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Thursday, January 20, 2011 

If Geoff Johns thought there was potential in the Rainbow Raider, he wouldn't have killed him off

I found this old interview with Johns on the AV Club from 2005, where he suggested he'd erred by killing off the Rainbow Raider, though there's reasons why I find it a very weak admittance of error, assuming he really means it:
AVC: You did a lot, particularly with the Flash Rogues, by putting a new spin on old characters. Are there any old characters you think are incapable of being revived for the modern age?

GJ: As soon as I mention a name, someone will do a great job with it next month. I think it's like, whoever gravitates to certain characters... If they're really into that character and they have passion for it, you're going to get a great character no matter who it is. I think any character has potential. There are certain characters I don't have a huge affinity for... Like Rainbow Raider, I never really understood. But that doesn't mean someone can't make him interesting.
Except that, in Johns' case, he couldn't make the other Rogues interesting either. Not for long anyway. All he could do was darken their backgrounds more than need be (and I'll never forget that confusing, laughable background he gave to Heatwave, where he made Mick Rory seem like he frequently wore winter clothes before he got locked in that freezer). But if he really thinks someone could make Roy Bivolo interesting as a villain, why did he kill him off back in 2002? Come to think of it, why did he even bother to feature him? I have a simple idea why: because it all fit into his plan of ridiculous self-referential nostalgia cameos that add little or nothing to the stories.

I think that, if he really wanted to, he could've resisted the urge to kill off any characters he'd worked with. He could even have refrained from subjecting Linda Park West to such nasty mayhem at the hands of his weak take on Zoom. Why, in fact, he could've kept Wally West as the main Scarlet Speedster too, saved a lot of trouble, and avoided dividing the fanbase. And if the editors wouldn't make it easy, well gee, he could've either stood up to them, or he didn't need to stick around with such insular people.

Johns' biggest problem here, however, is his failure to explain why he toes the line example set for many years now of putting to death any character they can't think of a great way to write, nor why it must be done or else. This is just one of the problems that's terminating mainstream comics, yet he can't even explain it himself, nor why he's followed this example himself. Nor does he explain why he's been willing to go along with any writer/editor who kills off decent supporting cast characters, the really serious problem with DC today.

The ending of the interview is also worth noting:
AVC: Do you think comics are poised to recapture some of the readership they lost in the '90s?

GJ: They've been doing better in the last three or four years. Comic sales are up. They say trades are up. I have never seen numbers, but I don't know why they would ever not be truthful about it. Comics are certainly more in the mainstream audience... I think it's still a shame that we don't see them in grocery stores, where I used to buy them. I think there's material for everybody. Kids are just going to have to buy comics by accident unless someone knows an adult that will take them to a comic shop. I think if a dad says to a kid, "Hey, let's go to the comic shop, and here you can read the same comics I do!"... If a kid's 13, I don' t know if he's necessarily going to want to read what dad does.
Does he still feel that way, now that sales have plummeted so drastically, thanks in part to his own habit of going overboard? And does he realize that his writing style is so jarringly violent on the Flash and even Green Lantern that few parents would want their children reading his work?

Worst of all, he gave away via the highlighted line that he didn't have the courage to research and cite any sales numbers, and sure wasn't being very truthful himself if he couldn't admit that comics sales have long ceased to sell in the millions, one way of telling that reality is not what he describes.

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  • I'm Avi Green
  • From Jerusalem, Israel
  • I was born in Pennsylvania in 1974, and moved to Israel in 1983. I also enjoyed reading a lot of comics when I was young, the first being Fantastic Four. I maintain a strong belief in the public's right to knowledge and accuracy in facts. I like to think of myself as a conservative-style version of Clark Kent. I don't expect to be perfect at the job, but I do my best.
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