When DC Comics releases two issues for the price of one in February's Green Lantern/Red Lantern flipbook, readers can thank Robert Venditti for the deal.
The two Lantern comics will be combined into a 40-page, two-sided flipbook in February, as the crossover story depicts a conflict between the different colored Lanterns and their leaders, Hal Jordan and Guy Gardner. At the center of the conflict is the recent revelation that the Red Lanterns are now the protectors of Sector 2814 — the portion of space that contains Earth.
The flipbook is the brainchild of Green Lantern writer Venditti, who pitched the idea to DC after he and Red Lanterns writer Charles Soule came up with a story that combined their titles. According to Venditti, the flipbook will be the ideal jumping-on point for new readers of either series, and he's hoping to attract some new readers to other titles in the Green Lantern universe.
In the first installment of a two-part interview about the Green and Red Lanterns, Newsarama talked to Venditti and Soule about what readers can expect from the crossover story — and how Venditti convinced DC to take a risk and release them in a flipbook.
Newsarama: Robert and Charles, before we talk about the flipbook, what brought about the idea to crossover in the first place? Was this story driven?
And that idea was out there. And then Charles and I ended up being in New York together, and we were sitting down in one of the rooms at the DC offices, just kind of hanging out and talking to each other. And he was just sort of talking out loud about how we need to figure out what sector Guy is going to get.
And there was this moment where the two of us just looked at each other. It was like Charles had the peanut butter and I had the chocolate. We just realized it would make perfect sense for Guy to think he was asking about 2814, while Hal didn't really realize that's what the deal was. And for there to be this misunderstanding between them, and the conflict and all that just came from there.
From that point, it was really just figuring out how to get the story in as many people's hands as possible, and so with the marketing of it and doing the double issue, and the free content at the same price, it was just an effort of trying to not only tell the story in the best way possible, but also get more people to look at Red Lanterns, because Charles is writing such a great book. When you do a crossover, it doesn't guarantee that people will pick up both books. So the structure was just a way to insure that everybody would get the full story. They can't help but not read it, because it's all going to be in one spot.
Charles Soule: The other side of it, too, is that comics come out every month, and there's another one that comes out the next month, and it's easy to forget that they're there for something you're not already reading. But doing this is a way to get people to think about these titles again and think about, you know, that we're a pretty tightly knit writers group, and we like to do stuff like this.
There are a lot of exciting things happening in the Lantern group, so why not jump on board?
Nrama: So it's just one issue then? The entire crossover is contained in this flipbook?
Venditti: The two books crossing over is just going to happen in issue #28, so it's just one month.
And that's the one issue that's a Red Lanterns/Green Lantern flipbook. The story is 40 pages total, and it's going to tell the entire story of what this is. But it's also going to set up this long-standing status quo shift that's going to carry forward into Red Lanterns and Green Lantern.
We feel like all the Green Lantern titles are great right now — Green Lantern is great, Green Lantern Corps is great, New Guardians is great, and Red Lanterns is great. I enjoy reading them and I want more people to see them.
So getting DC to back the content in that way — and that they're willing to essentially give away 40 pages of comics at a 20-page comics price, and put it all in one spot and do this new and out-of-the-box model in presenting this story to readers… I think they're really putting themselves behind the story like that. It shows that they believe in the content, to the extent that they'll take these kinds of chances. So hopefully everybody will be happy to have all the story in one spot, and it'll compel them to pick up Green Lantern and Red Lanterns for months afterward.
Soule: It was Rob!
Venditti: Yeah, actually, it was my idea.
Nrama: Ah ha! It was the former publisher n in you, wasn't it? From Top Shelf?
Venditti: Yeah, I worked at Top Shelf for about 10 years. They're a comic book publisher, and they do small, independent stuff. And I worked on the publishing side for a very long time. And a lot of what I did, as my day-to-day, was talk to retailers and fulfill orders, you know, working in the warehouse, doing invoicing, and all those kind of things. And I got to know retailers pretty well.
I was just trying to think of a way — once Charles and I came up with the content together, and we were in that room, and there was just this moment… it was really a great moment. For me, that's what you live for as a writer. You have these moments of spontaneous coolness that happens with the story. And that was very much what happened when Charles and I were in the room, and the content hit us.
And now it was just a matter of, how do we get people to read this?
And to have one book come out one month, and another three weeks later? We knew we were going to lose people in the transition there.
So I was just trying to think of an idea that we could do. And it's no small thing.
Nrama: So how did you convince DC to do this? You're basically asking them to give up thousands of dollars, by essentially giving away a comic for free that month. Did you have to pitch it?
Venditti: Yeah, I went into [DC Co-Publisher] Dan [DiDio]'s office, and I made a presentation that involved printing costs, and distribution and all these kinds of things.
Soule: Vaneta, I was sitting next to him when he did it, and he had, like, the laptop out. It was very impressive. I didn't say a word. I just let him do it. It was great.
Venditti: I'm told I looked like a brush salesman. I don't know if that's accurate or not.
It was this whole presentation of, here's why we should do this. And yeah, you're taking a risk, but these are all the things we can do, and hopefully it will have results. I don't know. Dan was kind of laughing at me like, I don't know… it was a surreal conversation, I guess, for a publisher to have with one of the writers.
Soule: The things is, I don't think he was sold on it until you sold him on it. So congratulations to you. That's why we're on the phone today. Because of you.
Venditti: Hopefully it does well.
Nrama: It's great that you justified it enough for DC to take the risk.
Venditti: It's an easy thing for an artist to say, "Hey, why don't you sell 40 pages of content for a 20 pages price? Why don't you do that?" You know? I felt like if I just said that… I mean, that's not an insignificant thing to ask a publisher to do. That's a pretty significant hit.
So I really wanted to make a presentation, and I didn't know that they would say yes. And I wouldn't have blamed them if they said no. But I really wanted to make a presentation that showed that I had at least put some thought into it beyond just saying, "Hey, give away free stuff!"
I wanted there to actually be a method to it, and a hopeful upside to it that would last into the future of Red Lanterns going into the next story lines.
I wanted to really use it as a showcase for that book.
Like I said, to Dan and DC's credit, they listened to it, and at the end of the meeting, he said, "OK, you got your flip book. We'll do it."
Nrama: How have you approached it creatively? Is it the same as if it's two completely separate books? Or was there a difference in the way you found yourself putting it together?
Venditti: They're two separate issues, and they're drawn by the two different creative teams. But it was different from how we'd normally approach two separate issues.
Soule: Yeah, I did more drafts on this than I typically do on a comic. I did a bunch of drafts, and Rob did a bunch of drafts, and we really wanted to try to make it cohesive and cool and worthy of the fact that something special is being done with it.
And we obviously shared those drafts, and when all was said and done, we got on the phone together and read through both scripts at once. And we found even more ways that we could make it work. You know, like a line in Green Lantern that pays off in Red Lanterns. Or call back jokes. Or making sure the themes we were trying to explore are coming out more thoroughly.
Venditti: And the transition is different than you'd normally see. We could handle that differently. We could have a closer synergy between the two titles, because we didn't have to recap one at the beginning of the issue that comes out three weeks later. It's all in one spot.
I think it enabled us to put even more content into it.
Soule: I'm not saying it's going to reinvent comics, but it certainly is designed to be one really cool, big, long book that you pay for half the price you'd normally pay for that much.