On Friday, May 24, fans and colleagues gathered at Avalon Bardot Theater in Hollywood, CA to honor Geoff Johns and his nine-year run on DC Comics’ “Green Lantern.” Dubbed Greenest Night, the evening, co-sponsored by the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund and Comic Book Resources, saw Johns mingling with the attendees, signing comics and reminiscing about spending nearly a decade charting the adventures of Hal Jordan, Sinestro and the rest of the Corps, Green or otherwise.
The evening’s hightlight Johns on-stage discussion with CBR Executive Producer Jonah Weiland about his journey from fledgling comic book writer to restoring Hal Jordan and “Green Lantern” to comics’ upper echelon. Below, CBR presents the second half of their conversation including a discussion of Johns’ time with director and much more. If you missed Part One, be sure to watch it first for the full Greenest Night experience. with Part Two coming up tomorrow.
On his early days in Los Angeles as Richard Donner’s assistant: He kind of called me out in his quote in the book. He was and is a very important person in my life. One of the things I learned about Dick, there was a bunch of stuff he taught me. He was my second dad, really. I got the job there because I love his movies. I love “Superman” and I love “Lethal Weapon” and “The Goonies.” It’s sad when people are too young to know what “The Goonies” is, it means I’m getting old. It’s okay. But Dick was probably the most confident person I’ve ever met. By confident, I don’t mean arrogant. I think people can confuse those. Confidence was he was sure of who he was and what he wanted without ego. I think that’s extremely rare, especially in this city. He taught me a lot, but he especially taught me a couple of things. One of the things he taught me on the set of “Conspiracy Theory” — which is a movie with Mel Gibson before he went nuts — he was so nice, guys. He would eat with the crew, it was great. But, a grip came up to him and said, “I know you’re shooting this scene, and here’s an idea — have you thought about this?” And Dick said, “No, I’ll think about it.” and he walked away. I said, “Are you really going to think about that idea,” I was curious. He said, “Yeah, it was a good idea. I probably won’t do it because of this, but you always think of ideas. Don’t let yourself get in the way of a good idea.” It was so ego-free from what I had experienced in L.A. and I was really inspired by that.
On wrecking Richard Donner’s car: About a year into working for him, I was driving this Suburban — big, huge car. I drove out of the Warner Bros. lot and if you drive by the Warner Bros. lot and you see Gate 4 by Hollywood Way, there’s an electrical box to the right of the entrance. It’s brand new, because I destroyed the old one. When I pulled out, a semi truck carrying cars hooked the bumper because it was so big and I was an idiot and pulled out too far, and the car slammed like a door against the semi truck and smashed against the glass. It threw me back into the electrical box, I smashed through that, I smashed through a wall, landed in a parking spot at Warner Bros. All the tires went out, I had to get out the other side. I remember lifting my big giant mobile phone up and calling Dick and I was like, “Hey, I think I’m fired.” and he goes, “What happened?” I said, “I just crashed your car, it’s destroyed.” He goes, “What car?” I go, “The Suburban.” “Oh, I got that for free.”
On the personal nature of Simon Baz: My dad’s Lebanese. Detroit has the biggest Lebanese community outside of Lebanon. It’s like Koreatown here. I really wanted to talk about cultural fear. The best thing about Green Lantern — and this is for anyone that writes the character — is that fear is never going to be out of date. Dan DiDio said something that was really smart. He said, “Batman’s parents can die 70 years ago or tomorrow and he’s still relevant. Superman can be here 70 years ago or today and it’s still relevant.” I think Green Lantern, as long as he’s dealing with fear, it’s always going to be relevant. I think with Simon, “Rebirth” really grew out of 9/11. 9/11 happened and two years later, I’m writing about fear and it was really connected. That affected everybody in so many ways. Simon was kind of the next step to that. It had been so long since 9/11 and I thought, “Look at this stuff that’s happening.” A lot of my cousins — I’m half Lebanese — but a lot of my family on my Dad’s side, they’re all full Arabic and they’ve had to deal with a lot of different things in the wake of 9/11. Just getting on a plane is a pain in the ass. I wanted to write something about cultural fear and Simon grew out of that. I knew I was going to get some flack for it from certain groups or some — personally, I think racist — reactions. But yeah, it was a very personal character for me to develop somebody like Simon and explore the idea of cultural fear.
On making a connection with other people: If I see someone on a bus and they’re reading an issue of “New Mutants,” I’m like, “Hey. You like Cannonball? Yeah? He’s cool.” And you kind of have this connection instantly because we’re in the same — it’s a weird thing. When 9/11 hit, everyone was feeling like we’re all together. I think comic book fans feel like that, too, when we’re in the wild, when we’re with other people and you see somebody else who loves comics and you connect with them and it’s on a very primal level. “I’m going to the comic shop too!” and that’s why comic shops are such a wonderful place to hang out in. Whether Hulk can beat up Superman — he cannot — not even Red Hulk can do that. Twitter for me, it’s emotion. How do you connect with people? I love connecting with people. My favorite thing to do is to hang out with people, which is why writing sucks. That’s why it was great working with Jeph [Loeb] when he was there, because he would try and write while I would write, but we would have a camaraderie and we would talk about so many wonderful things from story to just comics to whatever. Twitter to me is, it’s fun to talk about, “Hey, I’m going to be at this thing tonight,” but I always am more interested in saying, “It’s freakin’ Friday!” and everyone’s like “Yeah, Friday!” and I’m like, “That’s right.”