When Green Lantern readers were told at the end of last year’s blockbuster Sinestro Corps War that another high-profile storyline – the Blackest Night – was coming in 2009, it seemed an awfully long way off.
But if this week’s Green Lantern #28 is any indication, the predictions of the Blackest Night prophecy are already starting to take shape. As next month’s Green Lantern issue #29 starts a new “Secret Origin” storyline, readers are seeing the seeds planted for what is already anticipated as one of next year’s must-read events.
Previewed in several pages of the oversized Green Lantern #25 in December, the prophesized War of Light and Blackest Night have caused a lot of fan buzz ever since. Readers were led to believe that sometime in the next year, not only would there be Sinestro Corps members wielding fear-powered rings of yellow against the Green Lanterns, but there would be new corps harnessing the energy of other emotions by wearing corresponding colored rings.
It was teased as something we’d see in the future. Yet already, more than one other color showed up in this week’s issue. And months before the promised Rage of the Red Lanterns storyline later this year, with this issue, the cosmos of the DCU now has two Red Lanterns spewing their red energy of hate.
As we checked in with Green Lantern writer Geoff Johns to talk about this week’s issue, we found out that the next storyline, Secret Origin, is more than just a look back at Hal Jordan’s past. Not only does the story arc represent what Johns hopes is a resurgence of the “Secret Origin” concept in the DCU, but it kicks off the road to Blackest Night by revealing more about Hal Jordan, Sinestro, and the mysterious new Red Lantern named Atrocitus.
ROGERS: This issue was filled with hints about what’s coming and obviously begins the journey toward this “War of Light” and the Blackest Night storyline we keep hearing about. When are we going to find out answers to all these mysteries, Geoff?
Geoff Johns: Keep reading Green Lantern. The reason I didn't want to jump to Blackest Night is that I have a lot of stories to tell. I have a lot of characters to build. And I have a certain journey that Hal Jordan is going through as he weaves between these different corps and comes face to face with them. There's a specific journey for him to take to get him prepped for Blackest Night, and to get the Green Lantern mythology prepared for the Blackest Night.
ROGERS: So this tease we saw at the end of the Sinestro Corps War in Green Lantern #25, where there are all these different corps, isn't going to just suddenly happen. We're going to get just a few concepts or characters introduced at a time over the next year or so?
GJ: I want to lay out these characters and invest the time in them. The overall plots and the storylines are intricate, and I really want to explore this to its ultimate potential. Each one of them deserves a spotlight, deserves some time, instead of just having them all show up. It's not going to work that way. The Corps are so different, they act so differently and the rings are so different. Every one has such a different purpose.
It's Hal Jordan's journey that we'll see through Secret Origin, through Rebirth and Sinestro Corps and Blackest Night, really. It culminates into a big part of his journey as a human being and as a Green Lantern.
ROGERS: Let's talk about this issue, then we can talk a little about what comes next. In the beginning of Green Lantern #28, we see the red part of the emotional spectrum emerge.
GJ: Well, you see a Red Lantern. He's the first Red Lantern, on the planet Ysmault. Atrocitus.
ROGERS: He's one of the Red Lanterns we saw in the spread that Ethan Van Sciver did in Green Lantern #25, where the War of Light was previewed, right? This is that same character?
GJ: Yep. Ethan came up with that name – Atrocitus - and I loved it. So I immediately began drafting his backstory, the role he played in the past and the role he’ll play in the present. Atrocitus is a main character in Secret Origin and the Blackest Night.
ROGERS: Does Atrocitus have anything to do with the Alan Moore story from Tales of the Green Lantern Corps Annual #2, where we saw Abin Sur on Ysmault?
GJ: Atrocitus was there on Ysmault at the time of that story, but he's a brand new character. Alan’s story told about the fall of the Green Lanterns and Sodam Yat, but beyond that, it didn't say much. It’s one of those little gems that sparks a bigger idea. I thought if there was a doomsday prophecy for the Green Lanterns there was no other name for it than “the Blackest Night.”
ROGERS: In his introduction, he kills Qull, whom astute Green Lantern fans have noted is the prisoner on Ysmault who told the prophecy of doom to Abin Sur back in the Alan Moore story.
GJ: Yes. He is the one who first told Abin Sur the prophecy.
ROGERS: It was implied in Green Lantern's history that Qull only told Abin Sur the prophecy of the Corps' doom in order to scare him. Does this scene in Green Lantern #28 confirm that? He tells Atrocitus he "planted the seeds of fear" within Abin Sur.
GJ: Yeah, he told him he planted the seeds of fear. But at the same time, it's true. However, like other ancient texts it can be deciphered and looked at on several levels. It could apply to the universe or the soul of an individual character or both. It could be subtext or literal. It could be everything and nothing. That’s what prophecies are.
ROGERS: Although it didn’t happen exactly the way it was foretold, there was a battle between the sentient city Ranx and the planet Mogo and the Children of the White Lobe. There was a Green Lantern named Sodam Yat. Those things were all predicted in the prophecy.
GJ: Yeah. But Qull was not all-seeing. The prisoners on Ysmault are not all-seeing. They found this prophecy somewhere else. They're not as powerful as the Guardians or anything. There's quite a bit of history with those prisoners that hasn't been revealed that will. You’ll have to read Secret Origin for that.
ROGERS: Atrocitus says "your innards will give me my freedom, Qull, and your blood my power." So does Atrocitus have to kill him in order to use the power of hate?
GJ: How a Red Lantern is chosen, why and what makes them different than the other Lanterns will be explored. And it involves blood, of course.
ROGERS: Laira is the second Red Lantern who is recruited at the end of the story. And in her transformation, we saw where the energy of hate just comes pouring out of their mouths.
GJ: It's not pleasant. And also, it's the far end of the spectrum, so this power really eats you up inside.
ROGERS: When you say it's the far end of the spectrum, you're talking about how the colors in the middle, such as green and yellow, are easier to control and wield, while the colors further out are not?
GJ: Red is further from the middle of the spectrum.
ROGERS: Similar to the other end of the spectrum: The uncontrolled power of love we saw in the Star Sapphires.
GJ: Yeah. You saw the same thing in the Star Sapphires earlier when we introduced them again. You saw the power and what it does. It almost completely takes someone over. The red power is a little bit different, and again, we'll get into that more as we flesh out the Red Lanterns. I'll tackle them a lot more in the Rage of the Red Lanterns arc.
ROGERS: Both of these Red Lanterns, Atrocitus and Laira, are directing their rage toward Sinestro?
GJ: Interesting, isn't it? [laughs] Interesting how that worked out. The idea is that with all of these corps, I've laid out all the individual motivations. They're all different, and they're all intertwined. They all have something personal at stake. And the reason for Atrocitus' attention toward Sinestro will be a major point of the Secret Origin arc coming up. Why he has rage against Sinestro will all be revealed there.
ROGERS: Are we going to see a whole lot more Red Lanterns recruited?
GJ: Not yet. Not for a little while. And there's a reason for it when they all start coming out. There's a reason that the Red Lanterns surge after Secret Origin, and there's a reason it can't start until then.
ROGERS: Is there anything else you want to say about the Red Lanterns?
GJ: Keep an eye on Atrocitus.
ROGERS: OK... let's talk about the color orange. There's a character named Agent Orange?
GJ: Yes. He will be my favorite new character. I’m already sure of that. He’s too much fun to write.
ROGERS: And the person who mentions him is the Guardian who was scarred by the Anti-Monitor during the Sinestro Corps War?
GJ: Yeah! I've nicknamed her "Scar." I just call her Scar for my own purposes -- you know, in my story notes. 'Cause she obviously has that scar. She hasn't taken the name herself or anything, though.
ROGERS: She's the one who just recruited the Green Lantern Ash to find the corpse of the Anti-Monitor. Is it right that we should be suspicious of what her agenda is here?
GJ: It's probably not good. [laughs] Her agenda's probably not good.
ROGERS: She was allegedly “resting.”
GJ: Yeah. She's not being completely honest with the Guardians.
ROGERS: Just one more question about the color orange – we not only heard a mention of Agent Orange, but also saw the Controllers interested in the energy of the color orange, correct?
GJ: Yeah. There's a couple of splinter tribes out there that have left the Guardians. You have the Zamarons and the Controllers. The Controllers are kind of like these guys who have batted zero for 1000, and someone has helped them discover that there are these powers out there, and they want to grab one of their own.
ROGERS: And so they're looking at the color orange, which is the color of avarice. Can we assume Agent Orange is also someone who is interested in the power of avarice?
GJ: I think that's probably a fair assumption, but you can never assume anything about where this story is going. It's definitely not going anywhere that it looks like it's going. That’s the fun of it.
ROGERS: The other big scene in here involves Sinestro and Hal, and their relationship is what you are mainly going to concentrate upon in the next story arc, right?
GJ: Secret Origin is Hal Jordan's story of how he first completely embraces what being a Green Lantern is. And by doing that, he overcomes some things that have held him back in life. His attitude – he’s a little bit blind to his faults in the beginning. He lays a lot of blame and anger and frustration on other people. But he's extremely passionate and he's a good guy. You see in the first issue of Secret Origin that he's been in this cloud of a life that isn't normal, that hasn't really provided him anything that he emotionally needed. He's completely out of touch with a lot of people. He doesn't have a good relationship with his family or his co-workers.
So you have Hal Jordan who thinks he knows what he's doing, and then you have someone come in who actually does know what he's doing and at the height of his career in Sinestro. And obviously, Sinestro telling Hal Jordan what to do isn't going to work. Hal's not going to want to listen to anybody. And Sinestro's not going to want to have someone not listen to him. So it's the story of these two guys, and really, the story is key to the foundation of the Green Lantern mythology and everything that we're doing. There’s an extremely specific reason why this story has to be told.
ROGERS: Didn't it say at the end of the Sinestro Corps War, in Green Lantern #25, that the powers of fear and willpower will unite?
GJ: They'll have to. That's what the trailer said. If they want to survive.
ROGERS: That points toward Sinestro and Hal Jordan having to fight on the same side.
GJ: Right. But if you read the issue closely, and if you read Green Lantern #28, Sinestro has a very different view of what it's going to take to combat any kind of dark prophecy. He doesn't know the details, but he knows something. And you see him in that final scene, talking to Hal, he says the Green Lantern Corps will be strong enough to do this because of me.
ROGERS: In this issue, Sinestro says, "I believe in the Green Lantern Corps, Hal Jordan."
GJ: Yeah. [laughs] "Don't you?"
But the Guardians believe that prevention is the only answer, instead of preparation. They're focused on prevention. Right now, that's probably the wrong thing to do. They think they can control it and contain it.
ROGERS: Sinestro says they're going to panic when they finally realize they can't prevent it.
GJ: Yeah. Well, they're trying to cut emotion out of it so hard, and there's a reason for that. Their emotions would be extremely powerful and would power other spectrums. So if a Guardian got really angry, it would power that spectrum. That's why they need to temper their emotions.
ROGERS: Why did Hal go immediately after that trial and see Sinestro?
GJ: Because he knew that law was going to make Sinestro happy. He knew that law was something Sinestro already foresaw. Sinestro pushed the right buttons. And Hal probably considered not going, and he just had to go.
The relationship is a very complex one. I think it's actually, for a hero and arguably arch-villain, I think it's probably one of the most complex ones in comics. Maybe you've got other characters out there who are interesting, but they certainly haven't been through the stages these guys have been through. Maybe a lot of that, to me, is probably more in my head than on some of the pages, but that's why I’m doing the Secret Origin – to get that on the page.
ROGERS: OK, it sounds like this “Secret Origin” story is pretty important. But let’s talk about the name. You're bringing back the idea of "Secret Origin" with this next story arc?
GJ: “Secret Origin” is a DC term. It’s a classic one that I think should be back and carefully and selectively done. If there’s a “Creeper: Secret Origin” next month, the title’s just been wasted. It’s more than the term though – Year One is great, but it’s only Year One. Just by the nature of the title, it doesn't encompass everything. This story is from the time Hal is 10 years old until the time he really accepted his role as a Green Lantern. I think a “Secret Origin” can allow for a lot more ground to be covered.
And, yes, Green Lantern: Secret Origin isn't the only one I'm going to do. I think Jeph Loeb has done some of the absolute “Secret Origin” stories at DC with Tim Sale. His Batman: The Long Halloween run, Superman: For All Seasons, those are my inspirations as well as a lot of my own pyrotechnics. Ivan Reis has done a simply incredible job and it’s so great to have him back after he exploded open with Sinestro Corps. It’s just a different story, it’s so much more grounded – at least at first – and personal in a different way.
Eddie Berganza and Adam Schlagman have really put the care into this too. The cover ideas and the kind of “painted” look to them was all Eddie’s idea and it turned out phenomenal.
ROGERS: You said you're doing another Secret Origin story besides this one in Green Lantern? In a different comic?
GJ: Eventually, I'm going to tackle another one. I want to try to bring “Secret Origins” back into the DC universe.
ROGERS: That other Secret Origin – can you tell us what comic it will be?
GJ: Hell, no!
ROGERS: [laughs] OK, but despite the fact that this interview is concentrating just on Green Lantern and not your other DC titles, it's hard to talk about the emotional spectrum and not mention that we saw a character in Action Comics last week who seemed to tap into this emotional spectrum for her powers.
GJ: Yeah. [laughs] Rainbow Girl. But not very well. She's managed to tap into a couple of colors. But she doesn't understand them. To her, it's just more for fun.
ROGERS: So we know the emotional spectrum has power even into the future.
GJ: Yeah. Where there is no Green Lantern Corps.
ROGERS: There isn't any Green Lantern Corps in the future?
GJ: Not in the 31st century.
ROGERS: So... there's nobody left from the Green Lantern Corps?
GJ: Uh... in the 31st century, you have two Green Lanterns. That's it.
ROGERS: Who are they?
GJ: One's Rond Vidar. And there's another one.
ROGERS: Uh huh.
ROGERS: And are you going to tell us the other one?
GJ: No. [laughs]
ROGERS: [laughs] So I guess we're going to find out who the other one is in some upcoming story?
GJ: Yes, we will.
ROGERS: Is that something you’re writing?
GJ: Uh... maybe.
ROGERS: OK... we'll move on to another Green Lantern subject. Something about the emotional spectrum that maybe you're going to explore in more detail later, but might clarify for us here, is that it was established early on that there was a weakness to yellow for the Green Lanterns – particularly the rookies, but really anybody who couldn't overcome fear. And it was associated with Parallax being in the power battery. Right?
ROGERS: Do Green Lantern rookies still have that weakness to fear now that Parallax isn't in the power battery any longer?
GJ: They do because Parallax has tainted the pool. They were entwined for so long. Yellow and green are so close together and so intertwined, kind of back and forth for so long, that there is still some intersection there.
ROGERS: So if there is this "weakness" relationship between the yellow and green power, is there a similar type of relationship between other colors in the spectrum?
GJ: There are certain reactions between other colors, but they're not exactly what I would call a weakness. Certain things about the energy will affect and change when they come into contact with other parts of the spectrum. But it won't necessarily react like green and yellow react.
ROGERS: So the reaction between green and yellow is unique?
GJ: Yes. It's very unique.
ROGERS: And the weakness is still traceable to Parallax having been in the power battery?
GJ: Yep. And again, a Red Lantern isn't just a Red Lantern like a Green Lantern. It's not, "Hey, I'm red." Blast! They're all different. As you saw when Laira was recruited, it's a terrible process to become a Red Lantern. It's horrible. It's not comfortable. It's violent.
ROGERS: Are we going to see anyone from earth offered these various colored rings, particularly the red ones?
GJ: Not right now. I'm obviously focused on what's happening now. I want to explore all the different aspects of it until we start to get into the War of Light. And let's wait to talk about any specifics on that. But I have it completely planned out: All of Blackest Night and the way it's going to affect our characters and the storyline.
ROGERS: From the sound of the next few issues, even the origin story you're telling in Secret Origin plays into this 2009 story of Blackest Night, doesn't it?
GJ: All of it starts to build now. Green Lantern #26-28 was the epilogue and getting the second law up and running, and getting everyone in play. And you can see the flickers of light – I call them flickers of light – but they're things in the universe that are starting to happen. Everything that's happening now will play into Blackest Night and the future and past of Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps.
ROGERS: Anything else you want to tell fans about Green Lantern?
GJ: Thanks to everyone reading the book. I’m proud to be a part of one of the most unique superhero mythologies in comics.