The Red Lanterns may seem like bad guys. But according to new series writer Charles Soule, they're just "bad people trying to do good things by doing bad things."
Among their ranks will be one of the more popular Green Lantern characters, Guy Gardner, who joins the team just as Soule and artist Alessandro Vitti take over with June's issue #21.
Vitti and Soule take over Red Lanterns as the entire Green Lantern line-up from DC gets a batch of new creative teams. The shake-up comes at the end of the recent event, "Wrath of the First Lantern," which sees the departure of current Red Lanterns creators Peter Milligan and Miguel A. Sepulveda.
Soule, who also writes DC's Swamp Thing title, said he's trying to make Red Lanterns a team of antiheroes, similar to TV shows like Sons of Anarchy and The Shield, where characters are "still trying to stick to some kind of moral compass."
Newsarama talked to the writer about what's coming for Red Lanterns as DC provided a preview of Vitti's art for the creative team's first issue in June.
Newsarama: Charles, let's start out with just a quick, brief description of your take on the Red Lanterns, for anyone who just wants to know what this book is going to be about?
Charles Soule: the tagline I like to use is, "Bad people trying to do good things by doing bad things."
I want to write a book that feels like a comics version of a TV show like Sons of Anarchy or The Shield, where you have the antiheroes who are still trying to stick to some kind of moral compass. But it's not all grim. There are a lot of moments of humor. You bring Guy Gardner onto the team and you've got to have some humor.
Nrama: Yeah, you revealed to Newsarama the last time we talked that Red Lanterns would star Guy Gardner. How's it been writing him?
Soule: He's an absolute joy to write. He's curmudgeonly and angry and has red hair. All kinds of good stuff.
Nrama: We've seen what Guy went through during "Wrath of the First Lantern." How does that lead into your first issue of Red Lanterns?
Soule: Well, I think one of the things that I'm trying to do, just to start with, is to say that not only Guy Gardner, but all the members of all the Corps have been put through the ringer, which is thanks to the great work by Geoff Johns and the rest of his team.
So where we start, everyone is suffering from almost, like, PTSD after that huge event.
The way that it's going to work is that Hal Jordan, who has now become the leader of the Greens, doesn't want to be blindsided again. He doesn't want to have anything sneaking up on him that he's not ready for.
He realizes that the Red Lanterns, even though they've helped the Greens out in the past, are kind of this wild card. You never know what they're going to do next. They're pretty scary. They're very powerful.
So what Hal decides to do is essentially send Guy out almost as an undercover agent to them.
Nrama: What's Guy's mission, in Hal's eyes?
Soule: To keep an eye on them, and to let [the Green Lanterns] know of any threats before they happen.
That's the initial set-up for my run. And it's cool because it lets you do a lot of things with Guy Gardner.
Nrama: What's his mindset at he gets this mission? And what's the status of the Red Lanterns?
Soule: Guy doesn't particularly want to go over to the Red Lanterns. He's doing it because Hal asked him to. And he's like, why am I so.. you know, do I have so little value that I can just be sent away? And they're supposed to be rebuilding.
So Guy's a little bitter about it. No one really wants to get sent to Ysmault if they can help it.
And at the same time, over on Ysmault, with Atrocitus and his Red Lanterns are reeling a little bit too, because they lost some folks in the First Lantern event.
They feel like they need to figure things out for themselves, because their role should not always be the Corps that comes to the rescue when the Green Lanterns get in some mess and need some heavy hitters to pull it out. And so they're like, "We need to get our act a little bit too and define our role a little bit."
So you have those two elements that are slammed together in my first issue, Red Lanterns #21.
Nrama: Let's go back to what you said about Guy being bitter. Does that, along with his feelings after the "First Lantern" event, play into the way that he's able to fit in with the Red Lanterns?
Soule: Yes! That is a very perceptive comment. You know, the Red Lanterns are powered by rage and wrath, and feeling bad about themselves and other people.
So you have a character like Guy Gardner, who is feeling that way a little bit, because he's always been an also-ran among the human Green Lanterns. He's never really thought of as the No. 1 best Green Lantern, even though he thinks he is and thinks he should be thought of that way.
He's a little bitter about it. And that certainly is going to fuel his Red Lantern ring, for sure.
Nrama: In the last issue, we saw Rankorr, the human Red Lantern, searching for a positive way to use his powers. How are you exploring his journey in the book as you take over?
Soule: I like him a lot, actually. I'm fond of him in part because he's British, which I think is just a neat angle. He's like a space John Constantine, in a way. And he has unique capabilities that the other Reds don't have, and that's always useful when you have an ensemble team that essentially have the same power set. Trying to figure out how to define them individually, it's always good when you can find things they can do that the other ones don't do.
So I like Rankorr a lot. He's got some cool things to do. I'm not going to leave him by the wayside.
One of the things I really want to do with the entire group of Reds is develop them individually. There's always room for character development with these guys. So I don't just want to focus on Atrocitus and Guy. I mean, I want to make sure Zilius Zox gets his moments too, and Bleez and Ratchet and Skallox and all of them.
Nrama: Bleez is the lead female Lantern on your team. What's her journey going forward?
Soule: Bleez is a character I like a lot. She's the only woman on the team with a bunch of not only guys, but, like, really aggressive, angry guys. And so she needs to stand out in a way that is going to have to be really, really specific and really interesting. I don't want to spoil too much of what I'm planning to do with her. But I want to give her — like, I don't think she particularly likes being pigeonholed or anything like that. And I do not want her to be, like, just the "sexy" Red Lantern. And I think that's something that would be a mistake and I'm going to avoid at all costs.
So where I'm going to go with her — she basically could be somebody who is a real person, so to speak. Or at least a real blue person with bone wings, who has things to do and things she cares about, has goals she wants to achieve. Just like all of them. I mean, I don't want to single her out over any of the other ones. I think she's just as valuable as any other members of the team. I look forward to giving her lots of cool stuff to do.
Nrama: Will there be any new Red Lanterns, or is the idea now to just explore more deeply the ones that are already on the team?
Soule: Guy is a new Red Lantern, but I know that's not what you meant. There will be some new ones, but they don't show up immediately. I'm planning on having some new ones come in a few issues down the read.
I really want to establish the new status quo and get the groundwork laid for how the Red Lanterns are going to work going forward, and then we can start seeing some new ones.
It's certainly part of my plan. I just turned in a script for a few issues down the road, which has one of the first big elements for new Red Lanterns, which I think is fun.
But yes, new Red Lanterns eventually, for sure.
Nrama: I know Relic is a big villain for the Green Lantern universe this summer. But what is the biggest challenge, or main villain, for the Red Lanterns in your first arc this summer before they get to the big crossover featuring Relic?
Soule: The Red Lanterns' main villain is really themselves, at least for the first arc. There are some smaller people that they fight. There's one in particular that I just put together for the first couple issues after that crossover.
But there's so much that goes on just bringing Guy into the team. I mean, that's a huge conflict and a huge thing that the Reds have to deal with, getting him integrated.
And then the crossover hits, which is going to be really cool. I've had the privilege of seeing the materials for that ahead of time. And it's really, really good. So I'm excited about that.
But then once the crossover is done, then we'll see a villain that's pretty cool. And it will go from there.
Nrama: And that crossover is focused on Relic, correct?
Nrama: How's it been working with Alessandro?
Soule: Alessandro Vitti is really, really good. He's an Italian artist who... I gave him some crazy stuff to draw in this first issue, and he's just knocking everything out of the park. I had not worked with him before. I was familiar with his work from seeing samples. But you never really know how it's going to be until your script pages start coming back turned into images. And man, it's been phenomenal.
Now I'm upping the game on things that I'm writing for subsequent issues because I know that he can handle it.
You can see for yourself in the preview pages. It's just really great art.
Nrama: Yeah, it looks like, in these preview pages, that Atrocitus is being a little violent to one of his underlings.
Soule: Yes, that is true. That is poor Thist. He's had some bad things happen to him, and Atrocitus is kind of taking some corrective action there. For the good of the Corps. For the good of the Corps.