Milligan Rages in "Red Lanterns"

In January, DC Comics announced a brand new comic book series focusing on the the Red Lantern Corps, penned by "Hellblazer" and "Flashpoint: Secret Seven" writer Peter Milligan. Months later, "Red Lanterns" is back on the tip of everyone's tongue after DC Comics announced the rage-powered series will debut as one of September's 52 relaunched titles. Joining Milligan on the series is the art team of Ed Benes and Rob Hunter, both of whom most recently worked on the "Prologue: War of the Green Lanterns" arc in "Green Lantern" issue #63.

After speaking with Milligan about his brand new "Justice League Dark" series, CBR News reached out again to chat with the writer about "Red Lanterns." While Milligan could not give specifics about the story, he willingly delved into what appealed to him about the Red Lanterns, his fascination with Atrocitus' motivations, and the tone readers can expect come September.

CBR News: This series was originally announced back in January. When did you know that "Red Lanterns" would be one of the 52 DC relaunch titles coming out in September?

Peter Milligan: Quite a long time after I first starting thinking about and working on the series.

The Red Lanterns seem an unusual choice to carry a whole series--after all, they are often the bad guys in the Green Lantern books. Why center a series on the Red Lantern Corps?

The fact that they seem an unlikely choice to carry a series is one of things that really attracted me to this title. They are used as the bad guys but there tends to be a dearth of detail about these characters. Rather than being insane unfocused monsters in "Red Lanterns," Atrocitus and his crew are the heroes. Or at least, they attempt to be. But they operate on the brutal edges of heroism.

The key thing is, Atrocitus doesn't see himself as a bad guy. He's on a mission. He's on the side of the underdog. But his methods throw up a lot of moral and philosophical issues about vengeance. There is also so much untapped potential among these Red Lanterns; I want to explore the personalities that have hitherto lain dormant.

Going along with that, as you started working did you find you began focusing on the positive aspects of anger to make the characters more relatable or sympathetic?

I wasn't looking for the positive sides of rage with the express purpose of making these characters more sympathetic. When you get to know these characters a lot of them do become sympathetic. Most of them are victims of some terrible injustice. And instead of hiding away feeling sorry for themselves they want to use the rage that they feel to go out into the universe and beat up the kind of fuckers who usually get away with heinous acts.

Previously you said one of the things that interested you was figuring out why Atrocitus was still so wrathful after all this time. Can you expand on that? What else about Atrocitus interested you as a writer?

It was something that occurred to me while reading about Atrocitus and thinking about how long ago his people were slaughtered. Clearly something like that never leaves you, but with Atrocitus it all seemed so raw, so on the surface. For him to be who he is it needs to be raw, as though it just happened yesterday. This was how I became interested in Atrocitus as a character. From there I began to see him as this ruined and tragic yet noble character who's in a sense is trying to avenge his long-dead loved ones by unleashing terror on modern day aggressors. On top of all this, the poor bastard has his Red Lanterns to handle.

The characters you are dealing with in "Justice League Dark" also tend towards the dangerous side. Between "Dark" and "Red Lanterns," what is it about anti-heroes that appeal to you?

I suppose you could throw in John Constantine over at "Hellblazer" into this category, too. I don't know about anti-hero, but characters that veer to the dangerous side tend to be more interesting. It's when you find out more about people, I think. 

This seems like a title that would have a fair bit of world building attached to it--how much of the world was sketched out or defined by Geoff Johns and the other "Green Lantern" writers, and how much were you able to create your own people and places?

The start off point is the Atrocitus and Red Lanterns as laid out by other writers. But this leaves an awful lot of space. I think readers will also be surprised by the tone and scope of some of the stories.

You also mentioned that Bleeze and Dex-Starr will be involved--is that still the case?

Oh yes--Bleez in particular will be expanded as a character.

I think that Dex-Starr the wrathful kitty is probably everyone's favorite Red Lantern at this point. Is he going to be the comic relief of the series, or do you have deeper plans for their feline member?

Dex-Starr is going to be around, but not always for comic relief.

Finally, what is the tone of the "Red Lanterns" comic--to your mind is it an action-packed superhero story with a twist, or is this a chance for deeper, more personal exploration into the minds of the Red Lanterns?

There's plenty of violence in this title, for sure. But I wasn't interested in writing one long blood-fest. The tone is definitely violent and visceral but I'm trying to use this to explore themes of rage, vengeance and loss, and to explore the characters--victims and perpetrators--who are caught up in it, [and] there's also humor in here, too. 

"Red Lanterns" hits stores September 14.

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