But filtering Morrison's thoughts into something on the page that lives up to his imagination requires heavy lifting, long hours and great attention to detail. That's why writer/artist Liam Sharp (Wonder Woman Rebirth, The Brave and the Bold: Batman and Wonder Woman) is the perfect collaborator on The Green Lantern.
In this new launch, Morrison had the idea of telling cop stories but in extraordinary circumstances and against the boundless canvas of outer space. Intended to be a love letter to science fiction nostalgia, The Green Lantern features Hal Jordan, who gets off the boring rock that's Earth and gets involved in a new intergalactic conspiracy.
SYFY WIRE has a four-page preview of The Green Lantern #2 (see gallery) and spoke with Sharp about working with Morrison, the painstaking effort they put into the book, and his return to the mainstream.
The Green Lantern was such a vast departure from Wonder Woman, but it's clear you're such a natural fit for this book.
I love science-fiction stories, movies, Heavy Metal Magazine, and 2000 A.D. comics. Stuff like Michael Kaluta's Starstruck was a big, big favorite of mine, book covers done by Chris Foss, Moebius, and the works of Roger Dean–just set my mind on fire. Whether I knew it or not, it was always sort of embedded in my DNA. The big space-faring epic, different environment, rugged, sleek, Vegas-style environments, spaceships are all fun to draw along with the Giger organic alien stuff. Rather than it being a crazy challenge, it felt like a release. It felt freer to just create stuff and have fun.
Your depictions of a busier outer space contrast the usual oceans of black. Every panel looks alive — it's blinking, it's breathing and moving.
Thank you! It's funny because Grant said that he felt like it was moving too, especially in issue #2, with Volgar Zo, he has these vertical slits for eyes and looks like an animatronic. At my heart, I'm an illustrator who loves comics, I draw from an illustration point of view. Storytelling is something that came second to me over years and years of doing it. Whereas the visual aspect and creation of environments, machinery and setting up big vistas are stuff I was drawn to since I was a kid.
My mentor was Englishman Don Lawrence (Trigan Empire, Storm) and his stuff was extraordinarily detailed–not afraid of anything. He taught me about texture, that everything is made of different material. You should always bear in mind that a lot of comics people draw everything as if they're made of the same material, but they're not. That's stayed with me to today.
Is it a challenge to create not only new alien life forms, but create meaningful body posture and expressions that could communicate to the reader?
Yes, that is a challenge actually. When Grant talks about the Flehmen response on page 15 of the first issue, he said 'If you look for it on the internet, you'll see cats and horses making that face. Now just make a human do it.' [laughs] Oh Grant, you make it sound so easy, but doing it was quite entertaining.
In issue 2, there's a hospital above one of the planets and it has a red cross on the side of it, like a universal symbol for nurses, doctors, and ambulances. It also oddly makes sense. If every planet was space-faring, you'd need to have some recognizable signposts otherwise it's going to be chaos out there. If you extrapolate from that, and assume some gestures are going to be universal, then you can start to play with that. It's not easy – like how do you make a slug frown – but it's fun, too.
Do you ever commiserate with Hal and feel bored doing Earth-bound scenes as opposed to the extraterrestrial?
Not really. I really enjoyed the complete contrast between the alien craziness of the first few pages and then the sudden stillness of that spread with Hal looking up in the sky with his profile echoed in the mountains. There's some calm before the storm, and it nice to take a breather and to almost be on that journey with him.
The other thing we wanted to establish was a sense of Jack Kerouac-Americana. There was something nice about doing this open road approach and putting him in Cool Hand Luke clothes. They're clearly ancient, and not ironed. He doesn't care what he looks like, but he's just enigmatic anyway, you know? He's just got his shirt, one bag with a few belongings that don't have much meaning to him. He's still bound to it because of these relationships, and the people that he cares about, but he's torn, longing for the heavens. He's delighted when he gets his ring powered up again. That's his happy place.
From the writing to the art, to the coloring, lettering, and even the editing, to put forth a complete intergalactic experience.
The team is extremely accommodating and usually, there's a reason behind everything. We are going really deep in terms of what the backgrounds are of these characters, why they might be this color, why they might have this language. You don't feel like you're completely alone, there are people sharing in the journey.
Grant told us that he's changed his approach in response to your art, how so?
For example, he's changed the way they speak based on the drawing and based on a feeling. Like Volk, the Volcano-Green Lantern, that rumbling dialogue with the extenuated "R"s was a direct response from the artwork that wasn't in the original script (See our preview pages of Sharp's awesome rendition of Volk).
How do you feel whenever Grant does that?
For starters, it's extremely flattering that he feels that way. From the other side, when I get the script, I try to put in every single bit of detail that he asks for and then add more, because I have my own ideas. There's a character in issue #4 that was meant to be in disguise, I don't want to spoil it, but how it evolved into something much more elaborate was from a discussion that lasted two to three days and I think the result is absolutely worth it. It's not always like that, though.
Grant told me that in the past, some people would rather just draw people talking to each other and he loves that I roll my sleeves up and dig into the details, no matter how crazy it may seem, or how much work it might need. There are times when I thought, THAT is going to require a lot of work, a lot of hours. The reality is that once you roll up your sleeves, you can do it, you just have to figure out how.
Each page is proof of the long hours you put into it, so how does The Green Lantern compare?
I'm definitely putting in the hours. There's no doubt about that and there's no corner-cutting on this book–it'd be immediately apparent. I'm doing long days, but the payoff is too important, really. My family is not seeing much of me on the weekend but I'm home at least. So I'm just the dad in the corner; they pass by and pat me on the head. They're very considerate, very supportive and loving.
Rebirth welcomed you back to superhero mainstream. As cyclical as superheroes can be for some, it can also recharge and open new opportunities like The Green Lantern, no?
I never intended to fall away from the mainstream. There's only a limited amount of books and sometimes it's just timing. It only takes you going off to do a book under the radar, (which still takes 2-3 years of your life) and isn't seen by many people to fall out orbit of editorial and the companies. Everyone thinks you disappeared but you haven't. It's not that you didn't want to do more books like that, it's just that the opportunity wasn't there. The realization is that the older you get, it becomes rarified air.
When I drew Wonder Woman during her 75th year, I thought about early on, these books were intended to be done by one artist for large chunks of time. So you wonder just how many artists really had a run on that character, then you start to realize your chances of doing that are so infinitely tiny that it was a miracle that it happened in the first place. Getting back there is extremely hard that you feel blessed, like you've been struck by lightning, you're appreciative of such a rare and amazing opportunity. As I get older, rather than becoming jaded, it's more exciting. You have a better, very real perspective about what you are and what you're doing. I'm having a ball!
Check out SYFY WIRE's sneak peek at pages 8-11 (lettered and unlettered) of The Green Lantern #2. The issue was released today.