Johns recently recounted his journey during a spotlight panel at San Diego Comic-Con where he revealed the reason why he left Marvel Comics for DC during a conversation with DC Co-Publisher Dan DiDio. When asked about the exact moment when he realized he was a writer, Johns offered a surprising answer.
“[It was] probably the day that I signed an exclusive at DC,” Johns said. “I was like, ‘Oh I guess my profession is a writer.’ That was a journey too, because… Obviously I love DC. I like Marvel, but I love DC… I love Hulk. If I could buy Hulk from Marvel I’d like to. That would be really cool. I’d do a Hulk movie. Hulk vs. Superman or something… Thor: Ragnarok does look really badass.”
Of course, Marvel would never sell the rights to Hulk to their rivals, though it would be an interesting movie. Johns then continued to chronicle his path.
“I was working for [Superman director Richard] Donner as his assistant and I was writing comics for DC, and Marvel offered me Avengers,” Johns said. “I did write for Marvel for like, a year and a half… it wasn’t a great experience because of the management at the time. Though I love Tom Brevoort, who was my editor, I didn’t love the experience of writing there because it was very different than DC for me, personally. It’s different for everybody… But at the time it wasn’t really for me.”
Johns wasn’t about to throw anyone specific under the bus, but he did include an example of writing Thor’s dialogue being a problem for him. He got a gig writing The Avengers, and DC came with an offer.
“The day I got The Avengers, and they announced it, DC called me and said ‘Hey will you sign an exclusive?’ And I said ‘I just got announced on Avengers, I can’t sign an exclusive!’” Johns said. “But about a year later… I loved working with Dan [DiDio] and everybody at DC, and my heart’s at DC, it just is. And so the day I signed the DC contract… it gave me some security that for the next number of years I would be writing full-time for DC. And that’s when I really felt like my profession was a writer.”
Johns went on to heap more praise on the co-publisher.
“Again I give a lot of credit to you, Dan,” Johns added. “Because I wouldn’t have signed at DC if you weren’t there. You were the one that made me want to sign at DC. I could’ve been at Marvel. If you hadn’t come to DC, I probably would have stayed freelance.”
Johns had a hand in revitalizing many properties at DC Comics, including the Justice Society of America, Teen Titans, Green Lantern, the Flash, and Aquaman. He wrote nearly every issue of the Justice League during the New 52, and now he’s incorporating the Watchmen into the DC universe with Rebirth and Doomsday Clock.
It goes without saying that his name has since become synonymous with DC Comics, but it might not have happened without a stint at the House of Ideas.