SDCC 2018: Geoff Johns Spotlight Panel

(Photo: Russ Burlingame)

Today at Comic Con International in San Diego, superstar writer/producer Geoff Johns sat with DC co-publisher Dan DiDio at a Geoff Johns Spotlight Panel to look at the past, present, and future for Johns and DC.

"Half of my day is the same," Johns said of his recent title change. "Half of my day was writing and producing. The difference is that the other half of the day is writing and producing."

Johns, of course, was instrumental in creating Titans for the DC Universe streaming service, so the pair dimmed the lights and screened the trailer released earlier today.

Johns said that he wanted to honor the envelope-pushing Marv Wolfman/George Perez run, and that he wanted to celebrate characters who had shaped the property over the years.

"There's a lot of other characters in it, Donna Troy and Jason Todd, it's the whole Titans universe," Johns said.

When he was pitching the comics, "I pitched [Dan DiDio] the Superboy/Lex Luthor thing -- which we'll get to eventually," he said later.

Johns acknowledged that the language and attitude of the show will be controversial.

"I cant wait for you to see how deep we go into the DC Universe and the Titans Universe, especially in this first season," Johns said.

Johns announced Stargirl, based on the first character he created for DC. The series will center on Courtney Whitmore, whose mother remarries Pat Dugan. They move to Blue Valley, Nebraska, where Courtney learns that Pat was a member of the Justice Society when he was younger. Stealing his stuff for a joyride, she becomes Stargirl.

"This is the kind of opportunity that I couldn't have had if I had stayed in [the Chief creative officer] role," Johns admitted. "I always wanted to do this. I always loved comics and I always loved TV and film, and I always wanted to blend the two."

When Johns first met DiDio, who was working at an animation studio, he pitched him Stars and STRIPE, along with Kevin Feige, who had worked for Richard Donner at the time.

Johns said that he is approaching Stargirl the same way Donner approached Superman: The Movie and he approached Wonder Woman 1 and 2, and that the show will tonally be similar to those.

Talking about Shazam!, Johns said that he feels like there are so few major characters left who have not been mined and reinvented and expanded out, and that Shazam is one of them.

Geoff Johns and Dale Eaglesham will launch Shazam #1 on November 21.

"There's very few superhero teams that can ride a roller coaster like that," Johns joked of a promotional image released at the panel.

"It will really continue the story that Gary Frank and I did in New 52, and we'll be visiting a lot of worlds," he said, comparing it to The Phantom Tollbooth, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and Harry Potter.

Johns said he likens Shazam to "if Roald Dahl wrote a superhero."

Johns thanked the audience for checking out Doomsday Clock.

"It takes me five times as long to write this as any other comic that I've written and it takes him just as long to draw it," Johns said. He showed off some pages from an upcoming issue.

"If you're going to do something as insane and daring as tapping into Watchmen for a story, I only wanted to do it if we had a great story," he said.

Black Adam is providing superhero amnesty to meta humans who want it, and the politics of that will play against the emotional, personal story of the origin of the Mime and the Marionette in the next issue.

In the world of Watchmen, there are fewer supervillains, so the Mime and the Marionette are excited to see a meeting of villains.

"To be honest, the backmatter stuff -- and I know there's a lot of you who skip it -- some of it I know right away and then some of it, I write the whole issue and then I know 'okay, that's the backmatter,'" Johns said. "There's this one super-obscure character in #6 who gets to be the anchor of six pages of backmatter. I got lost in the backstory and suddenly I wanted to write a whole series on this guy."

"Doomsday Clock has changed how I approach comics," Johns admitted. "I have a really hard time clicking back into doing a comic with two-page spreads and guys throwing around tanks and stuff like that. I want Shazam! to be very very different from Doomsday Clock but be as deep and interesting and emotional as Doomsday Clock but in its own way."

Johns said he sometimes looks back at his old work and thinks that he would do things differently now, but he never wishes had had it to do over again.

"You learn from the stories that don't work," he said. "You learn from all of that and try to apply it to the next thing."

Johns and Jason Fabok will do a three, 46-page prestige format issues of Three Jokers.

"This story is focused on — and I don't want to spoil it too much — but it's not focused on other dimensions or alternate earths or whatever, but it focuses on the origins of the Joker and Bruce's realization that there's more than one operating."

The series, which will be published under DC Black Label, will center on Batman, Barbara Gordon, and Jason Todd. Johns hopes that it will be released in the winter.

"This story is exactly the same," Johns said. "I pitched it a year ago and it's exactly the same down to the panel and the dialogue."

The story is about what The Joker wants.

"It's all about scars and healing wrong and healing right and pain," Johns said. "If I could tell one Joker story, this is the one I would tell."

The series "will create a relationship between Bruce and The Joker that is completely different than the one they have now."

Johns called James Wan's Black Manta "perfect" and said the trailers will blow people's minds.

There are distinctions between the three Jokers that define them as different characters but "that might just be in my head," Johns said. "There's this really fun scene where Joker drives this truck. He goes to the woods and there's a cabin with a light on, and he knocks on the door and there's a Joker standing there wearing a Hawaiian shirt, and The Joker says, 'That's my shirt.'"

Johns has an as-yet-unannounced project in the pipeline, and Johns's "The Killing Zone" banner will provide him space for new projects.

"What my next project is, I wanted to challenge myself again," he said. "I've got a banner of a bunch of different books and basically they form one big tapestry even though they're all different titles. IT's stories that take place from the 1940s to the 2040s. There will be characters in there — some characters who haven't been at the forefront of DC for decades and then a lot of new characters, too." The series will be out in May 2019.

"Every character that has their own book [in Killing Zone] I don't think I've written them ever," Johns said. "Like with Doomsday Clock, I think I wanted to channel what my frustration with the political climate in America. With this, the idea for it sparked when I was in Washington DC and they drove by the White House and someone said 'I can't stand to look at the White House.' I was like, 'Why? The White House is the White House and the American flag is about the American flag.'" He said he wants to take America back from being a political pawn.

Johns told DiDio that he wanted the absolute worst characters who DiDio had never been pitched, and couldn't get anyone to take.


"It's a very important story to me personally," Johns said. "It's going to be a big story, individual stories but playing into one big tapestry."

He said he would also be developing the Killing Zone stuff for film and TV as well.