Hello, I’m Ben Morseâ€¦
â€¦and I’m Tim Stevens, holla.
It’s been said by many that it is often a difficult experience to meet your heroes, because they rarely live up to expectations; they do not have the love for what they do that you thought they did, they are just in it for the money, they are dull or they’re simply impolite individuals.
Thank you, Geoff Johns, for proving that this little axiom is not correct all of the time.
Six months ago, Geoff Johns was merely my favorite comic book writer, the man who brought The Flash, JSA, Hawkman and the Teen Titans to life every month, and yes, a hero of mine.
When Geoff first e-mailed me to tell me he enjoyed the site, it was a red-letter day. When he put me in an issue of JSA as a zombie, it made my month. When he agreed to do an interview with myself and Tim over a couple cold ones, I had to refuse to let myself believe that this dream could become a realityâ€¦and yet today, there I was, sitting across from the man himself, drinking my beer (on him) and talking comics with Tim and another guyâ€¦who happened to be Geoff Johns.
And what a joy it was to just sit and talk about comics. Geoff is one of the top writers in the industry, bar none, and yet he’s probably the most enthusiastic fan I have ever met. When we met up with him in the Convention Center (met up is actually somewhat inaccurate; both we and him were searching for a panel we thought he was supposed to be on that wasn’t actually until Friday, upon realization of which he paused for a moment and said â€œLet’s go get a drink), he showed off original pages from Teen Titans that his editor Mike Carlin had given him like a kid who just got his favorite toy for Christmas; every moment I was around Geoff I could help but love comics more and more.
It is hard to add much to Ben’s musing without turning this little intro into a saccharine-y mess. However, I will certainly say that I was just as honored, excited, and overwhelmed to meet Mr. Johns face to face. His was the first e-mail I received from a creator while writing the column and it (and the occasional e-mail since) was truly one of the coolest things that has come out of writing that crazy little News and Views jobber week in and week out (is this a bad time to mention that next week’s column will be a day or so later?).
So, much thanks to Geoff for picking up the tab and, more importantly, for taking the time out to make my first Convention experience so memorable. I recognize that you are just as busy as anyone working the SDCC, so giving us a few hours of your time is not a favor that I take lightly.
Alright, enough of this lovefest. All this â€œI’m honoredâ€¦â€ and â€œTruly a class actâ€ stuff makes me queasy, doesn’t it Ben?
Rightâ€¦because you are a soulless abomination before God, correct?
Yup that’s right. And even soulless abominations know when it is time to start the interview.
Which would be now?
Okay, so you wanna get started.
That’s what I said.
Well, what are we waiting for? You said it like six lines ago.
Sighâ€¦one day, Morse, one day.
Enjoy our hard work (ha) everybody!
So after just gabbing about this and that for a couple hours, Geoff agreed to sit down with us and answer a bunch of questions we came up with at like one in the morning last night. We promised him from the start that this interview would not be like the ones he usually gave for other sitesâ€¦
The sucky sites.
Anywaysâ€¦we promised him questions that would range from insightful to absurd, not just what’s coming up next month in JSA (you can, however, read about all that in our upcoming report on the Geoff Johns panel)â€¦I think we delivered and he certainly didn’t disappoint, providing answers for even our saddest attempts at humor. Enjoy.
On The Flash, is there any Rogue who is so lame even you are to touch him?
I think all of the Rogues have been used great, I think the only Rogue who is a real challenge is Rainbow Raider. We actually killed him, but I actually think a female character called Rainbow Raider could workâ€¦you could do a Rainbow Raider who was a female and that could workâ€¦or you could just do a new guy called Raider who was an artist or something, but Rainbow Raider’s a tough one.
As a sort of follow up to that, is there any Rogue you’ve worked on that you’re particularly proud-
Rightâ€¦I should have known that without even askingâ€¦
Yeah, don’t bother askingâ€¦Zoom right after that, but Captain Cold is still my first.
Are there characters you asked for on any of the team books you’ve written and were denied?
Rightâ€¦were there any characters you took on and then felt you couldn’t work with so you wrote them out?
Wowâ€¦those questions were a lot easier than I thoughtâ€¦are there any characters out there that you really like as a fan but don’t feel you’re the person to write them?
I don’t knowâ€¦I didn’t really like Power Girl until I used her and now I’m like, â€˜wow, she’s really cool and I’m really into her,’ so I don’t think there’s any character I’d be afraid to do, I’d love to try everybodyâ€¦there are characters I don’t gravitate towards as easyâ€¦like, I like Wolverine, he’s great, but he’s not one of my favorite characters, but if I got a shot to write Wolverine then I’d probably do it, because there’s no characters I really dislike or have a fear of working on.
Having worked in both Hollywood and comics, which industry do you feel constrains you more?
No question, Hollywoodâ€¦you just have more people watching you, more people telling you what to do, more people maybe wanting something different, more people not knowing what they want, and in comics, you really deal with one guy, your editor, you figure it out, and then that’s it, you’re doneâ€¦comics is much more free, I think sometimes writers are spoiled in comics, because they have all this freedom and they go to another medium and they say â€˜man, that was pretty good.’
Ok, we know from your panel earlier that you’re marriedâ€¦
Yes, happily married.
But, before you were married, did being a comic book writer just score you, like, mad chicks?
I scored zero chicks from being a comic book writerâ€¦now working in film that’s another story [laughter from all parties, manly elbows to the ribs, and such].
You’ve got a good reputation as a creator who’s very friendly with the online community, what aspects of the internet do you feel help and hinder the industry?
I don’t think it hinders much, the only thing I don’t like is when story secrets get leaked outâ€¦
Have you had a problem with that?
Not really, it’s been pretty goodâ€¦occasionally somebody will read a black and white somewhere and spoil the whole issue, that’s just kind of annoying, or when the thing is like â€˜who’s the murderer?’ people will guess everybody, and one of them is going to be right, so if one person guesses it right everybody is like â€˜oh, I knew it,’ and that’s annoying, but other than that it’s fineâ€¦the internet is not the end all, be all, it’s just a fun place to go once in awhile to interact with the people about the books, because otherwise you’d just have to do that at the comic book shops.
Do you know the ending of Rebirth?
Yes, I knew the ending eight months ago.
If it doesn’t involve Guy Gardner ending up as Green Lantern, how much would it take to persuade to change it so that Guy Gardner does end up as Green Lanternâ€¦because between the two of us we’ve got, like, sixty, seventy bucks on usâ€¦
It’s already done guysâ€¦that’s all I can say.
Tough but fairâ€¦ok, situation, you’re stranded on a desert island with a group of art-loving cannibalsâ€¦you can only take one person with you, with the knowledge that their artistic skills could save your lifeâ€¦do you put one of your artists in jeopardy or do you rely on your own frustatingly impressive drawing ability, well known to anybody who has seen that Kid Flash pin up for Teen Titans/Outsiders Secret Files and cursed that you must not be good at something?
I rely on myselfâ€¦the rest of the people have to carry on the heroes and the villains of the DC Universeâ€¦I go it alone, saving allâ€¦yeah, I don’t want to kill anybody.
You’re probably one of the least-criticized creators among fans today, but one of the few things you did that drew, at the least, a mixed reaction, was changing Impulse to Kid Flash; in retrospect, do you have any regrets about doing that?
I knew people would react like they did, some people would, but when’s the last time they were really talking about Impulse? You know, that’s one thing, but also, this is like the next stage for them and it’s going to have to happen sometimeâ€¦like, I’m sure if there was an internet around when Robin became Nightwing they would have gone crazy, but I think it’s good for the character to grow and keep evolving with the rest of the DC Universeâ€¦and it’s not like Bart’s gone, he still has a sense of humor here and there, but it’s just not as prominent, that’s not what Teen Titans is, it’s not a comedy book.
Who is the one Titan, besides Wally, that you think deserves JLA status, and is it Wildebeest?
It’s not Wildebeest [laughter]. I don’t knowâ€¦it’s like, Nightwing, if you had Nightwing in the JLA it’s redundant with Batman, Arsenal is redundant with Green Arrowâ€¦I think Arsenal would secretly want to be asked, even though he’s never been askedâ€¦and Tempest I don’t think really has any desire, I just don’t think he would care.
But do you think it would be a good thing in terms of progression with some Titans moving on to the JLAâ€¦not just the original five, but moving onto Raven, Cyborg and Starfire, who, obviously kind of a conflict of interest, since you probably don’t want them in the JLA right nowâ€¦
No, I don’t, but I think Cyborg could work with the JLAâ€¦I think if anybody could graduate from Titans to the JLA, it would be Cyborgâ€¦
Do you think that’s something that, not necessarily now, but in the grand scheme of the DC Universe, should Titans eventually move on to the JLA?
The thing is, maybe, but in my mind, let the Titans be the Titans, let the JLA be the JLA, not everybody has to grow up and change, because then we’re going to end up with Superman seeing like five Flashes go byâ€¦will Bart Allen ever be Flash? Maybe ten years, twenty years from now, who knows what they’re gonna do, because we don’t know what’s going to happen in the future, but I don’t think people should be in a rush to see them move from a teamâ€¦Young Justice to Teen Titans, that’s an evolution that kind of makes sense, but everything elseâ€¦we just got Titans back, it’s on issue thirteen, let’s leave it alone for awhile.
Well, Starfire and Cyborg have obviously come a long way since the eighties, from being the naÃ¯ve alien and the tough street kid to now being mentors to young heroesâ€¦is that, being a mentor, a progression that makes more sense than graduating to the JLA?
I think yes for Cyborg, but Starfire’s not that good a mentor, and purposely so, she’s supposed to be like â€˜this is not what I do,’ it’s not who she is, that’s why it works, butâ€¦I don’t want to get into it too much, I mean, look, I like the Titans the way they are now obviouslyâ€¦there will probably be some changes down the lineâ€¦but as far as will people accept Cyborg as a member of the JLA, I don’t know, maybe, but also I like Cyborg, I love writing him, so I want to use him as long as possibleâ€¦plus a whole new generation of people are growing up now and guess what they say: Cyborg, Beast Boy, Raven, Starfire, Robinâ€¦don’t mess with it too muchâ€¦the characters can come and go, that’s not a big deal, but they’re Titans.
Was bringing back Hawkman your idea or was that an editorial edict you carried out?
In JSA, it was always Hawkman was going to come back in a JLA/JSA crossover, and at that time I think Mark Waid was too busy on JLA doing his own stories and we kept pushing the story off, so finally David [Goyer] and I were like, let’s just do it in JSA ourselves, so that’s what happened.
This is a personal question for me [Ben]â€¦I’m a Titans fan, so, for reasons I don’t fully understand, not only did I buy the later issues of the Titans series that preceded yours, I also tracked down every back issue and do in fact own every issueâ€¦
â€¦does that make me a bad person in your eyes?
Noâ€¦if you’re a Titans fan, you’re a Titans fanâ€¦I think that’s cool.
The Teen Titans theme songâ€¦does it ever just get stuck in your head?
Yeah, I mean, it gets stuck in everybody’s head.
Do you ever just want to put a drill to your ear?
No, I like it.
What kinds of interactions and relationships have you had with Marv Wolfman, in regards to Titans, and with Roy Thomas, in regards to the Golden Age characters?
Marv Wolfman’s been awesomeâ€¦he doesn’t read books once he leaves them, so he hasn’t read Titans since he leftâ€¦I see him, I’m friendly with him and he even said somebody asked him about the Church of Blood-Trigon connection, and he said â€˜I never thought of that, but I thought it was a good idea,’ I thought that was cool. He doesn’t read the book, but he knows what’s going on and he’s given me some nice complimentsâ€¦George Perez gave me a great complimentâ€¦you can’t get any better than thatâ€¦Roy Thomas, I know he doesn’t like where the JSA’s going, that’s all I know, I’ve heard that from various people that it’s not the JSA [to him] because it’s not the originalsâ€¦but that’s fine, he’s welcome to his opinion.
In an alternate universe, without the DC exclusive title, you’re forced to write one of these two titles, which one do you choose: Sleepwalker or Darkhawk?
Sleepwalker or Darkhawk? Darkhawk, because I’d turn it into New Warriors.
[as Ben giggles with girlish excitement] Could you make a New Warriors revival work and would you want to?
I don’t know if I couldâ€¦I like the New Warriors, but I don’t know if I’d ever have interest in it. I read Fabian Nicieza’s version and I thought it was goodâ€¦I read Thunderbolts and I thought that was great, but I wouldn’t write that bookâ€¦it’s like Suicide Squad, that book was awesome, but would I write it? I don’t know if I couldâ€¦John [Ostrander] is too good.
Best thing and worst thing about big conventions like this?
As it gets bigger and bigger it’s harder to talk to people because you know everybodyâ€¦most of the time now it’s like â€˜hey hey hey,’ you want to spend more time with people, that’s the worst, the best thing is just that it’s fun, there are comics everywhere.
If you could write one character you haven’t written yet, who would it be?
I like the Hulkâ€¦I love the Hulk, he’s one of my favorite characters, I’d love to do The Hulk some dayâ€¦but Superman, he’s the big oneâ€¦love Superman, I’d love to do Superman for awhile, I would love to do Superman full time.
Is it like a horrible tease every time you get to do a Superman fill-in?
Kind ofâ€¦Superman is the best superhero in my mindâ€¦great characterâ€¦I like everybody in the DCU in their own wayâ€¦Green Arrowâ€¦I like them all.
Umâ€¦ok, we can’t really use this one because we’re not in the bar any more, but we were just going to point to somebody and ask if you could take them in a fight.
Probablyâ€¦get me another beer and we could find out.
Thanks again to Geoff Johns for a great interview, the beer, and a one of a kind memory. Read The Flash, JSA and Teen Titans, they’re all really good…and read Rebirth too, even if Guy Gardner doesn’t get the ring.