Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The First In Our Exciting New Series of Exclusive Pro Insights!

How To Write Comics Like Geoff Johns
by Geoff Johns, Totally The World's Greatest Comic Book Writer

Sometimes, fans will come up to me at Cons, or reporters will email me, or sometimes I sit down at a table at a fancy restaurant right next to a bunch of people who are already eating dinner and don't have any idea who I am and I'll just start eating right off of their plates, and these people, they'll ask me "What's the secret to writing an exciting Geoff Johns comic book?" or they'll get all angry and yell "Who are you? What do you think you're doing?" and then they tell me to get away from them and leave their shrimp scampi alone and I run away before the manager can throw me out of the Red Lobster. But what's the writing secret behind one of my totally awesome comic books? Wow! What a question!

I guess I never really thought about what makes those fifteen or sixteen scripts I dash off every month so special and appealing - I just put pen to paper and the words flow, LOL! So I called my good friend Greg Rucka for help. "Greg," I said, early this morning around three a.m., "I've been asked what makes my comic books so great, and I don't know what to say!" Greg mumbled something like "Geoff, 52's over, I can't take the blame for any more of your gory newsprint executions."

LOL, "GORY!" What a great word!

"Why don't you call Grant," he said (Grant Morrison scares me, Greg knows that. He's just being a silly-billy).

But anyway, I asked again and Greg started telling me how all stories have to have things in them, to give them "Struck Sure" - whatever that is - things like Plot, Conflict, Motive ... a whole bunch of things! I wrote them down, and then thought real real hard about how my stories must have lots of those things, because they're so popular! So, "with that in mind" (that's a smart thing Grant Morrison sometimes says, in his scary Scotchman accent), here's my list of ways that you can write just like my totally excellent comic book stories!

  • All stories have to have "conflict," I guess, which is basically a thing that happens when someone has a knife and tries to stab you with the knife and you don't want him to stab you with the knife. The stabbing is like a conflict! Personally, what I think makes for a good conflict is screaming, explosions, or there being a whole lot blood everywhere all the time. If you're writing a big "event" comic, then consider a screaming explosion of blood - that's extra conflicted!
  • People say that it's really difficult to write human emotions. These people are dumb - there's only seven emotions, and each of them has a color, and you can't feel more than two at a time. Easy-peasy!
  • An "Antagonist" is a guy who throws a lot of explosions at the hero. A "climax" is when most of the explosions happen, and the "denouement" is the part where someone's head gets punched through.
  • It's really important to "build tension" in a story. That means you don't just have explosions happen, sometimes the bad guy gets to say something really sarcastic first and THEN the explosion happens.
  • All characters have to have motives, which is a thing that makes them want to do the things they're doing. For instance, bad guys? They're usually insane, or zombies, and that's their "motive" for being evil. Now you know what a motive is, but you should come up with your own motive, because those two are my motives and I don't want you stealing my ideas.
  • Movies and plays are usually divided into three acts: The Setup, The Confrontation and The Resolution. I don't know why they don't just make explosions of screaming blood happen all the time instead, because that's what I do and it seems to work out okay. I don't even know what a "resolution" is, but I guess it's probably when the hero vows to never let any explosions happen to his loved ones ever again. (PS When he does that is a really good time to get his wife and kids killed)
  • Everybody knows the "Big Three" characters, but there are lots of lesser-known characters floating around who have "potential". Potential is a word that means "getting your arms torn off or your heart punched out for no reason". Potential is my favorite thing.

And there you have it - twelve great tips on how to write excellent comics just like me! More than anything, though, I think the most important thing is for a comic book writer to retain his sense of childlike wonder towards the world, to be able to look at it through the eyes of innocent youth - I mean, not TOO young, not like six or seven years old or anything gay like that, but maybe like thirteen. You know, puberty, when everything was really confusing and aggravating but you could get into some of the movies that totally showed tits sometimes or a guy getting stabbed in the chest, and they weren't really any good but they were SHOCKING and provoked a reaction and you confused that with any sense of worth? Either that or also you can just crib from old Mark Waid comics too. Peace out!

-Geoff Johns


  1. You've got him pegged, Jon.

  2. and yet despite this I can't bring myself to dislike him or most of his work.

  3. The weird thing about him (well, about his work anyway) is that it's either very charming character-driven (if a bit Roy Thomas-ey) work like Stars & STRIPE or Adventure Comics, or it's grotesque, structure-less gore fests conflating mayhem with conflict. There's no in-between, just ... garbage or sugar cubes.