If you’d read any of AIPT’s multi-faceted coverage, you’d know that Future State was a huge hit.
What’s not to celebrate around some fictional, electronic water cooler? A diverse lineup of dynamic creators, interesting storylines and directions for our most beloved heroes, and the knowledge that none of it had to last (unless it worked out, yeah?). It was an event for people who love the thrill of a properly consuming comics event. (But also, emotionally-resonant storytelling.)
Amid all of the heroic insanity, a personal standout was Future State: Green Lantern. Writer Geoffrey Thorne took a criminally unsung Green Lantern in John Stewart, gave him a chance to shine, and told a thrilling story about what really makes a great hero. It was enough of a hit, in fact, to give Thorne another crack at the Lantern Corps. Green Lantern #1, which features art from Dexter Soy, debuts on April 6, and if press material is any indication, we can expect a truly massive story:
As this new Green Lantern saga begins, the newly formed United Planets and the Guardians of the Universe hold an intergalactic summit to decide who can best serve and protect the cosmos from danger.
But this isn’t all about fresh beginnings; as Thorne tells it, this book is, in many ways, a kind of direct response to the less than pleasant reaction Thorne received amid Future State.
“Because of the initial Hal Jordan controversy that was ginned up by a site that shall not be named, I became aware of a lot of the sort of online chatter about comics in a way that I had not been before,” he says recently over the phone. “I think there [were] people waiting with the knives out to come up with anything to say why the Future State thing wasn’t working.”
He adds, “So there was a lot of willful ignorance about the fact that the battery died. And then they instantly went feral. You know, ‘This isn’t my guys, and they would never be how could they be like.’ It’s nearly 20 years later; there’s multiple arcs of these people’s stories, and you have not witnessed them to this point. So now we flash back to the present day, as we did in the Infinite Frontier #0, where we got three pages to say, ‘Oh, but guys, that that was all in the future.'”
If there’s anything he’s taking directly from Future State, it’s the continued build of Stewart as a more than savvy space hero operating in the worst of times.
“One of the things I tried to do in Future State was that everything you saw in that book was according to John’s plan,” he says. “At the very beginning, when people are like, ‘OK, everything’s going pear shaped, maybe should eject and rethink this?’ He says, ‘No, stay on point. Stay on the plan.’ We never say what the plan is until he gets captured the second time. And the entire plan was to delay these guys enough to get the people off the planet. I feel like I laid down pretty firmly who John Stewart is in Future State. Now we’re going to see that stretched out over a year.”
Thorne admits to not being entirely surprised about the reaction. But as he explained, he was “pleased to see that there was also a certain amount of people saying, ‘This is neat.’ And in terms of what matters to publishers? It did great.”
A lot of these larger issues were born when Thorne made comments online about his lack of interest in beloved heroes like Hal Jordan (before he ever wrote word one). But he says that a lot of the core issues have more to do with golden age heroes in general than anything specifically about Jordan.
“The issues I think [that] bothered so many people where that they could be applied to a great many of the characters that came to be when he [Hal Jordan] came to be,” Thorne says. “I described them all as sort of standard superhero. Standard generic superhero. Okay, this one’s got wings. This one goes fast. This one’s got a magic ring.”
In fact, the book itself contends with another similar kind of comics trope. More specifically, Thorne says its about countering some of the issues or fallacies he thinks have plagued the Green Lantern canon for decades.
“There’s a creative and editorial shift in comics that happened between, let’s say, from the mid-1960s into the end of the ’90s,” he says. “Where the attitude was that something that seemed more realistic was a good thing. Like, heroes would not murder people and still be superheroes. Gotham streets now had prostitutes on them. In context, in those time periods, those are interesting, creative shifts. Some of them landed well and I think are solid and they’ve stuck. But some of them are like, ‘What?'”
He adds, “But with the Green Lantern concept, one of the things that often bugged me is the people writing the books are either generally not science fiction writers and almost certainly not scientists. So the concept of 3,600 sectors that can be broken up into the universe, with 7,200 Green Lanterns out to ‘patrol’ these sectors, even with the magic rings, it’s ludicrous.”
Sure, comics are meant to be a little weird and wacky and out there, but Thorne clearly saw a place to improve the canon and tell a truly interesting story. And that meant countering some of the hyperbole surrounding the Lanterns at-large.
“It’s advertising. It’s aspirational,” he says of the Lanterns’ “model” of heroism. “It is a sort of marketing scheme, one that says ‘When our guys show up, they represent the guardians of the universe.’ And it adds authority to them showing up to dispense justice. So the legend of the Guardians and Green Lanterns does a lot of advanced work for us. But we don’t really have oversight over the entire universe that way. It’s literally not possible.”
So, thanks to some recent galaxy-wide changes in other DC books, Thorne got his chance to play with the Guardians, the Lanterns, and how they function in this wide open universe.
“So the political shakeup that was created in the Superman books, by creating the United Planets in the Milky Way galaxy, has basically thrown thrown a light on the guardians and saying, ‘Well, look, fellas, we’re not sure we need you if we’re going to be running our own show. So how’s that going to work?’ And so that’s sort of the point of issue one,” he says. “That discussion is a large component of issue one. It’s not something I made up, but the ripple effect of creating the nine planets to me was very interesting. And DC wanted that partially as sort of a West Wing vibe to some of this, and I was like, ‘Well, that’s going to be dull. There’s not a lot of shooting monsters in the West Wing.'”
He adds, “There’s going to be a lot of political intrigue. There’s going to be a lot of what is their [the Lantern Corps] new role in the new shape of the galaxy? What are the Green Lanterns? What’s the Green Lantern function going to be within this new context? The United Planets has its own group, the United Planets Brigade, so what the hell do we need these Green Lanterns for? And what’s their jurisdiction that we are the government now? Like, are the guardians the government? Were they the government? They’re not our rulers; they just sort of show up and dispense justice. According to who?”
If you’re trying to tell “West Wing in space,” it helps to have a good team. As mentioned, Thorne is joined by artist Dexter Soy, who he said “was new to me, but he’s actually the sh*t.” Thorne had just as much praise to offer for the book’s entire artist team, which include Marco Santucci. Together, Thorne says, the two brought an essential balance to the book.
“Their styles are complimentary. Marco deals with a section of the story that is very different from the section that Dexter is handling. There’s a very loud section and there’s a very sort of quiet, contemplative section. Let’s say there’s the West Wing, and there’s Saving Private Ryan. You’re sort of switching back and forth. It’s very excitable outside the room and very quiet and nice inside them. It was delightful working with them.”
Ultimately, though, all of that just means there’s going to be a lot of stakes in this book. As Thorne explains it, “The book is called Green Lantern, and so it’s about Green Lantern. There’s lots of ring activity. Lots of cosmic nonsense. There’s so many toys in this toy box, and it’s just going to be fun to play with them from my point of view.” While he says it wasn’t his intent to “come in and break the toy,” that’s sort of what he has in the works.
“I won’t say romp, because a lot of people are going to die horribly,” he says. “A great many people are going to die in the first five minutes. But a lot depends on what floats your boat, I suppose.”
A lot of those deaths, he says, has to do with the destruction of the Guardians’ battery, the aftermath of which was documented in Future State.
“There are 7,200 Green Lanterns, and a massive number of them are going to die just because of the nature of physics and what happens when the battery goes away and where you happen to be,” he says. “You were sitting in deep space without a spacesuit? You’re cooked. Basically, the safest character in the book is probably Hal Jordan.”
He adds, “Oh, and F-Sharp Bell, he’s safe. Nothing will hurt that beautiful child.”
It’s not just about protecting some heroes, either. Thorne says he’ll be “introducing at least one new Green Lantern and at least one brand new to the audience that you’ve not seen before.” But the series is focused more on playing up underutilized Lanterns, with DC asking him to incorporate Jo Mullein from Far Sector and Keli “Teen Lantern” Quintela. Thorne was happy to oblige, and the move gave him a clear thread to emphasize throughout the book.
“[DC] wanted to mess with Teen Lantern,” he says. “I had no opinions about her except, ‘Why the hell is there such a thing as a Teen Lantern?’ But as it turns out, she’s relatively ill-defined, so there’s so many large blanks in her that it’s going to be a kind of a lot of fun to modify and sort of strengthen what she is and why she matters.”
But with John Stewart, it’s a slightly different story. While a lot of this follows a kind of pre-Future State Stewart around, Thorne made it clear that he’s not so much reinventing the character as he is clarifying him at long lost.
“It’s more a matter of illumination,” he says. “One of the lucky things for the Hal [Jordan] lovers is that so many people have focused on him that they feel they have a great handle on his personality. So he’s [Stewart] one of those things that happens with secondary characters where there’s personality shifts as needed to tell the story. Because the main characters personality can’t shift; it has to be consistent. Superman must always be Superman, and we can do weird things to Jimmy Olsen because he’s never the focus.”
Thorne adds, “It’s not so much that we’re going to make any changes to John; we’re just going to be shining a very bright spotlight. So there are no blank spaces by the end. Why does he maintain his Green Lantern even in the face of not having a ring? Why is he not Hal Jordan or Guy Gardener? We’re going to try to answer it. Whether I do it satisfactorily will be up to the audience.”
And that’s just how Thorne would like it to play out. He says this book will be a “happy home” for fans of “hardcore, action-oriented science-fiction,” promising a genuinely “bumpy ride.” Because through all the “controversy” and the back-and-forth, Green Lantern feels like a massive step forward for Thorne, the canon itself, and its many heroes. A journey that almost no one has seen coming thus far.
“It’s the first page and the last page of both of these first two issues; they’ll tell you everything you need to know about this run,” Thorne says. “No one has made an accurate prediction about what they’re going to expect from this book.”
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