Inside Gary Frank & Geoff Johns' Geiger, from the Atomic Cowboy to the plans for a broader creator-owned universe

(Image credit: Gary Frank/Brad Anderson (Image Comics))

For the past 19 years, Gary Frank has been working on the biggest heroes that DC and Marvel have. But now it's time for a change, and he's doing that with his long-time collaborator and friend, writer Geoff Johns.

(Image credit: Gary Frank/Brad Anderson/Rob Leigh (Image Comics))

On April 7, Frank returns to Image Comics with Geiger #1 - the first in a six-issue series about a man who survived a nuclear war and is out to do what any good father would: protect his family. 

Even when his Las Vegas looks even more dangerous than that of Fallout: New Vegas.

This story of the man Frank and Johns originally nicknamed the 'Atomic Cowboy' is the first in what they hope is a broader creator-owned world for the two of them. But first, Geiger.

Newsarama spoke with Frank about pivoting back to creator-owned work following such high-profile work as Doomsday Clock and Batman: Earth One, his creative dynamic with Johns, and what plans the two of them have after this six-issue series.

(Image credit: Gary Frank/Brad Anderson/Rob Leigh (Image Comics))

Newsarama: Gary, how long have you and Geoff been thinking about this Geiger series? Did you know this would be the next project when working on Doomsday Clock?

Gary Frank: Yes, we were talking about it while we were working on Doomsday Clock. It has been in the works for a while. 

Nrama: How did Geiger come about? Did you help with the brainstorming at all? 

Frank: Yeah, Geoff had a kernel - the emotional heart of the story but it was all very plastic at that stage. I think his working title was 'Atomic Cowboy.' 

Nrama: After years of working at DC, what made you want to come back to Image for creator-owned work?

Frank: I just found the idea of getting something fresh out there. A change of scene. And something that is ours to do with as we wish. 

(Image credit: Gary Frank/Brad Anderson/Rob Leigh (Image Comics))

I've spent many years drawing superheroes and it has been great, but I'm not exactly at the beginning of my career so, if not now, when? Geoff pitched me a few different ideas and, maybe as a father, this one resonated most. 

Nrama: Were there any changes to your creative dynamic working on a creator-owned title compared to a work-for-hire DC book? 

(Image credit: Gary Frank/Brad Anderson/Rob Leigh (Image Comics))

Frank: Not really. Geoff has always been very open and collaborative, even when he clearly knows the characters and the material so much better than me. So, it was pretty much the same thing. 

Nrama: We've talked about the story OF the story - let's now talk about the story.

Who is Geiger?

Frank: Geiger is a guy who is very sick. 

(Image credit: Gary Frank/Brad Anderson/Rob Leigh (Image Comics))

I think when you aren't sure of your own future, your thoughts become dominated by making sure your family are okay. I think that is where Geiger is when the bombs drop and so everything becomes focused on protecting that fallout shelter with his family inside. 

Maybe his survival is something to do with his illness, or the treatment but I like to think that it’s just that he was so fixed on his task that even death decided to give him a wide berth. 

Nrama: Are there any supporting characters you can tease? 

Frank: Yes, at the heart of the story are two orphans whose paths cross with Geiger’s. In some ways, it’s their story as much as his. 

Nrama: The book takes place after a nuclear war. How did you tackle this setting? Did you have any influences or inspiration for the visual aesthetic? 

Frank: I like the feeling of expanse that Moebius created in his vision of the Old West in Blueberry, so that was in my mind from the beginning. 

The other main environment is Las Vegas, which is basically just about projecting how the place might feel after a few more decades on its current trajectory. 

Nrama: What has been your favorite thing to draw thus far? 

Frank: I always enjoy the same thing, which is the interactions between characters. I like trying to pull realistic expressions and attitudes from them. When it works and the story flows properly, the satisfaction is enormous. 

Nrama: For fans of your DC work, what do you think they’ll enjoy about Geiger? 

(Image credit: Gary Frank/Brad Anderson/Rob Leigh (Image Comics))

Frank: Well, I think Geoff and I always try to do the same thing with our stories, wherever they may be set, and that it to find the humanity and the heart of the characters. That is always the thing which the rest is serving. 

People need to know and care about the protagonists or they won’t feel like there is anything at stake. 

Nrama: Any more plans for other creator-owned work? 

Frank: Yes. We touch tangentially on another character in this book and he will be the basis for the next. These are blocks in a wall that this being planned.

Geiger #1 goes on sale April 7, in comic shops and on digital platforms. For the best digital comics reading experience, check out our list of the best digital comics readers for Android and iOS devices.

Kat Calamia

Kat has been working in the comic book industry as a critic for over a decade with her YouTube channel, Comic Uno. She’s been writing for Newsarama since 2017 and also currently writes for DC Comics’ DC Universe - bylines include IGN, Fandom, and TV Guide. She writes her own comics with her titles Like Father, Like Daughter and They Call Her…The Dancer. Calamia has a Bachelor’s degree in Communications and minor in Journalism through Marymount Manhattan and a MFA in Writing and Producing Television from LIU Brooklyn.