While the Geoff Johns panel revealed a lot about Doomsday Clock, a series out in November that everybody will be talking about, it also had a lot of meaningful insight into who Johns is and how he approaches writing. It’s clear emotion and meaningful storytelling is a big part of why he’s in this industry. Hell, Doomsday Clock is coming out in November in part because Johns wanted the series to kick off on an important week for so many: Thanksgiving week. “Going to the comic shop was the greatest day ever because you know you have all this time with friends and family and nobody is going to bother you,” Johns said about Thanksgiving week comic purchases.
Justice League Quarterly, Johns recounted, was a story he still remembers because he was able to escape in its pages on Thanksgiving week. Johns said this moment helped him realize comics can be more than fighting and plot; “I suddenly cared about characters I never met before,” he explained. And it’s stories like this that he wants to bring to the table with Doomsday Clock. “I wanted to write an issue that would put the heart back into the DC universe,” Johns said.
For a while though, Johns wasn’t sure if he’d get into the comic book industry at all. Humble and always revealing, Johns made it clear he might be the chief creative officer at DC Comics, but he’s also a guy like you and me who didn’t know what he wanted to do going into college. Attending Michigan State, Johns was a film major but after helping classmates in a directing class write scripts he realized writing and collaborating is where he belonged. “I love the collaboration of storytelling, we’re both trying to do this and tell a story and I got into writing almost by accident. Once I got it that’s what I did.”
Of course, Johns said he enjoyed making comics in junior high, but that, “you don’t know it’s your profession until it’s your profession. Probably the day I signed exclusively with DC I knew I was a writer.”
Speaking of exclusivity with DC, Johns dipped into his days working at Marvel. Gossip hounds might note Johns wasn’t a big fan of how management at the time worked, though he has no hard feelings. “I like Marvel, but I love DC.” Johns also recounted the strange timing of being given the Avengers. “The day I got Avengers, they announced it and DC called me and wanted me to signed an exclusive.” Was the world close to never getting a DC Comics story out of Johns? “My heart is at DC.” Johns said.
That said, a certain jade giant is definitely on his list of characters he’d like to write. “I love Hulk, if we can buy Hulk I’d love to do that. I’d do a Hulk movie. Though Ragnarok does look pretty badass.” Moderator and DC co-publisher Dan DiDio asked Johns if there was any character Johns had trouble writing. Once again, Marvel came up. “Writing Thor was hard because he speaks so weird in the comics.”
Johns also recounted his work in Hollywood, including how Richard Donner was a mentor to him. One thing he learned: you can’t placate other voices, but you must write what you believe in. “Nobody else is going to say it like you,” Johns said. Lucky enough to be in the room with Michael Crichton and Brian Helgeland, Johns reflected that he learned when it comes to story it’s all about heart. “If there’s a choice between logic and heart, choose heart and the logic will come. It’s all about the heart of the character.”
Which might explain why Johns has never written Batman, at least according to him. “I want to do a run on Batman for sure, but to me I love taking characters that don’t work.” Clarifying, Johns explained if someone tells him Aquaman or Booster Gold doesn’t work, he’s motivated to prove them wrong and show them any character can work under the right writer. As if shedding light on how he approaches all his work, and also Doomsday Clock, Johns said he has always “gravitated to broken characters and broken stories.”