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Saturday, May 11, 2013 

Geoff Johns sounds like J. Michael Stracynski

Johns recently spoke with the LA Weekly about his work, sugarcoating everything along with the paper as usual. For example, he said about Green Lantern:
The premise of the "emotional spectrum" is simple, as Johns explains it. You have Green Lanterns. They're identified by a color and are the embodiment of "power and courage." So, why not have other Lanterns who were also identified by colors and emotions? John gives a brief breakdown. There are the Red Lanterns, "people and beings who lost somebody, who were driven by revenge." There are Blue Lanterns. They are motivated by "faith and hope" and live by the motto "All could be well."

"It wasn't the colors that made them different," says Johns, "but the emotions that they were driven by."
Nope. It was the colors, which were little more than a meaningless attempt by Johns to turn the whole series into a rainbow spectacle that wasn't very character-driven, so much as it was a form of self-referential nostalgia without being very inventive. The nadir was the red lanterns with their belching, something absent from the interview.
"I like world building," Johns says. Particularly, he likes taking characters who may have fallen by the wayside in the DC Universe and injecting new life into them. He's done that with characters like Hawkman, Shazam, Booster Gold and Aquaman.

"There's a reason the character connected with an audience before," Johns says. "I like trying to find out what was that then and what's the version of that today. If the character resonated with people before, that means that they can do it again."
He also likes taking worlds apart - shades of Grant Morrison - and putting them back together as he sees fit. What they don't mention here is that after he leaves some of the books he was helming, they went downhill and lost more audience than they had to begin with. Teen Titans was a telling example. Bad enough when it began, and worse when Sean McKeever took over and launched an assault on the new variants on Wendy and Marv from the Superfriends cartoon. It made no difference if Wendy survived, since she still ended up parapelegic, and that too hit a dead end. Even Hawkman lost direction mighty fast in the years after Johns left, and when Rob Liefeld took over the title, you know something's gone wrong.

This is also where Johns comes off sounding reminiscent of J. Michael Stracynski when he was writing Spider-Man. JMS said at the time he wanted to "get inside Peter's head" and find out what makes him Spidey, but in the end, all he did was exploit ASM as a tedious platform for his political bent. Johns' problem was ostensibly setting up potential for character drama, but abandoning it very quickly, or as in the case of Hal Jordan, making it so preposterous (Hal is so bitter over the death of his father he refuses to enjoy the best parts of his life) that in the end, it's got no real impact.
He continues, "The best characters are relatable. They don't have to be relatable in a literal sense where they have a problem with a job. The things that they experience and the things that they go up against have to reflect upon us emotionally. It doesn't have to be timely. It's nice when it's timely, but it has to be emotional."
And if only it worked with him at the helm, but no. And what does he mean by "best"? Any character can be "best" so long as the writer does a good job, which he didn't when he injected his repellant visuals into the script. Funny how writers like him bring up subjects like these, yet it doesn't reflect very well in their finished story drafts. His take on Wonder Woman is particularly weak, as seen in JLA, where he reduced her to Superman's new girlfriend, rather than her own protagonist.

Another thing Johns shares in common with JMS is that he's got a built-in audience that follows him on a title, and can abandon it after he leaves, which is hardly an accomplishment.

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The Red Lanterns were driven by rage and revenge, while the Blue Lanterns were motivated by hope for peace. And in the Astro Boy movie, the Peacekeeper went berserk because it got infused with bad Red energy instead of good Blue energy. Do you think those were intentional allegories for Red and Blue states? Or am I just a right-wing paranoid looking for commie spies behind every bush?

That's an interesting point, I wonder why I never thought of it before. It could be an early example of Johns injecting his political standings into his writing, and he is more or less a leftist himself.

Red's sort of the natural color for rage ("seeing red"). Suspect it's going a bit far to attribute political motives there. It's more like lack of creativity.

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