A few minutes before DC Comics Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns was scheduled to sign at Golden Apple in Hollywood on Comic Book Day, we sat for an exclusive interview. During our wide ranging conversation we talked about his run on Green Lantern and when he first realized it was coming to an end, Aquaman, his thoughts on digital comics, The CW’s Arrow, future DC properties on TV, his reaction after watching Man of Steel, future animated movies, the reaction to The New 52, the status of the Booster Gold TV series, future Green Lantern plans, his most prized comic book,the status of 100 Bullets, Wonder Woman, favorite DC Collectibles, and so much more. Hit the jump to either watch the interview or read the transcript.
Collider: Sometimes, when I’m on Twitter or Facebook, and I’m talking to someone, I get like a few questions. And with other people, I get a lot of questions. You categorize in the ‘lot of questions’ category. Let’s just jump in. It’s Free Comic Book Day today, so what does that mean to you and what does it mean to DC?
GEOFF JOHNS: Sure. Free Comic Book Day happens every year. It’s May the 4th, today, which is awesome, but it means a lot for us to go out and show our support for Free Comic Book Day, go to local stores, sign books, talk to people, give away free books to people who might never have read a comic book. I think it’s a huge deal for the industry. I’m glad everyone’s supporting it today.
How much discussion is there on your guys’ end on how much you’re going to deliver on Free Comic Book Day? Are you thinking about it six months out? When do you guys start discussing?
JOHNS: Those conversations really happen with the publishers. Jim and Dan and the marketing team over there at DC, so they decide it at least six months out. Earlier, usually.
I know it’s the end of the run with you and Green Lantern, or talk a little about you being apart of that books and what it all means.
JOHNS: I’ve been writing Green Lantern for nine years, which is a long time and it’s a good nine years. The book’s still one of the top-selling books next to Spider-Man and Batman, he’s still the top-selling solo character. He’s got a lot of books out there. It’s nice to look back at the run, and I think we added some nice toys to the toy box. Hopefully the people coming on next will have a lot of fun with it. I’m really proud of what we did, me and all my collaborators and all of the artists and writers that we worked with. It was great.
JOHNS: Probably about six months ago. I was working on a storyline where Hal Jordan was going to end up in the Dead Zone, which essentially he was going to end up in the afterlife, and I thought, you know, his big triumphant return from that, like him coming out of that and all these things I wanted to play out with him and Sinestro, it felt like this second rebirth. We’ve started by bringing him back, it just felt very poetic and it just felt right. Something big was going to happen with Sinestro, his own world was destroyed, Hal was dead. All these events kind of culminated in a moment that I thought, this is the exclamation point on my run. From rebirth to rebirth. That’s how I want to end it. So I did.
What are you writing right now, and what are you thinking about writing? What the upcoming future now that you have more time?
JOHNS: On the comic book side?
JOHNS: On the comic book side, I’m still writing Aquaman, which I absolutely love. I love that character. I’m writing Justice League and Justice League of America, and I have another project coming out later on this year.
Let’s talk a little about digital comics. What’s your opinion on digital comics? Have you noticed a lot of people wanting more of that, because we’re moving into the 21st century where everyone has an iPad now, or a reader.
JOHNS: I know a lot of people that still buy comics, go to the shop every week, I know people who read them on an iPad. My brother reads on an iPad every week, he downloads his comics every week. I think a lot of people on iPad or whatever device you’re reading on, I just always default to the iPad because it’s the best device in the world — I don’t care how people read their comics, I want them to read comics. I don’t care if they read them on an iPad or a phone or in store, I just want them to read comics. I like collecting comics, I like buying comics, I like looking at comics, but I also read comics on digital readers, so any way people read comics is fine with me. Digital is just helping people who might not necessarily have access to comics help them, that’s great. If it’s helping who prefer to read everything off of a digital device, great. I think whatever helps spread the world of comics.
I did want to talk a little bit about the first of Arrow. I have not seen the finale yet, but I’m going to give you props. It’s been a really good first season. What’s been your take on the show, and the fact that it’s done really well in the ratings for the CW?
JOHNS: I’m really happy with the success of Arrow and the team [Greg] Berlanti and [Andrew] Kreisberg and [Marc] Guggenheim really put together this great show. You can see with this season, I thought the season started strong, but it got stronger. I thought the show really found it’s place, and the cast found its place. One of my favorite episodes is, I don’t think it’s aired yet, but there’s this big sequence with Oliver Queen and Felicity Smoak and Diggle, when I saw those characters in that episode, I thought I could see this show going forever. What the success of the show has done is that it’s helped open up doors for DC and television in a very good way, and for the CW in a very good way.
That’s something that I also wanted to address. You guys have some great characters that for some reason cannot find a place. Like, for example, Wonder Woman, or I could give a list, Aquaman with the pilot that didn’t go. What do you think, or is there discussion with the popularity of Arrow in bringing other characters to the small screen? How does it work with the fact that there’s a Justice League movie being developed?
JOHNS: One of the things that I thought really worked was that you have Smallville on television and Superman Returns come out in the theater, and it was fine. Nobody freaked out, nobody thought they were competing. These characters are strong enough to live in video games, animation, television, film, and so Arrow, you will see a lot of characters coming in there, you might some see more DC TV shows. Obviously that’s what everybody wants. It’s exciting, I wish we could talk more about plans, but let’s talk about it Comic-Con.
JOHNS: You’ll know a lot more about DC in July at Comic-Con. Across the board.
I understand. Before I run out of time, I know you must have seen a rough cut of Man of Steel, I’m going to take a stab that you have, and I’ve asked this of everyone that’s seen it: your reaction was…
JOHNS: I’m very anxious for everybody to seen Man of Steel. I’m very excited about people seeing Man of Steel.
I had this question for Zack [Snyder, director] before filming began, all I care about is that Superman gets to punch someone in the face, because to me that means he has a villain that he can fight. Were you happy when you got to see Superman punch someone in the face and say you saw it?
JOHNS: Superman’s very active in this movie. People will be happy. If people want to see Superman in action, they’ll be very happy.
I’ll leave that part there. I know you guys are quietly developing Justice League. After the success of Avengers and Marvel making $1.5 billion, is it even more if a priority for everyone at the studio, or is it always just been a priority?
JOHNS: Can’t really talk about it, sorry.
So I’ll bring it up in July?
JOHNS: You know, as a DC fan, you always want every hero to thrive and find an audience in comics or film or animation or video games or television or whatever it is, and I’m really excited about the future.
Describe your working life if you will. You seem like you have your hands in a lot of different pots. What are you sort of working on when you’re in the office?
JOHNS: I work with everybody. The best thing about my job is that I work with the best creative people in the business in their fields. Whether it be Rocksteady [Studios] about games, everyone in the game business and animation business, we’re starting Robot Chicken DC Special 2 Monday. The writers are coming to DC and we’re starting that in two weeks. To be able to work with the best creative people in the business on these characters, that’s what I do all day.
Something that you guys do really well is DC Animated movies. I have a really interesting question coming from Twitter asking is there any possibility of taking a movie script that never got made, like a J.J. Abrams Superman, and taking that script or idea and making a DC Animated movie out of it?
JOHNS: There’s always a possibility. That’s not the first time that’s come up. There’s always discussions about what would be really cool to do.
What about talking to other writers, bringing in new and unexpected voices? To do an animated movie? Is that something–
Damn it! I feel like two months too soon!
JOHNS: Sorry, man. There is a really cool one in development right now, that’s not necessarily — it’s very different from anything they’ve done before. I’m really excited about it. I don’t know when they’ll be talking about that yet, I don’t know when it’ll be ready to talk about.
JOHNS: The New 52, I was really excited that new people got to jump in on books. In particular, on Aqua Man. I think with Green Lantern, it had already had a good run, so people were following it over and Justice League’s Justice League and Batman’s Batman and Superman’s Superman, but when I saw the response to Aquaman, that really was a great surprise. I thought it would get support, but because of the new 52, it kind of elevated Aqua Man up. People gave Aqua Man a shot because it was part of the bigger initiative, and the book’s doing really well.
Let me get some of these questions from the fans. Booster Gold TV series.
JOHNS: Booster Gold TV series: still in development, Andrew Kreisberg is working on it right now.
Plans for Green Lantern after the movie.
JOHNS: There are plans. There are plans.
In other words, we might see Ryan [Reynolds] in Justice League. Will DC Nation Block be expanded?
JOHNS: Teen Titans Go! just premiered. If you’re a fan of DC Animation, I suggest you watch that show.
JOHNS: I can’t talk about that yet. Sorry.
Wonder Woman. What is the possibility of something with that ending on TV, the big screen?
JOHNS: Very, very good.
So it’s still something that’s a priority?
What are your thoughts on Gina Carano? She’s in Fast & Furious 6, she was in Haywire.
JOHNS: Let’s move on…
Sure, let me move off these kinds of things. Man, I had something I wanted to ask. Getting back into the comics stuff, what has been — oftentimes you guys will come up with an arc, and you think this is a storyline and characters, this’ll be the one that works. Then all of a sudden, fans’ response, it’s not what you expected, and all of a sudden it’s elevated into the limelight. Talk a little bit about what’s been a big surprise for you guys in terms of a character storyline that really resonated with the fans.
JOHNS: Beyond the traditional Batman, Superman, Justice League stories? Definitely Animal Man is a big surprise. Jeff Lemire has done a great job on that book. I highly recommend that book, I think it’s fantastic. I’ve been really happy with Aqua Man, the response on that has been great. Within two months it outsold every Marvel comic book, and that was a shock. Those two stand out. I really do recommend Animal Man for those who don’t know what it is, there’s two great runs. There’s the Grant Morrison run in the late 80s that’s fantastic, and Jeff Lemire’s run today.
JOHNS: What I have personally? I have a copy of Showcase #4, which is the first appearance of The Flash, which is my favorite comic book character, so that. I would probably run in there and save my dog first, then I’d save my dog, then that comic book.
Are you the type of person where you have it all graded so it’s behind a thing? How do you store your comics that are valuable?
JOHNS: I put my comics that are really valuable into regular mylar because I like to look at them. Once there in those clam shell boxes, they’re impossible to open up.
Favorite collective that DC Collectibles is coming out with or has done in the past that you own or wish you owned.
JOHNS: My favorite one? It’s tough because it changes. I love those batteries they make, the Green Lantern battery, Red Lantern battery, Yellow Lantern battery. They’re making some more of them. Those are probably my favorite. I like the props.
Have you seen some of the stuff that coming to Comic Con this summer, stuff that will be premiering?
JOHNS: Yes, and if you talk to DC, maybe they’ll show some of it to you.
I’m gonna wrap or she’s gonna give me the hook, I’m feeling that energy. Thank you so much.