Interview: Geoff Johns on “Final Crisis: Legion of Three Worlds” and his Favorite Projects
Back in June, I spoke to superstar writer Geoff Johns about the return of Brainiac in Action Comics and all things Superman. With this month’s release of the first issue of Final Crisis: Legion of Three Worlds, I spoke to the writer about bringing back one of DC’s most beloved superteams, The Legion of Super-Heroes, as well as some of his favorite projects.
COMICMIX: What can you tell us about the Final Crisis: Legion Of Three Worlds miniseries?
GEOFF JOHNS: It’s a really complex, big story. But the simple premise is that it’s Superboy-Prime and The Legion Of Super Villains vs. Superman and The Legion Of Super-Heroes. Superboy-Prime is foreign to the future and through what happens when he first gets there he makes an attempt to destroy everything that Superman has inspired while utilizing the Legion Of Super Villains. So the Legion Of Super-Heroes, who are struggling to come back together, who are almost obsolete at this point in the eyes of a lot of the United Planets, have got to come back and rally together for this challenge.
I’m trying to focus in on character here. I’m trying to introduce these characters to people that don’t know them and for those that do, to see them go through new experiences and new challenges. My main goal in this series is to tell a gigantic, epic story that centers on Superman and The Legion Of Super-Heroes. It’s just like when I worked on Sinestro Corps War, I wanted to do an epic Green Lantern story. There is a lot of emotion behind everything in this. That’s what I’m trying to focus on: the emotion of the characters and what they’re going through. Why should you even care about a character like Lightning Lad, Sun Boy or Dawnstar? What makes these characters compelling? Why are they worth following? Why are they worth learning about? My main goal is to, by the end of it, have people say, “I love Dawnstar! I love Sun Boy! I like Lightning Lad" or "I like Cosmic Boy!"
Look, I want people to fall in love with the characters that I’ve already fallen in love with and see what makes them so great. I want people to see the experiences that they go through on this and how everyone has their own issues going on, but how they tackle them together. Here, Cosmic Boy is desperate to bring this team together. He’s so used to bringing everything together because of his magnetic powers that it’s just second nature to him. So he just brings everything together, but there is a problem when everything is splintered apart. The United Planets is saying, “You are obsolete. We don’t need you anymore. The Universe will never be unified, alien nations should be segregated.” Cosmic Boy says, “No. We can be a symbol, we can still be a symbol.” And the UP says, “That’s a boys and girls dream. You guys are not boys and girls anymore. You keep calling yourselves that because you hold on to this dream but it’s dead. Let it go. Grow up." And Cosmic Boy can’t. He can’t let it go and he doesn’t want to. So he’s constantly trying to pull this team together anyway he can.
So, that’s just one example of a character and what he’s going through. That’s what I really want to focus on and what I’m most interested in. Beyond all the spectacle, and there will be plenty, the main focus is the characters and what they’re going through and how this will change them and change The Legion Of Super-Heroes.
CMIX: And how will you explain all the different versions of the Legion that we’ve seen over the years?
GJ: It’s really easy. Each Legion is from a different parallel world, that’s all. It’s pretty clear. It’s not really what this series is about in the sense that we focus on our main Legion, Superman’s Legion, and then them calling him back up from two different worlds — hence the title, Legion Of Three Worlds.
CMIX: Finally, you’ve been one of the most prolific writers in comics, having written some of the most important DC books of the last ten years. What are you most proud of?
GJ: That’s hard — but most recently it’s been Green Lantern. I really enjoyed working on Action Comics with Gary [Frank], with the Legion arc. I’m really proud of that book. I love working with Dale [Eaglesham] on Justice Society Of America. I love our first arc. I think it’s really solid. But I really like Green Lantern: Rebirth. There’s stuff that I look back on and think, “Oh, I should have done this.” I do that with most of my stuff. I’ll pick up a comic today that I wrote and I’ll probably see a lot of stuff that I’ll wish I had changed or done differently. But the best thing about it is learning from it and learning from you mistakes. Learning what worked and what didn’t.
So I can take something that did or didn’t work in Infinite Crisis and apply it to Sinestro Corps War so it makes it better. So then I can do the same thing with Sinestro Corps War and apply it to Blackest Night or Final Crisis: Legion Of Three Worlds. I can look at things I liked on my Flash run and didn’t, and apply it to Final Crisis: Rogues’ Revenge. I really try to self analyze my own work. There are a lot of projects that I’m proud of and a lot that I think could have been better. But as long as I can just make my projects better, as I writer, that’s really all I want to do.
CMIX: Since you mentioned it, if you could go back, what would you want to change or do differently with Infinite Crisis?
GJ: Well, with Infinite Crisis obviously I wish the art could have been more uniform. I think it deserved it and it would have been great. If I could go back, I wish they could have given me another ten pages for the last issue because I had so much more in mind for this fight. I would have loved to delve into it. I actually like a lot of that book, but I would have gone back to the first five or six issues and lifted out a lot of the space stuff. That was more about servicing a storyline that didn’t tie directly into the book, for somebody else. I probably would have left the same exact scenes but would have let them breath a little bit more. On something like the Superman of Earth-Two and Batman scene, instead of three pages I just would’ve let Phil (Jimenez) draw the exact same scene in four pages so it could have been bigger and a little bit slower because some of that stuff didn’t amount to anything. But that’s the kind of stuff where you live and learn.
That was a really difficult book to do, but in the end I like a lot of it. Seeing what I liked and didn’t like about it and applying it to something like Sinestro Corps War is great. Green Lantern #25 is 54 pages long because I knew that it didn’t matter if I thought I could do it in 30, I needed 54 pages. I knew that I needed to make this count. I needed to get everything that I wanted in this. I didn’t want to be short-changed. I didn’t want a scene that I wanted to do end up on the floor because I didn’t have enough pages. But they (DC) got them for me and Ivan [Reis] was fast enough and good enough to do it. Ethan [Van Sciver] came in and did his pages so everything was uniform and beautiful and I got to do every story beat that I wanted.
Green Lantern #25 is my favorite comic that I’ve ever worked on. I think a lot of that comes from not just the content, but also my personal goals. I think that this is how I want to end books. Just the payoff, the character work, the revelations, the heart, Coast City lighting up and all that stuff — I couldn’t have done if I didn’t have the pages for it. Having Hal Jordan seeing Coast City, his City, that he’s asked his brother to leave and his brother telling him that he and the city are not leaving. Then having Hal realize once again that his whole life is about overcoming fear, because it’s all around him. For me letting that moment breath and letting it have that double-page spread of Hal and Kyle flying over a green Coast City, was just great. My main goal is just to get better. I want to be better next year and I want to be better the year after that.
The first issue of Final Crisis: Legion of Three Worlds, featuring a story by Geoff Johns and art by George Perez, is scheduled for an August 20 release by DC Comics.