DC Comics' first batch of double-shipping Rebirth books is sprinting into its second year with the release of each title's respective Issue #25. That's a full twenty-four books released in just twelve months, for those of you playing along at home --and for writer Sam Humphries, it's pretty staggering to think about.
After signing a DC-exclusive contract at the start of Rebirth, Humphries has been busy with the fan favorite Green Lanterns, a book chronically the adventures of Earth's rookie ring-slingers Jessica Cruz and Simon Baz. Over the course of his first year, he's taken Simon and Jessica everywhere from Gotham City to deep space -- and things are only getting started.
CBR sat down with Humphries to talk the past, present, and future Green Lanterns, and what his second year at DC may hold.
CBR: So we’re approaching Green Lanterns #25, which your official start into year two on this book, and the start of your second year signed exclusive to DC. Let's get a little retrospective and take a look back: what were some of your favorite moments over the course of the last year?
Sam Humphries: Oh my God, everything you just said hit me like a ton of bricks. It has been a full year of doing a double-ship book, which is kind of crazy, right? Wow. Dan DiDio blew me away once because he said that I had just done a two year run in one year, which is pretty mind blowing. I gotta say that I think everyone at the start -- the creators, the editors, everyone, we’re all kind of a little nervous to see how this double shipping thing would work out. But obviously, it’s been such a great success and I really like how double shipping allows you to have a fast pace with your stories and your arcs. It allows you to do so much in such a short amount of time.
I think, looking back in terms of favorite moments, I think working with the Red Lanterns was great, that was fantastic for me, I love those characters. But also, going straight from that and downshifting into to an issue where the biggest challenge was baking cookies for Simon’s mother.
I love being able to upshift and downshift between stories like that. We’ve got the Phantom Lanterns, which was six issues total, and then we went immediately into the done-in-one story about Jessica’s struggle with her anxiety. I think that’s the secret weapon across the Rebirth line. We’re able to get out a variety of stories at a much faster clip, and it creates a much more varied experience. It really gets you to places faster.
Speaking a little bit about Jessica -- she’s definitely become one of the breakout new characters of Rebirth. Has the fan response to her had any influence on how you’ve developed her voice over the past year?
The way that the fans have responded to Jessica has been so immensely rewarding. I had to take a gamble with her and commit very early on and be like, “Are we going to really, fully address her anxiety?” And if we were going to do so, I have to really let down my guard as a creator and incorporate my own experiences with anxiety to do that. Which, y’know, is not the safest thing to do. [Laughs] Especially if you’ve already got anxiety!
I really had to double-down on that with her early on. Even just the first couple moments there in the Rage Planet storyline, people latched on and responded and it was such a relief. People didn’t just respond to her as a character, people like myself who struggle with anxiety could see themselves in her and find some of courage in seeing somebody who has a struggle like that do, but with a Green Lantern ring.
Now, of course, I don’t want to count Simon out at all. He’s also been getting a very positive fan response over the past year. And it looks like he’s about to be really put through some challenging stuff here starting in issue #25. Can you tease a little bit of what’s coming up for him?
Yeah! [Laughs] We are really about to put him through the ringer. I love writing Simon, I love really getting into his head. I’ve kind of felt out what some of his weakness and blind spots are -- and in true sadistic writer fashion, I love to exploit those. [Laughs] One of those moments was dealing with his mother, another moment was with the Gotham storyline, where they worked with Batman and he had to really come to terms with carrying a gun.
Starting with Issue #25, we’re taking both Simon and Jessica on a real journey. The first twenty four issues has really been grounded on Earth but, you know, this is Green Lanterns and it’s a science fiction space cop superhero adventure. So we’re not just going to go to the farthest reaches of the universe, we’re going to the furthest reaches of time -- hang on, should we get into spoilers here?
Let’s do it!
[Laughs] Alright! So! Before we even take Simon and Jessica out on this adventure, I really wanted to get into one of those blind spots, a personal, emotional weakness of Simon, so what I decided we’d do is, before we maroon them in time and space, we’re going to destroy his ring. Volthoom, the big bad who we’ve been building up, destroys Simon’s ring, and almost immediately afterwards Simon and Jessica get ripped out of time and space, getting sent ten billion years into the past.
So, not only are they away from Earth, not only are they in deep space, not only are they ten billion years in the past, but Simon is not going to have his ring for this entire adventure.
The whole thing?!
For the entire adventure! Yeah! I obviously can’t tell you exactly what happens but, he’s absolutely not getting it back in issue #26 -- or #27, or issue #28 [Laughs] So beyond that we’ll laugh to wait and see.
While we’re on the topic of this current arc, I want to get a little more into the mythology you’ve been building up here. You’ve been able to do some real heavy lifting with continuity and lore. What’s that process been like?
It’s been a blast. I love to do it, it’s amazing. [Laughs] One of the best parts of the job! People say that the Green Lanterns have so much mythology fleshed out by all these amazing writers, but that kind of stuff never intimidates me. It always seems like an opportunity. When I started sitting down and figuring out the timelines of Rami the Rogue Guardian, I realized that the Guardians story really begins ten billion years ago. There's been a lot of Green Lantern comics published but not nearly enough to cover ten billion years!
There’s a lot of huge, gaping holes in that history and, yeah, I just looked at it and saw an opportunity. What happened ten billion years ago? We saw Crona, we saw Volthoom, what happened immediately after that? Volthoom was the first Lantern, how did that happen? What was that like? We know that Volthoom was locked up by the Guardians -- how and why did that happen? And if he was the first Lantern, who in the world could have defeated him? So what we see now is that the first seven Green Lanterns were actually created to put a stop to Volthoom when he went on a rampage.
One of the fun parts about this is being able to create these seven new Lanterns -- brand new characters, who are the first Green Lanterns in history -- but that also pull from elements of DC’s own history, pulling elements from it and looking at it through the lens of ten billion years in the past.
We’ve got, what, three more of those first seven lanterns to meet now? We met two in issues #23 and #24, and then we meet two in this issue. That’s four out of seven.
Exactly -- We’ve got our four so far. Alitha’s from the Third World which pre-dates the Fourth World. Z’kran is a White Martian. Tyran’r is from Tamaran which the home planet of Starfire. And then Kaja Dox who is from Yod-Colu, which is the home planet of Brainiac 5 who we know from three thousand years in the future in the Legion of Super-Heroes.
How are the two newest arrivals, Tyran’r and Kaja Dox, going to fit into this sort of mythology you’ve created? Because by the looks of things in Issue #25, there are some pretty big reveals on the horizon for them.
Yeah! In Issue #25 we see that Tyran’r is alive ten billion years later, he’s been alive all this time. How and what he’s been doing in those ten billion years are questions we’ll get answers to -- just not right away.
I wanted to go to Tamaran, because it’s a planet with so much potential -- but I wanted to imagine what it was like ten billion years ago. Tamaran, specifically through the eyes of Marv Wolfman and George Perez was always this like, gleaming sci-fi utopia but it couldn’t always be that way. And at the same time, they had a warrior culture, so that put me in the mind of a much more sci-fi barbarian vibe. So Tyran’r, I saw, as this sort of rogue renegade, as somebody who lives on a planet with a lot of self proclaimed lords and kings and masters, and hated them all. I thought he would be a good fit -- or [Laughs] maybe a great contrast -- to the duty-bound Green Lantern Corps.
With all these original seven characters, I wanted them to come from their own stories, and I wanted those stories to have different tones. So while Tyran’r has a more sword-and-sorcery story, Kaja Dox almost from like an auto-bio comic, or a slice-of-life comic. She’s got a job, she’s got a cat, she’s got a girlfriend, she’s got a mom who won’t get off her back, she’s frustrated by her day job, she loves her life but she knows she’s gotta find some way to pay the rent.
Right at a critical moment of crisis for her, a ring crashes through the window. It’s almost like an Alice in Wonderland or a Wizard of Oz moment, like when real life gets to be too crazy, something lands in your face that you can’t describe and you’ve just gotta go through it.
She got her acceptance letter to Hogwarts, Harry Potter-style.
[Laughs] Yeah! Exactly what I’m talking about.
To shift gets a little bit, let’s finish out by talking about some things you’ve got coming up on the horizon. Do you have anything you can tease about what your second year at DC might hold?
Oh, God, there’s a lot going on! There’s a lot going on, but not a lot I can talk about. Just last week, my Legion of Super-Heroes/Bugs Bunny crossover book came out, which is one of my favorite things I’ve ever written. I loved writing it, I’m a huge Bugs Bunny fan, I’m a huge Legion fan, so getting to work on it was kind of like a dream -- Except not really a dream because who would have thought that comic would ever be a thing?
And then later, in August, DC’s doing a series of one-shots for Jack Kirby’s 100th birthday. Not only am I lucky enough to be writing a 6-page Demon story, I’m twice as lucky to have Steve “The Dude” Rude drawing it. So that’s going to be really, really cool!
There’s a lot of great stuff happening at DC right now -- Metal is going to be huge, and there’s a lot of stuff coming out of it, both during and afterwards, and I think... that’s all I’m allowed to say about that!