“Green Lantern,” “The Flash” and “X-O Manowar” writer Robert Venditti made his way to the CBR Tiki Room at WonderCon 2014 in Anaheim to talk with CBR TV’s Steve Sunu about his numerous current projects. Venditti begins with his plans for DC Comics‘ Fastest Man Alive, explaining why the grounded nature of the character allows him to do something different than on his other titles, why co-writer Van Jensen is the perfect partner in crime(fighting) and, of course, the role Wally West will play now that he’s finally making his New 52 debut. Things take a decidedly cosmic turn as Venditti hypes “Uprising,” the “Green Lantern”/”Green Lantern Corps” crossover the titles have been building to for the past year, how Hal’s new role as leader of the Corps will be challenged and more. Sunu and Venditti then discuss the many new experiences Venditti has had in the past few years of his comic book writing career, including his first event series, Valiant Entertainment‘s “Armor Hunters.” The writer explains how he managed to grow and expand his oeuvre at his own pace, how he continually pushes himself to mix things up and why long-form storytelling is in his blood. Venditti wraps by discussing his debut novel, how he prepared for a life in prose fiction and didn’t start reading comics until his 20s, and the secret trick he uses to keep his work flowing.
On his plans for “The Flash” given the character’s surge to prominence with a new TV series on the way: Flash is a great character. Something that I really enjoy about him is that his power set is sort of very instinctual — he’s a guy that runs fast and has a lightning bolt on his chest. I think that’s something that everybody can relate to. It’s pretty much ingrained in life — we’re trying to run fast — and he’s a guy who does that. There’s a certain sense of joy and wonder even in the character of Barry Allen, and he doesn’t take that for granted. There’s a lot of fun that he has with that, and those kinds of things. He’s a very hopeful character too, which I really like. Yeah, I’m really excited about it. I try to do something different with every project I take on and “Flash” is different than the other things that I do.
We definitely have a lot of plans for stories — we introduce Wally West, which will be a big moment for the series and he’s going to be a lasting member [of the cast]. How Barry affects Wally, and how Wally affects Barry, and also how The Flash relates to both characters as well because these are two very different things. It’s great to work with Van [Jensen} again. We worked on “Green Lantern Corps” together, and I’m really looking forward to it.
On how Hal’s new leadership role will be tested in “Green Lantern”: We have a big arc coming up between “Green Lantern” and “Green Lantern Corps.” It’s called “Uprising” and sort of the idea is that, much like in the real world, the Green Lanterns being police officers, the neighborhoods that police officers work in, the citizens don’t want the police around and that’s sort of something that’s going on right now. Hal is in a position where he’s sort of been thrust into a position of leadership in the Corps, and he’s the greatest Green Lantern ever, and his real strength is acting on reflex like a fighter pilot. He doesn’t overthink things. He rushes into battle and people follow behind him but that’s a much different type of leadership than formal, administrative leadership which is where he is now, which is where you really do have to think of what the ramifications are going to be before you move. He’s had to learn some hard lessons, he’s made some mistakes. Partly through his fault and partly not through his fault, the universe is sort of turning against the Green Lanterns. It’s a real moment for Hal to try to, I guess, come back in a way and reclaim the Corps’ good name in a way. Not just from what he’s done but the prior regime of the Guardians, a lot of the things that they did — the “Rise of the Third Army” storyline, “Wrath of the First Lantern” where they really wreaked havoc throughout the universe. He’s gotta reclaim that and not just be a hero but be the… I guess, icon of the Corps and win back that reputation. And so there’s a big war on the horizon for them, we’ve got a lot of surprises — I think when people read this storyline they’re gonna realize a lot of these subplots we’ve set up from issue #21 when we first took over the series about a year ago, it’s gonna end sort of the first chapter in terms of what the new creative teams are doing. Me with Hal and Van with Jon Stewart, as well.
On the many firsts he’s experienced in the last few years, including Valiant’s “Armor Hunters,” his first event series: “X-O Manowar” was the very first single issue comic I ever wrote. Issue #24 just came out, so it’s been two years. Yeah, I feel very fortunate to have been given the opportunities I’ve been given. Again, with something like “Armor Hunters,” it’s a — I don’t want to say line-wide, but it’s a big event across several titles which I’ve never done, which goes back to what I was saying earlier about just trying to challenge myself with different forms of storytelling and get outside my comfort zone. It is a lot of work, but it’s also a lot of fun. I think that the long form storytelling thing is something that’s sort of, I don’t know, sort of innate to me. I’ve always been very, you know, sort of a meticulous, organized individual. I have a big appreciation for stream of consciousness type storytelling, I just don’t have that aspect of it. I’m very much a planner. I write every script page by page in the order that you eventually read it. I just tend to think in terms of long stories, but also break them up into smaller chunks that will be self-contained. So it’s almost like there’s mini-arcs inside one larger arc. A lot of times you don’t realize that larger arc is there until we get to that point, and that’s what I mean about “Uprising” and the same thing with “Armor Hunters.” A lot of that stuff that’s gonna happen over the summer has baked into the series from day one. Nobody knew it — Valiant knew it, and I knew it — but we’ve told the story in such a way that you didn’t realize it, and then you get to this and you say, “Oh, wow. In issue #1 he had this line of dialogue that he’s just now bringing around 29 issues later.
On “Miles Taylor and the Golden Cape,” his debut children’s novel, and his approach to prose work: Actually I started out doing prose. That was one of my original, I don’t know if you want to call it training, but that’s what I originally went to school for. I didn’t start reading comics until my mid-20s and so I was gonna be a prose writer. I got my Masters in creative writing and all those kinds of things, and so it’s a style of writing that I always wanted to do, but I just never really, I felt, had the idea that I wanted to — that would be good for a novel — until this idea came along. It’s still very much the same, you know, really plotting it out. I think it really benefits me in terms of a novel because it’s sort of a long form storytelling but still self-contained. Being able to plan everything out, plot everything out, and discuss it with my editor in advance, and I know where everything is going. It’s actually gonna be two novels and so I know how everything is going to lead into the next one as opposed to not having a plan.
I feel like if I just sit down at the computer and I don’t know what I’m gonna do today I probably won’t do anything. One little trick that’ll do, that I learned from Hank Edmondson, actually, who is Nathan Edmondson’s father — I was talking to him once and he told me this trick and it actually works great for me and it’s always leave yourself something for the next day. Like, say I knew the five pages I wanted to write of “Green Lantern” today or whatever, and I didn’t know necessarily how I was gonna start the next five, I would only write four so that the next day I can wake up and still have that page. And just the process of getting down and already getting rolling gets the mind turning and gets you through the next section of the story. I try to do that with the novel as well. If I have X number of scenes and I know what they’re going to be I’ll write all of them except the last one and wake up the next morning and do that first one and then it sort of unlocks stuff and then I just kind of keep rolling.