25/3 The Green Lantern S2 Annotations
LIBRARY artefact #011
The Green Lantern S2 Annotations
Season 1 of The Green Lantern was a triumph of laid-back meticulous planning, with most issues written a whole year ahead of publication. I’d never been a particularly big fan of the Hal Jordan character and wanted to take the time to do him justice with a series of stories that showcased what I saw as Jordan’s resourceful nature and unflappable cool. Hal Jordan’s continuity, as refined by Geoff Johns, hadn’t changed much since he made his Silver Age debut as Earth’s Green Lantern in Showcase #22 from 1959. As with Batman, it was easy to look at Jordan’s published adventures as the continuing story one man’s experience – and as with Batman, taking that into account meant this was a man who’d seen and done it all and not easily given to self-doubt or massive introspection.
This ‘veteran’ portrayal of Jordan played into the intentions of original GL artist Gil Kane, who’d modelled Jordan’s features after those of actor Paul Newman. We looked to classic Newman performances – especially in Cool Hand Luke and The Hustler – for Jordan’s poise and confidence, as well as his fondness for a blue-collar brawl at the least provocation and I saw him as a refreshing alternative to the vogue at the time for troubled self-examining superheroes.
I also saw a way to sidestep, at least for myself who grew up with a natural antipathy towards law enforcement, the troubling implications of writing a ‘police’ hero by positing the Green Lantern Corps as servants of some Cosmic Dharma, with the Guardians of the Universe more in the role of enlightened Dzogchen masters than as wizened authoritarians.
This allowed us to bring a dash of Jack Kerouac and On The Road Beatitude to the adventures of our wanderin’ beatnik spaceman which helped to flesh out Jordan’s complex character in our minds!
I knew exactly where the story was going and how it would play out as what became the Blackstars series, three issues taking place between seasons to give Liam a chance to take a breather and bounce back refreshed for the return of The Green Lantern!
I’ll get around to talking about the effortless glide of Season 1 later perhaps but in hindsight, it’s Season 2 that fascinates me more with its attendant storm and stress, trauma, tears and rapid manic improv.
Yes, trauma! Tears! Improv! Excited now? Read on, True Deceiver!
As so often happens, choosing my projects on the whim of the winds, I planned to bow out at the end of Blackstars but Liam and I were having a lot of fun working together and we’d left a few unresolved plot threads waving in the breeze on the off chance we chose to keep going into a second ‘season’ of the book.
Liam was also eager to have a big chunky collection at the end of it and 12 issues couldn’t satisfy his vision of an epic Absolute edition to showcase his incredible definitive work (we’re still hoping and waiting). The idea of doing an extra turn around the sun with Hal Jordan became more and more inevitable.
So after completing Blackstars, I set about planning for twelve issues to wrap up The Green Lantern and do some stories we didn’t get to in the first year, following up on unresolved mysteries like Zundernell the Golden Lantern (originally ‘Sentinel,’ in reference to original Green Lantern Alan Scott’s ‘90s persona), and his connection to the Golden Giants from the Silver Age Flash story ‘Land of the Golden Giants’, the mysterious hourglass on planet Athmoora, and strife brewing within the United Planets Superwatch. I wanted to ground Hal Jordan on Earth for at least half the year and manoeuvre him into awkward confrontations with a parade of ex-lovers. Where the first season had a Green Arrow team-up, this would feature a wild psychedelic adventure with the Flash…etc…
We’d started Season 1 with the promise that The Green Lantern would take its cues from police procedural dramas, as translated into a superhero sci-fi context. It surprised me when some readers complained that we’d dropped the procedural format early on, when in fact most stories were based on some familiar cop show trope.
In Season 2, for instance, we had the classic ‘rookie’ episode, a stake out plot, a missing pet story, a siege &c. The procedural element never went away!
Anyway, after a lively start, 2019 was turning into one of the gloomiest years of my professional life. The Invisibles TV show was canned for the second time, my Flash script with Ezra Miller was rejected with barely a comment or backward glance by the producers, and the script I’d written for Episode 9 of the Brave New World adaptation became the show’s sacrificial victim when budget considerations meant the series was cut from a planned ten episodes to nine, necessitating swift structural revisions by our showrunner David Wiener and the jettisoning of my original screenplay. In each case, I was paid for my work but in each case, I’d have preferred to see my efforts reach the screen.
Throw the first grindings of chronic osteo-arthritic leg pain into the gruesome mix and you have a classic annus horribilis in the making for Yours Truly!
Somewhere in that backwards-running early part of the year, the call came in that The Green Lantern Season 2 was to be truncated from twelve issues to six, or ideally less, making way for the juggernaut arrival of the planned 5G overhaul of DC’s entire continuity and publishing line, along with a new direction for Green Lantern (interestingly enough, it was to be more of a horror title, I believe but I’m sure the book’s creator Jeff Lemire might be able to tell you more about that if you head over to his Substack…)
As regular readers in Xanaduum are already aware, 5G suffered a terminal setback when DC publisher Dan DiDio left the company in 2020 but plans were very much in place to retire Hal Jordan in favour of a more diverse human member of the Green Lantern Corps. I was all in favour of the update – but wished it could have waited until we were done. As it was it felt like a demoralising vote of no confidence for the work Liam and I were doing. We’d done our best to give the character some dignity and authority. Now it appeared we might be writing his swan song.
With my enthusiasm leaking like gas from a balloon, I tried to restructure the overall season arc to suit the new schema – dropping much of the connecting tissue to focus instead on the single-issue adventures we had planned, and on wrapping Jordan’s story with the 2-part stories we had planned for the end; first re-uniting Jordan with his One True Love Carol Ferris in a kind of cosmic romantic comedy, followed and a Final Battle story set on the swords-and-sorcery world of Athmoora.
Having re-organised the stories in a way that felt tolerable we received the news that we now had eight issues to work with.
Hands thrown in air. Gnashing of teeth and rending of garments. Kenneth Williams’ last tortured diary entry – ‘oh what’s the bloody point!’
By this bloody point I was very much regretting the decision to stick with it.
Nevertheless, commiserating with Liam, we chose to go out in a blaze and decided we’d use this opportunity to go batshit crazy – to just do whatever we felt like doing and in any style, quoting all our favourite comics and artists on the way! Vows were made and we returned to our task with a new grim fervour, bitter but bloody-mindedly determined to simply please ourselves on the way out.
As mentioned, the first issue had been written long before the rest so that Liam could get a good head start while Xermanico was drawing Blackstars, and one of the first ideas was to depict an intergalactic symposium of space lawmen, pulling together numerous interplanetary and interstellar law enforcement agencies which had appeared in DC comics over the decades.
We wanted a clean start with a new status quo for the book, heralded by the introduction of the new Young Guardians to shake up the Green Lantern Corps while the existing Guardians of the Universe depart to fight in the mysterious Ultrawar – it seemed like a promising start …
New character Rykaktoro of the Karalyx, a Rochelle salt-based crystalline intelligence was inspired by a couple of panels in Strange Adventures #71 where a pair of faceted crystal cops show up at the story’s conclusion to arrest that issue’s villains. They only appear in two panels but they’re exactly the sort of throwaway, overlooked element that tends to get me thinking.
One of the things we hoped to do in The Green Lantern was to consolidate DC’s ‘cosmic’ canvas so that aliens glimpsed in a single panel of a story or seen on a Batman cover from 19… could reappear as representatives of galactic civilizations, thus unifying and uniting DC cosmology over many decades.
Now, when some Adam Strange enthusiast chances upon the brief arrival of crystal cops from Karalyx or spots Xanthos of Zarala, the sense of a shared universe going back generations is strengthened.
The double page spread of the law enforcement convention on planet Oa features a number of interplanetary or interstellar agencies from DC’s long history – the lawman Xanthos of Zarala is from Mystery in Space # 76. The Watchdogs of the Universe appear, or rather don’t appear on account of being completely invisible, in Strange Adventures #62. We also see representatives from Thanagar home of space polis Hawkman and Hawkwoman. Captain Comet is there, albeit colored green instead of red with Elvith of the Cometeers/nee Wanderers. A delegation from the Superwatch can be seen along with Adam Strange and Alanna of Rann. There’s an apologetic Lovercraftian alien, and a Judge Dredd expy called Jujj Plodd.
Liam Sharp and I appear at the bar in the bottom left of the spread, sharing space with my all-time favourite space superheroine crush Luma Lynai AKA Superwoman. Above us can be seen the alien cops from ‘The Interplanetary Batman’ in BATMAN #128, December 1959.
The character of Mother Juna was derived from the classic Denny O’Neil/Neal Adams Green Lantern/Green Arrow #81 where she was a little insensitively portrayed as a hysterical menopausal woman driven to distraction and the mass cloning option by her inability to have children of her own.
Here we decided to redeem her somewhat as more of a super-geneticist, providing a new reason for the over-population of the planet Maltus when the scenario we witnessed in GL/GA #81 is revealed to have been only one of a series of full-scale simulations the Guardians would run to study the rise and fall of differently structured civilizations.
The planet Maltus, of course is named for Thomas Robert Malthus who in his 1798 Essay on the Principle of Population famously predicted the runaway growth of population – inspiring the film Soylent Green among other things.
At the time of writing episode 1, I was working on the Brave New World TV show restructuring Aldous Huxley’s caste system ranging from the intellectual Alphas to the labouring Epsilons, so Mother Juna’s latest simulated culture reflects that with its very much simpler three-caste cloned society of brutish worker Primorgs, consumer Centorgs and administrative reptilian Psiorgs.
With the long promised introduction of Hal Jordan’s upgraded Lantern and revitalized Ring, I wanted to get back to the original John Broome approach in the early stories, where the Power Ring was more of an out-and-out wishing ring capable of manifesting anything the bearer could imagine – seen in the first issue of Season 2 shrinking objects and devolving lifeforms into simpler forms etc.
I’d started working on this issue before finishing Blackstars, so as soon as that series was wrapped, I got to work on the second issue of The Green Lantern Season 2.
Little did I know my year was about to get much worse!..
With more to come…