WC11: Johns Goes to "War of The Green Lanterns"

Fri, April 1st, 2011 at 11:58am PDT | Updated: April 7th, 2011 at 1:01pm

Comic Books
Kiel Phegley, Staff Writer

Geoff Johns delves into all thing "Green Lantern"

Geoff Johns is a busy man these days. The DC Entertainment Chief Creative Officer and superstar comics writer currently gets to jump between the core franchises of the DC Universe from scripting the upcoming "Flashpoint" event for comics to contributing the anticipated "Booster" episode of The CW's "Smallville." And that's just tip of the iceberg.

"We're in production on 'Wonder Woman' and shooting right now. We're in heavy post-on 'Green Lantern.' There's all the publishing stuff we're doing. We've got TV with DC Nation, and all the video game stuff we've got going. It's just busy!" Johns told CBR News. "I work with awesome people -- the best of the best -- so it's busy, but it's a lot of fun. I just don't remember when the last time Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Superman and Batman were all in live action production. It's cool. I've just got to get the Flash going!"

Of course, with this weekend's WonderCon hitting in San Francisco, the news is all focused on "Green Lantern." With cast and crew from the June 17 motion picture heading to the show as well as an early preview of the June 7 "Emerald Knights" direct to video release, CBR spoke with Johns about the other major event in the franchise now -- the currently serializing "War of The Green Lanterns" comic book arc. Shared between the monthly "Green Lantern," "Green Lantern Corps" and "Green Lantern: Emerald Warriors" series, the crossover has already seen the bonds of friendship start to break down between earth GL's Hal Jordan, John Stewart, Guy Gardner and Kyle Rayner. Below, Johns explains how the story connects to the history of the entire Green Lantern Corps and renegade Guardian Krona, expounds upon his personal views on how fear is the most central piece of the series mythos and Jordan's life and finally teases how he's influenced the new film to feel like the comics as he also writes the special movie prequel "Sinestro" one-shot.

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CBR News: Reading the launch of "War of the Green Lanterns," what struck me is that while you always focus in on emotion and character first, this story feels a little different from past epics like "Sinestro Corps War." Mostly, the last few events seemed to use emotion to build the cosmology of the Green Lantern world while this is turning things back internally for the characters as people. Was part of the goal here to tighten the focus?

Geoff Johns: Yeah. I wanted to get back to Hal, Guy, John and Kyle. It's like we're going back to "Rebirth." With Parallax, the power battery and Krona, I wanted to harken back to the original story I did but do it on a different scale. I wanted to get back to exploring the relationship between the four Earth Lanterns and the rest of the Green Lantern Corps, and I guess it's still not grounded because of the scope of what we're dealing with. It's as grounded as the Green Lantern Corps gets, and I wanted to ground it in these four guys -- turning the stories back on them to reexamine where they are and where they're going to go. They've been working side-by-side for so long and pretty well since "Rebirth." We're going to see how that all works out in this story.

"War of the Green Lanterns" is currently raging in the DC Universe

There's an interesting parallel between what we're seeing develop between the four GLs and what happened between Krona and the Guardians. What's the attraction to seeing a falling out amongst a group that was once incredibly tight?

I just love the idea that in a weird way, Krona is more on the same page with Hal and the other guys than he is with the Guardians and vice versa. Krona's always been there, but there hasn't been an awful lot of delving in to who he is and what motivates him beyond his desire for knowledge. There's got to be more to him. What's that emotional component? And I think exploring that schism when the Guardians said, "We have to shut off our own emotions to do this" was really interesting. You think of law and justice -- justice is supposed to be without emotion. It's what's fair. And that's what the Guardians thought they had to do to protect the universe, and Krona disagreed. Krona knew there was power in emotion, and he thought it had to not be ignored but acknowledged. There's a lot more to him to be explored, but I thought exploring that personal relationship between Ganthet and him being once friends parallels a lot about what happened between Hal and Sinestro.

It reminded me too about that first Denny O'Neil Green Lantern issue where Hal confronts the Guardians for their ineffectiveness...and I suppose a lot of classic GL tales traffic in the same arena. Has there ever been a story where we've seen that tension explode out like this?

I don't know, but I know that it's something we sure hadn't done. That's what we talked about while building "War of the Green Lanterns" -- how can we get some more raw emotions from these guys and put them in a position they haven't been in? Because they've gone through a lot. Hal has gone through a lot, starting off in coming back and escaping Parallax's influence and then going to "Sinestro Corps War" where he came full circle in my mind because he realizes when Coast City makes that stand and the lights turn green and his brother says, "We're not going anywhere as long as you're here," even though Hal's told him to run -- Hal remembers then what courage is all about and what he should embody. Now after "Blackest Night," we're getting into a whole new area for these characters that will push them all into new directions.

I don't want to pop psychologize here, but I know that you bring a lot of your own thoughts and point of view into your characters, and I also see that Hal has become a workaholic...

He totally is! [Laughs]

Is that something that's evolved, not only as you've developed Hal as a character but also as DC Entertainment has grown and those things have been more on your mind?

Maybe? [Laughs] You might be doing psychology on me here, but I just felt like this is all about Hal losing sight of what's important. You go to the Guardians and say, "Why did you decide to protect the universe?" And they can't remember. It's been so long, they lost their passion for it. And if you go to Hal and ask "Why are you Green Lantern?" he just knows that he's been doing it for so long. He's been up to ten and running in the red, and he needs to really stop and think. The less you do that, the more things pass you by. So maybe that is me really exploring Hal becoming Green Lantern again, becoming involved with all these crazy events and then continuing to just be Green Lantern and lose himself to that ring. It's something he's done before. This has certainly gotten in the way of a lot of relationships in his life. And Hal's never been someone who's connected well with people.

The big kickoff to the story is Krona's reintroduction of Parallax into the power battery of the Green Lanterns. Even after you've expanded the emotional spectrum and these various Lanterns over the past few years, what's the attraction of bringing things back down to "Fear" for these characters? Do you feel that as an emotion it's somehow more potent?

Hal and Guy have it out during "War of the Green Lanterns"

It is. It's definitely more prevalent. But I also think you can't have courage without fear. The very definition of courage if overcoming fear, so they go hand-in-hand. It's like light and darkness. Fear and willpower. You can't be a Green Lantern and wield that ring unless you know how to overcome fear. There's a line Sinestro says to Hal and Hal later says to Kyle: "We're chosen because we can cope with fear and deal with fear. But anger, love and regret? All those other things we have to deal with like everybody else." So that's why fear is such an important factor. It's the yin to the yang of the Green Lantern Corps.

This story is criss-crossing through all three of the monthly Green Lantern titles, and I know you did a lot of coordination with Pete Tomasi and Tony Bedard while setting this up. How did you want things to break down book-by-book? Did you look towards keeping your focus on Hal as you've been doing and letting them drive their own leads?

This story probably threads together more closely than any story we've ever done, and the reason for that is, in order to explore these guys together, they have to be together. Although we're all exploring characters individually and taking lead -- I take lead on Hal, Pete takes lead on Guy, and Tony takes lead on John and Kyle -- we all brainstorm and talk together about where we want these guys to go. We write them all together and give notes. It's all of us throughout the event, even though one or the other is writing the individual issue. We plotted every beat together. This story is more tightly connected than any book we've ever done, I think, just because of the story material. It's about these four guys. There will be moments when my book will focus more on Hal and the "Corps" book will focus on John and Kyle and "Emerald Warriors" on Guy. But everyone will be in each part.

The one character that stands out as the big question mark is John Stewart. The other Green Lanterns all have core traits or pieces of them that help readers identify with where they're at, but John has always been much more stoic. Is part of the challenge here finding a way to externalize what John's going through?

Definitely. I think he's internalized a lot. That's just who he is. John has some of the biggest beats in this. You'll definitely see who he becomes out of the War of the Green Lanterns, but his role within this I think will be very surprising.

Moving forward, we've seen phase one of Krona's plan -- getting the Entities together and into the Guardians and putting Parallax into the power battery. But after millions of years of planning, what can we expect about his larger goals? Is there an endgame he's working towards?

Yes. Good questions! [Laughter]

In the early phases of the story, we saw a lot of action with all the leaders of the other Lantern Corps. At this point, are those concepts so intrinsically tied to the Green Lantern mythos that it's not possible to tell a story with the earth GLs without including all the other space characters?

Not necessarily. It depends on the story. You'll see in this one specifically that right now the other guys are MIA so the other Corps aren't tethered to this battle yet. Kronas has plans to go beyond this, but you'll see that there's a specific reason this story isn't called "The War of the Lanterns." It's "War of the Green Lanterns." We wanted to tell a story that focused on the Green Lantern Corps more than anything else, although the others play a part in it.

Johns expects great things from the upcoming "Green Lantern" movie

The past few years have been so much about introducing each Corps and defining what they can do. Do you feel like there's more to dig into even about the powers of the Green Lanterns, or do you think that the world-building has wound down now?

There is more world-building to do because it's not just about the Corps but the universe. But the goal is to use all of this to explore the Green Lantern Corps. We're not just adding more characters for no reason. They should all reflect on, relate to or reveal something about our main characters as they come into the book. But there's a lot people don't know about, say, the Indigo Tribe or a lot more about Larfleeze and the other Corps that we don't know yet. That stuff will come out when it'll be organic.

Green Lantern is primed for a big weekend at WonderCon...

Huge.

With the cast ready to talk about the movie and things about ready to let the final product see the light of day, do you feel like you're at the culmination of all you've been working on with this franchise in some ways, or is there more to the process yet?

Oh, there's still a lot to do, man. The movie is in post and doesn't come out until June. We've got the animated series rolling where we're 20-plus scripts into that. The video game looks really good, and the DTV movie is done. A lot of things are heading to a point, but even after the movie a lot of things are still to be done -- not to mention all the comics. But we're kind of in the emerald storm right now -- and that's actually a good title for a story later! But we're in the middle of it, which is great. I love dealing with Green Lantern every day. The goal is that a year from now, every kid in the world knows the oath. That's my hope.

I really want kids to find this mythology. I remember being a kid when I saw "Star Wars," and I saw the bounty hunters and said, "I want to know who IG-88 is!" It sparked my imagination, and I think that's what Green Lantern does. It sparks your imagination not just in terms of what you can do with the ring but also what other characters are out there? What are you a part of? What else is out of the universe? It's such a great thing for people to project themselves onto. That's why the other color Corps caught on. It's not just because they were red...it's because they represented rage. People can relate to that. They have anger. I'm sure you do. We all feel a part of that about something, and that's why Green Lantern works. It's about people and how you feel. It's about everything -- imagination and emotion. I don't know what else you could point to in comics that really delivers that. It's massive.

There are several animated Green Lantern projects on Warner Bros.' schedule

You've worked some on the script of the movie and with Martin Campbell. And when I saw the trailer, the Geoff Johns-iest thing I saw in there was Ryan Reynolds as Hal talking about how you're supposed to be without fear and how he felt he couldn't live up to that. Are those some of the ideas you tried to inject into the big screen version?

Yeah. In general, I think it really is a misconception that goes back to the original comics -- this idea of a being without fear. That can't exist. It's a being who overcomes fear. For me, Green Lantern is a lot about self-awareness. You can't just look around and see these emotions. In the Green Lantern world you can because they can be condensed into energy. Maybe in our world you could do that too but we don't have the technology. I don't know. But the essence of Green Lantern has to be self-acknowledgement and self growth, and that's in the movie for sure.

Along with the movie, you and the guys who wrote the screenplay, Michael Green and Marc Guggenheim, are doing prequel comic one-shots. For your issue, the character you picked was Sinestro. Why gravitate towards the movie version of him rather than Hal?

Probably because Hal Jordan has been defined a lot, but Sinestro was the one character who I have a real emotional attatchment too because I've defined him so much and explored him in a totally different way than had previously been done. I wanted to explore what he was like in that universe.

Is there a qualitative difference between versions?

There's always some differences between adaptations whether they're animation or film or what have you, but no. They're relatively the same character, absolutely.

Stay tuned to CBR all weekend for "Green Lantern" news from WonderCon in San Francisco and much more!

TAGS:  wondercon2011, geoff johns, dc comics, green lantern, hal jordan, guy gardner, war of the green lanterns

 
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