For over a year, Grant Morrison and Liam Sharp have brought Hal Jordan back to his intergalactic police procedural roots in The Green Lantern, balancing cosmic crime-solving while pushing beyond the conventional constraints of the superhero genre. Issue #12 of the critically acclaimed series closes out the first season of the creative team's run on the title before its 2020 return as all the plot threads since the inaugural issue converge in a free-for-all, climactic brawl.
Speaking with CBR, Morrison and Sharp discussed the end of Season 1, what elements about their run and the character they've particularly enjoyed, and how it has hearkened back to the popular DC Comics' property's earliest influences.
CBR: With The Green Lantern #12, you guys really play the hand; this is the thing the entire series has been building towards. What was it about the Blackstars and Controller Mu that you really wanted to pit them as the big central antagonists for this opening arc?
Grant Morrison: Well, obviously, the Controllers have a connection to the Guardians and to the general Green Lantern universe, so I kind of go there. But the idea was really to put Hal in this position he finds himself in at the end of this story; he's a guy that thinks fast on his feet, he's a guy that would be thrown into situations when they need someone to come up with a plan on the fly, execute it, and make it work. And this was kind of the optimal situation.
So I wanted a villain who could be the ultimate puppet master, who arranges everything, who manipulates every strand, every thread of the plot towards placing Hal in a position where he has to make this ultimate life-or-death decision as the blood is running out of him, the universe is about to end and it's kind of like, how does he get out of this one? So the logic was, what's Hal's power? Willpower and the ability to think on the fly. How do we test that to its limits? So that's why we went the Controller initially.
With this, you've got all these seemingly disparate threads coming together, in essence, kind of forming a composite sigil that serves as a conduit to willpower itself --
Morrison: That's a nice way of putting it! I never thought of it like that!
Was the idea to have this entire thing be a meditation on willpower?
Morrison: Well, yeah, ultimately I think that's what Green Lantern is about and we tried to do it subtly to make it about willpower and to explain what willpower is. I remember in Heroes in Crisis, Hal said he didn't remember what willpower was and, of course he does. He uses it everyday, it's his job, and willpower is similar; the act of imagining something is so hard and making it real. That includes building a table, but if you got a Green Lantern ring, you can do it in seconds. That's what willpower is.
So we really wanted to get into what willpower means and being able to manipulate that in a way Hal Jordan can, and become the big part of where we're going next.
Liam, with issue #12, you've got another multiversal version of Hal and you've spent the past couple issues doing different versions of Green Lantern, specifically Hal's incarnation. Do you have any favorites and what did you want to bring to the table with this Anti-Matter vision of Hal Jordan?
Liam Sharp: I love that character, he's just so unstoppable, you know? Every time you think he's down, he just gets up again; he's definitely got a Terminator element to him and a little bit of Frankenstein too. The fact that he's not even fully powered and somehow he's still this beast that can take on so many of them. He was a lot of fun, and I really wanted to make that character horrific, because we've seen versions of Anti-Matter Hal before, where he's had bits of machinery attached. I wanted to take it a step further and really just sort of play up the terror aspect of it and the nightmare aspect of it.
So he was always a lot of fun but the countdown in that last issue was just great. I really wanted to maintain a sense of urgency and energy in that last big fight, and the whole issue is pretty much a fight, you know? And Hal actually feeling a little bit desperate there; we do see moments with his willpower at the end of issue #6 and the end of this issue where he has to make that split-second decision that will save everything or not.
I like that you guys, in terms of script and art, subvert. I don't think anybody expects there to be a stoner with strong willpower and yet, in the last couple issues, we definitely see a stoner Green Lantern.
Morrison: [Laughs] Well, what he has is imagination so he's able to use that to make constructs but I don't think they last very long. His constructs change into other constructs within seconds.
Sharp: I loved the Magic Lantern, he was so much fun to draw.
Morrison: He's been around so long. He was back in my Animal Man stuff in the 80s and the Living Guru was in Doom Patrol so these are guys who are old to me.
What is it about the characters that made you want to bring them back for more?
Morrison: They suggest something. It seemed if you were going to have a team-up of Green Lanterns, you definitely wanted to have a Batman because you want to make fun of Batman and someone who would play well off Batman -- who Hal wouldn't have a problem with -- is the stoner Lantern and the other characters; it seemed like a good mix of different types of Green Lanterns who weren't just different iterations of the exact same thing.
Sharp: The reaction to the combination of the stoner Lantern and the Bat-Lantern, those two together, was just fantastic. Because he did good work even though Bat-Lantern didn't approve of him at all. This chill dude saying "I got this."
Bat-Lantern really was the ultimate cop, the ultimate authoritarian.
Sharp: He's a dick in every universe.
I was so glad that line slipped in.
Morrison: [Laughing] Yeah, we couldn't believe they let us put that in. I just didn't think it would survive.
Liam, you were mentioning this does lean more into horror, with the Anti-Matter Universe. The vampire planet Vorr [in issue #5] definitely feels like every panel could be a heavy metal album cover. How does it feel defying genre with this book, both visually and in terms of the writing?
Sharp: That's been the joy of it. Every issue feels like the start of a new series. That never happens! It's just made it never a dull moment every single issue. Honestly, when I get the scripts, if I don't laugh three or four times, I'm really surprised and that hasn't happened yet, not a single issue. I always have a moment where I go "I can't wait to draw that" and there's always a moment where I absolutely laugh out loud.
And sometimes moments get funnier and funnier after they're drawn, the way it all hangs together and they way they interact with each other. I've always enjoyed that with a lot of Grant's work, especially like the Doom Patrol stuff is a very funny read when you go back and read those issues. So it was fun to play with that but also the horror aspects and some of the more surreal aspects. There are so many angles, it's almost equal parts horror, comedy, science fiction, adventure, and fantasy; it's all of that.
Grant, you were mentioning Doom Patrol and, elevating it above genre constraints, is that what keeps it interesting across all these titles?
Morrison: Always. I think that's something you do in your life as well even if people don't recognize it, so that's some sort of core of believability. But yeah, man, to me Green Lantern is...I'm setting a bunch of rules about the nature of stories; I'm not going to go meta on this. I just want to tell a bunch of stories with Liam that are aimed at 12-14 year-old smart kids; the kind of kid I was when I got into comics. It's very much 'let's keep my meta tendencies under wraps and actually get a good story' with the whole thing joined up to be one big story. It's very much setting a bunch of rules for this comic and having a bunch of fun inside this playbox we've created.
You mentioned bringing in pieces from Doom Patrol and Animal Man. With this, we see a very big piece of Final Crisis come into play with the Miracle Machine. What was it about that device you wanted to bring back? I feel like it's going to cataclysmically shift the future of this title.
Morrison: Yeah! I mean, the Miracle Machine was the ultimate weapon of the Controllers, so it just seemed really obvious , and I loved that in a comic about the notion of willpower as weaponry and cops who use their will to power their machines. Ultimately, we have to go up against the supreme version of that. The Miracle Machine, with a single thought, can change the universe. So, again, it seemed like the obvious big, big bad for the end of this first arc and it fit into Green Lantern lore and played the part. I wasn't really thinking about it as it appeared in Final Crisis, but this is like Controller Mu inventing the prototype Miracle Machine and he's hammering it together with bits he's stolen.
Liam, as you've gotten to draw not just environments that test the boundaries of superhero comics but also some of the most imaginative members of the Green Lantern Corps, was there any particular standout that you loved designing and including in this lineup?
Sharp: I think all of us really felt something special in issue #7 inside the ring and part of that was just the concept of setting it inside the ring, with the logo to suggest it was set inside the ring. But I think what happened in that issue reestablished and reinvented the relationship between Hal and the ring. It's much sweeter now, you see her. When you hear the voice, it's not unlike the ship to Star-Lord to some extent; I loved that old Claremont/Byrne Star-Lord story from back in the day, it's influenced what we've done to some extent.
Every issue is special and, for me, it's hard to pick one, very specifically. We were saying earlier on that it's a bit like one of the hopes was that you could pick up any one of these issues and, even if you never saw any of the rest, you could still fall in love with it and still be satisfied and still have a sense you had a glimpse at the ends of the universe and had enough of a story that you could pick it up again on another day and enjoy it.
Morrison: There's a bunch of those characters that we really got to. like Volk and Trilla Tru and we brought them back and they play bigger roles in this. We wanted to downplay the other Earth Green Lanterns so that Hal Jordan seems like the one human being with the most amazing creature from across the galaxy, and some of them we couldn't stop reusing.
Sharp: Volk, for some reason, people really loved that guy and Trilla Tru, somehow we were really charmed by her. I don't know how it happened but she just took a life of her own, she's just so charming. I really like the Anti-Matter Sinestro, he's good fun, the David Niven Green Lantern.
Morrison: Yeah, we were going right back to the original physical model for Sinestro. [Sinestro co-creator] Gil Kane used David Niven so we thought it would be funny if this Anti-Matter Sinestro was this English gentleman [laughs]. Give him a slight cynical bite and sense of humor and it just set the whole origins for the character again and we loved the look of his colors; we reversed the colors of his Sinestro suit, it looks great!
Sharp: A lovable rogue, at best.
You mentioned the story of where Hal goes in his ring. In a lot of ways, that reminded me of the Doctor's relationship with the TARDIS in Doctor Who. What were some of the '60s and '70s influences you wanted to draw from?
Morrison: With that story in particular, it was about Myrwhydden, the wizard trapped inside the ring. So it started me thinking "Oh, we've got to do a story inside the ring because what if he's still there in that world? And who's Hal going to talk to?" And it took a long time to decide, well, it's got to be a girl and she's the one at the controls. But then it became, well, who's there with this woman in the ring and the answer was there was an A.I. that we had been referring to quite often in the story without ever actually thinking about it.
And as you say, having come to this conclusion, with this sentient A.I., I started to realize it was really like Neil Gaiman's Doctor Who story [laughs]. And, in the end, it kind of worked as well because this story is kind of in the Gaiman-style as well so I thought it was okay to touch on that reference. But, yeah, Doctor Who is an obvious big influence and always has been and I think the structure, the way the whole season has been laid out, is quite like a Doctor Who season.
You had mentioned a lot of this being about Hal and his ring and, for much of this opening arc, Hal has been kind of separated from his ring as he's gone undercover with the Blackstars. Are we going to see more of the absence relationship inform the character moving forward?
Morrison: Well, there's a bit of that in the Blackstars series coming up, you see how that works or doesn't work. But yeah, the relationship is there, but it's not a big deal. It's kind if like Hal's got his ring, and he talks to his ring and his ring answers back and kind of gives him a bit of sass. It's more like setting up his relationship where he's kind of got a partner, with characters he can talk to like the ring.
What has surprised you a year and twelve issues into the title looking back?
Morrison: For me, it's been the richness of it and the possibilities of doing something not set on Earth where you can make new planets and new races and new civilizations to boldly go. It's an immense canvas and I love all the alien characters who can kind of deal with the satirical stuff that can just kind of do these weird kind of Swiftian world where you don't have to do one type of thing. I just love the scope of the canvas, I think it's so much fun, with the ideas you can get for the series and Season 2.
Sharp: It's the same for me. I'm just glad we were really able to do that because often with any book, it can hobble itself by not allowing the canvas to be big enough and Grant just gave me the most enormous canvas to draw on and it's been a joy, it really has.
The Green Lantern #12 is written by Grant Morrison and illustrated by Liam Sharp. It is on sale October 2 from DC Comics.