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Thoughts From The Land of Frost:
A Discussion With Geoff Johns By Alexander Ness
Welcome to my column. This week I interview comic book and film writer Geoff Johns. His work on The FLASH, The HAWKMAN and The JSA is impressive, but I think with his film background and ear for dialogue, even greater things are on the horizon. Make certain to keep an eye on this writer, as his work will continue to improve and entertain.
And now, please enjoy the interview.
AN: Hi Geoff. Welcome to my column. So where are you from, live now, how old are you, you know... the vitals...?
GJ: I grew up in Detroit, went to Michigan State University, then moved out toLos Angeles. I just turned 30. I write comic books.
AN: What comic was the first you ever read or bought?
GJ: Read? A bunch of Silver Age ones from my grandma's attic. The Flash #193. The first one I really remember buying was Batman and the Outsiders #13. I had no clue who the characters were but for some reason I really liked them. Metamorpho rocks.
AN: What interests or hobbies do you have outside of comics?
GJ: Bike riding, film, working out, hockey, football, X-Box, alcohol -- the usuals.
AN: You did some film work. Was that your degree area in University?
GJ: I have a bachelor in MEDIA ARTS and FILM STUDIES. I did a lot of filmmaking in college. Lots of short independent films. It was a great time. I also took several screen writing courses. I highly recommend MSU. Great party sch--I mean learning experience.
AN: What films did you work upon and what film work are you still doing if any?
GJ: I worked on Lethal Weapon 4 and Conspiracy Theory, as well as several lower budget films and tv pilots. Currently, I'm developing some more pilots and am about to go out with a new spec script called THE BULLET CATCHERS.
AN: And, as long as I am in the neighborhood, what are your favorite all-time films?
GJ: The Dirty Dozen, Planet of the Apes, It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, The Apartment, Rosemary's Baby, Back to the Future, Superman: The Movie, Empire Strikes Back, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Shawshank Redemption, Magnolia, and about three hundred more.
AN: How did you get into the film industry?
GJ: I moved to Los Angeles and called Donner's office and asked for a job. They hired me as an intern and I was soon hired as Donner's assistant. I got lucky. I'm told that phone call was the luckiest call I ever made.
AN: Does your film work have a direct effect upon your comic writing? And, if yes, is a comic book writer more like a film director than a screenplay writer?
GJ: Absolutely. I learned everything I really know about story from Donner. He and I used to talk about his approach to Superman all of the time. He has this great word - Verisimilitude - which means truth. As in, treat everything as if it's real. You can have humor and fun, but don't make it camp. Make this the read world and treat the material with respect. There's a reason that Superman: The Movie still holds up.
AN: There was a certain amount of thrill watching Superman: The Movie for the first time. It was one of the first superhero movies I watched with my four year-old son.
Back to comics, what comic book writers or other comic industry talent are the greatest influences upon your work?
GJ: In comics? There are many. Ostrander and Waid are my top two influences. Growing up, they were my favorite writers.
AN: Both are excellent writers. What character in comics is your favorite?
GJ: The Flash. Always has been. I love super-speed.
AN: You've had an excellent run on The Flash.
To what extent would you say that the character is one of the harder ones to write considering his powers are not necessarily visual ones?
GJ: It's not necessarily because of the visual but more due to the mechanics. How can you challenge a man that moves this fast? You have to constantly come up with new ways to do this. And how can this power be a negative as well? With the upcoming BLITZ arc it was easy. How do you stop the Fastest Man Alive? By putting him up against someone who is FASTER.
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AN: In writing for a character that has existed for many decades, how easy is it for you to write new, fresh storylines?
GJ: You just try and bring everything into a more contemporary setting. Flesh out characters a bit more. At least, that's what I'm trying to do. Tell an engaging superhero story.
AN: A writer I know claimed that what makes any genre work is a case of creating fully realized, that is, good, characters.
You had a run with the AVENGERS that was highly considered as well. How was your experience at Marvel different than DC?
GJ: They were both great. I loved working with Tom Brevoort. He has a great talent for story. That was the hardest thing about leaving Avengers. That and not writing Captain America anymore.
AN: Captain America is tied for my favorite character, with the Golden Age Flash.
You have a hit with Hawkman. How hard was it to filter out all the reboots and character changes over the last decade to that character?
GJ: This was incredibly hard. David Goyer (Blade screenwriter), Peter Tomasi and I spent weeks trying to figure it all out and present it in the best possible light we could. So far I think we've been fairly successful and I think the book is only getting better.
AN: The character Officer Isabella is an homage to past Hawkman writer Tony Isabella. Are there other similar character homages, and what is your connection to Tony? Are you friends, or were you simply paying honor to his previous work on the character?
GJ: I just enjoyed his work. We did it for fun.
AN: As writer of the JSA you have carried that group to new places. Is the JSA filled with the characters you most like, or are you just a fine writer working with what he has been given?
GJ: I think the characters are great characters. We're just trying to show them in the best possible light we can. Really, they haven't had as much exposure as you'd think for a group that's been around for sixty plus years.
AN: I am a reader and have spent a long time reading and collecting the JSA. Your work is high on my JSA writer list just after Roy Thomas and Paul Levitz.
What about being at DC has convinced you to go exclusive for them?
GJ: They're the best publisher to work for. They have a very exciting goal that I want to meet. I'm thrilled to see where it all takes us.
AN: GeoffJohns.com is a fine site to discover your work. Do you have greater plans for it or are you doing exactly what you wish to there?
GJ: We're going to be redesigning the site quite a bit over the next few months. Introducing our "mascot" and making it more visual and user-friendly.
AN: Staying with the Internet as the subject, do you see online comics becoming more of a reality?
GJ: That's a hard one. I think holding it, reading it, is something that will always be around. There are some great ones out there like pvp.
AN: Thanks for your answers and here is a final one: what upcoming projects do you have that you can share with us?
GJ: Teen Titans and The Possessed both debut in July.
AN: Thanks, Geoff. I appreciate your time and answers.
All comic publishers and creative talent are welcome to submit items to be reviewed. Send items to be considered for review to:
Alexander Ness Land of Frost Box 142 Rockford MN 55373-0142
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