Tagged: Geoff Johns

JOHN OSTRANDER: Surprise Me!

I’ve been writing stuff for a while so it’s hard to take me by surprise. I can often spot where a story is going; I’ve been known, when watching a movie or TV show, to not only predict the next plot twist but sometimes the next line of dialog. Those around me, aside from shushing me, sometimes ask me if I’ve seen this particular movie or episode before. The answer in these cases is “no” but based on what I know of plot and character, you can predict where the story has to go or what a person has to say to get it there, especially when the writer(s) are going by the numbers.

On the other hand, I’m delighted when the writer surprises me. It’s not a matter of willy-nilly just writing any old damn thing but advancing the plot or the dialog in a way that completely makes sense within context of the story. The sort of thing that makes me go, “Of course! Why didn’t I see that?!” The fact that I didn’t see or hear that coming delights me. It makes sense yet is a surprise.

I first noticed Geoff Johns on the JSA title when he did that twice to me. He re-invented original Justice Society members Doctor Fate and Johnny Thunder in ways that surprised me but were completely true to the characters and the book. They didn’t come out of the blue but were what I call “fair extrapolation” of what was already given. Any chump writer can write a surprise or a “shock surprise;” the real difficulty is to make it work in context of the character or story. Geoff makes his surprises seem organic and inevitable – once you’ve seen the surprise. He’s a writing magician.

Another writer like that is Stephen Moffat, currently renowned for as the producer and lead writer of the current Doctor Who series. He started this season with an astronaut coming out of a lake and killing the Doctor, not giving him time to regenerate. Turns out this Doctor was slightly from the future so we still had the “current time” Doctor running around this season. (The Doctor, for those of you who don’t know, is a time traveler and Moffat makes very good use of time travel in this series.)

Next Saturday is the season finale and it looks as if they’re going to deal with all this. I have no idea how Moffat’s going to pull it off but I trust him. Not only has he done a sterling job on Doctor Who but he’s also done a modern update of Sherlock Holmes (simply called Sherlock) that totally works. He also ended the first three-episode season on a cliffhanger. I trust him to find a way out that will be cool.

Moffat’s also done a revised update of Jeykll and Hyde simply called Jekyll. I admire it a lot but the first couple of episodes creeped me out enough that I haven’t finished the rest. Remember, I’m the guy who wrote the real Wasteland.

The third on my list of writers who know how to pull off “logical surprises” is Jim Butcher and, in particular, his series of novels The Dresden Files. It features a “wizard for hire,” Harry Dresden, who works out of Chicago. Okay, that’s my hometown and so I’m already there and Dresden is a hard-boiled wizard – part private detective, part Doctor Strange. It was made into a short-lived TV series on SyFy and they completely screwed it up. If that’s your only encounter with the series, please ignore it.

The Dresden Files was good when it started and has just gotten better with each successive book. Terrific cast of supporting characters, well-developed mythology for the series, and each one leaves me panting for more. Whoever I think I know where Butcher is going, he throws me for a loop. Highly recommended.

While all these writers know how to do a twist, it’s never a twist just for the sake of doing a twist. It always involves pushing the story forward or reveals new levels of characterization. I don’t need a twist to love a book or story but I always appreciate it when I get blindsided by one and it works.

MONDAY: Mindy Newell

Review: “Justice League” #1

Review: “Justice League” #1

Finally, DC’s new 52 launches (or is that relaunches?) today in stores and online with Justice League #1, written by Geoff Johns and pencilled by Jim Lee, with inks by Scott Williams, colors by Alex Sinclair, and letters by Patrick Brosseau. I’m here with my tag-team partner in the caption box, Marc Alan Fishman, and we’re going to review this in real time. I’m writing the introductory information while Marc finishes up a different project and then reads–

OK. I couldn’t help myself. Read it.

Me too. Wasn’t that quick?

Yeah, and not in a good way. That was… terrible.

Wait, wait, wait. There’s a lot to like here, except the portion size.

I’m gonna take a hard stance on this. If I knew nothing of these characters? I didn’t find this appealing.

But seriously, how many people know nothing of Batman and Green Lantern?

That’s kind of my point. There was a lack of substance to the issue that reeks of everything I hate about comics from the 90s. The art is all flash, bangs, pops, pows, and gloriously meticulous fire / lasers / constructs … But seriously? If this were an animated episode? We just got the first 5 minutes.

10 minutes. But yes, it feels like too little, and that’s a problem.

And what exactly did we learn? Batman’s a cocky SOB, and GL is even cockier. And Superman? Even more? It was like the issue was on autopilot. It’s all establishing shots. Fine, I get that. But this issue is supposed to herald this huge coming together of heroes for the superlative team of all comicdom. If I am a new reader? I’m coming back, or more likely? I’m feeling short changed.

(more…)

MARTHA THOMASES: Penis People

According to stories like this, there was quite the kerfuffle at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con about the decline in the number of female artists and writers on the new DC reboot.

Raising questions about this is guaranteed to get one labeled a bitch (or worse). Kudos to Batgirl for being the bitch. It’s a thankless job, but somebody has to do it. However, I’m disturbed by DC’s response. They claim they were looking for the “best available” talent. Apparently, the best indicator of talent is a penis.

Look, I understand that DC (and Marvel, and Dark Horse, and IDW and so on and so on) want to hire writers and artists with built-in fan followings. It’s a competitive market, and anything that helps to sell the product is desirable. I also understand that these publishers want to hire people who have demonstrated an ability to meet deadlines reliably, and the easiest way to do that is to employ people you’ve already employed.

But…

The entertainment media require a steady influx of new talent. Some, like music and movies, demand youth, and too much experience can be considered a drawback. Other branches of publishing, such as books and magazines, all have systems in place to not only keep successful writers, artists and photographers, but also to develop new ones.

Mainstream comics, not so much.

I got my break at Marvel because I hung out at the office a lot. This was back in the mid-1980s, before heinous security measures engulfed New York office buildings. I had interviewed Denny O’Neil for High Times magazine, and exploited our acquaintance (and subsequent friendship) so that I could hang out, use the photocopiers, and make free long-distance calls. Because of this, I was a familiar face, and when Larry Hama wanted to expand the kind of comics he was publishing, he took a chance on me, and we developed Dakota North with Tony Salmons.

No one has since taken a chance on me. Dwayne McDuffie once told me this was all the evidence he needed that comics is a sexist business. As things stand now, most people who enter the field of mainstream comics are former fans. The business won’t attract more women until it creates more comics that girls like. And it probably won’t create more comics that girls like until there are more people who used to be girls making comics. It’s a vicious circle.

The easiest way to break this chain is to make it less profitable. The first step in that direction, at least at DC, seems to be the failure of the Green Lantern movie to make a boatload of money. Geoff Johns, fanboy in chief, seems to be getting the blame. I admit that I kind of liked it, but that’s because I’ve been reading the comics for 50 years … and, also, Ryan Reynolds in a skintight suit. Most people who buy movie tickets don’t have my knowledge of the backstory, and so didn’t have the patience to sit through it.

Bringing in new perspectives isn’t easy. The old ways are easy. Unfortunately, the old ways inevitably produce the old results. Since this is comics, it doesn’t have the same impact as, say, firefighting, but the results of this laziness are the same – ostracizing newcomers and alienating the general public.

Comic book editors, look beyond your slush piles! Seek out new talent at places other than portfolio reviews at comic conventions! There’s a whole world of talent out there.

SATURDAY: Marc Alan Fishman

MARC ALAN FISHMAN: It’s Not Easy Being Green… Wait … Yes It Is!

MARC ALAN FISHMAN: It’s Not Easy Being Green… Wait … Yes It Is!

Welcome back to my angry little corner of the Interwebs, folks. Since my column last week seemed to find some harmonious affinity amongst the fine folks reading, I figured I’d continue riding my snarky-train one more week. Don’t fret, I’ve got plenty of anger to dispense at Marvel, Image, Todd MacFarlane, Rob Liefeld, Robert Kirkman, and the new Voltron show on Nickelodeon.

For today, though? I’m shining my hate-fueled lantern of justice on my favorite hero. Yes my friends, this li’l rant is on Green Lantern. Let’s start appropriately, shall we?

In Brightest Day,
In Blackest Night,
Hal Jordan beamed as he soared in flight,
The other lanterns can’t seem to be
Treated just as equally.
Rayner’s got heart,
And Garnder’s got ‘tude,
And John Stewart’s still the one black dude…
Geoff Johns and the DC Elite,
Think the Silver Age is totally neat!
But Sinestro now wears the crown,
For a few months, until sales are down.
Then Jordan’s back, to fight all fears,
And retcon the last two damned years!

The summer before my Bar Mitzvah I was hauled off to a Jewish summer camp, where my bunkmate loaned me his copies of the Green Lantern. Rayner, the newly crowned emerald knight, was DC’s answer to Peter Parker. An every-kid who had actual fun being a superhero. Long story short? It sold me on comics. Soon thereafter, I declared him my BFF in fiction, and I’ve maintained a subscription to the Green Lantern books since the mid-to-late 90s. Not to be just a one-Lantern guy, I’ve since read tons of stories starring (amongst others…) Hal Jordan. I even own the first volume of his “archived” appearances. Suffice to say, I “get” Hal and why he’s the number one ring bearer. From his cocksure attitude to his “not the black guy, Irish guy, or 90s kid with stubble and girl problems” whiteyness, he’s the model DCU hero. An inoffensive guy with a “this was cool in the 60s” secret identity, who Geoff Johns could angst up. I guess the question to ask here is simple: Is Hal Jordan any better than Barry Allen right now?
(more…)

ComicMix Quick Picks: June 15, 2011

ComicMix Quick Picks: June 15, 2011

Natalie Portman at the TIFF 2009-01 at the pre...

Image via Wikipedia

Boy, migrate one server, and a lot of links can pile up while waiting for your computers to reboot. Here’s some of the stuff we have to do before we get to the stuff we didn’t get around to covering yet…

Anything else? Consider this an open thread.

The First Batch Of DC New First Issues

DC Comics has released information on the first ten titles of their September reboot, with creative teams and cover art.

Here we go, kids.

  • We already knew about JUSTICE LEAGUE #1 by our superstar creators Geoff Johns and Jim Lee. The cover to issue #1 is by Jim Lee and Scott Williams.
  • New York Times bestselling writer Brian Azzarello, author of The Joker and 100 Bullets, teams up with artist Cliff Chiang (Neil Young’s Greendale) for WONDER WOMAN #1. The cover to issue #1 is by Cliff Chiang.
  • Geoff Johns reunites with GREEN LANTERN and BRIGHTEST DAY collaborator Ivan Reis to bring you AQUAMAN #1. The cover to issue #1 is by Ivan Reis and Joe Prado.
  • Rising superstar Francis Manapul, fresh off his acclaimed run on THE FLASH with Geoff Johns, makes his comics writing debut in THE FLASH #1, sharing both scripting and art duties with Brian Buccellato. The Flash knows he can’t be everywhere at once, but what happens when he faces an all-new villain who can? The cover to issue #1 is by Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato.
  • Writers Ethan Van Sciver and Gail Simone team up with artist Yildiray Cinar to deliver THE FURY OF FIRESTORM #1. Jason Rusch and Ronnie Raymond are two high school students, worlds apart – and now they’re drawn into a conspiracy of super science that bonds them forever in a way they can’t explain or control. The cover to issue #1 is by Ethan Van Sciver.
  • (more…)

Some Thoughts on DC’s New World Order

In 1986, as the Crisis on Infinite Earths was winding down, Marv Wolfman made the radical suggestion that DC indicate the universe had truly changed by altering the numbering on all the titles and restart everything with a #1. For a number of reasons, it was a great idea but the timing couldn’t allow the move. Years later, Dick Giordano indicated it as one of his greatest editorial regrets. However, he can’t be blamed since the Crisis was wrapping up while DC was still negotiating to relaunch its flagship heroes. At that time, only Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli had been lined up for Batman: Year One while John Byrne was still being wooed for Superman, and very late in the process, Greg Potter and George Perez were circling Wonder Woman.

Had the stars aligned, it could have avoided two decades of constant revisions to the reality.

It now seems DC’s executive team has spent the last year moving the stars around. Today’s bombshell announcement indicates the rebooted line will kick off in September, with Justice League #1 previewing the new order on August 31.

I can only hope that DC has its house in order and can avoid embarrassing fill-ins and radical creative team changes early in a title’s run – problems which have plagued the core titles for the last few years.  The worst example may well be Batman: The Dark Knight, written and drawn by David Finch. After debuting in November, the fifth issue of this monthly series is not coming out until August and only then with a fill-in artist.

That aforementioned new Justice League book is coming from DC’s two busiest executives: Geoff Johns and Jim Lee. Sure, it’ll read well and look great, but will it be a monthly and for how long will the talent remain intact? At minimum, these new titles, all 50 of them, need consistent talent on board for at least the first six issues and fill-ins need to be carefully integrated. (more…)

DC Goes Day-and-Date Digital Release Post-Flashpoint, Restarts Entire Line At #1 With 52 Titles

DC Goes Day-and-Date Digital Release Post-Flashpoint, Restarts Entire Line At #1 With 52 Titles

In a major consolidation and streamlining, DC Comics is changing the way they do business and rebooting the entire line of DC Universe titles:

On Wednesday, August 31st, DC Comics will launch a historic renumbering of the entire DC Universe line of comic books with 52 first issues, including the release of JUSTICE LEAGUE by NEW YORK TIMES bestselling writer and DC Entertainment Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns and bestselling artist and DC Comics Co-Publisher Jim Lee. The publication of JUSTICE LEAGUE issue 1 will launch day-and-date digital publishing for all these ongoing titles, making DC Comics the first of the two major American publishers to release all of its superhero comic book titles digitally the same day as in print.

DC Comics will only publish two comic books on August 31st: the final issue of this summer’s comic book mini-series FLASHPOINT and the first issue of JUSTICE LEAGUE by Johns and Lee, two of the most distinguished and popular contemporary comic book creators, who will be collaborating for the first time. Together they will offer a contemporary take on the origin of the comic book industry’s premier superhero team.

A separate letter went out to retailers, hinting at “a more modern, diverse DC Universe, with some character variations in appearance, origin and age. All stories will be grounded in each character’s legend – but will relate to real world situations, interactions, tragedy and triumph.”

There’s a lot of head-shaking going on at this move– Tom Spurgeon displays this POV quite well– but to me, this screams hard core brand consolidation, combined with simplification to make it easy for the new comic reader– who is absolutely expected to be a digital reader. It wouldn’t surprise me if DC started doing special digital subscriptions. For example: all 52 series digitally for $50 a month.

The real concern, however, has to be on the retailer side, who will suddenly find competition on all of their titles on books that have been ordered months in advance and may be non-returnable. Hopefully, DC will keep books returnable for the first few months while the impact on stores is figured out.

If nothing else, it could explain why DC wasn’t at BookExpo this year, as they were waiting to relaunch big.

DC Revamps Again! And Again! And Again!

Hey, kids! Guess what? DC is revamping their line again, for what seems like the 1,000th time since Crisis On Infinite Earths. What a shock! How original!

O.K. Here’s the poop. DC honchos Geoff Johns and Jim Lee, both exceptionally talented comics creators, are going to make “bombshell announcements about the future of Superman and the entire DC Universe” on Saturday, June 11th at the Hero Complex Film Festival. Maybe this time they’ll stick to it: if Geoff and Jim are behind it, there’s some cause for hope. If they stick to it.

Even though control of DC Comics has passed through several hands since the first Crisis, perhaps the concept of leaving well enough alone will grab somebody this time. The DC Universe has gone through so many needlessly confusing transformations a roadmap to the place would give M.C.. Escher vertigo. With a small “v.”

Good grief, I’m getting tired of writing this story. I’m going to link to the Los Angeles Times so you can get what’s passing for news here.

Jim Lee & Dan DiDio named co-publishers of DC Comics; Geoff Johns becomes Chief Creative Officer of DC Entertainment

Jim Lee & Dan DiDio named co-publishers of DC Comics; Geoff Johns becomes Chief Creative Officer of DC Entertainment

The search is over, and to paraphrase Dorothy Gale, if we ever go looking for our heart’s desire again, we won’t look any further than our own back yard.

Warner Brothers and DC Entertainment has named Dan DiDio and Jim Lee co-publishers of DC Comics, while Geoff Johns has been named to the new position of Chief Creative Officer. Patrick Caldon,
a long-time DC veteran, will serve as Executive Vice President, Finance
and Administration. The one new guy on the team is John Rood,
who has been named as Executive Vice President, Sales, Marketing and
Business Development. Rood was most recently a Senior VP of marketing at ABC
Family, but prior to that worked at WB in consumer products. All five of them will be reporting to DC Entertainment president Diane Nelson.

DC’s The Source blog has all the press releases and statements from the principals.

The dangling question: now that the who has been answered, how about the where? Jim Lee and Geoff Johns are West Coast boys. How much more of DC will being going west too? Will it be Jim Lee handling the left coast and Dan DiDio handling the right coast?

Stay tuned…