HeroesCon ’11 kicked off with a show of will and a complete lack of fear as Green Lantern powerhouse creators Joe Staton, Joe Quinones, Shane Davis and Neal Adams took the stage for the Green Lantern Panel, discussing their individual takes on the long-lived DC Comics character through the years with a healthy turnout from fans. Moderated by DC Executive Editor Eddie Berganza, the panel included a bevy of great stories and some excellent questions about the future of the space-based franchise.
Although it started a bit late, the panel quickly got into full swing as Berganza introduced the panelists, highlighting their contribution to the Green Lantern mythos. The panel led off with Neal Adams, who began by telling stories of his collaboration with Denny O’Neal and then-DC editor Julius Schwartz. While Adams told a number of hilarious stories involving the creation of Green Lantern/Green Arrow, the standout tale was easily the creation of John Stewart, who was originally supposed to be named “Lincoln Washington.” Adams reminisced speaking with Schwartz, reasoning that a black Green Lantern should have a regular name — John Stewart was the first one that came to mind. “So we called him ‘John Stewart.’ It’s a thing that’s important to me,” said Adams. “All of that aside, every kid in America who watches television knows that John Stewart is Green Lantern. Not Hal Jordan. If you ask a kid, it’s John Stewart. I’m very proud of that.”
Next up was Kilowog creator Joe Staton, who recalled his part in the creation of the “Green Lantern Corps” in the eighties and his amazement that characters he created have come to life in the upcoming “Green Lantern” film. One of the most intriguing stories was Staton’s description of Kilowog’s creation, which came from writer Steve Englehart’s initiative to give more life to the other characters of the Corps. “One of the big space guys is this big guy, he’s loveable, he’s a socialist and it’s all very Californian,” said Staton of Englehart’s description for the popular alien Lantern. “Basically, he just told me it was this big guy and I kind of came up with this character who was larger than everybody else. If he stands up, he fills up the whole room. He relates like a normal person, even if he was just a big space guy. For a while he had a crush on Arisia who was that (At this point, Staton indicated a small height with his hands) tall.”
Staton also regaled the audience with a description of how he and Engelhart re-invigorated Guy Gardner. “Well, we nutted up Guy Gardner,” Staton said to laughter from the crowd. He went on to describe how the creative team put Guy through a number of tragic circumstances, including getting run over by a bus, and how these traumatic experiences were designed to radically change his personality. “Basically, by the time we finished with Guy, it really goes back to him being a gym teacher. By the time you finish with Guy, he’s like a twelve year old with no mental censorship in his head,” said Staton. “He’s like the bad kid in the gym class, so we just reworked Guy into the type of kid he’d have to deal with at school. Guy has the ugliest Green Lantern costume on purpose because he designed it himself.”
Joe Quinones, who worked with Kurt Busiek on the Green Lantern strip for “Wednesday Comics,” discussed his experience in getting acquainted with Hal Jordan for the short story. While the artist didn’t know a lot about the character coming into the project, he caught up by reading issues recommended by Busiek. Quinones then went on to explain the reasoning behind Busiek’s choice of setting the strip in the 1960s. “I guess Green Lantern, or Hal Jordan, is a very science-fiction sort of super hero, even more so than Superman, even though [Superman is] an alien and from another planet. Hal Jordan really embodies sci-fi, with all the aliens and the laser ring and all that. I think a moment in US history where that was really active was through the fifties and the sixties. That was mirroring what was going on with the space race.”
Artist Shane Davis then told a story of how he helped flesh out Atrocitus, the Red Lanterns and their powers while creating the best super pet ever — Dex-Starr. Through conversations with Geoff Johns, Davis helped determine that the red rage vomiting would be napalm instead of flames, which would instead be used for the Red Lantern constructs. Davis also related how he was given a spread to fill up with Atrocitus and the character designs that made up the Red Lantern Corps. “It was weird; when somebody says to draw a team of characters and that’s all you have, basically, you come into that as characters contrasting one another,” Davis recalled. “How are they going to look standing next to one another? I definitely wanted to pull from a lot of Green Lantern characters, from other aspects like Kilowog.” This ended up being the inspiration for Skallox, with Davis switching Kilowog’s pig-like appearance for Skallox’s goat-like visage.
As for Dex-Starr, while he may be beloved now, the kitten of rage was originally a practical joke. “When an artist draws a team shot, you’re going to put your big characters in the back,” said Davis “If you’ll notice, Dex-Starr is off in the corner — he’s the smallest guy, so he should be up front, but he’s just kind of drawn in the corner where I could easily erase him.” While it may have started as a gag, Johns told Davis that the cat would appear in the upcoming script. “I didn’t have a full script, and then all of a sudden, when I do have the full script, here’s the Red Lanterns on the scene when [the Green Lanters are] trying to transport Sinestro for execution. And all of a sudden, the first character that comes out is the kitten,” said Davis. “I’m like, ‘Oh, okay, I guess he’s a real character now!'”
To conclude, Berganza opened up the floor to questions from the audience. While there were a myriad of topics discussed, including those involving creative processes and the responsibilities of being an editor, the standout question, directed to Neal Adams, had to do with comics being more than a story and extending to bringing social issues to light in their pages. “There are probably a lot of people who don’t. I do, but I don’t try to do it overtly,” said Adams. “I do it with sarcasm and with humor and with satire so the efforts that I make are sort of like the efforts of the rest of my career. If the story is there, things are underneath it if you’re willing to read it, but if I’m not entertaining on top of it, then why am I doing comic books?”
Adams continued, describing the way in which comics should be a force for good, rather than for evil. “Comic books are for good qualities in human beings. One of the reasons that America, in spite of all the stupid things we do, is the best country in the world is because our ideals go into our comic books. There are comic books all around the world, but our comics are the best,” he said. On that note, the audience applauded and put a close to the Green Lantern panel.