Johns is ruining DC Comics
July 18, 2010
By Avi Green
I recently posted an article on two of the fansites I've built over
the years where I told why I no longer want to read the output of
Geoff Johns, whom I've since realized is a most truly distasteful
writer, and by far one of the worst things that could happen to DC
Comics since he began writing for them in 1998. I suppose when he
debuted Courtney Whitmore, the Star-Spangled Girl, he did well
enough then as a solo writer. But if so, then that's the sole book
he ever pulled off solo. While his work on JSA and Hawkman may be
worth something, his solo writing on the Flash and Teen Titans, as
I've since concluded, really scraped bottom.
There are even paralells that could be made between his work on the
Flash and that of J. Michael Straczynski on Spider-Man: his
depiction of a married couple may have been decent, but it stops
there. Other than Wally and Linda Park West's marriage (and even
that's in question now), his work on the Flash was by far one of the
most loathsome in retrospect, and I've decided I will no longer
excuse the damage he's done.
But since I've already said what I have to on the fansites, and
since that article was pretty much intended for those places, I
think that's why this article will be mostly dedicated to finding
the opinions of various other comic readers who've been
disenfranchised with Johns and see what they have to say. The idea
came mainly after reading a similar entry at
the Titans Tower Monitor, about what people think of the
dismal Teen Titans volume. I thought to write up a special entry of
my own for this very website where I first began, and see if there's
what I could say afterwards.
So let's begin with what I found on a topic
at Big Hollywood, one of Andrew Breitbart's conservative media
ventures, which spoke primarily about how Ed Brubaker exploited
Captain America for an attack on the Tea Party. But there was more
to be found in the comments, and it included this:
You [k]now, maybe it's because of my strange upbringing
in the backwoods of New Hampshire, but I always had a soft spot
for Captain America. I remember buying a bunch of his comics back
in the early 90's and enjoying his fights with the Red Skull. But,
I was always disappointed by his constant working for the
government, and constantly being in New York (yes, as a good New
Hampshire boy, I was ardently anti-government, and as a good New
Englander, I was ardently anti-yankees [yankees suck!]).
Someone else responded:
I can't say I'm surprised by this development. Comics have been
extremely liberal since, well, probably the 70's. I remember one
writer in particular would go on these long screeds about Bush
being the devil, and horribly damaging America in the world. He
said he was an Army Ranger and he personally saw the atrocities,
and still knew many people internationally that hated the country.
Turned out, he lied about rh whole thing. He was never an Army
Ranger, and didn't even have a passport. Wish I could remember
that guy's name.
I always liked the staunch anti-communism of the early 1960's
Marvel stories. And of course, they kept a fairly black and white
DC universe until the dreadful,
terrible geoff johns took it over. The last comics I
remember really enjoying were Grant Morrison's JLA from the 90's.
No politics, no breast-beating, or self-introspection about what;s
"really" right "really". Just good guys beating the crap out of
bad guys. Good stuff.
Geoff Johns' Green Lantern comics is not about good vs.
I'm not a rabid Johns fan, but his "Sinestro Corps War" storyline
was an unapologetically pro-liberty/anti-terrorist as a superhero
comic can get.
It's possible, I haven't read Johns in probably close to
a decade. I've always despised his writing. At first, it was
because everything he wrote seemed to be dependent on me reading
some obscure Infinity Inc. comic from 1983, and was filled with way too many continuity winks to the
audience. After that, he just became way too violent and misogynistic in
his writing (and people complained about Ron Marz because he
killed off Kyle Rayner's girlfriend). It's possible John
is currently writing a anti-terrorist story as you say, but I'm sure he's filled with all
kinds of extreme violence (and not the normal comic book
violence of people punching each other, I mean stuff like having
a woman get a pike run through her gut, as I understand happened
(Note: the vulgar scene he's describing, which can be seen on the
side here, may be from the first part of the Infinite Crisis
miniseries. It's very disgusting indeed.) And the latter replied:
Plus, a multi-colored Lantern Corps is just lame. Even for comics.
Well, I can't argue with you about the violence in the
Sinestro Corps War.
Neither can I. If what we'll learn about below is any indication,
the New Hampshire resident has every right to be concerned. There's
also a legitimate argument to be made that, whether Johns is writing
an anti-terrorist story, that alone does not make the violence any
more tolerable, most definitely not if it's sensationalized. As for
me, I was so amazed, I had to post my own response as follows:
I'm very glad to find another conservative who feels the
same way I do about Geoff Johns's writing. I stopped reading his
books at least 5 years ago, along with many other DC/Marvel
comics, because they were becoming increasingly gratuitous and
unpleasant, and if he has any sense of humor, even that falls
flat. The Flash was decidedly where he really mishandled things.
He implied that the Mirror Master was a sexual harrasser and the
Turtle was wiling to stoop to child rape, among other serious
problems. Not exactly what I'd call appropriate for a book that
was built on an optimistic view like Superman. But you know what
the straw was that broke the camel's back? It happened in the
miniseries called Rogues' Revenge, if you want to read this
on Inertia at the Titans Tower and what he did to the son of
the Weather Wizard. After what Johns depicted happening there, I
will never read his future output again, and feel embarrassed that
I ever thought he was anything great years before.
Let me just note that, it could turn out to be theoretically
entertaintaining in the same way as Spider-Man's Brand New Day, and
still wouldn't be worth it, since, even if they don't depict Barry
and company in the same crudely characterized way as Peter Parker's
been shown since 2008, that doesn't mean they won't resort to crude
violence and bloodletting. Why, the first story centers around a
murder, and even if it's the murder of some futuristic takes on the
Rogues', that still doesn't mean it's worth our time.
Incidentally, Johns also wrote at least one story for Marvel that
could be considered leftist in the Avengers in 2002-2003 (I think
it was called "Red Zone") where the Red Skull infiltrated the US
government as a defense secretary anagramed as Dell Rusk (same
initials as Donald Rumsfeld?), and it featured the Skull on a
splash page cliffhanger saying "I love America", in a way that
could've been meant as an insult to American patriots. It was
truly awful. I have no intention of wasting time on the relaunched
Flash series where Johns brings back Barry Allen, and I won't be
surprised if it turns out to be a distorted reflection of the
Barry I once knew in my childhood.
Let's then turn to this page
the Invincible Super-Blog, where the blogmaster has pretty
much told that he's no fan of Johns either, and certainly not of his
work on the new bi-weekly miniseries called Brightest Day, which is
unlikely to be so, and certainly not in a legitimate manner. For
I can’t imagine why anyone
would want to read Brightest Day after that clap trap that was
Blackest Night. Thanks for confirming my suspicions.
Mine too. Next:
Man, I can literally feel your anger about these books
coming off the screen. I’m not saying that as a bad thing, just
that it’s very obvious how strongly you feel about this stuff.
If Johns has suffocated GL with as much bloodletting as this
suggests, it's almost enough to wonder why Hal Jordan had to come
I’m in general a Geoff Johns fan. I’ve for the most part enjoyed
his Green Lantern run, after having never cared about the
character before. I thought his Hawkman run was great. I also
really enjoyed his work on the Flash and JSA. But I also realize
that the people that don’t like him have some valid points, and it
seems that lately I’m agreeing with them more and more. I’m still
enjoying GL (I thought his work during Blackest Night on GL proper
was much better than on the actual BN series itself) but the navel gazing and over the top
gore and arm-severing is getting tiresome. And this is
from someone who considers Garth Ennis as one of his top 5
writers(not that Ennis overdoes the navel gazing thing.) But man,
there honestly was no reason whatsoever to bring back Barry Allen.
And if Brightest Day still has the level of “super-kewl” gore that
Johns and DC seem to think they need in their comics, they really
just don’t get it anymore.
Now, here's a comment that may have been written by the same New
Hampshire resident who boldly stood up and made clear his misgivings
about Johns at Big Hollywood:
Let me join the chorus of Geoff Johns…dislikers. I have
to say, I, personally, view johns as the single worst thing that
ever happened to comic books in general and DC Comics specifically
(well, one of the two, the other being the Didiot). I keep
wondering who it is that Johns has incriminating photos of. Or how
he got popular in the first place. I remember reading Day of
Judgment back in the day and saying to myself “This is the most
poorly written comic, I’ve ever read, and that includes all the
indie comic crap about unsociable loners whom normal just don’t
understand because the loner is “special” in some way (God I HATE
Ghostworld!)”. I mean, Alan
Scott supported Hal becoming the Spectre because and I quote “it
feels right”. Yes, let’s just give the power of God to a mass
murdering psychopath who had to be reminded that racism was bad
back when he was sane. And then his Teen Titans where every issue basically amounted to 22
pages of “Hey do you guys remember the NEW Teen Titans? Wasn’t
book awesome? Isn’t it this just like it? Isn’t it? Isn’t it?”
I gave up after 6 issues, and haven’t read a johns comic since.
The jarring violence of Johns' stories aside, again, there's a
legitimate point to be made that all that "naval-gazing" gets way
out of hand in his storytelling. He's not even actually trying to
appeal to new readers, just to old ones and allegedly peddle a book
that's supposed to literally be nostalgic for those eras gone by
without even being very clever, nor very thoughful.
If you ask me, and you didn’t, there are really only two or three
writers who really understood what made the Silver Age great. AS
stated before by Karsten and Tim C, it has nothing to do with the
characters who were wooden, interchangable, one-dimensional
goodie-goodies. The big appeal was the constant stream of new
ideas and new characters. In my opinion the only people that ever
understood that were Grant Morrison, Mark Waid, and Tom Peyer on
the criminally underrated Hourman book. These guys kept expanding
the mytholiges of characters and giving us new takes on old
concept, and brining in completely fresh concepts (speed force,
time prison, and god only knows how many crazy things Morrrison
came up with). Every time I picked up an issue of Flash, JLA, or
Hourman, I knew I was going to get something I’d never really seen
before. It was awesome!
To me, the worst part of Johns
writing is endemic of all of what’s ailing DC comics currently,
which is this bizarre combination of self-referential nostalgia
and incredible, explicit hyperviolence. The whole thing seems to
be “Remember Barry Allen wasn’t he awesome? Well, now he’s super
badass cuz he rapes kittens and then pulls apart dead bodies and
drinks blood. Super-kewl, man”. And it’s not superkewl, it’s a
symptom of an inability to create a new idea and tell it in a
Sorry for the length of the rant, but Chris’s review just got me
thinking. Great review Chris, and I second that general Johns
Long time reader, first time poster.
Let's hope Lee doesn't do
that. I'll say for Lee that he's surely even more reasonable a man
than DiDio and Johns will ever be, but then that's why he'd do well
not to help them out of any jam they'll hopefully get themselves
I seriously think that Johns will be infamous some day as the guy
who killed DC comics. You can’t devote most of your career to
rendering things out of continuity just because you didn’t like
the stories, or changing characters back to how they were circa
1983 without ruining some of the things readers liked about DC’s
shared universe in the process. Which probably helps explain why a
lot of “popular” DC books sell about like stuff that would have
been cancelled back in 2002.
Johns has done a lot over the past ten years to drive away people
like me who had no major beefs with DC’s status quo before the
year 2000, when he and Judd Winick and Greg Rucka started
deliberately messing things up in preparation for Infinite Crisis.
And for what? To add a few more members to the JSA? To make Green
Lantern one of the only titles that gets decent sales? To bring
back Barry Allen?
Now, the “DC Nation” that DiDio used to talk about all the time is
basically the fifty or sixty thousand people who still like
reading Geoff Johns comics. If those are the only people you can
count on to buy your stuff on a consistent basis, you might as
well throw in the towel and admit you just publish comics as a way
of keeping the rights to the characters. In which case, they might
as well just reprint old comics from the Eighties instead of
paying Johns all that money to write new ones. They can stick some
fresher pop culture references into old Wolfman/Perez New Teen
Titans comics and call them “Titans Reborn” or something.
I predict that promoting Johns will turn out to be a really,
really dumb move. He and DiDio probably won’t ever figure out that
most people don’t like the Johns formula of mixing pre-Crisis on
Infinite Earths nostalgia with Miracleman-style violence any more,
so that means they’re screwed unless Jim Lee somehow manages to
save their bacon.
I feel that Geoff Johns’ writing kind of symbolizes
eveything right AND wrong with modern DC comics. I am, however,
seeing his promotion to chief CREATIVE director as kind of a red
flag. Being CREATIVE isn’t the guy’s strong suit.
No siree, it sure ain't. And here's another worthy note:
The original Captain Boomerang is a cooler character,
even in spite of his horrible costume. They probably brought him
back as a bone they could throw to people who didn’t like Identity
Crisis. Also, it helps make DC in 2010 a little more like DC in
The one I don’t get is bringing back the original Hawk. Also known
as Extant. The guy Johns had the JSA and Metron basically murder
in cold blood as revenge for stuff that happened during Zero Hour.
The guy Johns then went on to replace with a new Hawk. Who was the
never before seen or mentioned estranged sister of the female
I don’t see Johns as being self-aware enough to realize that
introducing the never before seen or mentioned estranged sister of
the female Dove was a mistake. So what’s the deal? Did he finally
notice how weird it was to have the JSA murder a guy and then
basically let Atom-Smasher take all the blame for it?
Yes, I know the story where Extant died in a plane crash so that
Atom-Smasher could rescue his adoptive mother without causing a
time paradox was Johns’ way of dealing with the death of his
sister, the inspiration for Stargirl. That was still a weird
So… Is Hawk going to be evil now? Is he going to become Extant
again? Or was Johns or somebody just feeling nostalgic about the
Karl Kesel series?
Just imagine how awkward it will be the next time Hawk sees the
JSA. “Hey there, guys. Remember how I killed three of the coolest
members of your team for stupid editorial reasons during Zero
Hour? And then you let Atom-Smasher and Metron kill me so Johns
could put how he felt about that into continuity? Let’s just let
bygones be bygones, huh? Call it even? Wait! What if I said
Parallax the evil space bug made me do it? Please don’t kill me
again, Alan! Jay? Ted? Okay, I can probably take Ted… Not in the
face! Not in the face!!”
Well, I’m tremendously nostalgic for the Karl/Barbara
Kesel “Hawk and Dove” series, but even I have to admit that the
character has been wrecked so badly that nothing short of a truly
****ing hellacious retcon can fix him.
I have some ideas how to repair things, and that's by retconning
away a lot of the grevious errors made since the early 90s. For now,
I can understand how people feel about Hank Hall, whom I'm not sure
has been depicted very respectably since returning, making this
resurrection all the more mysterious. Next:
DiDio is going to be known as the other guy responsible
for the death of DC’s mainstream comics line. The guy has done
almost nothing to justify why some people think he’s doing a good
job, other than smoothing things over with Grant Morrison that one
time he threatened to take his ball and go home.
If I were in charge, DiDio would've been fired long ago. He's
actually done quite a bit to drive away decent writers like Chuck
Dixon, yet he's allowed to continue as any kind of a comptroller?
DiDio called Countdown “52 done right.” That right there should
have been a huge red flag.
DC’s successes under DiDio’s tenure mostly seem to boil down to
ol’ Dan getting out of the way when Johns or Morrison want to do
something that sounds cool. And for this he keeps getting
Here's a reader comment that sums up almost similar feelings to
Even back when I was basically a Johns enthusiast
(because of JSA and Hawkman), I always disliked his work on Flash.
Seemed to me like he broke Wally
West, after Waid had done such great work for so long
developing him. And what he did
with the Rogues was my first hint about what was to come: “all
character development since 1986 should be undone, so that
everything’s like it was in the Bronze Age, except with a nasty
edge and a bit of the old ultra-violence.”
Yep. There's a resonable argument to be made that Johns all but ran
Wally into a corner, one more reason why I'm advocating a reboot of
several years worth of continuity for this decade, something which
sadly may never be done.
I don’t actually believe that he deliberately broke Wally in order
to make him unusuable in order to get the chance to bring back
Barry. But it kind of amuses me to pretend to believe it.
I’m fine with saying: Barry could be interesting. But Wally
already *was* interesting, and Barry made a better dead patron
saint than he had ever made an actual character. Seems like a lot
of trouble to go through, for no particularly good reason.
And here's another comment that's also got something worth
I want to echo what [name withheld] said above. I love
DC’s characters. I grew up in the comic book Bronze Age, but
thanks to 80-page giants and 100-page super spectaculars I was
pretty well-versed in the rich history of the company. I knew the
difference between Earth-X and Earth-S.
This alludes to the mess of company-wide crossover "events" that
have been virtually choking the company in one way or another for
years now, and another problem they've led to: zero character
development or exploration. The same problem has plagued Marvel as
well, with all character development, plausible or otherwise,
brought to an utter standstill. One more reason why it's hard to
understand why they're bringing back Barry Allen if they can't even
explore his character, or give a plausible personality. Judging from
the declining sales receipts, people may have begun to realize this.
For me, Barry Allen will always be THE Flash. While I don’t
dispute Chris’ argument, the truth is that none of that matters to
me. I’m the guy who wants things to be the way they were when I
was a kid.
And yet, I have no intention of
reading the new Flash series. Nor do I read Superman,
Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern or any other current comics
featuring these beloved characters.
Why? Because I find it pointless to read the monthly adventures of
heroes who live in a constant
state of universe-shattering crisis, where Nothing Will Ever Be
The Same Again. And again. Where icons are butchered to slake
fanboy bloodlust, then resurrected to play their part in the
next cosmos-overturning, year-long crossover. (And they
said that the multiple earths were confusing.)
I briefly bought Detective Comics when Paul Dini was writing it
and it wasn’t part of some multi-title story arc. Because I like
Batman, and I want to read stories about Batman (preferably Bruce
Wayne) being Batman.
I was thrilled when I heard the multiverse was back. But rather
than spend some time exploring the ramifications of that “new”
reality, DC immediately set to
destroying most of the revived earths. Then there was a “final”
crisis (which I did read, but still don’t understand), followed
immediately by everyone becoming a zombie power ring-wielder,
followed immediately by whatever the hell Brightest Day is.
So, instead of buying current DC Comics, I watch “The Brave and
the Bold” and revel in good stories, well-told.
Johns most definitely does deserve to be remembered alongside DiDio
as the men who helped to destroy DC Comics, all because they
couldn't keep themselves from allegedly bringing back the Silver
Age, in a way they consider "cool" - that is, to make it more
violent, less joyful, and overall, downright depressing.
The best way to save the company, IMO, would be to buy out the comic
book publishing arm of DC and Marvel, and leave the other stuff,
like the toys and movies based on them, to Warner Brothers and
Disney to make money off of. Could such an idea be done? It's
possible, if we consider that Atari at one time split into two
different companies, one that made video games and the other that
made computer hardware and software. Volvo split into two seperate
companies back in 1998 when the car unit was bought by Ford, and the
truck division became a separate one too. If that could be done, the
same is possible with DC and Marvel comics.
The only question that remains then, is if anyone decent is out
there who'd be willing to buy ownership of the comic book publishing
division, and has the money needed to buy the outfits?
Copyright 2010 Avi Green. All rights reserved.
Home FAQ Columns
Blog Food Blog