Animation fans may not always think about the people behind their favorite shows. Casual fans just sit and enjoy a half hour episode, some more dedicated fans can list off their five favorite voice actors, but not enough know names like Giancarlo Volpe.
While you might not know his name, you most certainly know his work. Before becoming showrunner/producer with Jim Krieg on Green Lantern: The Animated Series, he worked as a writer, director, and storyboard artist on genre behemoths Avatar: The Last Airbender and Star Wars: The Clone Wars.
After guiding Aang's journey to save the world and introducing the Nightsisters into the galaxy far, far away, Volpe studied up on superheroes and enlisted with Hal Jordan into the Green Lantern Corps.
In this three-part interview, we spoke in-depth with Volpe about his career, how Avatar and Clone Wars directly prepared him for Green Lantern, why romance in animation is necessary, and got hints at what's to come for Hal Jordan and friends.
Kicking things off with part one, we talk about the Steam Lantern, preview "Blue Hope" and "Prisoner of Sinestro," and get a couple of big reveals for both upcoming episodes.
Newsarama: Let's actually start with Twitter, since that's where we "met," Giancarlo. You use twitter quite a bit to interact with fans; what has it been like to have that tool at this stage?
Giancarlo Volpe: It's great! How else can I put it? It feels like the only time I ever got to interact with fans prior to Twitter was comic-con. You'd always daydream that someone would ask a really good question, and you'd get to tell them the insight of how you came up with this thing. Things are always so contained, only like 5 people get to ask questions anyway, and you have to turn people away.
So Twitter's great. If someone just has an off-hand question like "Hey is that character's design an ode to such and such" I can confirm or deny it right there. Obviously I try not to spoil anything or do anything that will put me in a compromising position, but I love that I can just talk to them, it makes it more fun. It feels more like storytelling in a room full of listeners as opposed to being separated from the audience.
Nrama: So, we just came back into new episodes, and came back from the break with a very different look at Green Lantern. Why was it important to Hal Jordan's journey to show this Steam Lantern?
Volpe: Well one of the things we needed to show in that episode was what could happen in our universe if the Anti-Monitor ran amuck. The intention was to show that the anti-matter universe is now really desolate and one of the last planets remaining was the Steam Lantern's planet.
So that was the impetus for that episode was to explain, he has destroyed an entire universe and now he's in ours!
The other thing was, we just wanted to do something fun with Steampunk! (laughs) The writer of that episode, Ernie Altbacker, was really pushing for that. And obviously, all being comic-con attendees, we're very aware of the genre and all the cosplayers and stuff like that. We were looking for an excuse to fit that in, and this felt like it matched.
With our version of the anti-matter universe, we kept toying with the fact that it would be the negative, the reverse universe of ours, but we made the concept more what would Hal's equivalent be in the anti-matter universe if it wasn't Alan Scott. So maybe there's this guy who wants to be a Green Lantern, and Lady Catherine is the Carol equivalent - loose parallels that we're playing with.
Then it occurred to us that the reason why Steam Lantern bases himself off of Green Lantern is because he's met Alan Scott in the past. So we dropped that little easter egg in there [a line of dialogue from Gil mentions a GL with a Red Shirt and a Cape] to allude to something that can hopefully happen later.
Nrama: You know, it's been interesting how deeply into the Green Lantern mythos you guys have gotten in just the first season. What makes you feel comfortable to go so deeply right off the bat?
Volpe: You know it's interesting, when I was researching to do the show - I've said this before that I wasn't a huge fan of Green Lantern before starting the show - I read a massive amount of Green Lantern graphic novels and collections in a very short amount of time. I think that doing that allowed me to really see the broad strokes very quickly and very clearly. The things that kept coming up over and over were the anti-matter universe, Sinestro's involvement with Qward to build his rings, the history of the Manhunters, the fact that they were the fault of the Guardians, as was the Anti-Monitor, those were all issues that just kept coming up in the comics.
So I started drawing the broad strokes, so the Guardians have tried to kind of rule the universe for countless years and they keep getting it wrong. So the manhunter thing didn't work out so well, let's try again with some actual alien species, maybe that'll work better.
So that was stuff we tried to weave into the show. I'm glad that it's playing well, because if it was just about Hal Jordan making green constructs and being tripped up by yellow ones, I just think it would be too simple, and too basic... I hesitate to say "childish" because they're our core demographic! But you know, there wouldn't be any drama to draw from in it.
So I love that Green Lantern's mythology is so deep because we can keep calling back to it and building off that mythology.
Nrama: And of course if someone were to look at the next two episode titles, it sure seems we're jumping deeply into the mythology again, with "Blue Hope" and "Prisoner of Sinestro!" (laughs)
Volpe: (laughs) Yeah!
Nrama: So with "Blue Hope" that obviously means we'll be seeing Saint Walker once again.
Volpe: Yes! And now it's safe for me to give a little teaser. We are going to be on Odym, we'll see Odym for the first time. Saint Walker will be in that episode with Razer. There has been some speculation about whether he'll continue to be his guardian angel, something like that, and you'll see that in this episode. Saint Walker is working with Razer to help change his path away from anger, let's put it that way. So there's some really nice Yoda-like moments where he's meditating and training with Razer.
It's one of those episodes I think a lot of people have daydreamed about that they'll finally get to see here.
Nrama: Very cool! And we'll be seeing some other Blue Lanterns, right? Like a certain elephant man?
Volpe: Yes! They did show a clip of Brother Warth in the trailers. He's in it! The blue lantern ranks have expanded since the first half of Season 1, so he's one of the early recruits.
Nrama: And the following week we get into Sinestro's story?
Volpe: Yes! We finally got permission to use him. I've heard folks call it an embargo, but it was never that official. The folks at DC Entertainment politely asked us to back off of Sinestro "for now" because they weren't really sure what his fate would be in the feature film [when we were in early development of the series]. They didn't know if his turn would be in the first one or later, and if you've seen the film they do hint at his turn to the Yellow Lanterns in the credits scene.
So seeing that gave us permission. It was great to finally get to put him in, because it doesn't feel quite like the Green Lantern universe unless he's in it. And I suppose I can tell you, we got Ron Perlman to play Sinestro! So, he lends a very interesting take and perspective on Sinestro's character. Plus that's a cool sci-fi fan gem there.
Nrama: Definitely! And you kind of revealed one of those secrets about animation, that you actually worked on this quite awhile ago, right?
Volpe: Yeah, it starts in different phases. The writing was done a long time ago, then it takes awhile to storyboard it, then you ship it overseas to be animated. Every episode takes about 9-12 months from start to finish.
Green Lantern: The Animated Series airs Saturdays at 10am/9am Central on Cartoon Network. "Blue Hope" airs January 12, 2013.
Check back next week for the rest of our interview with Giancarlo Volpe, as we talk about his time on Avatar: The Last Airbender, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, and get hints at what's to come in Hal Jordan's future beyond the next two weeks!