Before becoming a top writer for DC Comics, Van Jensen worked as a crime reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. And while he obviously draws on his personal past when writing the adventures of intergalactic policeman John Stewart every month in "Green Lantern Corps," Jensen told CBR News that for this week's "Green Lantern Corps: Futures End" #1 special, he actually looked to antihero Walter White from TV's "Breaking Bad" for inspiration.
Like Walter White, Jensen says when we find John Stewart in the "Futures End" timeline, five years into the future of the New 52, he has been forced to make so many hard choices in his life that he has become coldblooded in his decision-making.
Jensen, who also co-writes "The Flash" with Robert Venditti, shared that while the events of the "Futures End" tie-in are only one possible outcome to what was set in motion during the just completed "Uprising" arc, what's revealed in the issue will be further explored in the months ahead in the upcoming "Godhead" arc, a new storyline that begins next month and runs through the other "Green Lantern" titles: "Green Lantern," "Green Lantern: New Guardians" and "Red Lanterns."
He also teased that the roles of Lanterns Feska, Maro and Jruk will expand in the months ahead, confirmed the newly introduced Shadow Empire will appear in "Godhead" and that something bigger and even more deadly than the New Gods is coming to the New 52.
CBR News: It's not like John Stewart has enjoyed an easy life as a Green Lantern the past 40 or so years but these last few months, you've really put him through the ringer. Is John a different man -- and a different Green Lantern -- following the "Uprising" crossover? In the previews pages for "Green Lantern Corps: Futures End" #1 that certainly appears to be the case.
Van Jensen: The events of the past year, and especially the past couple of months, absolutely have changed John. For so long, John has been shaped by tragedies in his life, becoming methodical, sometimes almost coldblooded. It's a far cry from the character's origins. Now, after "Uprising," John stands at something of a fork in the road. He can respond in the way he has in the past, closing off his emotional side in response to tragedy. Or he can take another route. "Green Lantern Corps: Futures End" #1 shows where one of those paths ultimately leads.
Will you continue to explore this progression (or regression) as a Lantern in "Green Lantern Corps" #35 and beyond or is what he becomes in the "Futures End" special years away from fulfillment?
I approached the "Futures End" story like something of a parable. It's one progression of a multitude of possibilities. I looked to Walter White as inspiration, actually. He's a character who made lots of hard choices -- often not good ones -- and ended up being both bad and good, hero and villain. That's what could lie ahead for John should he make the wrong choices.
The preview also shows that Feska, a character tyou created with Robert Venditti, serves as John's new spotter in "Green Lantern Corps: Futures End" #1. What is it about her that you've most enjoyed and why does she make a good Robin to John Stewart's Batman, so to speak? Will she continue to play a prominent role in the series?
Feska is a lot of fun, in that she brings a lot of moral complexity to the table. She's someone who was a criminal before becoming a Green Lantern not out of a desire to commit crime, but out of the need to support her son. A very different kind of willpower resides inside her. As she grows more assertive in the future, she becomes a nice foil for John, someone who's willing to call him out when he's being a jerk. And, yes, Feska will remain a big part of the book going forward. Lots of big things in store for her, Maro and Jruk!
Could you have continued into the "Futures End" special and the upcoming "Godhead" arc with John living blissfully alongside Yrra or did you need to break him emotionally to carry on with his story?
Breaking up that relationship really came about just by taking the previous storylines and teasing out the logic. It was shown that Yrra did not choose to become a Star Sapphire and that she was essentially brainwashed by the crystals on Zamaron. So, what then happens if she is completely separated from her ring and the effect of the crystal wears off? How would she feel about having been controlled, to some degree, into being in a relationship with a man that she wanted to murder?
Now, does Fatality have some love for John? Yes. She was not forced into a relationship completely against her will. But she did feel coerced and that made her angry and bitter. The fall out from that was what we saw in "Green Lantern Corps" #34.
Did you always know that Fatality would be revealed as a Durlan or did the Keyser SÃ¶ze-like twist ending in "Uprising" grow from the story organically?
Literally from the moment I started on the book with #21 that reveal was set in motion. We sprinkled lots of little clues throughout that a Durlan had replaced Fatality and a few eagle-eyed readers have gone back through and caught most of them. I put a lot of them in there just so that, after the reveal, I would have proof at how long this had been in the works.
Another surprise revealed at the end of the "Uprising" arc was the introduction of the Shadow Empire as the real big bad of the crossover. As you head into a new storyline featuring the New Gods, will the Shadow Empire also play a role?
The Shadow Empire was first hinted at in "Green Lantern Corps" #29. I've always thought that the Corps would struggle to really police the whole universe, even with 7,200 Lanterns. That's just so much terrain to cover. And police enforcement really just pushes illicit behavior underground -- prohibition being a prime example of this.
For ages, all of the illicit trade/activity of the universe hasn't gone away, it's just been taking place in the shadows, in what are called Shadow Markets. And the Shadow Empire has been pulling the strings. Now, with the Corps weakened, the shadow is asserting itself, seeking to overwhelm the light.
And yes, the Shadow Empire does play into the "Godhead" crossover, though it won't be in a way that's obvious immediately.
You've mentioned before that growing up in Nebraska, your local grocery store only stocked three comics a month so I am guessing you didn't read "The Great Darkness Saga" but did you know Darkseid and the New Gods from "Super Friends: The Legendary Super Powers Show" or anywhere else before you started researching this new arc?
We also only had three TV stations, so I never even got to watch "Super Friends." I remember my cousin had some of the toys, though, including Darkseid. I just knew that he looked scary. Really, my exposure to the Fourth World material only came when DC released those great omnibus editions in the mid-2000s.
Of course, once I started working on this crossover I went back and reread those, along with as much New Gods stuff as I could put my hands on. The last time I was at the DC offices, I scoured their stacks of trades looking for anything relevant. I still need to read "The Great Darkness Saga," though. I'll go hunt it down.
Why do you think after all of these years Darkseid and the New Gods have remained a top threat for the world's greatest superheroes? Certainly, the fact that the legendary Jack Kirby created them plays a role.
The New Gods stories that Kirby created are primal. They read like a bible of a long-lost culture, all sorts of crazy myths and archetypes blended with these powerful, iconic designs. Those stories show their age, but they speak to these elemental, ancient ideas, ideas that are at our core as humans. I think that's what resonates, all these years later.
The solicitations for the "Godhead" arc tease that John will move into a leadership role with the Corps. What makes John a suitable leader and how does he differ from Hal Jordan in terms of leadership style?
John has this great duality as a marine and an architect. He's a builder and a destroyer. Both of those are going to be key qualities if the Corps stands any chance of surviving.
Hal, on the other hand, is just a charismatic guy. He's at his best when he's following his instincts, taking crazy risks. The problem is that that behavior only really works when you're only responsible for yourself. So we've seen Hal grow and change over the past year in "Green Lantern," but he has strayed from what made him so great.
What else can you tell us about "Godhead?"
"Godhead" is a huge, huge story in scope. It starts big and only gets bigger as the New Gods -- for the first time -- march into our universe, waging war against the Lanterns. But there's something even bigger coming -- something even more deadly, which you'll see soon enough.
"Green Lantern Corps: Futures End #1 by Van Jensen and Igor Lima goes on sale Wednesday, September 10.