Interview: Geoff Johns Says Goodbye To ‘Green Lantern’

This week, Geoff Johns wraps up his decade-long run on DC’s “Green Lantern,” with the double-sized “Green Lantern” #20. We got an opportunity to ask Johns a few questions as he says farewell to the Lantern Corps, and prepares to shift his focus to other corners of the DC Universe.

MTV Geek: This Wednesday, your final issue of “Green Lantern” is published. With something that’s been a part of your life for so long, and as someone who determines the larger artistic direction of the DCU, what made you say “this is my time to step aside”?

Geoff Johns: Well, as I was writing, the story grew organically, and led me there. I was looking at what I had, at the plans I’d made, and when I realized that it was gonna culminate with them taking on this power, working together, Hal Jordan sacrificing himself to save everyone once again, and Sinestro stepping up… It just felt like a culmination of everything we started with rebirth and led up ’til now. And it felt like the time was right. I realized, this is the storyline to go out on, this will cap off the storyline and the relationship between Hal and Sinestro, and leave us in the right place.

Geek: In your “Green Lantern” run, you’ve always done a good job balancing huge, universe-altering stories, with smaller stories about people and emotions. Were there times where you felt a smaller story needed to expand and become more of an event?

Johns: Anytime you’re doing a huge story that involves universe expanding, you always need to remember who it’s about. And you need to maintain the balance between the spectacle and the characters at the core of it. I wanted to make it so you got to know Hal and Sinestro more, you cared about them, and what happened to them… For me, a lot the trick is working w/ artists who can really pull it off, the Gary Franks and Doug Mahnkes, the people who can make you believe in these characters. When you have those guys working with you, it just works.

In my Shazam stories, for example, there’s a lot of action but really, it’s all about Billy and his friends: the kids and the characters and the relationships. When there’s a story that’s just action and devoid of emotion, it doesn’t pull you in, and doesn’t keep you reading. Then it’s just noise. I mean, you’ve seen those movies where it’s all just action and explosions and you just don’t care. If it’s going to work for me, it always needs to come down to the characters.

Green Lantern #20

Geek: When you started work on this book, the Green Lanterns were pretty much the only show in town – now there’s a rainbow of lanterns, and a vastly different cosmic status quo. As not only a writer, but also one of the guiding lights of the DCU, how do you balance the goal of telling the stories you want to tell, while leaving a bigger, better toybox for everyone else? How much of it is wanting to put an exclamation point at the end of your run, and how much is leaving the next guy with what you wish you’d had coming in?

Johns: Well, for me, I looked at the story said this is the story that I want to tell. I think we’ve done a lot to create possibilities, and I hope I left a lot of characters and concepts on the table that the people coming in can explore, build off of, and take in their own directions. There’s now a family of “Lantern” titles, and for me, it’s a thrill to see these guys, Robert [Vendetti], Keith Giffen, and all the rest taking it on.

Geek: You are the person who has defined the GLs for, well, a generation of readers. It’s a daunting task for anyone to follow in those footsteps. Speaking as the Chief Creative Officer of DC, what advice would you give to the incoming writers?

Johns: Stay true to the core, but build off the foundation. Back when I took over “Teen Titans,” Marv Wolfman gave me the same advice, and he was the guy who had done a huge run on that book, and really built those characters into what they were… Really, you just need to look at the characters, figure out who they are and what they’re about, and build the story on them. I believe that these characters have a core, and you need to keep that in mind and find what you want to say about them. With this book, with “Green Lantern,” it can’t just be about space cops. It needs the people that make it what it is.

Geek: Looking ahead, is there one particular thing that’s exciting you in your upcoming work slate, and how would you pitch it to our readers, and get them as hyped to read it as you are to work on it?

Johns: The next project that I’m working on, after all this, it hasn’t even been announced yet… And I can’t really say too much about it yet. But it’s in a real sweet spot for me, and builds off everything I’ve done before while taking it in a different direction. I’m really excited. I just turned in the second issue, and I can’t wait for people to get a look at it… I’m having a lot of fun, and I think they’ll like what they see!

“Green Lantern” #20 is out May 22.