NYCC: Johns Talks Early "Flash" TV Success, Seeing Captain Cold in Live-Action

When CBR News caught up with Geoff Johns on the convention floor last weekend at New York Comic Con, it was already known that the veteran comic book writer was working on a multitude of DC Comics-based TV shows in his position as DC Entertainment Chief Creative Officer -- to say nothing of the 10 new films through 2020 that were confirmed a few days later during Warner Bros.' investor meeting.

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So, yeah, Johns has a lot going on, but it's clear that "The Flash" TV series -- which debuted to network record-setting numbers last week on The CW -- has a special place in his heart. After all, Johns wrote "The Flash" comic book for years -- both Barry Allen and Wally West -- and he developed the series, which stars Grant Gustin as Barry Allen, alongside "Arrow" executive producers Andrew Kreisberg and Greg Berlanti.

CBR News spoke with Johns about the show's impressive debut, embracing the inherent superhero-isms of "The Flash" and seeing Captain Cold -- a villain that Johns has been very clear about his affection for -- depicted in live-action for the first time, courtesy of Wentworth Miller, who will debut in the role in the show's fourth episode.

CBR News: Geoff, looks like "The Flash" was the highest-watched debut on The CW in five years? That has to feel pretty good. [Editor's Note: Following this interview, news broke that with DVR numbers factories in, "The Flash" series premiere was actually the most-watched premiere in CW history.]

Geoff Johns: It does. I think what feels the best is, everyone put so much of our love for the character and for DC into it, and we're really proud of how it turned out. I'm really proud of where the series goes -- I couldn't be happier with Grant, and the effects team and the cast, our writing staff. We're extremely lucky to have such a talented group of people across the board working on the show.

Something you said during "The Flash" event a few days ago at DC headquarters really stuck out -- we used it in our headline -- that is was the "most comic book show that's ever been made." Was that something you always wanted to embrace and run with, pun not completely intended?

One of the things that Greg, Andrew and myself always talked about -- and this is something we talk about with DC TV just in general -- is that all the shows, because we have a lot of shows we're developing and going on the air, and knock in wood they find audiences; it's like opening restaurants -- a lot of them close. So we're hoping that a lot of the shows find their audience. But the key to it all is to have all the shows occupy a unique space, and be their own unique show, so they're not all cookie-cutters of each other. They really have to stand on their own. Tonally, things like "Gotham," "iZombie," "Arrow," "Flash" and "Constantine" are all really, really different. For us, that's really the key of working with Warner Bros. on all our TV shows, to make sure everything's unique.

I felt like "Smallville" had shied away from the comic book stuff a little bit, but then as the seasons went on, obviously it got to that place. With "Arrow" it was more grounded, but it got to that place with Deathstroke, and it felt like it was the next step of comic book television shows. When we were doing "Flash," it was like, "You know what, he's going to have a red costume, he's going to be called 'The Flash,' the world's going to know about him, we're going to do the Rogues, we're going to do Grodd." There were pictures that were leaked online of Reverse-Flash. People were like, "Oh, it's so soon!" Well, yeah, because this is our chance to do a "Flash" TV show. And if this is our chance to do a "Flash" TV show, we're going to put everything we can into it. And I don't mean shoving characters in there, but embracing what it is.

When I say, "It's the most comic book show ever," I mean that, because we're fully embracing everything about "The Flash" comic book and DC Comics, and putting it in here. We're going to go for it. We're going to have costumes. There are going to be code names. It's going to be a superhero TV show unabashedly. We're not winking at being a superhero show -- it's a full-on superhero show.

I think the tone of it, since we're really trying to do something that's fun and emotional -- because we have some fun in it, you can accept it a little bit better. I hope that audiences respond to the pilot. A lot of people watched it. Let's hope they liked it enough to stay with the series and we continue making more episodes.

The other thing I love about it is, my nieces can watch it. It's a superhero show that's for everybody. One of my favorite things about superheroes like Flash and Superman, and the more optimistic, bright heroes is that they are for everyone. One of the things we've tried to do with the show is, although there's violence and scares, we want to make sure that -- when I was a kid, I could watch "Hulk" and "Wonder Woman." It's kind of a throwback show to those; for the whole family. I've heard a lot of people say, "Oh, I get to watch it with my kids." "The whole family's watching it." One of my friends in Chicago watched it, because their kids were watching it and liked it, and it's emotionally pretty complex, and the actors are great. We've been very fortunate so far. I hope people enjoy the show. Flash has been my favorite character since I read comics. We really want to get it right, and we really want to do him justice.

"The Flash" Team Promises "The Most Comic Book Show That's Ever Been Made"

In all the many projects you've been involved in as chief creative officer, this feels like maybe the one you've been closest to -- both in terms of level of involvement, and also that it's something that's very personally significant to you, given what The Flash means to you. How closely connected do you feel to this show?

I work on everything, obviously. With "Flash" it's a little different, because I co-created the show with Greg and Andrew, and really having the opportunity to work with two super-talented guys, two of my very good friends, it was such an amazing opportunity.

There's a lot in this character that, because it's so superhero, it's very delicate. Like, Firestorm's in it. I've loved Firestorm forever, and Andrew's a huge Firestorm fan.

And as recently was announced, Victor Garber's going to be Professor Stein.

I know! The casting's great. The head of casting, David Rappaport, has done an unbelievable job. We've got Wentworth Miller for Captain Cold, Dominic Purcell for Heatwave, Robbie Amell as Ronnie. Our casting is top-notch, and I think because of the quality of the pilot and the cast -- Jesse L. Martin, Grant Gustin, Candice [Patton], Danielle [Panabaker] and Carlos [Valdes]. Tom Cavanagh, he's so amazing. The quality of the cast just attracts that same quality. That's why we're getting a great cast on the show.

Obviously this one is very close to my heart just because of what it is, and the tone of it. It's what I want out of a superhero show.

You just mentioned Wentworth Miller -- what kind of emotions have been stirred by seeing one of your favorite characters, Captain Cold, in live-action for the first time?

When I was on set, and he first came out -- it's just really cool to see him hold that cold gun. There was a huge debate about, "Does he hold the gun with two hands or one hand?" Glen Winter, who directed it -- he directed some "Arrow" episodes I wrote, and some "Smallville" [episodes] when I first started writing TV -- I've known him for a long, long time, and we got to talk a lot about Barry, and Snart, and what it all meant emotionally. There are some really cool emotional arcs in that episode that make Cold even stronger of a character, and he represents a lot in the show when you see it. I don't want to ruin the surprise.

It was great to have these debates about why he would hold it with one hand. It wasn't just because it looked cooler, it was because of the confidence he has when he touches that cold gun for the first time. It's almost like, "Oh my god, where have you been all my life?" The way that Wentworth portrayed it -- he evolves from this very intelligent and driven criminal, and then he's in a city where a streak is showing up, and it's causing all these problems, and he realizes he's got to evolve himself. This is the first step of his evolution. We talked a lot about the character, his attitude, where he's going to go. To be able to sit there on set and talk with Wentworth and Glen about Captain Cold -- that's heaven, y'know? Especially when you're working with an actor this talented, talking to the prop guys that were making the gun about what it should look like -- I hope people enjoy the episode. I'm really happy with how it turned out.

"The Flash" airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. on The CW.

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