30/4 The Green Lantern S2 Annotations
LIBRARY artefact #015
The Green Lantern S2 Annotations
Issue 8, the Qward story, was a real favourite of mine. I was very proud of this nihilistic anti-matter anti-love story with its backwards running chronology - but many readers found it confusing and its sensitive portrayal of a doomed love affair between sworn arch-enemies failed to win any awards, or indeed raise any especial interest.
Set on the anti-matter world of Qward (a contraction of ‘backward’ according to its creator John Broome) and reintroducing the anti-matter version of Sinestro we’d debuted in Season 1, I decided that the story should be told in reverse chronology so that each backward jump into the past reveals a little bit more of the aching rotten hole of cruelty and rage at the story’s heart!
This allowed us to save our big reveal until the end, which was in fact the beginning, and showed us the bleak ruthless hopelessness of falling for one’s enemy in a universe where ‘evil’ always prevails…
The ill-starred love affair of the anti-matter Hal Jordan would lead us into the next story, which began by ticking off another classic ‘procedural’ trope, in this case ‘cop giving evidence in rigged trial of beloved hero…’ before focusing on the Jordan/Carol Ferris relationship, bringing the Golden Giants strand back to A-plot status and delivering Zundernell’s thread to its bathetic conclusion.
The romantic-comedy styled 2-parter that ensued – featuring two universes, two Green Lanterns, two Star Sapphires and a mess of misunderstandings and mistaken identities - was another story we’d planned back in Season 1.
The interplay between the two mirror universe couples was a delight to choreograph; we wanted the whole seemingly super-important apocalyptic conflict with a weaponized Zundernell to play out in the background, foregrounding instead the intimate drama of bickering lovers in mid-fight, switching allegiances on a dime!
We had a lot of fun with the Earth-11 Green Lantern by positioning him in the ‘Star Sapphire’ villain role. On regular DC Earth of course, Hal Jordan’s ‘one true love’ has a second life as space super-dominatrix Star Sapphire, so we made her Earth-11 counterpart an unreconstructed jock bro version of Green Lantern representing a male supremacist patriarchal missionary force.
I appreciated the chance to flesh out Earth-11, an existing world of DC’s Multiverse, where gender is said to be ‘reversed’ so that Batman becomes Batwoman, and Wonder Woman is Wonderous Man etc.
To the Earth-11 Justice Guild roster, I added Marsha Manhunter, figuring J’onn J’onnz, the Martian Manhunter, being a shapeshifter, could become Joan Jones as easily as John Jones, and Sister Terrific, based on Lizzo. In similar vein, our ‘reversed’ Stargirl was Starboy, inspired by The Weeknd’s ‘motherfucking starboy’ from his video!
I was a little disappointed when the Batwoman of this world was transformed into the evil Batwoman Who Laughs, although I totally understood why writer Joshua Williamson (whose work I enjoy) chose to take this route and why the notion of a ‘Batwoman Who Laughs’ based on Scott Snyder’s infamously and hilariously nihilistic creation the Batman Who Laughs might seem too good to pass up!
Nevertheless, I’m quite protective of my Multiversity work and I get about as riled as I can get about these things nowadays when other creators choose to artificially raise the stakes in their stories by destroying characters and concepts before they even get a chance to be explored. How can I ever forgive my former Batman editor and pal Peter Tomasi for killing Red Racer, the gay Flash of Earth-36 thereby destroying his relationship with Flashlight, that world’s version of Green Lantern, and killing a newly-created queer character for no defensible reason? Red Racer’s place on the multiversal Justice Incarnate has now been claimed by the ‘non-binary’ Kid Quick.
In my view, the general rule of thumb is that each of these alternate worlds should be treated as its own potential franchise rather than squandered as disposable cannon fodder for the nineteenth nervous re-run of Crisis on Infinite Earths – the ‘Major Comics’ universe Earth-8 for instance should reflect the actual Marvel universe, which is to say don’t do anything to American Crusader or The Bug that would be squashed by editorial if you submitted your plot to the editors of Captain America or Spider-Man. You can do ‘The Death of American Crusader’ but only if you have an Ed Brubaker-style story designed to explore what that means and devised to bring him back in style when the time comes!
In the case of the Earth-11 Kathy Kane at least, I’d like to think there’s hope for putting her back where she belongs in the Earth-11 Batwoman role. The Batwoman Who Laughs should technically come from the Dark Multiverse, of course, not from the Orrery of Worlds, so maybe there was a mix-up and Earth-11 Batwoman is even now fighting her way back home from the Dark Multiverse… or something.
Concepts attempting to manifest from the aforementioned ‘Dark Multiverse’ and seen on pages 9 and 10 include various representatives of broken or evil Green Lantern Corps operatives – a Parallax Lantern, Guy Gardner gone homicidal, a killer Manhunter android, Darkseid wielding the rings of the entire ‘emotional spectrum’ like Thanos’ ‘infinity gauntlet’. A rogue, possessed Power Ring, Richard Nixon as a Crusader-style GL (the original of this page features a Hitler Green Lantern wearing Teutonic Knights armour – all Holy Grail and Lohengrin meets Alex Ross – but Liam was asked to change it as no-one at the time needed to see Nazi Green Lantern turn up online. Our second suggestion, Donald Trump, was nixed as election mania gripped the USA at the end of 2020) zombie GLs, an evil Alan Scott with reversed costume colours and so on…
I enjoyed the opportunity to add another wrinkle to the will-they/won’t-they relationship of business-oriented part-time space villain Carol Jordan and wild free spirited cosmic lawman Hal Jordan and to provide yet another plausible reason for why they can’t settle down just yet.
The return to the swords-and-sorcery world of Athmoora in the final 2-part story was part of my big farewell to the Dc Universe. I’d been treating the place as a personal playground for decades and felt the time had come at last to pass the lantern to a younger, keener generation of writers bubbling up all around me.
The seeds of the Athmoora story had been planted in Season 1, issue #9, where we gave readers their first glimpse of the fantasy planet and its cast of characters.
The planet Athmoora first appeared in Green Lantern #16’s Earth’s First Green Lantern (the same issue featured the first appearance of Carol Ferris as Star Sapphire). In this typically inventive John Broome tale from 1962, the inhabitants of Athmoora have become prey to a race of predatory energy creatures known as Larifars who feed on their intelligence or ‘I-Factor’, thus preventing them from developing their culture past a feudal level.
How Hal Jordan’s predecessor the alien Abin Sur solves the problem of returning the ‘I-Factor’ stolen by the Larifars is glossed over in the story – so I imagined him creating an ‘Intelligence Engine’ to neutralize Larifar technology.
The only way to save the Athmoorans was to ‘freeze’ their development and keep Larifar mind-machines occupied with an AI loop. I’d known from the start that any hypothetical Season 2 finale would be entitled ‘The Intelligence Engine’ and serve as a handy metaphor for my growing concerns that ‘veteran’ creators like me were retarding the development of the DC Universe for what amounted to selfish reasons.
For our version of Athmoora, Liam and I amplified its theme park, simulated quality; it’s a self-conscious condensation of a hundred fantasy tropes and archetypes where Mordor and Melnibone might be neighbouring states with Narnia, Earthsea, or Westeros.
The Larifars themselves seemed like they could be given some offscreen connection to the Golden Race of the Majistry.
In the story, we see Hal Jordan tired of Earth, his latest gambit with Carol foiled and a weary sense that, not unlike his story’s latest author, he’s feeling a sense of restriction and with it an understanding that the time has come to leave the daily grind of policing the stars to the new recruits.
On page 11 we see three potential candidates for a future GL direction – that’s Green Lantern Sojourner ‘Jo’ Mullein from N.K. Jemsin’s groundbreaking series Far Sector, Tai Pham from Green Lantern: Legacy by Minh Lê and Andie Tong, and Keli Quintela the Teen Lantern, as conceived by Brian Michael Bendis and Patrick Gleason for Young Justice.
These three seemed to me to represent genuinely interesting and innovative ways the Green Lantern franchise could develop away from the Hal Jordan/John Stewart/Corpsmen model - although I began to feel as I approached the close of the run that an alien Green Lantern assigned to Earth and environs might also make for a good lead character – some weird looking outsider pretending to be human, struggling with our culture and customs as they seek to protect the spaceways in Sector 2814 etc etc.
Both Liam and I wanted our swansong on The Green Lantern to delve deep into some of our formative influences as working-class kids wrapped up in fantasy stories and improbable unreal worlds – our escape from humdrum lives in northern towns.
So Athmoora was remade; no longer ‘mediaeval’, it became a more accurate reflection of my teenage bedroom world of Jimmy Cauty Tolkien posters, Moorcock novels, Conan comics, Celtic myth and Norse mythology, Frank Frazetta and Thomas Covenant – and there had to be a MAP of course, roughly sketched by Yours Truly then beautifully realized by Liam.
And so, the opening of issue #11 is written to echo the narrative voice of Roy Thomas’ Conan stories, although to be honest, reading again it sounds more like ‘70s Chris Claremont.
Fekk the Faun is a Michael Moorcock-type comic foil, recalling Moonglum from the Elric books. The same archetype surfaces as Jim Starlin’s Pip the Troll, to whom Fekk owes an immense debt.
The trans warrior nun Samandra seemed like a character who could handle her own series of fantasy paperbacks, some of which are even given titles during her death scene in issue #12 (the death scenes were intended to recall similar passages at the end of Moorcock’s Count Brass series from a climactic battle sequence which affected me greatly as a youngster).
The whole thing then, is an homage to shared, early artistic influences from the 1970s - Roger Dean, Chris Foss, Jim Fitzpatrick (a great hero of mine who, alongside his incredible drawings and paintings of Celtic deities created the famous red and black Che Guevara image) Patrick Woodroffe, Bruce Pennington and the other brilliant illustrators who provided covers for our favourite novels and gave us lush and engrossing art books like Dean’s Views, Matthews’ In Search of Forever and pretty much the entire output of the publishers Dragons Dream.
On page 13, we subtly close another strand of our story – back in Season 1, issue #3, Jordan appears to lose his temper and kill the Dhorian slave trader Volgar Zo. We subsequently learned that his loss of control and increasing aggression were deceptions designed to strengthen his cover story when he infiltrated the Blackstars but Volgar Zo was a loose end with a sour taste and here we see the resolution of his story – not murdered but captured and co-opted into the Lantern Corps as a rookie officer!
Jordan’s pose when he’s struck by ghost missiles on page 15 is based on the logo of Swan Song, the record label set up in 1974 by Led Zeppelin and their notorious manager Peter Grant. The logo itself hints at the legend of Icarus but in fact it’s based on an 1870 drawing of the god Apollo – the Green Lantern of the Greek Pantheon - by artist William Rimmer.
The Fire-Schooner Liam depicts on pages 18/19 is a deliberate twist on Rodney Matthews classic Ice Schooner illustration.
As an aside, I own a few Rodney Matthews prints and even have an early original in my study up the road!
More miraculous – and at the beating heart of our remarkable collaboration - Liam KNEW exactly what I was talking about when I mentioned how I wanted the cosmic spacesuits of the warring Guardians to resemble the designs of artist Brian Lewis, or asked for a Tim Conrad Conan feel or whatever other obscure reference I’d insisted on including.
That was one of the things that made our partnership so rich and rewarding; Liam was already familiar with every artist, every style I could mention, and had the talent and confidence to assimilate and reproduce any and all influences into his own unique work without ever losing the sound of his voice.
Make Liam Sharp’s dream come true! Write to DC and demand an ABSOLUTE EDITION of THE GREEN LANTERN NOW!
The image of a masked Hector Hammond holding the leashes of toy-like versions of Samandra and Fekk on the final page of issue #11 is intended to recall the Tarot trump 13 The Devil, while Hammond’s spherical mask is a tip of the hat to the artist Ron English…
GL Season 2 annotations conclude next time…