From Kano in “Bad Company” to John Constantine in “Hellblazer,” Peter Milligan has written some bad ass leading men over the years. But the British scribe has never headlined a book with a character quite like Atrocitus before.
Announced earlier this month, Milligan will write an ongoing “Red Lanterns” series for DC Comics beginning in June, starring arguably the biggest creep currently active in the DCU: the Red Lantern known as Atrocitus.
Created by superstar writer Geoff Johns and fan favorite artist Ethan Van Sciver, Atrocitus first appeared in “Green Lantern” #25 in 2007. From the lost world of Ryut in Space Sector 666, Atrocitus was a long-time prisoner of Abin Sur, the Green Lantern that protected Space Sector 2814 before Hal Jordan. A major player in “Blackest Night” and “Brightest Day,” Atrocitus’ rage has become the stuff of legend in DCU and a title focused on him and his corps of equally enraged individuals will join other titles in the ever-growing Green Lantern franchise: “Green Lantern,” “Green Lantern Corps,” and “Emerald Warriors.”
Milligan told CBR News that Atrocitus is a murderous, ancient monster—now he’s his murderous ancient monster, and it’s his job to make readers empathize with him and pity him. At least sometimes. Other times, he wants readers to cheer for the rage.
CBR News: How did this new series come about? Was it your pitch or did DC come to you?
Peter Milligan: Geoff Johns called me one evening and we had a chat, and he asked if I’d be up for writing “Red Lanterns.” He told me a little about it and it sounded really interesting. A book that was about rage. I thought that had possibilities.
Later I came up with some story ideas, and worked out a story line for the next year, give or take a few months. There’ll be a bit of changing around and coordinating with the many other books but basically I know where the book will progress initially, the first themes and issues, etc.
Geoff Johns has been building the Green Lantern universe for close to six years now. Have you been along for the ride or did you have to play catch up in preparing for this new assignment?
I was aware of what Geoff was doing and had read bits and pieces, but for the most part there was a lot of catching up to do.
Have you worked closely with Geoff on developing the series and if so, will continue communicating with him moving forward?
Like I said, I developed ideas that appealed to me and then Geoff and series editors Eddie Berganza and Adam Schlagman discussed these with me. I am sure there will be occasional on-going communication of some kind with Geoff.
You’re no stranger to superhero comics, but I don’t think you’ve ever had a leading man like Atrocitus before. Or maybe I’m wrong, does he compare to anyone else you’ve ever written before? Either way, how do you get under his skin?
I don’t think anyone’s ever had a leading man like Atrocitus before. For me, what I felt I had to do with this larger than life and pretty insane character was to – and this sounds a bit nuts – was to look for his humanity. Though rage is his main driver, he can’t just be one note. He has nuances; they’re just harder to spot than with most characters. In short, he might be a murderous ancient monster but he’s our murderous ancient monster, and there must be times when we empathize with him or pity him. In this book, he is our hero. He’s a massively flawed and damaged hero but a hero nonetheless. In many ways, he’s an incredibly tragic figure. But I think what’s key with Atrocitus is that there is more to him than just blind unthinking rage. There is – or at least he believes there is – a philosophy or belief system behind that rage.
As to comparing him to anyone else I’ve written? I did a one-shot with Spider-Man and Rhino once. And there are elements to Rhino that perhaps echo what Atrocitus is about. Though Atrocitus is a much more extreme and damaged character.
With rage as a driving force, not only for the character but his ring, how will you translate Atrocitus’ awesome power to make him a compelling character for readers to follow each month or as you put it, how will you bring out his humanity? I’m thinking specifically recent revelations that Spectre views Atrocitus’ reign of terror as a holy one due to the loss of his family.
You’ve touched upon an important point: the loss of Atrocitus’ family. This is central to our understanding of Atrocitus. The thing about Atrocitus is that he does have a heart. He even has some kind of rational process. Can you be both consumed by rage and still rational? As far as Atrocitus is concerned, the answer is yes. For him rage is rational.
The original announcement for the series teased that your first storyline will take us to the far side of the prison planet Ysmault where we’ll see why and how the rage of Atrocitus is just as all-consuming as it ever was. Who or what is he looking for and/or does he find on Ysmault?
The series will find Atrocitus on Ysmault, hanging with his Red Lantern Corps. This storyline came about through my initial consideration of Atrocitus and his condition. I kept asking myself how and why this creature is still so consumed with rage after all these millennia. There are some surprises in store on Ysmault, especially the dark side where Atroctitus travels.
What else can you share about the first arc of the series?
I want to avoid any spoilers so I’ll keep this simple. The story moves from the grim planet of Ysmault to a sleepy village in the United Kingdom. This little place is turned upside down by the arrival of red rings, Atrocitus, and a bunch of characters well known to the readers of the Green Lantern books. Plus there’s a major surprise guest star.
The announcement also named Bleeze and Dex-Starr as major players in the title. What do you have in store for them out of the gate? Dex-Starr, for one, is a character with a fervent fan-base and those who like the rage cat like him a lot? Which other characters, Red Lantern Corps and otherwise, will be featured prominently in the book?
Well, we see Dex-Starr at "work" from the get-go, and witness the adoration he feels for his master, Atrocitus. Bleeze is a very interesting character. We’ll see how unlike a lot of the Red Lantern Corps she is because she has something approaching a mind of her own; something that sets her on a collision course with bad mister Atrocitus.
The Red Lantern Corps is, putting it mildly, a motley crew. You’re known for lining your comics with great humor and satire. Will this series allow for that type of story-telling, as well or is it all gloom and doom?
Yes, amid the blood, death, gore and pain, I hope to shoe-horn in some savage satire and outright weirdness.
Good. Finally, not sure what you can reveal just yet but how closely will events in this series tie into the happenings in the other Green Lantern titles and specifically, the crossover event, "War of the Green Lanterns?"
The series is released in June after the shocking events of "War of the Green Lanterns." The events of “Red Lanterns” happen in the same universe as the other books and will of course sooner or later reflect what’s going on there.