Newcomer Aaron Gillespie gets his first gig as a solo DC writer this week with a two-issue story running in Green Lanterns #48 and #49 that takes Jessica Cruz on the run from the Green Lantern Corps.
But as action-packed as that story description might sound, Gillespie is using Jessica's time on the lam to provide some personal, quiet moments that help define her character as she investigates the almost street-level crime that brought her to this place.
Gillespie launched a new mini-series with Scott Snyder last month with New Challengers #1, a collaboration that resulted from Gillespie's time in DC's talent development "Writers Workshop" taught by Snyder.
Newsarama talked to Gillespie about his two-issue story in Green Lanterns, how his career led him to the Writers Workshop, and what other dream projects he might get to next.
Newsarama: Aaron, since this is your first solo title for DC, tell me a little bit about your history with the Green Lanterns. Did you have to do any research on DC continuity or the Green Lanterns before you did this book?
Aaron Gillespie: I didn't need any coaching or research on DC. I've been a huge DC fan since I was a kid, so when I got into the writing workshop, it was like a dream come true.
So I hit the ground running. I did a Hawkman script in the class. My knowledge of DC characters runs pretty deep. I've always enjoyed them.
As far as Green Lanterns, I feel like this book, along with Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps, is one of the best books that DC's been putting out since "Rebirth." It's consistently great. I was a big fan of Sam Humphries' stuff, and Tim Seeley's run has been really great too. So I didn't really need any research or any sort of primer on the characters or anything like that.
Nrama: Were you approached about what kind of story DC wanted you to do? How did Jessica emerge as a focus?
Gillespie: When Brian Cunningham, the editor, called me about the project, he had a concept in mind. Basically, he had the cover of Hal Jordan arresting Jessica and said, run with this idea.
So it was a little of both. I was given a little bit of direction but was given free rein to come up with the direction that fit within those parameters.
I think Jessica's one of the more interesting characters at DC right now. Any time you have a character who's agoraphobic, and with anxiety playing such a big part in her life, that's rich material for a writer to work with, so I was excited to make her the focus.
Nrama: With only two issues in which to tell the story, is it more about exploring her character?
Gillespie: Yeah. I think one of the cool aspects about the Green Lantern stories is that it deals with huge, galactic space, and your imagination is the only limit to what type of stories you can tell.
But because I only had two issues, I felt like I should almost go the other direction with this, to go more personal with almost a street-level crime story involving this character.
I thought that would be more interesting, to be able to explore her and how she reacts to this immediate situation that she finds herself in, rather than going with a crazy unbridled story in space.
Nrama: Let's talk about the story. Jessica's in trouble with the Green Lantern Corps at this point, right?
Gillespie: Yeah, Tim has been teasing this for awhile. The cliffhanger in issue #47 is the Guardians and Hal talking about Jessica's ring and how it's been problematic and Hal needs to go investigate. So that's been teased in the story already.
And then a new situation arises in this first issue where Jess is involved in some bad business, some almost space terrorist business. And there's some question about why she's involved and what's happened.
And that elevates the importance of going after her, in Hal's mind, to find out what's going on and whether she needs sanctioned or needs her ring removed.
Nrama: Is Simon a part of the story?
Gillespie: Yes, Simon plays a part in the story, but initially, Jess wants to go it alone, for her own reasons that come out through the two-issue arc.
She feels obligated to see this through by herself.
But Simon does come into the story and interact with her.
Nrama: Let's back up a minute and talk about your time in the writing workshop, because I think the last time we talked, when New Challengers was first coming out, we didn't get to talk about that experience. What in your background brought you to the writing class?
Gillespie: Ever since I can remember, I've been trying to be a comic book artist, with varying levels of success. I've made a lot of friends over the years and one of my best friends is Phil Hester.
Phil was teaching me a lot about comics art and storytelling, and then one day a few years ago, he said he was on a book at Dynamite, writing Bionic Man. And he wanted to bring a co-writer on as he was leaving.
He asked me if I wanted to do it. And at first, i was kind of struck, because I had never really considered myself a writer. But I realized that comic artists are also writers, and I had been writing my own stories for years. I just hadn't done anything with them.
Phil saw something good in there and thought I'd be good to bring on.
And so I wrote about 15 issues of Bionic Man for Dynamite. And then they had me do a couple mini-series after that.
Then the DC school was looking for applicants. I applied and sent a couple issues of my Bionic Man work in. And I waited. And waited. And waiting.
I started to forget that I even applied until people started talking about the deadline, and then people started posting rejection letters online. And I thought my rejection letter would be here any minute.
I actually started hitting my refresh button on my email like a junkie, just waiting for that rejection letter to come in.
And it didn't. So I thought I must have done some poor job of applying that I didn't even rate a rejection letter.
And then I got an email that I had been accepted, and it was the best experience of my life.
Nrama: Who would be a dream character for you to work on?
Gillespie: My absolute dream would be Batman. But I'm sure I'm not alone in that.
I'm a huge fan of old Joe Kubert/Bob Kanigher war comics. I love Sergeant Rock, I love Viking Commando, I love Unknown Soldier.
My absolute dream would be to take one of those characters and relaunch them at DC.
I don't know what the chance of that ever happening is, but that's my absolute dream at DC, to do an Unknown Soldier or Sergeant Rock book.
Nrama: We didn't really talk about the art on Green Lanterns. Who's your artist?
Gillespie: Ronan Cliquet is the artist on this book, and I could not be happier. I wrote this plot style, and so that takes a lot of trust with your collaborators to do that.
Ronan's breakdowns, his layouts, started coming back immediately. And they were so lively and energetic that I was instantly impressed and could not wait to see the finished pages.
And as those finished pages came in, I just got more excited because his storytelling was so clear and the pages were so exciting that I couldn't wait to see the finished product. I could not be happier.
Nrama: Besides New Challengers, are you doing anything else you want to tell fans about?
Gillespie: No. We're talking about some other things, but nothing that's concrete yet.