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Set to soar Ready to fly

December 23, 2009|By BY GEOFF BOUCHER

Hollywood loves its heroes, that's for sure, and there are more than two dozen film projects in the pipeline that adapt comic-book characters. What will be big news in comics in 2010? Two projects involve top-tier writers taking over two mainstay characters, one at Marvel and one at DC. Here's the lowdown.

Geoff Johns/DC Comics

Brand X: What are your memories, as a reader, of Barry Allen getting killed off in 1985? It was such a jolting moment for DC readers and a pivotal point in comics history.

Geoff Johns: I had just started reading comics when the DC-altering "Crisis on Infinite Earths" came out. One of the first comics I ever bought was the death of Barry Allen. I had seen the Flash before in animation and had really been drawn to the character, and then he died. Ironically, his death might've even been the trigger that sucked me into the world of DC Comics. When I got to the end of "Crisis," and Wally West took on the mantle of the new Flash, I followed him into his book. Barry's death really hit the DC Universe hard, and decades later his return is ushering in a new direction for the DC Universe.

Tell me about Barry Allen's voice compared with some of his heroic peers' -- what's his personality and mien?

Barry is a man who, despite what life throws at him, continues to step forward with a clear purpose and sense of who he is. He believes in justice, sometimes looking at it in black and white. He has no tolerance for those who victimize others. Before he became the Flash, Barry had trouble connecting with people emotionally; he was letting life pass him by. As the Flash, Barry found that excitement in life again and rejoined it with a vengeance. The most frustrating thing for Barry is related to his job as a member of Central City CSI. He investigates crimes that have already happened. Murders he can't stop. No matter how fast he is, that's the past.

What are the compass points here as far as art? Flash has such a storied history, especially those Carmine Infantino years. How does that affect the present?

There are a handful of iconic Flash artists to me -- Carmine Infantino, of course, being among the top. But speaking with Francis [Manapul] about his approach to the Flash and the world, thinking about the layouts and, specifically, rethinking how to approach the power of speed and illustrate it in the best way possible is an ongoing conversation. But I have a very clear idea of showing the true power of super speed in a way we haven't really seen before. The Flash has always been a book at the forefront of where the rest of the superhero universe is going, and Francis Manapul and I intend to do our best to continue that tradition, yet we're starting with a very basic concept -- it's superhero "CSI." The first arc is entitled "The Dasterdly Death of the Rogues," and it's a murder mystery, Flash-style. Which means it's anything but what it first looks like. He's my favorite character, and it's great to be back with him.

Matt Faction/Marvel

Brand X: Tell me about Thor and how you viewed him as a fan. Was he a key character for you growing up?

Matt Faction: There was one run -- Walt Simonson's -- that I thought hung the moon, but, weirdly enough, the character wasn't a favorite, particularly beyond what Walt did. And then, as an adult, a few years ago, I was at a friend's house and saw a Kirby/Giacoia original Thor page on his wall and . . . and it was like an array of lock tumblers just clicked into place in my head. Like -- the art, the character, the myth, the potential -- the whole thing came to me in a weird revelation. I got obsessed with the character because, for the first time, I felt like I figured out, I sort of innately understood, just what you could do with Thor: how big it was, what the potential was, what the book was really, or could really, be about. For the first time I knew what Thor meant. Believe it or not, this is just one of several completely insane-sounding stories that have happened to me regarding Thor since I fell into the big guy's orbit. I've reconciled myself with just buying the ticket, taking the ride and sounding like a mental patient until I'm done.

Stan Lee made Thor sound like a Shakespearean actor, but I always wondered if he might sound like the Swedish chef. Describe Thor's voice as you find it? What do you draw on?

There's almost a Victorian tongue, to me, when I close my eyes and listen for it -- there this odd, mellifluous and loping cadence in my head. If I was smart enough, I'd write the whole thing in iambic pentameter but, well, I'm not. And besides, onomatopoeias are murder on the metrical foot. Although now that I think about it, maybe they're really lifesavers. Short a couple syllables? Slap a FLAPPABIPPITTYBLABOOM! in there.

There are so many great supporting characters in Thor's mythology. Without giving away too much, can you mention some of the things you're excited about pursuing with those supporting characters?

I'm most excited about getting off of Earth. There are nine worlds in the Norse cosmology, sort of, and lately the book has been spending a lot of time here in Midgard sweet Midgard. I want to take these amazing people . . . and take 'em up and down the world tree. And beyond! . . . I've said too much.

geoff.boucher@latimes.com

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