just have one piece of advice for Hollywood: let comic book author Geoff
Johns write the next Superman movie . . .
There has been a host of conflicting reports when it comes to the
Superman – The Man of Steel
sequel to Superman Returns
planned for 2011: Warner execs don’t want Lex Luthor as the villain again;
Kevin Spacey has already singed on; all DC superhero adaptations are on
hold; Bryan Singer doesn’t know if he’ll be back as director; and so on.
We don’t care because we only have one piece of advice for Hollywood:
sure, make it “darker” and make Brainiac the villain like actor Brandon
Routh has hinted in a recent interview, but give comic book writer Geoff
Johns a stab at the screenplay. Comic book magazine Wizard didn’t award
Geoff John’s run on Action Comics (the Superman title) “best
book” for 2008 for no reason, you know.
To recap: Geoff Johns is DC Comics’ go-to guy when they want to retcon a
Okay, let’s keep the comics jargon to a minimum here. Let’s say you have
been reading comics as a kid during the so-called Bronze Age of Comic
Books (from the early 1970s to the mid 1980s) or even the Silver Age (1956
to the early 1970s). If you were to return to any DC Comics title over the
past twenty years or so then you’d be confused as hell. For starters,
Barry Allen is no longer the Flash, and Hal Jordan is no longer Green
Lantern. In fact sometimes some white guy is Green Lantern and sometimes
some black guy is. Jordan it seems turned out to be a megalomaniacal crazed supervillain that almost destroyed the entire galaxy. Who would have
You see, starting in 1985 DC editors retconned the DC universe with the
Crisis on Infinite Earths storyline. In plain English: they killed off
a bunch of characters (like Supergirl and Barry Allen) and replaced them
with new ones to smooth out the complex back history bestowed onto them by
several decades of writers who churned out various titles a month and had
to keep things interesting. (In fact those writers in turn had to cope with
left to them by authors from the World War II era.) It happens all the
time. Pick up any Superman comic book from the ‘Seventies and you
will find that Clark Kent alias Superman isn’t working as a reporter for
the Daily Planet, but as a newsreader for a television station!
"Brainiac's spaceship now resembles a human skull with glowing red
eyes instead of his traditional flying saucer . . ."
The problem was that Crisis on Infinite Earths not only alienated
long-time readers, but also created its own host of continuity problems
for writers. However since 2005 DC Comics seem to be slowly retconning its
way back again to a pre-Crisis era. Sort of. Maybe it is nostalgia
on the part of thirty- or fortysomethinger DC writers who grew up with
Barry Allen as the Flash damn it, or maybe the publishers are trying to
woo back older readers. Who really knows? But in 2005 DC Comics brought
back Hal Jordan as Green Lantern (after all, no one really dies in
comics), and the guy who did it was 35-year-old Geoff Johns.
Recently Johns was also given Action Comics, the DC flagship title
that introduced Superman to the world way back in 1938. Johns immediately
proved himself to be quite the nostalgic sort by doing a storyline that
brought back the Legion of Superheroes, the group of superheroes from the
31st century to which Superman belonged briefly as a boy. His next
storyline was also tinged with nostalgia, but it also reinvented the
Superman mythos in new and exciting ways. Johns brought back Brainiac, the
extraterrestrial supervillain that exists to gather information about the
galaxy by collecting cities (literally!) by zapping them to miniature size
and storing them aboard his spaceship.
Johns made Brainiac edgier, more up-to-date and scarier (his spaceship now
resembles a human skull with glowing red eyes instead of his traditional
flying saucer) while still keeping the wide-eyed “innocence” of the
Superman character. Let’s face up to it: Superman isn’t Batman, and we
don’t want him to be “dark.” (Just like we didn’t really want
Spider-man 3 to be “darker.”) To lure
back readers from earlier eras Johns actually brought back characters from
the ‘Seventies run of Superman such as the jock sports writer Steve
Lombard. (Watching the nerdish Kent use his superpowers such as heat
vision to get the better of the boorish Lombard was always one of the joys
of 1970s era Superman comics. Why they wrote the character out of
the DC universe for so long is a mystery!)
Artist Gary Frank also maxed the nostalgia factor by drawing Kent /
Superman and Lois Lane to vaguely resemble Christopher Reeve and Margot
Kidder from the 1978 Superman flick. He
also deftly mixed “modern” design elements with a more retro 1930s look.
Some of the costumes and cityscapes are pure Flash Gordon. Frank
and Johns also kept the mix between artwork and dialogue just right. (Is
it just me – or are too many of today’s titles simply too dialogue-heavy?)
The end result is simply one of the best Superman comic books in
ages. It’s fun, action-packed and genuinely emotionally affecting. If you
like Superman and you missed out on it, John’s five-part Brainiac
story arch will be collected in trade paperback come March 10th, 2009.
Don’t miss it.
So here’s the low down, Hollywood: a big screen movie featuring Brainiac
will probably push up the budget for special effects and move the
franchise away from the more Earthbound concerns of Richard Donner’s
Superman. But to be honest we’re kinda tired of Lex Luthor and
Kryptonite as a plot device. Let’s face it: the best Superman movie to date
is one in which the Man of Steel battled an extraterrestrial threat,
namely 1980’s Superman II.
So let Geoff Johns do his magic for the big screen too here . . .
Superman: Brainiac (Hardcover)
by Geoff Johns (Author), Gary Frank (Illustrator)
Hardcover: 128 pages
Publisher: DC Comics (March 10, 2009)