To every modern comic book fan, the mere mention of Geoff Johns’ name in a cover usually means a great story is on the way. Johns is a wunderkind. Among comic book creators, he’s a once-in-a-generation talent.
Johns is an alchemist. He’s a master storyteller that weaves his plot with alchemical precision. Every storyline he touches becomes gold, and it’s hard not to love his body of work.
Young Geoff Johns: Growing Up With Comics
Geoff Johns is a native of Detroit, growing up in Grosse Pointe and Clarkston. In his childhood, he discovered his love of comic books with comics from his grandmother’s attic. He grew up on the Silver Age of Comics, with stories of Superman, Flash, and Green Lantern.
A young Johns started collecting comic books, his first being The Flash #348/9 and Crisis on Infinite Earths #3 or 4. Johns’ collection moved towards DC Comics and Vertigo, which eventually led to him drawing comics.
Getting His Mentors and Inspirations
Geoff’s career started with an internship in Richard Donner’s office, working directly under the director-producer. He regards Donner as his mentor, who taught him the ropes of good storytelling and plot.
Geoff then visited New York while working under production, where he met many DC Comics staff. Eddie Berganza, then editor for DC Comics, showed him around and gave him a chance for inputs.
Johns pitched Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E. to Chuck Kim. He further met David Goyer and James Robinson, at the time handling JSA. Once Robinson saw his Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E., he got co-writer duties for JSA in 2000.
Mike Carlin and Robinson helped him get his stride in the comic book industry. He started handling The Flash from issue #164, finishing his run with issue #225.
From here, Johns started his spree of classic DC storylines. These include Infinite Crisis, Blackest Night, Sinestro Corps War, and Doomsday Clock.
How Johns Writes His Stories
Geoff Johns is one of the most premiere comic book writers of the modern times. He’s a master of good solid character stories, revitalizing characters through condensation.
To recreate a character who likely has a ton of lore to them, Johns likes to condense details of a story into a core idea. Once he has the core idea, he recreates the mythology around them.
To make his stories more lifelike and realistic, he adds elements of his own life into his stories.
“When I wrote ‘The Flash,’ I turned Keystone City into Detroit, made it a car town,” he said in an interview. “I make a lot of my characters from Detroit. I think self-made, blue-collar heroes represent Detroit. Wally West flash was like that. I took the inspiration of the city and the people there and used it in the books.”
Geoff Johns also likes to sprinkle elements of light in his darker storylines. Much like a big detective story, he offers deep mysteries. He makes his readers ask questions and ties them up in the middle.
The Magic of Geoff Johns
Geoff Johns is a lightning rod. His stories are there to inspire and make people fall in love with the heroes they grew up to believe in. There’s always a theme to a Geoff Johns story.
Geoff took a little of everyone’s influence to create something beautiful for himself. He has a little bit of David Goyer in him, maybe some of Robinson’s. Even then, love for the heroes he writes shows his stories are all about the child in him.
Blackest Night #0 – #8 – Powerful story that encapsulates what Geoff Johns is all about
Doomsday Clock – Controversial storyline but a masterpiece nonetheless
DC Universe: Rebirth – Easy to digest story from Johns that ends the New 52 Initiative
Metro Detroit native Geoff Johns talks DCnU – Eric Henrickson, August 30 2011, The Detroit News (archived)
THE GEOFF JOHNS LITERALISM METHOD: A PRIMER – David Uzumeri, November 17 2011, Comics Alliance
WonderCon 2010 Special Guest Spotlight – 2010, San Diego Comic Con (archive)
Geoff Johns – Wikipedia