Robot 6

The week in Geoff Johns comics: forced kisses, mad Guardians and bloody tridents

So what, exactly, does a chief creative officer do? Well, if the chief creative officer in question is Geoff Johns, then one of the most obvious answers is “write a whole heck of a lot of comic books.”

Johns is writing three ongoing monthly books for DC Comics, all of which happened to ship this week. While reading them all doesn’t exactly give one a copy of his job description, it does give one a sense of what he’s doing at DC, what he’s not doing and what’s different from his role at the publisher than when he was merely its most popular and prolific writer.

As regular readers know, I’m an ardent, even avid, follower of Johns’ writing, and, whether you love or hate it, I think you’ll agree he’s always exhibited some obvious strengths — aside from being popular with direct-market consumers (which is, naturally, the greatest strength a publisher like DC could hope for in any writer at the moment).

Johns is extremely enthusiastic about the DC Universe, its heroes, its villains, its history, its supporting characters and its most influential, classic stories. And he’s often able to make his enthusiasm somewhat infectious (that is, for a lot of people not caring about Hal Jordan probably comes pretty naturally, but when Johns is around not caring about Hal Jordan can get a bit more difficult).

He’s almost uniquely skilled at taking the most complicated narrative knots of DC continuity and coming up with storytelling compromises, quick fixes and fat-cutting to streamline characters and stories, rather famously saving some hopeless causes (Hal Jordan, the Green Lantern franchise, Hawkman, Hawk and Dove, etc.).

And he’s quite good at making characters “cool” again, generally by recrafting them more like Batman — giving the heroes a dark attitude and an aptitude for ruthlessness and/or violence, turning formerly fun and goofy villains into scary (but still colorful!) psychopaths, expanding supporting casts, making settings and cities as individual as Gotham City is.

So if chief creative officer meant The Guy In Charge of Making a DCU Character Bible and Setting the Tone and Direction for the Entire Line? Johns would be good at that. Hell, Johns would be hella good at that.

Oddly, though, he became CCO not long before DC decided to reboot its universe and its history, which stripped Johns of some of his greater strengths. He’s not the guy who comes up with fresh, new, mass-marketable characters or takes on characters (at DC, that’s probably Grant Morrison), he’s the guy who convinces skeptical fans to be greater fans, who demonstrates why the status quo isn’t so bad, that it just needs a few tweaks here and there.

Watching his work on Justice League, Aquaman and Green Lantern over the course of the past year has been very strange then. The first two are complete reboots that break entirely with everything that came before; the folks at DC probably don’t like to hear the books referred to thusly, but the shorthand is too precise not to use: The books are Ultimate Justice League and Ultimate Aquaman. Meanwhile, Johns’ Green Lantern has continued on the same path it’s been on for the past several years, with Johns simply not mentioning the things that the reboot might have made confusing; a sort of “if it hurts to do that, don’t do that” approach.

More strangely still, Johns isn’t writing the characters as if they even exist in a shared DC Universe. For example, six of the seven leads in Justice League appear in their own books (or lines of books), but they seem like entirely different characters in Justice League than in their solo books. That also goes for Green Lantern and Aquaman, despite Johns writing those characters’ books himself.

Looking at the books he’s producing then, and the New 52 DC line in general, “chief creative officer” really only seems to mean “Dude Who Writes a Lot of Books.”

This week, the book that received the most attention was undoubtedly Justice League #12, the one with Superman and Wonder Woman kissing on the cover. (Perhaps you’ve already heard something about this one?) DC’s PR team gave the issue a big push, rightly guessing a hook-up between two of the most recognizable superheroes would be the kind of thing the mainstream entertainment press would want to cover. (The story, and its coverage, reminds me a lot of that garnered by the “Archie Marries …” stories, but hell, it’s nice to see superheroes kissing making the papers for once instead of superheroes temporarily dying being the thing that generates the headlines, you know?)

Perhaps because of the reboot, the kiss and the idea of a relationship seem just as empty as Archie marrying one of his love interests in an alternate future. It goes back to that Ultimate Justice League thing — this isn’t the “real Superman” or “real Wonder Woman.” They might eventually become the real versions, but they’ll do so gradually, and, if so, then this story might end up feeling more real in retrospect. But at the moment, it seems no more important than buzz-cut Aquaman being betrothed to warrior queen Wonder Woman in the world of Flashpoint.

I don’t think it helps that this will be awfully out of left field to readers of Superman’s two books or Wonder Woman, where the characters haven’t reacted (in fact, Wonder Woman has thus far presented no indication it even takes place in the same universe as any other DC book).

The book ended with one of those features that have been increasingly appearing in Johns’ books: sequences of random panels used to “trailer” future events. There’s a page promising a war against Aquaman and the Atlantean army (although Aquaman readers know that Aquaman’s one of the only people on Earth who even believes in Atlantis), that the Cheetah is working with someone and that a traitor will join the Justice League; another page  talking about events in 2013; and then a two-page splash showing off the new Justice League of America, by Johns and artist David Finch.

Green Lantern Annual #1 seemed to be a much bigger story, even if it didn’t get covered in as many newspapers. Essentially just a double-sized issue concluding Johns’ current Green Lantern arc, it continues the book’s cycle of slow build-ups to periodic  big events (“Sinestro War,” Blackest Night, “War of the Green Lanterns”)  by setting the stage for “The Rise of the Third Army.”

For Green Lantern readers, it’s a pretty big deal, as the army refers to a new version of the Green Lantern Corps (the GLC being the Guardians of the Universe’s second army, following their first army of Manhunter robots). So it’s a storyline that goes back thousands, maybe millions, of years in DCU time, and decades in Earth-Prime time, and while Johns commits to some big events in this issue — I don’t think it’s spoiling anything to say that Hal Jordan and Sinestro die (or “die”) and their rings seek new Green Lanterns — it’s noteworthy how hard he commits.

The Guardians go so far in this story that it’s hard to imagine even a writer like Johns being able to walk them back from their monstrous villainy (although a pretty obvious out is provided if the status quo does need reverting to at some point). The event will run through (at least) two issues of each of the four Green Lantern titles, and will seemingly affect other titles as well (it’s the new GL in the ad for Justice League of America, not one of the other four Green Lanterns).

Going back to the lack of connectivity between DCU books, even those written by Johns, this month’s issue of JL has Hal Jordan voluntarily leaving the Justice League, whereas here he’s killed off. There’s perhaps a bit of the old frustration of when does this story take place in relation to that story, a frustration familiar to the point of welcome nostalgia to a lot of readers, but awfully unexpected when the two books are written by the same guy.

The final new Johns book of the week is Aquaman #12, the penultimate chapter of the book’s second story arc, and it’s such a typical Johns book that it could have been written by a computer program that surveyed enough of the creator’s comic books that it’s able to automatically write scripts when a few pieces of data like, say, character names, are filled in.

It’s surprisingly poorly done in terms of blocking and choreography, given penciler Ivan Reis’ usual level of craft and all the Johns scripts he’s illustrated, but beyond that it’s just repetitive in its checklist of Johnsisms demonstrated over the past 11 issues: hard-assed, so-powerful-it’s-kinda-silly Mera demonstrating what a powerful hard-ass she is; a brutal, strong-as-Superman Aquaman brutally dispatching his foes to kill his archenemy; dialogue that 1987 Arnold Schwarzenegger would have felt embarrassed to deliver (The best/worst part? Villain: “I guess … this is goodbye.” Hero: “FOR YOU.“); unnecessary splash pages and a character who was introduced just to be killed off  finally getting killed off.

I can roll with a lot of that. The particular lameness of many of Johns’ scripts is what I often enjoy most about his writing. Bad comics, like bad movies and bad television, can be fun and funny. But I just can’t get used to seeing things like this …

 … and suspending my disbelief that the Aquaman murdering guys in this comic is the same one who sits around a meeting table with Batman and Superman over in Justice League. I know the New 52iverse features more deadly superheroes with pretty lax rules about not killing their enemies, but even if I can accept an Aquaman that aims his trident for the spine rather than the gun, or a Wonder Woman who throws a sword instead of her lasso, or a Green Lantern who literally blows an enemy’s head off with his ring, surely Superman and Batman are still anti-killing, right? Why do those guys even hang out with these take-no-prisoners, freelance soldier types in Justice League …?

In the pre-reboot DCU, they used to do whole big storylines revolving around how mad the superheroes would get when one of their peers kills someone, even when it seemed like there was no other way to stop them (remember Wonder Woman snapping Max Lord’s neck?) or the victim seemed deserving (as when Green Arrow shot Prometheus after the latter attempted to kill millions and succeeded in killing thousands).  Now impalings and beheadings are the new knock-out punches.

That increased level of casual violence is, sadly, perhaps the one consistency I see between Johns’ storytelling on his handful of books and the tone and direction of the New 52iverse. Which is, I suppose, fine — DC can pursue whatever audience it wants, and I certainly don’t feel the company has to keep making comics I want to read forever. I just wish the setting was a bit more coherent, with characterization between books being at least as strong as the increase in allowable slain henchmen.

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81 Comments

Boy, I hate to think what you’d say if you weren’t a fan of Johns.

Not that you are wrong about how strange it is to see essentially two different versions of Hal from the same writer. In two sets of stories than don’t match up. But I like both versions. I like Hal Jordan, Sinestro’s sidekick; and I like Hal Jordan, wiseguy JLer voiced by Nathan Fillion in my head. I find both both really entertaining. If somewhat shallow. It could bother me more. Until I am not having fun, it won’t.

Could Johns’s books be better? I think so. This isn’t the Geoff who knocked it out of the park regularly on Flash and JSA. And the casual violence has been there for ages and I didn’t like it much in 2002, either. But I still like what he brings to the table.

And bought the superwonderkiss. I bought it because these characters are today’s Supes and WW. It doesn’t matter to me that it may or may not be fleeting. It felt right in the situation.

Could you possibly complain any more?

The new 52 is a pretty violent place, but I personally don’t have a problem with all the violence and the killing from Aquaman and Wonder Woman. They’re both part of an ancient warrior race that still carry swords and tridents, it kind of goes with the territory.

“Chief Creative Officer” is a corporate-designed job-title which is given to suggest that someone at the corporation is actually creating something.

But all I see are distorted, violent variations of somebody else’s creations.

The words “chief” and “officer” are the antithesis of “creative.” And Johns fills the role perfectly.

Just dropped GL another weight off my chest and another DC book down. Once Grant leaves the nu52 is forever behind me!

I don’t feel sorry for you at all. You willingly and deliberately bought comics written by Geoff Johns? You made your bed, now lie in it.

I agree 100% with your thoughts about Johns work.
You’ve “hit the nail on the head”, as they say.

Great article.

Superman, as he appears in “Justice League” and “Superman”, is so wildly different, so much less of a hero and so much more of a fuck-up, than he is in”Action Comics”, that I’m curious to see if there’s an actual storyline reasoning for it.

As for Wonder Woman… I’m used to characters in team books not necessarily jiving with how they appear in their solo titles. Morrison’s take when he wrote JLA was that these characters all had their own titles for them to develop in, and the League was where they went on crazy adventures, so that’s all he wrote. They don’t have to sync perfectly. But the Wonder Woman we’ve been seeing in “Justice League”, in contrast to the one we see in her own title, is even more different than Superman’s portrayal. At least “Action” has the excuse of being set in the past to explain away the character differences. At this point, especially after JL #12, I cannot buy into the idea that this is the same Wonder Woman. They are just too fundamentally different.

“Just dropped GL another weight off my chest and another DC book down. Once Grant leaves the nu52 is forever behind me!”

- braun rodman

You sound like a cancer patient whose disease has gone into remission.

A cure for DC comics in our lifetime!

I feel like it…all the weight lose, my hair falling out trying to read this stuff…

@D. Peace
@braun rodman

You guys are hilarious… ah ah ah ah ;)

the sad fact of the matter is no matter how much we realize our writers and publisher dont care about fans and will do whatever they want, we as buyers can not stop it all we can do is drop the book,of course the story will go on and remaining readers are stuck with the mess, its sucks but that is the way of the comic book world

loss not lose…I need an editor

or a CCO

Also, on the topic of what a chief creative officer really does, it’s a purely corporatese job title so it probably has a purely corporatese job description, too. I’m guessing he “facilitates line-wide product synergy” or maybe he “strategically engineers market-based paradigm shifts” or some such horse shit that actually means he talks on the phone all day about whether Wonder Woman having visible camel toe is good or bad for the tween demographic. Plus, he does still write a lot of barfy comics for middle-aged men.

Haters just be jealous of his “grow the brand through IP development” steez.

Johns seems like a nice guy… but I don’t like his work.
And Justice League is the worst of the bunch.

To me this is the “Johns version of the JLA”… not the “real JLA”.

But that’s ok… everything changes sooner or later – and this is no exception.

I quit buying Johns totally right around War of the Green Lanterns dude was becoming forumulaic to the point of being a parody of himself…and from what I’ve perused of his DCnU work it seems he’s only continued that decline. But, hey. No denying he moves units. He has his pen firmly on the pulse of the minds of those whom crave the lowest common denominator.

I agree that the last year hasn’t been his best, but compared to say, Glass or Lobdell or Nocenti or Liefeld or Daniel or Milligan or Finch, the past 12 months have been a cut above.

I’m not trying to be rude, but there has been a lot of poor writing from DC in 2011/12 & Geoff Johns has been pretty reliable, sometimes stellar, non-stop since 1999!

I buy less DC Comics than I used to because they’ve let great writers go & conveniently convinced themselves that artists make natural writers. Well, 9.9/10 they don’t & I submit as evidence, a substantial portion of the 1990′s. In comics :)

However, I’m grateful that Geoff Johns is keeping some titles readable, warts ‘n all.

I also have the feeling that 2012/13 will see a return to form, for this CCO.

I used to love Geoff Johns — his Flash and JSA being particular favorites. I was also impressed with how he salvaged Hal Jordan. But since Infinite Crisis, something’s changed and I was becoming very disenchanted with DC in general and Johns specifically. New 52 provided a clean break and I haven’t bought any regular titles since (though i get some of the digital first stuff and reprint material). With the possible exception of some Bat-books, I probably won’t in collected form either. I was looking forward to Morrison’s Action, but i just got it from the librrary and despite liking the approach, I was dissatisfied with the executuon. I won’t buy it and I won’t read more. And that’s a shame because I thought Morrison on Superman was a no-brainer. I read how its disconnected from Superman’s other appearances — and now this stuff. Johns isn’t even consistent with his own titles that come out in the same week? Probably because some stuff (GL, Aquaman) is written way in advance, but other stuff (JL) is tinkered with til the last minute, if online creator rants are to be believed.

I just read a piece on the other site about all of the future story implications from the books Johns put out this week (though it focused on the JLI annual, not Aquaman, as here) and that kind of thing used to excite me, but now, I’m apathetic. i just wish I could get myself to spending so much time reading these sites (for current goings-on anyway — I LOVE the histories, retrospectives and just about everything Cronin writes).

This column just make me sad as it reinforces my feelings. It’s a combination of age, shifting prioritiies and general dissatisfaction with the direction, I guess.

Oh well, more money to spend on monkeys riding midgets. ;)

@MrMGU with the wide variety of genres available out there, especially from some of the same writers creator owned works, I find myself less and less impressed/satisfied with the super hero books. There are of course standouts that do interesting things with the status quos, mythologies,& characters but overall there’s far too much mediocrity for me to prioritize staying up to date with the major flagships or “important” books when Saga, Prophet, Walking Dead, Mood MGMT, American Vampire, Hellblazer, The Unwritten etc. are moving the medium forward in unique and interesting ways.

Johns seems to think more and more like an editor instead of a writer.

Because much of his latest work makes very little sense from a writer’s point of view, but works well just for promoting sales.

Maybe it’s his elevation to being DC’s CCO that has wrought this change.

More and more analyses like this one convince me more and more how I could’ve done better if I took over DC.

I completely disagree. Justice League has been great redding, lot of new stuffs going on.

Aquaman is great.

Green Lantern keeps the enthusiasm from pre-reboot Universe.

Way to go, Johns! Congratulations for your work, you treat comics as they should be: a great fun!

Johns’s work is absolutely mired in nostalgia and stagnation. Every crazy “twist” and reveal are superficial and provide the illusion of radically altering the status quo, but in fact maintain it to an irritating degree. His writing is too by the numbers and seeks to titillate and shock the only fan who isn’t already familiar with basic storytelling tropes. When there are so many better and more risk-taking creators out there, why wouldn’t anybody vote with their wallet for Johns?

“@MrMGU with the wide variety of genres available out there, especially from some of the same writers creator owned works, I find myself less and less impressed/satisfied with the super hero books. There are of course standouts that do interesting things with the status quos, mythologies,& characters but overall there’s far too much mediocrity for me to prioritize staying up to date with the major flagships or “important” books when Saga, Prophet, Walking Dead, Mood MGMT, American Vampire, Hellblazer, The Unwritten etc. are moving the medium forward in unique and interesting ways.”

YES. I agree with every word of this. If anyone out there is sick of boring comics, go read comics that AREN’T boring. Image and Dark Horse are great places to start but there is such a glut of excellent, new or noteworthy reads out there, from a variety of publishers, we are spoiled for choice. Baffling why anyone would settle for mediocrity. As for Big Two cape comics, there’s still Uncanny X-Force. After that… pickings are slim, best move on to greener pastures, the abundance of which we are lucky to have.

@D. Peace:
“As for Big Two cape comics, there’s still Uncanny X-Force. After that… pickings are slim, best move on to greener pastures, the abundance of which we are lucky to have”

Justice League is abysmally boring, but DC still have some good titles.

I really like Animal-Man, Swamp-Thing, Batman (by Snyder), Action Comics (by Morrison), Demon Knights, The Flash, and Justice League Dark.

But yes……. as a “universe”, the New 52 shows some serious “structural problems”…… people are doing things “on the fly” and without adequate planning…. at least this is the impression I have.

Morrison’s JLA written in 1997 is lightyears ahead of Johns’s JLA written in 2012.

DarthRadarOReilly

August 31, 2012 at 7:43 am

Did the latest issue of Aquaman really feature a guy getting stabbed through the back – just a couple weeks after Waid called Johns on using the “stabbed in the back” trope too much

Agreed on reading non-superhero comics. It’s a hard habit to break, and the they remain my go-to genre, but I am also reading The Walking Dead, American Vampire and many of Brubaker’s noir books with Fatale next on my list. In all cases, it’s the writers’ superhero comics that got me to sample their non-capes books.

- DarthRadarOReilly: Did the latest issue of Aquaman really feature a guy getting stabbed through the back – just a couple weeks after Waid called Johns on using the “stabbed in the back” trope too much

Yes, and I wonder how Johns will feel when another writer eventually do the same with Courtney Whitmore/Stargirl.

I’m growing tired of Johns’ writing as well. I don’t agree with Caleb’s use of the word “murder” to describe what Aquaman does to the guy he tridents in the back. Considering the guy was getting ready to kill an unarmed man, I’d use the term “lethal force” to describe what he does. Still it doesn’t sit well with me.

“Yes, and I wonder how Johns will feel when another writer eventually do the same with Courtney Whitmore/Stargirl.”

Considering Stargirl is basically a tribute to his deceased sister, I’d think that such a move would be over the line moreso than just killing a character he created.

- Jack / Shawn Kane

Geoff’s got a habit of killing off characters he doesn’t think are important, especially characters created by others (hello Marv Wolfman).

I think he will not find it very amusing if someone kill a character created by him (especially Stargirl).

And he tends to kill them in the most brutal way possible.

Tribute or no, if Geoff Johns ever leaves DC, someone should do something to StarGirl so he can know once, just ONCE, how it feels.

Since they’re fictional characters, any character can be resurrected. The only reason that a character stays dead is because a higher up has made a decision to allow that. A writer could come in and bring Pantha back tomorrow. I think some creators might get a little irked that a character they created has been killed but I doubt anyone takes it personally. I’d think most creators see a character killed and wonder why the offending writer wasn’t more creative.

Green Lantern left Justice League so he could”Die”in his book and not have the Justice league involved and keep it a Green Lantern event. If he had stayed in the JL book and died they would have had to explain where hes been at.
Aquaman killed all those parademons in the first JL storyline.Id say that’s pretty consistent with his portrayal in his book.
Geoff Jones is a very talented writer. Hes wrote light hearted stuff,Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E. Great pure superhero books,Hawkman,JSA. And dark stuff,Batman:Earth one.
As for his “trailer ending” on the last page.Hes not the only one. Mark Millar was doing that in The Ultimates years ago

So much whining.

Over the years I’ve read a couple of hundred Geoff Johns comics. Most of them were “okay”, but I can’t think of any that I’d rate as really, really enjoyable.

I can sort of see why anybody who reads a lot of super hero comics would end up reading a fair bit of his work… after all he does many of the key DC characters. BUT I can’t really understand how he could become many peoples favourite comic writer…. certainly in my own case (now I’ve cut down on super hero comics), I don’t think I’ll ever read any of his stuff ever again.

Everyone’s complaining about lack of continuity with GL and JL. Go read the description for issue 14 of GL, it involves the JL attacking the new Green Lantern Baz to find out what happened to Jordan.

As for John’s writing, I enjoy it. I’m new to comics, so for me its refreshing, but I’m not new to GL, I love the series and started loving it since Johns took over. What he is doing with the new GL is amazing, going over the other spectrums of emotion, filling them with character, and what he has going on between Sinestro and Hal is so interesting and original, I’d love someone to prove me wrong.

I.m.o to keep comics interesting, sometimes you need to shake up the status quo. Let’s face it, Johns does just that. Aquaman is more angry, barbaric. Superman and Wonder Woman are in love. And Hal and Sinestro team up (well was…)

So I tip my hat of to Johns and tell those that want to complain to just stay away. There are so many much more terrible series in DCnu52 right now, in fact GL, Aquaman are actually some of my favourites

I agree with you completely – the books smack of the dumbed-down tone of the new DCU. I can’t believe this is the same Geoff Johns that wrote the amazing, character-driven JSA series that made me fall in love with the DC Universe.

I usually like johns stuff but wasn’t that impressed this week to be honest. I’m finding that the current arc in aquaman is making me disinterested in the book, really couldn’t care less about The Others etc, but I loved the first arc so much I’m persevering. As for justice league, I have to agree with the article, it just seems a little forced, like there should have been more groundwork laid before we reached the kiss, there was not much build up to it so for me it lacked any impact. There needed to be that will they/ won’t they hanging in the air. the fact there’s not been any inclination of romance between the pair in action, superman, or wonder woman makes it feel even more like a stunt.
That said, can’t wait for JLA – Catwoman as a founding member of the JLA! I’m intrigued!

I have to admit, I am not the biggest fan of Geoff Johns work. I lilme some of his stuff (JSA) and loathe others (Teen Titans). I fid him a bit hit and miss. I am enjoying Aquaman, but I don’t find it to be a briliant as others suggest it is. His Shazam is also very enjoyable and I’d say the best he’s putting out att he moment (though I’m not reading Green Lantern).

Justice League though is terrible. The first six issues were a waste. He could have told such a good origin story but instead wasted it on an extended fight scene where the characters showed up “because” and he reduced Darkseid to a random villain that was there to hit ****. And the worst part is how horribly out of character everyone is. It amazes me that he can writer such different takes on Hal and Arthur when they’re characters he’s handling in their own on-goings. Superman is unfortunatey a mess even in his own titles, though Action at least has the excuse of being set in the past. DC really need to decide what the hell they are doing with Supes and stick to it. But his Wnder Wman, og god his take on Wonder Woman! I am convinced that there are two Diana’s running around in the DCU; here is no way in hell that the Diana that appears in the WW comic is the same one slashing her team mates and acting like a morose teenager in JL. But then Johns ahs never been able to write Wonder Woman well; he just doesn’t get the character at all, not even on the most basic level.

The only character he’s coming close to getting “right” is barry, and that’s just because he’s not actually doing anything with him. Oh, and I guess Cyborg, but again he’s not actually doing anything with him.

Eh, I think was just a matter of inevitable decline. The comments pretty much all say the same thing: Really loved Johns when he was on JSA and Flash, but nowadays he seems to have gone down hill. Honestly I’m not surprised. He has strengths and his weaknesses, but as a writer goes on they always have two paths. 1) improve upon past works and master the craft. 2) Get bogged down by the cynicism of it all and have your weaknesses take greater note over he strengths. With Johns it was definitely the latter.

I’ve heard many people call him the comics equivalent of Steven Spielberg, and that’s honestly such a perfect metaphor I accept no substitutes. Young, enthusiastic fan manages to finally start making the stuff he’s always loved, shocks everyone with his care and devotion to character and his desire to make the type of art he himself enjoys, and after rising to the top and becoming the biggest guy in the company, is bogged down by doing it for so long that he just begins to stick to his old formula and inevitably starts churning out familiar stuff with much less passion than before.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say that any of these titles are really bad, or even just bad, but just calling them mediocre is even worse. It takes passion and tremendous effort to create something really memorably bad (which is why Infinite Crisis turned out like it did). Just churning out familiar mediocrity is something else entirely.

Eliminating a character that another created can eliminate future $$$ for that creator.

Casual violence is a crime now? Can we just grow up. Millions went to see casual violence in the Avengers. My only grouse is that the book shouldn’t have a back up that cuts out time for character development but saying that there was good development in JL#12 between Superman and Wonder Woman. Knowing who they are, that they have been working together for 5 years, it was an organic moment. Would be nice to see some stories set in the past to see the flare of attraction we saw in JL#3.

I kind of agree with Lori. While Justice League gets all the attention for being off-key, it’s really Aquaman that’s the disappointment. The revamp was desperately necessary but somehow it doesn’t quite fit. It’s not anywhere near as awkward as Savage Hawkman, but it’s not nearly as smooth as Blue Beetle.

That said, JL has been more like JL: WTF from the get go.

I like Johns and his work in general but that doesn’t mean I love everything he does, just because it’s him doing it.

There wasn’t really much violence in these books compared to others.

Horrible, stupid, anti-heroic garbage. Next reboot can’t happen fast enough for me.

I don’t want to be snarky but hell here i go. Who gives a crap. Its not real, its not towards any innocent women or children. its not a glorification of violence, its a result of story driven events. That is dramatic storytelling…shit happens in it. I much prefer the articles that brake down story telling beats and other technical aspects of comics as appose to the articles that do nothing but complain because they saw a boob or someone got a paper cut in a comic. Don’t De-Fang Geoff the way they have Bendis. And this is comic from a guy who loves Bob Haney comics so i guess when you ‘internet fuck’ my statement please be gentle.

In the old DC, I liked the fact that Wonder Woman was willing to kill. But she only killed when it was absolutely necessary. The character, as portrayed in JL, is wilfully and unnecessarily violent. I do think that WW has matured and changed a bit in the present, as opposed to how she was portrayed in the first story arc, which took place 5 years ago. But I do find the casual and unnecessary violence to be disturbing and kind of depressing.

You finally found out the worst of Johns. I confess I found that out before that, when he ruined the Legion of Super-Heroes for me. And you pretty much nailed his strengths (that most of the times are slim or irrelevant to a monthly book). I think his books are mostly bad, but not in that good sense (Giffen did that superbly with Trencher and Ellis did that on Hitman lots of times), but shock value does have its fans in current marketplace.
As for his CCO job, that has nothing to do with his comic book work. He is probably responsible for keeping facts straight and foment other Warner divisions on DC characters. More of a caretaker and foster of DC properties than anything else. Booster Gold getting a TV series is probably/highly due to his involvement as CCO.

Johnny Blaze Ghost Writer

September 1, 2012 at 3:58 pm

Whiney little bastards aren’t you? Just biding your time until Doctor Who starts of course. Some idiot said dumbing down. Was that maybe because someone (whoever is ghosting this issue for Geoff ) is trying to reach a larger new audience? If Johns is doing a bad job as so many of you seem to think (feelings shared by Jeff Robinov since the Green Lantern movie) then we shall see what happens at the end of the year when his contract is up.

It’s so good to see so many people kinda waking up to how much of an overrated hack Geoff Johns has become. And being open and honest about it. Praise should be earned, and nobody should be let off for writing shoddy comic books – not when you have people like Azzarello, Lemire and Snyder writing such quality titles. Guys who can PLOT a story properly and write strong, well thought out chartacters.

Yes, Johns used to write great comic books a few years ago, but now he’s kind of in the same camp as people like Bendis. Has been since around Blackest Night.

And like Lee and DiDio, he really does have no respect for the Legacy of the characters he hashily writes / bumps off and the writers who created and crafted them into the icons they became.

His Wonder Woman is especially dreadful. Actually, he’s generally shite at writing female characters.

The casual killing becoming so common place with Johns may by a symptom of comics breaking with the legacy of the Comics Code. I don’t remember in which era Superman and Batman developed their moral standards, but I suspect a great deal of the Justice League’s stance on killing from the 60s onward was a comics code thing, rationalized only in recent times with the “we’re so powerful, that if we start killing, where does it end?”

Big Box Hollywood certainly trivializes killing. I dislike the Batman movies in no small part because Batman has missile launchers on the Batwing and doesn’t sweat obliterating henchmen…

Hopefully, DC will hang onto Batman’s no-kill rules–it’s an element of charm to the bleak Dark Knight universe. But, I’m sure there a lot of teenage boys who’d really dig a Batman who murders thugs in creative ways (how about electric batarangs that microwave blood on impact?). And, once DC yields to doling out undifferentiated Hollywood Fare they’ll become yet another undifferentiated consumer good that goes out of fashion with the “next big thing”…

BACK ON TOPIC:
I’m of like mind with the writer who doesn’t mind the two Hal Jordans, because he enjoys each one separately within its own title. I’m enjoying Azzarello’s Wonder Woman immensely and am thrilled to death that he doesn’t have to compromise with her identical twin in Justice League. :)

Honestly do any of you have anything positive to say about modern comics! God you’re all so whiny! They’re comics! I read them cause I love stories, if I don’t I don’t read it! It’s that simple!

I’ve always found the level of gore and violence in Johns’ stories to be extremely high, so this isn’t a surprise to me.

On the one hand, it makes sense that the world of the DCU is a fairly dangerous place, so the violence is amped up even compared to the real world.

On the other hand, if I never see another D-list superhero get their head punched off by Superboy-Prime, it’ll be too soon.

Geoff Johns murdered Threeboot Legion’s Element Lad in the most brutal way possible and for that I’m no longer reading DC! (Just Archie comics for me now) Kill Aquaman!

Johns is a good, but overrated writer. He is a perfect example why some fans shouldn’t become pro writers. He can’t seem to check his fan ideas at the door. To quote John Byrne who quotes Len Wein “The first story that a pro does as a fan, should be their last story as a pro”. This quote pretty much sums up a good portion of Johns (and Bendis,Millar,Brubaker,and countless other creators) career as a professional comic book writer.

I have to disagree with some comments about the quality of johns books. Aquaman is One of the best books out there, and I like that Aquaman is portrayed more as a warrior; a different take from what we’ve seen before. The others stoyine has introduced a handful of great new characters in the dcnu and the trench has been great superhero adventuring fun. His justice league work is still pretty entertaining stuff compared to whats out there (not quite his best IMO), but he purposely writes it as a big blockbuster book, and it delivers. Hes also presenting a different take on the justice league: one that doesnt get along. His shazam backups I think are some of his best stuff yet. I haven’t been reading GL so I can’t weigh in on that. All in all I still enjoy any Geoff johns book more than what they’ve got cooking at marvel ( except maybe for daredevil). At least johns is trying to mix things up in the dcnu whereas marvels giving me the same old tired hero vs hero crossover they always do (why are there no articles about how avx is the same tired old stuff?).

Are you really Mark Waid writing under a pseudonym?
But you are quite right. The problem with the DC52 is that they have gone down this route on all thier books, to the point that there is so much despair in the ‘heroes’ they arent that any more.
I realize that their market research is guiding their editorial line, and some of that research is reading fanfic sites about Supes and WW, but there is no balance across the line – they are all gritty anti-heroes now, everyone is part of some kind of secret covert ops team (sooo many covert strike teams) and everyone is fighting some pseudo-illuminati shady organisation. Meh!
I’ve dropped DC for now… the only tempting thing is Earth 2 because of who is making it, but they’ll probably start cross-overs soon and ruin it.
Combine this with the average age of their writers (especially with the teen hero books.. so many old men writing the voices of modern youth?!?) most of whom are veterans of the 1990s (a completely different economic time for consumers, so not sure what the causal link between Harras, Lobdell and others is supposed to have with success), and I don’t see this as sustainable. There is no new storytelling happening, no new directions. Thats mainly happening at Image on a mini series level, the best writers getting hired off of that by Marvel.
The only thing that DC52 will have to beat off Marvel Now is the price tag – too many Marvel books are at 3.99.

Couldn’t agree more with this post. Johns to me has always been overrated in my opinion, I gave up on his Justice League book after Batman revealed his identity to Green Lantern 30 seconds after meeting him and next to nothing actually happening in issues 2 through 5.

And the whole “Batmanifying” of heroes does bug me, the casual violence/murder by heroes is weird too: i keep expecting something to be said about it, but a lot of the DC heroes seem to becoming The Punisher, which does lend credence to the whole “Ultimate DCU” comment made earlier.

I read Batman and Action Comics now, when the relaunch happened i was reading 15 titles. And when Action comics gets it’s new writer, I’m probably going to drop that too unless the replacement is REALLY good. It’s a shame, because I liked where a lot of the DC books were going, but they’ve been let down by poor writing, incessant crossovers and the threat of this whole Trinity War thing which is already starting to take place across multiple titles, something that drove me away from the X-men titles a few years ago.

So I’m going back to Marvel, not that I ever left, but I’ll be reading all of their new books come November: sure, they cost more than DC books, but i’d rather pay a little more for quality books than pay a little less for titles that’re dull, irritating and rapidly rushing towards being a mess of Grant Morisson’s Final Crisis proportions.

I can understand the guys who argue that casual violence, by itself, does not equate to poor story telling.

But it can be a symptom of poor story telling when its not consistently followed through in other parts of the story, ESPECIALLY in what we are told is a tightly integrated story telling universe.

And actually I suspect that the latest Aquaman killing is an example of that. (Can’t say more than suspect, not read any of Geoff Johns work for years.)

If Aquaman is willing to kill an unnamed underling wiithout any thought or remorse, then he ought to be happy to dish out the same treatment to major league villains. And guys that do regard killing as an absolute last resort (Jeez, I hope Superman still takes that line), ought not to be willing friends or team mates with Aquaman.

But neither will apply (i.e. Aquaman won’t kill any major villain, and no hero will shun Aquaman). Why? Because really most DC writers do give a monkeys about writing characters consistently.

I like how ppl think there wasn’t violence in comics before Geoff Jones came along.Its ridiculous.

Hey, look! Someone arguing a point no one made! ^^

Think before posting. No one is opposed to violence in fiction. What we ARE opposed to is casual slaughter being committed by characters claiming to be heroes without any dramatic repercussions within the storylines. We’re opposed to writing that attempts to be “edgy” and “adult” by relying on blood and gore, rather than having the violence be an outgrowth of the storylines.

There, that’s the Cliff’s Notes version so you won’t be confused anymore.

@Mike. T

The problem is not the violence per se, but the uncreative and gratuitous way that Johns handles this in his writings.

I get what your saying.You dont want to see your heroes lining up their villains and executing them gangland style,so to speak.Do you think characters in the DCU are committing “casual slaughter”? And im not talking about when the JL is killing parademons or Superman throws a villain into a building and i guess the ppl in the building are dead. Tell me where your seeing “casual slaughter”being commited at.

I’m not at all against strong violence in special projects like Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen. However, unless you’re writing stories where gore is part and parcel of the type of story I think it can cause readers to walk away; it’s a turn off if you’re mainly looking for heroics. I enjoy reading, for example, the Walking Dead, but In terms of regular superhero books (as opposed to special projects as well as superhero books devoted to a certain breed of anti-hero) I want something different. The Punisher can be fun, but so can superheroes who are creative in finding ways not to kill their opponent. Some darkness can be fun, but it can be depressing if there isn’t some light as well. I think now, thanks to Geoff Johns and others we have readers who might be craving some vanilla today, some strawberry the next day, some chocolate the day after that, but are finding that only chocolate is on the menu.

I also don’t want to overplay the “what about the children?” card because I hate it when others overuse it. Having said that, there does need to be an entry point for brand new readers and if, when I was young the only superhero comics for people my age that I could read were Super Friends and Spidey Super Stories, I doubt I’d have stuck with superhero comics. And since that was the core of my comic interest growing up I’ could well have left comics early on. There really need to be more superhero comics (and maybe comics in general) which are truly “all ages” not for kids, *all* ages, Superhero comics that work on different levels for different age ranges.

Geoff Johns really should write a regular slasher series, a Jason or Freddy type. He seems to have a lot of fun with the gore, and maybe if he has a series completely devoted to that he can get it out of his system and focus on other storytelling ideas in the superhero books.

In my opinion, Johns biggest fallacy as a writer now a days is that he focuses too much on the Super Hero side of things and not enough of the human aspect. of the characters. What made his early GL and JSA really good is that he always made time for the small beats in a characters personal life. Now he just focuses on the super heroics all the time. Granted it makes a title easier to write, but you lose the connection with a character’s humanity and it makes them a bit more hard to relate to.

@Daeleus

That’s a good point, I agree with you.

I think he’s focusing too much on the Super side of things and not enough on the Hero side of things as well. :(

Interested in Daeleus’s view ( that Geoff J concentrates on human side less than in his JSA days).

Practically the only long series of his that I’ve read (twice actually, quite liked it) was JSA.

Even in that series I thought he was comparatively weak in dealing with human relations (e.g. Example that sticks in my mind was Billy/ Cap Marvel’s potential romance with Courtney/ Stargirl. It was raising some thought provoking issues. Just getting interesting, then Jay has a quiet word with Cap… and everything stops IMMEDIATELY. Didn’t strike me as remotely convincing. )

Maybe that side just doesn’t interest him? Maybe that’s why he hasn’t done any Vertigo series, for example?

Well, I think the ‘killings’ are a bit more on par with the heroes really being thrust into warzone situations. I agree some of it seems like Mark Millar losing his gore-cards but I still think the heroes are faced with threats bigger than them. Face it…thus far the JLA has not matured and that’s why we’re seeing these flaws on scripts.

^ NOW I DON’T KNOW WHAT IS UP WITH THEIR SOLO BOOKS cuz you swear they’d evolve and mature before the JLA comes full-circle. So maybe this maturity won’t come until 2014 when DC gets a bit more cohesive and realigns continuity. That said, Johns was good before but apart from Aquaman, he’s really struggling. That GL annual was pretty good though. Johns should stick to that line.

Leave JLA for some fresh guys like Scholly Fisch or James Tynion

ps – don’t lynch Johns cuz his Blackest Night and other Lantern works really were reinvigorating. Things waned since Brightest Day but you can’t win em all…
even Morrison has been crap lately

@renaldo

I hated Blackest Night and hated even more what he did with the “golden age Superman”.

REALISM. -it sells comics.
the joker kills your surrogate son, and cripples batgirl, who is like a daughter to you, and is a daughter to one of your best friends,…and your going to let him live?? why? because a writer in the forties told u that you had to or else??—lol.

black manta kills several heroes, and a son of yours,..and yes lets let him live..right? because a writer in the forties told us to. —lol.

could go on and on. the point is: we cheered when a terrorist was killed in real life. why wouldn’t we cheer our superheroes on for doing the same thing our military does??—im not suggesting green lantern kills every issue, or any other hero for that matter. —but its just a tad ridiculous that some of the nastiest villains aren’t at least on the most wanted dead or alive list. –comics are 3 parts fantasy now. the medium is growing up, and with that some growing pains are essential, like loosing the golden age and silver age fan-boys, who know that if they were in the same predicament, they would kill villains left and right as well.

@Defiance-Defiant.

As Superman says:
“There’s ALWAYS A WAY”… and that is what makes him a GREAT character (at least for me).

The fact of the matter is Aquaman is a badass character with mainstream appeal for the first time ever thanks to Johns. Complain all you guys like (and boy, do you guys like to complain) but in a few years they’ll be using Johns’ Aquaman run as the template for a movie, I’m certain of it.

@Kent:
“in a few years they’ll be using Johns’ Aquaman run as the template for a movie”

Oh yeah! directed by Michael Bay, of course.. and it will amount the same success of Green Lantern. ;P

Superhero comics have always been violent.

And yet based on the whining, I’d have to guess most of you weren’t around in the 80s and 90s when Marvel & DC had regular slaughterfests for shock value. FAR worse than they do today.

Oh wait, most of you ARE old readers who loved that crap back in the day, and are simply being hypocritical because it’s YOUR characters being used as canon fodder **now**

Got it.

You’re a Geoff Johns fan.

Got it.

Thank you for writing this. Geoff Johns doenst have a once of reality. His characters lacks morality, and it has been a problem(Aquaman killing an entire species because “they are primitive and unintelligent). Johns is disguting, i wonder about his morals.

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