In 2011, DC Comics rebooted the DC Universe with the New 52. The characters and world was given a fresh start with a lot of familiar elements from before. Despite the changes and progress made since then, there has been a feeling that something is missing. With DC Universe: Rebirth, Geoff Johns is aiming to bring back those missing elements and return the characters to the legacies that have been created.
DC Universe: Rebirth is on sale May 25. Some spoilers were leaked and DC decided to allow us to discuss the spoilers and changes coming. You can read a review of the issue here . If you really want to see the spoilers, you can find them here. We spoke Johns about the issue. Spoilers begin midway through.
Comic Vine: First question, why Rebirth? Why was now the right time for this whole thing?
Geoff Johns: Well, it really started with a conversation with Dan [DiDio] and Jim [Lee] when they decided that they were going to end the titles at number 52. I thought that was clever, but they wanted to relaunch everything again. I think it was probably the reaction that a lot of people had was, "Why? How? What does that mean?" I didn't really think we could do another reboot, which they assured me they didn't want to do that, but at the same time there had to be a reason for it all. Like, what are we doing? Then they used the name Rebirth and knew that it meant something to me both personally and formatically so I asked them to give me some time to think about it. I came up with some ideas and pitched them, and it came together organically because I don't think it's ... I don't know I guess some people would say, "Why would you point out things that you think are missing from the comics?" and "Why would you address that?" To me, I'm like, why wouldn't you?
Why wouldn't we ... If we're going to do a hard look at the books, why wouldn't we look at everything that we think is great and everything that is missing, that we think we lost throughout the last few years? There's some great stuff and there's some stuff that, as a hardcore DC fan, I miss and I think other people miss. How do we take all of it like we've done in Rebirth in the past and build off of what I think is the greatest comic book universe out there? The only way I could do that was by utilizing everything. I don't believe in throwing stuff away, I just believe in putting as many toys on the shelf and letting creators and other people get in there and tell great stories and add to the mythos. We should march this universe forward. I think the only way to march this forward is by addition not subtraction.
Did you basically take a blank slate and write where you felt some of the characters need to go?
Yeah, I did what I'd done on titles of the past. If I was going to step in and talk to everybody about Rebirth and the dramatic of Rebirth, as I have ad nauseam, hope and optimism are the core values of DC universe. That had to be front and center above anything else. I really want to analyze and look at why I think hope and optimism escape people, both in our comic books and also just in the world. I think hope and optimism are two things that are undervalued and maybe not as prevalent as I think they should be.
That thematic was where it started and then from there it really came to what character and characters embody that and embody the other aspects of the DC universe that are vital to it. Things like legacy and cosmic grand operas are the epic story telling of DC, the stories that swoop across the universe. We have stories that say something about us and comics and everything else. That was the goal, to really explore all that. It came down, at the end of the day, when I started to zero in on it, it had to be an emotional story about one character in particular. Emotional story telling is why people engage in these characters.
Some of the characters you're returning to their legacy, bringing back those missing elements, but other characters, like Wonder Woman, you're kind of adding to that. Did you just go on a case by case basis to decide what was needed by each character?
There's the Rebirth special and then there's other aspects of the DC universe, like I came in and spoke with the editors and the writers just about character and tonal direction. There's certain story aspects that came up, like Tom King, Tom has a great story coming up [in Batman]. It introduces some great characters and I'm like, "Oh, I'd love to hint at that in the book." There's a really interesting story in Hellblazer where Constantine and Swamp Thing are reluctantly teamed up to try and save Abby Arcane from the darkness that she's fallen into. There are a lot of storyline that, for me, are coming out of the organic and thematics of the special, of reconnecting those emotional bonds with characters, of introducing new ideas and legacy. As that formed, that stuff became a part of the special.
I really want the special to be one of those giant books where people sit down, read it, are shocked, and feel something. I want them to be excited and feel like, "Wow, I just read a DC universe story." It's something that touches every corner of the DC universe and some of the big characters, like Batman, and others with lesser characters or forgotten characters or new characters, whether it be Jessica Cruz, or Jackson Hyde, or Damian Wayne.
Now, with your new position at DC films, how involved will you be with the Rebirth titles and stories?
Well, Dan and Jim run editorial, I never have run editorial, I just write my books. I helped talk about the foundation of this, but it's really in the hands of the editors and the creators. You have a direction, but they're telling their stories and doing their titles. It's in great hands, you have people like Tom King and writers like Julie and Shauna Benson on Birds of Prey, Steve Orlando, Joshua Williamson on Flash. There's a lot of terrific, Peter Tomasi of course, there's a lot of terrific writers both new to DC and also core to DC working on these books. I'm excited to read these as a fan now, and see what they do.
Now we'll get into the spoiler section.
Why did you choose Wally as the main character in this story, in this special?
There's no single character in the DC universe that represents legacy, hope, and optimism as well as Wally West does. He's been my favorite character since I was a kid. I grew up reading Wally West and the Flash, and the whole reason that change comes in the DC universe is always led by a Flash story. Showcase #4, Crisis on Infinite Earths when Barry died, Flashpoint when Barry was back and the universe changed again. It just felt ... Everything fell into place very quickly, he was the representative of everything I thought was missing, and again, you need a Flash on the forefront, it just feels natural to have a Flash on the forefront of change in the DC universe.
Now, we have two separate Wally Wests now, who are cousins is this part of what you said before about not throwing things away?
Yeah, I think there's ... It's a universe, a multiverse and there's no reason to put characters on the shelf. I think everyone should have access to any character they want to play with. That's what is so great about comics, so many characters have died, but they always come back because people love these characters.
I feel like a lot of times there's two modes of comic books, there's tearing things down and building things up. Building things up is much more fun. Bringing the Green Lantern Corps back front and center and then adding mythology on top of that, I find is a much more exciting direction to watch than the destruction of an entire world or the contraction of mythology. It has to be an expansion, that's the whole point of this. You build on what's come before and try and add some things that people can build on later. That's what a living breathing organic DC universe should be doing. The greatest creators add thing that survive the test of time. That process continues.
Now as far as characters who don't have their own titles like Saturn Girl and the Two Atoms, will we just have to keep an eye out and they're just going to pop up in different books?
Yeah, there are some story lines that have been planted that are very long term. There are some that are followed up immediately. To me, that's the fun of the multiple organic story tellings. You get to watch things unfold throughout the universe. So, yeah you'll have to keep your eyes open. I'm sure they won't be shy about pointing you in the direction of those stories when they start to come out.
Is this the last we're going to see of Pandora?
Yes, it is. Unless someone has a story down the line [laughs], but for me she represented that New 52 era. I think by having a character like that at the end, and Ray Fawkes did a really good job with this, but to have a character like that, she learned to embrace hope. Someone who had released all the evils on the world eventually began to embrace and live by hope. Hope is the most powerful fundamental force in the DC universe.
Okay, the big surprise villain at the end, if you want to call it a villain...
I wouldn't call it a villain, call it more of a presence.
What made you go this route?
Well, you'd have to read the book, I don't want to totally spoil it. I would just say for everyone who hasn't read the book, and I know spoilers are getting out there online and I hope people who want to read them are reading them, but I hope people who want to save the book and take it all in wait on surprise. I would just say, thematically and logically, once you read the book, it makes a lot of sense. We're exploring a very big theme in that book. That theme is the power of optimism and the power of hope and how no matter what you do it will shine through if you try and help it shine through. That's the reason it was chosen. Again, the subtleties and the nuances of it, you'll have to read.
All right, I think I know the answer to this, but as you mentioned being now like a comic fan reading since you're kind of stepping back, what are you most excited to see develop from here?
I'm just really excited about seeing all of the characters develop because we talk so much about character. All I care about is character. What James Tynion IV is doing on Detective Comics by exploring those characters. What's going to happen to the Teen Titans, the corner of the Green Lantern universe, and Flash of course. There's just some great exciting stories coming up. I'm excited by books like Deathstroke with Christopher Priest. I think it's just an exciting time because we ... This is because I've spent so much time talking about character with everybody, and everyone is making sure that this is all character driven because it's about character first, it's about telling first and building the DC universe and celebrating it. There's a lot of books I'm excited to read. When the time is right, I'll be excited to come back in and do another story.
Is there any characters that we should keep an eye on that might not be obvious at this point?
No, I'd say I think you're going to probably see ... You're probably going to see people follow the Titans book and Flash maybe more than they would after they read the special.
DC Universe: Rebirth is on sale May 25. Here are some officially released images, courtesy of DC Comics.