Talking Superman with Geoff Johns is like asking Bizarro for his thoughts on the Man of the Steel.
Him hate he!
Discussing the highly anticipated Bizarro arc launching this week in DC Comics' "Action Comics" #855, Johns told CBR News, "I love 'Action Comics.' It's the original book. It's really fun."
Boosting his job satisfaction is the fact Johns writes the series with his mentor, "Superman: The Movie" director Richard Donner. "I grew up on his Superman movies and I worked with Dick for so long, for me it's kind of coming full circle," said Johns.
The superstar writer says landing Eisner award-winner Eric Powell ("The Goon") to draw #855-857 of "Action Comics" was not only a coup, but a match made in heaven -- or hell, if you come from a planet that just so happens to be cubed in shape.
"The book is beautiful," Johns declared. "Eric Powell is so talented and he has such a unique vision and voice in comics today. The fact that Bizarro World gets to be defined by him is awesome. I think the characters themselves, if they could talk, would thank him. He has 'The Goon' and he has plenty of things that he could be doing and he chose to spend a little time with Superman and Bizarro with us and I am eternally grateful that he said yes to the project.
"The first 10 pages of our second issue is a cool 1940s' riff on Bizarro World and I saw a bunch of the pages and they're just amazing," continued Johns. "We put a lot of Bizarro versions of characters that we know --not everybody, but a lot of them-- in the storyline because we wanted to see what Eric would do with them. Donner and I had some certain ideas on certain takes on characters. Bizarro Hal Jordan, in particular, is a pretty fun character and a member of the Sinestro Corps, which I find hilarious. The Flash is probably my favorite and that is 100 percent Eric. I love the mustard that makes his lightning."
Johns said the solicited cover for "Action Comics" #857, which appears to lampoon the teaser image of "Final Crisis," was a pure fluke. "I wish I could say we were geniuses but we didn't even see that cover," Johns confessed. "Eric did our cover months ago but it's pretty crazy."
Johns says he is glad to be writing a Bizarro arc as he is a long-time fan of the disjointed doppelganger. "I love Bizarro, and Donner really likes the concept of Bizarro, too," explained Johns. "There's a balance we are going for between a horror and a black comedy storyline and I think he is really interesting character, a misunderstood character. He can be frightening. He can be scary. And he can be funny. And he can be everything in between and I don't know of another concept or villain out there that is as fascinating or unique as Bizarro."
With Grant Morrison currently writing "Batman" and Mark Millar moving over to "Fantastic Four" in January, Johns says it's great to see the top-talent in comics gravitating to the classic superhero books in an attempt to re-invigorate the titles. "I think, at the end of the day, [creators] just want to be on quality books," Johns remarked. "You can see that trend. It comes and goes, the focus will go on miniseries and events, but it always returns to the monthly books."
The native Detroiter said the "Last Son" story will be completed in the forthcoming "Action Comics" Annual #11, but before that Superman is heading back to the future with a new artist along for the ride. Gary Frank ("Squadron Supreme"), who Johns says is "a natural for Superman," joins the creative team as the regular penciller beginning with "Action Comics" #858, which is the first chapter of a multiple issue story featuring the original Legion of Super-Heroes.
"I can't wait for it. [Frank's] stuff is awesome," said Johns. "He is just starting the third issue. It's just phenomenal for me. I have wanted to do something with the Legion for a long time and I also wanted to work with Gary even longer. He's someone that I really connect with as a penciller; as a creative partner. and there is just something about his vision that I really respond to and it inspires me.
"I love the thought process that goes into his work. Everything he does is unbelievable. We spent an hour talking about the architecture of the future and the vegetation and why it exists the way it exists and it was fascinating and yet, really rewarding and fulfilling and every time I get on the phone with him, I get more and more excited about what he does and what he is going to do and again, that the Legion of Superheroes get to be graced by his pencils is great."
Johns, who says the Legion arc will be five or six issues, explained, "The story picks up off of 'Lightning Saga,' but really, the idea is to introduce the Legion to people who have never heard of the Legion, through the eyes of Superman. We explore their relationship with Superman and where they have been for the past 20 years."
According to Johns, re-introducing Cosmic Boy, Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl to new readers is important to the DCU because the team played such an important role in the development of young Kal-El. "I think the real intriguing part of it and the reason I wanted to tell the story so badly is that when Superman was a kid, there were no people who could fly," Johns explained. "These were his friends. These were other kids, like him, who are aliens who appear human who have come to Earth and can fly with those flight rings. And he certainly wasn't alone anymore. It wasn't like he had one person to relate to, he had an entire team, an entire group of kids. You have to look at it like Cosmic Boy and Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl, they are exactly like Superman. They are human-looking aliens who came to Earth.
"It is really all about Superman and why is he such a great hero," Johns continued. "It's because of Ma and Pa Kent but it is also because he found a great group of friends to grow up with. He didn't see them a lot but when he did, he had great adventures with them. He learned a lot from them and they learned a lot from him."
Johns says the Legion story begins with Clark Kent wanting to know why he hasn't seen his childhood friends in so long, but catches up pretty quickly once they return. "[Superman reconnects with the team in] the first issue, man," confirmed Johns. "We get the story going pretty quick. The story isn't 'is he going to find them?' The story is what happens when he does; what has gone on in the future and how can he help them?"
Help them from what, you ask? Why, super-villains, of course. "The villains are everything that is wrong with Superman, which I really like," Johns remarked. "I didn't want to use the Fatal Five again or Universo or any of the typical Legion villains. I didn't want to use Braniac or Lex Luthor or any of those Superman villains. I wanted to create something new using something old. And so the villain group in there is actually made up of characters from the Legion's history, who have grown and changed but will be recognizable to a lot of people."
While it is not central to the plot, "Lightning Saga" from the top selling JLA-JSA-Legion crossover is a touchstone for the "Action Comics" story. "It actually picks up on it," confirmed Johns, who also writes "Justice Society of America." "And you will see some other stuff coming out of it just not in 'Action Comics.' But yes, [the 'original Legion arc'] does pick up on 'Lightning Saga.'
Johns also revealed there will be more Legion stories coming next year but could not discuss any of the details.
As for the successful "Justice League of America"/"Justice Society of America" crossover he penned with Brad Meltzer, Johns says he hopes to do it again with new "JLA" scribe Dwayne McDuffie. "Dwayne and I briefly were asked the question on a panel in San Diego and I told him I'm game whenever he is," said Johns. "I would love to do it. I love Dwayne's writing and I really like him, personally. So it would be great. I'd love to do it. I'd like to see what Dwayne is going to do with the Justice League. He has stories to tell and he has to establish his take on the League and everything else. But whenever he is ready, I am ready."
Johns is keeping busy with four monthly books and his various other projects, which include a "Metal Men" movie, so jumping in as the writer of "Justice League of America" when Meltzer left just didn't fit his schedule. "Not right now [anyways]," said Johns. "I am very happy where I am. I am happy with 'JSA' and 'Green Lantern' and 'Action' and 'Booster Gold.' And I have two other projects coming up next year and I am pretty content with that."
Johns admitted he doesn't know how long he and Richard Donner will stay on "Action Comics," but told us he sure is enjoying the ride. "I don't know how long we will stay on 'Action Comics' but we have plenty of stories to tell so we will have to see how long the run is."
One story Johns has to tell involves a certain imp from the Fifth Dimension. "I have a big Mister Mxyzptlk arc that I really, really want to do at some point," teased Johns. "I think it would be pretty hysterical. I don't want to talk about the story but it's a really good one."
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