When it came time to do the Green Lantern story they wanted to tell, Corrina Bechko and Gabriel Hardman didn't wait for a call from DC Comics.
"We actually brought it to them," Bechko recalls.
According to her husband and creative partner Gabriel Hardman, the Hugo-nominated creators of the acclaimed Image Comics title Invisible Republic already had a Lantern story in mind — but then DC publisher Dan DiDio made a suggestion. "He said, 'Well maybe we can do a Green Lantern Earth One book.' I know they had tried to get other versions of this book going at various points in time."
The resulting book, Green Lantern: Earth One Vol. 1, debuting on March 20, is the latest release in DC's bestselling series that provides reimagined origin stories for the company's most beloved heroes. Of course, the inter-galactic nature of the Green Lantern mythos offered inherent challenges for a series that's had a more grounded take on superheroes.
Hardman says DiDio gave them ample room to take their own approach to the story. "They were just looking for a take on it, and there were not any strong ground rules for exactly what a book like this could be," he said. "It was more just a general ethos that the story be more accessible to people who don't necessarily know the character, but still be interesting to people who do."
SYFY WIRE was able to dive into a review copy of the book. We'll avoid crossing over into spoilerish territory, but we can say that this is a very different Hal Jordan than we're used to seeing. A big reason for that is Bechko and Hardman, much like they've done in past works like their excellent run on Boom! Studios' Planet of the Apes comics, deconstructed the character to his core. They also took away some of the more familiar and comfortable elements that fans have become accustomed to seeing in Green Lantern tales. In addition, thanks to Hardman's line art and Jordan Boyd's textured coloring, the mood of the book often leans closer to frightening science fiction films like Moon than the bright space adventure we've seen in many GL stories.
During our conversation with the creative duo, we talked about their approach to Hal Jordan, the surprising influences on the story, and the supporting character they knew right from the start had to be in the book. Read what they had to say and then check out the exclusive seven-page preview of Green Lantern: Earth One Vol. 1!
How did you first break story on this book?
Gabriel: It all started with that one central image - the idea of Hal Jordan not being able to control the ring in space and it being a dangerous, scary situation for him. And kind of following that line, that the ring is a tool that he has to learn how to use as opposed to something he was chosen to do, and was all-powerful from the start. That takes us along a very different path for telling the story.
This is a very different Hal Jordan than we've seen before, nothing like the fearless Silver Age Hal. He's very disillusioned, a former NASA guy doing grunt work in space. How did his back story develop?
Corrina: We wanted to keep it … five minutes in the future, not something so fantastical. We wanted something that was more grounded science fiction, something where it was more relatable, about a person who would actually have found a tool, not a person who was anointed from the beginning.
Gabriel: Since you referenced the Silver Age origins of Hal Jordan, one thing that we went to when we started this, is that the way all those Silver Age characters developed with sci-fi bents to them. And if we're going to tell a science fiction story, we wanted to start it in a sci-fi world, but a grounded one. Where there are real stakes involved. If the ring is all-powerful, if there's this giant organization out there of the Green Lantern Corps telling him what to do, it's all comforting, but we wanted to tell a story that had real danger and challenges for our main character when we put him through the ringer.
The art in the book really helps capture that uncomfortable nature, and sets a much more dangerous tone for the story right from the start. An early sequence where a dead alien is discovered reminded me a bit of the first Alien movie. Did you set to create a scarier vibe with the art?
Gabriel: In all things we're trying to reach through the comic book and grab the reader by the lapel and — assuming they're wearing a suit jacket — and pull them into this world. We didn't want a passive experience. Comics almost by definition are passive. They're static images on paper. You have to do everything you can to… certainly how you tell the story matters, but also the layouts, the staging of the scenes, the ways that you can make an impact on the reader and bring them into your story as aggressively as you can. Yeah, absolutely we'll go for things that tell that story in a visceral way.
Where there any notable influences that informed this story?
Gabriel: I think a lot o the influences on the story are not very apparent. I mean, you mentioned Alien, and the aesthetic of that movie is something we both love. But, something we thought about a lot was The Wizard of Oz.
Really? That's not a film whose influence is easily noticed.
Gabriel: Yeah, and not because there's a little dog or scarecrows and stuff. But because of the arc of the story. It's a story about going from a provincial place out into a bigger world and seeing some unexpected things, and finding out who's behind all of this. A lot of things can come into stuff like this that won't be on the surface and apparent.
Corrina: That's certainly something we talked about a lot. I think that a lot of …my background is in zoology so we talked a lot about making the aliens seem more …realistic and that they could actually happen. I thought about the book Under the Skin quite a bit in terms of something that seems very frightening and very real.
Gabriel: There's of course some easy go-to reference points to touch on visually, but having unexpected inspirations is probably a good thing. Otherwise you would be making something closer to fan fiction.
Is it liberating as writers to not have to worry about the decades of mythology a character like Green Lantern has?
Corrina: Certainly, yes. But when we want total freedom to do what we want, we do make our own creator-owned books, so we have that. But we don't try to override what the tone or the character should be when we're working for someone else. We try to get it to feel like the character and the world and not impose our own ideals in that way. But yes, the more degrees of freedom you have, the better story we can craft.
Gabriel: Making a book like this is quite more our strength than an in-continuity book. But our default thing is working on projects like our Image series, Invisible Republic. We have all the freedom there. We're responsible for everything, down to putting the book together and sending it off to print. This is a … this is a different kind of experience and it's a fun challenge to take these already-existing elements and weave them into a fresh story. Since we haven't spent more of our time working on in-continuity books anyway, this is probably a little less freedom. That said, DC was incredibly supportive in letting us tell the story we wanted to tell, and that's what we did.
Kilowog is one of my favorite DC characters, and he's great in this story. The relationship he has with Hal is so special. Did you know right from the beginning of the storytelling process that Kilowog would play a central role here?
Gabriel: Yeah, he was the first character that we thought of to bring in that was another established character. For two reasons: He's a visually interesting and unique character, and that's important. Also, he's different enough from human beings, but not so different that he is unrelatable. Kilowog is a character who has a specific personality in the main DC universe, but we were able to present him in a different way here. And that's because his circumstances are so different.
One of the guiding ideas that we had in making this book was that … if the personalities of characters are different [than what fans are used to] it's more about the circumstances they went through up to this point that have molded them into a somewhat different person, rather than just changing the personality of a character arbitrarily. And Kilowog's situation is much different when we meet him in this story than the guy who's been training Green Lanterns on OA forever.
Speaking of changing, Hal Jordan is a much different person by the end of this story. What is it about Hal that makes him such a great character to write?
Corinna: One thing that makes Hal unique is that a lot of heroes are born heroic. Or if they're not born, they're created to be different than regular humans, but Jordan is a man who has a special tool, the ring.
Gabriel: Yeah, he has talent and abilities but we wanted to have a character who was not exploiting his skills enough or wasn't given a chance to. The ring coming along gives him the opportunity to rise to the occasion, do the right thing and the things he should have been doing all along.
The last few pages of the book certainly leave the door open for more adventures in this universe. Do you two have another Green Lantern: Earth One story ready?
Gabriel: Oh yeah! Oh yeah.
That was a quick answer!
Gabriel: Well yeah, of course we think about this. We spent all that time writing this book! We definitely know where we could go from here. If the book does well enough and they want us back, we'd be happy to do it. But it's both. The ending of the story does set up that there could be more to come. But the ending is also a thematic conclusion to the journey of Hal Jordan in this book.