My comic fandom origin is a bit different then most of my peers. I didn’t grow up reading comics; in my house we couldn’t afford them. I did spend one summer collecting Milestone titles when they first came out, I believe I was 14 at the time, but that’s about it. That doesn’t mean I didn’t have a life long love of these characters, I just happened to discover them through a different medium, cartoons. When I was a kid growing up in the early 80’s superheroes came into your living room every morning in the form of syndicated cartoons from Marvel that were originally from the 60’s. I remember seeing Spider-Man for the first time and instantly I was smitten.
That love affair continued on through my teen years and into my 30’s. I still wasn’t into comics, I had purchased a graphic novel here and there, but I had watched every cartoon iteration of these characters there was, from Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends and Challenge of the Superfriends, right on through Wolverine and the X-Men. That all changed when a friend of mine told me about the Marvel and DC apps for the iPhone. I wasn’t serious about comics, but what the hey, I could download a few free issues and they would help me get through those long boring work shifts. That all changed with one free download, Blackest Night #1.
I was never big on Green Lantern. I always saw him as a bit boring, or at least his John Stewart Justice League and Justice League Unlimited versions were, so I didn’t really think much when I downloaded Blackest Night #1. Once I read it though, I was smitten in that same way I had been when I was a kid discovering Spider-Man for the first time. Hal Jordan was the coolest character I had ever encountered, the man without fear. The man who did what he needed to do, even if that meant disregarding the orders of his superiors, Hal Jordan did what he felt was right. My love of Hal Jordan all started with the writings of Blackest Night’s author, Geoff Johns.
I not only purchased the rest of Blackest Night, I scoured wikipedia for Hal Jordan’s stories and then went and snatched them all up in trade paperbacks. I started buying Green Lantern monthly just see what Johns was going to do next, and he far from disappointed. The things that he did with the Green Lantern Universe were unreal. Hal Jordan had been a bad guy named Parallax at one point after going mad and killing off the Green Lantern Corp, but he eventually died in a moment of self-sacrifice and redemption. Johns said, let’s bring him back to life, BUT, Parallax wasn’t Hal Jordan, instead he was an entity of fear that had possessed Hal Jordan. Freaking brilliant! He was far from finished though. He came up with new lantern corps, blue, indigo, orange. He gave Sinestro his own corp. as well. Then he gave each corp. it’s own entity similar to Parallax. Oh my god, genius! The waged war on each other, they came together to help each other. Just when you thought a book like Green Lantern couldn’t get any more diverse with all of the different species of lanterns, Johns found way.
Johns and the Green Lantern crew delivered some of the best, hard hitting and action packed stories, Sinestro Corp. War, War of the Green Lanterns, Agent Orange and more. He also did the same with Barry Allen, resurrecting him in the same way he did with Jordan. Though I am not the type of person to follow creators, I follow characters rather, Johns became the first writer to really make me a fan. I didn’t go back to check out his old stories, but I did follow him on his future ones, including one who would get you laughed at a few short years ago if you read him.
Johns had delivered a tight and thrilling story with the event Flashpoint, which served to reboot the DC Universe in a way, and when that happened Johns took over a character that had proven to be problematic, Aquaman. It wasn’t that he was a bad character, it’s just that creative’s didn’t really know what to do with him. His powers aren’t the coolest, but what Arthur Curry did have going on was an exciting backstory. A story of royalty and betrayal, all set against the mysterious sunken city of Atlantis. Johns took that story and crafted a character that was conflicted and torn between the land and the sea, but never really belonging to either. Arthur was conflicted and tormented, he was finally…interesting. Johns took a character that was literally the butt of jokes (Robot Chicken DC Special) and made him not only one of the coolest characters in comics, but made him a huge critical and financial success for DC as well. Now admittedly, it’s not hard to get people to like the Green Lantern, but you turn Aquaman into a top selling book then you deserve to be in the comics hall of fame.
Johns is a super busy dude nowadays, he recently dropped off of Green Lantern. He’s writing a ton of books, setting up great stories, and then passing them off to others such as with Justice League of America, which is moving into Jeff Lemire’s capable hands and turning into the Justice League of Canada. He’s dabbled in movies, which could’ve worked out a bit better, though he did write one of last season’s best episodes of Arrow. He’s proven to be without a doubt one of the best all time comic writers, and though I didn’t go back and buy every book he’s been on, I would follow his pen anywhere it goes. If it weren’t for Johns and Blackest Night, I wouldn’t be sitting here writing this today and tabletop gaming would still get more coverage on FTN than comics. (Not that there is anything wrong with tabletop gaming.) Geoff Johns, as a long time superhero fan but a relatively recent comic fan, I thank you.