FAN NEWS

Grant Morrison on Reenergizing THE GREEN LANTERN

Joe McCabe

Joe McCabe

Nov. 6, 2018

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In brightest day, in blackest night, Green Lantern has never backed down from a fight. Now, DC superstar Grant Morrison -- known for his groundbreaking runs on JLA, Batman, and Doom Patrol (just to name a few) is planning to take Hal Jordan to new heights in his very first run on a solo Green Lantern book. Illustrated by Liam Sharp, The Green Lantern debuts this week, on Wednesday, November 7th. We recently had a chance to sit down with Morrison and chat about what we can expect from his vision of the Emerald Gladiator, as well as the classic Green Lantern tales that helped inspire it... 

 

On how he pulled from many different versions of Hal Jordan…

 

The Hal Jordan character’s been around since the 1950s, and he’s one of the few characters whose history kept going pretty much unchanged throughout that whole time. So naturally, being handled by a lot of different writers and artists, his personality has changed quite radically through that time. But it was the whole on-the-road-trying-to-find-yourself that I think always rang through various iterations of Green Lantern. He suddenly goes from being a test pilot to an insurance investigator. But then he gets tired of that and he becomes a toy salesman, and none of these things seem to relate to each other at all! I love that sense of disconnection, of dislocation; and reading up on some of the American astronauts, like Buzz Aldrin and people who have talked about having come back from space finding it really difficult to deal with life on Earth... They’d seen this giant perspective -- and that was only from the moon. This is a guy who’d been across the galaxy. He’s seen planets where it’s a utopia and people live thousands of years, the political system is perfect, where they don’t use money, and he comes back to this. How do you really integrate? I love the way he has different versions of himself. "I’ll be a toy salesman and then next week I’ll just be homeless for a month." [Read Hal Jordan's Silver Age adventures here.] Then you have the Denny O’Neil version, when he was suddenly the cop. He was the boneheaded right-wing cop up against a changing Americas, portrayed by Green Arrow, who at that time was seen as this liberal kind of conscience and activist, very aware of the issues. I thought it was quite funny, because the guy who’s portrayed as the boneheaded cop is actually the one on Earth trying to make sense of things. The other guy’s a millionaire who’s just lost his fortune. Taking all of those contradictory aspects of the character -- like with Batman -- if you combine them [into] one person, it’s like a real person. Because all of us have these shades, these contradictions in us. We’re very much playing that, and I think in the first issues particularly, people will be saying, "Hal Jordan wouldn’t do that!" 

 

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On working with artist Liam Sharp…

 

This is a guy that can draw pretty much anything. We talked about what we wanted to do to make it seem different from the last few years of Green Lantern, the last ten years even. And one of those things was to bring a European influence to it, which is ideal because Liam is from England. He was really influenced by French graphic novels, and by British comics as well. When you see the first couple of issues, you’ll see that sort of influence. It almost takes it away from being a superhero comic and brings it into very much a sci-fi comic, a space opera. It’s pretty basic space opera. Because Liam can draw these different worlds and creatures, he really goes to town on it. It kind of encouraged me to go even crazier with the locations, and the planets and the alien creatures. Because I knew he could handle it, and also do stuff we haven’t seen before. It’s been a really exciting collaboration, because as I say, it doesn’t feel like a superhero comic anymore. It feels like the influences we wanted are all there, including the Golden Age of science fiction. Liam’s just been the perfect collaborator, and he does it quickly, which is astonishing. He’s not only talented, but very dedicated, and he has an amazing work ethic. One of the things we wanted to do is, Green Lantern is a book about light. So spectacle was an important part of it. We wanted to do big, fantastic images, amazing worlds, stuff that only George Lucas could probably manage.

 

On his book's Guardians of the Universe…

 

These beings have been around since the dawn of the universe. They have an intrinsic understanding of what is right in the sense of what leads to greater organization, more freedom, and more of all of those things. They understand it in ways that we don’t, so the Green Lanterns are following a code of law that follows the fundamental principles of how the universe was created. We kind of really want to go into that. I don’t think it’s been done before, to show that there’s more to this. There isn’t a bunch of law enforcers who are just out there traveling to say that it was wrong to cross that line, or wrong to be this person. They know the rightness in things. They know the wrongness in things, and they like to try and correct it for the evolution of the universe. Yeah, it seems like a police force, but the more we get into the actual philosophy, the weirder and more alien it becomes.

 

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On creating new characters versus using characters from classic stories...

 

It’s a bit of a split I think. One of the things I love about the DC universe is that they do have this history and they do have this depth and span and scope in the outline of human life. It’s kind of like environmental art. You’re going into a place. So I love the fact that there are thousands of alien races out there that have maybe been seen in one issue of World’s Finest in 1970, or some bunch of characters that have only ever been seen in the 1990s comic book, and consolidating all that to say, "Oh, that happened and they’re all still here, and they all still have their own agendas, and they’re all out working and doing things in the universe" and we get to suddenly see them. There’s a character, Commander Kraak, who I think only appeared in one old comic called "The Interplanetary Batman" [in 1959's Batman #128]. We brought him back as a space pilot, and clearly he’s been there since that story. So that was definitely part of it. We also want to create lots of new stuff. There’s a big new antagonist for him, and we’re playing with lots of new concepts and lots of new Green Lanterns. Some of them based on ones that you’ve seen before, and other ones that are completely different. So yeah, it’s a bit of everything, because I think it’s important to honor this fabulous fictional construction that we’re working within, but at the same time, to bring new stuff to it and to add things.

 

On how far in advance he's planned...

 

I’ve written around ten of them. I’m pretty far ahead, and I’ve also plotted out a second season, because I just couldn’t stop my mind from running. There’s a lot of material there, and there’s a lot of stuff I just can’t wait to get to, because we get deeper and deeper into it. 

 

On what the title "The Green Lantern" means to him…

 

The Green Lantern basically refers to the [actual] Green Lantern. It’s about "What is the Green Lantern?" It actually came from... There was a movie in Britain called The Blue Lamp, and it became a very early police TV series. The blue lamp is the police lamp that hangs outside all the British police stations. So I just thought, "The Blue Lamp. The Green Lantern. It’s the same thing." Here’s the science fiction version of that concept. It refers to the concept rather than the man. 

 

On Hal Jordan’s appeal...

 

We’re trying to do that by just taking you along on his adventures and showing you how he feels and how he reacts. I think he’s not the man we’ve seen recently. Because, again, the history of that character... He’s died, he’s come back to life, he’s been an inspector. He’s seen everything. So I think one of the important things is that he’s not traumatized. Right now, there’s a vogue for sort of post-traumatic superheroes, but I just think that is not Hal Jordan. This is a guy that does not need therapy. He’s so far beyond therapy. It ain’t going to work. This is a guy who’s super directed. He gets the job done. He’s really good at what he does. And he’s nothing like me, which is what I love. [Laughs.] You talk about previous Green Lanterns. Kyle Rayner was my Green Lantern, because he made sense to me. He was a young guy who just got into the Justice League. That was me too. Just getting in the Justice League, and feeling like, "Oh my God, I’ve joined the Beatles. Am I going to be able to live up to this?" So I was very emotionally attached to Kyle, and I still love him. But I’m kind of more interested now, like in the Wonder Woman: Earth One book, in exploring viewpoints that aren’t me, and getting the prismatic view of the world. What’s it like to be that guy? I’m never going to be a test pilot. I’ve got a lot of fear... It’s been fun and it’s kind of interesting to get myself into his head, and that’s become the exciting part of this book, to be in there and suddenly, "Oh God, this guy’s got so many dimensions." There’s so many edges, and, as I said, contradictions that we haven’t seen. So hopefully that enthusiasm I’ve got will come through and the readers will start to be like, "This guy’s kind of cool."

 

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On the Oliver Queen/Hal Jordan relationship…

 

I want to play with a lot of the inversions of what was taken as the basis of their relationship back in the '70s, where as I say, in actual fact, one guy is an unemployed toy salesman and the other guy’s a millionaire that’s lost his money but he’ll get it back again. So I want to reinvent a lot of the things, where, suddenly, maybe Hal’s the left-wing guy. We’ll see these two clashing in very different ways. Lot of angles that you may not expect. To dig in deep into that relationship, which I’ve always loved, but to play different aspects of it.

 

On Hal’s relationship with the rest of the superhero community…

 

If I get more seasons... In the second season, there’s a big Green Lantern/Flash story, and we want to explore all of those relationships, and also all of Hal Jordan’s previous relationships in the book. So Tom Kalmaku’s in issue 3. We do see a little bit of the Justice League, but they’ve been beaten. They’ve only just been beaten and Hal’s come to save the day. And all of the female characters that have been in the book, we’re bringing all of them back, and they all have very different relationships with Hal, completely different approaches to him. So he’s surrounded by this constellation of people that, I think they love him more than he even knows, and he doesn’t understand. He doesn’t quite get it. But I want to build another picture of him from their point of view. We’re looking at all of his friends, all of his lovers, and bringing them all back, and using them as mirrors.

 

On the most challenging part of storytelling...

 

The science fiction stuff, the world building, the crazy stuff is easy. But just getting to this guy who’s so unlike me and who doesn’t think like me. As I say, that’s the fun, that’s the challenge. When I was younger, all the characters were misfits like me. As I said, Kyle was the young rookie suddenly getting into the big leagues. But with this one, this is a very complex, gnarly character, and it’s a lot of fun. I don’t even think I’ve scratched the surface yet. We start to get him in [issue] 3, I think. But it’s been a journey, it’s been strange. It’s fun. That’s what I like about it. It’s just unusual. He’s just a weird guy.

 

On the Controllers…

 

We had this idea, it was way back when the book was first starting to get together. I wanted to do the Darkstars. And suddenly, Robert Venditti had done this, and I thought, "Robert’s done such a great job..." So we came and looked at that again. I think it was for the best, because then suddenly it was, "We have to do something that isn’t just the Darkstars concept and we have to do something that isn’t just the Controllers concept." So the idea was to do this breakaway sect. I watched the Wild Wild Country documentary series and I thought, "What’s the intergalactic version of this?" You can actually see echoes of that with the Controller. We’re not fully into that story, but that came in as an influence. We’re doing a breakaway sect. I don’t have to deal with Darkstars mythology and I don’t have to deal with the Controllers. But all of the stuff that we bring in, the idea of a Sun-Eater, and the cosmic vampires, and, again, it’s light and dark, as you’ll see. The second one is called Darkness Visible. So all of it is light and dark, and we just took that to a much more kind of almost quasi-religious extreme, and a Controller who is really about control. How scary can you make control? To take that title seriously, and get into what he does, his manipulations are so complex and Machiavellian, it becomes terrifying. It’s on a scale you can’t imagine, and his fingerprints are all over everything you don’t even know yet. By getting away from that basic concept, the Darkstars and the Controllers, I think we’ve come up with something much fresher and much more interesting.

 

On how his recent TV work has influenced the book…

 

I’ve been working in television for the last couple years. I’ve been in the Happy writers' room. Currently, I’m in the Brave New World writers’ room. All of that has bled over into the stuff that I’m doing now. So it’s very much kind of a TV show. We’ve planned out the seasons and we have the season arc and the mid-season finale. Everything they do in television. The procedural approach is great for that because each story is kind of set in its own world, and has a beginning and end. But they’re all modular in the sense that we build up to something bigger at the end. The influence of what I’ve been doing outside comics has come back into this, and made it feel different from some of the other work that I’ve done.


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