What It Means For Green Lantern To Be A Heroic Cop (In Space) In 2018

The cover to The Green Lantern #1 by Grant Morrison and artist Liam Sharp. (Courtesy DC Comics)

Green Lantern, popular DC Comics hero immortalized in a critically derided Ryan Reynolds movie, has a new comic book series out from superstar writer Grant Morrison and acclaimed artist Liam Sharp. The idea is a return to the character's origins — space cop Hal Jordan, who doesn't follow Earth's laws but instead represents an ultimate interstellar justice.

WHAT BEING A TRULY GOOD COP LOOKS LIKE

Morrison acknowledges that having a cop as a hero, even one from outer space, has a different meaning in 2018 than it once did.

"I think what it does is it gives us a set of assumptions, that then we can break for our own amusement," Morrison told a group of journalists at DC Comics headquarters in Burbank.

The Green Lanterns' bosses in the comics have often been portrayed as geriatric and out-of-touch — but Morrison's putting them in a different role, with wisdom drawn from being around since the dawn of the universe.

"They have an intrinsic understanding of what is right — in the sense of what leads to greater organization, more freedom, more all of those things," Morrison said. "So the Green Lanterns aren't following some code of law that's been drawn up by some guy — they're following a code of law that follows the fundamental principles of how the universe was created."

This version of a space cop is a contrast from one of the most famed eras in the character's history where he was portrayed as representing authority, while fellow hero Green Arrow was the voice of social justice. Now Jordan's the one on the side of justice for the people.

"It isn't a bunch of law enforcers who just arbitrarily decided it was wrong to cross that way, or wrong to wear red one day, or wrong to be this person," Morrison said. "They know the rightness in things, they know the wrongness in things, and they like to try and correct it for the evolution of the universe."

BRINGING TV WRITING INTO COMIC BOOKS

Morrison's latest writing also draws from his experience in recent years working in TV — his comic book Happy is a TV show on SyFy now, where he works in the writer's room, and he's also been a writer for SyFy's Brave New World.

He's approaching the story like a police procedural show, but in space.

"We've planned it out in seasons, and we have the season arc, and the midseason finale, and everything they do in television," Morrison said.

That TV experience has also helped Morrison learn to stay ahead of his deadlines, instead of always playing catch-up.

"All [of my old comics] have got this kind of live performance feel," Morrison said. "But I look at my stuff and I see thousands of mistakes, and it drives me mad."

He said he's learned from being in writers' rooms pulling scenes apart and getting down to the core of the story and the characters, finding the best version of those scenes. While he feels as just one person it's not the same as getting eight people together, he's doing something different this time.

"I've learned a lot of new tricks that I think have been really helpful to make the books better, and just to give them more of a polish — and so that I can actually get it and go, 'Oh my god, there's only one mistake in there,'" Morrison said.

From The Green Lantern #1. (Courtesy DC Comics)

TURNING DECADES OF HISTORY INTO ONE GUY

A lot of mistakes can add up to something more. Hal Jordan's been around since 1959, with a history that hasn't been repeatedly updated in the same way that many comic book heroes are.

"So naturally, as you might imagine, with being handled by a lot of different writers and artists, his personality's changed quite radically through that time," Morrison said.

He's trying to weave together those different strands into one modern, complex character.

"If you combine them as one person, it's like a real person," Morrison said. "Because all of us have these shades, these contradictions in us."

That complexity is one of the things that Morrison said draws him to comics.

"One of the things I love about the DC Universe, and about comic universes in general, is that they do have this history, and they do have this depth, and span, and scope, and they outlive human life," Morrison said. "So I love the fact that the thousands of alien races out there, that maybe have been seen in one issue of World's Finest in 1970, or some bunch of characters who've only ever been seen in that 1990s comic book, and to consolidate all of that, and say yeah, all of that happened, and they're all still here, and they all still have their own agendas, and they're all out working and doing things in the universe."

An alternate cover from The Green Lantern #1. (DC Comics)

Jordan's varying portrayals start with Jordan's creator, John Broome.

"[Broome] was basically DC's own version of the Beat Generation," Morrison said. "Back in the '60s, he was doing a lot of traveling — he was in Paris, he was in the Himalayas. This was a guy who died at the age of 85 in a swimming in Thailand with his wife waving to him from the side. So he was an amazing character, and he obviously looked at Jordan and wanted to take him through a similar journey as the one he was on."

That meant the early version of the character was a man on the road, trying to find himself, after starting out as a test pilot. As other writers tackled him, he became an insurance investigator, a toy salesman, and played other roles that seemed completely unrelated.

"I love that sense of disconnection, of dislocation," Morrison said. "And reading up on some of the American astronauts — Buzz Aldrin, and people who've talked about having come back to space, finding it really difficult to deal with the life on Earth after seeing this giant perspective. And that was only from the Moon — this is a guy who's been to the other end of the galaxy."

Morrison described Jordan as a man who's seen utopian planets where people live for a thousand years, places with perfect political systems, planets without money and for whom capitalism is a distant memory.

"And he comes back to this. It's like coming back to the village — the mud hut that is Earth — and kind of trying your best," Morrison said.

His explanation for Jordan's evolution over the years is that he's a man who's trying out different versions of himself — the kind of guy who might decide to go be homeless for a month, just to see what it's like.

From The Green Lantern #1. (Courtesy DC Comics)

AN UNTRAUMATIZED HERO

Heroes often have a darkness that inspires them, a history that pushes them forward — but that's not this story.

"Right now, there's a vogue for the sort of post-traumatic superhero," Morrison said. "But I just think, that is not Hal Jordan. This is a guy who does not need therapy — he's so far beyond therapy. ... He gets the job done, he's really good at what he is — and he's nothing like me, which is what I love."

Jordan has traditionally been known as a man without fear, with his origins as a test pilot — Morrison said that, by contrast, he's got a lot of fears. That's why he's excited about getting into Jordan's head.

"The science fiction stuff, the world-building, the crazy stuff is easy," Morrison said. "But just getting into this guy who's so unlike me, and who doesn't think like me — that's the fun, that's the challenge. When I was younger, all the characters I wrote were like me."

Green Lantern appears to confront God on the cover for The Green Lantern #3.

He promises stories of Sun-Eaters, cosmic vampires, breakaway cults, and much more that has nothing to do with his own life.

You can read it all in The Green Lantern — the first monthly issue is in comic book stores now with more on the way, and a collection likely due next year. Morrison also recently signed a deal with Universal Cable Productions that includes developing The Invisibles — a comic book that drew a lot of inspiration from his own life.


You made it! Congrats, you read the entire story, you gorgeous human. This story was made possible by generous people like you. Independent, local journalism costs $$$$$. And now that LAist is part of KPCC, we rely on that support. So if you aren't already, be one of us! Help us help you live your best life in Southern California. Donate now.