The various Lantern Corps of the DC Universe have been having a rough 2013.
Under the pens of the current Green Lantern creative teams, the Corps fought, and were nearly destroyed, in the "Lights Out" event, which introduced the villain Relic and the idea that there is a finite amount of emotional energy in the universe. Suffering in the aftermath of Relic's threat, a situation exasperated by the poor decisions of the now-deposed Guardians of Oa, the Green and Red Lanterns receive another shock in February as Atrocitus and brand new Red Lantern Supergirl threaten the balance of Sector 2814.
Joining forces to discuss their giant-sized collaboration on "Green Lantern/Red Lanterns" issue #28, writer Robert Venditti and writer Charles Soule spoke with CBR about the flip issue, why they decided to make Supergirl a Red Lantern -- and the correct pronunciation of "Atrocitus."
CBR News: There's a lot of stuff going on in both books at the moment, so who was it that had the initial idea to do a flip-book combining the two issues in #28 into one large issue, rather than do a regular crossover or other tie-in or event?
Robert Venditti: Want me to take this one, Charles?
Charles Soule: You should do it, because it was your idea and you should take full credit for it -- whether it ends up being a terrible disaster or not, it was all your idea! [Laughter]
Venditti: We really all came up with the idea together for how the Red Lanterns would end up getting Sector 2814 and the story behind it. In the first storyline, Charles had started out by having this idea that the Red Lanterns should get their own sector; we just started talking about it and had a very cool creative moment where we came to the same exact conclusion together: "Wouldn't it be cool if they got 2814?" We had this story we thought would be really fun, and now it's just a matter of getting people to read it!
I think the important thing is the content was there first, and then we [thought] of a way to get it into as many people's hands as possible. The idea of doing it as a flip book rather than doing it as two issues, separated by three weeks -- we just were trying to give everyone the story at once at a great price. They're getting twenty pages for free, because they are getting both "Red Lanterns" and "Green Lantern" for $2.99, and it really showcases what both books are about -- and brings more attention to "Red Lanterns," because Charles is doing such a fantastic job over there. We thought this would give retailers a tool to hopefully expand the readership on "Red Lanterns" and "Green Lantern" in general -- and have some fun with it! I talked to DC about that, there was a huge presentation we did with print costs and everything! [Laughs]
At the end, they decided to take a shot on it; we're pretty psyched about it, and hopefully fans will like the story!
Now, we're calling it a flip book -- is this a case where there's one overarching story, or are there two very distinct separate parts, a "Green Lantern" part and a "Red Lanterns" part, bundled together in one issue?
Soule: We decided what we would do with the flip [book] was tell a coherent story about one issue both Lantern Corps are dealing with, but also use as an opportunity to introduce new potential readers to some of the plotlines that are bubbling along in those books. You might be a "Red Lanterns" reader not getting "Green Lantern," but you'll see the cool stuff Rob's doing and want to check it out. Conversely, if you're not reading "Red," you may want to check that out. The idea was to introduce one side to the other, so to speak, so there's some stuff not related to the overarching story. However, there's basically a MacGuffin -- there's a new Red Lantern who pops up in the beginning in Rob's half who we follow through the story into the "Red Lanterns" half, and see how all these Corps and people deal with this new Red.
Venditti: It's such a huge discovery that happens with this new Red Lantern that it mandates, despite all the plotlines going on in the books, that this is a situation they have to deal with immediately, because of what it could mean and the potential repercussions of it. That's how the Red Lanterns and the Green Lanterns come together. I will also point out that there's a unique bit of synergy as it comes out the fifth. That Saturday is February 8, 2014 -- so it's 2814!
Was this an accident, or has this been marked on your calendar for years, with you thinking, "Someday..."
Venditti: [Laughter] I wish I could take credit for that! It was actually a happy accident, pointed out to me by a retailer friend who is having a party in the store that weekend. It just so happened our story coming out then deals with the very issue of sector 2814.
Talking about the new Red Lantern, CBR spoke with Tony Bedard recently about how Supergirl is going to be a Red Lantern and join the Lantern corner of the DC Universe. Was this idea something you two and Tony had come up with together? Why include Kara in the Lantern universe at all?
Soule: I was at the Superman group summit, I think right before New York Comic Con, just a couple of months ago. We were talking about the Superman group -- it's always fun when working with these characters to shake things up. To do things people wouldn't expect, but do them in a way that makes sense -- that when you think about it, you go, "Oh, I want to see how this works out." A good example of that was having Guy Gardner join the Red Lanterns in the first place. He's the Lantern who it makes sense to have on that team. Of the Superman group, Kara has some rage issues. The way that she's been depicted in the New 52 so far is that there's a lot she's resentful about: Her cousin is Superman, the fact that she basically woke up and realized her planet was destroyed. There's a lot of stuff she's been working through, and the idea of bringing her to the Red Lanterns is to explore and develop that and see what we can do to help her with this -- I call it a therapy session. A very strange therapy session! [Venditti laughs] When she leaves the Red Lanterns, I think the idea is that they really developed her in an interesting way, and not the way you would expect. I really like the way it's developing. Tony is doing a lot of cool stuff, I like writing Supergirl -- she's a really fun character, and I think people will be pleased.
Will Kara be part of the "Red Lantern" supporting cast, or will she be a character who pops in every now and then from Tony's book?
Soule: No, she's a Red Lantern. Red Lanterns are not the kind of people you want to shuffle around, they're dangerous, and you have to keep an eye on them -- and Guy Gardner feels fairly responsible for her. He's not the reason she's a Red Lantern, but at the same time, she's someone that he wants to keep an eye on, so she's there, she's part of the cast, for sure.
Taking that idea of not really trusting a Red Lantern, after "Lights Out" it feels like your two books have become reverse mirrors of each other -- in "Green Lantern," Hal is trying to hold onto the Corps by the skin of his teeth, while in "Red Lanterns," Guy is almost building the Reds up, taking them out on patrol now that they have the Earth's sector. To your minds, what are Guy's and Hal's roles moving forward, and how does that tie-into the big issue #28 for both?
Venditti: For Hal, leadership is not something that he's had to deal with in term of formal leadership. He's a leader because people follow him, not because he's been designated leader and he is in a position to make decisions beforehand. He usually just charges in; he's got a great gut instinct and people come in behind him and he wins the day. Now, he's been given an actual institutional leadership, and it's a much different thing. The pressure is on and the responsibility is there, its all things you never think about when you're in the midst of the battle, the heat of the moment. He's dealing with all that, and on top of that, he's got all these crazy conflicts coming into his path, like Relic in "Lights Out" and the realization of what it means to wield a ring and drain the energy of the emotional spectrum. As we're going to see in "Green Lantern" #27, he's got adversaries on all fronts seizing on this moment of uncertainty and tumult of the Corps. Not only have they had all these conflicts to deal with, but also their reputation has been tarnished in terms of how they are viewed in the universe because of the acts of prior leadership and the old guard -- things like the Third Army and First Lantern. He's having to deal with all this and now he has a situation in 2814, and it represents a real rock-bottom moment for him. That's his home sector, that's why he was chosen to be a Green Lantern to begin with: To patrol the sector and keep the inhabitants of Earth and everyone in 2814 safe. He's had this responsibility basically taken from him due to errors in judgment he's made, and how that gets resolved will have a big impact across "Green Lantern" and "Red Lanterns" and across the wider DCU coming out of this storyline for a very long time. It'll be interesting to see how Hal changes in the wake of that -- the night is always darkest before the dawn.
Soule: Right. Guy Gardner initially joined the Red Lanterns to be Hal's spy and then report back, so if there are any upcoming threats from the Reds, Hal would be aware of them ahead of time rather than be reactive, which he's always had to do in the past. The problem with putting Guy into a rage-centric environment is, it didn't really work out that well, and Guy kind of went in with both feet -- he's gone native, so to speak. He's the leader of the Reds; Atrocitus, as far as Guy knows, is dead and gone. So he's inherited this weird role; he doesn't call himself the leader of the Red Lanterns, although they listen to him -- its more of an anarchic democracy -- and he's realized that if he's going to have this sector, maybe he can turn these guys into something halfway decent, maybe even do something good with them! He wants to turn 2814 into basically a place where you can do whatever you want, as long as you're not hurting other people. It's like a Tortuga, like a pirate island. If you do hurt people, the Reds are going to come calling and you're going to have trouble. So we'll see him working on his sector, including Earth, over the next few issues. As half of comics and readers of the story already know Atrocitus is -- surprise, surprise -- not in fact dead, and he's very anxious to revenge himself on Guy Gardner. So that's a dramatic problem, particularly because if the Reds own 2814 and Atrocitus wins, then he has Earth to do whatever the hell he wants with. The stakes are very high and its Guy realizing no matter how much he tries to step back from responsibility, responsibility is going to find him anyway.
At this point in their problematic leadership stints, should Hal and Guy trust each other? Or is this one of the issues coming into play in issue #28?
Venditti: I think they're both proven heroes, they just have different approaches, like pretty much every hero in the DCU. Who's to say which ones are right and which ones are wrong? I think for Hal, in the midst of everything else he's dealing with, having Guy take over 2814 -- at least it's somebody he knows, that he believes he can trust to steer the ship and take care of Earth, which is Hal's primary concern. This is something he can leave in place now that Hal can't be Earth's primary Lantern, because he is leader of the Corps in general. He has an entire universe to worry about. What do you think, Charles?
Soule: I think that pretty much covers it -- they're trying to figure out what to do with Earth. Guy is, at heart, a good guy; he's not going to go over the edge and become a comic super villain. That's not where he is. Rob mentioned that heroes approach things in different ways. I think Guy is sick of the regimented, rule-based Green Lantern Corps. He wants to be able to figure out who he is. He's sick of being considered second banana; in his mind, he's first banana! But the Greens, for whatever reason, never really gave him the credit he deserves. So he's trying something new, something different, and he's finding being a Red suits him well. He likes the other guys, they can do cool things and so on.
As far as what he thinks about Hal -- why was Guy the one chosen to infiltrate the Reds? He thinks Hal doesn't value him the way he should be valued. He's not a whiner about it, but he's like, "Dude if you don't see what I'm worth, then I'm gone." I think they can trust each other. Neither is going to betray the other, but sometimes they need to be reminded of that, on both sides.
You began your run with "Lights Out," and event that basically re-set parts of the Green Lantern Universe and allowed you to explore the Corps changing and falling apart. Moving forward, do you two see the "Green Lantern" "Red Lanterns" books coming together for more crossovers or heading towards another big event? Or will the books operate parallel but separate directions?
Soule: I think they'll always go back and link up with each other -- the Lantern groups are going to come into contact with each other for sure, space is big and they all know each other and they're going to want to hang out sometimes. Us writers all like each other and want to write stories with each other; we're having a good time and I like working with Van [Jensen] and Justin [Jordan]. I can't imagine we won't be doing more stories together, wouldn't you agree, Rob?
Venditti: Yeah, the idea has always been and continue to be for the books to stand alone if people want to read one, but if they read all of them they see the threads that tie them altogether and get the added bonus of seeing all the plotlines. We'll continue to do that; Red Lanterns and Green Lanterns will come together and cross paths and then go their own separate ways for a while. That's just the DNA of the Green Lantern line.
Looking again at issue #28, you two are working with artists Billy Tan and Alessandro Vitti. How did the four of you collaborate on the issue? Are the artists working on the entire book, or are they divided up and drawing the separate Lantern stories?
Soule: The front twenty pages are all Rob's script and Billy's pages, and the back twenty are Alessandro art and my script. That was relatively straightforward. It was mostly about getting the scripts locked down, because we knew what we wanted to do, but figuring out exactly where the issue break would hit and what dialogue would fit on what side, things like that, Rob and I went through a number of drafts.
Venditti: Do you want to talk about the work Alessandro put into the new designs?
Soule: The looks of the Reds?
Soule: We see it in #27 -- that's the first time we see that, which will be out soon. We wanted to mix up Guy's look a little bit, the idea is, now that he's not in this paramilitary police organization, he's going to grow his hair out long, he's going to have this sweet handlebar mustache -- more like a biker gang dude! Alessandro did this incredible design that looks awesome. It's very cool!
Venditti: Alessandro also says Atrocitus better than any human being alive.
Soule: That's true -- Alessandro's Italian, Atrocitus is the big bad guy over in "Red Lanterns" right now, and we'd never heard anyone say it before because everything's over the Internet. He was in town for New York Comic Con, he comes in to the Lantern summit and he was like, "Yeah, I was drawing A-troosh-tus," and we were like, "What'd you say?" [Laughter] It's a very melodic, awesome way of saying Atrocitus that is better than any American says it, that's for sure!
So there'll be a pronunciation guide at the end of issue #28, of course.
Venditti: I think it'll be like one of those gift cards where you open it up and it plays a noise, and its him saying that.
Soule: I don't know how you're going to be able to transcribe this!
It'll be a gift card where you open the site -- [Laughter] Now that we've covered everything from the book, all the way to Guy's sweet mustache, is there anything else it's important for fans to keep an eye out for, or that they should be excited for now that "Lights Out" is done and we're moving into the New Year?
Soule: "Red Lanterns" is building up to be an epic, amazing space revenge saga with Guy Gardner desperately trying to hold on against assaults from every side, and keeping the people he loves from being killed. In the face of overwhelming odds, it's going to spiral and spiral to be this huge, badass thing and I really can't wait for people to see where it goes. Rob -- to you!
Venditti: [Laughs] For Hal and "Green Lantern," this is going to be, as I said earlier, a real important moment. This is either where he becomes the leader that the Green Lantern Corps needs, or things are going to get really bad. The conflicts keep coming and he doesn't realize the scope or the breadth of the forces that have been aligned against him for quite some time now. That's all going to be brought into stark relief in #27 and #28, so he has all of that ahead of him -- and it's not just him, it's the entire Corps. How he deals with that will be the next big chapter in the career of Hal Jordan!
"Green Lantern/Red Lanterns" #28 is out February 5, 2014.