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Why I Dislike Geoff Johns and Believe He Should Not be CCO of DC Entertainment


on October 24, 2013

If you’ve been reading this website, you’ve probably gotten a good feel for what I like, what I don’t, what I support, and what I’m against. Likely, one of the main things/people you’ve discovered that I’m opposed to is Geoff Johns, former writer of Green Lantern and current Chief Creative Officer of DC Entertainment.

I am going to finally thoroughly explain my dislike for this individual, and why I feel he should not be the Chief Creative Officer of DC. Just to prepare you, this is going to be another controversial and polarizing article, but the points need to be brought out.

Why would I dislike Geoff Johns?
I think figuring out the answer should be simple. I typically don’t like answering questions with questions, but I think it is appropriate for this instance.

Why in the world would any John Stewart fan like Geoff Johns?
What has he done for us lately? As a matter of fact, what has he done for us at all!?

To be fair, not all John Stewart fans are as black or white as me. Perhaps there are fans of John Stewart who actually like Geoff Johns’ work. I’m not of that variety, but I’ll get to that in a bit. There is, however, one thing I believe most, if not all, real John Stewart fans can agree with about Geoff Johns’ nine year tenure writing Green Lantern, and more or less overseeing the whole franchise.

John Stewart was poorly portrayed and terribly underutilized. Criminally underutilized.

Honestly, there were other times when John was underutilized and terribly portrayed, such as when Ron Marz was writing Green Lantern in the ’90s. Marz’s depiction of John Stewart was the “Magical Negro” trope. To make matters even worse, John was often crippled. Yes, that was bad!

However terrible that was, and however much I don’t agree with that direction, I can’t say it was especially unfair to John Stewart in particular. The entire Green Lantern franchise was turned on its head. John Stewart was just one of many casualties of the tumult.

Ten or so years after that, Geoff Johns gained control of the Green Lantern franchise. There was rebuilding of everything that had been destroyed during Marz’s tenure. Pretty much everything was reversed due to elaborate retcons.

All the main characters of pre-Marz Green Lantern enjoyed some kind of resurgence.
All the main characters BUT John Stewart, that is!

As I mentioned elsewhere on this site, John Stewart was frequently completely out of sight, and when he did appear, he was hidden in the background and usually doing nothing of any importance. He was the “Where’s Waldo” of Green Lantern. This went on for Geoff Johns’ entire run overseeing Green Lantern.

I can accept what happened during the Marz period better, because it happened to everyone and everything. During the Johns era, however, John Stewart in particular was blackballed, and it was pretty obvious it was happening.

At the time, I could not understand it, since John Stewart is an extremely prominent character in the hit cartoon shows Justice League and Justice League Unlimited, which were airing new episodes. We have to take into account, though, that Warner Bros. Animation (who made the cartoons), and DC Comics are two different entities. The folks at the animation department, such as Bruce Timm, Dwayne McDuffie, Stan Berkowitz, and so on, are the ones who should be credited with the great majority of John Stewart’s popularity. DC Comics hasn’t done much at all for the character.

The animation people did the work for them! They built up a popular, strong character that many people see as Green Lantern. To top it off, he is a minority! A minority character who is incredibly well fleshed out and featured in a major role, and is accepted by large audiences? That’s a really big accomplishment in the comics medium! It’s something very positive that I feel should be nurtured.

What I really hold against Geoff Johns the most is that he gave me the (very well founded) impression that he intentionally went against all of that. All the character building. All the progress for the industry and medium. All the potential to do even greater things from there…
FORGET IT!

Nope! Gonna’ bring back the white guy from 1959, while totally burying the breakthrough minority hero who is loved by millions, who the younger audience knows as Green Lantern, and who many among the older audience came to know as Green Lantern. The guy who so many were expecting to see when the trailer for the Green Lantern movie was shown.

I cannot understand that logic, and actions like that are what make mainstream American super hero comic books seem so backwards, alienating, and unwelcoming to folks who actually do love super heroes but won’t touch the source material. I would like to clarify that bringing back Hal Jordan isn’t even the main issue. It’s related, but not the problem in and of itself. The main problem is that John was so ignored. It was obviously intentional, and it went on for so long!

When John was allowed to show up, this is the type of thing we saw.

Notice a theme here? I don’t think I really need to say it.

That is Geoff Johns’ idea of how Green Lantern should be. Hal Jordan is number one, and John Stewart should somehow be subservient, inferior, or behind him. Every. Single. Time.

Personally, I don’t accept or believe in that. Myself and most other John Stewart fans did not become die hard fans because John took a back seat to someone like Hal Jordan. The John Stewart many of us came to love and respect so much is a strong, competent leader. Not some background lackey who’s second, third, or fourth best and who doesn’t contribute anything of value. Even when John was on a team with Batman and Superman, he was never treated like ‘people furniture’ or some constantly sad, subservient boring goon. Take a look at Geoff Johns’ comics and that is exactly what John is in them (when he’s there).

Geoff Johns’ supporters often credit him with making Green Lantern a top selling comic book and building it into a heavyweight franchise. I admit that he considerably boosted Green Lantern’s popularity with comic book fans, but honestly, I think he did more harm to the franchise than he did good, and I have firm reasons for believing this.

The Green Lantern movie.

Some of Geoff Johns’ supporters claim he had nothing to do with the film, despite him being co-producer and reportedly choosing the writers and telling them what to write. That movie has his fingerprints all over it. It lost over 90 million dollars and is listed as the 12th biggest box office bomb in history.

The expensive CGI cartoon, Green Lantern: The Animated Series, which lasted one season and is completely off television right now, while, interestingly enough, the considerably older Justice League and Justice League Unlimited are still being aired on network television.

Warehouses of unsold merchandise related to the film and cartoon show. Retailers will not accept Green Lantern movie or cartoon merchandise because IT DOESN’T SELL!

Geoff Johns’ dream was to get Green Lantern to rival Batman and Superman… and we saw his laughable attempt at realizing that dream.

This is the state Johns left Green Lantern in.
This may make me sound like an anti-fan, but I’m happy for it. I think his vision of Green Lantern needed to be torn down for something more beautiful to grow. And boy, did it ever crash and burn!

I think the moral of his story is that appealing to comic book fans of a certain type is one thing. Appealing to everyone else is something entirely different. I don’t believe Johns has what it takes to appeal to the general audience in a great way, and that is why I’m against him being the Chief Creative Officer of DC Entertainment. His efforts on the Green Lantern movie are reason enough to feel that way, but there’s something else I want to bring out.

I call into question his use of minority characters.

I’ve already gone over John Stewart’s treatment in Green Lantern. Let’s consider something more recent. Geoff Johns is currently the writer of Justice League. His Justice League includes the African American character Cyborg. There’s quite a bit to say about this…
What the heck is he even doing there? Cyborg is a known Teen Titan. His inclusion as a founding member of the Justice League is all kinds of strange.

Bruce Timm addressed the issue of diversity in the Justice League when he made the Justice League cartoon in 2001. He thought a bunch of white guys with one white girl saving the universe portrayed a rather dated view, and I agree. He presented viewers with John Stewart, a black Green Lantern. As mentioned, Timm and his team put a lot of work in building John Stewart into a brilliant character.

It’s my belief that John Stewart has something to do with Cyborg’s inclusion in the League. I think that Geoff Johns refused to use John Stewart, and thus shoehorned in a Teen Titan to be a token black. What makes Cyborg a token is that he’s there just so the creators can say they have a black guy. Johns has been writing Justice League since 2011, and he has yet to do anything substantial with Cyborg, whereas Timm used John Stewart to great effect, displaying genuine care and interest in the character and making him all he could be.

Not only does Geoff Johns likely intentionally shun John Stewart (again), he uses Cyborg as a token. It’s an insult to both characters, really.

Take a look at this image.

Cyborg stands out like a sore thumb. He has no place there. Furthermore, I can’t help but think it’s bizarre that the one minority on the team is a freakish, ugly robot, while all other members are white and pretty. It’s just… not… a very comfortable representation. We did not see that type of uncomfortable clumsiness in Bruce Timm’s Justice League. For instance, there was another female to balance things better, and the minority was just as prestigious and larger than life as the other heroes. Green Lantern and Hawkgirl are arguably the strongest characters on the show, with the most developed character arcs. Seeing as Johns will not allow John Stewart on the team (even when Hal leaves), Cyborg is a consolation prize. In 2013, I don’t believe minorities should accept or support that type of thing.

Staying on the subject of minorities, and speaking of “clumsy and uncomfortable,” Geoff Johns created his own minority character in Green Lantern and… the whole affair takes clumsy and uncomfortable to another level.

Simon Baz is an Arab American Muslim… who wears what resembles a ski mask, and who totes around a hand gun, even though he’s a Green Lantern. By the way, Simon Baz is a car thief.

I’m honestly surprised there aren’t more people complaining about this. On the one hand, it’s so ridiculous that it’s hilarious, and on the other, I actually do believe it’s bothersome, and I’m not one who is particularly easily offended by my entertainment. But this is so bad that it seems like a parody, except it’s not.

Johns, in trying to be ‘legit,’ talks about how he is an Arab American himself, with a supposedly Lebanese father. While there may be some truth in there, clearly, this is an attempt to make it seem as though he is in touch with minorities, and is one himself.

No one would ever know that Geoff Johns is “Arab American,” and I have a sneaking suspicion that whatever percentage of Arabic blood he may have did very little to shape his life, if at all, especially since his supposedly Lebanese father is named Fred Johns. Furthermore, Geoff Johns, this supposed Arab American, shows his own ignorance of Muslims by giving Simon Baz a tattoo, which is against Muslim beliefs. The whole Simon Baz thing just makes me shake my head.

Last, but certainly not least, I dislike Geoff Johns’ storytelling. His comics just don’t appeal to me. People say Johns is the Michael Bay of comics, and I find that comparison spot on. His comics often read like brainless, vapid, Hollywood action films, and I don’t mean that in a flattering way.

I could go on and on detailing my problems with his Green Lantern run, but this particular article is long enough as is. I’ll just direct you to another article, which I agree with on many accounts:
Speaking Power to Stupid: The Ever-Dumb Green Lantern Comics of Geoff Johns.

In closing, I would like to point out that I don’t believe the “ire” from John Stewart fans comes from us being selfish and wanting everything to always be John Stewart and John Stewart only, and all other Green Lantern fans be damned. It comes from our favorite character (a popular, well known character) being specifically targeted and unfairly marginalized, and us being damn tired of it. There is excellent reason to believe the key person behind that (or at least one of them) was Geoff Johns.

I’m sure some Hal Jordan fans are thinking, “At least your character didn’t get turned into a murderous villain and die.” The difference between Hal Jordan and John Stewart is that Hal went through what he did -whether it was giving up his ring, or dying- because there wasn’t much interest in the character during the times of those occurrences. I’m not saying everything that happened to him was entirely justified (not that I’m saying it was wrong, I’m just not going to address that issue), but at least there was a good, understandable reason for why DC chose to do what it did.

With John Stewart, there is a recognized character with a hungry, STARVING fanbase. A character who is fleshed out and developed well, and whose potential to go further was sadly squandered by apathetic and/or combative comic creators. A character who, until recently, wasn’t even given a chance. Not even a small one. That is why I view his treatment as unfair and wrong. And, again, many of us are tired of it.

So… yeah. I don’t care for Geoff Johns, and I believe DC could do much better in picking a Chief Creative Officer. Despite him having success in comics, I don’t believe he should be looked to for being one of the people primarily responsible for growing DC’s audience among the general public.