GEOFF JOHNS PRIME: "Earth One," "Blackest Night" & More

Happy New Year, and welcome back to another installment of GEOFF JOHNS PRIME, CBR's bi-monthly visit with superstar writer Geoff Johns.

Each time around, Johns answers 20 or more reader-generated questions in between writing three major events for DC Comics, including "Blackest Night," "The Flash: Rebirth" and "Superman: Secret Origin," as well as two ongoing titles, "Green Lantern" and "Adventure Comics."

Johns is also working on two movies for Warner Bros. and DC Entertainment - big screen adaptations of "The Flash" and "Shazam" - and also recently became co-owner of Earth-2 Comics in Northridge, California.

With another new project - the re-imagined Batman OGN series, "Batman: Earth One," with artist Gary Frank announced just before the holidays - and a two-hour "Smallville" special starring the Justice Society of America that he penned coming soon, Johns had lots to talk about in this round of GEOFF JOHNS PRIME.

So enough already, let's make like Mera and dive right in.

You've had incredible runs with a number of DC heavyweights like Superman, Green Lantern and Flash, but we've yet to see you tackle one of the biggest in Batman. Lo and behold, DC recently announced your upcoming "Batman: Earth One" series of graphic novels that you're doing with "Superman: Secret Origin" artist Gary Frank.  

Can you share any details about that project and perhaps its own secret origin?

The majority of my comic work, as far as the monthly books go, is in continuity. And I like that and I like working in the shared universe. It's fun but it also has its limitations and drawbacks creatively, as well. So when the "Earth One" line came up, and right away Dan [DiDio] said, "Would you be interested in Batman?," I jumped at the chance, because I've never tackled the world of Batman. And to do a Batman universe from the ground up and create new characters and reintroduce villains how Gary Frank and I envision them was an opportunity I definitely didn't want to miss.  

Not only that, but I loved the idea of creating a series of graphic novels. "Batman: Earth One," Volumes 1, 2, 3, 4, 5... It will be great to do a huge Batman story through a series of graphic novels with a beginning, middle and end.     

The way Gary and I are going to approach it is that every volume is a single story, but it all ends up to one greater story, just like the run on "Green Lantern."  And the size of the books, gives us an ability to really dive into these characters and explore them, especially Bruce Wayne. When we meet him and who he is and where he goes, is going to be something that is a bit different from what people are used to.   

Why did it take so long to land yourself on a Batman project? Have you been waiting for just the right time or was it this particular project that inspired you?  

It's just the way it fell. I tend to stay on books a long time, so I don't get a chance to jump from character to character.    

Have you been waiting to take a crack at Bruce Wayne for a while? 

Yes and this was the perfect opportunity, the perfect project. 

And the perfect partner in Gary Frank?

Again, if you look at the books I do, I tend to work with the same artists, like Scott Kolins, Ethan Van Sciver, Ivan Reis and now Gary Frank, Doug Mahnke and Francis Manapul. When I find a creative collaborator that I really connect with on multiple levels, I really value that relationship. It's not easy to find those people that creatively, you just click with. Gary Frank is one of the best artists in the business, and I think everybody knows that. And to work with him on something like this, where again, we can re-create everything from the ground up and tell a Batman story that is just slightly different or very different than anything that's happened before - it's really a story about a guy who is trying to overcome loss at the center of it all - and build these fantastic villains, and create a troubled supporting cast, and see heroes rise and villains rise in this multi-part story, when you work on something this big and you commit to it for this long, you've got to do it with the right people. Because I tend to work on projects that tend to be long-term, I look for the best creative partners I can have. And Gary is definitely one of them.  

Kris Krause feels there's one character, his favorite actually, in the DCU who is in desperate need of a retooled origin that gels better with Batman's world and that's Dick Grayson. He's hoping this will happen under your watchful eye in "Batman: Earth One." Realizing it's early in the process, he wanted to know if somewhere down the line, you plan on working Dick Grayson into the story? 

I don't want to share any details yet, but I will say that obviously we will be talking about Dick Grayson along with many other favorite Batman supporting characters.  

Every time we do one of these, the Aquaman fans come out in full force, and the usual suspects were even more fired up after reading in our last installment that you would be writing more Mera in the future, saying she had, "the potential to be one of DC's most prominent female heroes." 

For readers like Joe in Bethlehem and Bodhi Morningway in Edmonton, Alberta, can you give us an update on what you have planned for Mera in 2010? 

For those reading "Blackest Night," it's obviously pretty clear, but it will become even clearer in the next few weeks.  

That's all you can say? 

That's it for now, but stay tuned.  

OK. Let's move on to "Blackest Night." Goofball814 wanted to know, if using Bruce's skull was to establish an emotional tether to the "reborn" heroes like Superman, Superboy and Green Arrow, how did Black Hand or Nekron know that Bruce Wayne was Batman? 

There are no secrets when it comes to death with Black Hand or Nekron.   

Goofball814 also thought that the end of "Final Crisis" showed that Bruce Wayne/Batman wasn't really dead, he was either lost in time or on one of the multiple Earths. So how can that skull even be Bruce Wayne? If it's from a parallel earth, Bruce Wayne wouldn't have a connection with the heroes to establish the emotional tether required to convert the heroes to Black Lanterns. 

That's a multi-part question. [For the answer to] part one, the whole story of Bruce's skull, you'll have to keep reading the DC Universe, in particular, "The Return of Bruce Wayne" and "Batman and Robin," to find out more. Grant Morrison has a story that's simply brilliant.  Although I know a lot about it, I can't wait to read it. He consistently is pushing the boundaries of comic book storytelling in ways few people can. 

As for the second part, the emotional tether wasn't dependent on Bruce Wayne or the skull, it was dependent on the people witnessing it.     

Jose Arturo Zamora Aguilar from Mexico wanted to know if there was any relation between Indigo-1 and the children that Abin Sur rescued from Ysmault in the Alan Moore's short story, "Tygers?"


Jeff jammed about five questions into one, so follow along as best you can.  

"Nekron's Black Lantern Central Power Battery was based on the planet Ryut, which also happens to be the dead homeworld of Atrocitus, before it was teleported to Earth. What was it doing there in the first place? Does it have anything to do with the necromantic Empire of Tears and its subsequent destruction by the Manhunters?"  

It has everything to do with the Manhunters, massacre of Sector 666, which we'll learn more about post-"Blackest Night."    

"Was it originally Nekron's throne world, where he was worshipped as a god of existence? Would Atrocitus have any connection to him? If the hands that grabbed at Ash and Saarek back in "Green Lantern" #42 were Nekron's, then how was that possible if he was imprisoned on Earth?" 

Nekron was never imprisoned on Earth. When the Black Lantern came to Earth, Nekron came with it.    

Dustin is really enjoying what you've been doing with Green Lantern and "Blackest Night," specifically Atrocitus and Larfleeze. He's curious if, after "Blackest Night" and, obviously, if they survive, will we be seeing more regarding their pasts? Atrocitus, based on the latest "Green Lantern," seems to have a very interesting back story to tell, and Dustin would love to see you pen this.  

You will see lots more of Atrocitus, Larfleeze, Saint Walker and Indigo post-"Blackest Night" in the first arc of "Green Lantern," entitled "New Guardians."

The reader with the coded name, ns563, asked if the Indigo language is decodable or is it just random letters? 

It's decodable, but you'll never get the decoder ring for it.   

ns563 also wanted to know if we will ever find out what happened to Hal's blue ring? 

Yes, you will find out who got that blue ring sometime in the next year. 

Figureguy wants to know how continuity within the "Blackest Night" series interacts with the rest of the DC titles? For instance, as of "Blackest Night" #5, Damage from the JSA is a Black Lantern. Yet he is in the new "JSA All-Stars." Will all of the characters eventually reconcile with the events of their respective titles, or will it be business as usual?   

Figureguy also adds that he'd not been following DCU for a while, but "Blackest Night" drew him back in and now he's here to stay. 

The DCU will reconcile. There is an issue of "JSA All-Stars" that Matt Sturges is doing that is a Damage issue.  Everything will become a bit clearer in a few weeks. 

Thom Miller noted that you've explored Hal's relationship with Batman as being one that was frequently confrontational, but built on respect. Will you be doing the same with Hal's relationships with other DC big guns, like Superman and Wonder Woman? 


I want to jump in here for a second. You've been building to "Blackest Night" since you brought back Hal Jordan in "Green Lantern: Rebirth." Now that you've finished writing this epic story, are you planning to stay on as the writer of "Green Lantern" or is it time to move on to another major character? Perhaps for another "Rebirth?"  

I have no plans to leave "Green Lantern." Zero. There are too many new characters and storylines to explore.  

Zev Hurwich (cool name) has been a fan of your work for quite some time and has been diligently following "The Flash: Rebirth" and "Blackest Night." However, there was one thing that really troubled him with "The Flash: Rebirth" #5: How the heck do speedsters use superspeed to change their costumes?  

He wants to know why you put that in the issue and why the Flashes couldn't have waited a little bit and made their costumes in a more normal fashion? 

If you look at Wally West's past, Grant Morrison and Mark Millar introduced the concept that the Speed Force was more than just speed. It can also be used for things like weaving a new uniform. It was seen in a story that Grant and Mark did when Wally couldn't walk for a while. During that story, Wally mastered the ability to craft a new uniform out of the Speed Force which enabled him to run, and then from then on he had that power. And that was kind of the first inkling that the Speed Force was more than just gasoline.  

I wanted to take that concept and explore it further. I always thought of the Speed Force as if it were this layer, kind of like the fluid in your joints that allows your bones to move together, and if you think of that as the Speed Force, it's this fluid between the now and the time stream. It allows the two to co-exist, because the way time exists, it's not just a line, it's a sphere. So that fluid coats that sphere and the sphere is the Speed Force. And that sphere touches all reality and it's full of everything, it's full of ultimate speed, moving through reality, because time is all relative and it's full of all scientific knowledge. It's all knowledge of all eras. 

It's just one giant Flash Fact. And at the same time, when Wally creates these uniforms, it gives him a burst of energy. So right there at that moment, I felt like they were about to get a second wind. They were all regrouping, they were all together and it was the right time for Wally to kick it up and kind of show Barry a trick he didn't know.  

And Barry's not going to be able to figure out how to do that trick. He's going to try, but he just can't weave a uniform out of the Speed Force. He has to rely on his ring.       

GLNick asked, with the new "Flash" ongoing, are you looking to start building towards a long-term arc such as "Blackest Night," or will you be focusing on more traditional five or six issue stories that won't necessarily overlap?  

Both. It's going to have traditional arcs much like "Green Lantern has." But it builds to one giant arc that I'm working on. And when "The Flash" #1 hits, we'll know more about what that big arc really is.     

Our call for questions happened before it broke that the Wally West co-feature you were doing with Scott Kolins had been dropped from "The Flash" ongoing. Why the change?  

I explained this a little bit on my boards, but with all the re-thinking of the co-features, they want to keep "The Flash" at $2.99 because the price point is getting a little crazy. That doesn't mean that you won't see the story that Scott and I have been working on.  

If you look at how "Green Lantern" rolled out and the universe grew, it'll be a little closer to that, but we just want to do it a little more organically and smarter. We want to make sure we're getting everything right.    

Mark Bailie is a long-time fan and was wondering about a plot thread from your previous run on "The Flash."  

"At the end of your run on "The Flash" Vol. 2, we see Captain Boomerang dropped into the future during The Flash/Reverse Flash battle, and we also have the re-animated Captain Boomerang telling Ashley Zolomon that Owen's mother is Meloni Thawne; thus making Bart Allen the half-brother of Owen Mercer/Harkness. Has this been touched upon at all, and if not, will this be an eventual topic in your new run on "The Flash?"

It has not been touched on at all. But yes, that happened.  

 Steven Schwab wanted to know why Barry Allen isn't surprised to find Jay Garrick living on the same Earth that he was born on when they were living on separate earths when he sacrificed himself during "Crisis on Infinite Earths?" 

When everything was rewritten and rebooted in "Crisis on Infinite Earths," Barry Allen's memories went with everybody else's.

Frank W. wanted you to know that he recognized Paul Gambi from "The Flash" #239 on the last page of "The Flash: Rebirth" #5. 

Thanks, I'm glad somebody recognized him. Gambi will be in "The Flash" in 2010. For those of you who don't know Gambi, he's a tailor in Central City. He was the guy who created the Rogues' uniforms, and one thing that I am really proud of that Scott Kolins and I did in "Rogues' Revenge" is the subplot where he gets the hell beat out of him by these fake Rogues and Heatwave confronts one of them and says, "Did Gambi make your uniform? Because he made mine and it can withstand insane temperatures."  

And he burns the other guy's costume right off because Gambi is the guy who makes their uniforms. And though his tastes are a little wacky, you can tell by their uniforms, he builds them to last and to take the kind of beating the Rogues usually take on a daily basis.  

The Rogues will be a major force in the new "Flash" book.  

Matthew Farrelly is currently reading "Superman: Secret Origin" and also read "Green Lantern: Secret Origin." He's wondering if writers like yourself ever worry that, in 20 years time, your stories will become redundant due to another event, to either restart the DC Universe or update it, considering you like to use continuity from previous eras that have also become outmoded?

I don't worry about that. I told "Green Lantern: Secret Origin" because I had a story I wanted to tell and there were some aspects of Hal that I wanted to explore a little deeper. The same thing goes for Superman and with Flash. There's a lot of different ways to approach these characters, and people forget that there is a 12-year old kid out there who has never read a Green Lantern comic book. So "Green Lantern: Secret Origin" is his. And maybe that kid, 20 years from now, will do his own interpretation of his secret origin. And that's fine. That's the way it works.  

In 20 years, everything is going to be different. Do I want work that stands the test of time? Absolutely. But I don't expect everything I do to stand the test of time. People come in and do their own interpretations of it.         

Patrick Bateman's favorite character is Kenny Braverman, A.K.A. Conduit. He notes that he hasn't really been featured since his swan song in the mid-nineties, but recently you've included small servings of Kenny both in "Superman: Secret Origin" and "Blackest Night." He wants to know if there are future plans for Conduit? 

Not from me, but I always liked the character, as well. I thought he was fun and I had his toy when I was a kid, so I like to include him. But like Patrick said, he is in "Blackest Night" and "Secret Origin."   

Dan Collins remembers reading "Justice Society of America" #23-25, featuring the Black Adam storyline, and it ended with the return of Shazam. Dan wants to know if you are working on a story to bring Billy Batson back as Captain Marvel?

I will be doing a Captain Marvel story at some point, but not in the near future.  

Is this a different project than the movie you're working on?    


I know everything is pretty tight-lipped, but can you update readers on either the Captain Marvel movie or the Green Lantern movie? 

No. But we'll know more about both of them in 2010. I can't really say anything about either one of them right now.   

Eugene Liptak in Tucson, AZ really enjoyed your work on "Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E." and was hoping you'd one day write new adventures with Courtney and Pat. And chance we'll see something in the future? 

I actually almost did a "Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E." issue for January as a part of the "Blackest Night" hiatus. I ended up doing the "Atom and Hawkman," but I almost did "Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E." #15. I really wanted to do it, but it was a matter of scheduling and when I was starting the next projects after "Blackest Night," I just didn't have the time to do it properly. I want to do it with Lee Moder, and the schedules just weren't working out, but Lee Moder and I have talked a lot about revisiting "Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E." at some point and I'm sure I will.  

Until then, you can see Stargirl in all her live action glory in "Smallville." And in the episode, she mentions Pat by name.  

Is that a nod to the "Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E." fans out there?  

Sure, but it's also a part of her origin. You'll see in the script, it made sense. I haven't seen the final product yet but in the script, it just made sense to explore how she got involved in JSA.   

Can you share any other details about the upcoming two-hour episode of "Smallville" you scripted? 

The whole experience was great. The producers asked me if I had any interest in coming back after working on the Legion of Super-Heroes episode last season, and part of the appeal was, of course, getting to introduce a version of the JSA to the "Smallville" mythos in much the same way. I thought getting to introduce the first live-action version of the Justice Society of America would be a great challenge and something really fun to try and do.  

It's great that we've had Superman and Batman all over the place, but I'm a pretty big advocate of the other DC superheroes and villains and everything that we have and the potential to translate them to TV, and film, and video games, etc., I think often Superman and Batman are always the focus for that, and I hope to see that change. That's why I'm doing a little bit of what I can to introduce the other characters to the public at large. I think even on a slow night, "Smallville" hits about three million people, so you'll have three million people that night meet the Justice Society of America for the first time and find out what they're all about, and even if a fraction of those start to become more interested in the characters, that would double, triple or even quadruple the number of people who are interested in the JSA now. 

How did figure out the story you wanted to tell in "Absolute Justice," and specifically the members who would be featured on "Smallville?" 

They wanted to do Hawkman. They had a strong interest in Hawkman, so he was already on the table when I pitched JSA and they said, "We love Hawkman. We've been wanting to do Hawkman."  

And then the other characters I came up with were Doctor Fate and Stargirl. Doctor Fate is actually quite different than he is in the comics. I always liked Doctor Fate, but I pushed the concept of Doctor Fate a little further than it's been done in the comics. If you read Doctor Fate in JSA, I had him hear these whispers in his helmet. It's really disturbing, but that kind of thing doesn't really come across very well in comics because you can only mention it so many times before it's like, "OK. I get it." But on "Smallville," they can do it all the time, so there are these really cool hushes and whispers and you hear Nabu talking to him and it's very disturbing for those around him, which is cool. Doctor Fate is a bit of a tragic character in this, but I don't want to spoil too much more than that.    

Stargirl is the new generation of the JSA, and the whole idea is that it's much like the comics. There was once a team, it fell apart and now it's coming back together and training the next generation.  

Were you on set during filming? 

No. It became a two-parter, so I started writing the second part while they were filming the first. And I had to go to New York for a post-"Blackest Night" summit. So that was too bad, because I would have liked to go to set. Unfortunately, I wasn't as involved on the production side as I was on the "Legion" episode.  I love production.          

Were you familiar with Michael Shanks, the actor who plays Hawkman? He should bring in some viewers himself due to his following from playing Dr. Jackson on "Stargate SG-1." 

I'm not really familiar with "Stargate SG-1," but they showed me a bunch of footage of him and everybody on "Smallville" is really enthusiastic about him. Subsequently, I learned he had a huge following from "Stargate." 

Do we get to see a faceoff between Shanks' Hawkman and Justin Hartley's Green Arrow? 

In a brief way, but it's clear these two have friction of some kind.  Some of it is because of a shared behavior.  Justin really is terrific. 

That's it for this latest installment of GEOFF JOHNS PRIME. We'll put out the call for questions once again in late March and will be back in April, so Geoff can answer all of your questions about the conclusion of "Blackest Night" and beyond.

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