Geoff Johns is one of only a few writers who have been allowed to shape comic book icons (the Flash, Green Lantern, Superman), and tonight he dips his toe into television as writer of an episode of "Smallville" featuring the Legion of Super Heroes. He talked to Jevon Phillips, who wrote up this Q&A for Hero Complex.
JP: You have an office with Jeph Loeb and Allan Heinberg, two comics-to-TV guys. This isn’t your first foray into TV, but would you consider it your biggest?
GJ: Yeah, absolutely, and it’s definitely the most fun I’ve had. I’ve had offers to work on other shows as staff writer or whatever, but I don’t really have a lot of interest in it.
JP: That’s different.
GJ: Well, I like TV. I worked on "Robot Chicken," and I’m working on another show with those guys, and it’s OK to do stuff here and there because it flexes a different muscle. But to be a staff writer, there’s just not a lot of shows that I really want to work on. If there were more shows I’d like to work on, maybe I would pursue it more. But to do a live action Legion, obviously if you’re a comic book fan, well, that’s just too cool. My first passion is comics, so the stuff I get excited about would be TV and film projects that have to do with comics.
JP: Speaking of film, any forays going on there?
GJ: Yeah, there’s some stuff going on, I just can’t talk about it.
JP: Back to comics then. You’ve got the return of Hal Jordan and the Sinestro Corps. — which I think was probably one of the best storylines in the last few years — and you have the Flash coming up. What makes you want to bring the classic characters back to prominence?
GJ: I think sometimes and somewhere along the way, the initial theme and concept of the character can get real muddy and lost as stories get compouinded on top on it. It’s like sometimes on a show when you kind of lose the focus of it, the character just strays so far from the core. Rather than do stories that stray too far away, I like to do stories that enhance that foundation that was originally built. I think there’s something that resonates about these characters that have been around for decades. There’s a reason Green Lantern has survived where other characters haven’t. Same with the Flash. It’s just something that kind of hits you on an instinctual level.
I think something about a man overcoming fear is just something that we can all relate to. … When the book starts to not be about that, maybe it needs to refocus. Writing Flash with Wally West, he was kind of the sidekick to Barry Allen, the original, then he became the main Flash after Barry left and died. But you look at what the theme of Flash’s book has been for the last 200-something issues with Wally West and it’s been about a man trying to fill someone else’s boots. It doesn’t really have anything to do with speed. I mean, it has something to do with speed, but it was not totally what the book was about. The new Flash that I’m doing is all about speed. What speed means. I’m sure that you have a Blackberry or cellphone, or I’m sure that you’ve downloaded songs or something and asked, "Why is it taking so long?" Everyone wants everything faster today, so speed is even more of something that we can all relate to on a different level.
JP: Is there going to be some kind of integration phase with Barry Allen in terms of the mainstrean DC Universe?
GJ: Yeah, that’ll be in "The Flash: Rebirth." The first storyline will be all about that.
JP: Anything you can tell us about how?
GJ: Probably just need to wait for the book.
JP: So what are you enjoying in TV and film right now?
GJ: "Iron Man" was awesome. "Dark Knight" was awesome. Those are two of the best superhero films in years. "Slumdog Millionaire" was amazing. I loved that film. I really liked "Bolt," that was cool. On the TV side, the typical stuff. I like "Dexter" a lot. "Friday Night Lights" is great — one of the best shows on TV. And my guilty pleasure is "The Biggest Loser." It is my absolute favorite TV show on the air. I just love Gillian Michaels. And I think she’s Lebanese, and I’m Lebanese. Trying to think of other shows. "The Office."
JP: And about the "Legion" episode tonight?
GJ: Well, we introduce Cosmic Boy, Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl (click on the photo of Geoff above!). Three founding members of the Legion.
JP: Any other characters that you may have wanted to add?
GJ: Well, we kind of introduce another one, but you’ll have to watch and see. Legion fans will definitely get it.
— Jevon Phillips
And here’s a couple of clips to get you ready for tonight….
Photos: Geoff Johns / The CW. The Flash / DC