9007_180x270 I have a confession to make. I’m not afraid to borrow ideas from other writers. Since we’re talking about comics, we’ll just call it an homage. Like this one. Earlier this fall there was debate over at Comic Book Resources between the Comics Should Be Good blog and the When Worlds Collide blog over Geoff Johns’ and Warren Ellis’ best books. Those columns were the inspiration for my articles of the last couple of weeks, counting down the best books of Kurt Busiek and Mark Waid. However, the Johns column also inspired me to write one of my own. It seemed to me that the writer of that column wasn’t that familiar with Johns’ early work. It was basically made up of his work of the past 3 years and Avengers. It struck me that the article was written by a Marvel fan who only really became aware of Johns after he wrote Infinite Crisis. So I decided to rise up to the challenge and write a ten best list that reflects Johns’ entire career. I have a second confession to make. I’m doing this as a fan of his work.

10. Booster Gold

Geoff Johns did the incredible on Booster Gold. He took a character who had been reduced to a punch-line and restored him to prominence. And he did it while preserving Booster Gold’s punch-line status within the fictional universe and keeping up a fair dose of comedy. He turned Booster Gold into the preserver of the time stream and used his series to ask questions about the grief, heroism and the immutability of time. Plus, he brought in great guest stars like the Barbara Gordon Batgirl and the Elongated Man.

7252_180x270 9. Stars and Stripe

Stars and Stripe was one of Johns’ first ongoing series as a writer, back in 1999. He based the star character on his younger sister Courtney, who had died several years earlier. That source of inspiration shone through. Courtney was one of the truest examples of a teenager anywhere in comics. She was cute, bubbly and full of spunk. But she was also occasionally annoying. Not in an off-putting way. Just in a way that made her real. Her adventures were a lot of fun. Her life situation, trying to find her place in a mixed family, spoke to many who had grown up in similar circumstances. The series dealt equally with super-villains and braces. And Courtney went on to star in years of JSA comics after her own series was canceled.

Flash-wonderland-geoff-johns 8. Flash

When Geoff Johns was named the regular writer of Flash, he was taking over a title that had been written by Mark Waid and Grant Morrison. Yet he made the title his own and became as associated with the character as those superstars who had preceded him. He did it by focusing on the Flash’s Rogue Gallery. The Flash fought the Weather Wizard, Gorilla Grodd, Captain Cold and a new Trickster. Many of the villains had their powers amplified, making them more dangerous, though staying true to their Silver Age roots. If it’s true that a hero is only as great as his villains, Johns raised the Flash’s profile by restoring his cast of rogues.

2983_180x270 7. Hawkman

This is the series that definitively established Johns’ reputation for being able to restore broken characters. He had been one of the writers to resurrect Hawkman in JSA and he followed it up with this excellent solo series. Drawing inspiration from James’ Robinson’s Starman, Johns weaved a wonderful tapestry of history for the Hawk heroes. Johns focused on the concept of reincarnation, affirming all of the earlier versions of Hawkman as past lives and even co-opting a few older comic characters as former incarnations. But Hawkman wasn’t stuck in the past. He also created an emotional present situation as the new Hawkgirl, Kendra, refused to fall in love with Hawkman and attempted to run away from a destiny she didn’t want. The series raised questions about fate and love and free will. And it asked those questions while its main characters smashed the villains’ faces with a big ol’ mace. That’s an action philosopher.

Supermanlastsongif 6. Action Comics

Geoff Johns’ run on Action Comics was up and down. But when it was up, it was way up. The opening story arc “Up, Up and Away,” co-written with Kurt Busiek, was one of the best stories of the year. His central story, “Last Son,” co-written with movie maker Richard Donner, was a Superman story for the ages, with General Zod as an unrelenting villain. And his last two epics built new foundations for the Legion of Super-Heroes and Brainiac. The scene in which Brainiac steals the city of Kandor from the planet of Krypton is incredibly powerful.

52_week18 5. 52

No, Johns didn’t write 52 by himself. Yet, partnered with Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka and Mark Waid, Johns turned in one of comics’ modern epics. The year-long story focused on secondary characters like Elongated Man, the Question and Steel. It looked at odd corners of the superhero universe. It told stories of loss and redemption. It included heroic journeys and quests of adventure. It featured many memorable moments. And it was a testament to the talents of everyone involved. After it was finished, we found out in bits and pieces who was primarily responsible for which storylines. Johns was apparently the lead writer on the Elongated Man story, with its emotional core, many twists and surprise ending.

300px-Infinite_Crisis_1A 4. Infinite Crisis

It seems like every star writer is given his chance to write an epic crossover for one of the big two companies. That crossover can cement a reputation or unravel it. For Johns, Infinite Crisis made his star shine brighter. He went from the restorer of misused characters to the teller of epic stories. Infinite Crisis brought the heroes low as it threw multiple challenges at them at the same time. It introduced new heroes, like a second Blue Beetle, and brought back old olds, like the lost characters from Crisis on Infinite Earths. It juggled a huge cast. And it depicted momentous and memorable fights, like the classic battle between three Supermen.

6a00cdf3ad9a63cb8f00e398d3d0060002-500pi 3. Teen Titans

I think that a lot of people have started to forget how good Geoff John’s Teen Titans was, as it’s been overshadowed by his more recent work on Infinite Crisis and Green Lantern. Many fans were ready to hate it because Peter David’s excellent Young Justice had been canceled in order to make way for it. Yet this fan couldn’t hate it. It was just too good. Johns crafted compelling friendships that are once again being echoed in his new Adventure Comics. He took misfit characters on heroic journeys in believable ways so that we could, for example,
accept that Impulse would grow up to become the new Kid Flash.
And he balanced the expectations of several generations of fans, including
classic characters from the Wolfman and Perez Titans, while telling new stories to win over a current audience.

Jsa_cv26-cv 2. JSA

Fifteen years ago, no one would have mentioned the Justice Society as one of the greatest teams in comics. Well, except for Roy Thomas. Sure, the Justice Society had been the first but they had been surpassed by so many others. Geoff Johns took the first team and made them the best. The team started out with David Goyer and James Robinson but eventually Geoff Johns took over as co-writer and then sole writer. And for a long time, JSA was the best team book in comics. They fought Mordru and Eclipso. They fought Black Adam, recruited him, turned him into a hero, watched him fall and fought him again. They bridged the
generations, with original heroes like Green Lantern and Flash and new heroes like Stargirl and Cyclone. They gave equal footing to newer heroes like Mr. Terrific and the new Dr. Mid-Nite. The title and the
team did everything right. And so did Geoff Johns.

Green Lantern rebirth 1. Green Lantern

I never thought I would be a Hal Jordan fan. I never thought Green Lantern would be one of my favorite comics. I was wrong on both counts. Geoff Johns made Hal Jordanone of the greatest characters in comics (again, for some older fans) and Green Lantern the comic book that everyone was talking about. Starting with the Rebirth mini-series, Johns’ re-established Jordan’s reputation as the greatest Green Lantern of them all while alsohonoring other Lanterns like Guy Gardner, Kyle Rayner and John Stewart. Johns was equally adept at writing villain back-stories, big fight scenes and quiet family moments like having Hal talk with his brother about what it’s like to be back from the dead. The excellent writing continued through the major Sinestro Corps War story and into the present with the current Blackest Night epic. Every comic should be this good.

And that’s my list. I left Adventure Comics out since it’s only three issues old and it’s a little early to have a fully formed opinion on it. And I kind of included Blackest Night in the Green Lantern entry. It’s a bit of a cheat, but it meant that I didn’t have to leave Booster Gold out (as I had to leave Power Company off of the Busiek list). I hope you enjoyed it. And I don’t mind if you disagree. That’s part of the fun. And that’s what inspired this list in the first place.

Views: 94

Comment by Travis Herrick (Modular Mod) on December 11, 2009 at 11:55am
Johns' Flash is one I won't say i was wrong about, in so much as I initially never gave it a chance. Once he took over I felt it was a perfect jumping off point for me. I later picked it up and really dug it. JSA would be number one for me, as it is one of my favorite series of all time.
Teen Titans I still haven't read at all, after having been burned by bad to average Titans for ages it didn't matter who was the creative team I wasn't picking it up.
Comment by John Dunbar on December 12, 2009 at 8:54am
Johns is a favorite of mine, and I can't quibble too much with the list. If I had made it, I probably would have put Flash higher, as I feel that book made Johns' reputation, but what would I bump? Tough one.

Travis, I've also been burned like you, and I have to say, Johns' Teen Titans was awesome. It certainly deserves #3 on this list, it's that good.

The only series on the list that I skipped was Hawkman. I miss good old Thanagarian Katar Hol, I guess.

I don't know if this was Chris' intention or not, but to me at least, this list demonstrates that Johns wasn't a good fit at Marvel, or more accurately, Jemas-era Marvel. Just my opinion.
Comment by Chris Fluit on December 12, 2009 at 1:30pm
It wasn't the point of the list but I agree that Johns wasn't a good fit at Marvel. At least, not when he was there earlier. There's no way I would have included his Avengers in this list, and I couldn't think of any other Marvel would by Johns that would make the cut. That's not to say that he couldn't do a good job at Marvel in the future.
Comment by John Dunbar on December 12, 2009 at 2:06pm
I think he could today .... when he was there, earlier in this decade, Marvel was, imo, firmly in the mode of "write it to fit the trade". It's my opinion that Johns' writing suffered under that. His run on Avengers was a letdown for me; I expected it to wow me (based on his DC work) and it was just kinda there. I was bored with his Vision mini, but I did enjoy The Thing: Freakshow ... but I agree, I wouldn't put it on this list (maybe it would be #11). I think that's all he wrote at Marvel. Did any DC work not make this list?
Comment by Jason Marconnet (Pint sized mod) on December 12, 2009 at 8:40pm
IMO, Johns' short run on Booster Gold was a thing of beauty. He told a complete story in 12 issues and most of the issues were done-in-one stories. The ending in Booster Gold #1,000,000 was probably one of the most satisfying endings to a comic story I've read.

I am enjoying his work on Green Lantern. While Blackest Night is awesome, I still think I liked the Sinestro Corps arc the best. But Blackest Night isn't over yet.
Comment by Eric L. Sofer on December 14, 2009 at 7:16am
I did pick up Teen Titans, and it was quite good. And I certainly don't hate Geoff Johns about Young Justice's cancellation.

I hate DC Comics for YJ's cancellation. It's a good series, strong following, but DC Comics is a slave to their corporate masters - they say 'Cancel it" and writers and artists are sent flying. That's the same logic that made DC interrupt an ongoing cross-Superman titles story to get Lois and Superman married in two month's time. I picture a phone call to Paul Levitz (or whomever was in charge of DC at the time) and a call something like, "This is M.J. Squrrelybottom the Fifth, of Lardbutt, Squirrelybottom, Flatulent and Fitz, representing Time Warner. You're going to change all of your Superman stories and make him and Lois be married in October's books. No, you cannot ask any questions. Good day, sir!"

Same way I despise Marvel for canceling X-Men: The Hidden Years. It's one thing to cancel a title that's not doing well enough to pay its own way. But X:THY was canceled to teach John Byrne a lesson. "We're so big and so successful that instead of trying to reason or negotiate, we're going to cancel an ongoing money-making title." It wasn't Marvel's best seller, but it wasn't losing money - but by gum, Marvel Comics isn't about making money, are they? They declared bankruptcy - the more money they make, the more money they lose!

I understand why there are books I like that get canceled. But I will never understand why a book that is making money gets canceled (and I don't mean ones where the original creators are leaving; I can understand if that were to happen, although it almost never does.) But I guess that's why I'm a computer tech, and not running a multi-million comic book company into the ground...

I remain,
Eric L. Sofer
The Silver Age Fogey
Comment by Eric L. Sofer on December 14, 2009 at 7:18am
Postscript: And yes, I know that relations between John Byrne and Marvel were not at their greatest for X:THY. I still can't understand why they canceled the title outright instead of at least trying to get someone else - maybe, say, a Claremont and Davis - to try to keep it going.
Comment by Chris Fluit on December 14, 2009 at 5:04pm
Did any DC work not make this list?

Adventure Comics and Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds, both of which made the original Worlds Collide list.


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