Posted by Xander Pakzad
“Every character has unlocked potential. Even Superman and Batman still have unlocked potential.”
This week, DC fans in Los Angeles were treated to a speech and book signing with Geoff Johns, Chief Creative Officer at DC Comics. He spoke at length about Forever Evil, the series that brings together all the villains of the DC Universe. Johns is the main writer of Forever Evil, and his talk shed light on how he got into the minds of these recognizable and complicated characters.
(Warning: If you haven't yet read Forever Evil #1-7, spoilers lie ahead!)
"The biggest thing out of Forever Evil is Lex Luthor having a chance at redemption."
"Forever Evil is really a celebration of the DC villainy… and it’s really a Lex Luthor story. I wanted to see Lex Luthor care about somebody, which we did, I wanted to see Lex Luthor, get very angry, which we saw, I wanted him to make jokes, I wanted him to laugh, I wanted him to feel guilty.
"How do I design the story to kind of force him to experience that, and then how does he come out after that? Does he come out a real good guy? And I got to the end and I thought, ‘He’s not quite there yet, but ... he’s kind of on his way to understanding a little bit more about what it means to be a hero, or what it means to even be just a human who doesn’t just think about himself. As narcissistic as Lex is, he kind of embodies that.
"There’s a scene where… one of [the Justice League] is like, ‘Well why do you want to join the Justice League?’ and he says, ‘Well I’ll tell you the truth: for my ego. Because it feels really good when people say, ‘Hey, you saved the world.’' … He loves his name on the side of big buildings."
“Villains in particular, I just look at and find interesting because they’re a little more unexpected and you, when you get into why they do what they do, they’re so varied in their motivations.”
Johns went over in great detail his favorite players in the Forever Evil saga and what he believes each of them brings to the table:
"If the Justice League is gone, the most prominent character next is Dick Grayson. To me, Dick Grayson/Nightwing is the most capable hero in the DC Universe. If Batman’s out of play, the Justice League’s out of play, Nightwing’s the character who can mobilize the whole DC Universe together. I think he’s… a more emotionally available version of Batman. Like, he could go and appeal to somebody and convince them that this is the right thing to do, so Nightwing was a target for a lot of reasons, but primarily because I think he can mobilize the DC Universe in a way that, you wouldn’t need Lex Luthor to come in and do it.
"Like Captain Cold and all these other characters who have unlocked potential, Black Adam was just kind of a dark version of Shazam, but there was some history there that was really interesting, the fact that he was chosen a thousand years ago. This man who was a former slave and got this great power to free his people and he did, people loved him. And then he’s like, ‘Well, I’m going to free them even more.'"
"And then you see Sinestro who is an alien who was a space cop, and then he broke away from that and created his own corps. And ultimately though, when [Sinestro and Black Adam] connect… In a weird way, they actually get along. … So to have those two bond over the feeling of, ‘Only I can save my people,’ was going to have some fun dynamics.”
So exactly how do the events of Forever Evil affect what will happen in Justice League? Johns couldn’t say too much, but he did hint that Luthor has a lot of his previous life to clean up:
"Forever Evil, that cracked Luthor enough… How it affects the Justice League moving forward… That character journey continues. The plotting of Forever Evil: there’s some storylines and some threads that happen in Forever Evil that carry over in Justice League, but that stuff is secondary to the character dynamics and the changes that happen within the series itself.
"There’s a whole storyline where someone’s trying to kill Lex Luthor. And in the wake of this, as they try and tackle LexCorp, something gets out of LexCorp that he created called the Amazo Virus, and what it does to metahumans and humans is explored. And Luthor’s kind of got to clean up his mess, and the Justice League’s got to help him clean up his mess all while trying to find out who’s after him and, ‘What is this virus, Lex, and what’d you create it for in the first place? And what other secrets do you have inside in LexCorp that you have to tell us about before suddenly have to evacuate an entire city again?"
Even with all the time he's spent on these characters—how much he's contributed to each of them in Forever Evil, Justice League, their individual series, and so much more—he still can't pick a favorite. It’s clear that each one embodies different personality traits, and they all have their own motivations:
"I love so many, it all depends who I’m writing for. Whether it’s kind of the cold callousness of Black Manta… or the egomaniac of Lex, or the self-righteousness of Sinestro. Sinestro’s the one I spent the most time with, probably. I think Captain Cold’s always going to have a place in my heart just because he’s the first villain I feel like I really had cracked into and spent time with. Even Bizarro in Forever Evil, I grew to love Bizarro."
The Forever Evil hardcover volume includes Forever Evil #1-7 and is on sale now.
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