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Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Goeff Johns is the New Chris Claremont

Once upon a time there was a writer named Chris Claremont. And with the help of artists like John Byrne and Dave Cockrum and editors like Jim Shooter, he penned one of the greatest runs in comic book history.

And partially thanks to him, the name X-Men is a household name.

Unfortunately, the more popular Chris Claremont got the more books he began taking on. At one point he wasn’t just writing the monthly adventures of The Uncany X-Men, he was also writing New Mutants, the rebranded adventures of the original X-Men called X-Factor and the adventures of X- Characters in the U.K. Excalibur. I even think he wrote a few issues of the 1988 solo Wolverine series too.

But with each new title Claremont took the X-world got bigger, more cumbersome and hard to follow. While Claremont still created many classic storylines, his approach to storytelling started feeling contrived and forced at times. And Instead of stories that ended in two or three issues, stories started to drag on as plot threads were started in X-books and never really came to a satisfying conclusion. Later in his run, a lot of characters were created but never really fully developed like the Adversary and Mr. Sinster. A lot of plot threads from the Mutant Massacre like Kitty Pryde’s being stuck in intangible form and Colossus being stuck in his armored form hung like they were on a cheap suit without an organic conclusion.

And to this day I’m STILL trying to figure out what Longshot contributed to the X-team.

And a lot of times readers like myself were left scratching our heads, especially in the aftermath of events like Fall of the Mutants, Inferno and the built up Reavers storyline that meandered to an anticlimactic finish with the Siege Perilous Ex Machina. 

But most comic fans didn’t care. Because X-Men sold like hotcakes. And because they sold like hotcakes Chris Claremont could do no wrong. Even though the quality of his stories clearly declined from the 1970s comic fans believed in him.

Fast forward to the 21st Century. A writer named Goeff Johns is being put on the same pedestal by comic fans and DC editorial that Chris Claremont was put on over at Marvel. Thanks to the success of his runs on Flash and JSA and Green Lantern many believe that Goeff Johns can do no wrong. Whenever a book is in trouble call on Goeff Johns. Whenever the DC Universe is in trouble call on Goeff Johns.

Now that Dan Didio and Warner Brothers have painted themselves into a corner with the New 52 they’re calling on Goeff Johns to fix it with Rebirth.

 That’s not fair to him.

Back when Johns was given the helm of DC’s flagship New 52 Justice League I believed they gave him too much to do. And it was then I started seeing the same decline in quality I saw in Chris Claremont’s work back in the late 1980s.

It was clear to me and my family members who read X-men back in 1986 that Claremont’s storytelling had declined. That he was taking on too many titles. That he was burning out.

My professional assessment is that Goeff Johns is burning out in the exact same way Chris Claremont did back in the 1980s. He’s taking on too many projects. Trying to carry the load of fixing the entire DC Universe on his own. He’s suffering from writer fatigue and he needs a break from superheroes.

No one person is going to fix the DC Universe on their own. And no one should expect one person to fix the editorial, creative and business problems at DC. Back in 1986 when DC did the first Crisis of Infinite Earths Marv Wolfman and George Perez had an entire TEAM of writers, artists and editors working with them to get DC competitive again. They didn’t put all their hopes on one writer and expect a miracle.

Everyone in comics needs to understand that Goeff Johns is not a golden boy.  Yes there are writers who pen popular stories and work with popular characters, but no editor worth their salt puts all their eggs in their basket. What happens when they write a bad story or a bad storyline? What happens when their hot character they’re working on declines in popularity? What happens when their sales decline?  What happens when their run ends? It’s just not good for business to put all the hopes of the company on one writer.

A publishing house is a TEAM. And everyone has to pull their weight in order to produce quality titles. Again, it’s not fair to Goeff Johns if he has to carry the weight of rebuilding the DC catalog when there are numerous other qualified writers on the payroll.  If editorial doesn’t have the vision to set a direction for them and the publications they produce, then it’s time for a new editorial team to lead the DC Comics brand.

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