Interview with Geoff Johns
by Bob Gough, Contributing Writer

Writer Geoff Johns infuses excitement into any title he's attached to. Although he followed in the footsteps of landmark writers on signature titles (he and David Goyer followed James Robinson on JSA; he followed Mark Waid on Flash), Johns has proven that he's no caretaker scribe. Once a title has his name on it, that series becomes a phenomenon of its own. Characters are lively and three dimensional, his dialogue alone paints mental pictures for the reader of crisp, unique characters who jump, creep or fly off the page.

In an attempt to get Geoff to jump off the page a little more for fans who've yet to meet him, Mile High Comics presents this interview with the writer, whose latest projects include JSA, The Flash, Hawkman, JLA/JSA: Virtue and Vice; Morlocks, The Avengers and The Thing: Freakshow. (It's a wonder actually that he had any time for questions but we're grateful).

Mile High: First off, thanks for taking the time. Your current workload seems very intense. How do you maintain your energy and creativity levels?

Well, JLA/JSA and the mini-series have been written for quite some time. And when I first started Flash I was six months ahead on the book. So my schedule is comfortable, I just have all my work coming out at the same time. I am looking forward to resting -- I'll be taking a few weeks off in September to get married.

My usual work day is 9-6 Monday thru Friday. I like a well-structured day -- one title a week. That way I can jump into the Avengers universe for a week without coming up for air.

Most people (who aren't writing seven comic books) put in their 40 hours at their jobs and then kick back in front of the TV to watch hockey. How many hours a week do you spend writing? What do you do in your off hours? Do you have any off hours?

About 40 -- then I do kick back and watch hockey. Though I enjoy Pro and College football and basketball as well. In my off hours I hang out with my wife-to-be.

Do plot ideas and bits of dialogue constantly come up in your mind even when you're not writing? If so, what do you do with those fragments? Can you give us an example of a recent brainstorm you incorporated into a book? Where do you go when the inspiration well is dry?

Yes. Once I get into a character's head it's hard to shut them up. They keep talking to me...I think that's good. I don't know. I just try and remember what they say so I can write it down. As for inspiration, it comes from literally everything in my life -- from people, to news, to comics, to film.

Word on the street is there's good money in comics. Would you recommend it? Why or why not?

It's good, it's not driving around in BMWs and eating steak every night (as one fan told a friend of mine, Todd Nauck, when he said he was going to get some McDonald's -- "I thought guys like you ate steak every night!"). I recommend it if it's your passion.

Hawkman's success selling out so quickly from the jump has got to be gratifying for you. Did you expect such an overwhelming response? Of course, after Green Arrow, Hawkman was the DC character every one has been clamoring for to return. But he carries 60 years of baggage with him (thank God for Nth Metal). How do you deal with the great weight of the archive of Hawkman history that's out there?

I just start from here and look forward -- I'll be using his mythos, but we don't need to get tangled up again. There's no need.

Hawkman strides a fine line between a lot of worlds--he's almost as dark as Batman in his dogged pursuit of justice but almost as deific as Superman, flying in to the rescue from on high, etc. He's between the past and the present. He's stern and unyielding but you've shown recently he can laugh at himself. It seems his character would be hard to nail down. How do you capture his mindset and what he's likely to do in any given situation?

Hawkman is intense. That's the word that springs up in my mind. He's intense in battle, he's intense in his passion for fine wine and culture, he's intense with his love for those around him. He takes everything very seriously, and he's been through a lot of horrible experiences over the centuries. He does not pull punches. Ever. He won't risk someone getting hurt because he pulled a punch.

Why not bring Hawkman back in JLA? At a San Diego Comic-con panel discussion a couple of years ago, you said Hawkman might be the central figure of the JSA/JLA crossover. Is that still the case?

Nope. We were going to bring him back in JLA/JSA crossover but opted not to when schedules didn't work out. We decided to do it solo in JSA.

JSA/JLA: Virtue and Vice how close are you to finishing it? It's the first substantial reteaming of the groups since the Crisis on Infinite Earths. Will you try to make this a return to those annual crossover events where the heroes from Earth 1 jumped through the vibrational barrier to hang out over the punchbowl with the heroes from Earth 2 before some cosmic calamity came knocking? Or do modern comic readers demand more sophisticated plots and reasons for the teams to reunite?

It's a modern-day teaming of the JLA and JSA. It's done on our end and Carlos [Pacheco] is busy working. More on this in the future.

Let's talk about the new JSA--there's Hourman, Sand, Powergirl, Captain Marvel, Icicle, the new Johnny Thunder and the new Crimson Avenger. Are Wildcat, Dr. Fate, Sentinel, the Flash (Jay Garrick), Mr. Terrific and Dr. Mid-Nite out the door? Is this the revival of the Power Squad or Infinity Inc.? (sorry about that) Will this book now focus on the second generation JSAers?

Stay tuned -- but no, it's not a revival of the Power Squad. This is the modern-day JSA.

The JSA has got to differentiate itself each issue from its progeny the JLA that has grown to overshadow it over the years. Other than the popularity of the key team members, how are the teams different?

The JSA is about legacy -- training the next generation, inspiring the next generation. You see heroes grow -- some into the roles quite well like Star, Sand and Hourman -- others are struggling like Atom Smasher, Dr. Fate and Jakeem Thunder. The best thing about JSA is that the characters change and evolve within the JSA book. We can do major things to these guys and that's the appeal to me.

In Flash, readers are still in the middle of your "Crossfire" story arc but can you give us a hint as to what might next be in store for the Scarlet Speedster?

Grodd.

Turning to your Marvel projects--we've got to offer congratulations on two fine new books, Morlocks and The Thing: Freakshow miniseries. Both deal with the pressure cooker of being an outsider. That's a more common theme at Marvel than DC. Do you agree? Is there a time in your background when you felt like an outsider? Moving from Detroit to L.A.? Going from movies to comics?

Sure. We all do at some time or another -- it's funny, I just realized that theme. And it plays in Vision as well (which comes out later this year). I am very happy with how these stories are turning out. It's been a lot of fun.

Where will Morlocks head from here? Are they going to remain fringe players in the X-Universe or spin off characters into solo books or into the main X-Men books?

The story ends with #4 for me.

You're also writing a story called "Red Light" for the upcoming Metal Hurlant-an anthology book that returns to the roots of Heavy Metal magazine. What can you tell us about that? Were you a Heavy Metal fan?

It's a short story in the Twilight Zone vein -- I don't want to say much more.

How's work coming on the Avengers? Once again, you're following a high-profile writer in Kurt Busiek coming off a long run on a signature title. Once again, you'll make the title your own. But how are you approaching that challenge? Who is staying? What plotlines will carry on? Will you dip into the vast pool of former Avengers' cast members for heroes and/or foes?

I'm keeping my plans for close to the vest for the Avengers -- I don't want to give away anything. I am working very hard and having a lot of fun.

Flash, Hawkman, JSA and the Avengers--which is easier to write: solo books or team books? Why?

Solo books by far -- you concentrate on one character. But team books are a lot of fun due to the interaction between the characters. That's what it's all about for me. Character dynamics.

Because of recently highly successful superhero films, Hollywood suddenly is in love with comics again. You worked with Richard Donner (Superman) during his helming of Lethal Weapon 4 and Conspiracy Theory so you've got perspective. Don your prognosticators' cap, will the success of Spider-Man start a golden age of great superhero movies or will Hollywood collapse the genre film under a towering weight of dreck (as happened in the '90s)? If you think superheroes are here to stay for awhile, why? What's different now about Hollywood's approach to superhero films?

The difference is Avi Arad and Kevin Feige are at the helm of Marvel Studios -- and they know what they're doing. They understand how to make a good comic book film and I'm anticipating every film they do to be very close to the mark if not right on it like Spider-Man was. Hulk is going to rock.
On the other hand, I really hope Warner & DC can get into the game too. I'd love to see Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, Flash, but it doesn't seem like the fire is there just yet.

Whose comic writing do you enjoy? Why? What non-comic book are you currently reading? Why does it appeal to you?

[Brian Michael] Bendis, [Brian] Azzarello, [Jeph] Loeb, [Greg] Rucka, so many guys that I love. Too many to list. I suggest Carter Beats the Devil -- a great novel. It's historical high-adventure.

What was your first writing assignment for comics? What was your first regular writing assignment? What was the most challenging part of those early jobs?

Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E. was my first writing assignment and regular writing assignment. The most challenging part was diving into the deep end of the pool. There were a lot of factors in comic writing I never knew, and slowly learned over the last three years.

Who were your favorite comic writers, artists and titles growing up? Why?

Mark Waid, Grant Morrison and Peter David. They wrote my favorite books: Flash, Animal Man and Hulk. I always loved Alan Davis and George Perez.

Let's talk about Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E. (which is featured prominently on your web site www.geoffjohns.com, by the way). What did you like about that book and that character? Why do you think it didn't catch fans' attention in greater numbers? Will we see a return of the character now that she's inherited Starman's mantle? When?

I don't know why it didn't work -- some of the blame lies with me, of course. I was a new writer and I had a rocky start. I really do love the characters and they'll be back in a way next year. Maybe someday I can tackle a Stargirl book...

You've done several stories in the Secret Files line (Day of Judgment, DCU Heroes, DCU Villains, The Flash, Green Lantern, JSA) and 80-Page Giants. What do you find appealing about those formats?

The Secret Files, to me, is strictly to support the book -- to act as an introductory to the characters and tease readers about the next year of stories. I love working on Secret Files.

A lot of your DC work is steeped in the rich history of the Golden Age. Are you a fan of the Golden Age stories? Which in particular and why? Is there a character you would have liked to have written that's not been revived?

Actually, I never was until James Robinson's The Golden Age, though I always loved Sandman Mystery Theatre. I would have loved to have written an adventure of the first Spectre.

Thanks for your time, Geoff. It'll be our pleasure to continue reading everything with your name on it--and the stack gets higher each month.

Thanks, hope those answers are okay!

[Interviews with Bob Gough]


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