Venditti & Fialkov Go Green (Lantern) for DC Comics

A nearly 10-year run on the series blunted fan surprise somewhat when DC Comics announced that superstar writer Geoff Johns was leaving "Green Lantern." However, collective jaw drops were evoked by the further news that all four New 52 Green Lantern titles -- "Green Lantern," "Green Lanterns Corps," "Green Lantern: New Guardians" and "Red Lanterns" -- are getting new creative teams this June, once the current "Wrath of the First Lantern" crossover comes to a close.

Robert Venditti ("X-O Manowar ") is now flying co-pilot on Hal Jordan's adventures in "Green Lantern" with Billy Tan on art while Joshua Hale Fialkov ("I, Vampire") is writing "Green Lantern Corps" with art from Bernard Chang ("DC Universe Presents: Deadman") and "Red Lanterns" with artist Alessandro Vitti ("Captain America and Hawkeye").

Also joining the Green Lantern Corps for Space Sector 2814 is Justin Jordan ("Team 7") and Brad Walker on "Green Lantern: New Guardians" and Keith Giffen and Scott Kolins on "Larfleeze," as a series spinning out of the pages of "Threshold."

CBR News spoke with Venditti and Fialkov about the enormous task ahead of them as the writers spoke openly and excitedly about the opportunity to take over the reins on three titles of one of DC Comics' most important franchises.

CBR News: Josh, after the announcement, you were tweeting photos of Green Lantern action figures. Are you a long-time fan of the character or is this a newfound love?

Joshua Hale Fialkov: I have a storage unit where I keep all of my comics -- it's filled with comics. When I first got the job, I called my two best friends and said, "Hey, I need to go to storage and pull some books for reference." We got to storage -- and I have like 60 or 70 long boxes roughly in there -- and we start looking and my buddy is like, "It's so weird. Do you even like Green Lantern that much?"

And I was like, "Yes, I do." It's a thing I've liked since I was a kid. And when we got to the "G" section of comic long boxes, we found an entire long box of old "Green Lantern" comics -- and I thought there was more! We go into the next box, and there was a lot more "Green Lantern." And then we go to a third long box and there is a ton more.

So to answer your question, yes, I love Green Lantern. "Green Lantern" was one of the comics that I read when I was 11 or 12-years old. Specifically, I loved the Ron Marz stuff and I love the GLC stuff. I love the anthology nature of the old, original "Green Lantern Corps" series, where they're literally telling different stories of the Green Lantern Corps.

How about you, Robert?

Robert Venditti: I didn't start reading comics until later in life. I think I picked up my first comic when I was 26. That comic was actually "Astro City," Vol. 2, #4, the Confessor story arc, if you're familiar with that storyline. That story made me want to write comics. I didn't read comic books growing up, so I wasn't really that familiar with any of the characters in the DC and Marvel Universes outside of pop culture references like the "Spider-Man" TV show.

While I wasn't all that familiar with Green Lantern from the comics, I did know who he was from the pop culture stuff, but I didn't know the mythology or the history of the character. So once DC reached out to me about pitching for the series, I went and read about 200 issues of "Green Lantern." [Laughs] I've read all of Geoff Johns' run, plus a bunch of other stuff because I really wanted to know what made the character tick.

It was a similar situation to what happened at Valiant. I didn't really know too much about "X-O Manowar" either, but I went in and read up on the character and based a lot of my concepts and what I wanted to do with the character using that approach.

Geoff has been writing "Green Lantern" for nearly a decade, telling bigger and bigger stories every year, which have often crossed over with the other Green Lantern titles. Where do you go from here?

Fialkov: [Laughs] I'm a crime writer. I've been writing crime books for a decade, in one form or another, usually with a horror bent. But at the end of the day, they are all pure crime -- "I, Vampire" aside. For me, the attraction was that I wanted to tell a crime story on a galactic level. That was my pitch to DC. Geoff and all of the other guys have done such an amazing job, prior to us, of telling those big, giant space operas. Now it's time to narrow it down. Let's do stories that almost fall into a different genre while still being in the Green Lantern universe.

Venditti: I try to do something different with every new project I take on. "Surrogates" was cyberpunk sci-fi, then I did "The Homeland Directive," which was more political thriller. I adapted the "Percy Jackson" novels, which was more of an all-ages thing. I try do something different every time, so when DC came to me and asked about pitching for "Green Lantern," I was excited because it is so unlike anything that I've done before -- the police in space aspect of the book, but also the size and the scope and the grandeur of the mythology. There are so many characters and so many Lanterns in the Corps, it's just really huge and really well fleshed out universe within the DC Universe. I've never worked on anything with that sort of scale before and I thought it would be great challenge to see if I could take something like that on and do it successfully. I guess that's what I try to do with every project; I try to push myself outside my comfort zone and maybe learn to be a better writer in the process.

Josh mentioned he wants to focus on the crime element of his books. Can you sum up your approach to "Green Lantern?"

Venditti: One of things that really impressed me about Geoff's run was the wonder and imagination he brought to the title. I do want to try and retain that and I also want to take the book to what I think is the logical conclusion of what would come out of the end of Geoff's run. I want to look at a lot of the things he's done to the characters and think about how it would affect not only the book but the DC Universe as a whole. I guess, deal with the aftermath of what happens not only in " Wrath of the First Lantern" but all of the great "Green Lantern" stories and large events and crossovers that have come before and, I hope, stay true and faithful to that and not contradict any of it but expand on it and take it new directions.

Fialkov: One of the great things that Rob's doing is exploring a lot of the stuff that we take for granted as being part of the Green Lantern mythology. He's actually looking at it, examining it and redefining it in much the same way that Geoff did during his run. He's coming at it from this point of view of, "There are questions that have never been asked. Why haven't they ever been asked?" And that's something we all get to play with as part of the overarching story for all of the books.

Venditti: What Josh said. [Laughs] Josh will be fielding all of my questions now.

Filakov: [Laughs] I'm just complimenting you.

Venditti: [Laughs] You're doing a better job than I am.

Josh, when we talked a few weeks back about "I, Vampire," you teased that DC was letting you do something with two titles that you've always wanted to do and that it's really ambitious. I assume it's safe to say that you were talking about "Green Lantern Corps" and "Red Lanterns."

Fialkov: Yes, this is it! I love "Red Lanterns," but I feel like the book -- up until now -- has been outside the rest of the universe. It really feels like its own little corner, and the fact is, it shouldn't be. The Red Lanterns are one of the biggest threats in the DC Universe. They are insane, incredibly powerful and they believe they are on a holy mission. Those are three incredibly dangerous things. [Laughs]

In terms of what I'm doing in "Corps" and "Red Lanterns," it's really about that. While the Green Lantern Corps has to police the universe, there is also their opposite number, who are, when it comes down to it, not necessarily wrong. Their methodology might be screwed up, but at the end of the day, what they stand for is justice -- their idea of justice, which is to intercede before the fact, as opposed to the Green Lantern Corps, which is always kind of after the fact.

Venditti: Josh has come up with a really great idea for how he's going to connect those two books. I think his first issue is really going to turn a lot of heads. What he's going to bring to the book is very clearly defined. No other writer could write these books.

Robert, Geoff has obviously focused his run on "Green Lantern" on the re-birthed Hal Jordan. Will Hal continue to be the star of your run, because since the launch of the New 52, both Sinestro and now Baz, the new Green Lantern, have shared the spotlight?

Venditti: Hal Jordan is going to be the driver of "Green Lantern." That's borne out of, more than anything else, [the fact that] he's the natural leader coming out of some of the things that are going to close out Geoff's run. That's the idea.

What about you, Josh? During Peter Tomasi's run, "Green Lantern Corps" has featured Guy Gardner, John Stewart and Kilowog. Will we see more of the same or a whole new direction?

Fialkov: We're keeping most of the same characters -- and then we're all introducing a ton of new characters. We really want to help expand the universe to really help tell the story. And you know, Geoff and company have really killed a lot of Green Lanterns. [Laughs] That makes one of our missions to start repopulating.

This is a group of people who have come to trust each other and rely on each other, and who's left standing at the end is very much our core unit. So, what does that mean? In terms of, now we need to rebuild, now we need to learn to trust again when everything they've ever trusted has just crashed.

I know that's something that Justin is exploring in "New Guardans," too. Robert and I are both really excited about. We talk about it a lot.

Venditti: There is definitely going to be a bunch of new characters, new villains -- a lot of things that we're introducing, plus new concepts. Working with Josh and Justin and sitting down and talking to them about what they're doing is great. I've been a fan of their work for a long time. Not just to tell them what I'm thinking, but also to listen to what they're saying and let it improve what I'm thinking.

We've got a lot of things that we want to do. Definitely the things Josh was mentioning, and a lot of other things.

It sounds like you guys are talking lots and are really on the same page. Are these titles going to remain tight in terms of storytelling, or will they follow your own paths?

Venditti: It's a little bit of both. We're all going to have our own stories that we're telling with our own lead characters and the conflicts that they're coming up against are going to be unique to each of them, but in conjunction with that, there will be events that take place, by necessity, that affect everybody as a whole.

Fialkov: That's why it's been great. As we've been talking about what the events are going to be and what these big things are, because we all know each other and know what each other are doing, there is a nice kind of dovetailing that's happening. It's not like something happens in "Green Lantern" and therefore "Green Lantern Corps" has to react to it. If something happens in the universe, it affects all of the books. There is a very nice feeling of brotherhood between all three of us. It's a big opportunity for all of us, and it's something that all three of us are excited about and passionate about, so we're doing everything we can to make the most cohesive unit of books possible. Of course, we want people to buy all four books, but we want to make them so awesome and meaningful to each other that you want to read all four of them. Or all five of them, with "Larfleeze."

Venditti: If we are doing our job right, it would be to write books that would stand on their own and each be individual stories that everybody can enjoy. But also if you read the Green Lantern books as a whole, you're going to augment that and have the fun of connecting a lot of the dots.

Josh, you've been writing "I, Vampire" for the past year and a half, a series which features a leading man that is now, ostensibly, the book's villain. You'll be doing that again with "Red Lanterns." Is that difficult to do?

Fialkov: Have you read "I, Vampire?" That's what I do. Bad guys are not bad. Every bad guy thinks he is doing the right thing. Lex Luthor is not like, "I am a crazy dude who is trying to destroy the world." He thinks: "I am trying to stop this alien threat that nobody else cares about. Everyone else thinks he's great. What they don't realize is that he is a walking atomic bomb." For me, villains have to be the heroes of their own story. In their mind, they're always the hero. I've been really lucky because I've been able to do a lot of that over the past three or four years. Exploring what it means to be twisted in that way, to see a problem that nobody else sees and be obsessed with correcting it is such engaging material.

And it's a blast. Writing "Red Lanterns" is so much fun. At the end of the day, they're not wrong. Horrible things happen every day and the Green Lanterns only hear about it afterwards. The Red Lanterns can sense it. They can actually step in and stop it. That's a great power to have. Does that make them villains if they do it and over react?

Venditti: Writing sympathetic villains is key to any kind of story that you're going to write. Josh is great at that and Justin is great at that, as well. Sympathetic doesn't mean you have to cheer for them but it allows you to understand their point and where they're coming from -- otherwise the whole story breaks down.

Having said that, let's leave you with a tough one, Rob: Is Sinestro going to become a sympathetic villain during your run on "Green Lantern?"

Venditti: Umm. I know the answer to that -- but I can't talk about it! [Laughs]

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