@’s by DC’s Geoff Johns!!!
Cliff Chiang admitted it was a significant change of pace to return to monthly comics after having spent a great deal of time working on the Greendale graphic novel, but assured us that DC had fully taken his speed into account in planning the schedule for Wonder Woman, and had plans for a compatible artist to assist whenever Cliff needs a breather. He had nothing but praise for writer Brian Azzarello's work on the book, which he compared to his run on HELLBLAZER. Dan Didio was his usual ebullient self, and was excited to show us his and Keith Giffen's work on the new OMAC series, which pays homage to the original Jack Kirby comics while retaining a connection to the revamp of the concept as shown in 2005's INFINITE CRISIS. We also got sit-down time with the creators of the flagship book of the relaunch, JUSTICE LEAGUE - writer Geoff Johns and artist Jim Lee. What follows is JD's painstaking transcription of our interviews with each of them. First up is our talk with Geoff, and in the next installment you'll get to hear what Jim had to say. Enjoy!
JOHNNY DESTRUCTO (JD): Awright, simple question. If no one has checked out the new 52 yet, why should they? If they're on the fence. SELL US!
GEOFF JOHNS (GJ): Well I think if you like super-heroes at all, or comic books at all, there's something for everybody. We talk about this alot, like...I don't watch every show on ABC or FOX, but no one does, but there are shows I love. DC publishes those kinds of comic books that will find any kind of reader, whether it be JUSTICE LEAGUE or I VAMPIRE or ANIMAL MAN, there's something for everybody. I don't know if you guys have read anything yet...have they given you guys books or...?
JD: Not yet, no…
*The waiter brings more delicious drinks, interrupting the flow*
GJ: Thanks. But I think there's something for everybody. There's a lot of great creators and a lot of great characters so I would just say that there's going to be a book out there that's right for you. That's the thing about comic books: there's an editor, a writer and an artist, and that's it, and there's very few mediums out there that have that few people driving the creative. So it's the purest form of creative that I can think of. I've worked in film and TV and animation and video games and this is still the most pure form of creative expression that I've ever seen.
JD: Is this your favorite medium to work in?
JD: (Laughs) Right on! That was a quick response! I notice with a lot of your writing, you pull from Silver Age stuff very heavily, and you like to incorporate all that legacy, at the basest level, who's idea WAS all this? It doesn't feel like a Geoff Johns Idea to reboot everything and start afresh, is this something that…
GJ: It's kind of a collective idea. I don't necessarily pull...I grew up in the late 80's and 90's, so I don't really pull from the Silver Age. Like I grew up with John Stewart as Green Lantern. It's not like I grew up with Hal Jordan and wanted Hal Jordan back, but when Green Lantern came up, I knew that, in order to make Green Lantern a big universe, they needed the pillar back. Like Hal Jordan is THAT pillar. His origin is great, the concept of the character is great: this daredevil that leaps in and pisses everybody off! And John Stewart and Guy Gardner I brought back, because I knew that he has a great personality and a great color to the core. Rayner was a great character, and I really wanted to get back to expanding it to everybody again. And in order for me to really make that work, I need Hal Jordan. And I've written Superboy, 90's character, right? Teen Titans was kinda fueled by 80's and 90's.
But with this idea, it's not about trying to preserve any kind of age: 70's, 80's, 90's or 2000's, it's about creating a brand NEW age. And my initial reaction was "UH oh", right? I've really spent a lot of my stories building off of the foundation of the DC Universe. I like that foundation, I love those characters, whether they be Cyborg or Superboy, or the JSA or whoever, and I started to realize, as I talked to all of these creators, the freedom of reintroducing these, or re-imagining these characters was something, as a creator that I could really get excited about. To write a book, like Justice League or Aquaman or Green Lantern and be able to tell my own story and not worry about the constraints of past stories is new to me. It's really new. And SCARY!
JD: I was gonna say, isn't that intimidating?
GJ: It IS intimidating. But at the same time, with Justice League I was like you know what I'm gonna do....The most successful run, and my favorite run of JUSTICE LEAGUE is Grant Morrison's JLA, by far. And it was all about big ideas and making them these bigger than life characters, but then after that it was Keith Giffen's JUSTICE LEAGUE, which I grew up on in the late 80's and 90's. Awesome, awesome book. Loved the book. And I wanted to take the humor and personality of what they did and the epic scope of what Grant did and find my own voice in the team. So I wanted to make sure it was all about character first and personalities, because there's nothing more fun than watching Batman and Green Lantern trying to do something together...and it's never easy right? EVER. And I wanted to make sure it carried through not just 5 years ago, but today. I wanted to make the most interesting thing about this book be when you knew that Flash and Wonder Woman had to go do something. Right away, you knew that was going to be interesting to watch. So I wanted to make it all about the character interactions and relationships. At the same time, I wanted to make sure that the plots, the stories and the adventures they were facing were massive, so I'm trying to take a completely different tone to all my books and add more humor than usual. There's a lot of humor in JUSTICE LEAGUE, and AQUAMAN and GREEN LANTERN. So I wanted to change how I wrote, so for me, this is a big, big challenge. A massive challenge and a big departure from what I usually do.
JD: With Justice League, what kind of arcs, just as far as amount of issues, is there something you're going for? A template as to the length of each arc?
GJ: How long the arc is, the arc is, right? 5 or 6, or 1. Or 2?
JD: Whatever the characters tell you?
GJ: Yeah, whatever the characters say. Like when I sat down, all I did for the first month was think about character, how would Aquaman react to Green Lantern, what are their roles on the team, what did they bring to the team? To make sure that, if I ever split the team up...if Wonder Woman and Green Lantern went somewhere, or if Wonder Woman and Superman went somewhere, it was completely different. How they got the job done, IF they got the job done, what their reactions would be..so the characters lead the arc. The trades will collect whatever they will collect. I don't know.
JD: You had mentioned AQUAMAN earlier. Ahhh..(laughs) I've never been the biggest fan of Aquaman...(Geoff notes JD's I-Ching tattoo)
GJ: Is that Snake-Eyes?
JD: Yeah it's the Arashikage Clan.
GJ: LOVE IT!
JD: With Aquaman, what makes you want to write him? Do you think that Aquaman has something to prove? That you can do it right?
GJ: Not that I can do it right...I love that everyone thinks that Aquaman sucks. I love it!
JD: He DOES, kind of!
GJ: I looove that people think that!
JD: Ok, why doesn't he?
GJ: You have to read the book.
JD: ARRRRGH! (Laughs)
GJ: The book is all about how the world DOES think he sucks.
MATT ADLER (MA): My favorite run is Peter David's run on the character. Is that something that you enjoyed as well?
GJ: It was the run that I grew up with, in the 90's, so...I read that until he was off the book and then I was gone. I didn't have much interest in following AQUAMAN after Peter David left. I think he created a wonderful, complex tapestry for Atlantis and Aquaman. I'm going a very different way because I'm re-inventing the character in a different way and I don't want to just do what HE did. I already read it, it was already great. So I'm doing something very different. MA: Have you read the ATLANTIS CHRONICLES?
MA: Do you think we'll ever get a collection of that?
MA: Man, I love that series.
GJ: Yeah, great book. Peter David's the only one that's gotten Aquaman right, beyond his creator. I don't think anyone's been close to getting Aquaman into a book that's sustainable or very interesting, except for Peter David. I say that because I'm going to go a very different way than Peter David. One of the things I wanted to do with Aquaman was recognize flaws that people perceive in him. That's part of the book. He's the king of the sea and he's a joke on land, right? And he chooses to be on land. He say's "I'd rather live here where I feel like I belong." But then people say "you DON'T belong". How's that feel? There's actually a big scene in AQUAMAN #1 where we really address all the things that people say about him, and it's an on-going issue. He shows up and people are like "OH! Oh. It's Aquaman." Right? And you root for him! You like Aquaman right? (to JD)
GJ: Then this book's for you. Because Aquaman know's NO ONE thinks he's cool.
JD: So is this your way of going a little bit meta with it? In the back of your mind at all? That you want to prove to people why they should appreciate him more?
GJ: Not Meta, but what would it really be like to be Aquaman in this world? That's what I want to do. He's the ultimate underdog.
MA: Maybe not EXACTLY like Booster Gold but it's an advantage to be underestimated?
GJ: Well, it's a little bit of that, but it's more about...I can go out there and argue: Aquaman's a bad-ass. Some people will agree with me, and some people won't. Right? And the idea is to say, let's take both of them, and Aquaman IS a bad-ass, but nobody thinks he is.
JD: I look forward to being proven wrong.
GJ: And also, my big story-line for my first year of AQUAMAN is him on a quest to find out who sank Atlantis. Because it wasn't an accident.
MA: I have a question about the overall relaunch. In terms of the way that the continuity is being changed, I'm sure you've heard some people say "If the continuity is being changed then the old stories that came before, quote-unquote don't matter". You heard that?
GJ: By the way, I've written hundreds of stories that people say don't matter any more!
MA: Do you worry that people might say about the upcoming current stories "Why do they matter because they could just be wiped away again in another couple of years"?
GJ: Did you like STAR TREK? The new STAR TREK by J.J. Abrams?
GJ: Does that make you NOT like the old STAR TREK?
JD: Huh. Excellent point.
GJ: Does that make you worry that J.J. Abrams STAR TREK won't matter in 5 years?
JD: Well, let me ask you this. As far as the continuity, I'll be honest: I'm dumbfounded. I don't understand. You're keeping some stuff, you're rebooting other stuff. Why not just do a "hard reboot"?
GJ: Because some things do work. You don't want to throw the baby out with the bath water. Batman works. Green Lantern works. Other characters work. Some things haven't caught on, and it's really up to the creator's passion and vision to reintroduce these characters.
MA: We mentioned SUPERMAN SECRET ORIGIN earlier and I really personally loved that. Is that still in continuity?
GJ: No. And you know what? It's still a great story, I'm still really proud of that story. Gary Frank drew the hell out of that story and for anyone who wants to pick that up, that version of his origin? Like that scene when he says to Pa Kent "I want to be your son" and Pa Kent hugs him and says "You ARE my son"...that still gets me every time. And that story still exists. It doesn't mean we can't tell new stories about how Superman came to be. Trust me.
JSA, right? I worked on that book for 10 years. I was very, very proud of that run, all the characters that we created and introduced, characters like Mr. Terrific who have their own book now...characters like Stargirl who's very important to me personally. My first character I ever invented, right? And I knew it was going to be "wiped away"...but I know that the potential that we have for this [reboot] is worth that. I still have those trades, those stories still can be read. There's a funny thing with comic fans (I KNOW, I 'm the same way!) "Does it matter? Do I have to read this?" I want you to WANT to read this. The best thing about this is that we're getting back to comic BOOKS. You look at the New 52 and there's no one book that says "event book". "This book MATTERS". All the books matter. They're all stories, they're all based on character. We're trying to get back to Character and Story, instead of Events that just are there just because you feel like you have to buy them because they "count". We want you to enjoy what you buy. We're not asking you to buy all 52 every month. You're going to buy what you LIKE out of those 52. The choice is yours.
JD: I have a personal question! Where's Wally West?!
GJ: Dude, I wrote him for 6 YEARS. I grew up on Wally West, I love that character. The omnibus I did just came out. I'm really proud of that work too. And at the same time, it was time to make a change and see...
JD: "We fear change".
GJ: I know, change IS scary...and see what could be done with Barry Allen.
MA: I do find it ironic though..unfortunately we see a lot of fans out there going "Geoff Johns and so-and-so are wiping out continuity and they don't care about anyone else's continuity but theirs." 90% of the continuity being wiped out is the stuff that YOU worked on.
GJ: That's the thing. I love Wally West, I grew up with him. You're right. Literally almost everything I've ever written, besides Green Lantern, has been wiped out by this. So that should tell you something, if I'm willing to go along with it. I believe that the potential for stories is there, and my books are still there. The HAWKMAN trades or JSA, or Superboy. I'm proud of those. And it's funny when people say "you just love the Silver Age characters". I grew up with John Stewart and Wally West. I have no affinity towards any age, I just love DC.
MA: I've never seen you as a Silver Age guy, I've seen you as a guy who likes to reconcile stuff.
JD: Good point!
MA: Who sees this vast tapestry of the DC U and says "It can all work together".
GJ: Exactly, and that's why this new thing is challenging to me. Because we're wiping it out, we're saying it open range, and I like it because it's a challenge. 'Cause I've done it for a lot of years, and now it's time to focus, really, on character. Cause it's all about character.
If you read Aquaman #1... (to JD) I will SEND you a copy to read! If you read that and go "You know what, I still don't like him"? That's totally cool, but I didn't do my job. But if you read it and go "I actually see why people can like him" I've done my job, and I've worked really hard to try and do that. I'm not gonna say I have, cause you haven't read it yet. (Laughs)
But the point I'm making is that this is difficult for everybody. It really is. It's a challenge for everybody. I don't take this lightly.
JD: Is it scary?
GJ: Yeah, sure it's scary!
MA: Has it been, for you, behind the scenes, as radical a shake-up as it's seemed to us from the outside?
GJ: Yeah, it has been. It's been really ...when it was first approached, a relaunch I was like "whoahh....WHY?" Because I'm a believer, I've made continuity work for me, right? But maybe that's not for everybody. Maybe it's not great for new readers. Maybe they need a jumping on point, which is why I crafted Justice League the way I did. Those first 5 issues are designed to get people to read it, understand who the characters are, have fun, laugh a little bit, be afraid a little bit and then say "You know what, I want to read a little bit more about The Flash." Or Batman, or Green Lantern or Wonder Woman or whoever. That's my goal in this book.
JD: Well thank you so much for your time, we're getting ushered out! Haha.
GJ: And by the way guys, as fans, like you guys know...this is a big deal, right, and it's scary and it's..I've said this before, it's uncharted waters. We're all in on this. And I've had to change my writing style for this. Which is a challenge. And I've got to rely on simple, great characters and great story-telling. This is about the characters that are in the book and moving ahead, instead of retelling the story where the Justice League got turned into trees.
GJ: That's not happening. I'm telling a brand new story that's never been told before, and so we are in uncharted waters, and it's really exciting and scary, but at least it's new. I'm doing my best as a writer to make sure that anyone who picks up Justice League will completely understand it, completely know the characters and get sucked into the story.
JD: Well that's all you can ask for.
GJ: Yeah, that's I all I can ask.
JD: Well thank you again!
Be here next time for the second part of the Interview, featuring superstar talent Jim Lee!
JD can be found hosting the PopTards Podcast, drawing a weekly webcomic, discussing movies, comics and other flimflam over at www.poptardsgo.com, graphically designing/illustrating for a living, and Booking his Face off over here. Follow his twitter @poptardsgo. His talkback name is PopTard_JD.
Matt Adler is a writer/journalist, currently writing for AICN among other outlets. He’s been reading comics for 20 years, writing about them for 7, and spends way, way, too much time thinking about them, which means he really has no choice but to figure out how to make a living out of them. He welcomes all feedback.
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