'The Flash' Writer Geoff Johns on Celebrating Superheroes' Comic Book Origins

"There’s always pressure [from fans] and there should be pressure," the DC Comics titan says
Courtesy of DC Entertainment

With five television series based on DC comic book series currently on the schedule — NBC's Constantine, Fox's Gotham as well as The CW's Arrow, The Flash and midseason entry iZombie — and no less than 10 movies based on DC properties in the works during the next six years, DC Entertainment chief creative officer Geoff Johns is a busy man. Add to that his monthly writing duties on the Justice League and Superman comic book series, and he's a very busy man. But, he says, he's on top of it.

"I can write anywhere. It can be noisy. It can be busy. Or empty. It doesn't really matter," says Johns, one of The Hollywood Reporter's most powerful comic writers list. "The only thing I really need is natural light."

With a background in Hollywood as Richard Donner's assistant before he arrived in comics ("Going to the Warner Bros. lot every morning, to a kid from Detroit, it didn't get better than that"), Johns tells THR that while he's keenly aware of the differences between media, he tries to stay focused on what's important.

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"It's all about embracing and celebrating the source material and then adding to it," he says. "There's always pressure [from fans] and there should be pressure. You can't shy away from the source material — you have to celebrate it."

That's not a problem for the 41-year-old writer, who still gets excited about the characters he works with, including Green Lantern, Sinestro and Aquaman. (When asked his favorite fictional character, he immediately answers, "It's been the Flash since I was a kid, though his villains are always close behind.") As for what he's been reading and getting excited about, he names DC's Batman and Robin monthly. "I've really been enjoying what [writer] Peter Tomasi and [artist] Patrick Gleason have been doing," he says. "It's rare to have a Batman story with such an emotional underpinning."

Finding that emotional element is key in working with such long-lived properties successfully in any medium, he says. "You have to bring new layers to the main characters, new characters — heroes and villains — but remain true to the [original stories]," he explains. "You do have to fight for things when you know they're important — we had to fight for Grodd's cage in the [Flash] pilot, and when I say 'fight for,' it was really a matter of explaining to those unfamiliar with the lore what the significance was — why it was worth the time and money to create. These characters are too important to too many people to not do properly. And they mean something. They really do."

Johns is part of The Hollywood Reporter's list of Hollywood's Five Most Powerful Comics Writers of 2014. Check out the rest of the list, including Robert Kirkman and Mark Millar, here.

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