From USAToday (Preview below)
Keith Giffen tosses a disgraced Green Lantern into a dangerous intergalactic game.
What you won't find in Keith Giffen's new sci-fi series Threshold: Some guy tying his shoes while he thinks about the essence of the universe.
What you will find, though, is a dense book full of characters, big concepts and a few deep meanings.
"Threshold costs $3.99. I want to make sure you're getting $5.99 worth of content out of it," says Giffen, the writer on the new DC Comics book debuting Wednesday.
Like the recently launched fantasy-tinged Sword and Sorcery, Threshold is like a science-fiction version of DC's old Showcase anthology series from the 1950s and '60s that introduced different characters such as The Flash, Green Lantern and Challengers of the Unknown and tried out new ideas to see if they had any traction in the readership.
For Threshold, Giffen is rolling the dice on two serialized features. Illustrated by Tom Raney, the main story features the disgraced Green Lantern named Jediah Caul as he's stripped of his powers, thrown into a strange situation and forced to compete on an intergalactic reality TV show/game called "The Hunted." The backup story stars the relentless, greedy Orange Lantern known as Larfleeze, as drawn by Scott Kolins.
With different stories amid character-developing arcs in the main feature, the connecting thread Giffen's focusing on is Caul's road from an exceedingly loathsome member of the Green Lantern Corps to someone who suddenly remembers why the ring chose him in the first place.
"In all fiction, they say the villain drives the piece, and even though Caul isn't the villain, he's an unpleasant guy. I like handling a character who is on the surface unpleasant but there's something under there you can spot, too," says Giffen, who likens Caul to Namor the Sub-Mariner.
"He was the most obnoxious human being I've ever read about, but there was something about him that made him appealing. I'm hoping to tap into that, the idea of why is (Caul) so unpleasant and when is he going to finally step up and do the right thing."
In addition, Giffen is bringing in characters such as Space Ranger and the reintroduced female warrior Stealth as those who may swing into a starring spot in Threshold down the line. His prediction for a breakthrough character, though, is Captain K'Rot, a new version of DC's cutesy Captain Carrot of old who appears in the second issue of Threshold.
While the original could only spring from "three drug addictions and four tabs of LSD," Giffen's off-the-wall, over-the-top K'Rot is an "anthropomorphic, psychotic, boozing, cretinous, stone-killer rabbit whose primary purpose in life is like the science-fiction Captain Ahab: He's got an artificial leg and he's searching the galaxy hunting the guy who took his leg for luck," the writer explains.
"I can have this rabbit say the most horrifying stuff, and people will accept it because it's coming out of a talking rabbit. That's one of the reasons I think he'll break away is because he can say the stuff we're all thinking."
(And, for the record, Captain K'Rot is not DC's take on Rocket Raccoon, Marvel Comics' well-weaponized creature who's coming to a movie theater and comic near you with Guardians of the Galaxy. "I co-created Rocket Raccoon" in 1976, Giffen says. "I don't duplicate myself.")
For the backup tales, Larfleeze was handed to Giffen by DC co-publisher Dan DiDio, and with the blessing of the Orange Lantern's creator, Geoff Johns.
"You cant help but, even if it's subliminally, have a sense of humor about the character," Giffen says of Larfleeze. "Even in his appearances and his origin and the horrifying things he's done and the greedy avarice monster that he is, there's always this undercurrent of black humor, and I respond to that."
He's also getting the baton of inappropriate behavior passed to him from Lobo, another one of Giffen's co-creations and a violent, antiheroic mercenary himself. With Larfleeze, though, "there's something fascinating about a character who is just so unrepentantly greedy. He's the superhero Uncle Scrooge."
Like The Legion of Super-Heroes, where the 30th century has always been the star, the environment of Threshold is a character in itself, and Giffen has taken a lot of joy in world-building, such as adding merchandising and hunting clubs to the big intergalactic game and exploring what kind of Internet and fast-food restaurants they might have in such a futuristic place.
Giffen also aims to explore some deeper meanings — for him, "the best science fiction and best horror work that way as it's almost metaphor," says the writer, remembering the old Star Trek episode from 1969 where Frank Gorshin plays an alien with half of his face white and half black. "They made a statement about racism through science-fiction trappings."
Specifically with Threshold, Giffen is prodding the point of wars that never end and also tackling the culture of violence that permeates our entertainment.
However, he says, "that's not to say I'm going to get all ham-handed. It's fun when you've got a little connection to something that's going on in the world and a little connection to reality that if you dig and scratch deep enough, you'll find it there.
"And when I've got a game that pretty much consists of being dropped into an environment and anyone who wants can hunt you," Giffen adds, "you've got to have a little bit more of that. Otherwise, it's just a schlocky horror movie."
At its core, Giffen wants Threshold to be the epitome of good, old-fashioned American comics: a big, bold, mildly subversive spectacle with no budget restraints and nobody sitting around debating the meaning of life.
"I'm sick of comic books that are trying to make it easy for Hollywood to turn them into movies. I say make it damn hard. Hollywood hasn't even cracked Galactus yet. I'm going to make it as hard as possible," Giffen says.
"When I do Threshold, I'm not thinking of Star Wars or Hollywood movies. I'm just thinking in terms of if sounds cool, let's put it in there. What can it hurt?"