Who’s Green Lantern? Depending on who you ask, it could be Hal Jordan, Alan Scott, Guy Gardner or even John Stewart. But for a whole generation of fans, the one and only protector of Earth is Kyle Rayner, who wields the ultimate weapon in the universe: the Green Lantern ring. Since his introduction by Ron Marz in the mid-’90s, Rayner has been a popular topic of discussion among comic book fans and under scribe Judd Winick, temporarily assumed the persona of Ion, a being of near infinite power. Now Rayner is back as Ion, the one & only, this April, under the pen of Marz. CBR News spoke to Marz about the DC Comics series, and he explained how he became involved.
“The creative genesis was Dan Didio grabbing me at last year’s Wizard L.A. show and saying, ‘Hey, you got a few minutes?’ ” explained Marz. “So we sat down in the lobby of the convention center and talked about the direction they had in mind for Kyle. He asked if I was interested, I said I was, and the process got going from there. It’s a character I helped create, for an editor (Eddie Berganza) that I have a great relationship with. What’s not to love? My last “Green Lantern” arc was really about winding things up. ‘Ion’ is about starting something fresh.
“The interest for me really comes from being able to bring Kyle to the next stage of his heroic evolution. I’m still in the position of not wanting to reveal too much, because a big part of the first story arc is Kyle discovering what that next stage is, what his future role is going to be. I can say that the first story arc is called “Torch Bearer,” but beyond that, everybody will just have to come along for the ride with Kyle. Some of what happens in the first couple of issues will leave readers wondering what the hell is going on, which is just the way we want it. But stick with it, the payoff is coming.”
But why the need for a third Green Lantern-related title, in addition the regular GL and Green Lantern Corps titles? “This story is something that’s very personal to Kyle, so it really needed its own place to tell it. But there will be elements of both the other Green Lantern books in ‘Ion,’ in terms of both guest stars and settings,” Marz said.
As the man behind the creation of Kyle Rayner, Marz has a lot invested in the character. While other writers have taken the character in some startling directions, he still has a lot of stories left to tell with Rayner. “Every writer puts his stamp on a particular character. That’s how it works in a shared universe. I’m fortunate enough to be able to come back and pick up Kyle again and take him to the next stage. Everything is wide open with him right now. He doesn’t really have a home, his most recent girlfriend died a tragic death, he’s wondering what his purpose really is. There are a lot of questions surrounding Kyle that need answering, and that makes great fodder for stories.
“Obviously Kyle has grown as a character. That’s good, he’s supposed to. He’s more experienced, he’s more confident, but I think the core of who he is hasn’t really changed. In some ways, that’s really the point of ‘Ion,’ taking someone who is pretty much like us, and elevating him to a status that is, for lack of a better word, cosmic. Obviously having written ‘Silver Surfer’ for something like five years, I’ve had some experience with cosmic storylines, but this is different. The Surfer was ultimately an alien. Kyle is still very much human. The juxtaposition of the human and the cosmic, of earth and the stars, is going to be a running theme in the book.”
Last time readers saw the Ion character he had the power and knowledge to do anything. When asked if Rayner’s power levels will be the same, Marz replies, “A character who can literally do anything is never really threatened. You can’t instill a sense of danger for the hero. I thought the previous Ion storyline was an interesting examination of how a hero deals with near infinite power, but it’s tough to sustain that. Kyle’s power is going to be a distillation of all things Green Lantern, but it isn’t going to be quite on that infinite level.”
As most readers have realized, “Ion” is influenced by the current “Infinite Crisis,” and some readers have been reminded about Marz’s bold moves after his participation in the huge “Reign Of The Supermen,” over 10 years ago. “Right place at the right time, I guess,” smiles Marz of his habit of giving Kyle Rayner a spotlight in tandem with a big crossover. “The truth of it is that one of the purposes of these huge events is to spawn new series and generate interest in existing series. Obviously ‘Infinite Crisis’ and the ‘One Year Later’ push are doing that in spades. I just hope ‘Ion’ doesn’t get lost in the crowd. DC is starting a lot of new series, and recasting a lot of others with top-notch creative teams. There’s going to be a wealth of terrific material coming from DC, so it’s nice to be a part of that wave.”
The early solicitations for “Ion” hint that Rayner may no longer be on the side of the angels, a move that has angered some fans of the newest Green Lantern. Still, there’s a certain irony in all this: many of the same fans were in an uproar when Marz took seminal hero Hal Jordan and took him a questionable path. “If I’ve learned one thing in this business, it’s that no matter what you do, somebody thinks it’s the best thing ever, and somebody else thinks it’s the worst. And everybody wants to tell you why. It’s the nature of the beast, but as a creator you can’t let it effect what you do, either positively or negatively. Your job as a writer is to tell what you think is the best story, not to just pander to the audience.”
Bringing the visuals to life in “Ion” will be penciller Greg Tocchini, whose work came to Marz’s attention during his time at another comic book company. “When I was up at the DC offices this summer we started talking about artists for the book. We tossed around a number of different names, guys who are presently on DC exclusives, and then I brought up Greg’s name. I’d become familiar with Greg’s stuff when he did work for CrossGen, and had always wanted to work with him. Everything fell into place on ‘Ion.’ It probably didn’t hurt that Greg is Brazilian, and DC has proven to be a very comfortable fit for other Brazilian talent like Ivan Reis, Joe Bennett, Ed Benes, Marc Campos and my buddy Luke Ross. Greg’s still fairly young, his style is evolving, but there’s a real fluidity and grace to what he does. Greg is an Artist, not just a Guy Who Draws Comic Books. He’s constantly pushing himself to get better, to be innovative.”
With the exception of Marz’s six issues that brought the previous “Green Lantern” volume to a close, it’s been a while since fans have seen the scribe play with the characters of the DC Universe. As the recent surge in sales indicates, fans are responding to the new feel of the DCU, and Marz admits that the playground has changed quite a bit recently. “The DCU does have a bit of a different feel than when I was in the playground last time, but that’s to be expected. Universes grow and change constantly, they’re not static things. I think leading up to and including Infinite Crisis, there’s more of a sense of connectivity and unified direction, a sense that one big damn story is being told. That’s a very difficult thing to pull off, but I think the success speaks for itself. “Ion” is starting up One Year Later, when that overall storyline begins to split into individual threads again. We’re in a great position because we get the benefit of a push from ‘Infinite Crisis,’ but we’re being allowed us to tell our own story, and set up Kyle for the future.”
While “Ion” can be read on its own, independent of other DC comics, as Marz mentioned there will be some connections to the other Green Lantern series, “Green Lantern” and “Green Lantern Corps.” “Kilowog pops up in the first few issues, Hal Jordan plays a fairly important role in issues #4 and especially #5. And those little blue guys in the red dresses have an agenda as well. We don’t have a specific issue-to-issue crossover planned just yet, because we need some room for Kyle to establish himself as Ion.”
So, if you want to save the comic book industry, “Ion” may just be your ticket. “You know, to be perfectly honest, buying any book keeps the industry going,” Marz says, “Every time you slap money down on the counter at your local comic shop, or at a big book retailer, you’re keeping a publisher in business, you’re keeping a creator employed. Buy what you like, and share it with someone else who might like it. There are more good comics being published right now than ever before. We just have to expose more people to them.”