Everyone has a favorite writer. Whether it's a normal book or a comic book, everyone has at least one writer that they will buy their books no matter what the topic/characters/whatever might be. I started buying comics on a monthly basis about 13 years ago. The first comic I got was Batman: Hush. The art looked so cool and it promised a new chapter in Batman's life and things would never be the same! Much to my surprise, that was indeed the case. After that, I started looking into other comics to get. I was a fan of the Teen Titans animated series so I started getting that. Then I saw ads for Green Lantern: Rebirth and decided to check that out too, despite having zero knowledge of who Hal Jordan was or why he needed a "Rebirth." Both of those comics were written by Geoff Johns. Without realizing it right away, I had found my favorite comic book writer.
Over the next few years, Johns continued an amazing run on Green Lantern, the Flash, Blackest Night, Batman: Earth One, Justice Society of America, Aquaman, Justice League, Action Comics, Superman, and other comics that always made it to the top of my pull list. Hell, I was so excited to read them that I would often try to read them after I bought them at red lights or during a wait in the Taco Bell drive thru.
Usually I would get looks . . .
I was lucky enough to meet Johns a few different times at New York Comic Con. I attended a panel he hosted, got to ask a question, and even had my picture taken with him. I was also lucky enough to get some comics signed and speak with him a little bit more. He was always super nice, funny, and seemed genuinely excited for all the new stories he was creating. His enthusiasm just got me more excited to reread his old books and purchase the new ones. Now with his role as Chief Creative Officer, he's able to spearhead new and exciting projects for DC Entertainment. Without him we would definitely not have the Flash, Gotham, Supergirl, or even the Robot Chicken DC Comics Specials. First and foremost, he's a fan and that is apparent in all of his work.
I'd like to share with you my favorite Geoff Johns moments, ideas, concepts, what-have-you that he's brought to the table over the past several years with DC Comics.
BRAINIAC DESTROYED KRYPTON AND IS A HULK(ish)
Superman and Brainiac go way,way back. He's one of the most prominent Superman villains. It's actually quite embarrassing that he has yet to be featured in a live action Superman film. Rumor has it that the producers wanted Brainiac and Mr. Mxyzptlk to be the primary antagonists of Superman III but then they found out Richard Pryor was a Superman fan and then they . . . sigh . . . cast him in an attempt to make Superman III a comedy or . . . a deliberate attempt to piss off fans . . . I'm not sure.
There it is . . .
In the comics, I think it's safe to say that Brainiac is the #2 bad guy for Superman right after Lex Luthor. He's been portrayed as an alien, an A.I., or some combination of the two. He's never really been downright evil, more or less he's just thirsty for knowledge and wants to steal as much as he can for himself.
I'm pretty sure that the idea of Brainiac destroying Krypton was a new concept that Geoff Johns initiated. The idea was that Brainiac showed up, stole the city of Kandor and put it in a bottle (as one does), and then launched a projectile into Krypton's sun causing it to go supernova and destroy the planet. Decades later, Brainiac attempted to do the same thing to Earth. He steals Metropolis, imprisons Superman, and tries to make our sun go supernova as well. Not only was Brainiac an intellectual match for Superman, when he revealed himself he was a hulking mass, fully capable of making Superman bleed with just one punch. Johns turned the simple Brainiac shrinks cities and wants knowledge concept into a truly interesting and exciting story that not only showed just how dangerous this character is but that he still had plenty of potential stories to be told that had not been thought of yet.
Fun fact - this story was adapted into an animated film called Superman: Unbound. And it's awesome. So check it out!
A NEW AND VERY DANGEROUS REVERSE FLASH
One of Johns' greatest strengths is villains. He's great at creating villains, offering new twists on villains (as was the case with Brainiac), but best of all he's great at getting the reader to simultaneously hate and sympathize with the villain. This was especially true of the new Reverse Flash he created named Zoom. He started off during Johns' run with The Flash as Hunter Zolomon, a Profiler for the Rogues working with the Keystone City Police Department. Zolomon was formerly with the FBI, but after a tragic mistake cost him his job, his wife, and his father-in-law's life, he was reassigned to Keystone City. During one of Gorilla Grodd's rampages, Zolomon's back was broken. He begged Wally West, the Flash, to use the Cosmic Treadmill (yes that's a real thing) to go back in time and save him. When Wally refuses, Zolomon breaks into the Flash Museum (also a real thing) and tries to use the Treadmill but it blows up in his face. Just like me at the gym last week.
Trying to get in shape is dangerous!
Zolomon wakes up in the hospital and realizes that he can move faster than anyone there. He's been granted super speed and intends to use it. However, his idea isn't just to torture Wally, it's to put him through enough trauma that he will become a better hero. His thought process is that if Wally suffers enough, he'll be the type of hero that will do anything to protect his loved ones and his city. Pretty fucked up right? I mean, it's a nice enough idea but how does Zoom go about it? He kills Wally's unborn children. Fucked. Up.
Turns out that Zoom is actually a lot faster than any of the other Flashes. Instead of tapping into the Speed Force like the other speedsters, he is connected to time itself, pushing himself forward that way. It's a little weird, but actually makes for a very exciting story. Zoom is super fast, intelligent, and just crazy enough to believe he's doing the right thing. He made for a wonderful antagonist against Wally the same way that Eobard Thawne was a great villain for Barry. It sounds like elements of Johns' Zoom will be incorporated into the Zoom character on The Flash's second season.
AQUAMAN IS A BAD ASS
Ask anyone on the street and they'll tell you that Aquaman is kind of a joke. I mean, what's his power? He talks to fish! That's so stupid! Geoff Johns looked at this character and saw a great leader, a warrior, and one of the most powerful and complicated heroes in the DC Universe. Arthur Curry was one of the resurrected heroes at the end of Blackest Night. He played a large role in the follow up Brightest Day. Then, when DC relaunched their line as "the New 52," Johns, along with frequent collaborators Ivan Reis and Joe Prado, gave Aquaman his first solo book in a long time. Aquaman's status as joke and "nobody's favorite superhero" was advertised right up front. Not only was Aquaman ridiculed and made fun of right to his face, but he was aware of it. The comic was funny, exciting, a little scary, but most of all a fun read.
But that wasn't all! Aquaman was also established as a prominent member of the Justice League. Although he didn't make his debut in the Justice League comic until issue #4. But needless to say, when he did show up and Green Lantern thought he wasn't going to be much help, he proved his worth.
You were saying, Hal? Yeah that's right! Shut your mouth!
Aquaman was even the center of a big Justice League event called Throne of Atlantis. In that story, he had to fight his half brother from Atlantis. He had to choose between the Justice League and his people. It was an amazing story and full of Shakespearean themes. It was adapted into an animated film called Justice League: Throne of Atlantis. Yeah . . . it was that good! Or Geoff used his CCO status to make the animated film producers film his best comics . . .
MARTHA WAYNE'S MAIDEN NAME IS ARKHAM
Ok so this is a bit of a cheat. This change only affects the Earth One series. Potentially it only affects the Batman books because it's not clear if they are all connected yet or not. But it's no matter! This particular change is a stroke of brilliance if you ask me. In the regular Batman comic books, Bruce's mother, Martha, was Martha Kane, heiress to one of the most influential and richest families in Gotham City. However, in the Earth One series, it's revealed that Bruce is the son of the Waynes and Arkhams. Penguin has a line in Volume One where he says, "The Arkhams built Gotham and the Waynes paid for it." In the story, the Arkham family was notorious for going crazy and doing terrible crimes like rape and murder. There's a scene where Harvey Dent says that because Bruce is half Arkham that he will eventually go crazy just like his grandparents.
To be fair, Harvey is obsessed with halves. And he's crazy.
Johns had stated that he did this deliberately to bring the crazy back to Batman. I think it was a good idea. In the mainstream DC Comics, the Arkhams have a very sad, crazy history. Lining that up directly with Bruce Wayne is a genius move and gives validation to Bruce's idea of dressing up like a giant bat and fighting crime.
THE CRIME SYNDICATE
The Crime Syndicate are evil versions of the Justice League from Earth 3. Traditionally, they were just evil versions of each character. Johns actually took the time in both Forever Evil and in the main Justice League comic to flesh out their backstories and make them interesting and exciting characters. Not only were they twisted versions of each Justice League member, but they all have interpersonal dynamics that added to their personalities. Ultraman is weakened by sunlight but strengthened by kryptonite. Owlman is actually Thomas Wayne, Jr. He and Alfred, aka the Outsider, are the ones that killed the Waynes. Dick Grayson on their world became the Talon (a concept borrowed from the Court of Owls storyline). Superwoman is actually Lois Lane and uses a Lasso of Submission, instead of a Lasso of Truth. Power Ring is a cowardly Hal Jordan that is bullied into doing terrible things by his ring. Johnny Quick is a murderous, psychotic Barry Allen. Deathstorm is Dr. Martin Stein but uses his transmutation powers for evil. Then there is Grid. He was the robot half of Cyborg but he became sentient and sided with the Crime Syndicate. Then there is Atomica. She claimed to be the Atom and helped the Justice League but then turned out to be evil. Classic sounding story yes but it was really, really good!
Here's what the Crime Syndicate used to look like. LAME-O!
During Forever Evil, most of the Crime Syndicate was killed by Lex Luthor and his crew. However, three members survived - Ultraman, Owlman, and a pregnant Superwoman. Owlman got away and as of this writing is still at large. I'm sure Johns has plans to bring him back in a big way. Like I said, he's great with villains. Which brings me to my next point . . .
LEX LUTHOR - MEMBER OF THE JUSTICE LEAGUE!
After the events of Forever Evil, the world saw Lex Luthor as a hero. And let's face it, he is a hero. His crew of villains were the ones that stopped the Crime Syndicate's reign of terror and rescued the Justice League. Even members of the Justice League had to admit that Luthor was doing some good. Oh and there was that whole thing where Lex figured out that Bruce Wayne is Batman! DUN DUN DUN!!!
The Billionaire Orphans Club meets every Wednesday
While Lex does use this knowledge as leverage against Bruce, his intentions are still good. He's invited up to the Justice League Watchtower. Wonder Woman uses the Lasso of Truth on him and he confesses to wanting to help the League and be a hero. So far he has been true to his word. He's trying to make up for the sins of his past as one of the good guys. Like any "good guy" he's got his fair share of enemies. Time will tell if he reverts to his old ways and tries to kill Superman.
When it was announced that Luthor was joining the Justice League I couldn't help but smile and laugh. What an amazing idea! Arguably the DCU's greatest villain is now considered one of the greatest heroes. Johns is great with villains. We're seeing, in a way, the Redemption of Lex Luthor. Will it stick?
SUPERBOY - SON OF TWO WORLDS
One of Geoff Johns' best contributions to DC Comics was the true parentage of Superboy. When Superboy first showed up in the comics, it was after the "Death of Superman" and he was one of the so-called replacements.
Let's see we got Robo-Face, Shaq, Douchebag, and the Terminator . . .
Superboy was Superman's clone created by Cadmus Labs to replace him after his death. He was a typical teenager - rambunctious, egotistical, but he had a good heart. When Geoff Johns took over Teen Titans, he revealed that Superboy was not just the clone of Superman, he was also the clone of Lex Luthor. It was a secret that Superboy shared with Tim Drake/Robin. He didn't have the heart to tell the rest of the Titans because he was afraid of how they would react.
Damn that's terrifying . . .
There was an issue where Lex did take advantage of Superboy and forced him to attack the Titans. Not long after that he went through a "soul search" with Raven. She showed him that he did indeed have a soul. He created it of his own free will. He may have been created in a lab, but he was alive and that was proof. During Infinite Crisis Superboy fought a crazy version of Clark Kent called Superboy-Prime. He died fighting him and protecting the world. It was a great sacrifice. But then, in typical Geoff Johns fashion, he decided to bring him back a few years later during Final Crisis. Once again, Superboy battled Superboy-Prime. It was another incredible story that also saw the resurrection of Bart Allen/Kid Flash. After that, Johns told a story about Superboy deciding who he wanted to be - Superman or Lex Luthor. As with any coming-of-age story, in the end it was about Superboy defining his own destiny and not letting Superman or Luthor decide it for him.
This particular idea has made it into two different series - Young Justice and Smallville. In Young Justice, the young heroes discover a Superman-clone and take him in as part of their team. During Smallville, one of Lex's clones started to develop superpowers. Clark took him under his wing and tried to help him control his powers and choose his own destiny.
He's got the shirt and everything!
I remember watching this arc on Smallville and being so excited. Superboy's parentage was one of my favorite comic book stories and seeing it brought to life on my favorite show was super-gratifying. Uh . . . no pun intended. But seriously, it was so bad ass and made me want to reread all the comics again. And I did. Hell, I probably will after writing this.
THE REVERSE FLASH KILLED BARRY'S MOTHER
For many years in the comics, The Flash was one of the few DC heroes that never experienced any sort of tragedy in his back story. Unlike Hal Jordan, Barry was actually resurrected by Grant Morrison during Final Crisis. After that, Johns wrote Flash: Rebirth and gave Barry a new backstory. Barry was readjusting to life as both Barry Allen and as the Flash. He soon discovered a disturbance in the Speed Force (pun intended). The disturbance came from Eobard Thawne. He told Barry that all the tragedy in his life came from him. He was torturing Barry. He couldn't kill Barry because Barry powered the Speed Force and Thawne needs that to maintain his own powers, which come from the Negative Speed Force (yepp, a bit ridiculous but I assure you the story was amazing). Thawne was spending his whole life torturing Barry. Thawne devoted his life to the Flash and when he realized that the Flash was just a man, and not a god (or whatever) and he wanted to punish him. Cuz Thawne is a crazy person.
I remember reading Flash: Rebirth and falling in love with it. Johns gave Barry the tragedy he needed to truly become a great hero. Not only was his mother dead, but his father was wrongfully imprisoned for her murder. Tragically, Barry's father died in prison. Barry was never able to exonerate his father. This of course led to the wonderful Flashpoint series. Barry decided to go back in time and save his mother's life. In that instant, he destroyed reality creating terrifying and tragic alternate versions of the world's most famous heroes and villains. And it all started with the Reverse Flash screwing with Barry's life.
This particular storyline was adapted into the first season of The Flash. It was handled extremely well, probably because one of the producers of the show is Geoff Johns himself. During Barry's appearance on Arrow he described how his mother was murdered. I will never forget watching that episode and jumping up and down with excitement. This was confirmation that Arrow didn't live in the same "gritty, grounded" reality that the Christopher Nolan Dark Knight films lived in. And if I'm being honest with myself I never liked that idea. I like the comic booky stuff and when Barry was on Arrow I knew that we would see more fantastical stuff on the show. And then the Flash premiered and it was amazing. Geoff Johns was able to bring to life his favorite comic book character and his rogues gallery. The Flash is a recent love for me, but it came from Geoff Johns and his run with both Wally West and especially Barry Allen. Rebirth and the Flash TV series just validated my love of the character and his world.
THE ROYGBIV LANTERN CORPS
When Geoff Johns rebooted Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps I think few suspected what he REALLY had in mind. Geoff brought back Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps. Then he decided that every color of the rainbow would have a Lantern Corps attached to it. You can read all about it in Green Lantern: Wanted (Star Sapphire), The Sinestro Corps War (Sinestro Corps/Yellow Lanterns), Rage of the Red Lanterns (Red and Blue), Agent Orange (Orange/Larfleeze), Blackest Night (Black), Brightest Day (White), and the Secret of the Indigo Tribe (Indigo). The idea itself sounds so ridiculous and laughable. BUT it was handled so well that the thought of laughing at it doesn't even cross your mind. Geen is powered by Will, Red is Rage, Orange is Greed, Yellow is Fear, Blue is Hope, Indigo is Compassion, Violet is Love, White is Life and Black is Death. And each Corps is specific to the emotion that they represent:
Red is just fire and hate, barely able to concentrate on what they're doing.
Orange is just one creature named Larfleeze. He hoards his power and barely uses it.
Yellow can make constructs of your worst nightmares. They are essentially terrorists. They think they are doing the right thing but they are bad people.
Green is the police. They have the will to create constructs and do amazing things with their rings.
Blue is a very spiritual, almost religious section. They have the potential to be the most powerful Lanterns but their powers do not work without a Green Lantern present. Which makes sense, if you have hope but don't have the will to back it up, your hope is useless.
Indigo can channel all the other colors. Compassion can channel all the emotions. This is very helpful but also very dangerous.
Violet can form constructs but, like Red, they can get caught up in the emotion and act on impulse rather than logic.
See what I mean? How cool is that? Every color/Lantern makes perfect sense! Johns took the ideas of emotions and the power they possess in our daily lives and heightened it for his Green Lantern run. I mentioned before how his strength was villains. Obviously, that's true but his other major strength is what I like to call the "How Come No One Thought of It Before" syndrome. A simple thought like giving a Lantern Corps to every color of the rainbow seems so obvious but Geoff was the one that initiated it in the comic books. And it's something that remains to this day. I used to think that the other Lantern Corps would go away after Blackest Night. Much to my surprise and delight those Corps stuck around and were developed further. Both the Red Lanterns and Larfleeze had their own comic books for a long while. These ideas even made it into the Green Lantern animated series, the Green Lantern film and even easter eggs on The Flash.
Oh . . . We've got one more thing to talk about - Arguably the best thing Geoff Johns did for DC Comics.
Here is a little known fact about me - Batman may be my favorite comic book character but my actual favorite COMIC BOOK for a long time was Green Lantern. It was so exciting and interesting that it never failed to get me excited to read it. I said before how I never heard of Green Lantern before Rebirth but I was interested to see what would happen and I wanted to read it. Ever since then, I've been a huge Green Lantern fan. I look back on it now and feel so proud to be a part of this major change in the mythos with the Lantern Corps creation. I mean I was just a fan, but I was there watching it happen every Wednesday. It was so much fun and made me so happy. As a fan, I couldn't have asked for more.
And then it was announced that Johns was working on Flash: Rebirth following Final Crisis. As soon as I read that I knew that the Flash was about to become a new favorite character for me. I was not at all disappointed. The Flash did quickly become a favorite for me. I read some Flash comics before that and enjoyed them, but Rebirth was a transformative experience for me as a fan. I have a Batman tattoo, and I always joked that I would get a Green Lantern tattoo. I have not yet (tattoos are expensive!) but I think I'll definitely add a Flash tattoo to the list. But back on topic - even moreso than Rebirth, Flashpoint cemented my love of Barry Allen and the Reverse Flash. They have such a great rivalry and it's somewhat unique to comics.
I may have missed some of them but there were other "Rebirths" that Johns had a hand in. There was Hawkman, the Justice Society, the Legion of Superheroes, and the ones I mentioned earlier like Aquaman and the Teen Titans. Those were all important not just to the comic books but now to DC Entertainment in general. The Legion of Superheroes and the Justice Society made memorable appearances on Smallville. Aquaman is set to appear in Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice. The Titans have a live action TV show in development. Clearly, Geoff Johns' influence will last for a good long while.
As I stated before, Geoff Johns is my favorite comic book writer. I was privileged to meet him a few times at Comic Con.
My goofy ass smile is genuine
He was great to talk to and share ideas with. I mean, not like big, exciting ideas but I told him how the Rebirth comics got me excited for the characters and how Aquaman blew me away. He was gracious and seemed just as excited for the characters as I was. I'll never forget those experiences. Johns' comics have meant a lot to me over the years. I still reread them to this day and never get tired of them. His influence on the later years of Smallville as well as the recent DC shows like Arrow, the Flash, Gotham, and the upcoming Supergirl are apparent to me. I know just what to recommend to new viewers and budding fans because of his work.
I don't know if he will ever read this but I would like to express a very sincere thank you to Geoff Johns. Your books brought me a lot of joy, especially at a time in my life when I was very sad. For example, I was supposed to have a blind date the same day that Aquaman #1 came out. However, the girl backed out on me because she was still struggling with feelings for her ex. I was very upset. Then I took a break at work and read Aquaman. No joke - it instantly cheered me up. The issue was funny, fun, and got me excited for next month's release. That's just one example. There are many more and they all stem from Geoff's amazing work at DC. I'm still a fan and will probably have to update this list when his Batman: Earth One and Justice League series are done (which will hopefully NEVER HAPPEN). Thank you, Geoff. I'm a fan because of your work.
Ok, now I'm gonna grab some tissues and reread the entire Green Lantern run!
Till Next Time!
JJ - The Comic Junkie!