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Crisis on Earth-3D!: Villains Month, Week Two

villains

DC Comics kicked off its Villains Month last week, as the evil opposites of the Justice League invaded the DC Universe, seemingly disposing of all the heroes and taking over the world.

Likewise, the villains have been taking over DC’s New 52 line of comic books, with the MIA heroes finding the covers of their books occupied by bad guys. Those are, of course, the collectible and somewhat-controversial (among retailers) 3D lenticular covers.

But as the case with books, we shouldn’t judge a comic by its cover, so let’s continue reviewing our way through the contents of the Villains Month issues. As with last week’s batch, I’m rating each book on a 10-point scale of how evil it is, with “Not Very Good” being the worst and “Absolute Evil” the best, and noting its connectivity to the Forever Evil crossover event that sparked the promotion in the first place.

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Comics A.M. | This weekend, it’s Cincinnati Comic Expo

Cincinnati Comic Expo

Cincinnati Comic Expo

Conventions | The fourth Cincinnati Comic Expo kicks off Friday, just a week after the inaugural Cincinnati ComicCon, but administrator Matt Bredestege says he thinks his show has a broader appeal: “We are more of a multigenre show. We have a lot of celebrities and vendors that aren’t comic-related. There’s also more cosplay (costuming) and activities for the kids.” Still, he says, local comics creators are the backbone of the show. The comics guest list includes Dough Mahnke, Art Baltazar, Eddy Barrows, Andy Bennett, Heather Breckel, Rich Buckler, Mike McKone, Yanick Paquette and Thom Zahler. [Journal News]

Creators | Writer Geoff Johns talks about the DC Comics crossover Forever Evil and how it will upend the publisher’s superhero universe while making an unlikely hero of Lex Luthor. [The Detroit News]

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Grumpy Old Fan | It only feels like ‘Forever’

All that evil and no goatees

All that evil and no goatees

Forever Evil #1 is an uneven debut for the seven-issue miniseries, revealing that the Crime Syndicate — for those who came in late, basically an evil Justice League from the parallel Earth-3 — has killed all the Leaguers and is recruiting allies among DC-Earth’s supervillains. Although a handful of scenes are genuinely chilling, much of it is exposition and survey, with some of that geared apparently toward ancillary miniseries. Geoff Johns’ script works well when his characters can give speeches, but turns awkward and simplistic in crowd scenes. David Finch’s pencils are appropriately murky and grim, although there’s not a lot of subtlety; and inker Richard Friend seems to have gotten quite a workout. (This is the superhero-comic equivalent of a downpour at dusk.) Fortunately, colorist Sonia Oback manages to bring some variety to the gloomy proceedings, whether it’s brightening up a neon-lit cityscape or energizing a crackling solar corona.

Still, for the start of the first “universe-wide” Big Event of DC’s New 52, Forever Evil #1 feels like an apocalyptic tease. The issue’s main shocks aren’t as shocking as one might imagine, and the demands of a shared superhero universe will require them to be reversed. There’s undoubtedly more carnage to come, but for now it’s an exercise in attitude.

Naturally, there’s more after the jump. SPOILERS FOLLOW …

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Johns, Lee and more talk villains in clip from ‘Necessary Evil’

geoff-johns-necessary-evil

To mark the launch on Wednesday of DC Comics’ Villains Month and Forever Evil, the much-publicized event series by Geoff Johns and David Finch, USA Today has debuted a clip from Necessary Evil: Villains of DC Comics.

Arriving Oct. 25 on Blu-ray and DVD, the documentary explores DC’s rogues in-depth through interviews with “with the famed creators, storytellers and those who have crafted the personalities and profiles of many of the most notorious villains in comic book history.” Legendary actor Christopher Lee narrates.

“The best supervillains, that resonate the most, they do it on two levels,” Johns says in the clip below. “They do it how they psychologically reflect or challenge your superhero and also, in the story, what they’ve done to affect the superhero’s life.”

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Grumpy Old Fan | ‘Trinity War,’ the worst of both worlds?

This cover is a spoiler, sort of

This cover is a spoiler, sort of. (Don’t look, you fool! Don’t look!)

Honestly, the post title is a little misleading. Overall, I liked “Trinity War.” It was paced well, the creative teams did a good job wrangling all the characters and (for the most part) keeping them in character, and both story and art were top-notch. Basically, it felt like an old-school Justice League/Justice Society team-up, and for this grizzled veteran of the crossover wars, that’s high praise.

Nevertheless, its conclusion frustrates me, and I can’t talk about it without a massive spoiler warning. About the only thing I can say without reservation is that this week’s Justice League #23 featured the conclusion of “Trinity War.” To reveal much more about it would spoil the last page of the issue.

This is a terribly ironic situation, because DC Comics has made no secret about the setup for the sequel miniseries, the seven-issue Forever Evil. However, in the interests of preserving at least a nominal sense of fair play, I can’t really talk about that either. It all makes me feel very cynical, just when I was feeling good.

Anyway, if you’ve read the issue — or if you don’t mind knowing absolutely everything that happens, including the usual history lessons and ill-informed speculation — let’s talk.

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Bidding farewell to Grantman Inc.

batman-inc-special-cropped

When DC Comics published the final issue of Geoff Johns’ eight-year, 150-ish issue run on the Green Lantern character in May, it came in a massive package: An 80-page, $7.99 comic book with a spine, its 66-page story by Johns and his many artistic collaborators complemented by eight pages or so of “Congratulations, Geoff Johns!” from his bosses, his colleagues, his collaborators, his admirers, his family members, a few celebrities and a few “celebrities.”

When DC published the final issue of Grant Morrison’s seven-year run on the Batman character this July, it was simply a regular, $2.99, 24-page issue of Batman Incorporated, the second ongoing monthly created specifically for Morrison to tell his Batman story.

The actual celebration and send-off of Morrison’s tenure on the character— or at least the last few years of it – came out this week, and, in a move that seems appropriately off-beat, Morrison himself had next to nothing to do with Batman Incorporated Special #1, a series of short stories featuring Morrison creations and resurrections of long-retired characters by various creators, only one of whom actually worked with the writer during any of those seven years’ worth of comics.
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Comics A.M. | Disney gets OK for massive new TV & film studio

The Walt Disney Studios

The Walt Disney Studios

Business | The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has approved Disney’s plan to build a 58-acre television and film production facility on the sprawling Golden Oak Ranch, near Santa Clarita, California. Located less than an hour north of Los Angeles, the 890-acre ranch has been owned by Disney since 1959, serving as the backdrop for projects ranging from Little House on the Prairie to Buffy the Vampire Slayer to Pirates of the Caribbean: The World’s End. ABC Studios has been producing more series than Disney’s Burbank facilities can handle, requiring additional sound stages to be rented. The new facility is targeted for completion in 2016.

Marvel Animation opened a new studio early last year in Glendale, just minutes from Disney’s Burbank lot. Marvel Studios later followed suit, moving from Manhattan Beach to new offices in Glendale. [TheWrap]

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Grumpy Old Fan | Know your DC editors

"... this British guy says he'll kill you unless he can write Superman!"

“… this British guy says he’ll kill you unless he can write Superman!”

Students of DC Comics’ publishing history can probably rattle off at least a few editors from the company’s first few decades. Whitney Ellsworth edited the Batman and Superman books in the 1940s and ‘50s before becoming a producer on the Adventures of Superman television series. In the Silver Age, Mort Weisinger presided over an exponential expansion of Superman’s mythology, including all those varieties of Kryptonite, the introductions of Supergirl, Krypto and the Legion of Super-Heroes, and ongoing series focused on Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen. Similarly, as editor of the Batman titles, Jack Schiff supervised one of the character’s most recognizable periods, filled with colorful mysteries and giant-sized props.

Of course, the phrase “Silver Age DC” is virtually synonymous with Julius Schwartz, who worked with writers Gardner Fox and John Broome and artists Carmine Infantino, Mike Sekowsky and Gil Kane on rebuilding DC’s superhero line. One could argue fairly reasonably that without them DC Comics as we know it today might not exist (and neither would today’s Marvel).

However, while Ellsworth became DC’s editorial director in 1948, Schwartz Schiff, and Weisinger weren’t in similarly lofty positions. Today we readers hear a lot about “editorial control” and the dreaded “editorial interference,” charges aimed largely at the men at the top: Editor-in-Chief Bob Harras, Co-Publishers Dan DiDio and Jim Lee and Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns. We hear a lot from them (illuminating and otherwise) about the general direction of the company. We also hear a good bit from various writers and artists, including Johns and Lee, regarding specific titles.

Nevertheless, on the management tier in between are the books’ editors themselves; and that’s the area about which I’ve become rather hazy. Therefore, I started looking through New 52 credits boxes, and supplementing this research through the Grand Comics Database, to see who was editing what.

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The beard is back in ‘Aquaman’ #25

Header

With the advent of DC Comics’ New 52, de facto head writer (and DC Entertainment chief creative officer) Geoff Johns took on the unenviable task of reinvigorating DC’s underwater superhero Aquaman. After nearly two years, Johns and his various collaborators have done so with aplomb, and it looks like with November’s landmark 25th issue they’re bringing back a long-lost character to the Aquaman mythos.

The beard.

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Too many creators, too little lead time spoil DC’s ‘He-Man’ reboot

hemanHave you ever heard the expression, “If a thing is worth doing, it’s worth doing well?” Have you heard about  DC Comics’ He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, whose first six-issue miniseries was just collected? Have any of the people involved with the creation of those comics heard of that expression? Because from the results, it sure doesn’t seem to be the case.

The comics are poorly made — among the worst I’ve seen produced by an industry-leading publisher — but they’re bad in a very particular way.

They aren’t unreadable; I made it all the way through He-Man and The Masters of the Universe Vol. 1 without giving up. If pressed, I’m sure I could come up with some worse, more poorly made comics from DC in the recent past, but I might have difficulty thinking of worse comics from creators of such a relatively high caliber as some of those involved with this project, or an example of a series so bewilderingly bad.

Seemingly rushed through production like a term paper written the night before it’s due, many of the comics’ problems appear to originate with there being just too many creators working too fast and with little communication to meet a particular deadline. But,the funny thing is that it’s just a He-Man comic that no one in the comics-reading audience seemed particularly excited about, let alone interested in.

So it’s hard to imagine a  reason DC decided to steam ahead with its creation to meet an arbitrarily chosen deadline before, say, nailing down a single creative team. Put another way, this is a bad comic book, and I can tell you what makes it a bad comic book, but I can’t hazard a guess as to why the people responsible for it made the decisions they did that resulted in it being so bad.

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Grumpy Old Fan | ‘Trinity War’ is testing the old ways

Pandora holds that evil skull like my daughter holds her stuffed bunnies

Pandora holds that evil skull like my daughter holds her stuffed bunnies

The first part of “Trinity War” (in last week’s Justice League #22) relied rather significantly on the changes the New 52 relaunch facilitated: Superman, Wonder Woman, and Billy Batson/Shazam (hereinafter “Billy/Shazam,” or maybe just “Captain Marvel”) each acted in ways incompatible with long relationships.

In the old days, Superman and Wonder Woman would have been close friends, Superman and Captain Marvel would have had a unique (almost mentor-protegé) relationship, and Wonder Woman and Captain Marvel would at least have had some Greek mythology in common. However, the main conflicts of “TW” Part 1 depended on Wonder Woman being more of a warrior than an ambassador, Superman trusting her hostility, and Billy/Shazam not knowing either of them that well. As such, it appeared to exemplify the freedom a relaunch confers, specifically to ignore the restrictions of previous developments to put these characters quickly on opposing sides.

In other words, one might reasonably have seen Part 1 as a) realizing the New 52 allowed for a particular Shocking Event and b) working backward to create the conditions that would lead to said Event. “Because we can do this, how do we do it?”

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Geoff Johns reveals truth behind ‘Trinity War’ in new video

trinity-explained

If you can’t make heads or tails “Trinity War,” DC Comics’ universe-spanning crossover that begins Wednesday with Justice League #22, who better than Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns to explain it? And how better to lay out the premise of the six-part storyline than with a slickly produced video? (Bonus question: Just how many cups of coffee can one person go through?)

Seriously, “The Truth Behind Trinity War” is incredibly well done, and may even change the minds of a few people who previously had no interest in the publisher’s latest summer event.

“Trinity War” kicks off with Justice League #22, and then continues in Justice League of America #6, Justice League Dark #22, Justice League of America #7 and Justice League Dark #23 before concluding in Justice League #23 (there are also a handful of tie-ins; you can find the checklist here). Well, “concluding,” as the events of “Trinity War” lead into Forever Evil and Villains Month …

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Grumpy Old Fan | ‘Forever’-stamped: DC in September

This was also the working title of "The Sinestro Corps War"

This was also the original title of “The Sinestro Corps War”

DC Comics goes bad in September, turning all 52 slots of its superhero line over to its less-savory characters. That’s pretty much the story of the superhero solicitations, although there are some interesting collections coming this fall.

On its face, Forever Evil sounds like a pretty straightforward, traditional superhero story. I think the “heroes disappear, villains romp” plot was even an episode of Super Friends. Accordingly, all things being equal, I have no problems with using it for a line-wide crossover. No doubt the DC Comics of 2013-14 will season it with plenty of violence and depravity, sucking away my goodwill accordingly; but those details will have to wait until the comics themselves come out.

THE SHAPE OF EVIL

In fact, the part of “Villains Month” that interests me most is its structure. Yes, there are 52 single issues coming out of the superhero line in September, plus Forever Evil #1. However, those 52 issues ostensibly “represent” only 18 series: Action Comics, Aquaman, Batman, Batman and Robin, Batman/Superman, Batman: The Dark Knight, Detective Comics, Earth 2, The Flash, Green Arrow, Green Lantern, Justice League, JL Dark, JLA, Superman, Swamp Thing, Teen Titans and Wonder Woman. Furthermore, 16 of the 52 are Bat-books, more than the Justice League books’ 10 issues and twice as many as the Superman books’ eight issues. Add Batman/Superman #3.1, and 35 of the 52 will have “Batman,” “Superman” or “Justice League” on their covers. In fact, 16 of the 18 series are already on my pull list (sorry, Green Arrow and Teen Titans), so I’ll probably be putting back a fair amount of these, which won’t make my comic shop’s job any happier.

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Comics A.M. | HeroesCon doubles exhibition space

HeroesCon

HeroesCon

Conventions | HeroesCon, which begins Friday in Charlotte, North Carolina, will double in size this year, with the exhibit area increasing from 100,000 to 200,000 square feet. “There’s a whole lot more of everything,” says founder Shelton Drum. Including people? Last year’s convention drew in 17,000 attendees, and Drum thinks this year’s event will attract more newcomers curious about the source material of their favorite movies. [Winston-Salem Journal]

Creators | Peter Bebergal talks with Alan Moore about Jerusalem, magic, comics, and the tendency to conflate gods with superheroes: “It is contrived, because they’re not at all the same. Superheroes are the copyrighted property of big corporations. They are purely commercial entities; they are purely about making a buck. That’s not to say that there haven’t been some wonderful creations in the course of the history of the superhero comic, but to compare them with gods is fairly pointless. Yes, you can make obvious comparisons by saying the golden-age Flash looks a bit like Hermes, as he’s got wings on his helmet, or the golden-age Hawkman looks a bit like Horus because he’s got a hawk head. But this is just to say that comics creators through the decades have taken their inspiration where they can find it. Before I was interested in magic as a viable way of life, I was certainly aware of the occult, and wouldn’t be above taking names or concepts or ideas from the occult.” [The Believer]

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What Are You Reading? with Brandon Montclare and Amy Reeder

gl20-tease

Hello everyone, Happy Memorial Day weekend to America, and welcome one and all to What Are You Reading? This week we are joined by special guests Brandon Montclare and Amy Reeder, the creative team behind Halloween Eve and the upcoming Rocket Girl. I spoke to them earlier this month about Rocket Girl, which surpassed its Kickstarter goal but you still have some time to get in on the action and rewards.

To see what Brandon, Amy and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below.

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