With the introduction of the new DC villain Relic, the Green Lantern mythos just became more ancient — and much more threatened — as the crossover "Lights Out" begins.
It turns out that the title of the crossover, "Lights Out," refers to Relic's desire to wipe out all the colored corps. The resources of the Emotional Spectrum are, apparently, limited, and Relic has seen them depleted before, when his universe ended. Now, he's trying to save the universe from dying again by killing all the Corps.
According to Green Lantern writer Robert Venditti, that doesn't mean this storyline is intended to undo the concepts and characters that were introduced before he and new artist Billy Tan came on board the title in June. Instead, he intends to build upon the existing mythos.
Venditti warned Newsarama months ago that the villain named Relic would bring about an "ambitious, challenging arc." The excitement begins this week with Green Lantern #24, the first chapter in "Lights Out." The story will continue in issues of Green Lantern Corps, Red Lanterns, and Green Lantern: New Guardians, before finishing at the end of October in Green Lantern Annual #2.
Newsarama spoke to Venditti about what this means for the future of the Corps, and how it ties into real-world concerns about the Earth's natural resources.
Newsarama: Robert, we've learned Relic is from an existence that dates even earlier than the creation of the current universe (making the name "Relic" all the more meaningful). Can you describe your inspiration for creating a character who pre-dates everything else in existence?
Robert Venditti: Yeah, it started out with conversations between Matt Idelson, the editor of the Green Lantern group, and I, as we were kicking around this idea for a character that would come from a universe before ours. It went through various iterations and different types of concepts. And at some point, I heard the phrase, "the Source Wall." And at the time, I didn't know what the Source Wall was. But for some reason those words hit me.
And then I thought, OK, what if there was a reservoir and this guy comes from a previous universe where the Green Lanterns exhausted that reservoir and this universe ended?
And everything just built out of there.
Nrama: The Source Wall is usually associated with the New Gods concept. It seems like this concept is a new one, but it's kind of built on the back of those Jack Kirby concepts.
Venditti: Yeah, I wrote the Villains Month issue about the same time I wrote the first or second issue of Green Lantern. I wrote it way back in, like, January of this year. I knew [the Villains Month issue] would be leading toward this crossover issue, and I wanted to make sure the rest of the Green Lantern writers knew who the character was.
At that point, I knew nothing about the Source Wall or the New Gods. I didn't start reading comics until my late 20's, so there's a lot of things I don't know much about, and New Gods would certainly fall into that category. It pre-dated my reading comics by decades.
Nrama: But how fun to explore that concept now, in a new, although were you making sure you weren't stepping on the toes of other people who are writing New Gods stories right now?
Venditti: Yeah, that's all just people communicating with each other and keeping an eye on where everybody's heading. It's about communicating so we make sure nobody ends up crossing waters with anybody, you know?
Nrama: The Relic issue's artwork showed the "hand of creation," which we've seen before in DC Comics. You said you started this process without knowledge of a lot of things. Was that part of your script at first? Or was it something you came up with after learning about that DC history?
Venditti: Yeah, I wasn't aware of the "hand of creation." It was something that was pointed out to me, that this is part of DC…. I don't want to say continuity, but almost "mythology." Once that was pointed out to me, that was something that would need to be in there. We're showing the birth of our universe, so we wanted to make sure we had that element.
Nrama: The Villains Month story was told with a lot of splash pages and narration, but the Lights Out crossover looks like an entirely different animal. How would you describe the approach you and the other GL writers are taking on "Lights Out?"
Venditti: Yeah, the Villains Month issue was tapping into that feeling of "mythology." The Green Lantern Emotional Spectrum and the various Corps and all these things are often talked about in terms of them being a mythology. I wanted the Relic issue to expand on that mythology and to feel mythological. When you are told a story from ancient mythology, it's different from a typical work of fiction, and I wanted to evoke that feel.
But the rest of the crossover will be written in standard comic book paneling.
Nrama: Which makes sense, comparatively, since it's taking place in present day. OK, now that we know his origin story, how would you describe the character's motivations heading into Lights Out? He seems almost justified, at least in his feelings, if not his tactics.
Venditti: He was a scientist in his universe, and the Emotional Spectrum was his specialty, studying that and developing a theory about what kind of impact weaponizing it would have on his universe.
But it's also pretty well established in the Relic issue that he was really enamored with creation in general. He was a scientist enamored with the idea of discovery and study and the beauty of creation — and all of those things were destroyed.
He tried to reason with the "lightsmiths" of his universe and explain to them what his theory was, and say that, "All this light you're using is a resource. It has to come from somewhere. What happens when that resource is exhausted?" Nobody would listen to him, and that universe ended.
So now that he's in our universe, his approach is that he's tried diplomacy, and it didn't work and the universe ended. This time, he's going to try a more direct approach.
What he's found out, through his study of the Emotional Spectrum and becoming an expert at it, he's actually learned, inadvertently, pretty well how to fight it and how to combat it. And that's what his mindset is now.
The lightsmiths of his universe didn't listen, so he's going to try to just kill off everybody wearing a ring in this universe — to save the universe from ending.
Nrama: How will the threat from Relic further challenge Hal Jordan as a leader of the Green Lantern Corps? Which of Jordan's shortcomings and challenges — and differences with his fellow Corps members — (many of which we've seen emerge over the first few months of your run) get highlighted even more in "Lights Out"?
Venditti: Yeah, absolutely. It's going to challenge all the leads of the four Earth Lantern leading their own titles. It's going to challenge them all — whether it's Hal, John, Kyle or Guy.
And it's really on a lot of different levels, you know? In the one sense, it's challenging for Hal because he's still pretty new to leadership, and he's still trying to rebuild the Corps in the aftermath of "Rise of the Third Army" and "Wrath of the First Lantern" and these kinds of things. And now he has this huge threat come to his doorstep.
And what makes it even worse is that the way he's accustomed to — and the way all the other Lanterns are accustomed to — fighting their fights is now almost inconsequential, because Relic is an expert in the Emotional Spectrum, and he knows how to combat against it. He knows how to defend himself against it. So there are all kinds of challenges in terms of how to even go into a battle against this guy, when everything he's about is counteracting what they're so good at.
And so how does Hal lead in that scenario? And also deal with the concept — whether it's true of not — that the light everybody is using to protect the universe is actually sort of harming the universe?
So those are all challenges these guys are going to face.
Nrama: When a new creative team comes on board a book as big as Green Lantern, there tends to be this concern that everything the last writer did will be undone. I've heard some cries of fear from fans because of they think "Lights Out" is taking away the other colored corps that have been established over the last few years during Geoff Johns' run. You've said before that you're "building" on the mythology. Can you speak to the difference in perception between "building" and "taking away" — and your approach to the "colored light" concepts?
Venditti: It's absolutely building on the mythology that's already there. Everything is focused on adding to this great, high concept and this great structure that Geoff Johns built over the duration of his run.
It would be foolish to come in and try to tear all that down. It would really be shooting ourselves in the foot, you know?
So this is very much what I think is a next logical step in the Green Lantern mythology, also thematically tying it in with real-world conversations that we're having today about where resources come from, and what happens when they're exhausted.
This story is much more angled toward that, and it's not, in any way, a deconstruction of what happened prior to my coming onto the book.
Nrama: What has Billy Tan brought to the Green Lantern title? Any strength he's shown that has surprised you? Or that you think fans should notice?
Venditti: Is there anything that isn't a strength for Billy? I mean, every issue, I just love seeing the pages come in. So full of detail.
One thing to look out for is that he does a lot of fun things in the background sometimes, you know? If you look around on the panels, you'll see a little sight gag somewhere that fits in with the context of the story but is very humorous. And that's great, because his style is very serious-looking. So it's great when he does those kinds of things.
Also, he draws a great Kilowog. His Kilowog is fantastic. And so I love doing things with Kilowog, and actually, post-"Lights Out," Hal and Kilowog are going to have a little two-issue storyline where they kind of go off on a mission as partners for a couple issues. And a lot of that was born out of just seeing Billy draw Kilowog and seeing how great it looked, and wanting to be able to put Kilowog on the page more.
In terms of "Lights Out," Green Lantern #24 comes out on Wednesday, and this will be when Relic and Hal first cross paths. And there's this great moment when Relic sort of takes a knee in front of Hal. And it's just a great pose that Billy communicates so perfectly, of the very last moment of Relic trying to appeal to reason, you know? And the way he illustrated it with Relic on a bended knee, and Hal looking at him from the ground — it just really turned out amazing.
Nrama: You mentioned that there's a Hal and Kilowog story coming up. December solicitations indicate we'll see more of Nol-Anj. Is that the two-issue story you're talking about? And can you tell us more about Nol-Anj's role in upcoming stories?
Venditti: She actually has an extremely significant role to play in what's essentially going to be the next major story arc in Green Lantern. It's probably too early to go into details about what that is. But it's about something that was conceived a very, very long time ago, and we've always known that this is what the direction was for that character.
But you are going to get to see her in issues #25 and #26, as you said, as Hal and Kilowog go to try to sort of capture her and take her, as a threat, off the table. And you're going to see who she is and who her people are, and kind of start to learn what she's all about.
Nrama: Then to finish up, as you kick off Lights Out next week, what's your final word to potential readers about what they can expect from the crossover?
Venditti: Just that this is a story that's going to have very significant and very lasting ramifications across the Green Lantern titles. We worked very hard to make sure that each of the Earth Lanterns — the four leads — had a very significant role to play in the story, and that they would each be impacted significantly by story's end.
So in each issue, I think you're going to see something that hopefully will surprise people. And when we come out of Green Lantern Annual #2 at the end, things are going to be in a very different place than they are right now.