Amazon Exclusive: An Omnivoracious Interview with Geoff Johns
In the world of superhero comics, there remains one origin above all others, no matter how many times it is retold: an alley, a family, a gun, and a criminal, Batman's origin is as terrifying as they come. Today, Geoff Johns, superstar scribe and DC's Chief Creative Officer, leaves a notable mark on the character by taking it in a new direction in Batman: Earth One
, a re-imagining of the Batman mythos from the ground floor. To celebrate the book's release day, Geoff Johns answered a few questions about his version of Batman's origin, and he provided two exclusive pages to the new graphic novel (available after the jump).
Omnivoracious.com: Batman: Earth One puts a modern-day spin on Batman's origin. What facets of Batman (and Bruce Wayne) did you focus on modernizing?
Geoff Johns: I think the image on the cover says it all--we wanted to see his eyes. Most of the time, Batman's eyes are white in the comics. We wanted to make this more about a flawed, vulnerable, troubled young guy who is on an arguably insane mission of revenge. So I'm not sure it's modernizing so much as humanizing. Gary and I pulled everything back. He's not the Batman who can tear about 30 S.W.A.T. team members without breaking a sweat. He's not the Batman who has invented a Batmobile. There is no Batmobile. He's got a car with tinted windows. He hasn't even thought of the idea of a Batmobile yet. You see in the very first pages what he carries in his utility belt.
It's more about Bruce than Batman. And his journey parallels a lot of the other main characters in the series—once you survive a tragedy someone else hasn’t, where does your life go? How does that affect you? One character in particular has given up. This is about learning to never give up.
Omni: What sets Batman: Earth One apart from any other "early" Bat-tales, such as Year One and The Long Halloween?
Geoff Johns: Batman's not the best as what he does. Alfred's relationship with Bruce, Bruce's mother, Bruce's mission, the cops, Gotham's streets, the secret in the basement, the red dirt and the police man from Los Angeles. It's just a different take on the character.
Omni: What Batman characters were you particularly excited about modernizing?
Geoff Johns: Alfred and the police. Their stories will speak for themselves, I think.
Omni: While you've written Batman in Justice League, this is your first time writing him in a solo story. What would you say is the most important part to understanding the Dark Knight?
Geoff Johns: Understanding Bruce. I think, unfortunately, we all understand loss. And this is loss at its very core. A boy and his parents. How you fill that bottomless pit inside you is a bit of a fruitless journey. But Bruce comes to a very big revelation within the story that ultimately changes what Batman is to him and, I think, us.
Omni: What differed in writing a solo Batman story as opposed to writing him as part of an ensemble?
Geoff Johns: I absolutely loved working with Gary on this because of the singular universe. We built everything from the ground up without having to worry about other stories or other takes on the characters. It could be all ours to re-imagine. And with the page count. We were able to tell our whole story, dive deeper into the characters and create a stand alone graphic novel series starring an entirely new Batman.
Omni: You've worked with Gary Frank before on Superman: Secret Origin and Superman: Brainiac, amongst other superhero-centric graphic novels. What is it about his style that continues this working relationship?
Geoff Johns: Gary does emotion like no one else can. The subtleties in what Gary's art conveys, along with the power, mystery, strength and drama, it's unmatched. Our styles mesh very well together. Every single project we've ever worked on together has turned out greater than I could've imagined. Gary Frank is a true master of his craft, graphic storytelling and character. He brings as much soul to the story as he does to the art and Batman: Earth One would not have worked without him.
Johns, writer of DC’s flagship title, Justice League, and current creative spearhead of their entire universe, is no stranger to collecting vast mythologies into focused narratives. He and Frank did a superlative job of just that in the recent Superman: Secret Origins. Here, Johns strategically remixes elements of the Batman mythos, laying out his quest for vengeance against a corrupt system in a way that narrows the spotlight on the character’s obsession. The Penguin is recast as Gotham City’s crooked mayor, Alfred is reinvented as a tough-as-nails ex-Royal Marine, and Bruce Wayne is tied to the city in deeper, more gothically psychological ways. Like the first in DC’s line of beautifully bound, more realistic reimaginings, Superman: Earth One (2010), however, this one falls short of a revelatory reexamination of what makes its hero resonant, settling instead for a tweaked but comfortably familiar retelling. If anything, it is Frank’s gorgeously lush art that stands out here, putting genuine emotion on faces, conveying the impact of fist against body, and supplying a palpable texture for costumes and environments. --Jesse Karp