He started out life as a villain, Agent Orange, but quickly became fandom’s most beloved ring-slinger. And while the book his strip backed up is barely remembered, Larfleeze continues his quirky space adventures monthly in his ongoing title by J.M. DeMatteis, Keith Giffen and artist Scott Kolins.
To get to the heart of this fan fave’s adventures, Cosmic Book News Managing Editor Byron Brewer exclusively traveled to the year 3000 to discuss the Orange Lantern with the legendary Mr. DeMatteis.
Cosmic Book News: How did you become involved in this book, which started as a backup feature by Keith Giffen?
J.M. DeMatteis: Pretty simple: Keith called me up and said I’m doing a new book called Larfleeze and I’d love to co-write it with you. To be honest, I had no clue who Larfleeze was, but I’d work with Keith on anything. He’s one of the biggest talents, and best guys, in the business and we’ve been writing together since the 80’s. Once I got to know the character, I saw how much fun we could have playing with Larfleeze and his butler, Stargrave—who’s quickly become a favorite.
CBN: Do you and Keith share a vision for Larfleeze? How do you collaborate?
J.M. DeMatteis: Our collaboration is a unique one: totally based in spontaneity. Even if we discuss the plots ahead of time—which we do sometimes, but not all the time; I’m often as surprised by what’s in the book as the readers are—Keith is then free to go off and change everything we’ve talked about and turn the story on its head. (Which he often does.) Same for me: Once I start scripting, I throw in character bits, plot permutations and whatever cosmic silliness pops into my head. I play off what Keith has laid out in the plot but I also have the freedom to diverge and spin the story in other directions that Keith never anticipated. That’s the fun of our collaboration: Keith and I are constantly surprising each other. Certainly keeps things interesting!
CBN: So, do you share more a love of the Lantern space opera or the humor of the character?
J.M. DeMatteis: All of that, I think. One of the things I’m enjoying most about the book is that, on one level, it’s a pretty serious space opera, an epic cosmic tale; on another level, it’s neo-vaudevillian lunacy. I call it Jack Kirby meets Monty Python.
CBN: Will we see any big-bads battling Agent Orange except himself and his vanity?
J.M. DeMatteis: We’ve been developing a whole host of cosmic bad guys—The House of Tuath-Dan, a race of lunatic gods from another dimension—and they’ll continue to be very important to the book. We’ve also got the Orange Lantern Corps out there—former prisoners within Larfleeze’s power ring—loose in the universe and out for Larf’s head. And there are more new characters on the way. One thing we’re trying to do with the book is not depend on the past, but add new blood to the DCU.
J.M. DeMatteis: One word: G’nort!
CBN: What can you tell us about the coming arc without spoilers (or with, laughs)?
J.M. DeMatteis: One word: G’nort!
CBN: Since we have you here, can I ask: How do you like handling the Phantom Stranger? He would seem a difficult character.
J.M. DeMatteis: I haven’t found him difficult at all. Fascinating? Deep? Complex? Sure. Dan Didio set up a wonderful mythology when he rebooted the series and I’ve been having a great time exploring, and building upon, that mythology. Between PS and Justice League Dark I’m really indulging my love of the moody, mystical corners of the DCU.
CBN: You and Keith seem to be having fun also with Justice League 3000. Is it the characters or the freedom that they are apart from today’s New 52?
J.M. DeMatteis: Both. We’re working with characters who are the iconic classics and, at the same time, aren’t.
We’ve got the freedom to twist and turn them any way we’d like. We’re not burdened by continuity, and yet we can pull anything we’d like from the characters’ histories. And not just the characters: we’ve got a virgin future to play with, one that’s never been seen before in the DCU. We’re building an entire universe from scratch. It’s a great challenge and great fun.
CBN: You work with a number of artists these days. How does Scott Kolins of Larfleeze stack up?
J.M. DeMatteis: Scott’s work combines the energy and impact of Jack Kirby with the detail and invention of Moebius. (Two of my all-time favorite artists.) His art is unique and fits the character, and our stories, to a T.
CBN: Any current or future projects you would care to discuss?
J.M. DeMatteis: We’re in the middle of a huge crossover in the DCU Dark books and, as the writer of both Phantom Stranger and Justice League Dark, I’ve been deeply involved in constructing what I hope is a saga truly worth the readers’ time and money. I’ve been working side-by-side with Ray Fawkes—writer of Pandora and Constantine—on Forever Evil: Blight and it’s been a pleasure creating this massive, mystical tale with him. We’re trying very hard to make this a story that really matters to all our characters, that challenges them and takes them to new places. If you haven’t been reading the Forever Evil: Blight crossover, I hope you’ll give it a look.