably most people know, and during that time I started writing comics. I was doing Stars And S.T.R.I.P.E. and JSA and Richard would come by my office and see the new JSA and he'd see Alan Scott and he'd say 'Oh, Green Lantern!' I'd say 'How did you know that's Green Lantern' and he said 'That was Green Lantern when I was a kid.' Turns out he'd bought all these All-Star Comics back when he was a kid and he was actually a comic fan.
"When I was getting more and more into comics, we were talking one day and I said 'It would be really fun if we did a comic book together' and we kept talking about it, we had ideas for it and now its finally come together.
"We always wanted Action Comics. We wanted the first comic Superman ever appeared in just to carry on that legacy. If we can add a cool run to the 800-plus issues that it has already got then we'll be happy."
JPK: What can you tell me about the plot of your initial Action run beginning in October? Are the rumours true that you're dealing with the idea of Superman's son?
GJ: "Yep, we're dealing with the Super-Kid.
"It's called Last Son. We've kind of nicknamed it 'Son Of Superman' but we'll see what happens.
"And the fourth issue we're doing is going to be in 3-D."
JPK: Any big plans for Action after that?
GJ: "We're going to reintroduce a lot of big villains like Brainiac, Bizarro, Parasite and Metallo.
"It's going to utilize everything major from the Superman mythos and introduce some new concepts as well."
JPK: Now that Infinite Crisis is behind you, what was experience like and are you happy with how is turned out?
GJ: "I'm really happy with the majority of it. I'm actually happier with the new hardcover, because some of the art that was not finished when the last book shipped has been fixed and corrected and some of the dialogue has been corrected.
"It was an intense experience, but it was a lot of fun and there's a lot of stuff in it that I really like."
JPK: In your opinion, what was the defining moment of the series?
GJ: "Superboy Prime losing it. It was always about that fact that it's not easy to be a hero, you've got to try. And Superboy Prime looking down on everybody and saying 'They aren't because they make mistakes' and thinking it's that easy â€” and today it's not that easy. They're going to make mistakes, but they've still got to try."
JPK: With the Fan Expo Canada coming up, I've to ask whether you prefer meeting fans face to face or on a chat board?
GJ: "I like them both, but meeting face-to-face is always the best because you get to put a face to the name. It's much more personal.
"The cool thing about comics is that there's an instant connection between people who read comics, no matter what you read. If you're on a bus and you see someone reading a comic, you'll probably say something, whereas if a sports fan is on a bus and he sees someone reading Sports Illustrated, he probably won't. It's a more intimate hobby."
JPK: Any advice for fans coming to meet you in person?
GJ: "Don't be shy."
Jonathan P. Kuehlein/Metro Toronto