Geoff Johns is a busy man. In addition to serving as DC Entertainment’s Chief Creative Officer, helping to steer various TV and film efforts as well as the creative direction of DC Comics — and, oh yeah, he’s co-writing the next Batman movie with Ben Affleck — Johns still manages to keep a foot firmly planted in his comic book writing roots with “Justice League.” At Comic-Con International in San Diego, Johns joined CBR TV’s Jonah Weiland on the world famous CBR Yacht to discuss all aspects of his job, what his intentions were when creating The CW’s “The Flash” series, and why he’ll never stop writing comic books.
In the first part of their conversation, Johns discusses the ins and outs of bringing DC’s Fastest Man Alive to television, and why not embracing the show’s comic book roots was never an option. He talks about rooting everything in the character of Barry Allen and the supporting cast as well as why it was so difficult, yet so worth it, to introduce Gorilla Grodd on TV.
On making it the most comic book of all TV shows and the challenges of trying to introduce Gross in the series:
Geoff Johns: That was a promise I made right when we started it. I think we’ve managed to achieve that, Gorilla Grodd and all. … When you’re in it, you’re not so much afraid of anything as looking at it as a challenge. It’s interesting, when Andrew [Kreisberg] and I were working on the script [for the pilot] and one of the first things we put in there was the Gorilla Grodd cage. One of the first notes we got from people was “Cut the cage. What is it? It’s an easter egg.” And we’re like, “It’s not an easter egg, it’s a story point.” I don’t like easter eggs. I don’t like just having, you know, this happens to be whatever. We want to put things in there that are gonna build to other things like the Deathstroke head in “Arrow,” which built to a whole season, multiple seasons.
Gorilla Grodd was such an important character for “Flash” and we wanted to figure out how to do it. Originally we were [wondering], can we pull it off like part-costume, part-CGI, like how were we gonna do it. Armen Kevorkian, who does the visual effects for the show, came on to the show and was looking at that and basically saw how excited we were about it — we talked to the production and were told, “It’s too expensive, you have to cut it.” And we were like, “You don’t understand how important it is. We just want a gorilla cage like this big and that’s all we need and we’ll have a little Grodd sign.”
Andrew and I came on set the first day and they said, “You wanna see the cage?” We said “yeah,” and they showed us the cage and it was like this massive, huge set piece. They had researched and found out how important Grodd was, and we told them how important Grodd was. Amen also did the same thing and he sent early concepts of Grodd, like digital faces. He’s like, “Just look at this.” I was like, “Oh my god!” And he was like, “I can do it.” Once he could do it, Greg [Berlanti] and Andrew and everybody got really excited. I think people were probably surprised by how well it looked on TV and how far we could go with it, but that’s like one of those examples, I think, you know like the time travel and the speed, of just trying to embrace it and make it a comic book. If we were going to do the show it had to be all the way. It couldn’t be, “Let’s call it ‘The Fastest Man Alive.'” It had to be “The Flash,” he had to have the right costume and lightning bolts, Barry Allen running around fast, have villains called Captain Cold and Reverse-Flash, Trickster and stuff like that.
Turning to his DC Comics work, Johns explains his recently announced involvement with Milestone 2.0, the revived company who will be bringing its creations back to the DC Universe with Earth-M, as well as his long time admiration for Milestone’s past work. As for “Justice League” with artist Jason Fabok, Johns said fans shouldn’t expect him to give up his last ongoing series any time soon. If anything, having one book has just increased the stakes for the stories he wants to tell and explains his goal of delivering an event comic month after month.
I can’t say a lot except that I’m a huge fan of the characters, and Reggie [Hudlin] and Denys [Cowan] and Derek [T. Dingle] and everybody were — and Jim [Lee] — were all working on getting the characters back out there. And Reggie and Denys and I, we’re also working on “Static” the digital series right now for Warner Bros. Blue Ribbon. It’s just characters I think are amazing. When I started reading them, back then I love them, and when I started reading the stuff to look at it I fell in love with them again and I just was like, “Reggie, if you ever want me to come in and do something I’d love to. I love the characters.” And he was like, “Absolutely.” So we’re working on it right now and when the time’s right we’ll talk more about it, but it should be fun. Jim and I are gonna have a good time. We really think Milestone is an important part of the DC Universe and we believe in it and it’s gotta get back out there.
On putting added pressure on himself and whether he still gets nervous about writing certain stories:
My thing is I like to challenge myself. That’s why I take on characters like Booster Gold or Aquaman or, like, Mister Miracle. I want to — I enjoy the challenge. I enjoy the “Can I do something good with this?” and “Can I figure out how to tell a monthly event story in ‘Justice League?'” Can I make issue #41 of “Justice League” feel like a crazy big first issue of an event and people put it down and are like, “That was worth my time.” There’s so many books out there, and specifically comics, so many monthly books and the pressure’s always back on us. It’s on me to deliver a better script. It’s on me and Jay to talk — and we have a lot of talks about the pressure we put on ourselves. “It has to be great!” And I go back over and rewrite the scripts and look at the scripts and the whole storyline and say, “Okay, this is here.” And although I have an event mentality on this, and that means scope, really, and scale, it doesn’t mean I’m just gonna make stuff big and there’s double-page spreads of fighting. Absolutely not. “Darkseid War,” clearly that first issue is not that.
It’s gotta be character first. Rooted in character but with the mythic backdrop of the DC Universe in play. So “Justice League” is gonna be that every month and we hope people like it and we hope we deliver something that’s cool. At the center of the story will be Wonder Woman and a lot of surprises and new characters and retooled characters, but yeah, I’m never gonna leave comics. I love comics too much. It’s just the best, and that’s where it all comes from.
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