On Wednesday, Hal Jordan and writer Robert Venditti embarked on a bold new adventure in “Green Lantern” #21, Venditti’s first as the writer of DC Comics’ ongoing “Green Lantern” title — and Hal’s first as the leader of the very broken Green Lantern Corps.
Joining the Corps after Geoff Johns’ swan song in “Green Lantern” #20, Venditti began his run with artist Billy Tan and a new villain, the cosmic character known as Relic, a villain whose sole purpose is to rid the universe of the remaining Green Lantern Corps. Hal’s new nemesis will star in his own one-shot this September, announced earlier this week as part of DC’s Villains Month, which Venditti will write and Rags Morales will illustrate.
Taking a break from his Lantern-filled travel schedule, Venditti touched down on Earth to speak with Comic Book Resources about taking over his highest profile ongoing series to date, what readers should expect from his Villains Month offering and his longterm plans for Hal Jordan.
CBR News: Your first issue came out this week, starting a new story after Geoff Johns’ giant-sized “Green Lantern” #20 and the end of “Wrath Of The First Lantern.” What I thought was interesting about your issue is that it wasn’t just a new story and new creative team, but a new role for Hal as he assumes leadership of the Corps. As a writer, how did you want to approach the character and your first issue after the giant Johns farewell issue?
Robert Venditti: [Laughs] I knew what the broad strokes of what Geoff’s run was going to be, but I turned in the script for #21 back in January, so it was in the can for quite awhile before. I like to be far in advance on these things. But for me, like I said, I knew the broad strokes of how Geoff was going to finish up his run, so I knew how the table would be set; I just wanted to present some new challenges to Hal. You reference it being a new role and new storyline and that’s what I wanted to do: I want it to be as much of a jumping on point for new readers. Still pay service to the stuff that has come before, but have new conflicts so new readers can come on and feel this is an opportunity for them to get into the series.
So I just looked at Hal as a character and tried to determine, given his history and the type of guy he is and the type of hero he is, what is it about his personality that makes him different from other heroes? What are the conflicts that would come along to force him to confront those sorts of things? One of them is, though designated by others and it’s sort of imposed upon him, to saddle him with the job of being the leader for the Green Lantern Corps in the wake of these huge events that have taken place. The toll that they’ve taken on the Corps ranks, not just in terms of Lanterns that have been killed but the Corps’ credibility as a police force throughout the universe, they were undermined a lot by the actions of the previous leadership, the old Guardians. So really through no fault of their own the Green Lantern Corps is feared and a lot of people are angry at them, even though they were trying to fight against the Guardians. The universe at large doesn’t recognize that.
So I wanted to play up on those things and also look at Hal as the kind of guy — I mean he’s a test pilot. He’s not a platoon sergeant, he does a lot of risky things but it’s always just him whose life is on the line and he’s comfortable with that. Now he’s in a position where his leadership will put other lives on the line as well. How does that affect his behavior? How does that make him different? I would say he’s the kind of guy for whatever reason, even though he doesn’t want to be a leader, he is a very charismatic individual and people are just prone to want to follow him anyways. So at some point he has to assume that leadership. These people are following him around like little ducklings; at some point he’s got to be momma duck and take care of them because they are going to follow whether he wants them to or not. Those are a few of the things put into the mix.
It’s funny you mentioned ducklings as your first issue is bookended with the new Lantern recruits, who are just a bunch of alien kids who don’t know what is going on.
Yeah, that was another aspect of what I wanted to do, to bring a little bit of lightness and fun into the new series and also mimic how a new reader of the series might be in that position as well. There have been these events and there have been so many Lanterns lost — so when the rings go out to get new recruits the A, B, C, D and E teams have all been killed. What you get now is the Bad News Bears. That doesn’t mean that they are any less heroic. There’s all sorts of different ways that you overcome fear; you could be a big guy like Kilowog who overcomes fear one way, but say you’re a little person — we’ve all been to middle school and high school — and if you get bullied and you overcome that, that’s overcoming fear. In some ways it’s even braver to overcome that fear when you don’t have impressive physical characteristics and it’s all just a mental thing. I wanted to reflect that in the new Lanterns as well.
In this issue we jump into the middle of the lives of the other Lanterns — like coming in the middle of the Green Lantern who is in love with his prisoner — reminds me a little of both “Legion Of Superheroes” and older, pre-Johns stories that centered on the Green Lantern Corps sans human characters, like Alan Moore’s more sci-fi Corps stories. Is making the comic very Green Lantern Corps-specific something you want to do? Since we’ve seen the expanded universe is it now time for the Green Lanterns to be the stars of the “Green Lantern” title?
Yeah — I mean it is definitely Hal’s book and he is still going to be the main character. But I think a lot of that other stuff, seeing him interacting with the Corps and being on Oa and the citadel and all these other things, are a byproduct of this conflict I wanted him to have where he is going to be in a leadership role. What we’re going to see in coming months is Hal trying to be same old Hal but realizing that’s not going to work now [that] he’s leader. Specifically, we’ll get to a scenario like that in #23, which will be the August issue.
Like I say, writing really is about conflict as far as telling stories. It’s just about thinking of what kind of things would pose formidable hurdles for that character to overcome, and then setting up those hurdles. But it has to be in a way that makes sense to the story as well. Hal is the guy, despite some of his go-it-alone mentality and risk-taking he’s done, he is a hero and he is a character who has led the Corps to victory in a lot of these events. I think him taking on that role as someone who other Lanterns might hold in high regard because of past performances isn’t unrealistic.
Let’s talk about Relic, who we saw floating above the Battery and is going to be profiled by you in your DC Villains Month issue. Billy Tan, who is the artist on your series designed this character — visually, what did you two want to emphasize with Relic?
We wanted to emphasize the technology and scientific aspect of the character as opposed to [him being] some warlord or warrior or conqueror or those kinds of things. Relic is a scientist and there are specific reasons he poses such a threat to the Corps, and it’s not through any superpowers. He’s a very science and technology-based villain so we wanted to reflect that in his design. No armor, just a guy who uses technology, and readers will find out through upcoming issues the technology does different things, so hopefully they’ll be surprised! Every issue there’s something new that Relic’s tech does.
In an interview you did with us back when you were first announced as the new “Green Lantern” writer you said the key to writing stories was having a “sympathetic villain.” Does Relic fit that mold?
He is very much a sympathetic villain and somebody who I was thinking of when I made that statement. I hope the reader will be able to understand where he’s coming from and why he’s doing what he’s doing, which again will pose another challenge for the Corps. His message may be bad but his intent isn’t too far off the mark.
We now know that Relic’s goal is to rid the universe of the Lanterns. Having just come out of the “First Lantern” story where the Guardians were basically trying to do the same thing — and many of the foes Green Lantern have faced in the modern day have also tried to get rid of them — why did you want to play with this idea again, and why do you think so many people want to take out the Lantern Corps?
[Laughs] Oh, that’s a tough question to answer without giving out some pretty big spoilers! Historically I think the question “why do so many people want to take out the Lantern Corps?” is a better question for Geoff. It seems to me the Guardians are all about maintaining order at any cost, but even their vision of what order should be seems a bit demented and strange, leading them to do a lot of things that weren’t good. Relic has a much different approach to it. I would say he’s a guy who has tried to coexist with Lanterns and it just hasn’t worked, so now this is what he’s going to do. Again, it’s hard to discuss without giving too much away. It will be hinted at in coming issues and it will be fully revealed when you get Relic’s origin story in the Villains Month issue. There you can really see what he’s all about and why he’s been led to the path he has chosen. In some ways the choices are his own but in other ways he’s been painted into a corner. This is what he’s left having to do.
You mentioned this is an origin story — will there be any connection or crossover with any of the other Green Lantern Villains Month issues?
It’s just focused on him — twenty pages of pretty much nothing but Relic.
We’re talking about Relic now and he’s clearly going to continue on as a force into the September issue. Do you see him as a reccurring Green Lantern villain, or someone who has a larger role to play down the line in your run?
The story I have in mind for him right now is pretty finite. But the DC Universe is a big place. Who knows what happens down the road? I tend to think in terms of stories that have beginnings, middles and ends and subplots will link those stories together into a larger tapestry, but when it comes to conflict it’s a win or lose and then you move on sort of thing. So for right now it’s a finite story.
To wrap up, what’s it been like to work with Billy Tan on both the designs and the individual issues as you work so far ahead of time?
He’s great to work with! I love what he’s able to do, the amount of detail he brings to the art the way he’s really able to handle the emotion of the characters. He’s really great with design; Relic being an example, but also all the new Lanterns. He got exactly what I wanted to people to get out of those Lanterns, that they’re young kids who don’t want to be there. That’s pretty much the description I gave Billy and then he came up with those designs. He really excels at these things and every time I get pages from him it’s just great to see what he’s doing with the script.
“Green Lantern” #21 is on sale now. “Green Lantern: Relic” #23.1 is on sale September 4.