DCN Exclusive: Interview with Hisonni Johnson, Creator of “Grayson: Earth One”

The character of Nightwing is a DC Comics icon. His fan-base is ever growing, with his book being one of the most popular titles in the New 52. For years, fans have wanted to see a well done, live action version of the hero, but no such production has received much attention. That is, none received attention until fan and film-maker Hisonni Johnson came up with his own Nightwing story to tell. “Grayson: Earth One” is a re-imagining of the Richard Grayson character, one in which he was never taken in by the Bat. If you’re reading this and have not yet seen “Grayson: Earth One,” stop what you’re doing and watch it right now. Seriously, we’ll give you a few minutes.

DCN: What is it about Nightwing that made you want to commit so much time to this project?Grayson-1

Hisonni Johnson: I was drawn to the coolness of Nightwing’s look and abilities, but the man behind the mask had fallen flat for me. He seemed to rarely, if ever, struggle with right and wrong, selfishness or even greed. And all of those flaws are really interesting to me, especially in heroes. Furthermore, his “Leave it to Beaver” years as robin were an even bigger turn off for me. But, as a writer, the weaknesses the character had presented themselves as an opportunity for me to fix. So the short answer would be that I chose Nightwing because of the challenge of making his story realistic and engaging.

DCN: Obviously, this is a very different version of Richard Grayson than the one in the comics. What were the inspirations for your version of Nightwing?


BLtiFArCIAEmNP1.jpg-largeHJ: One night I was watching the lead guitarist of Avenged Sevenfold on Youtube and it hit me. Metal bands are the only people that can dress like super heroes and get away with it in real life. You know? They wear tons of leather, chains, make up, jet black hair… Eventually, I realized that Nightwing looked a lot like both Synester Gates (guitarist for Avenged Sevenfold) and one of my super talented actor buddies, Stephen McCain. When Stephen confirmed that my idea wasn’t crazy, (laughs) I started to write Earth One.

DCN: What are some of the challenges you faced making Grayson: Earth One?

HJ:  Funding it (laughs). I made some heavy sacrifices. They were all worth it but they were hard at the time. The production itself was completely enjoyable, post [production] flew by and my group of friends/family has grown tremendously since this project’s conception. Wait…I just thought of something! Here’s something that’s challenging/hard; the industry’s response to me. It’s not everyone, but it’s enough of those industry types that I have to mention it. Look, I’m not the best filmmaker in the world, I know! But I am a human being. I’m not a crook and I’m never disrespectful when I try to connect with people, so why be so rude to us storytellers/actors/artists? After all, we’re human beings, worthy of common decency. On top of which, we are hard-working and are probably in the same place you were before you finally got the position at “Blank” company. If you can’t respect us,at least respect our common struggle and respond with compassion. Whew…Glad to get that off my chest.

DCN: You’ve done an awesome job weaving together our favorite characters into a new environment, but have still retained the ones we love. What (especially who) can we expect to see in the future episodes?

HJ:  You can expect a little Haley’s circus. And amazing plot and character development.  Some characters you’ve seen before and some characters that are original. But they’re done so well, you’ll wonder why they weren’t already a part of the DC Universe. Or you’ll hope they do become a part of the DC universe. I think what I’m looking forward to is showing you how big of a ripple Bruce and Richard not meeting actually created!

DCN: Not only are you the writer of a unique take on the character, but you’ve created a great environment through the visuals of the show. From a filmmaker’s perspective, what influenced you stylistically?Grayson-2

HJ:  My favorite show ever is the TV show, Luther. I adore Smallville and Friday Night Lights as well. I think it’s fairly easy to see a bit of each of those in my work. My love for Luther will influence my writing and direction. I try to bring the same level of actors and acting as that show to my work. Friday Night Lights often times influences the look of my work. I’m a huge Superman fanboy and Smallville is a big reason that I got off my couch in Milwaukee and moved to LA. The CW is where I’d like to land someday. I just feel like my style just fits there.

DCN: What is your ultimate goal in making Grayson: Earth One? How will you know that you are successful?

HJ:  My goal is to do three six-episode seasons, telling a story that has never been told before but will change the way we view shows on the web, especially within the genre we occupy. I intend to push myself to the limit creatively and in the process draw an audience to their computer screens with popcorn in hand. Secretly, I hope to drive people crazy with our cliffhangers (laughs). I want people desperate to see more. I guess in my wildest dreams, I’m hoping that I could do the show so well that DC would get involved in one capacity or another. Who knows, right?