DC Comics and Vertigo Comics writer Peter Milligan is upping the ante in his ongoing comic book series as “Red Lanterns” adds the Corps’ first ever human Lantern and “Hellblazer” sends John Constantine to Hell!
Written by Milligan with art by Ed Benes, DC’s “Red Lanterns” series continues to follow the rage-fueled Corps as Bleez and Atrocitus rip the force in two, setting up for a Ysmault-wide civil war. Simultaneously the human Jack Moore has donned the red ring and transformed into Rankorr — but he just might be a completely different type of Red Lantern than the universe is used to.
Outside of the New 52 Milligan continues to collaborate with artist Giuseppe Camuncoli on “Hellblazer” for Vertigo, pitting John Constantine against the devil as the black magician agrees to save his sister from the clutches of Hell. The “Another Season In Hell” arc also continues the family drama aspect as Constantine’s niece Gemma uses her feminine wiles on gangster Terry Greaves, the father of Constantine’s wife, to get even with the British spell caster.
Speaking with CBR News about both series, Milligan explained his decision to bring back Gemma’s mother in “Hellblazer” while addressing criticism of “Red Lanterns” and highlighting the toll personal grief will play on all of his characters.
CBR News: In “Red Lanterns,” we now have Rankorr the human Red Lantern — and he’s not happy! In the Lantern corner of the DCU, humans hold a very unique role as they are one of the only species to have multiple ring bearers, at least on the Green Lantern side. Is there something unique to humanity on the Red Lantern side as well?
Peter Milligan: Humans do seem to be a unique breed when it comes to these red rings of rage. That’s something I’m exploring with Rankorr. We’ll see that though he’s a Red Lantern he is unlike other Red Lanterns in many, dramatic ways.
Not only does Rankorr act different, but he looks different as well. Did you and artist Ed Benes spend a lot of time figuring out his design as distinct from the other Lanterns?
It took a while to figure out how Rankorr should look. I wanted him to look like a Red Lantern — you know, monstrous and terrible — but I always wanted him to retain some of his humanity, so when you look at him you see that this creature was at one time human. I think we’ve got it just about right.
Your first issues of “Red Lanterns” have spent time setting up the world, introducing readers to all the main Lanterns and their histories. Now with Rankorr in the ranks and the characters established, is the action going to ramp up in these next issues?
I got a bit of criticism for spending so much time on Ysmault and not going to enough far-flung planets, but I was interested in the team dynamics, in building up some of the Red Lanterns, and in this stinking planet. But the arrival of Rankorr certainly does coincide with a pretty insane cranking up. The next few story lines are going to really take the Red Lanterns and Ysmault into some crazy and unexpected places. It’s going to [be] extremely intense and emotional.
We also have Guy Gardner stepping in — while the Red Lanterns have been confined to Ysmault, should readers expect to see more interaction with the other Lantern Corps going forward?
Guy is useful for the role he’s playing but this doesn’t mean the Green Lantern cavalry are going to arrive on Ysmault. But the Red and Green Lanterns share a bond, they all wear rings and get their power and in some cases their lives from these rings. So it’s highly likely that situations arrive that draws the two very different corps together.
Civil war seems to be brewing on Ysmault right now with Bleez and Atrocitus splitting the forces down the middle. With the leadership position hanging in the balance, how would you characterize the difference between a Bleez-run Corps and an Atrocitus-run Corps?
I think it would/will radically change things. The whole raging mindset of the Red Lanterns at the moment seems to be an extension of Atrocitus’ rage at the genocide of his people. Bleez has a very different, more personal kind of rage. The crimes she rails against were all committed against herself.
Touching on the personal, in “Hellblazer” and the “Another Season In Hell” story arc you have Constantine trying to bring back Gemma’s mother. Why bring the issue of Constantine’s sister back up in the comic?
Gemma is an interesting character, one that has arguably been underused recently. Also, I’m interested in these “satellites” of Constantine. He has very few family [members] left and how he reacts to them seems to say a lot about him. He’s always been very fond of Gemma (though she has often annoyed the fuck out of him) so it’s a chance to see a different side to him.
Family has been something of a theme in your “Hellblazer” run between John’s marriage, dealing with Terry and Gemma, and now going back for Cheryl. What interested you in having loner Constantine dealing with family and in-laws?
The answer above, basically. He’s not exactly your typical “family man” but his dealings with them have often been wrought with emotion. And he’s not your typical loner either. For a loner, he has a lot of contacts and keeps in touch with whatever family he has left.
Then with “Another Season In Hell,” are you concentrating on building up a supporting cast around Constantine?
I think I’m bringing some existing members of the cast into sharper focus rather than building up.
I never thought I’d say this, but seeing Gemma twist Terry around her finger makes me feel bad for the gangster! Is Gemma starting to fully embrace being a Constantine, with all the baggage and manipulation that entails?
I’m glad you say that because I didn’t want Terry to be a black and white villain. And regarding Gemma, I think what’s interesting about her is that tension that always plays within her. That struggle between the strange Constantine blood and the girl from Liverpool. I’ve continually tried to dig away at that with her. At times recently she has seemed to more fully accept her Constantine side. The poor girl’s other side ([her] father [being] a religious maniac psycho) [isn’t] so lovely either.
To wrap up, your and Giuseppe Camuncoli’s take on Hell as a grotesque, claustrophobic city immediately invoked the images of painter Hieronymus Bosch in my mind. How did you two go about figuring out what Hell should look like, and how it should affect Constantine?
Actually, when I was describing the place to Cammo, Bosch was one of the people I mentioned. What I wanted was a Hell that had some relevance to a modern audience and more specifically to Constantine. Hell is such an overworked place. I mean, how scary or terrible is a lake of fucking fire? Sulphur? Might have scared the pants off of Dante but doesn’t really bother us.
I envisioned part of Hell like the worst sink estate imaginable. This probably comes from the fact that I was raised in a cramped council flat. I also imagine that Hell, if it exists, is personal. So besides the wide-screen Bosch horror I wanted very individual and specific images and tortures for Constantine. I think the Hell that Cammo and I created for John Constantine is one he won’t want to go back to in a hurry.
“Red Lanterns” #8 hits stores April 4; “Hellblazer” #289 comes out March 21.