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Jensen, Chang Discuss Gender, “Godhead” & “Green Lantern Corps”

by  in Comic News Comment
Jensen, Chang Discuss Gender, “Godhead” & “Green Lantern Corps”

It’s Kirby versus Corps in “Godhead,” DC Comics‘ three-part, Green Lantern crossover event that pits the revamped Fourth World New Gods against the entire emotional spectrum of the Lantern Corps!

In Act One of the Lantern-centric event, readers met the New 52 versions of the Gods of New Genesis as Highfather, Metron and others made the decision to remand Lanterns of every hue of their power rings in the name of their struggle against Darkseid. In Act Two, the action has heated up, with writer Van Jensen and artist Bernard Chang revealing even more of the Gods of New Genesis while John Stewart struggles to unite the scattered Lanterns in “Green Lantern Corps.”

RELATED: Venditti & Jensen Form “The Flash” Fight Club with Four Flashes

Teaming up to speak with CBR about their latest crossover chapter, Jensen and Chang dove right into the challenge of explaining how “Godhead” differs from the previous GL event “Lights Out,” what it means to be drawing new takes on Jack Kirby’s Fourth World characters and the effect upcoming events will have on the newest Star Sapphire, John Stewart!

CBR News: In “Green Lantern Corps” #36 we’re right into the Second Act of the big Green Lantern “Godhead” crossover, happening over all the Lantern books. In this event, you guys are playing with the New Gods — specifically, the gods of New Genesis. As comic fans yourselves, when did you two first encounter the New Gods and Jack Kirby’s Fourth World mythology?

Van Jensen: I was kind of limited in my reading of comics growing up, just because I was in a pretty small town so I didn’t have access to very much. So it probably wasn’t until right after college when DC put out those great Fourth World omnibus editions. I actually was reviewing comics back then, so I wrote a big review when they came out. They’re just really cool, really weird, trippy stuff that is both incredibly fun and also has this very deep resonant message about the personal costs of war. It was something that I really enjoyed at that time, and now, years later, it’s just a cool opportunity to write Fourth World characters.

Bernard Chang: I kind of read comics when I was a teenager and when I was younger too. I came to the States when I was six years old, first grade; I mean, I read comics, but I didn’t get into collecting, so probably like sixth, seventh grade. New Gods, I didn’t know that much about, but I knew a lot about Darkseid — one of my first books really, going back in my memory, was the “Teen Titans” crossover that Walter Simonson drew. I think Darkseid is one of the main villains in that. So this series is a great, great introduction to this set of all these mythological characters I never really had a chance to dig into. Pete Woods did a lot of really great designs re-envisioning a lot of the New Gods and it’s just a lot of fun to play with.

Talking about the visual look of this issue and the New Gods, Bernard, as the artist, how do you balance the new designs and putting your spin on them versus keeping those iconic elements of the Kirby design in the forefront so people can still immediately tell these are the characters from New Genesis?

Chang: In the script that Van has, and obviously in the artwork, there’s always the Kirby Krackle, so there’s a lot of that element that’s very nostalgic, very iconic of Kirby’s take on the characters, and the style at the time. Pete has some really intricate designs, which when you’re looking at it initially, you’re like, “Wow, these are really great! They’re nicely detailed!” But then you go and start drawing the books, and every single panel include all these lines and design factors, and by the end of it I’m cursing Pete’s work! [Laughs] But it’s been a lot of fun.

I think every character — Shadowfall’s a new character, and she is revealed in this issue as female, so the math on how she stands and holds herself initially is used to disguise the character and then ends with the reveal, so it kind of has a nice payoff. Also, there’s a lot of fun design with the Star Sapphires; there’s a lot of creative design there. It’s fun to play with, in terms of their Lantern powers and how it’s very much more love and emotion based. I think one of the pages towards the end of the issue, where John is revealed to kind of change Lanterns, change Corps, his design was interesting as well.

Obviously, one of the biggest beats in this issue was John getting his Star Sapphire ring. He went through a lot, emotionally, right before this arc, with Fatality professing she never loved him. With him taking on the violet ring, are readers going to see, visually and story-wise, him working through the baggage of everything that happened with Fatality and the Durlans in the “Uprising” arc?

Jensen: This is a culmination of this ongoing story arc we’ve been telling. A big part of it, of course, is that John felt very betrayed by the Star Sapphires, and that they and the nature of their power sort of exaggerates and takes emotional love to an extreme for people who wear the Star Sapphire ring. Fatality has this long relationship with John, which she later learned came up and came about because of the ring she was wearing — maybe because how she felt, maybe not. John held a lot of resentment towards the Star Sapphires, so this issue was a really interesting moment in a big event ,with a lot of big stuff going on, but also really focused on the character of John and where he’s been going. All those things came to a head.

One of the things we’ve enjoyed doing with the book — which I don’t know how much is out there that people get, it’s kind of in the subtext — we’ve been exploring, sort of, gender identity topics. The nature of the Star Sapphire ring and the nature of the Star Sapphire power set — there have never been any male members before. It’s sort of an extension of the reversal of John and Fatality’s relationship. It just seemed like the final big moment of that to give John a bit of closure for everything he’s going through.

Chang: I think John looks good in pink, too! [Laughter]

Jensen: Yeah, it’s a really cool design!

As love is an emotion, there’s no reason not to have a man as a Star Sapphire — it’s not like men don’t feel love.

Jensen: Yeah, I mean, it’s kind of interesting — masculinity and toughness are always associated with each other, and that’s true of society as well as comics, right? A traditional hero you think of as a big muscled dude, and the Star Sapphires are just a different component of that. So yeah, it’s been a lot of fun to definitely shake those things up.

Looking at everything that’s happening in the crossover in general, we’ve got John and the other Lanterns starting to come together. Now that he also has the violet ring, and Hal is somewhat out of the picture, are we going to see him taking on the leadership role for all of the Corps throughout “Godhead?”

Jensen: One of the things that’s a lot of fun with this crossover, as with any crossover, is just seeing all these different characters forced to interact and forge relationships. So we’ll see in this issue and in a lot more to come, there’s this weird partnership, an uneasy partnership, forged between John Stewart and Sinestro that’s going to continue throughout the crossover. All of the ring wielders have been on the run, and now is the time for them to go on the offensive. But to do that, they’re going to have to put aside all their old grudges. Whether they succeed or not, we will see in the coming month! [Laughs]

Looking at the event as a whole, “Godhead” feels a little like the last Green Lantern-wide crossover “Lights Out,” where you have a super-powerful being — or beings — from beyond reality coming in and saying, “Oh my God, what are you doing with these power rings? You’re ruining everything! We’re the good guys, so we’re going to stop you.” Working on “Godhead,” what do you see as the big differences between what happened with Relic and what the New Gods are doing and plotting?

Jensen: You know, I get there are similarities in some regards, but the way all the writers involved in the crossover approach storytelling is that we never want to have villains who are so one-dimensional you look at them and say, “Oh, those guys are evil, they’re bad guys — that’s why they’re doing this bad thing.” It’s a lot more compelling to have “villains” have kind of a viable reason for doing the things they are doing, even if they’re still pretty disagreeable.

What we see with the New Gods is that they are trying to save the Multiverse, but they have this perspective of being gods. To them, a human life is over in the snap of a finger, and they know that there are billions upon billions of lives that are resting upon them in this war against Darkseid.

I guess the ideas we’re exploring with the New Gods is something that really goes back to Kirby’s original Fourth World stories: There’s this ancient war the New Gods have fought, it’s a terrible burden and it’s changed them. That change is really at the core of why they’re doing the things that they do, so I think that’s a pretty central difference. Of course, there are a lot of other little aspects that the New Gods bring to the table, like Boom Tubes and crazy Fourth World weapons and all sorts of stuff like that, but their motivation is really quite a bit different. They want to win the ultimate war and they know in order to do that, they’re going to have to break a few eggs.

To bring it back to John, in this and the last issue, we’ve seen him really reference being both an architect and a Marine as he’s making constructs and dealing with enemies. For the two of you, when you’re writing John or drawing John’s constructs, how do you balance what parts are the architect and what parts are the Marine?

Chang: Some of that is based on the scene and what he’s making the constructs for, whether they’re for support or an actual attack or defense. I actually have a bachelor’s degree in architecture from Pratt Institute, so I get to really indulge in the creative aspect of him as an architect. The constructs that he’s creating really have to make sense for that particular scene in order to fit the previous issue. If he uses a sniper gun to shoot off the hand of another fellow Lantern who’s in the clutches of Uggha, that showcases a little bit of his Marine training. At the same time, I think John kind of redefined a viewpoint in terms of how he’s willing to sacrifice his own troops, in a sense, or in certain situations, in order to get the most efficient results at that time.

Jensen: With John, part of what we try to explore is this idea that he is both a builder and a destroyer. That duology is present in both the Marines — they both build and destroy things — and architects also both build and destroy. Its kind of central to both of those identities. He uses the tools that he knows in the situation as needed, like Bernard said, when he comes upon a situation, he has a lot that he can bring to the table.

Plus, Bernard gets to use his degree!

Chang: Yeah, I get to do a lot — also a lot of this goes to Marcelo [Maiolo], the colorist, or the painter, as we call him. He really does a great job in terms of shaping the book. You know, we’re dealing with the color spectrum — you can’t help but mention the actual colorist on the book! [Laughs] In any kind of book, but especially in this one, Marcelo’s doing an amazing job kind of helping craft the story along. Not just words, not just lines, but coloring helps define the color palette and make the comic book what it needs to be.

“Green Lantern Corps” #36 and “Green Lantern: New Guardians” are on sale now.

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