Uncovering My “Long Lost Interview” With Mr. Johns

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johnsmain
I uncovered some old sample articles I wrote while pitching a “Fan Girl” column to several news syndicates. One of them was a short interview with Geoff Johns, who answered some questions for me via email. Image: Lisa Tate

In 2004, I had just moved from northern to southern New Mexico after making $8 bucks an hour as editor of the Lifestyles section for a smalltown paper.

I had college loans and rent to pay, so I attempted to find a venue where I could write about things I enjoyed (and hopefully make some extra cash), primarily books and comics, pop culture, and other geeky fun.

At the time, there was a significant shortage of outlets for this, other than the late Wizard, who didn’t seem interested in me at all. I decided to take matters into my own hands and try to start a syndicated column. I dubbed it “Fan Girl”—a novel word back then. I wrote several sample articles on what I felt were groundbreaking topics: “Women in Comics,” “Comic Easter Eggs,” “A Fan Girl Dictionary,” “Comic Book: The Official Soundtrack,” and others. No one wanted a column devoted so such a “limited audience,” they said.

Among my sample pitches, I included three interviews with comic book creators out of the more than 30 I sent questions to. The three men patient enough to answer some online questions for me lest these articles ever see the light of day were Rod Espinosa from Antarctic Press, Darick Robertson (co-creator of Transmetropolitan), and Geoff Johns, who was already gaining footing as one of DC’s most prominent writers. Today, his name is on pretty much every DC film, television, and book property out there.

Recently, I rediscovered these interviews in my old needs-to-be-replaced desk file.

With another year zooming to an end, I thought I would share the little sample interview with Johns he granted me some years ago that I sent to countless newspapers and syndicates… but was never published:

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Heroes like the The Flash, Teen Titans, JSA, and Hawkman may be some of the attention-getting names in the DC Universe, but it’s writer Geoff Johns who brings them to life.

Like every writer with a following, he is appreciative of the attention his work gets, but admitted there’s one thing he does get a little tired of sharing.

“(It’s) how’d you get into the business?'” he said. “It’s a long story I’ve told a hundred times.”

Instead, he said he would love to have someone ask him something like “What’s your favorite color,” although he didn’t share that fact with me either.

Since Johns is tired of re-sharing the story, the following basics are courtesy of the writer’s bio:

He was born in 1973 in Detroit where he says it “was damn cold.”

John’s flair for dramatic storytelling comes from his work in motion pictures. He attended Michigan State University where he studied media arts, screenwriting, film production, and theory. Getting away from the colder weather and closer to his field of study, Johns moved to Los Angeles after graduation. It was there he made a “lucky call” that landed him an intern job for one of Hollywood’s most respected directors. It eventually turned into a four-year stint as assistant and getting a chance to work on a handful of box office hits.

“I worked as an assistant to Richard Donner on Conspiracy Theory and Lethal Weapon 4,” he said.

It was during his time with Donner that he began exploring his comic book writing skills. He wrote a story for DC called Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E.S. he says is still his favorite title.

This series gained acclaim not just for its action-filled story, but for its concentration on an environment not often seen in superhero comics—the reluctant bonding of a stepfather and stepdaughter. In the story, a teenager named Courtney comes across an old “cosmic belt,” a prop belonging to her stepfather, Pat, who she later learns was a World War II-era superhero. Courtney discovers some pretty impressive powers via the belt (among them the ability to fly) and decides to do a little superhero work herself. Unable to talk her out of it, Pat becomes her robot-armored mentor and sidekick. Even amid the standard alien fighting and supervillain thwarting, Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E.S. delved a little deeper, gaining John a loyal and appreciative fan base, among those, real-life blended families.

“We see people conquer gods who shatter dimensions, but we never see anyone deal with a step-parent in comics,” Johns told writer Terry Morrow in 1999. “(There) were a couple of guys who wrote me and told me they are in the same situation that Pat is. They say (reading the comic) is one thing they can do with their stepdaughter. It’s a bonding thing for them.”

Eventually, Johns was able to pursue comic writing full time, and that’s more or less the story he has shared many times.

Johns Works
Since I put my pitch articles together, Johns has become one of the most familiar names in DC comics, with his name on several projects from comics to television and movies. Images ©DC.

One of the driving forces behind John’s success is his own appreciation of the medium. He reads dozens of titles, and said he is really enjoying some of his fellow DC writers’ works including Superman Birthright, Gotham Central, Supreme Power, Y The Last Man, HERO, Green Arrow, and the long, long-awaited DC/Marvel crossover, JLA Avengers.

His work isn’t always exclusive to DC. Johns recently finished writing an Avengers story for Marvel and worked with Wildstorm on a title called The Possessed.

He said he doesn’t have to look far to find great comic book shops in his city, as the Los Angeles area is filled with them. He also remembered a place from his past.

“My favorite shop growing up was in Livonia (Michigan)—Classic Movie and Comic Center,” he recalled. “They had everything.”

He said he would like to see some of his favorite hometown products hit the comic book pages, including Quinten Tarantino’s Kill Bill or The Dirty Dozen, John’s “favorite movie of all time.” Similarly, he would like to write a screenplay for a movie version of Green Lantern.

Like many comic artists and writers, John’s work is filled with Easter eggs. Although he said there are too many to list, he offered a suggestion for a good place to start looking:

“The book Robin in holding in Teen Titans #4 was a neat little bit,” he said.

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There is it. Hardly the best thing I’ve ever written. I’m also fairly sure it isn’t an interview Johns would ever consider to be significant, but sharing it is long overdue, and just my way of saying “thank you” for helping a fan girl who had no idea she would find other GeekMoms out there someday and pursue some creative happiness.

Today, there are many fantastic sites devoted to the world of superheroes, including the works of my fellow awesome writers for GeekMom and GeekDad. I’m grateful for the opportunity to write about what I love.

As a new year approaches, it is easy for some to try and evaluate the things we didn’t achieve, but really it is only the things we didn’t achieve yet. Johns, Robertson, and Espinosa had no way of knowing if my little “Fan Girl” column would ever make it (it didn’t), but they helped me realize I wasn’t alone in my desire to share the super-powered world of comic book imagination with the world beyond fandom inner circles.

Happy New Year, Mr. Johns. I’m looking forward to what you and everyone else in the creative universe have in store for us in 2019.

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