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Kenny Porter talks contributions to 'Tales from Earth-6: A Celebration of Stan Lee'

Comic Books

Kenny Porter talks contributions to ‘Tales from Earth-6: A Celebration of Stan Lee’

The giant-sized one-shot comes in time for the comic legends’ 100th birthday.

This week (December 28 to be precise) would have been Stan Lee’s 100th birthday. Marvel has already celebrated the occasion, including dropping a full-page ad. But now it’s DC’s turn to join in on the festivities with Tales from Earth-6: A Celebration of Stan Lee.

Way back in 2001-2002, the longtime Marvel guru joined DC for a series of one-shots called Just Imagine. The titles, as you may have already guessed, saw Lee and a group of artists reimagining famed DC heroes. That includes making Wonder Woman as a Brazilian Amazon and Batman as a kind of wrestling-centric crimefighter. The books were not only DC’s chance to introduce Lee to a new audience but to give Lee a chance to tell some different kinds of stories.

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Tales from Earth-6, then, brings a lot of these same characters back to the forefront. That’s thanks to a veritable smorgasbord of talent, including Mark Waid, Pablo M. Collar, Belén Ortega, Meghan Fitzmartin, Lee Weeks, Kevin Maguire, Jerry Ordway, and Steve Orlando. (For a full list of creators and stories, head here.) They’re certainly in line with the Just Imagine stories, and yet the artist’s take what Lee helped forge and push it into brave new directions.

In the lead up to today’s release of the 96-page Prestige title, we were able to touch base with Kenny Porter, who alongside artist Karl Mostert, wrote the Green Lantern story. (This version is, said Porter, like “Green Lantern meets Swamp Thing.”) Porter discussed Lee’s influence, why he loves this take on a DC classic, and if he’d write more stories from Earth-6, among other topics.

Stan Lee

Variant cover by Jason Howard. Courtesy of DC Comics.

AIPT: How much did you know about or appreciate these characters and titles before you got involved?

Kenny Porter: So, weirdly, I knew a lot about it because I’ve always loved Elseworlds stuff and alternative universe things. And when I was first getting back into comics, I found a bunch of old issues. And I’m also a huge Green Lantern guy. So, obviously, when I found out when I’d gotten back into [comics] that Stan Lee and Dave Gibbons had done like a new take on it, I was like, ‘Oh, holy crap. I have to read this.’ And I loved the kind of Silver Surfer kind of look with like the glowing emblem, like a different take on it and stuff. So I knew about it while I didn’t get to read all of them until recently — when they started putting the new collections out and I read the Batman one and the Superman one.

AIPT: I agree with that. But I’d also say that these stories feel like classic DC storytelling. Like, that deliberately cheesy but generally optimistic and life-affirming.

KP: I think that, when going back to reread them, that’s especially true. The Batman story has this, like, whole wrestling thing going on. I think that it leans really heavily into the pulp aspect of DC because so many characters are based on a lot of those pulp tropes. So what it looks like is Stan and a lot of other creators took those fun pulp elements from DC and done their own spin on it. And you can see a lot of elements of things that he’s interested in and loves fully integrated with the pulp aspects. For the Green Lantern one, he gets his powers from Yggdrasil, which is part of Norse mythology, and that Stan and Jack Kirby were very into with Thor and those other elements. And, like I mentioned, he’s got a Silver Surfer kind of gimmick; he has a lot of that same sort of the way he uses his powers and the energy and stuff. So I think you’re right; Stan leaned into the cheese factor. Everybody loves cheese, cheese is great.

Kenny Porter talks contributions to 'Tales from Earth-6: A Celebration of Stan Lee'

Courtesy of DC Comics.

AIPT: Big cheese guy here. But the way I think it works is because it feels like Stan say, “Just follow me here, it’s going to get weird and that’s OK.”

KP: Exactly. And that’s what I love about Elseworlds stuff: you get to do crazy new takes on it. But I definitely feel like he leaned into this thing of, ‘What if I had done these pulpy type characters as opposed to more science, really grounded sort of stuff that he did with like Peter Parker. Where it’s a hero based on powers from science, and he has those very down-to-earth problems of everybody. Or, like, ‘What if I did the ore grandiose thing? I think you’re right on the money in terms of the approach, which was something that was really fun to do with these.

AIPT: Talking more on Green Lantern, what specifically — the design or those pulp elements — really drew you into this character?

KP: When I was reading it, I thought about it in terms of how in this universe he fill two roles — he’s that universe’s Green Lantern and Swamp Thing. He’s tied to the field of life energy and plant life. And he’s connected to human life, too. And there’s this cool, different take where he was an amalgamation of a lot of characters different from the Amalgam Universe, which is another fun thing.

And he has the cool limitations that he can use his powers quicker. And so there’s more danger there and he has to be more conscious of it. At this point, we didn’t have a ton of time with these characters and he’s still learning how the powers work. That was something I really wanted to play with because that’s the unique thing to him. His weakness is just using too much of it and not having enough life energy. In the stories we hadn’t pitted them against anything big and cosmic.

So what I wanted to do was a Silver Surfer type of story — as a memorial to Stan Lee because I love that Silver Surfer stuff. I wanted to do that kind of feel with it and bring that to it. From there we explore that aspect of the character of somebody who feels they have power but don’t have a ton of power. To stop this threat that’s supposedly killed other worlds. So he’s an amazing hero who is willing to step in and fight when the odds are super stacked against them. I thought about how that would motivate somebody with those types of powers.

Stan Lee

Courtesy of DC Comics.

AIPT: I don’t want to spoil too much of the story itself, but there’s clearly this big humanistic swing of it. Was this born out of what we’ve gone through collectively in the last couple years? This whole idea of, ‘We’re in this together and let’s work it out.

KP: I think it totally has a bit of that. Like, we’re all we’ve really got. And a lot of Stan and Kirby stores were all about seeing the hope in it all. And especially, as I’d mentioned, there’s a big Silver Surfer influence, because I feel like he and Green Lantern do have a lot in common. A lot of the stories are about trying to have faith in humanity and humanity being allowed to continue on and banding together. So I thought that was a great entry point, especially with the way that his powers work and coming from life energy. He’s realizing that all living things are connected and that sort of thing. So I also don’t want to spoil the story, but he’s fighting these things that are terrible and horrible, but he’s not as alone as he thinks he is.

AIPT: I think that bit is huge. Like, so many of Stan Lee’s stories are, ‘Hey, kid, you’re not alone; you’ve just got to believe.’ You can kind of see that in Spider-Man/Peter Parker.

KP: Totally. That’s the approach that Karl Mostert [the artist] and I took. We wanted to have that really deep human and emotional element. I know I feel that way all the time when I’m having problems; it’s probably why Peter Parker was one of my favorite characters growing up — I deeply empathize with that. And that’s like a universal truth that I think that more characters can talk about: feeling like the whole world is on your shoulders and forgetting that it’s okay to ask for help.

AIPT: Absolutely. When you’re writing a story like this, is it more challenging or more streamlined than writing a “standard” single issue?

KP: I’ve done a bunch of different shorts for DC; a lot of Green Lantern ones, actually. With the shorts, you have so much shorter time to tell a complete story. But the way I think about it, and this is for any story, the thing you’re going to remember is how it ends. And what is that big emotional thing? So with shorts, the most important thing — and I didn’t start writing until I knew it — was the emotional hook. What is that big moment with this character?

Kenny Porter talks contributions to 'Tales from Earth-6: A Celebration of Stan Lee'

Courtesy of DC Comics.

I wanted to make sure that I gave Karl a lot of cool stuff to draw on top of. I have to hit that emotional beat quicker than if I had 20 pages; you have to find a way to, for lack of a better term, emotionally manipulate somebody. You just feel like I need to get you invested in these people who aren’t real and feel this emotion. So writing shorts is way harder, but it’s a great exercise. I love doing them still. Because like I said, you get to do cool and creative things to touch characters that you might not usually get to use, or that might not be in some other stuff. So it’s a way different process; you just have to make sure every panel counts.

AIPT: Do you feel like, in this process, that you exaggerate certain emotions or certain things? Like, subtlety goes out the windows entirely?

KP: I feel like this collection especially is all about being big and bombastic and big emotions and stuff. Like, that big and bombastic stuff that you’d find in DC and then the emotional things you’d find in Stan and Kirby stories. It’s a good amalgamation of that. The tone that it goes for is what makes them banger; no filler, just giving people a chance to touch characters that we haven’t in years. Like, let’s give people a big fun firework show.

AIPT: Do you have any other faves from this collection?

KP: When I get excited about other people’s stories, I often end up accidentally spoiling things. Like, here’s everything that happened. I think that they’re all cool. And I think that all the creative teams found a really cool universal, like you said, but also bombastic and emotional tone that goes through all of them. Because like I said, nobody’s going to have read these characters in a long time. So everybody wanted to come out the gate swinging to make sure people remember them.

AIPT: Last question: If given the chance, would you want to write more of this Green Lantern? Maybe a full series or even a miniseries?

KP: I’m all about Elseworlds. It’s always fun to do the alternative versions, especially because there’s just so many cool different takes that we can do. But this one would be super fun because you could do a lot of different takes on stuff, like Sinestro or the color spectrum of different Lantern rings and how that would work. That’s kind of what I play with a little bit, and so it’d be really fun to reimagine the villains and the motivations and the history and trajectory with a character that is so different. I would be jazzed to do more; I’m sure everybody else in the collection would be too.

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