io9 recently caught up with DC Comics architect Geoff Johns to discuss Flashpoint, the publisher's big summer series starring the Flash, a screwed-up timeline, and a truckload of weirdo superheroes saving the world.
In the first issue of Flashpoint — which hit stores last Wednesday — the Flash mysteriously wakes up in an alternate reality in which Earth's greatest heroes don't exist (or are terribly warped).
Furthermore, the DC's Universe's lesser known characters are at the forefront, and Batman...well, something's changed with him. Blackest Night scribe Johns filled us in on this strange new world and told us what wacky DC Comics hero definitely won't be appearing in Flashpoint. Spoilers!
In Flashpoint, you're not just creating a story, you're building another reality and (re)inventing a ton of characters. How did you coordinate this world-building effort?
Really it was working with editors Eddie Berganza and Rex Ogle. I fleshed out the world, the characters, and the concepts with the rest of the series writers — for example, James Robinson is writing a miniseries about [the 1960s Batman villain] The Outsider, and the two of us discussed that character. It was a team effort with DC editorial.
Two-part question: what made you choose the Flash and the particular trope of alternate realities for Flashpoint?
One of the staple stories of Flash is parallel Earths and timelines. I really wanted to do a story that would have the DC Universe as the entire scope but have the Flash at the center of it. It just made sense — for me, this is the ultimate Flash story. The timeline has been altered so that the hows and whys are the story. Flashpoint is a showcase to demonstrate why the Flash is a major character, just like how we've done with Green Lantern. It's important that the Flash can hold his own.
Is there one particular moment that changed reality or did several things go askew?
I would say that's a mystery you'll see unfold!
The bombshell from the first issue of Flashpoint is that Thomas Wayne carries the mantle of Batman. Care to comment on that?
It's about the destiny of the Wayne family, but also of the night the Waynes were attacked at gunpoint, and what losing one's family does to somebody, whether it's a boy or a man. In some aspects, I think losing a child is much more difficult than losing a parent. The Flashpoint Batman, Thomas Wayne, is very different from what we know. He's been Batman a lot longer. We'll be exploring that throughout the series. It's really about Barry and Thomas.
Batman and the Flash is a bit of an unusual team-up for the DC Universe. Was it a conscious choice to pair these two superheroes together?
Yeah, it was. Batman and the Flash have a whole lot in common behind the mask. They've both experienced loss, know forensic science, and are both a bit introverted. In Flashpoint, Thomas Wayne thinks Barry is crazy, but Barry thinks Thomas is crazy. It'll be really fun seeing those two trying to figure things out.
Speaking of the unlikely heroes of Flashpoint, Cyborg of the Teen Titans is Earth's greatest defender in this reality. Why Cyborg?
Cyborg is one of my favorites. Many years ago when I was [writing] The Flash, I used him as a supporting character. I actually traded the Titans editorial office Jesse Quick for Cyborg because I wanted to use him. I brought him in later as a leader in Teen Titans. I always thought the character had such a great visual appeal and power.
I think today, more than ever, he's much more relevant. The truth is, we're all cyborgs with cell phones and online identities. He's a hero who's plugged in 24/7 and constantly in touch with technology and information. He's a product of the day, he really is the twenty-first century everyman.
Another unusual character on the Flashpoint roster is Shade the Changing Man, who's been more affiliated with Vertigo titles as of late. Why him?
One of the things I wanted to do with Flashpoint was to do newer versions of characters like Outsider and new characters like Blackout. But I didn't want to take the usual suspects (like Nightwing) or those the next tier down from the Justice League and make it predictable. I wanted to push obscure characters in the spotlight. I wanted to show a world that's upside-down, where the most minor are the most major.
Totally left-field question. Is Prez among those obscure characters you're bringing back?
You almost did see Prez! He's a character we talk a lot about here. I was just having a conversation about Prez yesterday saying, "Wouldn't it have been hilarious if we'd brought Prez into the Flashpoint universe?" But no, he is not.
Top illustration is the cover of Flashpoint #4 by Andy Kubert. Second illustration from Flashpoint #1 by Andy Kubert. Third illustration is the cover of Flashpoint: The Legion of Doom by Miguel Sepulveda. Bottom illustration is the cover to Flashpoint: The Outsider #3 by Kevin Nowlan. Cover art via DC's The Source.