Six years ago, Robert Venditti took on the unenviable task of following up Geoff Johns as writer of Green Lantern for DC. Johns had just wrapped up one of the most critically and commercially successful creative periods in the history of the character, one that was beloved by fans and expanded the boundaries of what was possible within the world of the Green Lantern Corps.
But Venditti was up to the challenge, steering Hal Jordan’s destiny for the remainder of DC’s New 52 initiative, and the beginning of the Rebirth era, with the launch of Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps in 2016. Venditti will finally leave the Corps with Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps #50 in August, capping what has turned out to be a historic creative run on the character of his own.
Of course, why make things easy? He has already relaunched Hawkman (with Bryan Hitch) for DC, a character who comes with challenges of his own. Despite being one of the most striking visuals in comics, trying to explain Hawkman to a non-comics reader has historically been a frustrating enterprise. But Venditti loves a challenge, and has crafted an accessible, even movie-ready version of the character.
We sat down and spoke with the writer, who reflected on the past and looked to the future.
Den of Geek: You have been writing Green Lantern for six years. That’s one of the most impressive runs by a writer on Green Lantern in modern age. People don’t usually stick around for that long.
Robert Venditti: Yeah, Geoff Johns did a really good long run before me as well, but you’re right. It is, I think, becoming less common for a writer or artist to stay on a book for an extended period of time whereas back in the ’80s and ’90s that was much more common, so I feel super fortunate to be able to do it. I did 85 issues over that time frame between the New 52 Green Lantern series and then when it relaunched as Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps for Rebirth. 51 issues of that, then there were some annuals in there too, so it’s even a little bit more than 85. It feels a little bit compressed because the Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps stuff was twice a month so I did those 51 issues in just two years pretty much. I feel super fortunate to be on a character like that that long, to be able to hopefully put my own stamp on things and do something that was a little bit different than everybody else. I feel like it’s a good time to go and to work on some other stuff.
When you started, did you think you were going to be on this book for six years?
No, it’s like that with anything. Comics is a monthly business and I go into every project hoping I’ll be on it for 12 issues and really hoping I’ll be there for 24 and then after that it’s all gravy. You just can’t predict, since there’s so many variables that come into play with a monthly book and I think what a lot of people don’t really understand about being in comics and it’s even harder for artists in that it’s just that constant demand to generate content and every 28 days the book’s gotta go to the printer and it’s gotta be written penciled, inked, lettered, and colored.
It’s kinda relentless. It’s always just the next thing coming up so, there’s so many variables that come into play that can affect how long you’re on a book and the things you do. To be able to start a project or be on Green Lantern this long or start something like Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps with the number one, the Rebirth issue, and then go all the way to where I wanted it to end and bring it to my own conclusion is not a common thing. I feel really fortunate about it.
When did you start thinking about that end point for Green Lantern?
It was a much more compressed schedule at launch because it was twice a month, so one lot faster and there’s demands that are placed on you in that regard as well where at different times I was writing four different scripts for four different artists drawing four different stories all at the same time out of order because an artist will take 4, 5, 6 weeks to draw an issue and if it comes out every two weeks, you can see how that need to do issues and do story arcs and things are compressed and it speeds up.
I started to get a sense around issue 25 that we had a good thing going on and what we were doing with the four key Lanterns that are in our book, Hal Jordan, John Stewart, Guy Gardner, and Kyle Rayner. They’ve never really shared the same book for that amount of time, and to see them interact with each other was different. I started to think, okay here’s where I think I want to go long term with the stories, maybe around 50, but you really have to be like a speedboat. You have to be able to adjust because something like Metal will come in and they’ll want to do some Metal tie in issues or things like that so you kinda have to adjust things around and be flexible in that regard. In some ways from the first issue, there are elements that this is what I want to develop and this is how I want to end it and other ways it was stuff that came in right around the end of the first year.
Green Lantern has always been the spine of the cosmic DC universe. You had this whole wealth of concepts to work with. Does that make it easier or harder when you’re trying to plan 12 issues or 24 issues in advance?
For me, that’s actually a lot of what the appeal was for me. There’s so many books that DC publishes and so many of them are based on Earth. Here was an opportunity to do a character that’s based out in space and you had this whole tapestry, and especially with Rebirth and its mission statement of embracing a lot of the legacy and a lot of the history of these characters and these concepts. Now you’re out in space and there’s just so much out there you can do and one of the things that I wanted to do was not really build a lot of new mythology for the character because Geoff Johns’ run, which is gonna go down as one of the greatest runs in Green Lantern history, was very much a mythology building run and introduced a lot of different Corps and things like that. What I wanted to do was take the Green Lantern concept and blend it in with the wider cosmic DC universe in ways that we hadn’t really seen before.
I had the Green Lantern Corps go up against General Zod, who is traditionally a Superman villain. I had them interact with Brainiac and the whole Corps gets trapped inside of Brainiac’s bottle and they had to get out. I brought in characters like Space Cabbie or Rip Hunter or things that you don’t normally associate with Green Lantern. Why has Space Cabbie never been shown as an informant for the Green Lantern Corps? That makes total sense. He’s a cabbie! Everybody talks in the back seat, forgets about the cab driver listening and then he knows what’s going on and he tells Guy Gardner. Just try to bring in those concepts and weave them together and really embrace that wider cosmic tapestry. Of course the drawback of that is you’re not on Earth and so you’re not having those moments with Flash, or Superman, or Batman, or those personal relationships that Hal has with his brother and his nephew and niece or with Carol Ferris or any of those kinds of things.
I just felt like it was a good opportunity to really explore the cosmic space and embrace that aspect of it which would be different from what a lot of what the other titles were doing.
What would you like to see in a Green Lantern movie?
A lot of the characters that I created. I would love that. That would be awesome. No, what would I like to see in a Green Lantern movie. I would like to see all four of these guys, which is nothing against Simon Baz or Jessica Cruz, I just don’t really have any experience writing those characters. I concentrated on those four classic Lanterns, Hal, John, Guy, and Kyle and I would love to see them all in there. I think that one of the things I really want to do with the run, it’s almost by decade. You have your Hal Jordan fans and you have your John Stewart fans, you have your Guy Gardner fans, you have your Kyle Rayner fans. I really wanted to show how these four characters, and how different they are even though they share very similar power set, how they get to that will power and how they use that power set is very different based on their personalities. As different as they are, how much love and respect they have for each other because of everything they’ve been through.
I took to calling them The Four Corpsmen which is sort of a play on The Four Horsemen name. That bond that they had is really what I think I would want somebody to get out of the series more than anything else. If Hal Jordan likes Guy Gardner and you’re a Hal Jordan fan, then you should like Guy Gardner too because they respect each other. I think there’s so much interesting about each of them individually and they’re stronger together.
You went from having all this cosmic mythology to play with to dealing with the character who has possibility the most complicated backstory in all of DC comics with Hawkman. Can you tell everybody why they shouldn’t be intimidated by Hawkman anymore?
Actually that’s a great question. I can do that. I don’t come from comics. I started reading comics when I was in my mid to late 20s. Even just walking off the street back then and trying to find an entry point with any character, Spider-Man, Superman, whatever, was very daunting because of high issue numbers and you feel like you have to know all of this continuity. So continuity is something I’m very conscious of and making every issue new reader friendly.
Everybody has holes in their game right? Nobody’s the perfect writer. It’s art, you’re never going to have it all down, but I think that one thing that I do do well is I’m a good puzzle piece person and what I mean by that is you can dump a mix of things on a desk and I’ll be able to figure out a way to make them all fit together, make a story, make sense of them. I like that aspect of monthly comics writing and having to do that on a monthly basis and having to do it on a quick turn around.
Hawkman is like the ultimate puzzle. Not having grown up reading comics, all I knew about him was that he was just so confusing and it was just a morass of continuity. I started researching the character; within the first hour of me just doing very cursory research online, I came up with my idea of how I was gonna unify all of it. The more I read 200+ issues of Hawkman and Hawkman related stories, the more sense it made to me, so for me it’s a very simple concept: Hawkman is a character who reincarnates across time and space.
In past lives here on Earth, he has been an ancient Egyptian prince and a medieval knight, but he also at one point was a Kryptonian. He was a Thanagarian. He was Rannian. He’s somebody who for ten thousand years, perhaps longer, has been reincarnated across time and space and in many ways he’s the living historical document of the DC Universe.
It’s part Indiana Jones, because he’s an archeologist who’s exploring. It’s part National Treasure because he’s following this trail of clues throughout time to find out about his true past and find out about this great threat that’s coming to destroy Earth that he’s somehow connected to, but all the clues have been left by himself because as he was reincarnating over all these millennia, he started to forget. It’s got a lot of high adventure, it has action. It’s very new reader friendly which is something that I take great pride in with any character I work on. Hawkman, Green Lantern, whatever, because I was very much that new reader.
Working with Bryan Hitch on the story has been amazing. He’s such a great collaborator, obviously very skilled as a draftsman and as a storyteller, but just as a collaborator and the way that we’re able to build these stories together and bounce ideas back and forth off each other and one person says A and the other person says B and together we come out with C. It’s just we’ve got a really good thing going on. Every issue he’s in a new location, unique to the DCU, makes a new discovery, and then goes to the next location and explores again and makes a new discovery and so we’re really keeping that pace of new places, new discoveries, every issue. Don’t be intimidated by it.
If you are a reader who has liked Hawkman historically, whether it’s the Thanagarian police officer version, or the reincarnating Egyptian prince version, it all counts now. They’re all unified under one concept. We’ve got things that we’re gonna do with those mythologies that we’re gonna show you in a different way. How there were secrets buried within things this entire time you’ve been reading Hawkman you never knew about and you’re gonna discover those secrets as Carter Hall discovers them himself. Or if you’re a new reader who doesn’t a single thing about Hawkman, you can pick this up and you can get high, high adventure in the style of the Indiana Jones of the DC Universe.
Robert Venditti’s final issue on Green Lantern, Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps #50, arrives on August 8. Hawkman ships monthly from DC Comics.
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