I came to a startling conclusion the other day. Geoff Johns is the comic book equivalent of Ted Bundy. Well, maybe that’s not true. Bundy was a serial killer who preyed on women. Johns isn’t that discriminating in his slaughter so maybe he’s more like Pol Pot or Stalin.
Do you think I am wrong? To prove my point, let’s take a look at John’s body count. I already talked about his picnic slaughter here. To clarify, it was a rant about the overwhelming amount of senseless violence in comic books these days but it was written by Geoff Johns. I forget what the final body count was but it involved killing lots of people.
Since I’ve already talked about his most recent work on JSA, let’s look at some of his earliest work. Johns had a celebrated run on the Flash that began in 2000 with issue 164. In that issue, Captain Cold freezes a police man and then shatters him. On the same page, different panel, Cold is shown kicking the policeman’s frozen head like a soccer ball. I should have realized something was wrong there but, honestly, I didn’t think of it. Maybe it was because the policeman had been turned into a big ball of ice. Maybe it was the lack of blood. Whatever it was, I didn’t realize that I was witnessing the beginnings of a body count that would make Stalin jealous.
But, Johns wasn’t done yet. Less than a year later in Flash 170-172, he managed to establish his bloody reputation. In issue 170, he kills the mother of a one year old child, and over the remainder of the issue and into 171, kills all the people that Wally West saved. My personal favorite scene is the two page spread of the morgue filled with dead bodies. But the coup de grace was in issue 172, in which a teenager is stabbed to death ON PANEL, and blood is seen running from his mouth.
What is going on when one of the industry’s best writers is a blood thirsty maniac? HELLO!? Does anyone see anything wrong with this?
Now I understand that violence has always been a part of comics. From the Spectre in the 70’s turning people to salt to D.G. Chichester blowing up the Staten Island Ferry and killing 33 people in 1993 (Daredevil #327). But, the Spectre is supernatural so there was no blood involved and Chichester didn’t show a single body he just stated a fact. But apparently that wasn’t enough violence because Johns has upped the ante to death on panel. And lots of blood to go with it on panel.
Now to be fair, let’s discuss some other current writers with big body counts like Ellis and Ennis. Both have managed to kill their fair share of people in comic books. But, in their defense, most of it was done in Max titles (Punisher) or in the Wildstorm Universe (Authority). In fact, their bloodiest work is over at Avatar. But, Max, Wildstrom, and Avatar titles aren’t the Flash. They aren't the JSA. They are adult books, aimed at adults, and marketed as such.
The Flash, unless I’m mistaken was still one of the biggest mainstream characters. Everyone knows who the Flash is because of his role in the all the cartoons from Super Friends to Justice League. If a new reader walked into a comic store I would expect them to be able to pick up any issue of the Flash and not be disgusted by the amount of gore in it. I'm not sure I would share anything Johns has written with anyone who wasn't already a Marvel Zombie or DC Dweeb.
While Ron Marz still holds the honor for most brutal killing with his “girlfriend in a fridge” story from Green Lantern, Johns has quietly managed to slaughter hundreds if not thousands of people in the DCU and I don’t think it’s a good thing. The "fanboy" covers on comic books are bad enough but adding blood and gore will only drive new readers away.