WARNING: The following interview contains spoilers for Grant Morrison and Liam Sharp's The Green Lantern #7, in stores today.
Since taking the reigns of the Green Lantern Corps, Liam Sharp and Grant Morrison have set Hal Jordan against a host of new foes in adventures spanning myriad new planets -- and in the course of it all, rocketing through a series of different genres. Basically, The Green Lantern takes the idea of exploration to heart and takes advantage of the stories that can be told with an intergalactic police force.
Ahead of the release of Issue #7, on sale now, CBR spoke with artist Liam Sharp about the series and how he approaches creating new worlds.
CBR: One of the things I've found interesting in your run with Grant on The Green Lantern is how it moves through sci-fi and horror and now fantasy and mythology, all in the context of what is essentially a cop drama. What makes the concept of Green Lantern so flexible, and are there different stylistic choices you make depending on that tone of an individual issue?
Liam Sharp: Absolutely. For starters, the scope of it. Both Grant and I absolutely love those sci-fi comics of the '60s and '70s. Jim Starlin, John Byrne, Starlord and those kinds of things were really a touchpoint and things that I grew up really loving. Star Wars, of course, the comic, I used to collect that. So I think that once you get into space, the possibilities are so huge. You really can go from planet to planet. You can have one, like what we're doing now, that is kind of stuck in the dark ages, another that is hyper-evolved. There are so many possibilities with that -- there's always room for horror. You can see that in films, too, things like Alien and its ilk. It's a perfect playground for all those different genres. Which makes it so much fun for me because it's almost like drawing a brand new series every issue. It's just enormous fun.
Yeah, I see a lot of the classic horror influences in your work. Your pages tend to work in a lot of design, from flowing blood borders to define panels, insets framed in stylized bat wings, and so forth. How do you go about laying out a page like this? How do you design your flourishes to direct the reader through the story?
It really is issue to issue. Issue #4 had a flashback structure, so I tried to keep each flashback with a distinct aesthetic. Like, one was bookended with a circular motif, another had a sort of electricity splitting up the panels. And then we had the horror planet with the vampires, that was the planet I was really thinking I wanted to do something that references those old horror comics, Vampirella and comics of the '70s, where obviously the aesthetic of that era was much more organic and flowing. A lot of European artists drew those books and they had a very organic approach to the way they laid the pages out. It's funny, I was trying to do it from memory rather than with references, just for the feel. So that was a lot of fun for that issue, because I haven't seen anything really go that organic for a while.
And straight off the back of that, we had a very hyper-formal layout for the Rann issue, where I actually broke it down and added panels to make it more about the beats, a sort of Carmine Infantino layout from Adam Strange. Especially with the landscapes and the buildings and things, we wanted to go back to that Atom Age feel for those, which was a lot of fun. It definitely makes a huge jump in tone from the scary issue. Those are the sorts of things that inform the thinking.
We have another new world in issue #7, one inspired by fantasy and mythology. What went into creating the environment and creatures of Emerald Sands?
That was a fun one, because it's in the ring. I colored this issue, too, which was interesting because I had a whole bunch of problems -- how do I keep it within the ring? What can signify that? I came up with the idea of using pieces of the logo as the lockups for the panel design. So everything that happens within Emerald Sands happens within the Green Lantern logo. When we come outside, we go outside of that. Which seemed almost like taking those Eisner ideas to a whole new level, basing an entire issue inside of a logo. Once I imposed that as kind of a law on how I was going to draw the issue, then it became a matter of how am I going to work with it, how am I still going to tell the story? Partly, it was a Wizard of Oz kind of feel, with Myrwhydden being the Oz figure.
And then the other thing, when it came to the colors, how was that going to work? Because if it was all just greens, even though green is such an easy color on the eyes, it can also start to look a little bit dull if you just completely stuck with that. So then I started thinking, what about something that has a vague Tron-type vibe? I thought, I wonder if I could put an ultraviolet color down and then work the greens on top of that. So I tried that as a basic underlie behind it and it worked, it gave it kind of an inner glow and spooky twilight feel. It made it kind of magical, really.
And then, on top of that, Grant had described the characters, especially the Ministers, the shark guys -- I just thought, this is crazy, I love it. It's slightly child's picture book, it's slightly nightmarish. For some reason, even though I nowhere near the sea, I never have, I regularly have sharks in my nightmares. So it seemed odd that he'd put them in, you know. It gives it a dreamlike quality.
And then there's fun things that don't really make any sense, but because it's Emerald Sands, because it's sharks, putting the water ripples over the surface of the sharks even though they're not underwater gave it a surreal level.
You mentioned Wizard of Oz, and Grant is into gods and mythology. Myrwhydden and Pengowirr -- I don't know if it is, but those look like maybe Welsh names? Is this world based a particular mythology you're drawing on for this story?
Well, Myrwhydden is an odd character, but he's clearly based on the Merlin character. The early version of Merlin is spelled much closer to that with a Y and a double-D -- so it's more Merffin actually, the double-D making that sound. And Penogwirr, you think of Pendragon, it references it, but it's just an anagram of "power ring." Which is beautiful. But it does definitely play into that era and that mythological feel of things. It worked a treat. Even though Grant in his script is like, "Yeah, we're going to go for it, it's just an anagram," but it's so perfect. We both fell in love with Pengowirr as well during the telling of this story. She's an innocent, and you start to realize that she's the real love of his life.
Yeah, this is also a love story, of sorts. How does Hal's relationship with Pengowirr fit into the dark world of Emerald Sands?
I think, without giving too much away, both of them when they find each other are in a state of amnesia. She's running down, they're not sure where they are. They're pulled together as outsiders in this strange environment. Some of the story is them finding out who they are and what their place is. Hal at the end does his thing, but it's nice to realize that, for all the stories where Hal has this innate genius that works on a very brute level, but is still a form of genius -- he couldn't do it without her, he couldn't do it without the ring, and they do it together. It's a beautiful moment, it was really touching because you feel that this is them as they really are. We're seeing a symbiosis in a very clear way for the first time.
It's funny because Grant said, "I got really emotional writing this script." He told me in advance, he told me three times! I thought, 'Oh God, what's happened, something terrible is going to happen!' And then I read it. I told him I thought it was going to be something terrible, he said, "Oh no, I only get upset over sentimental things." [Laughs] "It's not horrible things that upset me particularly, it's nice things, because that seems rarer these days."
There is that fear of the horrible coming through this issue with the "Myrwhydden must not wake" prophecy or omen. And it feels like the inkiness and texture lends to a sort of a creeping horror leading to the reveal. How do you go about conveying that sense of dread through your art, even (or especially) when the characters aren't running or fighting?
I'm hoping that it's in the steady build. The nice thing about having control of the colors for an issue, that I could play into that as well, it could get darker and more intense as it went. But really you're stuck with the body language and the expressions, and I guess to some extent the explosiveness of the layouts, as well. The whole story is pretty spooky, and everything's falling apart so there's this end of the world feel to it, as well. It's all crumbling. I love that aspect of it.
But Grant wrote such beautiful prose for this issue, too. It's really a magical read. I got shivers when I read it. You can tell he really put his heart and soul into this -- he always does, but his heart and soul is all over this, as is mine. I think we both felt this was a special moment.
You've talked about the body language of this issue. And prior to this, Hal had been undercover for the last several issues, and here he doesn't remember who he is for half of it. Is it challenging to portray the sort of "inner life" that is such a central part of stories like this?
For me, that's some of the most fun. Hal is kind lost all of the time, in a way. He's kind of defined by the things that happen around him, and that's where he becomes Hal. The rest of the time, he's almost a cipher, he's quite a lost individual, I think. Where he finds his feet, we see that in the next issue with Green Arrow. We have a moment that is again quite poignant, tells us quite a bit about him. He's one of a kind, I think all the Green Lanterns are. They're not like us. They're all pulled to greater things whether they like it or not. But the language and emotions, for me that's a big part of the story. I always find that and the worlds that they're in equally important parts in telliing the story as well as you can.