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Friday, December 30, 2011

The Aquaman Shrine's Best of 2011: Interview with Geoff Johns!

This interview with comics superstar Geoff Johns was important to the Shrine for several reasons, some more obvious than others.

First, it was our first (and hopefully not last) talk with Johns, who has done more for the Sea King's presence in the DCU than any other writer in the past quarter-century, maybe more. Second, it garnered the Shrine a whole lot of new fans. And Third, it was the first time DC Comics acknowledged what we were doing here in some sort of substantial, formal way: it was they who initiated and arranged the interview, signaling to us that they recognized all the work we'd been doing in regards to Aquaman.

So here's our talk with Johns, which originally ran on October 26

The Aquaman Shrine is very excited to present an interview with the one and only Geoff Johns--who, as every single person reading this knows, is currently writing Aquaman and Justice League, among other DC titles!

DC Comics itself played matchmaker for this interview, and gave me the chance to briefly chat with Geoff on the phone the other day. As you might expect, we talked about Aquaman...

Aquaman Shrine: Thanks for doing this, Geoff. I've wanted to talk to you about Aquaman ever since you talked about how much you loved the character on the audio commentary track you did for Challenge of the Super Friends.

Geoff Johns: [laughs] Yeah, I guess I always have.

AMS: And of course you've only become much more important to the character since. I want to talk about the new book and Justice League, of course, but I first wanted to ask: why Aquaman?

GJ: I don't know, I think--I don't know what kid doesn't like to play Aquaman in the swimming pool or lake. Aquaman always appealed to me as a character--I think the world of the ocean is really interesting and fascinating, I've always liked the those unsolved mysteries--Atlantis, the Loch Ness Monster, things like that--and I always thought that the character was an underrated superhero. I really got to love the character when Peter David wrote him even more. The character just appeals to me on a number of different levels--from a storytelling level to a conceptual level to just probably a world level.

AMS: You mentioned Peter David, and I was going to ask--do you have some favorite Aquaman runs? Is David's your favorite era of the character?
GJ: It's certainly the run that I grew up reading and I really got into it--it was the first Aquaman book that I bought regularly, because he didn't have a lot of titles when I first started buying comics. I've liked the character even in supporting roles in a lot of stuff, but that's the only Aquaman title that I read consistently.

AMS: Okay, now you're writing Aquaman both in his own book and in Justice League, which of course takes place five years in the past. In your mind, is there a sense of writing him differently in each of those books?
GJ: Yeah, certainly--he'll be written the same in both titles once Justice League is no longer five years in the past. But, in the past, Aquaman is--I don't want to say defensive, but he's a little more aggressive, a little more trying to prove himself and now, when we pick him up five years later, he knows exactly who he is, exactly what he wants, and doesn't care what anyone else says about him, he just does what's right, what he thinks is right.

And he's a guy whose life is all about making those hard decisions--he's been born with a responsibility he didn't ask for, but he shoulders nonetheless. He doesn't complain about it, he just does it. For me, its a really inspiring character trait, and you can't help but respect the guy and I love that he doesn't care what anyone else thinks, it just rolls off his back like water.

AMS: [laughs] Yeah, like he did in the diner.

GJ: Yeah, yeah.

AMS: One of the things I took away from you writing Aquaman in Blackest Night, then Brightest Day, and of course in the new book, was that the character is sort of being brought back to prominence in and out of the DCU, restoring him to the level of the other big characters.

GJ: One of the things I remember was talking to Dan [Didio] about, really early on, was--I knew we were going to do an Aquaman series at some point in the future, but before we did all that was something I really wanted to do was build up Aquaman prior to him having a series, and that started with Mera in Blackest Night.

Mera was a character that was kind of off to the side, but I thought was fairly well known and had a lot of potential that had yet to be tapped and that was really exciting to explore. So putting her center stage even before Aquaman was back, and having her--she really did break out in Blackest Night, it was great--

AMS: Absolutely.
GJ: People started to gravitate towards the character, and understand the character, and appreciate the character, and have her grow and change, and really stand on her own was really important for me, because I wanted to introduce her as her own character before we brought Aquaman back and I think it just makes Aquaman stronger to see another character like that in his world.

So that was that, and making them obviously prominent in Brightest Day, and I think far and away the most successful storyline that was in Brightest Day was really that Aquaman storyline, and I think Ivan, Joe and I building off of that and now doing another take, in a monthly book.

AMS: I was going to say, when Blackest Night was happening, people coming to the Shrine, saying "Wow, this Mera character is great!" You single-handedly put her--maybe not back on the A-list, but on the A-list of DC's female characters. I wouldn't have been that surprised, at the time, if Mera had come out of that with her own series.

GJ: Yeah, I was really happy with the response to her in that title.

AMS: Yeah, you had people going to conventions in Mera cosplay. You never saw that before.
GJ: Yeah, that's my hope--you can kinda tell by the comic con crowd what kind of characters resonate. There's still tons of Green Lanterns out there, all sorts of stuff, but I saw Aquaman and Mera at the New York Comic Con. The more Aquaman shirts, the more stuff you see, you can kinda gauge the success of the character. It goes well beyond the book, but the book hopefully triggers that passion and one of things I was really proud about with Aquaman was, a lot of people who didn't know the character, or had no opinion--or maybe not a great opinion--saw something different when they read that book. And of course Ivan and Joe bring a visual to that title like no one ever has.

AMS: What has it been like working with Ivan and Joe and Rod? They've been great with us, we met them at the New York Comic Con. What's it been like working with them on the new book?

GJ: Oh, it's been great. If you look at it, we've been working with Aquaman and Mera and the characters since Blackest Night. So we did Blackest Night together, we did Brightest Day together, and now we're working on Aquaman together, so we've been in this world, and we've been talking about our passion and love for Aquaman, and what happens with this title, is that it kicks it up a notch, in that we can focus solely on him and the world around him, and really get into it.

He's been prominent in a couple of high-profile events for DC like Blackest Night and Brightest Day, and now coming off of that, tied into the New 52 more importantly, its become a great entry point, a great starting point, for us to hit the ground running with Aquaman #1.

Its great--Joe and Ivan bring such as much love and passion to comic books and the art form as anybody, to work with them, and to have a character like Aquaman get this kind of treatment, that shows how popular Aquaman is, that these guys want to spend their time and their life working on the character.

AMS: Yeah! I was thrilled to see Aquaman was one of the top-selling New 52 books.

GJ: Yeah, I think it surprised a lot of people, in-house and out. It did over 100,000, and I know it seemed to get a good response, so we hope the book will find an audience.

AMS: In your mind, whether you plan to state it in the book or not, do you have a timeline for Aquaman, in that you've decided what previous stories are in the history of this Aquaman?

GJ: I won't be delving into his past too much in the beginning; that's why we're introducing The Trench, we have a couple new supporting characters we're going to be introducing, one from the past in issue three, and in the stories we're telling, we're really going to try and move it forward, and not look backward too much. Those other stories that happened have happened, but we're not going to get into the history right now.

I hate to state in interviews what's going to happen before doing it in the comics.

AMS: Oh, sure. I've read interviews with you before where people want to know what's going to happen, and I don't! I just want to read it in the comics, read it as it unfolds.
GJ: One of the things I hope that happens is whether you've read every Aquaman comic or never read an Aquaman comic book, that this book is very accessible and enjoyable for anybody. The whole point of this book and particularly with issue #1 was we wanted to create a book--a lot of people have heard of Aquaman, and its available digitally and in comic stores, we hoped people would come in, and they're going to buy the Batmans and the Green Lanterns and the Supermans and stuff, but we were hoping some people would see Aquaman and go "Oh, I've never read an Aquaman before" or "I didn't even realize he had his own book, let me check this out", and there would be something in the first issue that would hook them, and get them to give the book and the character a try.

AMS: One last thing--is there anything in particular you want to mention to the Aquaman fans, since the Shrine is where they are the most centrally located? Anything we should be looking out for?

GJ: We're going to be adding a lot of new characters, a lot of new villains, we're going to be doing a new take on Atlantis, but I am going to be using some of the classic Aquaman villains. Eventually you will see Black Manta and Ocean Master of course, but we're going to revamping a pretty obscure Aquaman villain and they can try and guess who that's going to be!
AMS: [laughs]

GJ: Revamping a la Black Hand, you know we made Black Hand a really big character in the Green Lantern titles, and hopefully this character will have as much importance to Aquaman and his world.

AMS: Well, Geoff, thanks for doing this, and thanks for all you've done for Aquaman. You've really, you know, turned it around for him!

GJ: Well, thanks--hopefully we've have a really long...our hope is to have a really long, good run on Aquaman.

The Aquaman Shrine is thrilled we finally got to talk to Geoff Johns, who has done more for the Sea King and Mera than probably any single writer since...well, ever! Also thanks to DC Comics itself, for reaching out to us and giving us a chance to talk to Geoff. We've said it before, we'll say it again: Aquaman couldn't be in better hands right now.


Tempest127 said...

*shrugs* Congrats on the interview, Rob. Johns and DiDio have trashed everything I've ever read "Aquaman" for, so there's nothing he can say to win me over, really. Still, you handled the questioning well, making it worth a read.

Simone said...

This was a great interview! :D I for one am completely stoked about the direction Geoff Johns is taking Aquaman in. I've been an Aqua-fan for a little while, but it's only until now that I've been able to read issues from an Aquaman book that is currently running.

And this time around, Aquaman is definitely much more relatable to me now than he was in the older issues I've read. Being a 22 year-old California girl, I certainly can't relate to a grisly king of Atlantis who is encumbered by the burden of ruling a kingdom. But I sure as hell know what it's like to be an underdog, and I also know what it's like to love the ocean and want to fight for what's right.

I don't know if a single reader like me can make much of a difference in the big numbers of it all, but I plan on buying and reading every single Geoff Johns Aquaman book that happens to make its way from the printing press to my local comic book store, and that's a fact. ;)