It seems that the DC Extended Universe has found its north star -- and he was right there in front of them the whole time.
That would be Geoff Johns, DC's Chief Creative Officer and a longtime veteran of the comics industry who has stepped forward to take point on movies like Wonder Woman, Aquaman, and Green Lantern Corps.
Johns once said that the DC movies needed "heart, humor, and heroics" to succeed -- a philosophy that seemed to mirror "heart, humor and spectacle," long said to be the three pillars of The CW's The Flash.
Those characteristics were all in ample supply on Wonder Woman, a film Johns co-wrote with Allan Heinberg.
When Johns took over, Wonder Woman hadn't yet started production, making it the first film Johns worked on from start to finish, in this new role.
"Geoff Johns is one of our Executive Producers, and he's of course writing on this film," said Curt Kanemoto, VP of production for Atlas Entertainment, during production. "He's been an amazing part of the core team, along with Chuck [Roven] and Debbie [Snyder] and Zack [Snyder] as producers in the core team, along with Jon Berg. He's bringing out all of the treasures in the DC chest, of just going a little bit deeper than we have. It's something you can follow up with him on, with Chuck, just in terms of Geoff's involvement with all of DC."
There were some fans and critics who were skeptical of the decision to give Johns such a key role, considering that he was better known for comics than live-action media and the fact that he was associated with the failed Green Lantern film.
Still, there are plenty of reasons to be confident in Johns's ability to build a DC Universe onscreen...
His screen history
Before coming to comics, Johns began his career in Hollywood -- working under industry legend Richard Donner.
Johns cold-called Donner's office, hoping to get an assistant, but through a hard-to-believe comedy of errors ended up talking to Donner himself, who seemingly asked someone to get Johns...maybe just to get him off the phone!
Either way, Johns worked on the 1997 film Conspiracy Theory, and it was during his work on that film that he became acquainted with DC Comics staff.
As Johns became one of the biggest names in comic books, he would continue to periodically work in film and TV, writing episodes of Smallville, Arrow, and The Flash.
All in all, while Johns is an icon in comics, he's no slouch in Hollywood, either -- and if the DCEU fulfills its promise to become a massive critical and commercial success under Johns, that success would mirror that of his longtime friend and fellow Donner apprentice Kevin Feige at Marvel.prevnext
His "underdog" heroes
It has been said that Marvel Comics is the home of the "underdog" superhero, and certainly when you look at characters like Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman, it is easy to see why DC tends to take a larger-than-life, mythological approach to its storytelling rather than the approachable, relatable Marvel heroes.
That said, Johns has had success in the comics by bringing the Marvel formula to bear in the DC Universe -- and he has done so in part by simply recognizing potential in characters.
During his career, Johns has made best-sellers out of Green Lantern, Hawkman, the Justice Society, and Aquaman. These are characters whose modern history is rife with relaunches, reinventions, retcons and other storytelling devices designed to "fix" a "broken" character.
In most cases, such "fixes" tend to be short-term and only result in weakening the foundation of the character, muddying the waters of their high concept and alienating long-term fans. In Johns's case, he finds ways to strengthen the characters' foundation, build on it, and for the most part, please fans new and old.
In short, Johns has a history with second- and third-tier characters: he makes them A-listers basically by strength of will and a solid high concept.
A skillset like that really plays to the strengths of film, where one or two great MOMENTS can sell a character as a fan-favorite. Think about Wonder Woman's introduction in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
Now, apply that approach to a character like Aquaman (we have already seen some aspects of it in the Justice League trailers) or even Booster Gold (another character Johns reinvigorated in the comics by simply rediscovering what already worked).prevnext
While the monologues about love and hope might have felt a little on the nose in Wonder Woman, the film's themes being so positive and uplifting were certainly a tonal shift from the doom and gloom of Zack Snyder's Superman films.
Even if you like those movies, an increasingly angry and polarizing world outside your window can make it difficult to get excited about superhero movies that accurately represent an angry, hopeless world.
Johns has long made hope and love cornerstones of his storytelling -- so much so that they are two of the concepts embodied by the "emotional spectrum" he created during his celebrated Green Lantern run. Blue Lanterns and Star Sapphires actually appear in the recently-updated DC films opening.0comments
That's right: love and hope are literally onscreen (along with, yes, willpower and fear and rage, but still -- onscreen!) every time a DC movie starts from now on.
That's a bit of a statement in and of itself, isn't it?prev