The end of DC Comics’ “Wrath Of The First Lantern” crossover upended the status quo in both the fictional New 52 universe and the real world as new creative teams were announced for every Green Lantern related book in the wake of Geoff Johns’ exit from the flagship title. Perhaps one of the biggest changes is occurring in “Red Lanterns,” as Green Lantern Guy Gardner joins the Corps’ ranks thanks to new series writer Charles Soule.
Lawyer by day and comic book writer by night, Soule began his comics career writing the supernatural rock and roll series “27” at Image Comics. In addition to taking over “Thunderbolts” for Marvel, Soule is the writer for DC’s “Swamp Thing” and has work due out this year from Archaia and Oni Press.
CBR spoke with the lawyer/musician/writer about working on “Red Lanterns” with artist Alessandro Vitti, including why Guy’s getting mixed up in the blood-spewing Corps in the first place and the similarities between the comic and Soule’s favorite television outlaw dramas!
CBR News: “Red Lantern” #21 is your first issue, and it comes right after the end of “Wrath Of The First Lantern.” We saw at the end of “Green Lantern” #20 a preview of the far future of the Red Lanterns and Atrocitus, but as you start your run at the tail end of that event, what are Atrocitus’ and Bleez’s and all the other Red Lanterns reactions and headspace?
Charles Soule: I think not just the Reds but all the Corps have been through a certainly traumatic experience, and they’re all sort of reeling and figuring out what’s going to be next. Specifically, the Reds are questioning their role in the universe and asking why they seem to always end up solving the Green Lanterns problems for them, why they’re always called in as the heavy-hitters at the end of a crisis. It just doesn’t seem like something they’re particularly interested in going forward. Atrocitus, the leader of the Red Lanterns, has decided that he’s going to take the group in a new direction. He’s got a plan that’s going to hopefully carve out a section of the universe for the Reds and the Reds alone. The way he’s doing it is — well, his plan is spooky and scary!
The Green [Lanterns] are sick of being blindsided, basically, so they’re trying to keep tabs on the various threats all around the universe, and the Reds are one [threat]. So the Greens, under the leadership of Hal, send one of their own to go keep tabs on the Red Lanterns — and that character is, of course, Guy Gardner. That’s kind of our set-up for where things are going to go. He’s spying on the Reds, which I think is going to be really fun to read. It’s been fun to write, so I hope people enjoy it. It gives a new perspective on the Reds, which is going to be interesting to see.
Guy as an embedded Red Lantern sounds a lot like a crime drama with an undercover cop infiltrating a criminal organization.
That’s extremely perceptive and is right on; the tone I’m going for is something like “Sons Of Anarchy” or “The Shield,” some of those really gritty, tough dramas we’ve been seeing on TV that are just so much fun to watch. The vibe I want is kind of something like they’ll be a space biker gang, if that doesn’t sound too bizarre! The tagline I’ve been using in my head is, “Bad people doing good things by doing bad things.”
How do you, as the writer, see the Red Lantern Corps? Are they bad guys, misunderstood good guys, or just amoral?
Well — they’re willing to do things we don’t see any other ring bearers doing. They’ll kill characters; they’ll do surprise attacks, they’ll do whatever they need to get the job done. But I don’t see them as one note. They’re all very different. Within the Red Lanterns, you’ve got Atrocitus, who I believe is the spiritual leader; Bleez, who I see as much more than just a sexy female Red Lantern. That is something I think is going to be fun to play out over the run. You’ve got Zilius Zox whose basically a big talking face/walnut-head guy who I think is really fun! [Laughs]
They all have shades to them, and figuring out where the line is and how they’re different is something I like doing in whatever I’m writing, bringing out the differences in characters, because you get sparks flying. Some people are more likely to be friends than others in any group, and I think that’s going to play out in the Red Lanterns as well. I want to see them as individuals rather than just have them be blunt instruments, running out and throwing up napalm blood on people!
The struggles and interplay between the Atrocitus and Bleez have been at the center of the comic thus far — how does that dynamic upend when you have this embedded Green Lantern, Guy, thrown in with them?
Well, they don’t see him as a Green; he has a history as a Green, but there are things that happen at the beginning of the arc that make them see him as a Red. He’s new blood, which is kind of nice, because it’s always nice to have somebody new around, so to speak, but the dynamic is tense. I would say between the three people you mentioned, Atrocitus, Bleez and Guy Gardner, those are three very type-A personalities. They’re all going to have their own ideas about what will work and what the Red Lanterns should spend their time doing. A lot of stories are going to spin off from that conflict and it’s going to be a lot of fun.
Alessandro Vitti is the artist on the book — what’s it been like working with him and seeing his renditions of blood, gore and Guy?
I’ll tell you, one of the great joys of working at DC is seeing the people they have drawing their things. It’s unbelievable, and Alessandro is absolutely no exception. You write a scene and go, “How could that ever be realized?” and he handles it more perfectly than you ever could envision in your head.
I had him do a lot of weird stuff in this first issue, as you can see in the preview pages. You’ve got Atrocitus mangling a weird pig/deer Red Lantern hybrid and then you cut to Guy and Hal in what appears to be Guy’s garage working on a motorcycle. The tone and the settings are all over the place, but he’s just done an amazing job with it. I had the pleasure of meeting him at C2E2 about a month or so ago. He was super great and super tall and super skinny! [Laughs] He was very nice and I enjoyed talking to him. I look forward to working with him for a long time to come.
As a writer, what do you like about the Red Lanterns as a concept? What is it about this Corps that sets them apart from all the others in the emotional spectrum, in your eyes?
It goes back to the comparison I made earlier, with shows like “The Shield” and “Sons Of Anarchy” and “The Wire” — shows that take a realistic approach to what it’s like to be someone who is not seen as a good guy. Society doesn’t see you as a useful element, so you’ve got to decide who you want to be, yourself. Even if you want to be part of society, if they don’t want you do you even care? Do you have to be part of it? I think those are really interesting questions that you can’t necessarily do the same way in some other book. It would tough to see, say, Captain America, not to disparage another guy’s title, but it would be a little harder to see him wrestling with some of those questions. So having a book where you can have Guy Gardner really feel like he’s been, not exactly rejected by the Greens, but thinking, “Why do they send me to be part of this horrible Red Lantern Corps when they could have sent anybody? Why did they stick me with this terrible gig?” There’s a lot of emotions you don’t get to play with in the other titles!
Beyond this first arc, what are your long-term goals for the series? Do you have a specific place in mind for where you want to get the Red Lanterns, or are you taking a more organic approach in your storytelling?
I’m writing this the way I write all these ongoing series, which is that I have a fairly tight plan for this arc I’m working on, I have a looser plan for the arc that’s after that and after that, I have ideas. I have plot points that I’m building toward, but I wouldn’t say I have outlines for forty issues or anything like that. I’m looking forward to seeing some of the ideas as I write; this is pretty fertile ground, so I’m sure some good stuff is going to show up.
I think the last two or three pages of my first issue are really going to lay the ground for what I want to do, and I think people are going to be surprised. It’s going to be fun to get those reactions and see what the Internet has to say! [Laughs]
“Red Lanterns” #21 arrives in stores June 26.