ByMatt Kranis, writer at
President of the Salacious Crumb Fan Club. Staff Writer at Movie Pilot. Twitter: @Matt_Kranis
Matt Kranis

We're three films deep into Warner Bros. and DC Entertainment's DCEU film series, and while the movies have been pretty successful at the box office they continue to frustrate critics and fans with their muddled, dark tone. Behind the scenes drama on Suicide Squad showed that execs are still figuring out how to handle the movie universe, but now it sounds like they're close to finding the right cinematic style.

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In a recent interview with the Wall Street Journal, DC's Chief Creative Officer and head of DC Films Geoff Johns revealed his thoughts on the studio's past efforts, commenting bluntly on the DCEU's dark tone:

"Mistakenly in the past I think the studio has said, ‘Oh, DC films are gritty and dark and that’s what makes them different.’ That couldn’t be more wrong. It’s a hopeful and optimistic view of life. Even Batman has a glimmer of that in him. If he didn’t think he’d make tomorrow better, he’d stop."

Johns also mentioned that negative reactions to Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice caused DC to alter plans for 2017's Justice League in order "to get to the hope and optimism a little faster," signaling a course correction for the future of the DCEU.

The superhero cast of 2017's 'Justice League.'
The superhero cast of 2017's 'Justice League.'

Johns's comments certaintly show promise for the DCEU's future, but they probably have the broader theatergoing community asking one question — who the hell is Geoff Johns?

The creator's career has spanned across comic books, movies and TV, where he's amassed a huge following in nerd circles. But that's earned him little recognition with the wider audiences that watch DC movies. If you're not familiar with Johns get ready, because we're diving deep into his history to prove just how qualified he is to head up DC Films.

He Got His Start In Movies

Geoff Johns (Left) and his mentor, director Richard Donner (right).
Geoff Johns (Left) and his mentor, director Richard Donner (right).

Johns moved to Los Angeles in the mid-'90s after studying film at Michigan State University, and landed a job as an intern in the production offices of Richard Donner — the director of 1978's Superman: The Movieand his wife Lauren Shuler-Donner. Also, he just so happened to work there alongside current Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige, a fellow intern at the time.

Superman knows all about Geoff Johns. What about you?
Superman knows all about Geoff Johns. What about you?

The young Johns became Richard Donner's assistant, and has cited the director as his mentor. He was welcomed into story meetings, editing sessions and more while working with Donner, providing a firsthand look at the filmmaking process. It was the perfect gig for the aspiring filmmaker and comic book fan, one that would put him in contact with DC Comics and ultimately kickstart his writing career.

Transitioning To Comics

While working with Donner on the New York set of 1997's Conspiracy Theory, Johns met with DC editor Eddie Berganza, who invited him to visit the comic company's offices. And after meeting a few other editors and writers, he landed his first comics gig as the writer of DC's Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E. while still working for Donner.

Hawkman, Green Lantern (Alan Scott) and Dr. Fate were members of Johns's JSA.
Hawkman, Green Lantern (Alan Scott) and Dr. Fate were members of Johns's JSA.

After a few years, Johns gave up his job as Donner's assistant to write comics full-time. Luckily, he'd landed a co-writing gig on DC's JSA, a revamp of one of DC's earliest superhero teams, the Justice Society of America. The creator wrote alongside David Goyer, the screenwriter behind the Dark Knight trilogy and Man of Steel, before taking over the book himself, proving his talent with some of DC's more overlooked characters.

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Becoming DC's Go-To Guy

"Green Lantern: Rebirth" reunited Hal Jordan with the Green Lantern Corps.
"Green Lantern: Rebirth" reunited Hal Jordan with the Green Lantern Corps.

Stints on JSA and several other books proved Johns had the chops to handle DC's flagship characters, and he got the chance as the the writer of the 2004-2005 miniseries Green Lantern: Rebirth. The book brought Hal Jordan, the Silver Age Green Lantern, back to the intergalactic Green Lantern Corps following his death while diving deep into the corps's lore to expand the character's intergalactic universe. It was a huge hit that allowed Johns to show off both his encyclopedic knowledge of comics and his penchant for finding new and original stories for classic characters.

From there, he became one of the main architects of the DC Universe, writing the universe-altering Infinite Crisis event series and working on the writing team of its ambitious follow-up, 52. He also continued to reinvent the Green Lantern mythos with the wildly successful "Sinestro Corps War" storyline and gave Barry Allen a revival with The Flash: Rebirth.

Johns became one of DC's top writers, someone who had a clear passion for the company's past while steering its future towards bold new directions. And in 2010, he became DC's Chief Creative Officer, overseeing the use of DC characters in movies, TV shows, video games and other endeavors. Even after becoming the CCO, Johns has had a major hand in writing and developing DC Comics's major events, including Blackest Night, Brightest Day, Flashpoint (set for an adaptation in Season 3 of The CW's The Flash), and the current DC Universe: Rebirth.

Geoff Johns Comes Full Circle

Geoff Johns at the premiere of "Man of Steel."
Geoff Johns at the premiere of "Man of Steel."

Johns has worked with DC's film and TV properties for a while now, having written several episodes of Smallville as well as Arrow and The Flash before jumping on producing duties for the DCEU. But his new role at DC Films brings the creator back to what he moved to L.A. to do in the first place — make movies.

And make no mistake, Johns isn't some vanity producer slapping his name to to project to give them comic book geek cred. Besides taking an active role in retooling Justice League, he's writing the next Batman solo film with Ben Affleck and is working closely with director James Wan to bring Aquaman to life. There's little doubt he'll have similar roles on 2018's The Flash and 2020's Cyborg.

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Like it or not, one of the biggest issues with the DCEU has been a perceived lack of direction. Plenty have bemoaned its clunky approach at universe building, which has included unresolved plot threads for future films, mismanaged appearances for iconic characters and a dark tone that's alienating for some.

But Geoff Johns proved with his work at DC Comics that he knows how to build, deconstruct and reconstruct a superhero universe. If he can bring those same skills to the DCEU, we could see some really interesting films moving forward.

Next up for the DCEU is Wonder Woman, set to hit theaters on June 2, 2017 with Justice League following on November 17, 2017. Do you think Geoff Johns will have a big influence on the films? Let us know in the comments.

[Sources: ScreenCrush, Newsarama, Comic-Con Magazine]


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