By: Megan Maher

BGN’s Megan Maher sat down and chatted with the producers and writers of the Warner Bros film Aquaman. Executive producer, Geoff Johns and screenwriters, David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick and Will Beall. They break it down from comic to script to screen about the successful DC comics film that has grossed over $480 million dollars worldwide. 

What was the process of Aquaman from comic book to screen?
Geoff Johns

In 2010, about 8 years ago I started writing the relaunch of Aquaman. I planned it a little earlier and it launched in 2011 and I wrote it for a little over two years. That is how the comic book started. Then at some point, Will and I started talking about Aquaman and James (Wan) came in early and we started breaking the story off that on giant whiteboards and it was really about honing in on the emotional story of Arthur. A man who is born from two different worlds and was thrust into the mission of having to unite both worlds. Once we had that emotional story, we built all of the rest. I was saying we wanted to make the biggest high sea adventurous film ever made. What do we want in that? We want sharks, we want treasure hunts, sunken galleons. Once we had the heartbeat of the story and it was based on the comics and we fleshed it out and made it (I think) even stronger with his Mother being alive and everything else, we started to list out all these big scenes. And we figured out how to build the story and incorporate what we thought would be a really fun movie with a really clear emotional story.

Specifically with the underwater scenes and picking out the concepts, were there any limitations that you had or did they just let yall go wild?
David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick  

I think part of the development process wound up being coming up with a story that could be sold on land and sea. To get them out of the water. To have him be in Atlantis for two out of three acts would probably prohibit him.

Geoff Johns

It was fun to get him out. Because really it’s about character. Because you want Arthur to go to a place that he has never gone before, Atlantis and you want Mera to go to a place she has never gone before and that was our world.

There is always talk about Aquaman being corny and I noticed that you all subtly acknowledged that it’s a bit cheesy but he’s still a badass, so can you talk about redefining him and bringing him onto the big screen?
David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick

For me coming at it, even before I was involved in the project, there was that one poster they put out for Justice League with Jason (Momoa) with the trident and it says “Unite the seven.” And off of that one image you’re like “ok, Aquaman is cool again.” There wasn’t even a movie out yet attached to it, but casting him sort of broke your eye in terms of it being like a corny character. You know, that face changed who he was, and it broke everyone’s eye about who that character was and that in conjunction to what you [Geoff Johns] had been doing with the comics, sort of married his persona with the sort of wink you were giving to where he was in the culture.

Geoff Johns

You have to just kind of embrace the idea that some people think Aquaman is…he talks to fish, it’s the truth. Let’s just embrace any kind of perceived silliness to his character. It’s alright, you can’t take it too seriously. You gotta have fun with it. His name is Aquaman if you do think about it and that’s the fun of the movie. It still has a really important message and story, but you gotta have fun with it.

Will Beall

I mean, also, having a character like this that has never been on screen before helped. Helps a lot. There isn’t (I’m not knocking Joel Schumacher) or anything but he doesn’t have any of that baggage.

Geoff Johns

He has baggage in a different way.

Will Beall

[Arthur’s] introduction where he kicks his way into the sub and he says “permission to come aboard” and the guitar riff that follows, the movie declares itself “we are here to have fun”.

Did you all pull from the Bioluminescent Bays because the colors under the water are reminiscent of it, like that glowing algae?
Geoff Johns

That would be really for James Wan and the team, they created the underwater world and it got more and more colorful as the visual effect shots would come in. Because it would start with people just on rigs, swimming in the air with a blue background and then there would be ocean and there would be life, and then it would be lit up. Some of those shots were so colorful, so much more colorful than I thought they were going to end up being when I first saw it.

David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick

Even from very early on, I remember James (Wan) talking about how it was just apart of his pallet choice. He said it was going to be a blue sky movie and so you know Mera’s hair is RED, and the suit is ORANGE, and it is GREEN and it is very vibrant and it feels like your watching a comic book come to life.

Can you talk about writing Mera’s storyline character?
David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick

To me it what was interesting with her, was telling the love story with Arthur and Mera by putting them on crossing trajectories. Where he has this prejudice against Atlantis, and she has the prejudice against the surface and as they are coming together they are sort of resolving that. So, they have this intersection point sort of halfway through the movie where he started seeing maybe he is wrong and she is sort of seeing maybe she was wrong. And that is ort of how they come together.

Geoff Johns

When I had written the book, there was an issue, the 5th issue of the series that was just her. The whole story is that She is in the lighthouse, Arthur’s not there and they are out of dog food and she has to go to town to buy dog food. And she has never been to town before and so it’s all about a fish-out-of-water and her experiences with the town, people, both good and bad. And for me, it provided that point of view, because Arthur’s pov is what is Atlantis, and Mera’s pov is what is the surface? That is where the storylines really developed from.

Can you talk about Black Manta’s role?
David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick  

We all love Black Manta and everyone is just like how can you do the Aquaman without Black Manta!

Geoff Johns

His suit looked awesome with the big helmet, that was a must.  And some people were like you can’t do the movie with the big helmet. But you have to, if not then don’t do it. It’s like seeing The Joker without the smile.

Are there any other villains that you would like to work in, in the future of this franchise?
David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick

I want to see more Black Manta.

Geoff Johns

Yeah, I’d like to see more Black Manta. There is a villain called the scavenger that I really like. He’s a cool character, though he is in the same Black Manta family. You know, but there is no one better than Black Manta.

David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick

James Wan was very specific about the helmet. Black Manta had to be Black Manta. It had to be exactly that helmet. He was very faithful to that comic.

Warner Bros.
So what was each of your favorite action sequences that you wrote that you finally got to see on screen?
Geoff Johns

The trench, it is so unique and so horrific and I think James Wan illustrated it so well.

David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick

The sub attack, it was a great opening. The image of him in the submarine is sort of like a call back to Superman action comics lifting up the car. It feels like a cool introduction.

Will Beall

I love the rescue from the ring of fire. There escape and Mera’s craft, I think is phenomenal.

What do you want the audience to take away the most from the emotional story?
Geoff Johns

Just that it is cool to be in two worlds. My favorite bit in it is “Don’t be a king, be a hero” like for everyone, not your own people.

David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick

I think, what I think is interesting about Aquaman and one of the many things that makes him unique as a superhero is that he wasn’t struck by lightning, he didn’t fall on toxic waste, nor was he bitten by a radioactive spider- it’s a love story. You know, his parents fell in love, and he is the result of that and his origin story being a love story is really really unique. And I think it’s kind of a powerful story.

Aquaman is currently playing in theaters everywhere.