By Robert Venditti's count, Hal Jordan has saved the universe numerous, numerous times. According to Merriam-Webster, "numerous" means scores -- plural. And "scores" means a group of 20, so you do the math. The fearless pilot turned ring bearer has been pretty busy since his debut in 1959.
But the writer of "Green Lantern" felt he had to push the former fearless test pilot to his uppermost limit by making him the leader of the Green Lantern Corps. No longer responsible for only his own safety, Hal must now protect the universe while leading 7,200 men, women and a living planet into battle.
Last week, DC Comics "Green Lantern" #29, written by Venditti and illustrated by Billy Tan, and CBR News reached out to speak with the writer about the powerful story titled, "Shipping Out."
Venditti, recently announced as the new co-writer of "The Flash," shared insight into what Hal has been dealing with since taking the reins of the Corps, the expanding role Saint Walker will play in the series moving forward and why it was important for the greatest Green Lantern of them all to have the backing of Kilowog, Salaak and Two-Six before confronting the shapeshifting Durlans in war.
CBR News: Before we dive into "Green Lantern" #29, I wanted to ask you about "Green Lantern" #28, which was a flipbook with "Red Lanterns" #28. It made for an awesome reading experience. Did you enjoy the project?
Robert Venditti: It was a lot of fun to work on. It was really neat. I hadn't really done anything like that before. Essentially, it was a two-issue crossover but we put it all in one book. I love working with Charles [Soule]. Charles and Van [Jensen] and Justin [Jordan] and Cullen [Bunn] are a great group of guys to work with in the writer's room. I've been friends with Van for a very long time but I didn't know the other guys on that level before this. Now I consider all of them my friends and they are really strong writers and great guys to work with.
It was really fun to have Charles and me write these two issues and have them play off each other and at the same time advance all of our storylines. The other nice thing about it is there are a lot of storylines going on in "Green Lantern" and "Red Lanterns" so having it being a flipbook, where the whole story was in one spot, means you didn't have to recap for the readers or remind readers what they read three weeks earlier in "Green Lantern" #28. It allowed us more space to put in even more story. I feel like we were able to really pack that issue with a lot of content.
Robert Venditti: Hal is an interesting character. He's obviously a very successful superhero and since he became a Green Lantern, he has saved the world numerous, numerous times. He's often referred to in the context of his stories as "the greatest Green Lantern of them all." I thought it would be an interesting thing to take a guy that has lived his entire life, really, acting on gut instinct, and push him into a leadership role.
Whether as a test pilot or as Green Lantern, he has always been one of those guys that just charges into the fray out of sheer bravery. He always has the will to overcome any circumstance. It's great and obviously very admirable but when you're the head of an organization, you're not always in a fist fight. There is a lot more to being a leader on a larger scale as opposed to being a leader in a fist fight.
That's the path Hal's been on until now -- acting on instinct in the thick of the battle -- but when you are a leading a large group, there has to be more planning. The opportunity to put him up against a conflict that he really hasn't faced before and some unique challenges is a lot of fun and we also get to see how he grows as a leader. He still saved the day a few times since he became leader of the Corps but he's also made some missteps.
In "Green Lantern" #29, which just came out [last] week, Hal really hit that rock bottom moment and realized that as a leader, he has to make some changes. That's what we see in this past issue and where we go from here is see what kind of leader Hal becomes from here on out.
CBR News: I don't know if I would call Hal cocky, but he's certainly brash. In this issue, he sits down with Kilowog, Salaak and Two-Six and asks for help. Was that hard for him, asking for help?
Robert Venditti: I think you hit it right on the head. He's not cocky but he is brash. And it's that brashness that has got him through the most difficult circumstances. I think when you have had a career like Hal, beating all the universe-spanning threats that he's beaten, even beating death on more than one occasion and being referred to as "the greatest Green Lantern of them all," I think that it would only be natural for you to start to think that the decisions that you make are right based on the virtue that you thought of them. I think that's where he's been for the past few months since taking over the leadership but now he realizes after making some pretty serious missteps -- with the final straw being this situation where he had to give control of Sector 2814 to the Red Lanterns, which is, of course, home sector to Earth -- there has to be another way to do this.
It's like he's realized, "I've always done so much by myself and always charged into the fray with the responsibility on me but this is a job that used to be done by a group of immortal guardians. And now I'm just by myself." [Laughs] For him to sit down and ask for that kind of assistance from his peers, like you said, is not something that we've seen him do before in the past but I do think it does show him growing as a leader. The most important thing you can have as a leader is know what your strengths are and what your weaknesses are. To help you lead, you need to overcome the latter of those. That's what we see him doing now.
Robert Venditti: Not only is Kilowog one of my personal favorites and also a good friend of Hal, he has trained a whole generation of Lanterns and he has a ton of respect amongst the Corps.
Salaak has really been down working in the nuts and bolts of the Corps, serving as protocol officer for such a long time under the Guardians. He really knows the Corps from an administrative perspective.
And Two-Six is a new recruit that has distinguished herself from a lot of new recruits in the wake of the events told in "Rise of the Third Army" and "Wrath of the First Lantern" and she's really represents the voice of this new generation of Lanterns.
As we've seen from all three of these characters over the past few months, they are all characters that challenge authority. They don't just take orders and go about them without any sort of thought. Hal has challenged Kilowog on a lot of the decisions that he has made. Two-Six challenged John Stewart in the "Lights Out" storyline. These are Lanterns that Hal knows will tell him their thoughts, which is what he needs as a leader right now. He doesn't want a bunch of yes men around him.
CBR News: Hal went to these three for help and they readily accepted the challenge. Not the case with Saint Walker.
Robert Venditti: Saint Walker is going to be a big part of the series in the coming months. This is another subplot to the series but there are no more Blue Lanterns. He's the last one left but he's also lost his hope. He's unable to wear his ring right now. It follows him around waiting for him to put it on. We have a long-term story in place for Saint Walker. I don't know how much I can give away beyond that because I don't want to give anything away but again, he's another character that we're putting up against conflicts that they haven't had to face before like the realization of the emotional spectrum and what it means. He's also dealing with the loss of Kyle Rayner, who was the only hope for refilling the reservoir and now everybody thinks he's dead. That puts Saint Walker in a situation where he's having a real crisis of conscience of whether or not he can wield his ring as a Blue Lantern. Because of the way it can supercharge rings, it can also be seen as the greatest consumer of emotional energy of them all.
CBR News: DC Comics is always looking for new series to keep the title count at 52. I would love to see a Saint Walker/Mogo buddy cop book like "Rush Hour."
Robert Venditti: [Laughs] Yes. Saint Walker needed a new friend so he struck up a friendship with Mogo and I think they play off each other really well.
CBR News: Speaking of new friendships, Hal shares a few panels with Simon Baz in this issue, which is a character that he hasn't spent a lot of time with 'on-screen.'
Robert Venditti: As I mentioned, while the Red Lanterns now have control of Sector 2814, the one stipulation that Hal was able to get out of Guy for that was that one Green Lantern has to be able to stay on Earth just to watch over things. He can't patrol the rest of the sector but he gets to protect Earth. And Guy agreed to that and that's Simon Baz. He's in charge of keeping planet Earth safe.
Hal brings Simon to introduce him to his brother Jim and his nephew and his niece and says, "You have to keep an eye on these people because I'm going off to war." The title of the issue is 'Shipping Out' and it's a real shipping out kind of moment. Hal has to say goodbye to his family and leave for the war and Mogo has to relocate to the war zone. But where that's going to go with Simon Baz watching over the family and where that leads to, again we have a very long-term plan in place for that.
CBR News: And the war Hal and the Lanterns are heading toward is against the Durlans -- a race of shapeshifters. And what's shown in this issue, and long suspected by Hal, is that there is a Durlan amongst the Lanterns. There is a spy.
Robert Venditti: Yes. In "Green Lantern" #27, there is a Durlan revealed that is an impostor among the Corps on Mogo and he's posing as a cook. And he helped this other warring faction that the Green Lanterns were butting heads with, which is a sort of criminal gang. He helped them dynamite the command center. And that villain is still on the loose on Mogo. That's the character that we saw again at the end of "Green Lantern" #29. What that develops into, you're going to see in #30 and #31.
This war is going to be the Green Lanterns fighting for the future of the Corps. And they're fighting to regain their reputation, which has become understandably tarnished over the ending of the previous Guardians' leadership of the Corps, which brought about the Third Army and the wrath of the First Lantern. The universe doesn't know if it really trusts the Green Lanterns to be police anymore. And since Hal's taken over the leadership -- through some of his own fault and how he's been framed by the Durlans -- the Green Lantern Corps' reputation has been diminished even further. The universe is really rising up against them and that's the war that the Green Lanterns are facing.
How do you fight these enemies and also protect the universe that doesn't necessarily want your protection anymore because they no longer trust you? It's the future of the Corps and the future of its standing in the universe that's at stake. And, of course, without the Corps, the universe falls apart because there is nothing to protect it, which is what the Durlans want.