Geoff Johns Joins with Jim Lee for DC Universe Online Game

Geoff Johns to Write DCU Online

It's a collaboration in the gaming world that's sure to interest comic book fans. When players create new characters in the DC Universe Online video game    , not only will the look of the character be crafted by artist Jim Lee, but the origin story will be written by comics scribe Geoff Johns.

As announced today by Sony Online Entertainment, Johns is writing the backstory for the massively multiplayer DCUO. The game, which is being developed by Sony for both PC and Playstation 3, will allow players to create custom characters that can be either heroes or villains that fight alongside well-known characters in familiar settings of the DC Universe.

As current writer of the ongoing DC series Green Lantern, Action Comics and Justice Society of America, as well as an upcoming episode of Smallville, Johns said he's using his knowledge of the vast DCU to plot the various choices that players can make as they develop their hero or villain.

"It's almost like you have a Secret Origin. That's what I look at is as," Johns said. "If you're a new hero; what's your Secret Origin? Your Secret Origin is going to take you throughout the DC Universe, from one end to the next, from The Daily Planet to the inner dungeons of the Doom Patrol's castle in Prague. That's my goal, is to really have you be able to visit and interact with any corner of the DC Universe, whether it's the world of the Flash or the Suicide Squad."

One of the first challenges Johns had as he tackled the game's story was its premise, as the DCU is suddenly filled with new heroes and villains in this online world. "I'm writing the whole overall story of the world. It's the story of what's happening, where all these new heroes and villains are coming from, and what's happening that's demanding a surge or influx of superhumans and magic users. What is that event?" he said. "[It's] like a call to arms for something that's about to happen."

The game takes place in the current comic book DCU, Johns said, indicating there wasn't a connection to the universes of movies or TV shows. "It's pretty current with the comic book universe. The game doesn't come out for awhile, but I also know where the DCU is going to be then," he said. "I know what the DC Universe is going to be like, so some of the stuff, I can get into synch and make sure it will be as close to modern day as possible, like a neo-iconic version of the DC Universe. It's pretty close to being a modern day comics version of the DC Universe."

Being current also means that, as the story of the game continues, it may reflect specific stories within comic books. "There's a lot of talk of things that will happen in the comics that will later happen in the game, or things that have happened recently in the comic that they'll implement in the game. So yes, there is a lot of discussion of that. Some storylines might be adapted full-on," Johns said.

When asked if players might even see familiar storylines like The Death of Superman or The Judas Contract in the game someday, Johns replied, "You might see something like that."

For now, Johns is only writing the original back story of the game and not further storylines, although he said there's been some discussion of his involvement in the future. "It depends. We've talked a lot about doing things down the line, other stories down the line, but right now I'm focused on the initial Secret Origin story," he said.

Comic book readers have already noticed in promotional trailers for the game that some characters who are favorites of Johns -- like Black Adam and Sinestro -- are featured quite a bit in the game. The writer said that's not an accident, as a few of his well-known storylines make an appearance.

"There are a few in there. The characters that I work with on a consistent basis, obviously, are in there in a prominent way, but the other DC characters that I haven't had a chance to work with are in there too," the writer said. "I'm hoping that Cheetah becomes a pretty big, major character with a piece of the virtual world that I created. I think she's a great character. And there are a few others that I haven't really had a chance to play within the comics that I played with in this."

The writer said he and Jim Lee had been talking about working together for years, and although this project wasn't what they originally had in mind, he liked the unique challenges and opportunities this project presented when Lee offered him the job.

"I'd heard about the project for quite awhile. I think everyone has. And a little while ago, Jim Lee called me and asked me if I'd like to work on it with him. He said he wanted me to essentially develop the story of the game and kind of outline how you get into the game and where the game takes you," Johns said. "I've known Jim for a long time, and we've wanted to work together on something. We always talked about comics, but this is like a whole different level of comic books, I guess. A virtual comic book. So I was really excited about the opportunity to try and recreate the DC Universe in a virtual environment.

"I was like, how detailed can I get? And they said, as detailed as you want," he said. "I'm kind of a freak when it comes to the far-reaching corners of the DC Universe, so to do that and be able to say, 'Can you build this?' or to say, like, 'can we use the Rogues?' And to have them come back and say, 'Sure! Which ones? Any Rogues you want!' It was really pretty freeing, and it was a kind of experience I'd never had in the DC Universe. It's a totally different way to write."

While the writer said there was no way he could write every line of dialogue, he did outline the details of what would happen to players as they weave their way through the game's virtual DC Universe. "It's gigantic. I can't tell you how big the world is going to be. For me to do every single line of dialogue, I would have to quit comics to do that," he said. "It's a little bizarre, because I had to write these stories from a lot of perspectives. There's a lot of different ways to write this story. But again, it's the story of who you are coming into this, what your path is, and which path are you going to take. It's all about choice, too.

"It's really a virtual Secret Origin. In a Secret Origin, you make a decision to go one way or the other. We see it in all the comic books -- in Green Lantern's Secret Origin, in Superman's, Batman's, everybody's Secret Origin," Johns said. "You see things happen, and then there's a choice that's made. And that's up to you this time. In the DC Universe context, which way are you going to go? There are a lot of different ways to go, and a lot of different ways to operate. You'll have help along the way, and you'll have a lot of people who don't want you to succeed along the way as well, on both sides."

But before any of his fans start thinking that line about the story being "gigantic" means Johns will back away from comics, he put that thought to rest right away. "No way. Most of my work on the game is done," he said. "I've been working on it for quite awhile. So this isn't anything new for me. It's just been under wraps."

Johns, who is already known among his fans as an avid online gamer, has often joked that he pretty much lives in the DC Universe in his head because he writes so many comics each month. "And now it's a chance to actually do it. I'm very afraid when the game comes out," he laughed. "It's actually going to be weird playing it. I'll know where to go, all the secret places to go."

And although Johns said his online persona would be a hero, the writer admitted that it's tempting to turn toward the dark side. "I'll be a hero first. I might have two secret identities. I'll be a hero and a villain," Johns said with a laugh. "But the idea of being able to enter the DC Universe will be a lot of fun. Your secret identity's outside your computer. You put on your mask and you log on and you get into the DC Universe Online. Part of the fun is going to the Bat Cave and either learning from Batman, or Batman beating you down and tossing you in Arkham Asylum, and now you have to escape. And the way it's structured, and the way the story's structured, with who your mentors are and the people you follow and break off with, I think it's going to be a lot of fun."

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