Many comic fans claim to be suffering from "event fatigue" after years and years of just being bombarded with them, so when you hear about the upcoming "Flashpoint" event, an altered-reality tale that's supposed to sprawl over 50 issues worth of tie-ins and one-shots, you might hang your head and reach for the aspirin. However, Geoff Johns, who's writing the main five-issue miniseries with artist Andy Kubert, is insisting that Flashpoint will be "much more accessible than anything else you've seen before as an event."
"You certainly don't need to read anything before issue #1," Johns explained to Newsarama, "and the miniseries tells you everything you need to know."
If the tie-ins aren't necessary, that would indeed be very different than most recent event books. In Marvel's Civil War, for example, the tie-ins were required to try and explain the questionable characterizations shoehorned into the main miniseries. But if they're not necessary, why do them at all? The quick answer is 'marketing,' but Johns says that's because of another big difference from most events: rather than editorially mandating the premise onto reluctant creators, it seems the creators are loving the idea so much that they're coming to him to get involved. Case in point, Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso of 100 Bullets.
"He's one of my absolute favorite writers in comics, and one of my favorite people in comics," Johns said of Azzarello. "I think he's brilliant. I was psyched when he wanted to get involved. And it wasn't just him. I mean, Jeff Lemire, Scott Snyder and all these other talented writers wanted to get involved. I just feel fortunate with the quality we have with the writing and the art on the stuff around Flashpoint. I'm a big believer in that being the reason Sinestro Corps worked and why Blackest Night worked. The main book has to be amazing, but the other books around it have to be great, too. If you're going to to an event, you have to do it right."
So what ARE they doing in Flashpoint? Well, something happens (we don't know what) that causes the reality of the DC universe to shift, and only Barry Allen remembers the world as it's supposed to be (and maybe Booster Gold does, too, but that's a tie-in). Aquaman and Wonder Woman seem to be hardline military leaders, Abin Sur never died to give Hal Jordan a Green Lantern ring, Batman is running casinos (?) and instead of Superman, the world's most pre-eminent hero is… Cyborg? No, not Hank Henshaw. Cyborg. Teen Titan Cyborg.
"Cyborg, much like Aquaman, is one of my favorite characters," Johns explained. "I just felt like there are a lot more stories to be told about him. I would love to elevate the character. He's not usually in the center of these events."
Johns compared him to Mera in that respect, whose profile has significantly risen since Blackest Night. He also claims that there's another obscure female character who's going to have a bigger role in Flashpoint than she's ever had anywhere.
Check out these character designs DC has revealed, including a mystery character known as the Canterbury Cricket.
Johns understands the dangers of trying to raise a character like Cyborg's profile, though. "You can't force people to like characters just by throwing them in the spotlight. You see people try to do that and it just doesn't work. What I like to do is take characters that I love, that I already have a passion for, and concentrate my effort there. Pick the ones you have ideas for, that you have stories for, that you know the emotional core for. You take all that potential you see and you try to lock it into the story that people are reading."
Another reason this series is supposed to be accessible is the sheer amount of brand new characters that will put DC veterans and DC virgins on the same level of understanding.
"This isn't just one of those stories where you take the DC Universe, shake it up, and say 'this is what happened to so-and-so," Johns explains. "You, as the reader, are in this universe with the Flash, meeting all these characters for the very first time. Some of them are brand new. Some of them are characters that you maybe aren't familiar with, who are in a different place. But it's very much a journey where Barry's in the dark as much as the reader."
Other things to note about the event – it's not an Elseworlds tale set on one of the 52 other Earths – this is our DCU and something's gone haywire. Zoom will be involved. It's not going to bring the other DCU books to a halt at all. It's not connected to Brightest Day. Booster Gold is going to know that something has gone wrong, which fits in with what his whole series is about. The main miniseries will focus on a Flash-Batman team-up. Deathstroke looks like a pirate. We've got Citizen Cold and Lois Lane offshoots, and we even get to check in with Frankenstein.
Let's leave it at that, shall we? Lest we be spoiled.