One of the most popular comic book writers today is a man named Geoff Johns. This man single-handedly brought back Hal Jordan, re-created the Green Lantern Corps, redefined the entirely of the GL’s mythos, rebooted the DC universe TWICE, and every comic he’s written for over the past ten years have been consistent best-sellers. I’m sure I’m underselling him right now, as many of his peers admire him and consider him to be one of the most prolific writers of his generation. More importantly than that, he’s living his dream: writing comic books for a living.
I understand he’s also a very nice guy. He’s the type of person who you like the moment you meet him. So please keep all of this in mind when reading through my rant. I recognize his achievements and I think it is cool he’s living his dream. My rants are focusing on his style of writing and why it does not work for me.
Geoff Johns seems to rewrite the past rather than work with current events in the DC universe
I believe stories, like real life, occurs in the present. There are past events that still has a huge influence on our lives. But that is far an in between. More often than not, it is something that occurs in the here and now that plays the biggest influence on our lives. This is the same with comic books. When a past event comes up, it’s a huge deal.. like the return of a bad guy, or something that the hero did in the past that’s coming back to haunt him.
Every important story Johns scribed deals with something that occurred in the past that suddenly matters for the story arc. There’s little to no explanation as to why this past event suddenly matters nor why it no longer matters at all afterwards (aka – kill off whoever that important character was). His stories seemed to exist in the past rather than the present.
- Parallax was re-defined from a hero-turned-villian who kept the same motivations as he had as a hero to a giant yellow space cockroach. The name Parallax worked originally because it deals with the illusion of movement with stars and planets (a planet can appear to move when the viewer moves as the background changes, but really the planet didn’t move at all, only the perceptions of the viewer). Comic book names tends to reflect something unique about the being has the name: Superman, Batman, Wolverine, The Thing, Invisible Woman, Wonder Woman, etc. With Parallax being redefined, the name no longer worked!
That’s a side issue though. Parallax existing as a fear entity didn’t matter at all before. In order for Geoff Johns to write a story of Hal Jordan becoming a hero again, he had to rewrite the past rather than find a way to work with the present and show how that could progress toward the future. I figure the quality of the story is a different issue (a lot of people liked it). To write it, he had to redefine the past.
- Infinite Crisis redefined Superboy Prime and Alexander Luther from heroes to idiotic villains. In order for Infinite Crisis to work, Alexander Luther had to be changed from a hero to a villain. He was the catalyst behind the entire process. His motivation turned away from what it originally was to having the desire to create the perfect world and would use manipulation and murder to do it. He was the hero who saved the the remaining Earths and helped defeat the Anti-Monitor.
So the reader was supposed to believe Alexander and the rest of the heroes who sacrificed themselves were hanging out in a pseudo-reality which had magical walls with causative-temporal altering properties (which Alexander found/created?) which was paradise. While in paradise, he learned (somehow) that Superman and Lex Luther would always be enemies (despite that he’s not Lex Luther. That guy died on Earth 3). So after this, he decided to trick Superboy Prime to break out of paradise, which caused reality to change (thank goodness the Superman of Earth 2 lost his super-hearing and couldn’t hear what Alexander was doing or that Superboy Prime smashed down walls… oh wait, he didn’t lose it. Superman conveniently didn’t hear it to make the idea work). Oh, and Alexander Luther was so corrupt and evil he killed helpless people to get his way, even though he was a portrayed as a selfless hero originally. Fortunately, all these inconsistencies were easily overlooked as they were introduced as flashbacks or strange explanations to justify actions that appeared inconsistent with what was known about the characters.
- Redefining GL mythos over and over again: the entities, the emotional spectrum, Necron and the Trespasser, Volthoom, Krona causing the death of Sector 666, and so on. Every major story in his entire run required a redefining of the past, sometimes a radical redefining. For anyone who read his entire run of GL, I don’t think anything else is needed.
I could go on and on with more example of how he continued to redefine the past to write stories, but I suspect these should be enough. This doesn’t mean I’m claiming this is all he does. He didn’t do this a lot with Sinestro. A major development in the series, Sinestro becoming a Green Lantern again, was mostly based in present circumstances.
Geoff Johns doesn’t seem to pay attention to his own stories
I’ll admit this is a strange claim as writers should at the very least pay attention to their stories. But consider the following:
- After Infinite Crisis, 52 new universes were created.
- These universes were separate and unique.
- Earth-2 was established to be a continuation of the older Earth-2.All of these three things were the consequence of Infinite Crisis and 52.
- After Flashpoint, the universes were suddenly no longer separate or unique (three of them were somehow linked through a new mysterious woman named Pandora) and combined…. somehow.
- Earth-2 also reset, despite having nothing at all to do with Flashpoint.
- This makes no sense, as the universes were separate entities. They had nothing in common.
- The only way this works is if we ignore what happend in 52 (which Geoff Johns helped write to redefine the entire DC universe).
And then… there’s Nekron. Take a look at the following picture. Take a very, very close look at it.
Hal Jordan SOMEHOW knew how to summon Nekron from beyond the afterlife to do his bidding in Green Lantern 20. So I’m going to ignore how strange that idea is… summoning a hated all power-enemy to do your bidding. I’m ignoring it to point out something else that was established. Black Lanterns are all controlled by Nekron. The moment Nekron shows up, all Black Lanterns fall under his direct control, period. This was established in Green Lantern 18. And before the obvious protest of “Hal Jordan wasn’t really dead” comes up… no. He was dead. He stepped over into the land of the dead. He was completely and totally dead.
So apparently Geoff Johns forgot all about that in Green Lantern 20.
He’s far more focused on “cool moments” than narrative consistency. If something violates or ignores something that happened in the past, that’s fine. That doesn’t matter for his writing as long as it gets a really cool moment out of it. I can’t get behind that, as I expect the writer to at the very least obey the rules he or she sets out. I think that’s a reasonable thing.
Geoff Johns doesn’t understand that Batman is a man
In Infinite Crisis 1, Batman was backhanded by Mongul. This antagonist is powerful enough to knock Superman out… or punch him so hard he’ll go flying hundreds of feet. And this guy backhanded Batman. Batman is just a man. A smart man. A wealthy man. But just a man. A man who was backhanded by a being that can tear a tank apart with his bare hands without breaking a sweat.
There are many instances of things like this whenever Geoff Johns writes Batman. We see Bats in situations where he faces down a threat that would make Superman wet his pants. Batman doesn’t face down these huge threats. He deals with things like the Joker or Two Face. But with Geoff Johns, we see Batman facing down Hal Jordan when Batman thought Hal was probably manipulating all reality to fit his needs (Green Lantern Rebirth 6). If Batman really thought that, he would have relied on heroes who could take on Hal and not put himself in mortal danger.
This is not the way to write Batman. It is a way to write Batman getting killed.
I wanted to share my thoughts on Geoff Johns, now that he is done writing Green Lantern. I wish him nothing but the best of luck in the future and I am envious that he got to live his childhood dream. I have nothing but respect for the guy on a personal level… but I just don’t care for his writing.
I wish I could have ignored him, but I love reading comics. His fingerprint was everywhere throughout DC for over a decade. It was impossible to avoid his writing in some way… all I can hope for is that other writers will have a chance to step forward and write stories I love.
Note: All images belong to DC comics. I do not make any claim of ownership on any of them.