At the close of his first arc on DC Comics' relaunched "Green Lantern Corps," fan-favorite writer Peter J. Tomasi ("Batman and Robin") killed off a Green Lantern using John Stewart as his weapon of choice.
Kirrt Kallak of Lorror was introduced in the title's fourth issue and the former protector of Sector 2541 met his demise two months later in "Green Lantern Corps" #6. John Stewart's killing of Kirtt was far from an accident but it wasn't as cut and dry as murder either. John believed Kirrt was about to reveal the access codes to the Oan defence network to his captors, the Keepers, and was faced with an impossible choice -- Leave Oa defenseless or kill a comrade.
Having made his choice, John had to live with it and in a moving "Green Lantern Corps" #7 took it upon himself to transport the fallen Lantern to his mother, Nira, and brother, Birrt, on Lorror.
Always candid, Tomasi told CBR News exclusively that he wishes he would have developed Kirrt more fully within the panels of the opening arc but nonetheless feels the character's death was important to fleshing out John Stewart, Guy Gardner and the rest of the Corps as the role of the DCU's intergalactic police force becomes more clearly defined within the New 52.
Tomasi also teased what's to come in the months ahead from him and the rest of the title's creative team: artist Fernando Pasarin, inker Scott Hanna and colorist Gabe Eltaeb.
CBR News: While his death came only months after his debut, Kirrt Kallak is obviously a character you needed to develop painstakingly to make his death at the hands of John Stewart significant. Did you create him specifically for this storyline and this outcome or were there other possible scenarios in play for Kirrt?
Peter Tomasi: Kirrt was created specifically to die, Jeff, and his family was created specifically to mourn. But having said that, I have to admit, I fleshed out the grieving family more than Kirrt himself and that was a mistake on my part. I really should have spent more time seeding Kirrt into the first few issues of "Green Lantern Corps" and I dropped the ball. I had a note to myself with every intention of getting Kirrt some more face time but I simply kept forgetting to do it and at other times I didn't leave myself any wiggle room to fit him in. I was happy it was well received anyway, and that readers plugged in emotionally to the story.
The story of his death has lived a second life online in the forums and the blogosphere. What is it about Kirrt Kallak specifically that you feel made readers want to plug in?
I think it boils down to putting him into a position that readers could relate to, and that one word is fear. Fear of death and fear of letting down your fellow Corpsmen. We all want to believe that we would do the honorable thing in a situation of life and death, be the hero when the going gets tough, but until you're truly placed into that predicament you really never know how you'll react.
And of course a death is also meaningful sometimes as to how it reverberates on others within the story, and obviously Kirrt's demise in relation to John and the Corps has a major impact.
I remember speaking to you after the death of J'onn J'onzz and you were quite saddened by Martian Manhunter's demise. Is it always hard to kill a character in comics, specifically superheroes, or is it, strictly speaking, a powerful tool in a writer's arsenal?
It's always a powerful tool, but one you can't play every issue, or too often for that matter. But I have a little more latitude than other writers, because the thing about doing a war book like "Green Lantern Corps" -- which is how I approach the book -- soldiers have to die. It's inherent in the template of a war story. You can't do a war book without seeing its ramifications on soldiers, civilians, and family members of the people in service.
It gets really hard, though, when you have to kill a character you're attached to for many reasons, which in the case of J'onn J'onzz was twofold. I was a big fan of J'onn and I also edited his monthly title for four years when I was on editorial staff at DC, so writing that "Final Crisis: Requiem" special was hard but it was also exciting, because I wanted to send him off in a grand way but make sure it originated from an emotional center and not just a plot point.
As stated, "Green Lantern Corps" #7 was a powerful issue, specifically in that it dealt with the death of a warrior, a soldier, in such a meaningful way with John Stewart bringing the body of Kirrt Kallak home to Lorror. He is certainly not the first Green Lantern to die, but with his death coming by the hands of John Stewart the reaction had to be heightened. Why was it important for you to tell his family's story before you mined down into the fallout for John Stewart?
I wanted to go in a different route that we don't see often in superhero comics like "Green Lantern Corps," which is dramatize what's it's like to have the body of a dead Lantern pass through the Sector he served and show the respect that the people he safeguarded cared enough to stop what they were doing and offer a moment of silent thanks. I got the idea by seeing a special on Bobby Kennedy when his body was transported by train in '68 and the people who lined the tracks and offered a silent prayer as it went by their towns and 'burbs was incredibly powerful to watch.
And in regards to Kirrt's family, I wanted to show the humble home of a Lantern who had died and what his family's perception was of their son being a Green Lantern, along with the fact that it's not always a stiff upper lip, jaw tight, dry eyes and understanding of sacrifice that await the body of a fallen soldier. Also, by showing his family it allowed me to enrich Kirrt's character by association. I knew that since I didn't have as much meat on the bone so to speak regarding screen time for Kirrt, this would be a meaningful shortcut to add more layers to Kirrt and also show John in a way that we usually don't too.
I was wondering if you could talk a little about Kirrt's mentally challenged brother, which, again, is something we don't see every day in comics. Why the decision to include this element to the story?
Glad you enjoyed Birrt's appearance. I included him because I have a mentally challenged cousin who is simply amazing and lives such a full and rich life thanks to his family that surrounds him day in and day out with love and respect. I wanted to show that Kirrt had influenced his brother, Birrt, in a big way, and including him, as mentioned earlier, also helps define Kirrt's character by illustrating how he treated and looked after his challenged brother and how much of a void he would leave in his brother's life now that he was gone. And I made it a point not to hit the hammer on the head and milk Birrt's handicap in an overtly maudlin way -- or at least I hope the readers felt that way.
We have seen the spoilerific cover to "Green Lantern Corps" #10 with the word "GUILTY" emblazoned across it, so there is no doubt that some form of trial is forthcoming for John Stewart. What can you tell us about the type of justice John Stewart will face on Oa and, without revealing too much, what can you share about his reaction to the verdict?
Oh, there's a full trial all right, and emotions go off the charts as the Alpha Lanterns are out to show that they mean business and in no way shape or form, will tolerate Lanterns making up their own rules as they go. It's don't do the crime if you can't do the time time. And let's just say that the reaction to the verdict will be a factor in helping change Oa forever.
What about Guy Gardner's reaction to the verdict?
Guy has been recently embraced by the Guardians, his status being one of more importance as they realize the value he has served over the years, so his reaction to John's trial and verdict may surprise you -- or actually, maybe it won't.
You mentioned the Alpha Lanterns, and I love what you have been doing with them as we heads toward the highly anticipated 'AlphaWar.' What, if anything, can you share about what lies ahead in 'Alpha War?' And before we go there, what role do the Alpha Lanterns play in John Stewart's trial?
The Alpha Lanterns play a huge role in what's coming up for John and the entire Corps itself. As I mentioned earlier, what they set in motion will start to change the landscape of the GL Corps forever.
War, all by its lonesome as we've unfortunately keep learning, has a tendency to shake things up and alter the status quo, Jeff -- and by the end of "Green Lantern Corps" #12 that will most definitely come to past. By the end of the Alpha War story arc, once the smoke clears, things will never quite be the same again.
"Green Lantern Corps" #8 by Peter Tomasi with art by Fernando Pasarin, Scott Hanna and Gabe Eltaeb hits stores April 18th.