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WAITING FOR TOMMY: GEOFF JOHNS
By Richard Johnston

RICHARD: Modern Westerns - well, there's Once Upon A Time In Mexico. Gangster? Sopranos or Snatch.... none of these are traditional films of their genre, they're more aware of what's been. Hell the closest I've seen to a traditional Western of late was Firefly, and they had to put that in space and make it post-Buffy ironic. Clint Eastwood had to go into space as well... even Unforgiven was a work of deconstruction. Basically I'm wondering if anything can be true to its original genre anymore after it's been commented on by an example of its own genre? Just as it's now harder to make a traditional slasher/horror movie without having to deal with what Scream brought to the genre. How has the existence of, say, Watchmen, The Authority, Ultimate Spider-Man or, say, recent Daredevil affected how you tell a "traditional" superhero story? And how does that tie in with your current Flash arc?

GEOFF: A fantastic question, Rich. Any genre constantly evolves, and parody or being self-aware, eventually will spring forth during this evolution but that's only part of the evolution. Let's look at Gangster films. They didn't start with Godfather. They were there almost from the very beginning of American Film. Movies like The Public Enemy, Quick Millions, The Roaring Twenties all hit in the 1930's. And then as concerns changed in the 40's, gangster films reflected those changes, even more so in the 50's when news about organized crime came to the forefront with the help of television. With the war over, crime at home was more of a concern. Look at the typical cliche film -- Hoodlum Empire, which could've told anyone that as of 1952 the Gangster genre was dead. But then you have On the Waterfront and Some Like It Hot, which I bet for the majority of comic readers out there are the only Gangster films they've seen out of the ones listed above. Someone out there always knew how to twist the convention, the characters, the perspective. Bonnie and Clyde woke the genre up again in the 60's, Godfather in the 70's. The genre has looked at itself, parodied itself, found the cliches -- Once Upon a Time in America is exactly what that film does. But still the genre survives. As you said, Sopranos and Snatch are there, as well as Get Shorty, Casino, Pulp Fiction, Grosse Pointe Blank, Donnie Brasco, LA Confidential, Fargo, Out of Sight. And you can bet, that heist and gangster and organized crime as a subject and genre will continue to evolve. And someone out there will think gangster films didn't exist until Sopranos.

As far as tradition -- having a gangster hold a gun and put a hit on somebody can be equated to having a super-hero wear a cape and save someone's life. It's a staple of the genre, and it'll be twisted and turned around, but it's not going to go away.

 

TOMB RAIDER: SCARFACE'S TREASURE #1 DF EXCLUSIVE COMIC

Take another example of a sub-genre -- "buddy films" -- in the last few decades, since I have direct experience with this. When Donner directed Lethal Weapon and it became a success, along with a few other classics like 48 Hours, buddy films were "hot." Eventually leading to things like Loaded Weapon where it's all about parody. Even Lethal Weapon 4, which obviously is not the strongest of the four films, begins to parody itself. But as the audience changes and the people involved in production change, it starts circling back again, looked at with a different perspective. With movies like Bad Boys or even, a combination of Western and buddy film, Shanghai Noon, the genre gets dusted off and a project works, which in turn gets more audiences to want to see something like that and more studios saying, "Let's make that film."

You can also see this cycle in slasher/horror films. They were "dead" until Scream came out and addressed everything we all knew about slasher/horror films. Later films like Sixth Sense, Blair Witch, and the Ring again redefine the modern horror genre, or at the very least, give it a new lease on life. And the remaking of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre comes out and it is the #1 movie. This, I'm sure, will result in more slasher films getting the green light. New Line and Dimension built most of what they are on horror films.

What's this all have to do with super-hero comics and tradition to me?

Watchmen (hell, Alan Moore himself) and those very few other monumental projects that have hit comic books made not only the audience, but the creators, take another look at the genre. And that's a good thing. Books you mention like Ultimate Spider-Man, Authority, Wildcats, 100 Bullets, Daredevil, are all fantastic. But calling myself a traditional writer, maybe I see that as meaning something different than you do. Writing super-heroes, dealing with super-villains and costumes and powers and subplots, is to me, traditional. Growing up reading Mark Waid's THE FLASH, Peter David's THE INCREDIBLE HULK, John Ostrander's SUICIDE SQUAD and Grant Morrison's ANIMAL MAN influenced me. On some level, they're all traditional in a sense, but they skew it. They look at it from a different angle. I try to do that with the work I do. But at the same time, this is a comic book. It's not a movie or a television show, it's a comic. So let's wear costumes, let's use villains and the history of the universe. That's just my personal preference of working on super-hero books. That's what I like to do. Others disagree and that's fine. That's why diversity among comics is so great. Also, I would rather write a monthly book than a mini-series for these reasons. I like the monthly format.

I think the biggest challenge with super-hero books today, that creators may have not had twenty years ago, was that the audience is staying with comics. They've read hundreds and hundreds of super-hero books. They've seen Batman kick Joker's ass seventy times and Spider-Man almost kill Green Goblin fifty times. How do you make that interesting for both the new and older reader? Capturing both audiences is the trick. Ultimate Spider-Man has done it, deservedly so. That's the main objective of Teen Titans, JSA, The Flash, etc. To be accessible, but at the same time show them something new about the characters or concepts. It's really a juggling act, but it's vital if we want to keep the audience and have it grow. It's also vital to have new concepts like Runaways and Arrowsmith - two of the best books out there -- and imprints like Vertigo, but you can't ignore the fact that the DC and Marvel characters are well-known. For many they were a doorway into other books like Vertigo, Wildstorm, etc. and that's great. Let's keep using them as that.

In the end, I don't care how people get into comics or what they read, as long as they are there. I fill a certain niche that I enjoy right now so that's what I'm doing.

And with the Flash, I don't want to get into it too much, because the arc will itself, but for me, the Flash has always been THE super-hero book. From the introduction to DC's Silver Age to Mark Waid bringing fun back to super-heroes after years of "realism" to Grant doing his run on the Flash during his rebirth of JLA to Scott and I saying, "Hey, it's okay to have a Rogues Gallery!" -- the Flash has always grabbed hold of what super-heroes are. Ignition plays with the trends of today, and celebrates the super-heroics of yesterday and tomorrow.

Pages: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 Continued Here...

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