Anger may seem like a pretty straightforward emotion. But in DC's Red Lanterns title, writer Charles Soule is exploring the different facets of anger - and the war that results from those differences.
This summer, Red Lanterns gets some newly designed members and a whole lot of action, as Guy Gardner's "good" Lanterns battle Atrocitus and his rage Lanterns.
In a storyline titled "Atrocities," the war between factions will begin in next month's issue #32 and continue through July's Red Lantern Annual #1 and issues #33 and #34.
Then the results of "Atrocities" tie directly into September's Futures End issue.
Former Green Lantern Guy Gardner has been leading the Red Lantern Corps for the last dozen issues of the comic, ever since Soule took over writing duties with issue #21 last June. But Guy actually stole leadership of the Corps from Atrocitus, who's back for revenge, along with his loyal rage kitty Dex-Starr.
Newsarama talked to Soule about the "Atrocities" storyline and what readers can expect from September's Futures End "Five Years Later" issue.
Newsarama: Charles, everything seems to be coming to a head this summer, as Atrocitus and his team are gearing up to battle Guy Gardner and his team. Can you explain what's brought them to this point, and what this war between the two factions will bring to the title over the next few months?
Charles Soule: What I've been building toward since the start of my run on Red Lanterns — and I don't think this is going to come as any sort of surprise to anyone who's been reading — is really a big battle between Atrocitus and Guy Gardner.
They both have very different views about what the Red Lanterns should be and can be. And now those views are going to come to a head.
It also doesn't necessarily help Guy that in his first five minutes as a Red Lantern, he basically beat Atrocitus to death, stole his ring and stole his corps out from under him. So Atrocitus has a huge vendetta that he wants to satisfy.
And Guy is now trying to preserve this thing he built. He's turned these people who didn't really like each other, didn't really like themselves, and he turned them into… I hesitate to say team; it's more of a family unit. They don't really go against super villains, or that kind of goal. But they certainly have each other’s backs. And he feels like he's responsible for Atrocitus being so angry, so now he's basically trying to save his family, pretty much.
Atrocitus is going to do everything he can to stop him, and that's what we're building up to.
Nrama: The end of this week's issue said it's time for them to rescue Rankorr, which is probably going to contribute toward the war between these two factions (although as you mentioned, there are a lot of things leading toward this battle). But the next issue sees this rescue and the confrontation begins?
Soule: I think that's pretty fair to say.
I cued up kind of a million dominoes, let's say, over the series. There are a lot of things that will start to play out in the next several issues. The whole thing, for me, has been writing a strong revenge saga. I wanted to give Guy something to lose, and I wanted to give Atrocitus something that he really wanted to gain back.
You can kind of sympathize with both of them, in a way. You understand why Atrocitus would be so ticked off.
But now all these plotlines have been set up, and now it's time to let the chips fall where they may.
It's really fun, you know, when you get to write kind of a long story like this. It's hundreds of pages, at this point. So it's very fun.
Nrama: What has Supergirl brought to the title? To me, it almost feels like, since she's the new guy in the group, she's almost our entry into this new direction for the Red Lanterns. Is that what she represents?
Soule: She represents a new viewpoint, which is always important when you have an established line-up. It's kind of like when you have guests coming over to your house, and you haven't really picked up in awhile, and you look around and say, wow, my place is kind of a mess, but I never noticed it because it's what I've been living in every day. That's kind of what Supergirl is to the Red Lanterns.
She kind of forces Guy to take a look at what he's actually done, and what he's been doing, and realize that maybe this whole thing with Atrocitus isn't just fun and games. Maybe it's really something quite scary.
It's also a chance for him to take more of a mentor role. He sees her as young, and having a path that maybe he and the other Red Lanterns don't have available to them.
It's certainly been helpful to try to develop her character within the book, and work through some of the anger issues that she's had in her appearances in the New 52, but this is ultimately Guy's book. So her role on the team is just as much to help him grow as it is to help her grow.
Nrama: I liked one of the statements Guy made to Supergirl recently, as he explained that it's about being "angry for the right reasons," and doing something with that. I thought that was an interesting way to describe how anger can be a good thing, because I think people always think of the Red Lanterns as having this ugly, bad rage. But Guy's trying to sum up his philosophy of how the anger can be turned toward good?
Soule: I think that's true. Different Reds say different things about anger at different times. If you look at Bleez in, I think it was issue #30? But she says something like, look, the reason Red Lanterns exist is to make sure there are no more Red Lanterns. You know, we have this power because of something terrible that happened to us to try to prevent anyone else from having to get this angry ever again.
Whereas Guy, who isn't quite as negative about it, is thinking, well, maybe this anger that I've had my entire life about various things — not measuring up, maybe, or injustice in the world; all the things that Guy Gardner gets mad about; he's a hothead and gets mad all the time — he's been trying to find a way to use that constructively.
It's all over the place. I mean, the inciting event for Guy that made him a Red Lantern, in this series, was basically that he had to psych himself up to the point where he was angry enough to get Atrocitus into a one-on-one battle, and then he stole his ring; he took it. So it didn't necessarily find him.
Whereas Bleez had something incredibly terrible happen to her when she was young. And she got so angry about it that the ring found her.
Those are two different things. Guy almost chose it, whereas Bleez had no choice.
And so when you start looking at the characters and how they came to this ring and what they're doing with it, there's a lot of different attitudes about anger itself, and being a Red. And it's just kind of fun to explore.
Nrama: You mentioned Guy as a mentor, and the beard makes him look a tad more wise. What were your thoughts behind the beard?
Soule: I just thought, you know, the crew cut and buzz-shaped head look that he had, that Guy Gardner had previously, didn't fit as well for the tone I was trying to establish — I mean, he looked super-tough, obviously, but I thought it would be cool to mix up his loo a little bit and do the cool mustache and the beard and the long hair.
Guy Gardner is somebody whose look has changed drastically. So I didn't feel as limited when I started to consider changing what he looks like.
Nrama: I'm also wondering about this "blood magic." Are we going to find out more about that?
Soule: It's funny. It's one of those threads I was thinking about… how to differentiate Atrocitus' side versus Guy's side. And I was going back through the old issues and looking at, you know, the very beginnings of the Red Lanterns, back in the Geoff Johns era, so to speak — pre-New 52 — and they were always kind of magical.
The thing about Red Lanterns is that, while they have light powers and they have a power battery, they also have this weird shamanistic kind of blood magic side to them. And so that began to play a larger role as we go forward, in terms of him being able to access Red Lantern powers that the others don't necessarily have, and using them in different ways.
Because, you know, when you have a battle between two sides that are sort of the same — you know, they all kind of have the same power set, kind of — you really want to mix that up, so you can make the fight interesting.
So that's why Rankorr and Dex-Starr have constructs, but the others don't. That's why you'll see Zilius Zox throwing up blood more than the other ones. That's why Bleez tends to use her wings as, like, spiky spears more often than the others. It's really about that.
And I also think it goes to the core of Atrocitus seeing the Red Lanterns as something of a sacred calling, with him as the high priest, versus Guy seeing it as, like, this awesome space game, with people who can do sweet stuff and, like, go out and help people that way.
You know? It's just a very different avenue.
Nrama: As much as I love all the Red Lanterns, Dex-Starr just always emerges as the favorite — like this week's issue when he was a "B-a-a-a-d Kitty."
Soule: Yeah, everybody likes him. And I love being able to do fun stuff with him.
Nrama: I know you're working with a couple artists on Red Lanterns. How would you describe what they bring to the title?
Soule: Yeah, we've got two main artists who have been kind of rotating on Red Lanterns since I took over: Alessandro Vitti and Jim Calafiore.
The thing that's great about both of those guys is they're able to — I mean, every other page has Guy looking really ticked off, or Atrocitus super angry, and yet they're still able to make this thing very fresh and very new on each page.
There are also a lot of great sci-fi characters designs in this.
As you'll see in the next few issues, there are a bunch of new Red Lanterns that will be showing up. And I've seen most of those designs. And they're just fantastic.
You say, basically, I need a new Red Lantern here, and the design you get is unbelievable. The imagination and the skill that they can bring to the stuff that needs to happen in these books blows my mind.
But also, everybody I work with is great. It's amazing. I consider that to be the magic in all of this. They're the real blood magicians. Ha!
Nrama: Nice way to tie it all together. I know you've got a Red Lanterns Annual coming up. Is it part of the overall "Atrocities" storyline?
Soule: Yeah, and the Annual is gigantic, by the way. It's really, really huge and cool.
The way the Annual works is that it's a double-sized issue that shows this gigantic battle. All the plot threads that you've been thinking about how they're going to play out, they all start to hit really, really hard.
Atrocitus sort of attacks — and you see some of this before that — but the attacks from Atrocitus are, like, really, really dramatic and drastic. Earth comes into play in a big way.
It's a very personal but also very large story.
I think people are going to really like it. It's going to be really fun to see Twitter and so on when all that stuff starts playing out.
Nrama: You're also writing the Futures End "Five Years Later" peek at the Red Lanterns, and it looks like there are some big changes. Can you describe what we'll see in the September issue?
Soule: Sure. All of this is tied directly to what happens in the "Atrocities" storyline, which really begins in issue #32, and then rolls on through #33 and the Annual, and then #34.
And then once that wraps up, the "Five Years Later" issue is pretty tied into that stuff, in the sense of it being almost a coda, which is a nice thing to be able to do. I'm still on the series after "Five Years Later," but it's neat.
I think the solicits have already talked about that Guy Gardner is a Blue Lantern in that issue. The Lanterns are focused on hope more than, you know, rage or will or fear or any of the other emotions.
And Guy is on a special mission related to hope that is directly related to Red Lanterns, though, that I think people are going to think is really cool.
One of the things I really love about all the "Five Years Later" issues I'm going to do for September is that you can come at this all kinds of different ways that are just awesome — you get to show things that you maybe wouldn't be able to show in a regular book because it would kind of break them a little bit, or change them in a way that would be tricky. But in "Five Years Later," since it's so far in the future, you can do really, really cool things.
I mean, I'm doing a few of them, and I'm working to evolve the characters in a really cool way. The Swamp Thing one's super-cool. The Superman/Wonder Woman one kind of works like a two-parter, which I think will be really cool. I'm very excited about that event.