Geoff Johns—since February 2010 the Chief Creative Officer of DC Entertainment—remains best known to fans as one of the most talented comics writers of his generation. Aside from a stint writing Marvel's Avengers, John has been associated with DC titles: Teen Titans, Action Comics, Justice Society of America and, most especially The Flash and Green Lantern. Johns' Green Lantern: Secret Origin run created the template for the 2011 feature film Green Lantern, which he co-produced. Johns also wrote the "Ancient History" episode of Justice League Unlimited and three of the best-loved episodes of Smallville: "Legion," "Absolute Justice, Part 1" and "Absolute Justice, Part 2." I spoke to Johns at San Francisco's Moscone Center during Wondercon 2011.
Groucho: Maybe you could tell us where it started: the inception of this project [Green Lantern: Emerald Knights].
Geoff Johns: Right, sure. Alan Burnett called me and said that they were going to do a Green Lantern, kind of Tales of the Green Lantern Corps animated feature, and would I like to be involved in it? And he wanted to get a lot of the writers who had worked on the comic books, and so I was really excited to work with Alan and Bruce [Timm], and said yes...
Groucho: Can you talk about breaking up the writing duties on the film—how that worked?
Geoff Johns: Well, it’s just really chapter by chapter. I don’t know if you guys saw it last night. But chapter by chapter, it’s just different stories all together. So it was just—
G: Was there any fighting over who would do what part or—?
GJ: No. It was pretty seamless. Everybody chose their story—they pitched the story they wanted to do. And we didn’t overlap, luckily, so it was good...
G: Given the epic scope of Green Lantern, is there a conscious effort you make in writing the stories to ground that or use science fiction as allegory for, say, modern peacekeeping?
GJ: Yeah, I mean—I think the best superhero stories are metaphors for what we’re really experiencing. And Green Lantern certainly is that. There’s a storyline, Sinestro Corps, that was really all about post-9/11 fears, but the stories like “Mogo” and "Laira" and all those are like—the imagination you can go—you know, it’s not just—it’s got everything. That’s why Green Lantern works. It's got metaphors, it's got heart, it's got scope, it's got visuals, it's got colors, it's got any kind of story, like you can see the "Laira" story was like this real, you know, cool anime-type Green Lantern. And "Mogo" was like this, you know, just a great, like, Twilight Zone story. So you can tell all kinds of stories. That’s why it works...
G: Would it be fair to say, though, that this film is targeted more at the comics' fan core?
GJ: I think this film’s actually targeted to anyone who wants to know more about Green Lantern. The thing about—like when I saw Star Wars when I was a kid, I saw the bounty hunters, and I was like, “Who’s that reptilian guy? Who’s that—who’s Bossk?” I want to know the story. And I think when kids see Green Lantern, you really are going to want to know, you know, who’s Kilowog? Where’s he come from? What’s his deal? And this really shows you that every character has a really cool story behind them...
G: What’s your involvement on the upcoming Green Lantern animated series? Sort of just an advisory role?
GJ: Yeah, as a CCO, I oversee the scripts and everything else, but it’s fantastic. It’s really good stuff...
G: Can you talk about producing the feature film? Is that your first time producing a feature film, first of all?
GJ: Well, I’m co-producing the film. It’s the first time I’ve worked on a film in that capacity. When I was assistant to Richard Donner, I worked a lot on a lot of films with him, but this was a different thing. A lot of it was based around the Green Lantern comics we’ve been doing for the last several years, and it was awesome. It was—again, working with people who wanted to embrace it, and who wanted to enhance it and bring it to another level. You know, we’ve never seen a live-action Green Lantern, so I don’t know if any of you saw the stuff last night.
GJ: But it was—it’s awesome.
G: What was your biggest geek-out moment on the set?
GJ: When Mark Strong first walked out in Sinestro makeup. And he said, “How’s it look?” And I was like, “That—you’re Sinestro.” That was the best thing. And he was really—they all were really keen on making sure that their characters were—looked like their characters, behaved like their characters. They really did their research, everybody: Mark, Peter, Ryan, Blake. They all did an awesome job...
G: What’s the strategy on the upper level for, or is there one, for trying to break through more with movies like Emerald Knights? Cause I know that, like, DC movies on video have had sort of a little bit of a up-down, in terms of sales figures. It seems like, why wouldn’t this work?
GJ: I think it’s pretty obvious that the hope is that people who the film will check out the animated DVD. Yeah. So I mean, that’s why they’re coming out the same month.
G: Right, right.
GJ: So that’s the strategy. The hope is to get people and kids interested in Green Lantern who might not be, and to check this out and get more involved in the characters. I’m not sure if there’s been anything this coordinated before, like between the Green Lantern—all the toys and stuff and the movie and the DTV and the video game. It’s pretty awesome.
G: It’s a push.
GJ: Yeah. It’s good. It’s a really good—I mean, this is the moment for Green Lantern.