Phillip Kennedy Johnson is successfully taking on three of the biggest entertainment franchises around, and I’m loving it!
KEEPING UP WITH MR. JOHNSON
When some of my favorite writers sell their various works to different companies, it can make it tough to keep up with them!
For instance, Zack Kaplan has, count ‘em, FOUR mini-series’ I know of coming out from four different comics companies! There’s Break Out from Dark Horse, Metal Society from Image/Top Cow, Mindset from Vault, and now Forever Forward from Scout.
It’s a challenge for my local comics shop to be sure to get them all!
Lucky for me, Jeff Lemire recently signed an exclusive contract with Image! Phew!
But these two aren’t the only ones keeping me busy as I work to track the books they are producing! Phillip Kennedy Johnson has blown my mind with several of his previous offerings like Last Sons of America, Warlords of Appalachia, and even his current run on Action Comics, which features Superman, of course.
Not that long ago, he began working on an Alien mini-series for Marvel, who recently bought the comic book publishing rights to the franchise. Now the House of Ideas has announced that Mr. Kennedy will be writing an ongoing series featuring these ugly yet compelling denizens of horror.
However, those two successful comics are no longer the only ones Phillip will be scripting. He recently signed on with Dynamite to take the reins for James Bond in a new series called 007, coming in August.
He’s one busy and successful guy, particularly since he also serves as a master sergeant in the U.S. Army!
TAKING OVER A FRANCHISE
While I think making ANY comic these days is a big success, it’s particularly tough to take on a franchise as well known as Superman, James Bond, or Alien.
When someone is writing a creator-owned series you develop yourself, there’s a lot of latitude you can give yourself when it comes to character development and growth. Basically, YOU set the boundaries regarding what you can and cannot do.
It’s VERY different when you play in someone else’s sandbox! When you have lots of already existing continuity, you have to be keenly aware of what has happened so you do not make the character(s) go places they should not venture into.
Not only that, but you have people looking over your shoulders constantly, telling you what they like and don’t like about what you’re doing with the franchise that makes them money.
You also need to make sure that you don’t contradict what has happened previously. Believe me, as a Star Trek fan, I’m very aware of when a show engages a sacred cow that entire fandoms have been built around. Imagine having to focus on a long-lived character like the Man of Steel or 007. Somebody someplace is sure to tell you why you can’t do what you just said you wanted to do!
I like what Phillip has done with Superman in Action, taking him out of his comfort zone on Earth and moving him into Warworld, a very dark and punishing environment. Superman has often been a beacon of light, truth, and justice, so how does he react in a place out of his control? It’s been something I’ve enjoyed reading!
Phillip has also focused on Superman as a hero. I’ve often argued that the Man of Steel is very difficult to write because we know what he’s going to do in certain situations, unlike Batman who does what he has to in order to win.
I’ve interviewed Mr. Kennedy in the past, most notably when he started on Superman, and he told me that his love of the character will mean he will not take the Man of Steel to the “dark side,” focusing instead of the nobler aspects of his character.
And it’s been a lot of fun to read!
THE OTHER FRANCHISES
Granted, in Alien, the creatures are often in the shadows while we focus on the humans who are trying not to be turned into baby gestation machines. I like the characters he’s brought into his previous Alien storytelling, so I’m looking forward to what he’s got in mind for the ongoing series.
James Bond is another situation altogether!
You have to keep in mind that rich history the character has gone through so you don’t repeat a storyline. You also need to figure places he should go, something new but still a good challenge for 007.
Character-wise, he’s also very different from Superman, so it’s a whole new bag of tricks a writer needs to bring to the book!
Naturally, environments he hasn’t been seen in previously might be worth exploring. Also, new situations that we face today that readers can relate to would be something I would suggest. Still, it can’t be TOO far away from the Bond Universe, as it were. “Spy fi” is how some people refer to using new tech in a secret agent story, and that’s something I’d like to see Bond go into more.
Of course, I’m sure the people who own Alien and James Bond are giving Kennedy copious notes about what he has in mind for these franchises. And who knows? Maybe an upcoming movie just might give him credit for a storyline he came up with for the comics! Not a bad thing for a creator, I bet!
I also would love to see a crossover between these franchises take place! No one better to script that than Mr. Kennedy!
What do you think? Do you follow the writers of comics just like you do artists? What would you like to see happen in these successful franchises? No matter what your opinion is, please share your thoughts below!