GEOFF JOHNS speaks in crescendos, building his precisely rising soliloquies till they gather a certain centrifugal force. At the moment, he is spinning a rhapsody in green.
“I hope fans take away the wonderment of what the Green Lantern is,” says Johns, just getting warmed up as he discusses his new film, which opens tonight. “The vastness of the universe. The canvas that these stories are painted across. ... “
Geoff Johns speaks with the easy authority and expansiveness of a voiceover.
“...I hope fans are inspired by ‘Green Lantern.’ There’s a great emotional center and great message there. ... “
Geoff Johns speaks in word-pictures, hard images that he gradually imbues with greater meaning.
“...There’s a reason that when people wear DC Comics on their T-shirts, it’s not the characters but SYMBOLS on their shirt. That’s because the DC Comics characters represent something. ... “
When Johns gets going, he could sell ice to the Eskimos — and then sell Zippo lighters to the Human Torch.
“...The Green Lantern is about willpower and courage. I hope that inspires people.”
Working economically, Johns needs not a dozen sentences to steer his impassioned prologue full circle. If only Johns, a producer on the “Green Lantern” film that he has helped will into theaters this weekend, could speak at each screening of the Warner Bros. release. Then “The Dark Knight’s” box-office records could well be in jeopardy.
As it is, Johns has a corps of commitments to juggle. He is speaking by phone from Los Angeles, in between meetings and deadlines and public appearances tied to “Green Lantern,” which stars the omnipresent Ryan Reynolds as Hal Jordan, the test pilot turned emerald-energy Guardian. (Notes Johns: “Ryan brings a nice humor and a weight to the role that’s needed.”) Johns will even show up for “Lantern” events at the comics shop he co-owns in the suburban neighborhood of Northridge. Johns’s imagination has helped turn all this into reality. Still, traveling around his own coast city, he finds it jarring to see so many signs of an emerald empire.
“It’s the weirdest thing ever to see a poster of Tomar-Re on the street,” says Johns, referring to the Green Lantern Corps scientist voiced by the almost-as-omnipresent Geoffrey Rush. “Or on the side of a bus. I look at it, just going: What world IS that?”
That world, of course, is what Johns helped spawn in 2004 when he launched DC Comics’s hit series “Rebirth,” the Hal Jordan resurrection story to which the film owes much. In the years since Johns inherited the Golden Age creation, his duties have only multiplied. “I say I only have time to moonlight as a comics writer now,” says Johns, 38, who became chief creative officer of DC Comics in early 2010, forming a powerful team with DC co-publishers Jim Lee and Dan DiDio.
Whether seeking inspiration for a meeting or a splash page, Johns remains, at heart, a storyteller.
“Geoff is a visionary,” says Lee, by phone from Southern California. “He’s a grand storyteller and when he pitches a story, [he’s] charismatic in his delivery. It’s the thoughts and the concepts and his way with words that completely draw you in. ... It’s so mesmerizing to hear him talk about characters.”
Johns’s pitches are so passionate, Lee says, that “drawing the comic book is almost anticlimactic.”
This fall, Lee will blend his legendary talents with this grand storyteller: He and Johns are teaming on a “first issue” Justice League, as DC Comics renumbers more than 50 titles that -- starting Aug. 31 -- will begin again at No.-1.
“Working with Jim is a dream come true,” says Johns, who himself drew comics before his education at Michigan State led him to scriptwriting and screenwriting -- and a mentorship with “Superman” director Richard Donner. “There is no bigger artist than Jim. And from a writer’s standpoint, with Justice League, to start with a new tone and a new beginning is really fun -- to be given the opportunity to rethink these characters.”
Johns has already finished his final Green Lantern book before the title is renumbered. He shares some details that Comic Riffs isn’t at liberty to repeat, but suffice to say: Johns the storyteller, even in several sentences to describe this “last Lantern,” beguiles with his soliloquy.
And then Johns the speaker steers the entire interview full circle. “My hope is that the film captures a generation of kids -- and that it grabs their imagination and sparks creativity.”
It’s time for Johns to go -- to begin his weekend slate of commitments — but not before he bids an easy adieu by saying: “It’s always great to end my Friday talking to a true comics fan.”
That’s the thing with our deftest storytellers. They naturally know just to finish the tale.