Geoff Johns heads to ‘Trinity War,’ bids farewell to ‘Green Lantern’

May 06, 2013 | 1:05 p.m.

Pandora is on her knees at the center of artists Ivan Reis and Joe Prado's triple cover for "Justice League" No. 22, "Justice League of America" No. 6 and "Justice League Dark" No. 22 as members of the three teams clash around her. (DC Comics)

Geoff Johns wrote "Flashpoint," the reality-shaking story that immediately preceded the launch of the New 52 with "Justice League" No. 1, which he also wrote. Events in "Trinity War" have roots that stretch back to that tale. (Liz O. Baylen / Los Angeles Times)

"Justice League Dark" writer Jeff Lemire, who co-plotted "Trinity War" with Johns and is co-writing the event's "JLA" issues with him, said in a separate interview of working with DC's chief creative officer: "I’m learning so much about how he breaks these giant stories down and still keeps them character-based and focused." (Michael Jara Photography / DC Comics)

Geoff Johns' "Green Lantern" run, which began in 2004 with the limited series "Rebirth" and the return of Hal Jordan, ends with the extra-sized No. 20, in stores May 22. Cover by Doug Mahnke. (DC Comics)

"Justice League" No. 20, out May 22, is a prologue to "Trinity War" and includes what Johns says is "a really big revelation about one of the team members" and focuses on new recruits Firestorm, Element Woman and the Atom. Cover by Ivan Reis and Joe Prado. (DC Comics)

After a long series of Johns-written, Gary Frank-drawn backup stories in "Justice League" establishing his New 52 background, Shazam gets a whole issue right before "Trinity War." Too bad for him he has to share it with nemesis Black Adam. Cover by Gary Frank. (DC Comics)

A DC release for Saturday's Free Comic Book Day was the first part of a Superman story Johns co-wrote with his mentor, director Richard Donner, several years ago. The giveaway also included a preview of Scott Snyder and Jim Lee's"Superman Unchained."(DC Comics)

For a man about to start a war, Geoff Johns seems calm. Upbeat, even.

Upstairs from Golden Apple Comics in Hollywood in an office lunchroom ahead of a signing for Free Comic Book Day on Saturday, DC Comics’ chief creative officer, sporting just-tearing-at-the-knee jeans, a red plaid shirt and a weathered Aquaman baseball cap, occasionally pets his bulldog while discussing the summer event he and collaborator Jeff Lemire are scripting in their respective “Justice League” and “Justice League Dark” titles, and together in “Justice League of America.” (You can see a larger version of Ivan Reis and Joe Prado’s triptych cover for the first issues here.)

“Trinity War,” which unfolds in six parts across those three series’ July and August releases, with tie-ins including “Trinity of Sin: Pandora” No. 1 (written by Ray Fawkes), is DC Comics’ biggest event since launching the New 52 two years ago, and it connects directly to that radical reset of reality. Among the elements in play: the ominous hooded woman Pandora, first seen cryptically speaking about split and merging realities and a coming threat in “Flashpoint,” the story that led to the New 52, and the box she can’t open; the romance between Superman and Wonder Woman; and a death amid mysterious circumstances that will bring the three Justice Leagues into conflict.

In the following Q&A, Johns, who is about to end his long run writing “Green Lantern,”  talks with Hero Complex, pausing here and there because of police sirens, about closing out that stint (his final “Green Lantern” issue lands May 22) and marshaling the forces of “Trinity War.”

HC: You’re transitioning from “Green Lantern” to focus more on “Justice League.” Do you see yourself hanging around “Justice League” for nine years?

Geoff Johns' "Green Lantern" run, which began in 2004 with the limited series "Rebirth" and the return of Hal Jordan, ends with the extra-sized No. 20, in stores May 22. Cover by Doug Mahnke. (DC Comics)

Geoff Johns’ “Green Lantern” run ends with the extra-sized No. 20, in stores May 22. Cover by Doug Mahnke. (DC Comics)

GJ: I never like to set my run total. They’re open-ended when I come on a book – sometimes they’re long, sometimes they’re short. With “Green Lantern,” there was a lot of story threads coming together, and I felt like it was time to wrap it up. The last issue makes it really clear thematically probably why I felt like this was the time for me to close out my run. The last issue’s a 66-page monster [that features] Doug Mahnke and a bunch of guys who’ve worked on the book before – Ivan Reis, Ethan Van Sciver, Cully Hamner, Pat Gleason, Jerry Ordway, Aaron Kuder – a really stellar team of artists, and each one is chosen for a specific reason. You’ll see why they were chosen in the book. It’s the longest script I ever wrote with dialogue – it was like 97 pages. So it was just massive. It took forever. But I’m really proud of it, and I’m proud of the work that me and the collaborators did over the years. The book, for me, it really is the end of our era and the end of our run.

HC: “Trinity War” is the first sort of huge “Justice League” crossover you’ve done that’s akin to what you’ve already done with “Green Lantern.” What have you learned from earlier arcs that informs “Trinity War” and what sets this one apart?

GJ: I’ve learned that like “Blackest Night,” “Sinestro Corps,” it’s always got to be an emotional core to the story. And I think that emotional core will be extremely clear when you read [“Justice League” No. 22]. Like the [cover] image is all our heroes fighting – it’s a beautiful image – but it’s all the heroes going at each other. And, yes, that’s in there, but it’s really more of an emotional story. It’s a mystery, I call it a kind of action-mystery. Jeff Lemire and I worked on it for quite some time and what we wanted to do was explore the relationships between the Justice League members and the Justice Leagues themselves, and the differences, and redefine who the Justice Leagues are moving forward.

HC: War can be hell on relationships, and the most talked about relationship in the DCU right now is the one you have going between Superman and Wonder Woman. How might “Trinity War” test that one?

GJ: It’ll definitely test that relationship. Superman and Wonder Woman’s relationship is actually front and center in the story…. Relationships have ups and downs, and this is one of those downs. But there’s big plans for Superman and Wonder Woman, and the fallout of “Trinity War” leads to the next step in their relationship.

HC: “Trinity War,” you’ve said, starts with a death that is at the core of this mystery. What can you tell us about how Trinity War ignites?

GJ: It’s an unexpected moment. Tensions are high between the Justice League and the JLA, and this death kind of puts it over the edge. It’s the circumstances around it and the mystery behind it that are really going to send the teams at one another. And when I say send the teams at one another, that’s not necessarily meaning physically.

HC: Your JLA – although at this point in the run they don’t know why they’ve been assembled – they have been assembled specifically to take down the Justice League. Roping in Justice League Dark, were there any character interactions that emerged in the writing process that surprised you?

GJ: Yeah. I had a lot of fun with Shazam and Superman. I thought it’d be cool, but it’s a lot more fun than I even hoped it would be. There’s some really interesting dynamics between a lot of the characters. You see some new pairings through this. Batman and Steve Trevor I really like together. It’s always fun clashing Martian Manhunter and Superman. The JLA members that have been specifically chosen to go against the Justice League members, like Hawkman and Aquaman, those personalities really clash well…. Oh, John Constantine and Shazam. That’s a good one. Billy does not like John, he sees right through him. John sees right through Shazam, knows exactly who he is and what he’s about. But Billy sees right back.

HC: With Justice League Dark, Shazam and the Trinity of Sin – Pandora, the Question, Phantom Stranger — this story seems to have a heavy magic element.

After a long series of Johns-written, Gary Frank-drawn backup stories in "Justice League" establishing his New 52 background, Shazam gets a whole issue right before "Trinity War." Too bad for him he has to share it with nemesis Black Adam. Cover by Gary Frank. (DC Comics)

Shazam, here in the grip of Black Adam on the “Justice League” No. 21 cover by Gary Frank, will figure into “Trinity War.”  (DC Comics)

GJ: When Gary Frank and I reintroduced Shazam … we really wanted to focus not only on Billy being more of a kid, like a real kid with an attitude but also heart, but the magic powers of Shazam and what that meant. And he has spells and there’s magic to him – I mean, his powers will go much further beyond strength and flight. The magic characters – Jeff Lemire has really built up the Justice League Dark: John Constantine, Zatanna, Deadman, Frankenstein…. If there’s something as dangerous as Pandora’s box out there, it’s the Justice League Dark’s job to get it and, if it’s up to John, destroy it. The magic that weaves in this, it’s magic but there’s also an element of superhuman stuff to it too, and the box isn’t quite what it seems, and neither is Pandora or the Question. So there’s a huge element of magic characters who funnel magic and channel that power. But the nature of magic, you’ll see some of that and what it means in the DC Universe and how it’s connected to the fabric of the universe, which is pretty fun.HC: So will what Pandora said at the end of “Flashpoint” begin to make sense to readers by the end of “Trinity War”?

GJ: It’ll all make sense. And, actually, Ray Fawkes did a really nice job with “Pandora” 1. Its opening scene has a lot of that in there.

HC: Can you talk a little bit about working with Jeff Lemire, who has certainly established himself indie-wise and is growing as a superhero book writer?

GJ: Jeff Lemire is one of those guys who I absolutely love, like when we plotted it was like we were sharing a brain. We had a whole wall that was a whiteboard, and we put stuff on the whiteboard, and we would finish each other’s thoughts and ideas. We would throw out so many. He’s nice and fast in generating ideas, like “What about this?” Writer’s block just doesn’t exist for a guy like Jeff.

HC: The art team on “Trinity War” – Ivan Reis, Joe Prado, Doug Mahnke, Mikel Janin –

GJ: Jeff and I are very fortunate to have artistic juggernauts like those guys on these books…. We can’t pull off something this epic and emotional without artists like that. They have to deliver both on the big double-page spreads of a hundred characters fighting each other and also on those quiet moments when someone realizes, “Oh my God, this is gonna go terribly wrong,” or two characters connect unknowingly. It’s really great stuff.

– Blake Hennon

Follow us on Twitter: @LATHeroComplex


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One Response to Geoff Johns heads to ‘Trinity War,’ bids farewell to ‘Green Lantern’

  1. I am so gonna buy the hell out of Trinity War

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