Chief Creative Officer and comics writer extraordinaire Geoff Johns doesn't just write comics; he has also written TV episodes for shows based on comics. In fact, he's penned tonight's episode of the hit CW series Arrow, "Dead to Rights," in which Ollie must keep his mom from assassinating his best friend's dad as an estranged family member and an old enemy return to Starling City. Johns spoke with us about tonight's episode, how the show's in good hands, and when we might see Ollie's quiver arsenal expand.
Warning: There are a few spoilers for tonight's episode below.
Io9: What can you tell us about tonight's episode, "Dead to Rights"? What should people be looking for?
Geoff Johns: It really focuses on the relationship between Oliver and Tommy. Tommy's dad Malcolm Merlyn is part of it in a big, big way, and through him things between Oliver and Tommy… let's just say there are lots of reveals. There's things that happen, revelations that happen to these characters that will change their direction in the show for the rest of the series. That's really fun, and it was a fun opportunity to be able to write that stuff.
Arrow is a heavily serialized show that's clearly building according to a plan. How much of "Dead to Rights" is you, and how much was just following the plan?
Executive producers Greg Berlanti, Andrew Kreisberg and Marc Guggenheim and I all broke the story together, just like we do every episode. It's a collaboration, just like anything else. I've been working with the guys a little bit, so knowing where Andrew and Marc are taking the show and knowing what we could accomplish was good. But there's a still few things in the episode that came out by surprise that I think are really interesting.
What can you tell us about Laurel's mom?
It's a very brief scene, but yeah, Laurel's mom does return. Fans of the comic books know there was an original Black Canary — Black Canary's mother was the original Black Canary — so that's kind of fun to do. And she comes back with some information that is going to be a little hard to process, but it's going to send a lot of people's imaginations reeling. And it's certainly going to play out over the subsequent episodes of the season.
Was there something specific that drew you to this episode, or a reason they asked you to write this episode as opposed to one of the others?
Well, it's pretty action-heavy. And there's a lot of characters in here, especially a lot of DC characters — Deadshot, China White, Dinah Lance, on top of Oliver and Tommy and Felicity Smoak and everybody else — but there's a lot of DC characters in there, and I think mostly it was the material and the fact that Glen Winter [who directed two of Geoff Johns' Smallville episodes] was directing. The producers knew I wanted to work with Glen again, and I think Greg Berlanti felt it was an opportunity for all of us to get back together. I'm guessing that's how it came about.
Deadshot seemed to die pretty ignominiously early in the season. Was it your idea to bring him back?
It was always a plan. I mean, since Day 1, it was "Hey, don't kill Deadshot, he's too cool of a character, he's got a lot of story in him." And the way his last scene was shot, he looked very dead. That was something we talked about immediately. "He's coming back. We'll figure out a way, he's coming back."
How much input have you had on the season in general?
I have to give all the credit to Greg and Andrew and Mark. They really run the show, they have a plan, they have a story they're telling and I just come into help and bounce ideas back and forth whenever I have the time and whenever they want me to come in. I help out where I can, but those guys deserve all the credit.
Any specific ideas you gave them?
I spent some time on set with Andrew Kresberg when we were shooting the pilot and he went on and on — he just loves this stuff. Greg loves it, and Mark loves it — they all really love the source material. So they've found a really good balance in introducing characters. I've thrown out suggestions, and we've all kind of worked on the bigger DC picture — and that's lot more of that bigger DC picture to come — but it's a collaborative effort.
Arrow is pretty vastly different from comic Green Arrow mythos. What's been your favorite and least favorite change?
God, that's hard to say. My most favorite change… [writer] Andy Diggle and [artist] Jock did it in the Green Arrow: Year One comic, but I love how expansive the mythology on the island is going to be. I know a lot of the plans and what's going to happen on that island, and I think the mystery of all those tattoos and scars paint a road map of what Oliver is going to go through there. I just think that additional depth of his mythology is fantastic.
I absolutely love Thea; I think she's a great addition. I love the character, and I think it gives Oliver a great family dynamic. I really enjoy the supporting cast, and the mythology and everything else, and I think it adds a lot to Arrow. And I don't think it's a mistake that the comics are going to dive into the island more, just like the show is now.
My least favorite change… I have to admit, I really miss Green Arrow's mask. The domino mask is goofy, but I really like the mask.
Actually, Ollie's crazy island backstory and his supporting cast seem to be Arrow's main strengths.
That's why I say the supporting cast and the mythology… I love Green Arrow, and I love him in the comics, but the show has already opened up the island, and taking a page from Diggle and Jock's Year One, certainly, but it's able to explore the island in a deeper way than the comics.
And I think supporting casts in comics are missing. I think a lot of the time in comics, all we have are people in costumes talking to other people in costumes, superheroes talking to superheroes and supervillains, and that's it. So to see this Arrow cast get expanded like this, between his mother and his sister and Diggle and bringing in a beyond-obscure character like Felicity Smoak into it… I just think the guys have created a wonderful cast. And the cast themselves have done a wonderful job. Tonight's episode, for me, contains some of their best performances.
Of Arrow's cast, Ollie's bodyguard/confidante/partner Diggle might be the best. Is there any chance he makes his way to the comics?
I think it would be great if he did. We'll see. Jeff Lemire's writing the book right now, and there's a plan. I don't know if he'll bring them in or not, but I think it'd be great. Although Diggle is in the digital Arrow comic – the whole Arrow writing staff, with Andrew and Mark, write the digital comic every week.
Are we ever going to see some real trick arrows?
We had the recording arrow, and we had the computer connectivity arrow (laughs) in the pilot. There are some trick arrows. I do remember Mark mentioning at some point they gotta figure out how to do the boxing glove arrow. Like, there's gotta be a way to do it. They think about it all the time. Again, the people on the show love the source material, so they're going to try everything they can to get it in there. If they can actually pull it off it some way, it'll be awesome.
And hopefully by the time the series runs its course — and hopefully it's a long course — we'll get to see a lot of those trick arrows, including some we've never seen before.
Last but certainly not least, why is it called "Arrow" and not "Green Arrow"? Why no "green"?
It's a long answer. But obviously it was debated among everybody, but at the end of the day, everybody just wanted something very clean and right to the point. No pun intended.