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AICN COMICS! Exclusive @$$holes Interview With GEOFF JOHNS!!

Hi, everyone. "Moriarty" here with some Rumblings From The Lab...

Holy cow, there’s a lot to update this morning, and I’m just now getting started. Howard Stern’s already coming on, so I’m going to try to get this great stuff up fast.

First up, there’s this great interview with Geoff Johns, conducted by one of AICN’s infamous Talkback League of @$$holes, Jon Quixote. Just this would be enough to keep you entertained this morning, but I promise... there’s lots more.

Hey folks! Ambush Bug here from the AICN @$$holes.

You know, we don't always do reviews. Us @$$holes are a multitalented bunch. The Comedian plays a mean rendition of "Whoomp There It Is" on the moog. Sleazy G is a professional big time wrassler on the weekends. And our very own Jon Quixote is one wicked interviewer. Why just a short while ago, Jon had a talk with comic book writer extraordinaire, Geoff Johns, and pummeled him with an @$$load of questions. Johns is one of the top writing names in the comic book industry and I'm as surprised as the rest of you that he would have a sit-down with the likes of us.

Let's listen in and see what JQ and Mr. Johns had to say.

Jon Quixote: Thanks for agreeing to this, Geoff You must be kind of sick of these things.

Geoff Johns: Over the last three or four years, I've done quite a few.

Well, it's my first, so be gentle. I think they picked me 'cause they thought I'd ask the weird questions. The zany off the wall stuff. But I'm more than that, y'know? I'm not just a clown. A stuttering Jon lurching around for their amusement. I have a serious side, and I hope I can use it to help us find out just who, exactly, Geoff Johns is.

Good to hear.

Okay, first question. What does Richard Donner smell like?

He always had sort of an Old Spice vibe to me, y'know?

[Laughs] Ookay. Donner isn't the kind of guy who worries about cologne. I mean…he's got good hygiene.

The cool thing about Donner is that he's a regular guy. I still talk to him a lot, but when I worked with him, Monday Nights, we'd watch football. We'd hang out and he was just a real down to earth normal dude and that's the best thing about him.

I worked for him for four years and it was the best experience of my life. Aint-it-cool-news was huge, actually, when we were trying to get SUPERMAN re-released. Our petition got a lot of support from AICN, and that was part of what we used to convince the powers-that-be to consider re-release. We tested it but unfortunately it didn't go beyond that.

It's always nice when Harry uses his powers for good instead of evil.

SUPERMAN is my favorite movie. It's the reason I went to work for Donner.

When you wrote SUPERMAN the comic, at the time you were reported saying "You'd have your Superman be less of a boyscout." Got a problem with Boy Scouts, buddy?

Well, I think Superman is a boy scout to people who deserve to be treated well. But if you're a bad guy, he's not a boy scout. I think that's the biggest misconception there is about Superman. When it comes to Metallo or Braniac, he shouldn't go on breaking people's necks, but he shouldn't be treating them with kids gloves. Alan Moore said it best when Superman fought Mongul – "Burn." I want to see that Superman.

So with your film and comic background, if you got to write a Superhero script, which would you grab?

Green Lantern. No question. Part Superman. Part Star Wars. A dash of Top Gun in there. And for any executives that say power rings wouldn't work, I suggest checking out a movie called Lord of the Rings.

You're a hockey fan? Red Wings. Must be excruciating to live in California.

But here we have the Kings. I actually went to the Kings/Red Wings game two weeks ago. Great game. Saw the Kings take down the Ducks last Saturday. Watched them slip on the ice Sunday.

Kings are doing well this year.

I know. Red Wings beat them though. Re-match in March.

Yeah, Red Wings are the best team. Just overall. And growing up in Detroit where the Lions suck and the Tigers are hit and miss and the Pistons go from good to bad, it's nice to have a team you can rely on. They're like the Yankees of hockey.

There's a comic book analogy in there, I'm sure.

This question's from Cormorant: THE FLASH, under you and artist Scott Kolins, had some of the best superhero action sequences I've ever read. What were your tricks for getting around the problem that, theoretically, Flash should be able to take out any bad guy before they could blink?

Flash is tough to write action for, but because it's tough it's the most fun. You really have to challenge him and think about him –how do you make Captain Cold get the draw on him, how do you make anybody get the draw on him. Flash can't go from zero to light-speed in one second, he needs a lot of open space to get that fast, so when he's moving in and out through the city, he's not going so fast that he's going to be invulnerable.

There's also always different ways to attack The Flash, from the mind to the eyesight to everything. There's a scene in "Crossfire" where Weather Wizard rolls a huge dark fog right into the city and Flash can't see anything so he can't go anywhere, 'because if he runs into somebody they're going to die. You just have to get creative.

The best thing about Scott is that Scott can draw anything. There's a double page spread in FLASH #178 where we see the trail of destruction Grodd did through a city and it's amazing, and as soon as Scott pulled that off I said, okay in "Crossfire" we're just going to go crazy we're going to have tons of action and explosions because Scott can do it so well.

I remember that scene. It was pretty stunning. One thing I noticed about FLASH is that the body count is crazy high. How do they get people to guard for metahuman prison Iron Heights?

They pay them a lot of money. Actually, they only work a twelve year span and then when they retire, they're paid off for life. So if they can survive twelve years at Iron Heights, they're set. If you're out of College, or maybe just sick of working at the factories in Keystone City, you go to work at Iron Heights, and retire when you're 36. If you make it. One out of ten probably don't.

That in the book?

I just made that up. Sounds good though.

We don't go out of our way to say, "let's make this issue particularly bloody." If you look at [recent JSA storyline] "Black Reign", the stakes are just way too high to have everyone survive and come out clean and happy, you just can't do that. There's too much at stake. You've got to show that there are consequences.

Same with Iron Heights. It's there to show you not only how tough the Rogues are, but how tough they have it. The stakes got a lot higher when Iron Heights opened, because suddenly Weather Wizard is like, "I'm not going back there. I'll die before I go back there."

Nobody wants to share a shower with Gorilla Grodd, right?

They're all in separate cells, so…none of that.

Running characters are usually just one step up on swimming characters on the lame-o-meter. Did you expect you would be able to revitalize FLASH the way you have?

I was pretty new when I started writing FLASH. I was just excited to write him, and I was excited to get into the Rogues, because Captain Cold is my favorite villain. The Rogues are my favorite group of villains. In the old days, Flash would fight five guys at once, and he'd kick their asses.

It was unusual to see a soft reboot of a successful comic, like we saw with FLASH #200. What precipitated the changes?

I wanted to give him a secret identity back. We had made him more of a blue collar everyday guy, and I think in order to do that completely, we needed to see him walk the streets without getting recognized. And we decided to throw a curveball in there, have Wally forget for a while, make it a different kind of story.

There's also stuff coming up for Wally that wouldn't work if everyone knew he was The Flash. Things that are about to go down around him that kind of push his dual identities apart.

I think there was a weird thing going on. Because a lot of movie execs are like, you can't do spandex on TV or movies we need to change the costume, suddenly that spilled over into comics. But spandex works in comics!

I believe the stuff we have coming up with Howard is the best of both worlds. Our goal is to make FLASH the ultimate superhero book. Villains and crazy twists and turns and guest stars and unashamed to be a superhero book.

You're from the pro-cape crowd when it comes to superhero iconography. How important do you think costumes are to the appeal of these characters? And is it possible, today, to design modern costumes that stand the test of time? I'm thinking of guys like Mid-Night and Mr. Terrific.

The bottom line is that costumes are instantly recognizable. It's easy to tell characters apart and to know who everyone is. If we're trying to get younger readers back into comics this is partly how to do it.

The funny thing about Mr. Terrific is that everything about that character shouldn't work. His name's Mr. Terrific. He's got "Fair Play" written on his sleeves, a black T on his face, his costume is like a biker, I mean it's crazy. But he's just so damn cool it works.

I hope his look stands the test of time. But it's something I can't really judge. If you look at the new Hourman or Dr. Midnight, their costumes are very iconic to the originals, whereas Mr. Terrific's is completely different.

I think Mr. Terrific is one of the strongest characters in the DCU. Certainly the smartest.

Smarter than Batman? Batman's a scientist.

I love Batman, he's probably the best character in comics but I think so, 'cause Mr. Terrific's more rounded. He will be more rounded too after the next storyline. I think he's got a better outlook. I think Batman's brilliant and in comics nobody is ever going to have the argument where Batman's outsmarted by Terrific, but I think that if anybody could, it would be Terrific.

Of course, I'm biased.

How far ahead do you usually plot your books.

It depends. With TITANS, we're on about issue #40. That's loose plots, like what story arcs go where and what the character changes are. And on FLASH, Howard and Joey and I have thru about #225. Again it's all loose, things can change around, but it's like when Scott and I knew what was going to happen in #200. We knew since we were working on #175. You just kind of look for those benchmarks and see where you're going, and if you know where you're going you can build a road there. If you don't know where you're going, it's time to stop doing the book. You ever see X-FILES?

So when you introduced Black Adam in JSA, you had the "Black Reign" and the invasion in mind.


That sort of gets in the way of the political analogies people are drawing to "Black Reign."

We had the storyline planned since Black Adam was first on this team and we knew he was going to take over this country. It's been around for two, three years, and we established the country well before the war.

People can draw parallels. I don't know how they can draw parallels on the last part. If you're expecting a nice neat ending, and it'll probably be out by the time this interview hits, but if people are expecting a message like 'heroes shouldn't kill' or 'Black Adam is Bush' I don't know what the hell it means. It's not supposed to be a comment on that.

Obviously, I can see why people would go there. It's a Middle Eastern country and BA has invaded it. Of course people are going to draw parallels right away. I think it was your Village Idiot who was saying it's the Best Iraq analogy [he's read recently]. But I don't know how he's going to feel when he reads the end.

But I'm anxious to see what people think.

Do you ever feel limited, writing franchised characters for an all-ages audience?

DC never limits me. They're fantastic; they let me write how I want to write. They let me do my thing and help guide me along the way. My only limits come from my own passion, 'cause I love it so much that sometimes I have to stop and say maybe we shouldn't use this element, maybe it's too obscure. Balancing a large cast is a constant challenge. But I like a challenge. That's why I love writing team books.

What kind of messages do you think comics are suited to tell, or do you try to avoid didacticism altogether?

One thing I wanted to do with Red Zone is to have people say "Oh, he's just saying that the government's bad," and then Boom, it's *spoiler alert* Red Skull. And I've got a series I'm working on for '05, where the Government plays kind of a small role, but a decent role, and they're just the government. No conspiracies. No bad guys. Just men and women working as hard as they can.

People will read into anything you write, and that's what it's there for. But as far as messages go, in superhero books the bottom line is heroes are good guys, villains are bad guys, and you can get all sort of messages in there in between. Good and bad are hard to define.

Everyone has something to say about something. But there's one thing I like about [Greg] Rucka's WONDER WOMAN . He's got this character who has very opinionated views on everything, but they don't match up anywhere. She's not liberal or conservative. And I like that. That's not a message, it's BOOM! This is a character, this is what she believes in.

The message serves the character…

…instead of the character serving the message. Exactly.

You ventured into horror recently with THE POSSESSED. Are you a big horror fan?

Oh yeah. Yes. Everything from the 70's. THE OMEN. EXORCIST. THE CHANGELING.

THE CHANGELING!! Love that movie. So glad you gave it a shout-out.

Great movie! That shot where he goes in on the keyboard and the key goes down. One of the best shots of all time! So simple. I hate horror movies with CGI. The best horror movies were where they did everything practical. ROSEMARY'S BABY. You never even see the baby and it's the scariest fuckin' movie in the world.

What other genres would you like to work in, or even incorporate into your superhero work?

Hard Science Fiction is fun. We have a storyline with hard science fiction coming up in Titans; well it's like year three, when we do a story in space. The coolest thing [TEEN TITANS pioneers Marv Wolfman & George Perez] did with Titans is that they designed these characters so that they opened up into different stories. Starfire, Cyborg, Raven, Robin…the Titans could go from a dimension that was like Hell to Outer Space to the Future to the Streets of Gotham.

TEEN TITANS is similar to JSA in that they both deal with legacy. But in other ways they're completely different books. Do you have problems switching over?

Not really. It's a different type of book. It's a different vibe. When I write JSA it's a different feel. In a stupid way, I feel older writing JSA. I feel younger writing Titans.

But at the same time the cool thing about Titans is that they do have all this great history to draw from, like the JSA, and that we can add new stuff to. We've got new villains coming up. Right away we wanted to hit them with Deathstroke and the new Brother Blood who's a 14 year old psychopath, and then we have new villains to add to the Titan mix. But you always want to work with the big guys first and show that the Titans have what it takes.

Who's the better team? '81 Islanders or the '95 Red Wings?

Red Wings all the way. Just for personal satisfaction.

Oooh, sorry. Trick question. The answer is the '84 Oilers. Okay, I'm gonna blow some smoke up your ass here. THING: FREAKSHOW, was, in my opinion, the best mini I read all last year. But we didn't hear much about it?

No, I heard nothing about it. They didn't market it really. But how it came together, I couldn't be happier. Thing is a guy who isn't going to sell 100K, especially right now and back then, but Scott and I got to do a Thing mini that was a lot of fun and it's probably one of the things I'm most proud of.

The baby Watcher was just amazing.

I was just looking for a MacGuffin, something that would be cool. I like the fact that there was a baby Watcher and he thought the Thing was cool.

The reason I brought it up is that it really seemed written for the monthly, as is most of your stuff. The space between each chapter was almost part of the story – it helped to build the momentum so much, that when the first issue hit it seemed like a nice character piece, and by the end, it was just balls-out action.

We were purposely doing that. If you look at issue 1, all the stuff is set up for the Skrulls, but we don't reveal them 'til issue #2, which was fun. It was fun to throw him into this town and you think "Okay, it's one of those typical Thing on the Road stories, and then turn it into one of those Kree-Skrull things.

The Thing's a great character to write. His dialogue's extremely hard to do. Flash can be written differently in JLA or if he guests in NIGHTWING. He can be sleek and cool and quick or he can be funny, but Thing has this very specific reaction to everything. He's got the worst luck in the world, he's just a great, great character. It never got collected, but maybe if they do the Fantastic Four movie they'll collect it.

He's my favorite. Next to the Bondage Fairies, anyway. But you don't see that style of writing too much anymore. It's all self-contained.

I love cliffhangers. I use them a lot. We don't have them every time, but we try to have them a lot. That's part of the fun of a monthly book. You want to find out what happens next.

Same with subplots

We use subplots because we know when they're going to pay off. That's why I have subplots in FLASH, if you look through the first trades we laid the foundation for the Rogues, we laid the foundation for Hunter Zolomon about a year and a half beforehand because we knew what was going to happen. You have to have payoffs that come quick, but I like those longer subplots that payoff a year later.

You're leaving HAWKMAN. Are you sorry to leave that one?

Extremely. It was a great book and working with Rags was awesome. He's an artist that's going to break out big with IDENTITY CRISIS.

Looking back, we're damned proud of that 25 issue run. There's a lot of good stuff and the character is easy to understand. Reincarnated Warrior. You can get it more convoluted if you want but you don't need to.

I talked to [HAWKWORLD writer] John Ostrander a couple weeks ago about Hawkman. And he really enjoyed what we did too, which was nice to hear.

John was great. You guys gave him a nice tribute; John was one of my favorite writers.

He's another guy known for his take on super-villains.

I read SUICIDE SQUAD and was like, "Wow, Captain Boomerang's cool!" "Deadshot's cool." He made the villains interesting characters, and I said why aren't more people doing that?

And also, John's respect for continuity if you look through his Squad and his Spectre, he takes what could be backstory and turns it into a great tale.

You also have a lot of respect for your characters' history.

Yeah, but if you look at continuity and the thing is people forget, we all have continuity. I'm talking to you for the first time but I don't know what you've done or experienced or what your parents are like or if a huge event happened that changed your outlook on life. THAT'S continuity. It's just become a dirty word because people said this guy's boots are black instead of blue.


Exactly. But continuity is more like history to me, what the characters have gone through. You look at Power Girl her origin keeps changing in her head, she doesn't know who the hell she is, but it's all tied into continuity. That fact that her origin has been re-written and she doesn't seem to fit in suddenly becomes an element to her character. And it'll all play out in JSA. We have a cool story that's going to spring from that to help define her character and we're going to use it to our advantage.

Look at Hawkman. The fact that we went with the reincarnation angle, where he's lived several different lives, was not a random thing. It helped thematically tie it into the fact that most superhero readers know Hawkman has been revamped a few times, there are different versions. Like different lives. It helps if you take the literal problem outside of comics and try and tie that in. It feels more natural and acceptable that way.

Other continuity. Mr. Terrific's wife was killed in an auto accident. That didn't happen in JSA. It happened in SPECTRE, off-panel, when he was introduced. That's continuity. Everybody has back-story. Even brand-new characters have back-story. They just don't have a series of comic books behind it. It's not like BAM! Tony Stark is born. He had back story when he was first introduced in TALES OF SUSPENSE.

I like to get into character's history and see what they've gone through. In "Blood Will Run", Julie Jacksam had that kid and there was speculation that maybe that's Wally's kid. And the reason it worked is that we knew Wally slept around a lot when he first was the Flash, so maybe his past caught up with him.

But it's a story point, to show how much he's changed how much he's gone through from this womanizer to a stable married guy who's totally in love with his wife.

You can't do that without the character having an established history. One of my favorite moments in your AVENGERS run was when you had Captain America fight Mr. Hyde, and you gave a nod to their past together, and it gave the battle so much more strength and poignancy…if you caught it.

The same with bringing Falcon into the Avengers. The first time, he was brought in because he was black. Give me a break! He's a capable character and I wanted to bring that in and show it. He was like 'Hell yeah, I'm an Avenger. I belong here." I think I'm most proud of issue #64 with him. Because of his relationships in the past, we could do that. And if you didn't read that before you didn't need to; it just was kind of a nice reintroduction to the characters.

Some people write off characters like the Falcon, Aquaman and the Flash. It's a shame.

Other writers who influence your work?

I think Jeph Loeb is one of the best in the business at giving you those moments you want to see. He does the ultimate superhero books and people respond to it. You look at how well SUPERMAN/BATMAN is doing. And with THE LONG HALLOWEEN, DARK VICTORY there are so many great, iconic moments with Batman, every five pages. There's a reason [David] Goyer says he was influenced by Jeph's version of Batman. It's killer.

Greg Rucka, to me, everytime I talk to him I think "Holy shit, this guy thinks his characters through so well. It makes me work harder." And that's part of the reason I wanted to get more into Wally West as a character in his head and really really get into it. Because Greg was telling me what he was doing with Wonder Woman, and the way he broke down the character and defined her.

I love Bendis. I think Bendis is brilliant. I think the books he does are amazing. I know some of your guys don't like DAREDEVIL.

Yeah, but some of us love it.

That's the case with everything. But I think Bendis is great. His dialogue, his style, and his love for the medium are evident. He also takes risks in storytelling techniques and I love that too. Plus he's tackling like six, seven, books a month. He's the cornerstone of Marvel. Along with Mark Millar. I just picked up CHOSEN, you should too. I really want to see his WOLVERINE. Gonna be bad ass.

Grant Morrison is another writer who is just insanely good. I read his ANIMAL MAN and DOOM PATROL in high school and was blown away. Just great stuff that was like, it was like Animal Man was cool. Again, it just proved to me, pounded it into my head, that the second and third and fourth string characters can be cooler or even more interesting than the top tier.

I also remember the first time I ever looked at a comic book credit to see who wrote it. I was reading this issue, I was probably, I don't know maybe like 13 or 14 or something, I don't remember. It was 1987 I think. So I'm reading this comic and I was like, wow, that was a great story. Who wrote that story? And I look at the credits and it was Peter David. One of his first issues of the Hulk. He's the first writer I ever paid attention to.

There are of course a ton of others. Alan Moore, Mark Waid, Gail Simone, Len Wein, Marv Wolfman, Ed Brubaker, John Ostrander again. Just so many great writers in comics I could list them forever. Old and new. And that's not even getting into the Silver Age or Golden Age of it all.

Outside comics, Brian Helgeland is my favorite screenwriter. By far. He's unreal.

So what's coming up?

This is a quiet year for me. Concentrating on JSA, FLASH, and TEEN TITANS, and a mini-series at the end of the year. Trying to make them as good as I can possibly make them. 2005 is going to be crazy and I'm gearing up for it.

Last question. Wings gonna win the Cup this year?

I've got money on it.

You always got to support your team, no matter what. Every year I say yeah! The Wings are gonna win it. The Lions are gonna go all the way! This is the year they're going to clean up! The Tigers are going, the Pistons are going.

You gotta do that. It's just like comic books. If you like Superman you want that book to be good. You root for your favorite characters. You want them to win.
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