SOURCE SPECIAL: GEOFF JOHNS TALKS THE FLASH, PART 1
He didn’t have to come back.
I’m not talking about Barry Allen – readers have seen his rebirth and will learn more about his role in the DCU and Central City with the launch of THE FLASH #1 in April.
No, I’m talking about superstar writer Geoff Johns, who will be pairing with superstar artist Francis Manapul to put the Flash through the ringer on a monthly basis.
But as most fans know, Geoff left his mark on the Flash character and his universe not that long ago. So what is it that brings him back to the world of the Scarlet Speedster and his dastardly Rogues gallery after such a definitive and classic run?
Well, short answer: There’s a lot of story to be told when it comes to the Flash. Especially when we’re talking about the newly returned Barry Allen: A lot of surprises, a lot of villains and a lot of high-speed, high-stakes action.
Long answer? Well, that’s something special. As most of you may have noticed, it’s been a pretty FLASH-heavy week here at The Source, but we’ve saved the best bit for last. We sat down with Geoff for a lengthy, two-part discussion about all things FLASH, where we talk Barry, the Rogues, the new series and just why the character remains as vital today as he was when he first burst out of that film reel in SHOWCASE #4.
So, sit back and enjoy part one, and swing back to The Source tomorrow morning for the conclusion.
Alex Segura: Geoff, first off -- thanks for doing this. The Flash is a special character and it's only fitting that we make his return to monthly comics special here on The Source. Now, being a huge fan of The Flash myself, and Barry Allen in particular, I have a very vivid memory of my first encounter with the character -- what about you? What's your earliest Barry/Flash memory? What made him a cool character for you even then?
Geoff Johns: My first encounter with Barry Allen, outside of comics, was in animation in the Challenge of the Super-Friends cartoon. I guess that's where I also met Captain Cold. Those two characters, the Flash and Captain Cold, became my favorites. (Oh, and does anyone remember how Hal Jordan had that weird tan? I guess because he was from California? :) ) Anyway, those are my very memories, along with the Flash Super Powers figure, but when I finally got into comic book one of my very first comics was CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS #8, which featured the death of the Flash. I don't remember the details well, but I do remember I was blown away by the issue. From there, I started buying back issues of the Flash. It was before everything was collected, before eBay, so I really had to hunt those comics down to read the stories. The powers, the Rogues and the uniform were what always drew me in.
AS: One of the biggest strengths in your work is your ability to synthesize years of continuity and utilize the rich histories of characters like Hal Jordan and Barry Allen to plant them firmly in the modern day. So, what is it about Barry Allen that makes him work today? What makes the character compelling to a new reader but still connect with his legion of classic fans? How do you approach a character that's had so many twists and turns and boil it down to his core?
GJ: Well, I think the first issue does that. Who Barry Allen is and why he does what he does is what the book is about first and foremost. The only thing I can really say is that no matter how fast Barry is, he can't stop something that's already happened. That's incredibly frustrating to him and it’s a big reason of why his life as a criminal
scientist is so important. He wants justice for those that he wasn't there to help.
AS: Where do we find Barry at the beginning of issue one? Can you give people looking to jump on the series a quick Barry Allen Flash 101? What's his mindset in terms of returning to the role, and what do we know about his time away?
GJ: All you need to know when you read the Flash #1 is how to read. Flash 101, and a few twists and turns, are within the pages. Francis did a stunning job, raising his art even from the amazing Adventure Comics.
AS: In stark contrast to many "heroes" populating the comic book landscape today, Barry Allen is the definition of heroic. He's sacrificed himself to save the universe; he's raced across the globe, the universe and time for those he loves. He's also made remarkably mature and tough choices. Why do these kind of characters -- like Hal Jordan, to a degree -- appeal to you as a writer? Is it challenging writing someone who is inherently good, as opposed to a vigilante or someone whose morals are more compromised?
GJ: I think deep down we all want to be the best we can be. I find characters who acknowledge that and attempt to do that inspiring and relatable. Barry Allen is someone who has made a decision to help others during his own life and he made that decision even before he became the Flash. To me, that speaks volumes about the kind of person he is. The Flash moves ahead in life, despite the things that knock him down. That's the hero I want to look up to and the hero that will inspire us all to be better people.
AS: It's often said that you can judge a hero by his villains, and one of the things I remember most about your initial Flash run — and was very thankful for, being a fan of Barry -- was how you not only brought back and polished some of the classic Flash villains -- Captain Cold is a great example -- but also reinvigorated the Rogues with some great, creepy new additions like Murmur and most notably Hunter Zolomon/Zoom. What makes a great villain? What do you look for when you sit down and create one? And, in addition to reuniting Barry with some of his deadliest foes, are we going to see new ones appear in your first year?
GJ: The Flash has arguably the best villains in comics. Batman's are amazing and psychological, but the Flash's are from the far future and super scientific Gorilla Cities. Not to mention the core group of Flash's foes, the Rogues. They were always a massive part of what made the Flash cool to me. He fought all these guys, sometimes at once because he could. When I first worked on the Flash the Rogues hadn't been touched really more than an odd appearance here and there. I knew that they were going to be a huge focus for me and I continued using them in Rogues' Revenge and Blackest Night: The Flash, but now with the new monthly book they'll be playing a bigger and ongoing role in Barry's life. There are some pretty big changes for the Rogues coming up that tie in to the very center of the DC Universe. Barry will be meeting some new villains, one in particular that is going to be the strangest killer he's ever faced. And I think with 64th Century magicians and talking gorillas that's saying a lot.
Come back tomorrow for the rest of our special sit-down with THE FLASH writer Geoff Johns.