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 Geoff Johns Discusses Brightest Day The Blackest Night architect takes a first look at what's after his epic 2009 event. by Dan Phillips

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PostSubject: Geoff Johns Discusses Brightest Day The Blackest Night architect takes a first look at what's after his epic 2009 event. by Dan Phillips   Tue Apr 06, 2010 4:45 am

January 11, 2010 - Brace yourselves for 2010, DC fans. You thought you were about to get control of your purchases this year? Think again. Earlier today DC Comics announced that Blackest Night would be followed by Brightest Day, a storyline direction that would manifest itself in two primary ways. The first is a bi-weekly "maxi-series" carrying the Brightest Day name. The second is through a variety of branded books, including Green Lantern, Green Lantern Corps and The Flash.

Geoff Johns, of course, will be watching over everything related to Brightest Day, just as he did with Blackest Night. The Green Lantern architect will be writing Brightest Day with GLC writer Pete Tomasi, and will, of course, remain on Green Lantern and The Flash. Want more details and perspective? Of course you do. We tracked down Johns for an exclusive first interview on Brightest Day as well as some updates on Blackest Night. Johns didn't want to get too far into plot details - he doesn't want to spoil the final months of Blackest Night - but the conversation should prove informative nonetheless.

IGN Comics: Let's jump right into it: can you give us the lowdown on Brightest Day?

Johns: Brightest Day is a twenty-six issue, year-long, bi-weekly series written by me and Peter Tomasi. It grows directly out of Blackest Night.

IGN Comics: On The Source blog, Dan DiDio and Alex Segura referred to the series as DCU: Rebirth. A number of unexpected characters have enjoyed a more prominent role in Blackest Night than they have in years. Even if they've met with a grizzly fate along the way, heroes like Hawkman and Hawkgirl, Firestorm, and Aquaman have all had the chance to shine, and one can argue that others like Ray Palmer, Mera and Dove have played a larger role than they ever have in a major DCU story. Knowing your knack for revitalizing characters, I think many fans suspected from the get-go that you were positioning certain characters for a big push following Blackest Night. Is Brightest Day the next step in that repositioning or re-imagining?

Johns: Exactly. Brightest Day is the next step in repositioning a lot of characters in the DC Universe and pushing them to the next level. A lot of the main characters we've seen in Blackest Night will continue on to Brightest Day, like Mera and the Atom.

IGN Comics: You've been able to do wonders with folks like Hal Jordan and Barry Allen, introducing them to an audience that might not have been too interested in the characters in the past. I think a large reason you've been so successful with these characters has to do with how much attention and care you've given to them, putting the spotlight on each character and making them the star of their respective stories. How do you plan on doing that with a larger cast?

Johns: Well you don't know how big the cast is yet. The cast isn't crazy big, but it's more akin to 52. If you look at the relationship between Infinite Crisis and 52, Blackest Night and Brightest Day share a similar relationship, though Brightest Day is a very different beast.

IGN Comics: Speaking of 52, are you and Peter Tomasi dividing up scenes similar to how you, Grant, Mark and Greg did on 52, or are you writing everything together?

Johns: It's a lot like 52, but there's a lot more collaboration. It's just me and Pete, so we'll be plotting it all together and scripting certain things together. The two of us will be doing just about everything.

IGN Comics: Can you give us an idea of the story structure? Are you guys dealing with one long narrative, or a series of vignettes?

Johns: It's definitely an epic, year-long story.

IGN Comics: Dan and Alex hinted there are other titles involved in Brightest Day besides the main series. For instance, we know you're upcoming Flash series with Francis Manapul will carry the Brightest Day banner.

Johns: The whole concept behind Brightest Day is that it's an extension of the end result of Blackest Night and where Blackest Night will take the DC Universe. Out of Blackest Night you have the Brightest Day book, which is the anchor of the whole Brightest Day storyline and concept. But there are other books that will carry the Brightest Day banner that thematically and literally tie into what the Brightest Day story is really about. Books like The Flash, Justice League of America and Titans.

IGN Comics: Are you overseeing the coordination between Brightest Day and those other books similarly to how you oversaw the Blackest Night event?

Johns: It's very, very similar to how Blackest Night rolled out, yes. I need to give props to Eddie Berganza and Adam Schlagman, my editors on both Blackest Night and Brightest Day. I've worked with Eddie for years. We worked together on Infinite Crisis and Sinestro Corps War, and that really helped us figure out how to do these bigger stories better and work with a large group of people. They've really been invaluable in Blackest Night, making sure everything ties together. Brightest Day even more so.

IGN Comics: Previously you mentioned going to New York to plan and coordinate the whole event, and it sounds like you'll continue to act in the same capacity on Brightest Day. How has the experience been working on and overseeing such a huge venture? I imagine it's a completely different game than simply working on your own book.

Johns: It's much more intense working on a project like Blackest Night and spearheading Brightest Day. But I love collaboration. I love working with guys like Eddie, Adam, Dan, Pete and all the great artists that are working on these books. So going from Blackest Night to Brightest Day is very organic, and feels like a natural extension of where we've been taking the story and where the DC Universe is going. It's challenging but it's a lot of fun. And I think it's going to be terrific.

IGN Comics: You and Pete have done a tremendous job coordinating Green Lantern and Green Lantern Corps for the past few years right up to Blackest Night, and now more so than ever. What's your working relationship with Pete like? I know he edited you on JSA, but what's your creative dynamic like as writers?

Johns: I've known Pete forever. We talk all the time, and not just about stories and work – he's one of my very best friends in the world. So it's easy. It's two guys throwing out ideas. We do it with Eddie and Adam too. We've had a lot of Brightest Day summits and meetings already where we break down the story and throw ideas around before we go off and write it.

IGN Comics: Again, the term DCU: Rebirth has been used to describe Brightest Day. That said, how much of a Green Lantern story is Brightest Day? Will there be any spill over between Green Lantern, Green Lantern Corps and the bi-weekly series?

Johns: There's a bit, but it is very much a DC Universe story. But Green Lantern and Green Lantern Corps also carry the Brightest Day banner.

IGN Comics: As I understand it, Blackest Night started out as the big finale to the Green Lantern epic you've been telling for the past several years. Along the way, you re-envisioned the story as a DCU tent pole event. At what point in the creative process did you realize you'd be able to use Blackest Night to showcase, reposition and breathe life into certain characters – essentially what would lead to Brightest Day?

Johns: Well Blackest Night was another big story – it wasn't the culmination or the end, but it was the culmination up until this point. And after Sinestro Corps came and I had the concept of Blackest Night, Dan DiDio – give him a lot of credit – said the potential of this is amazing, and it could have as big an impact on the DC Universe as I wanted it to. I was really thankful for that, because it gave me the room to touch upon other characters and really tackle the idea of death in comic books head on while telling this huge, epic DCU story where the dead rise.

It was probably around Sinestro Corps War when we started talking about Blackest Night where the format changed and got bigger. Because the story was there. We made it bigger because the story had the potential to be bigger. So I just went in there and decided to reexamine how I could approach it and what it could end up being. And I'm really happy with it. For me, it feels like the perfect size. Eddie Berganza pointed out that usually by the time he's wrapping up a last issue he can't wait to be done, but this time he's loving it. It was really the perfect length and perfect scope. Everyone worked their ass off on it, and I think to great success.

IGN Comics: When news first started to leak out that Blackest Night would be more of a DCU story as opposed to purely a Green Lantern tale, I think the initial inclination of a lot of fans was to be a bit worried. That said, I think you've melded the two beautifully.

Johns: One of the things I'm most happy with, especially with the developments in Blackest Night #6, is the way I've gotten the other characters involved. It is a Green Lantern story with the other DCU characters involved, but as soon as they have those rings on, you start to reexamine certain characters in the DC Universe.

That's one of the things I really like about it, is that the next stage is such that not only do we have Nekron, Black Hand and the Black Lanterns to deal with, but now we have these other characters that we've known forever, and now how are they perceived as they put on these rings and yield this power? I mean, we have Lex Luthor wearing an orange ring! We see a lot more of that in Green Lantern #50. Also, in Blackest Night: Flash #2, Barry has the blue ring on. In Blackest Night: Wonder Woman, she has the Star Sapphire ring, and in #3 three you see her and Red Lantern Mera face off. In the Atom and Hawkman special, you see Atom as the Indigo Lantern trying to figure out how to wrap his head around this.

IGN Comics: How did you arrive at the cast of characters in Blackest Night, particularly those you chose to give rings? Because they are rather unexpected choices, especially Mera. When and how did you decide these certain characters would play such a prominent role?

Johns: As I started planning out the story and as the scenes came up, after Hawkman and Hawkgirl died and the Atom tries to contact them, it made sense to me that the Atom would get more involved and become the figurehead for compassion. Because he still feels for Jean Loring despite everything she did. He still feels for Ralph and Sue. He's devastated by everything that's happened.

At the same time, Mera, who is right at the center of the Aquaman stuff, you see her as a survivor and warrior. I've just always loved her and thought she was a very powerful character with a lot of presence. She'll be one of the main characters in Brightest Day. The story I have behind her, which is touched on a little bit more in Blackest Night, Green Lantern and even Blackest Night: Wonder Woman, is that there's an intense rage inside her from a lot of things she's yet to deal with. A lot of that will carry into Brightest Day. But Mera emerged as a character organically as I was plotting this story. Suddenly she emerged and I thought, "okay, good." Same thing with Hal and Barry, because obviously they're the main two guys that died and came back. They were always going to be at the center of this thing no matter what.

As for the other characters, Scarecrow was an obvious choice to get the yellow ring. I set that up a long, long time ago. And if anyone was going to get an orange ring in the DC Universe, it had to be Lex Luthor. There was no question of that. One of the most fun relationships to see is Larfleeze and Luthor. On top of that, you have Wonder Woman. She was a character I felt was just immensely powerful. The way the Star Sapphire rings work when they seek out hosts or representatives is that the ring comes down and finds somebody who has a hole in their heart and knows the loss of love. But in this case, it was Wonder Woman who was lost. The black ring was on her and killing her. She was dying and being reclaimed by Nekkron, who purports to be the one who allowed all of them to come back to life. The ring comes to her and forces her to literally break through that and accept the ring, and I just thought there was nobody else on Earth who loves the planet more. She was the only one I thought who could initially break through and grab that ring.

IGN Comics: I love how the design of the Indigo Lantern Ray Palmer harkens back to his costume during the old Sword of Atom days. Was that a happy coincidence, or were you going for that from the get-go with the design of the Indigo Lanterns?

Johns: Well the tribal look of the Indigo Lanterns was there, so when Atom got the ring it just made kind of a fun visual sense to go back to that. And more importantly, it goes back to his character. That was a point in his life when he was probably the happiest, when he was alone in that jungle with the woman he loved. It speaks to his character and is a place of balance for him, even if it was a very brief time. Still, it's a part of his history and it made sense to go back to that.

IGN Comics: I want to touch on your ability to revitalize certain characters while paying tribute to them. When I read a Geoff Johns comic, it's abundantly clear you have a great passion for these characters and this material. Talking to other comic writers, I've often heard that a love for the material can almost be dangerous, because it causes you to be a little too precious with the characters and sometimes prevents you from taking the type of bold chances that give a property new life and new levels of excitement. Throughout your career, how have you managed to simultaneously respect and celebrate the essence of a property while innovating it?

Johns: I try to find a balance. You know, obviously there's a reason I love these characters and concepts and material, and I want to protect and foster and grow that core center. But there are also details and things that have happened with characters that weren't necessarily the best creative decisions or things that didn't quite fit with what the character was designed for. Or there are things that were added on that just need to be polished up or looked at slightly differently. And that's just all my opinion as a writer. Any writer approaches something with their viewpoint on what their own creative or aesthetic choices would be.

But, yes, even though I love these characters, I do believe if you get too precious with them you'll get frozen because you'll be afraid to do anything with them. And hey – the whole concept of Green Lantern is "no fear." Quite honestly, if I let fear dictate what I do in comics, I would never have followed Mark Waid on The Flash. I would never have launched Teen Titans because it had not worked so many times.

IGN Comics: Let's get back to Brightest Day. Speaking of "no fear" – I remember interviewing each of the 52 writers after you guys had completed the series, and I think each one of you said you loved the experience but would never want to do it again. What made you want to dive back into such a mammoth undertaking as Brightest Day, even if it is slightly different than 52?

Johns: Well this is easier. First off, it's bi-weekly, so it gives us more time on the art, story and scripts. Also it's just me and Pete. The stories are very clear to us and we're very passionate about what we'll be doing with this stuff. It's not nearly the same kind of book as 52, really. We have more time on the entire production of it. We never wanted to do another weekly comic. This is just a bi-weekly book. Don't get me wrong – it's a big undertaking and my big project for 2010, but I'm more than happy to do it.

IGN Comics: You've mentioned Mera and Ray Palmer as stars of the book in addition to those you can't name. Assuming you're giving them the same sort of treatment you gave Hal Jordan and are currently giving Barry Allen, did it take a lot of research and/or time to figure out how you'd revitalize these characters?

Johns: Well Ray Palmer isn't necessarily a major character in the book even if he does appear throughout the story. But there are other characters that come out of Blackest Night into this book as well as other characters in the DCU who figure in prominently. To answer your question, I have the entire run of Aquaman, the entire run of the Atom, the entire run of Flash, Hawkman, Green Lantern. I can just go read and research those anytime I want.

Really there were only a few key stories for Mera that I wanted to research and look at, because the direction I'm taking her is all about looking forward, as is the entirety of the Brightest Day storyline. We're introducing new characters, rebuilding some classic DC heroes and villains, and at the same time bringing in new concepts and ideas. It's a lot like what we've done with Green Lantern.

That's what I'm hoping Brightest Day accomplishes in the DCU – taking characters and concepts that have been around for a long time and reintroducing them in big ways and with new elements. That's a lot of why, in Blackest Night, you'll see a lot of characters confronting the past, because it's time for us and them to put the past to bed so characters like Ray Palmer can move on to the next adventure and next step.

IGN Comics: Let's jump back to Blackest Night for a moment. Obviously, anyone who has been invested in your run on Green Lantern won't find it difficult to accept the story at face value and invest in the dire, epic stakes of the event. Still, if you look at the premise from a distance, there are a number of somewhat goofy elements at work at the heart of this tale – super zombies, different colored armies with rhyming oaths, etc. One of the things I'm so impressed with about Blackest Night is the way you're able to juggle so many tones in the telling of this story, acknowledging the humor or goofiness of certain elements while still playing up the dire nature of the whole ordeal. Has that been difficult at all? Did you consciously find yourself injecting humor at times, or did it come naturally?

Johns: Well I just figured that's the way characters would react. For instance, Guy Gardner is going to look around and say, "Are you kidding me?" Even Hal Jordan would look around and feel like he's flying around with a group of Crayola markers. That stuff just comes up in the inherent insanity of it all. I don't think it's necessarily goofy, they're just crazy concepts. And the humor just comes out of character. Some people say that the Marvel Universe is so dark, or the DC Universe is so dark. In Blackest Night, for all the crazy Black Lantern and zombie stuff and all the dire stakes, we still deal with heroes that are bright and shining.

For me, I like the dichotomy between the lightness and darkness. I don't want all my comics to be marshmallows. On the same token, I don't want my comic books to be depressing and futile. There's a balance, as there is in all drama and in life. People like to put everything in a box. If you say Blackest Night is just a zombie book, then you haven't read it. I think it's a hell of a lot of fun.

IGN Comics: I got a kick out of Hal and Carol saying they thought they saw this in a Saturday morning cartoon.

Johns: Because they did! [laughs] That's one of my favorite bits, when they try to do what they think worked on the cartoon, and it doesn't work.

IGN Comics: We're up to issue six in the series, and for the most part Black Hand and Nekkron have stayed in the background while the heroes have dealt with the Black Lanterns. Is that about to change?

Johns: Yes. They come onto the stage in issues seven and eight in a very big way.

IGN Comics: And issue eight is double-sized, correct?

Johns: Eight is double-sized. Same size and price point as the first issue. In January we have Green Lantern #50, which is thirty pages and deals with the New Guardians and all their recruits. It's a pretty big story, and Doug Mahnke just kicked the hell out of it. I just love his rendition of Red Lantern Mera. Same with Scarecrow, who is just a lot of fun in the issue. Hal's reaction to all of this is pretty fun as well.

IGN Comics: So let's bring it all back to Brightest Day. We know it's a bi-weekly, year-long story that spins out of Blackest Night, starring some of the main players from that series as well as a few other DCU players. You and Peter Tomasi are working on it with Fernando Pesarin and a few yet to be named artists. What else can you tell us about the project?

Johns: I'll say this: just like Sinestro Corps was me trying to perfect the crossover and Blackest Night was me trying to do it bigger, Brightest Day is me looking at what we did on 52 and trying to make it better. And in order to make sure there's better art and tighter storylines, the best thing we could do is make it bi-weekly. I already can't wait to write the ending.

IGN Comics: Thanks for taking the time, Geoff!
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