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Monday, May 20, 2013

Geoff Johns Powers Down His Long 'Green Lantern' Run


In brightest day, in blackest night, no evil has escaped Geoff Johns' sight the past nine years.

But after nearly a decade of guiding the emerald hero's universe and making him a major player in the DC Comics Universe, the comic-book writer is turning out his Green Lantern light — at least when it comes to a solo series.

Available Wednesday in comic shops and digitally, Green Lantern No. 20 marks Johns' 64-page swan song to the character he's made his own and around whom he's created a rich galaxy of colored Lantern corps and vast array of heroes and villains.

The writer will also be the guest of honor at a "Greenest Night" celebration at the Avalon Bardot Theater in Hollywood, honoring his Green Lantern run on Friday that will benefit the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.

"I never had really planned being on this book this long," says Johns, DC's chief creative officer who also pens the Justice League, Justice League of America and Aquaman books. "I feel extremely fortunate that I work with so many great artists and writers on building the Green Lantern universe in the way we did this time around.

"We're leaving it in a good place for people to come on and play with concepts that were there before us, concepts we introduced and introducing their own stuff. Building on a foundation is always much more fun than destroying a foundation."

With a retrospective on Johns' run from an array of creators, the new issue features his final story with artist Doug Mahnke that wraps up every single story thread he had going, plus "some threads you probably don't even remember," Johns says. "Writing those last 10 pages was pretty emotional but also really satisfying."

The core of his run focused on the complex and multilayered relationship between Hal Jordan and his arch-rival Sinestro, the one-time leader of the evil Sinestro Corps who again has a Green Lantern power ring on his finger. And things were happening in that dynamic that led Johns to ending an epic story line with the two of them, especially with Hal once again returning from the land of the dead.

They'll be in final conflict with the First Lantern, the ultimate embodiment of the through-line of Johns' run in emotional, tangible form.

"Emotion's such a powerful thing, so from the beginning I wanted to really delve into what self-awareness and what emotions are and personify that in comic-book characters and explore them in that way," Johns says.

"The First Lantern really personifies all the emotions the Guardians threw away so long ago, and how essentially they're bottled up emotionally. Everybody can relate to that."

Green Lantern has turned into a solo character who can sell just as well as Batman and Spider-Man, but that wasn't exactly the case when Johns first launched Green Lantern: Rebirth in 2004.

Known for his memorable runs on Justice Society of America, The Flash and Teen Titans, Johns brought Hal Jordan back into a starring role in the miniseries and subsequent Green Lantern ongoing title after the hero had been turned into the Spectre following Hal's stint as the villainous Parallax and his sacrificial death.

When Johns and artist Ethan Van Sciver were developing what happened to Hal for Rebirth, they also touched upon the emotional spectrum that would eventually lead to the introduction of Orange Lanterns, Red Lanterns, Indigo Tribe, Blue Lanterns and others based on attributes such as greed, rage, love and hope.

Johns' memorable "Sinestro Corps War" story line in 2007 broke it open, put a spotlight on the entire mythology and began seeding plot points for the major event series Blackest Night two years later.

"From there, it really became about Hal and Sinestro," says Johns, a co-producer and consultant on the 2011 Green Lantern movie. "I always knew I wanted to have Sinestro with his green ring again and be forced to work with Hal or vice versa. Now it's come full circle."

Johns will continue to write Hal in Justice League and the newest Green Lantern, Simon Baz, in Justice League of America, so he hasn't completely left that corner of the DC Universe. He'll miss writing Saint Walker, Larfleeze and the New Guardians, the Green Lantern chipmunk B'dg, but most of all, Sinestro.

For Johns, he's now a character as compelling as any other.

"I love Hal Jordan and Guy Gardner and all the Green Lanterns. They've been great characters for a long time and hopefully we helped them grow a little bit more, but I find Sinestro probably took the biggest leap in terms of where he was before we started and where he ended up," the writer says.

Johns is passing the torch to Robert Venditti (X-O Manowar), who takes over as Green Lantern scribe beginning next month with issue 21. While he's tied up his loose ends for Venditti, Johns recalls taking over Teen Titans from Marv Wolfman, who taught him that the best thing to do with a new series is write what you believe in and go your own way.

"Whenever I leave a book, I've tried to work the character and the concept to a place that is good for somebody else to step in. But really, my first concern is telling the story correctly," Johns says.

"I don't want to be dictated to what I should do with the book and I don't want anyone else to feel dictated to. They should be able to take it in the direction they want to take it in."
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