Geoff Johns is a busy man. As Chief Creative Officer of DC Entertainment, he oversees the use of DC's stable of characters in other media. With four animated series, several films, a live action TV show, and at least one video game currently announced as in various stages of development, that job alone seems it would keep him from sleeping.
Then there's the writing. Johns is still writing comics, currently shepherding three major franchise players for DC Comics. With Justice League, he gets his hands on all of their major characters from Batman to Superman to Wonder Woman and far beyond. With Aquaman he has made a character that many saw as a joke become a top seller and well-resected member of the DC pantheon. And with Green Lantern he continues to expand the DC universe with corps across the emotional spectrum, Guardians who are losing patience, and a whole new army of law-enforcing soldiers.
We sat down with Geoff Johns at Comic-Con International: San Diego for a chat about each of his properties, some teases on what's to come, and why you should be very excited about DC's upcoming video game.
Newsarama: Geoff, thanks for taking the time with us. What's the big deal for DC Comics at San Diego Comic-Con this year?
Geoff Johns: The big deal? I dunno, I think this [redesigned] booth is a pretty big deal! It's pretty slick. DC Collectibles is looking good, Injustice, the video game, is looking amazing. It's fantastic. All the comic books look great, got a couple cool announcements. It's all going well.
Nrama: You're feeling pretty good about DC Entertainment as a whole it seems…
Johns: Yeah, we've got the Arrow costume over there with the Deathstroke head, we have LEGO Batman 2, Dark Knight Rises comes out next week… it's all good!
Nrama: So let's talk about the comic book side. You're continuing to write write write. How much of that balance has shifted now that you've been in your new position for a couple of years?
Johns: I don't know, I still write about three books a month. I write at night and on the weekends mostly, and days here and there. It's a lot of work but I still love it. I work with these artists, the same artists I always work with like Dough Mahnke and Ivan Reis and Gary Frank. Those are kind of my guys, so it's fun.
Nrama: Does sticking with those artists make the writing process easier for you?
Johns: It's not necessarily easier. It's the kind of style I look for alongside my writing. I look for the emotional storytellers and also a clean, superhero look.
Doug Mahnke brings a really great grit to everything he does, it has a little bit of an edge, but he can still do all of the emotional scenes. The Hal and Sinestro stuff, he can add a lot of humor to that.Ivan Reis and Joe Prado on Aquaman, they bring the grace. There's a great shot in Aquaman #1 of Mera behind Aquaman, she's on the rocks, and it's like poetry. You can see the magic in there. There's a beautiful shot of Mera in Aquaman #12 that Ivan and Joe did that makes her look angelic. And Aquaman has that power, that clean really heroic, iconic superhero look.
Then Gary Frank brings all the emotion; between Shazam and the kids and Batman: Earth One I just think Gary Frank is a master at the subtlety of emotion.
Nrama: We just saw a cover with basically the entire Aquaman family on it for #13. Is that expanded cast going to be sticking around? Will we see a lot more of them?
Johns: The Others… you have to read the end of the Others storyline to see who sticks around and who doesn't.
You'll learn more about the characters in the next few issues, you'll see them interact together for the first time; we haven't seen that team come together yet. You'll learn about Black Manta's search and what he's looking for, and how that ties into Arthur's journey as the King of Atlantis. It really explores both the history of Aquaman on an emotional level with Black Manta and the future of where he's going.
Nrama: What's it been like having Aquaman stay toward the top of the charts and having such a response to the character almost a year in?
Johns: It's been pretty ridiculous! It's been great, really really great. We really feel good about the book.Nrama: Of course you also have big things coming in Green Lantern, what can you tell us about the Rise of the Third Army?
Johns: Well, the idea is that we've been building the Guardians to this for quite awhile. The Guardians thought emotion was the weakness that resulted in murder and chaos and violence in the universe so they created the Manhunters to police it, and that didn't work.
Then they thought maybe it's not emotion as a whole we need to eradicate, maybe it's fear. The thing that causes violence and mistrust and all these horrible things. So they created the Green Lantern Corps and embraced Will. Now with the creation of all the other Lantern Corps and the emotional spectrum, now they feel that's out of control. So they now want to create a third army to take care of what they deem the real problem in the universe is. And the real problem they think is, unfortunately the one thing that we embraced is Will.
Free Will, the idea that beings have free will that can lead to these bad decisions, that needs to end. So they're going to eradicate free will by creating this new third army. And what the Third Army actually is, what they do, we'll see really soon, but the Guardians are on a mission to essentially wipe out all semblance of free will.
Nrama: This is something that's going to go across all the Lantern books, but is it something that will reach out of those into the rest of the DCU at all?
Johns: Well, Rise of the Third Army is going to happen subsequently in all the Lantern books, but you don't have to read all the Lantern titles to get it. Then that builds to another story. This is actually the prologue to another story.
So, Rise of the Third Army is not actually, not quite an event, it's the prologue to the next story that immediately follows it. I don't know how to explain it much better than that so hopefully that makes sense!
Nrama: Yeah! Is this a coordinated effort at DC, to do these sort of events, these story lines that crossover without really crossing over in the traditional sense, like we saw with Batman: Night of the Owls and now we're seeing with Rise of the Third Army?
Johns: I think so. One of the things I like about… when we did Sinestro Corps it was really about embracing the Green Lantern universe. Blackest Night was the same way, you didn't necessarily have to read Green Lantern Corps to understand Blackest Night and vice versa.
So Court of Owls and Rise of the Third Army and some other stuff coming up, we want it to live in the same universe, but we don't want to force people to buy every book. That's what we want to do. If you are reading Green Lantern and are interested in how the Third Army affects the Red Lanterns or just want to know a bit more about them, you can buy that book. Or if you only want to read Red Lanterns, you can do that and get a complete story. You don't have to buy anything you don't want to.
Nrama: Tell us about the second year of Justice League.Johns: I will tell you that we will lose some members, we will gain some members. We will learn a lot more about what the supervillains are up to in the DC Universe… What else can I spoil?
If the first year was about establishing the team as a group of superpowered individuals who get together once every month or two and stop a villain together then go their separate ways and not really have any personal ties, that all comes to bite them in the ass in Justice League #12 and things go really wrong. They realize that they have to be the team that everyone thinks they are. So if the first year was about who they are, the second year is about who they should be.
Nrama: How about movies, the DC Nation cartoon block, and the video game world (I noticed Cyborg in Injustice)? What can you say about those?
Johns: Can't talk about movies at all!
DC Nation cartoon block is going really well and we have some really fun stuff coming up. And for live action make sure you check out Arrow, it's really exciting.
You have to check out Injustice though it's really cool. Our important characters like Cyborg are going to be in there. We worked really closely with WBIE on those games. And when he arrives, it's in a BOOM Tube, it's really cool.