As DC's Rebirth event combines two formerly distinct universes — merging the “New 52” era with the post-Crisis universe — DC is also putting together two heroes for its Green Lanterns title.
Tapping writer Sam Humphries for Green Lanterns — yes, that's plural — DC is putting a spotlight on Jessica Cruz and Simon Baz, two characters created by Geoff Johns, who's also the architect of the Rebirth event.
And the new title isn't the only spotlight these two characters are getting. Not only does the new Justice League title have both Jessica and Simon on its Rebirth-debuting team, but Humphries implied that they'll be playing a role in other big plans for the DCU.
First up for the new writer is June's Green Lanterns: Rebirth #1, which features art by Ethan Van Sciver and Ed Benes. Then he'll kick off the ongoing, twice-a-month Green Lanterns, which pairs the characters as the protectors of Sector 2814, which includes Earth.
The two rookies are challenged immediately when the Red Lanterns try to take over the planet in Humphrey's debut arc.
Newsarama talked to Humphries to find out more about his plans for these two characters, why he thinks there's so much focus on Jessica and Simon, and what he's doing for the characters as part of Rebirth.
Newsarama: Was teaming Jessica and Simon for this comic something DC suggested for the new Green Lanterns title?
Sam Humphries: The characters were brought to me as a partnership, which immediately — they said Green Lantern and my interest was sky high; and then they said Simon Baz and Jessica Cruz, and my interest went all the way into the stratosphere, and also my curiosity, because I knew some about Simon Baz and very little about Jessica Cruz. But I immediately loved the idea of having two rookie Green Lanterns left alone on earth to defend Sector 2814, which as we all know is the sector of the universe where it all goes down.
These are characters who occupy very unique places, not just in the Green Lantern legacy but in American society. And I thought that they would be a lot of fun.
I thought they were characters that were strong enough to be written in their own solo series, to be honest. But you put them together and you have this dynamic there, this friction between them. And also this budding relationship between them as partners and heroes. It was just irresistible to me.
Nrama: Like you said, we haven't seen a lot of these characters, but then I suppose that gives you the chance to really round them out and design them, so to speak?
Humphries: Yeah, you really hit the nail on the head, that this is such a unique opportunity with characters. They're largely unexplored, and that's kind of a double-edged sword, because as a creator, it gives you a lot of freedom to define them, but also, as opposed to writing somebody like Hal Jordan, you don't have a legacy of hundreds of issues to go back to, masters who have done the work of defining these characters and figuring out what makes them tick.
Nrama: Since you're helping to define who they are, how would you describe them? Let's start with Simon Baz.
Humphries: Luckily for me, Simon was created by Geoff Johns, who knows a thing or two about Green Lantern. And Simon came from a very personal place for Geoff. Not only does he come from the same suburb in Michigan, but they're both Lebanese-Americans. And I think those early stories with Simon showed so much promise and so much potential and so much vision on the part of Geoff that I really wanted to continue what we've seen with Simon.
The core of Simon is that he's somebody who's always two steps ahead of himself, and that can be good or bad for him, you know? He's someone who likes to race cars, so thinking fast comes naturally to him, but it also gets him in a lot of trouble. And he's somebody who's ambitious and gutsy and bold. But he also had a lot fear in his life. He was unjustly accused of terrorism. He was held at Guantanamo Bay.
There's a shadow hanging over his life, as does hang over the lives of many Muslims in America and many Arab-Americans.
So for him, he's really dealing with a lot — a lot of emotional issues. And when you throw the most powerful weapon in the universe into the mix, it all comes to the forefront for him.
Nrama: What about Jessica? How would you describe her?
Humphries: They're both rookies, but Jessica has had an even shorter career. And most of it has been spent with the Justice League. I mean, if you're going to be a superhero for two weeks, you might as well spend it with the Justice League and get the most experience possible.
But she's someone who comes from a background where her and her family — she grew up in a survivalist family who lives kind of off the grid, outside society, in a community of survivalists. And she grew up in the community.
As a part of that, she witnessed the death of her best friends, who were killed right in front of her. And she didn't see them die, but she saw the killers, even though she doesn't know who they are. She knows that they know that she saw them. And she, in that moment, she ran. She ran away from them. And she went and ended up hiding in her apartment because she was so afraid that somebody was going to come, that the murderers were going to come back and get her.
So just being outside is kind of a personal achievement for Jessica, and then being a Green Lantern, being in positions where she has to make tough choices, and positions where she has to make tough choices, tough heroic choices.
Nrama: Both of those characters are in the Justice League title. Is that being coordinated?
Humphries: Yeah! Of course, of course, all coordinated. Nothing happens without coordination. But yeah, I know what's going on in that book. It's an amazing book. Brian Hitch and Tony Daniel are doing a great job with it. And they're doing a great job with Simon and Jessica. So yes, nothing happens without coordination.
Nrama: That's good. I would hope so. But that's a lot of spotlight for these two characters. You said DC came to you and said they wanted these two to star in this. Has there been any conversation about why there's so much attention being paid to these two characters in particular? Trying to round out the Green Lantern universe a little bit?
Humphries: I don't want to speak for DC. But I would say is that these are characters first. These are characters who we're concerned with who they are as people, and what their individual emotional journeys are, and what it is they want out of the rings. And what they want out of the world of heroes. And what the obstacles they face getting there.
In terms of my conversations with DC, that's always what's come first. And I think that's what gets everybody excited at DC. And that's what makes Brian and Tony say, like, "yeah! These are the Green Lanterns we want on our team," and various other things that are happening in the DC Universe, where other creators are seeing what we're doing and are saying: "Simon and Jessica are the characters we want involved in these plans."
Nrama: Does the current miniseries Green Lantern Corps: Edge of Oblivion impact your series at all?
Humphries: No, it doesn't.
Nrama: It looks as if it affects Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps much more. But this is obviously affected by Rebirth overall?
Humphries: I've been given the Rebirth mandate, which is to use both of these characters in a way that builds on the rich legacy of DC but also gives these concepts a fresh start.
And having these two characters in the mix, it's hard not to have a fresh start. They're brand new Green Lanterns in the most treacherous sector of the universe, and they're alone, fighting against people like the Red Lanterns.
Nrama: That was my next question — thanks for the segue. Your first storyline is called "Rage Planet," and we've been told about the Rage Tower and the involvement of Atrocitus and Bleez. What can we expect from your first story arc as these two rookies take on some pretty hate-filled folks?
Humphries: The Red Lanterns have a very big problem, and the problem is that they're dying out across the universe.
The Red Lanterns have lost their entity, the Butcher, and because of that, their connection to the rage is fading.
So Atrocitus has come up with a last ditch plan to reverse this process and to save the Red Lanterns from extinction. And that brings him to earth.
And he's decided the Earth is vital to the survival of the Red Lanterns.
But the people who live on it, people like you and me, we are absolutely not necessary.
Two big parts of his plan are Bleez and a certain furry little Lantern with a huge fan base, whose name I will not mention.
Nrama: You're working with Ethan Van Sciver and Geoff Johns on the Green Lanterns Rebrith issue?
Humphries: Yeah, and it's not just Ethan Van Sciver. This is crazy, because it's my first published DC work ever, and on my first issue, I'm joined by Geoff Johns and Ethan Van Sciver and Ed Benes, which is a hell of a welcoming party to the DC Universe, I've got to tell you.
So it's an amazing issue. We just put it off to press.
It's Ethan's best work in a while, and Ed has come through really strong on it. And Geoff and I wrote the whole issue together. It's a collaboration from top to bottom between all four of us. And it is such a strong starting point for these characters.
I think people are really going to be surprised by it, and I think they're really going to enjoy it.
Nrama: And Robson Rocha is doing the first story arc? And it's twice monthly?
Humphries: Robson is amazing. He's been building up his portfolio at DC. And he's been doing some great work.
We put him on Green Lanterns and he's really blossomed in amazing ways. We kind of lucked out with each other, because this story has Red Lanterns, and there are definitely elements of horror in this book. Maybe more than people would expect from a book that's normally a sci-fi title.
But Robson is absolutely into it. We'll get these thumbnails back from him and he'll have, like, an arrow pointing to all these dead bodies and it'll have a little note that says, like, "can't wait to make these look really gruesome!" with a smiley face. Or a panel with a head exploding and he'll be like, "Yes! Yes! Yes!" in the margins.
So we've really hit our groove and it's happened organically. If they had said, "here's your new artist and he's really into drawing the gruesome stuff," I might have been a little spooked.
Nrama: Then to finish up, is there anything else you want to tell people about Green Lanterns?
Humphries: This is a book that brings Green Lantern back to the core of the legacy, and that is courage over fear. And it's about two people learning to use the most powerful weapons in the universe on the job. And they're partners, even though they don't know what they think of each other, or even if they should trust each other, or even if they like being around each other.
So I've been calling it a Lethal Weapon with alien technology.