When DC Comics underwent its company-wide New 52 relaunch in September, the publisher expanded the Green Lantern corner of its universe, adding a new ongoing series highlighting the most violent and least understood Lantern corps: the Red Lanterns. Written by Peter Milligan with art by former “Supergirl” artist Ed Benes, “Red Lanterns” promises fans a thorough look at the ferocious Lanterns and their leader, the blood-spewing Atrocitus.
Three issues in, and the titular Red Lanterns are undergoing a revolution as Atrocitus has “upgraded” corps member Bleez’s intelligence in order to make her his second-in-command. However, Bleez may end up plotting a coup against Atrocitus while one of the series’ two bickering human brothers appears to be heading towards a future as a Red Lantern Corps member.
Milligan, who also writes”Justice League Dark” and the Vertigo series “Hellblazer,”is no stranger to working with dark, dangerous and violent characters in comics. However, as the long-time “Hellblazer” writer told CBR, instead of focusing on just rage Milligan is using “Red Lanterns” to explore deeper questions of justice and vengeance.
After speaking with CBR about “Justice League Dark” and his upcoming “Hellblazer Annual,” the British-born writer happily switched gears to talk about his intergalactic ongoing series. Though he could not get into the plot specifics of his current “Red Lanterns” arc, Milligan enthusiastically dove in to the lives of his main characters, the themes behind his series and what adding a human to the rage-filled corps will mean to the Red Lanterns as a whole.
CBR News: You really dive into Bleez in these first “Red Lantern” issues, going so far as to reveal her origin in issue #3. What is it about the character that intrigues you so much that you chose to focus on her in the series’ opening arc?
Peter Milligan: She seemed a complex character. Spoilt. Intelligent. Vicious. And horribly abused. Well, that was her potential. Initially, she was just one of those mad dogs who went “Gnnnn…rage!” all the time. I decided I wanted someone who would somehow be a match and a foil for Atrocitus, and Bleez seemed perfect. Also, the way Ed [Benes] draws her she demanded to be given a greater role.
What is it about Ed Benes’ style that suits Bleez so well?
Bleez is a beautiful and explosive kind of character, dangerous yet alluring. I think Ed perfectly captures this. It’s great, opening my email and seeing more pages. Sometimes I think Ed is a genius. Sometime I wonder if he needs help!
Bleez undergoes quite the transformation, morphing from a virtually incoherent Lantern to a devious second-in-command with a completely different operating style from Atrocitus. How do you approach the Atrocitus/Bleez dynamic?
You’re right, they go about things in very different ways. At least, Bleez would, if she had her own way, and getting her own way becomes increasingly important for Bleez. I’m interested in how she goes about gaining more power — not necessarily successfully — while Atrocitus looks at this creature whom he created to be his number two and realizes that he is losing control over her. He might have started something that’ll blow all his plans out of the water.
With Atrocitus’ new “heroic” bent taking form in issues #2 and #3, you’ve been exploring up the idea that revenge and justice are not the same thing. Will this question become central to the book, or at least to Atrocitus?
This question and questions like it,that’s what so fascinating about Red Lanterns. On one hand, it’s the story of a bunch of crazy napalm-spitting monsters. But on the other, it can be used to examine things like Justice versus Vengeance and whether it’s possible for a creature like Atrocitus to be “heroic”.
Along those lines, while up until this point the Red Lanterns have been ostensible villains, your series has been diving into the reasons for their rage. Do you see Atrocitus and the Red Lanterns as tragic figures rather than bad (or morally ambiguous) guys?
Tragic, certainly. Bad? Well, they certainly do bad things. Morally ambiguous? Hmm. From our viewpoint, they are very morally ambiguous, but I believe that Atrocitus considers himself a highly moral operator. Bleez is willing to twist morality, though even she works within a framework of what might be called morality, albeit a quite twisted and personal vision.
Along the lines of exploring more Red Lanterns, why did you decide you wanted to focus on Skallox, Zillius Zox and Ratchet in issue #4? What do those Lanterns bring to the table?
After deciding to “upgrade” Bleez’ intelligence, I thought it would be useful to have some of the other Red Lanterns as “players” — creatures who had more personality and more of a mind of their own. I chose these three because they already seemed to have some profile and they looked the most interesting. They made me wonder what their stories were and what kind of character’s they’d be.
We have Bleez and Atrocitus’ histories now — do you have any immediate plans to explore the history of any other members of the Red Lantern Corps through stand-alone stories?
I enjoy stand-alone stories, but I like them to be a part of the broad sweep of the story. While I’m really into the relationship between Bleez and Atrocitus I want to explore other Red Lanterns. Also, I have plans to introduce an entirely new Red Lantern, one who could be a bit of a paradigm shift.
Speaking of a shift in focus, while Atrocitus and Bleez are on Ysmault, you’re also telling the story the human brothers on Earth, and it seems like one of them is heading for a Red Ring. With all the alien Red Lanterns, what would a Human add to the mix?
I’d really like for everyone to wait and see, but on one level, what they might bring is a human’s POV on all this bloody insanity. For the Red Lanterns on Ysmault, all that lunacy and bloody vengeance is normal. It’ll be nice to see how someone dropped in from outside will react to it all.
“Red Lanterns” #4 hits stores December 7.