Geoff Johns on ‘Arrow’

DC’s superstar comic book writer and Chief Creative Officer tells us about bringing the Huntress and moral ambiguity to “Arrow.”

Fred Topelby Fred Topel

DC Entertainment Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns recently invited the press to DC's Los Angeles offices to talk about the CW’s new fall series, “Arrow.”

The deal was if we kept the focus to “Arrow” (as opposed to DC’s many other film and TV projects), the big dog would give us his comments. “Arrow” is the latest adaptation of Green Arrow, billionaire shipwreck survivor Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell)’s crime fighting alter ego.

CraveOnline: Were there a lot of internal discussions about whether Arrow should be a movie or a TV series, and how did you come to decide on this version of it?
Geoff Johns: Actually, it started with a germ of an idea from Marc [Guggenheim]. Because Green Arrow had some awareness from “Smallville,” people know who he was, so it just made sense.  Their take is certainly a TV take.
CraveOnline: Other than Oliver Queen, can you talk about bringing some of the other iconic comic book characters to life, like The Huntress and Deadshot? 

Geoff Johns: The Huntress was chosen because of the emotional resonance she has with Oliver Queen.  That’s why I like all of the characters that are in the show. They all are connected to him, in some way. For those who don’t know who the Huntress is, her name is Helena Bertinelli and she is the daughter of a big crime boss. 

She decides to take it upon herself to take her family down, so she’s taking it down from the inside out. Introducing a character like the Huntress, the hope obviously is to have new fans of the Huntress, like there are fans of The Huntress but introduce the Royal Flush gang to all these new people that have never heard of them and find new fans of these characters in whatever medium it is.
CraveOnline: For people not familiar with the comic, will you have a lot of flashbacks to the island, so that viewers learn about how Oliver Queen developed his skills?
Geoff Johns: It’s for graphic novel fans, as much as it is non-graphic novel fans. You’re learning a lot more about how he became the Oliver Queen he is now, on that island. Although, in comic books it’s delved into a few times, this is really going into it, in a whole new light. 

The whole DC universe is really brought into this island. One of my favorite aspects of this show is the contrast between Oliver’s Arrow and Oliver on the island because it’s not pretty. He gets his ass kicked, for sure. The island stuff in episode two is sick. Shocking.
CraveOnline: You have a superhero who is willing to kill people, so how do you find a way to have fans really love someone who will do darker things?
Geoff Johns: It’s all about his motivation and why he does the darker things. It’s pretty clear in the storyline, as it goes, why he crosses a line. Crossing a line isn’t something he does without being aware of it. I think that’s why you’re becoming more vulnerable because I think on the island Oliver Queen has made a plan to become this tough weapon, this human living weapon then comes back and realizes it’s not that simple. There’s people involved, people need help and his “mission” is getting a little blurry.
CraveOnline: Will you explore the moral questions of "Arrow"?
Geoff Johns: It’s also in the DNA of the comic book if you guys are familiar enough with the character, then you’ll know Neil Adams did a fantastic run of Green Arrow with Green Lantern in the ‘70s that addressed a lot of social issues and political issues. It’s always been in that character, when Mike Grell reintroduced him in his run as well.
CraveOnline: Do you think you’ll ever bring other DC characters in?
Geoff Johns: Never say never.
Will Speedy become what we expect her to?
Geoff Johns: I would also say just because her nickname’s Speedy doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going down a road you’d expect.
CraveOnline: How different was gearing up “Arrow” than “Smallville” over 10 years ago?
Geoff Johns: I was not around for that. I think I was just getting out of college. I was just moving out here. I worked on “Smallville,” I wrote a couple episodes for the last three seasons and that was a lot of fun.

This is a very different show. It’s kind of the next evolution of superhero shows. The take that Andrew [Kreisberg] and Marc have done, the way Stephen plays Arrow and Oliver Queen, it’s like the next generation of that. It’s very, very different. It still honors the DNA of the comics like “Smallville” did a lot but it’s just a vastly different show. When you see it, you’ll see what I’m talking about.
CraveOnline: I noticed. That’s why I asked.
Geoff Johns: Yeah, it is when you read the scripts when you’re looking at the material, you’re looking at the uniform designs, when you’re looking at all the characters, it’s a lot of fun. It’s a different take.
CraveOnline: Will you have a big bad villain for each season, or for multiple seasons?
Geoff Johns: We’ve got a couple. I feel like we have a couple.