Spoiler Sport: Geoff Johns on Legion of 3 Worlds #1

DC Preview: Legion of 3 Worlds #1

It's the motto of the team and their fans: "Long Live the Legion!"

But in last week's Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds #1, the group of teens from 1,000 years in the future were faced with threats and challenges that questioned just how long the Legion of Super-Heroes would live.

Last week, Newsarama looked back at 50 years of the Legion of Super-Heroes by talking to the writers who guided their evolution over the years. From former Legion writers like Mark Waid, Keith Giffen and Dan Abnett, to current ongoing series writer Jim Shooter, to DC president and publisher Paul Levitz, we've examined what's made the Legion of Super-Heroes stand the test of time as we celebrated the team's 50th anniversary.

Now we talk to Geoff Johns, the writer behind the Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds mini-series that started this week, to find out more about the Legion's future, what artist George Perez brought to the series, and what we'll be seeing in the next four issues.

Newsarama: Geoff, this issue spends much of the first part of the story inside the Superman museum. Was that an effort to make this #1 issue accessible to new readers?

Geoff Johns: It was, but that scene tells you more about Superboy-Prime. It's what makes Prime lose it when he discovers his big, monumental contribution to the history of the DC Universe ends with him being shoved in a broom closet. It’s a literal version of what happened to him last time he saved the universe and was pushed away.

NRAMA: His name was switched to Superman-Prime, yet he's called Superboy-Prime in this issue and you just used that name too. Is his title back to being Super"boy"-Prime?

GJ: He doesn't want to be Superboy-Prime. But he’s starting to accept it. He’s starting realize, “Hey, maybe this whole me becoming Superman isn’t going to happen the way I thought.” He wants to attack and destroy everything Superman has inspired and break it down. Whatever they call him, they call him. He's going to make sure people are scared of that "S" from now on – his "S," not Superman's.

NRAMA: We've talked before about how Superboy-Prime loosely represents the attitude of some readers. With this dialogue he uses, he really steals the show here, Geoff. Is he a fun character to write?

GJ: He's a super fun character to write. He's really, really fun to write. He's actually more complex than some people give him credit for, but that's what makes him such a fascinating character to me.

NRAMA: How is he complex?

GJ: There's a lot there if you look at his history. He's been kicked around, sure, but everyone's been kicked around, and that doesn't mean you can go kick around other people. If you’re bullied in school, you don’t get to go back to get revenge. You grow beyond it. But Prime feels entitled. He was picked on as a kid, and he got his greatest wish and got these great powers, but then he lost it all. And he's extremely jaded and cynical and angry about it, and malicious now and sadistic. But he thinks he's justified. Yet there's no justification for his behavior.

NRAMA: What's oddly appealing about the character is that his dialogue makes you laugh, but you almost feel guilty for laughing because he’s so sick and sadistic.

GJ: Well, yeah. And if he heard you laughing, you'd be in trouble. When he says he's in the "stupid future," it's just funny. But he'd look at you and say, "What are you laughing at? This is dumb."

I love the character. He's a perfect character to get under people's skin. And he’s a blast to work with.

I also believe Superboy-Prime is incredibly unique in his attitude and everything it reflects. He couldn’t exist 10 years ago as he does now. He wouldn’t have resonated. I still give props to journalist Matt Singer for recognizing it light years before everyone else.

NRAMA: He kind of sums up a lot of his motivation when he says, "It's not fair!"

GJ: Yeah. "It's not fair!" He wants what he wants. He wants it the way he wants it, if he thinks it's not fair. And he stamps his feet and heat visions people if he doesn't get it. He's a psychotic brat wearing blinders.

But the purpose of the whole museum scene was two-fold. Number one, it was to really irritate Prime, which is always fun to do. And the second one, obviously, was to help make this book as accessible as possible because it is such a big, epic, complex story in the DC Universe.

People are fairly familiar with Prime by now, if they've been reading comics at all for the last few years, but even he's addressed in this issue: Who he is and where he comes from. But the Legion is fairly new to a lot of readers. People haven't read a lot of Legion in the last few years, and especially the original Legion. So the idea was just to make sure we had the basics at the beginning. For the scope of this, I’m very proud of what we were able to do.

NRAMA: We've talked quite a bit about how that accessibility is something you often strive to achieve in your work.

GJ: I think Rogues Revenge #1 was accessible. I think Sinestro Corps was accessible. As a writer, it helps me if I crystallize what the emotional content of these journeys are, and what the conceptual content of these characters are. And there are different ways you can do that. And this just happened to be a very organic way for me and for Prime. It was like, what would be the worst thing that Prime could experience? And it was to see all this great stuff that was all there for the other guy.

But also, throughout the issue, my focus is on a handful of Legionnaires; Lightning Lad and Cosmic Boy and Saturn Girl and seeing them in action. And Polar Boy and Sun Boy and Brainiac 5 – to just give you a sense of who these characters are and where they are emotionally right now. What their motivations are or what they want and what they don't want.

NRAMA: And what are the Legion members' motivations right now?

GJ: Well, Lightning Lad is just thinking, screw this – let's go. He's got a little bit of a temper and a bit of a chip on his shoulder. He’s tired of having to prove himself to anyone. And then Polar Boy and Sun Boy are complete opposites. Sun Boy essentially has given up. His passion's out. And Polar Boy's passion will never, ever die. He wasn't a Legionnaire for a long time. Polar Boy was a “sub”, so when he got on the team, it was the greatest day of his life. Every day that he wakes up and that ring's still there, it's the greatest day of his life all over again. And Sun Boy just doesn't understand that anymore. He doesn't know what the big deal is about the ring.

NRAMA: The conflict between Polar Boy and Sun Boy is essentially what this entire scene with the United Planets Council is about, isn't it? That's the basic question facing the Legion up front – Sun Boy and the Council verbalize it: Does the Legion still have a place in the universe?

GJ: Yeah, do they? That's the central question to this. What is the Legion all about? My goal is to tell an epic story that redefines and re-examines who the Legion is, both as a team and as individual members. So I want to challenge all of that, and look at it and break it open.

And also, Superman – what's he all about? He says they can't imprison Prime because he always breaks out. And he's not going to kill him because it's against everything he believes in.

NRAMA: Superman wants to redeem him. But Geoff, redeeming Superboy-Prime doesn't seem possible.

GJ: But that's Superman. That's what he's about. And if you think the entire Legion's going to go along with it, that's a whole other story and aspect of the question.

Also, what does it mean to redeem Prime? Does Superman actually think he'll fly alongside him? Or does he think he'll repent and give himself up and go away? Does it means he voluntarily feels regret and serves his time? What does that mean? That’s what some of the Legionnaires want to know.

NRAMA: Part of what the Legion does in this issue is rescue Mon-El. Is this the same Mon-El we saw in the Action Comics Annual?

GJ: Yes, it is. This is the Mon-El that's been a member of this Legion for years. It's the same Mon-El that Superman met when he was a kid. And he's the same one who was in Action Comics during “Last Son” and will be appearing in the upcoming Superman books.

NRAMA: And there's an appearance from Ursa and Zod in here from your “Last Son” arc as well.

GJ: Yeah! That was fun. There's a touch of gray in Zod's hair, if you look close. I guess he's gotten out a few times and screwed around. [laughs]

NRAMA: Did you come up with that?

GJ: Yeah, it was in the script. There’s a lot in this book. George and [inker] Scott [Koblish] have done such an amazing job on the detail; you can go back and see all the layers and complexity. I wanted to achieve that kind of emotional depth and resonance with the story as well, because I knew people would be going back to this. So there are smaller and subtler things you can catch, new things, as you re-read it, both in the artwork and story.

NRAMA: There are tons of different characters in this issue, particularly in the museum, and with this artist, you can get away with it. Was this a case of you getting the art and seeing things he'd added?

GJ: I had a huge list of what was in that museum. But George added a lot to this issue, a ton. He’s a master storyteller. George goes even a step further than I do when it comes to the depth of this mythology. It’s an absolute honor to work with him, and I’m incredibly grateful it’s on Superboy-Prime and the Legion.

NRAMA: But some of this – like the 1,000 Olsens, I know from interviewing you before, that's all you.

GJ: Yeah. That was. [laughs] I just thought if Jimmy Olsen is the curator of a museum – a program of him even – it's going to be more about his adventures. I just like that Hall of 1,000 Olsens because, imagine if there are 1,000 Olsens in there, you only see maybe 10 of them, so it's a big room. I’d love to play laser tag in there.

NRAMA: Getting back to this question of the Legion's future – we see R.J. Brande die and his secret identity as a Durlan revealed. Is R.J. Brande's death the catalyst for what comes next for the Legion?

GJ: Yeah. His death either becomes an ending or a beginning. Do they move on? Like Brande's trying to say as he's dying, "Long Live the Legion." He doesn't finish his sentence. Can they finish it for him? Can they be the Legion again? Can they stand up and take control despite what anyone says? And that's the real question. Is it worth it? Is the Legion necessary? Can the Legion still do good? All these members are ready to continue on – but do they have the motivation?

NRAMA: Brande's death is an interesting parallel to the Legion's origin story. They could save his life the first time, and that's what inspired the beginning of the Legion. But they couldn't save his life here, and it's a turning point just like before.

GJ: Obviously, that parallel wasn't an accident. It started with Brande, and it will either end or start again with Brande.

NRAMA: And the threat really materializes when Superboy-Prime breaks the Legion of Super-Villains out of prison. Yet what’s this about Lightning Lord saying they're inspired by Superboy-Prime?

GJ: He's an ancient evil whose name has never been said. They don't talk about it a lot. It's the secret Legion of Super-Villains code.

NRAMA: Will we find out more about what's behind that inspiration?

GJ: You'll find out a little bit more about it.

NRAMA: We know the Time Trapper is behind this whole mess, but nobody in the story has figured that out. Is the Time Trapper going to have more of a role in future issues as he's discovered? Will we find out more about him?

GJ: He'll have a role throughout the whole series. He's the main villain, but obviously, he's not getting his hands dirty. He's letting Prime do all his dirty work.

NRAMA: You said you had lists of everything in the issue. With the double-page spread of the two other Legions, why are we seeing these particular characters?

GJ: These are representative of the members. They're not all the members who are coming through, because some of them are dead and some of them have changed. Like in the Zero Hour Legion, Monstress died awhile ago, Thunder returned to her own time – so there will be characters that don't appear in this story because their characters don't currently exist. We pick up the Zero Hour Legion right where we left them off. And in the three-boot Legion, Dream Girl died and Cosmic Boy's missing, and their Mon-El is back in the Phantom Zone, so we'll be up-to-date with everything as it is right now. Like in the Zero Hour Legion, Lightning Lad actually has the body of Element Lad. It's kind of complex. But all the little nuances and all the major character changes will be reflected when they join up with the other team. We did, however, want to see everybody from those two teams here.

NRAMA: Now, you kept promising a lightning rod in this series, but we didn't see one in this issue, did we?

GJ: You'll see the lightning rod in the series. That's the one that's been carrying over since “The Lightning Saga,” for anyone who's been following along. Brianiac 5 has the lightning rod, and he'll be using it in the next couple issues.

NRAMA: Anything else you can tell us that we're going to see coming up?

GJ: The Sorcerer’s World. The Central City of the 31st Century. The future of the Green Lanterns…

NRAMA: You told us in previous interviews that there were two Green Lanterns in the 31st Century – Rond Vidar and one other character. Can you tell us what other characters we'll be seeing in upcoming issues?

GJ: It’s all George Perez. You’ll see a lot in the next four issues.

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