HEAT VISION

Geoff Johns on 'Shazam,' 'Stargirl' and Life After Being DC Creative Boss

"I'm really energized."

The new Stargirl series for DC Universe wasn’t the only piece of news Geoff Johns had for San Diego Comic-Con on Thursday. During his spotlight panel, moderated by DC publisher Dan DiDio, Johns also revealed that his upcoming Shazam comic book series would see him reunited with his former Justice Society of America artist, Dale Eaglesham.

Johns talked to The Hollywood Reporter about the new comic book series, set to launch in November, as well as other projects on his plate right now: the continuing Watchmen follow-up Doomsday Clock, his mystery Three Jokers comic book series and the Stargirl show.

Dale Eaglesham on Shazam is one of my favorite pieces of comic news so far this show. I’d been wondering who would take over from Gary Frank on that project now that he’s busy with Doomsday Clock.

Gary brings such a wonderful emotional quality to all his work, but especially with Shazam, he captured those kids so well. I only wanted to do the book if I could partner with someone who was going to bring that emotional, whimsical, superhero look to it. It’s got to be such a distinct book on the stands. Dale Eaglesham, when we were working together on Justice Society of America, there was an issue where it was just about a pancake breakfast at a firehouse, and that’s one of my very favorite issues that we did, because of that emotion.

I talked to Dale, we were just talking, and I was telling him about Shazam. He said, "Oh, my God, I’d kill to do that," so I was like, "Okay! Let’s do it!" That was it. We’re really lucky to have him. I can’t wait to work with him on this.

He does comedy well, and one of the things about Shazam is —

It’s funny! It’s got to be funny.

The run you did with Gary Frank, it was a funny book, it’s different from what people expect from you, I think.

Everything I’m doing, from Shazam to Doomsday Clock, and everything in between, are super different and they should be different. I like doing different tones. Everyone tries to go, "This is your tone." How about I’m just a writer? I can work on different things with different tones. That’s what I love about Doomsday Clock and Shazam — they’re very different books.

And the same with [upcoming DC Black Label project] Three Jokers.

It’s a mystery book, yeah. Nobody knows where that one is going. No one knows what to expect from that.

It sees you working with Jason Fabok again, whom you worked with on Justice League.

Yeah, he’s amazing. I think this is the book that’s going to make him huge.

With the Killing Zone books [a future comic book imprint headed up by Johns], as well, is the idea to keep things as tonally different between projects as possible?

Killing Zone, it’s a whole different project. It’s massive. It scares me a little bit, which is good. I want to be a little scared. It feels good to be a little scared, like a rollercoaster, right…?

How does it feel to return to a more directly creative role with Shazam and Three Jokers after years working as chief creative officer for DC Entertainment?

It feels good! The truth is, I was writing and producing before. Fifty percent of my day is the same, it’s the other stuff that came with it — I can focus more on writing, I can focus more on my comic books and television [projects], on working with my production company Mad Ghost, and the other creative people I want to work with. It’s been a blast, to be honest. It’s nice to focus on — well, I say this: It’s nice to get notes, instead of giving notes. That’s really what I love.

Stargirl, that’s got to be very exciting. I don’t want to say she’s your signature character, but she’s always been a character that’s been very close to your heart, that is very much “yours.” How long has this been in the works?

I’ve been wanting to do it for awhile, and the truth is, over the last few years as I’d been talking to Warners and DC about getting back to wanting to write and produce, this was something that was at the very top of my list. I’ve been working with Greg [Berlanti] and Sarah [Schechter] over at Berlanti TV, and with Warner TV — I mean, I’ve been working with them for years. It’s been great. I get to work with my team at DC in a more creative way.

It’s been in my head for awhile, and once I made the move at DC, it came together pretty quickly.

It feels like the perfect next step for you.

It’s cool; it’s going to take the Stars and STRIPE comic, the Justice Society comic, and merge it into one thing and tonally, it’s Spider-Man: Homecoming and Buffy the Vampire Slayer along with the [comic] books. We’re bringing a lot of the legacy stuff into it, a lot of the stuff James Robinson did with the Justice Society. I love all of that, his JSA: The Golden Age series, launching the [1999 series] JSA… I’ve always wanted to do a series based on Stars and STRIPE, so it’s really exciting.

It’s a story about a combined family, and a young girl in school — it takes place in high school. I don’t think we see a lot of superhero shows in high schools … I’m not sure there is another superhero show that takes place in high school. I love that, you know? There’s going to be good guys and bad guys. It’s going to be a lot of fun.

At the same time as you’re diversifying in terms of tone, you’re also really concentrating on what has always been at the heart of your work: the characters. You’re really getting into the emotionality of the characters.

I can’t wait for people to read Doomsday Clock No. 6. It’s all about the Mime and the Marionette. It’s, to me, my favorite issue.

You’ve spoken before about the process of writing Doomsday Clock

It takes five times as long to write each issue.

Watchmen builds upon itself with each issue, and Doomsday Clock is doing the same, but with the entirety of DC mythology. In one issue, you have the Legion of Super-Heroes from the 31st Century, but also [1984 pulp series] Nathaniel Dusk

It is building. It’s a story that incorporates everything from Action Comics No. 1 in 1938 on. But it’s very focused, it’s very character-driven, because I’m more interested in characters than the plot. The plot is actually relatively simple: There’s these guys, and they want to get help to save their world.

But there’s so much more going on in there.

There is! I take all of the stuff in my head — we have a library of knowledge [of DC mythology] — and it’s all applied in service of the characters. For me, it’s why not just put in what I know?

How are you juggling all this? You’re writing three comic book series, showrunning and producing a new series for DC Universe…

Well, I don’t have to go to marketing meetings and boardrooms anymore! (Laughs.) That’s actually true! I don’t have to oversee 25 people — I have a smaller production company now. I’m really energized. Like, when I get unlocked from other stuff, I really want to fill [that time] up.

You could just take a vacation, you know.

To me, writing is a vacation.

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