DC Comics’ COO, and writer of “Justice League,” “Aquaman” and “Green Lantern,” Geoff Johns spoke with CBR TV from the floor of C2E2, divulging further details about the publisher’s incoming Free Comic Book Day offering, melding epic action with personal stories in “Green Lantern” and touching on the recent controversy over the introduction and death of Iranian hero Kahina the Seer in the pages of “Aquaman.”
Check out the video below, as well as a complete transcript of the interview.
We’re not going to look inside because Geoff is keeping it very well guarded, but he’s holding in his hands the DC New 52 Free Comic Book Day sampler — not even a sampler, but a…
Geoff Johns: It’s a full-on story. You just saw some of it, though.
I just got a sample, but my eyes have been bleached. I can’t show anybody what’s in my brain right now.
But it will get people talking, I hope.
A lot of guys are working on this that you work with. Jim Lee, Ivan Reis is working on it — did you pretty much call everybody up that you’re working with and say, “You’ve got to budget five pages for next month?”
No, we actually talked about doing something for Free Comic Book Day that would be different than what we’ve done in the past. It wouldn’t be a reprint, it would be original material, it would lay a lot of story points and new characters that are coming out for the next year. It was just kind of like, “Hey, let’s get the best guys that we have and put them on this.” It was Ivan, Gene Ha, Kenneth Rocafort, Jim Lee of course — it’s a beautiful looking book.
And it’s free! One of the things that’s special is a four-page fold out that Jim Lee teased the other night at the Diamond retailer dinner, but it seems like you’re CCO, Jim is co-publisher — if you guys say you want to do four pages that fold out, you just get to do whatever you want?
It’s also we talk a lot about making a comic book, especially for Free Comic Book Day, something you can’t do digitally. You can’t do a gatefold digitally, it just won’t look as good, it won’t have the impact. So we wanted to create something you had to go to the comic shop to get.
When Jim draws that, did he tape a bunch of boards together and is he going to give you one of them when this is all done?
I don’t know! I hope so. I’ll beg him to. I want the one on the far right. That’s the one I want.
When you’re looking at the far right, you’ll be looking at Geoff’s page!
Geoff, I wanted to ask you about “Aquaman” a little bit because we got this first issue of the new arc and sometime people say, “There’s a twist ending coming.” You had a twist beginning in this book that I think got a lot of people talking. One thing online — sometimes you read people online that are very angry and upset and crazy. [Indy comics writer] Dara Naraghi is saying he enjoyed the issue, but he’s a little disappointed you had this new character and he was excited to meet her and she’s taken off the table in the very first issue — spoiler warning! What do you say to people who are kind of shocked about this story?
Well, “The Others” is about an international group of heroes being hunted by Black Manta, so there are casualties in here. We have Ya’wara, who’s from Brazil [and] is a major character in the book. Diversity is super important to the DCU. This is part of the story. This is all part of the story.
Moving forward, I know we’ve got long term plans for Aquaman, we’ve got the mystery of who sunk Atlantis and in the past you’ve really taken a long time — with books like “Flash” in the past and “Green Lantern” — you’ve slowly seeded a lot of pieces. Has your approach to that long-form storytelling changed at all with the New 52 or is Aquaman something you’re really looking years out on.
It’s all long-form. I usually do about a year, two years out, sometimes longer. “Aquaman,” we have quite a big plan with “The Others.” “The Others” arc will reveal a lot about who Aquaman used to be, where he goes in the future and it ties right into the Atlantis stuff we do right afterward. I’m really excited about it. I think it’s a really strong book and I’m glad people are surprised by it.
The other book you write is obviously “Green Lantern,” which we haven’t talked about in a while, but I think people were also surprised when you came out and said, “Sinestro’s a Green Lantern and that’s how it’s going to be.” I think a lot people were like, “Ah, six issues, he’s going to bail on it,” but this relationship between Sinestro and Hal continues to go strong. Is part of that because we’ve heard for many years that Hal Jordan and Sinestro were best friends — I don’t think I ever saw an issue where they were best friends before…
Maybe. It’s all part of the ongoing story, but those two guys together are a riot to write. This stuff coming up is going to take that relationship in a very different direction, and the arc we’re doing right now, “The Indigo Tribe” is all about redemption. Sinestro, can he be redeemed, should he be redeemed, does he need to be redeemed? And the Indigo Tribe is all about forced redemption with those rings. We learn more about that and it all dovetails into our next arc which is “The Revenge of Black Hand.”
One thing we hear people talk about when they talk about superheroes as a metaphor, we get things like that redemption and people trying to make up for their past sins, but we also get these giant cosmic things like planets exploding and stuff like that. Do you think it’s hard, sometimes with those types of stories, to make them stay in scale, where somebody does something where a real person would say, “That’s so crazy and terrible — there’s no way that I’ll ever trust that person can come back?”
There’s always a balance to everything with storytelling. I like to get epic and big and make it huge, but also very, very personal. This Hal/Sinestro story and the relationship and where they’re going is central to the entire arc, even though the guardians are about to take war against their own Corps and we have a third army rising. It’s going to be pretty chaotic but at the very heart of it, it’s still a lot of character.
The last book I want to talk about is “Justice League.” We talked about this the other day, the new arc introducing Graves as the villain, a character people have seen a little bit of. We’re starting to see Jim’s designs come out. We’ve seen a sketch cover from Jim that’s not completely finished, of what this character looks like. At what point in the process of introducing a guy like this do you and Jim call up DC Collectibles and say, “We need an action figure of this guy, STAT!”
Really, we talk to DC Collectibles — I mean, literally right between my office and Jim’s office is the whole DC Collectibles area. They have all the editorial stuff, so we go over everything: Graves, other new characters that are popping up. We look at everything, but they have access to the way we’ve reimagined these collectibles. They’re plugged right into editorial now, they’re plugged right into Warner Bros. Interactive, the video game stuff, so they’re doing all the “Batman: Arkham City” stuff. We’re working with Rocksteady Studios on that. The animation stuff, we have DC Nation products we’re working on, all the “Dark Knight Rises” film product, they work with the filmmakers directly on. DC Collectibles is really synced up with everything we’re doing now. It’s awesome!
Stay tuned for more CBR TV interviews from the floor os C2E2!