By Various — News broke this week that Geoff Johns is stepping down as DC Entertainment president and chief creative officer for a writer-producer deal with Warner Bros. and DC Comics. Essentially, Johns is going from visionary/planner back to being mostly a creator.
This is exciting. Johns is like the Property Brothers of comics. He takes fixer-upper characters, so badly neglected it’s hard to see their charm, and renovates them, playing to original strengths while also introducing new, modern touches. Whereas the Property Brothers might put a flat screen in someone’s kitchen (right? I’ve never seen that show…), Johns is a one-man maternity ward, rebirthing superheroes (sorry) like Aquaman, Green Lantern, the Justice Society of America, and more.
The most exciting part of this week's news is that Johns will also run a comics imprint called The Killing Zone. Odd name aside, this imprint will focus “on new and lesser-known or dormant DC characters and titles.” Essentially, Johns is getting a slew of properties to fix up.
So, we lit the Bookcase Signal for ideas on which characters most need the Geoff Johns treatment, and here’s what some friends of the site replied…
1. @Kimota1977 - HUGE DC Comics Fan, Deep Love of Obscure Characters
The Atomic Knight a.k.a Gardner Grayle - The Knight has an odd history. He originally appeared in ‘60s sci-fi comics, where he rode giant Dalmatians (yes, Dalmatians!) in a post-nuclear holocaust world. Eventually, he was linked to DC’s Great Disaster continuity via Hercules Unbound. In the ‘90s, he was brushed off and renewed as a member of The Outsiders.
Recently, though, his character was retconned and used in the One Year Later storyline of Battle For Bludhaven, eventually killed by Darkseid’s minions in Final Crisis. With Johns’ ability to make convoluted history work, the Atomic Knight is perfect for his new imprint. Basically, it’s science fiction, post-apocalyptic settings, quirky relatively forgotten superheroes…what’s not to love?
Ma Hunkel\Red Tornado - The original Red Tornado was not the crimson android most people know, but rather an initially-comedic, Rosie the Riveter-style factory worker in the Golden Age who earned an honorary spot in the JSA by battling neighborhood wise guys. She was last seen in the most recent JSA book, as the caretaker of the Society’s brownstone in NYC.
Ma Hunkel could be written with a rich sense of DC history. In Pre-Flashpoint continuity, she was at the beginning of the age of heroes, an inspiration to many female heroes who followed. Much like his Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E. series, this character would open up the possibility of Johns adding more characters, dating back to the Golden Age. This is a good thing—whenever Johns taps DC's deep bench and extensive history, his books are pure unadulterated fun.
Brother Power the Geek - The Geek character appeared in a brief, two-issue series in 1968. Starting as a pile of dirty hippie clothes left to dry on a seamstress’ mannequin while the hippies themselves just kind of….hung out. Brought to life by a combo of dry cleaning chemicals, a bolt of lightning, and a healthy suspension of disbelief; this mannequin shambled into the world, taught about life by the freewheeling hippies.
Other than a ‘90s one shot from Vertigo, he hasn’t been seen much, but this character could be used as a crux to access many forgotten Bronze/Silver Age DC characters. Prez. Stanley and his Monster. Claw the Unconquered. Stalker. So many opportunities.
Red Torpedo/Red Bee - This could be one of the greatest duo books ever. Both characters originated with now-defunct Quality Comics. They were acquired by DC and later retconned into the All-Star Squadron (Red Bee) and Freedom Fighters (Red Torpedo and Red Bee). The Bee was mostly a fists and domino mask hero, but he also trained bees (seriously) that he took into battle. Torpedo, meanwhile, had a submarine. Yep. A submarine. Both characters died tragic deaths.
They were also both members at one time or another of the Freedom Fighters, which was originally comprised solely of Quality characters. Introducing them would enable Johns to add more Freedom Fighters and other forgotten Quality characters, perhaps in the same story, ala Watchmen. With two of the most oddball superheroes in DC’s archives at the forefront, this is one of my biggest hopes for a non-team book!
Inferior Five - A team of superheroes originally from humor comics, this group was made up of the offspring of more successful heroes on an alternate earth. Their parents–analogous of the Justice League–had retired and left the world to be protected by their kids…every one of which was more slapstick than heroic. The super-powered female member of the team–Dumb Bunny–was even retconned into being the sister of Angel from Angel and the Ape.
This title is my number three pick only because my last two are so deserving of a serious take. But these characters are still fun and could be easily added anywhere into continuity, plus they haven’t been seen since (yet again) a ‘90s miniseries.
Super Friends Trio - Apache Chief, Samurai, and Black Vulcan. The short pants alone could provide an entire story arc. These characters were created as additions for the old Super Friends cartoon, and they most recently popped up on the cover of a Superman in Bizarro World story.
These characters are perfect picks for Johns, boasting enough back story for him to tease old fans yet not enough to scare new fans away. They’ve long-deserved a real comic story and the nostalgia factor alone lands them at number 2 on my list of most wanted series.
Legion of Subs - This is my number one pick. Johns tackled the convoluted Legion of SuperHeroes/Superboy storylines in his epic Action Comics run, and he also brought back the Legion of Substitute Heroes. As a longtime fan of this odd bunch, I loved every single panel of it.
The Subs are without a doubt the best possible odd and barely-remembered property you could put Johns on. They have a history dating back to the ‘60s and are one of the best parts of the Legion/Superman mythos. Chlorophyll Kid, Infectious Lass, Stone Boy….the entire team is one incredibly neurotic misfit after another. If all I get from The Killing Zone imprint this book, I’ll still be the happiest fan boy ever.
2. @AnderWriter - Co-host of Omni-Comics Podcast, Aquaman Super Fan
Firestorm - Firestorm is perhaps more popular now than ever, having appeared on the CW show Legends of Tomorrow, and he’d be perfect for a series in The Killing Zone. Despite the show, this character has had little exposure in the comics recently. Firestorm is a strong concept and a character I’d love to see more, whether it's a version with Ronnie, Jason, or someone new.
Captain Atom - Like Firestorm, Nathaniel Adam (Captain Atom) is a nuclear-themed superhero who underwent a scientific procedure that resulted in powers and metallic-like skin. He's a character who’s served on the Justice League and is regularly depicted as one of DC's strongest superheroes. During the New 52, he had a solo series, but he’s rarely been seen since, making him another prime choice for Johns.
Fire - Beatriz Bonilla da Costa is a Brazilian superheroine known as Fire (not to be confused with Firestorm). She has also served on Justice League teams, and DC fans will likely recognize her green hair and body engulfed in green flames. However, she hasn't been seen in years, and it's a great time to re-introduce her. Hey, maybe it's also time for DC to bring back the Global Guardians! Anyway, Fire is an iconic heroine who hardcore DC fans instantly recognize and care for, so here's hoping she gets the attention she deserves with this new imprint.
3. @HaroldLauder4 - Big Ounce, Enjoys Bouncing, Comics, Inventing Superpowers
Captain Boomerang - I’m biased, because Digger Harkness is one of my favorite DC characters, but I also think I’m not alone. I mean, Johns himself is an admitted fan, and he’s previously given Boomerang a compelling backstory, expounded on his ethics, and, hell, even revived him as a @#$%# White Lantern—that's got to count for something. Who knows, with Johns writing, maybe a Captain Boomerang book could rival Harley Quinn and Deathstroke as one of DC’s best villain-lead titles.
Resurrection Man - Depending on how he dies, this character resurrects with a different superpower. Ever since the short-lived New 52 Resurrection Man, I’ve been in awe of this idea. To me, it’s a concept Johns can take so many directions, potentially involving Death of The Endless, The Black Racer, the foreboding realm of The Rot or The Red, and even ethereal guardians like The Spectre (more below). Whether he goes one of these routes or takes an entirely different approach, Resurrection Man would be a great new series.
The Spectre - One of DC’s oldest and most powerful heroes, seeing Jim Corrigan determine what constitutes good and evil while dishing out judgement could make a solid crime story in 2018.