With the surprise announcement this week that DC Entertainment Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns is stepping down from his role as Green Lantern writer after nearly ten years, fans were shocked and a bit baffled as to where the comic–which has now become the cornerstone of a whole corner of the DC Universe–goes from here.
It’s hard to know, after all, whether a title like Green Lantern: New Guardians or Red Lanterns holds much appeal in a post-Johns era; much of the appeal of the Green Lantern line was that they all sort of fell in step with what Johns was doing at the main book, supporting his massive mega-stories and proving that the secondary and tertiary characters that he had created or re-established during his time on the books were valuable parts of a big picture.
A big picture that, for now at least, is being wrapped up and carried away, when Johns takes a huge chunk of the Green Lantern creative family with him. All four of the Green Lantern family writers and at least one artist (Doug Mahnke, who draws Green Lantern and who will follow Johns to another project) will leave in May, setting up a new status quo for an incoming group of creators in June.
So…there will be a need for an entirely new batch of creators to come in, more or less all at once, to keep the Green Lantern line afloat. And while there are already rumors floating around as to who will take over the books, we wanted to take a look at some of the creators who seemed capable of taking on a responsibility like being the first Green Lantern writer to follow Geoff Johns–the man who reinvented the mythology and turned the property into something fans truly care about for the first time in years.
DeMatteis has an impressive resume–he’s written or co-written Captain America, Spider-Man, the Justice League and a number of creator-owned books during the last thirty years. He’s also got (via Justice League, Phantom Stranger and a number of other projects) the cosmic thing down.
Most importantly, though? He’s written Hal Jordan before–and he nailed it.
Few people give DeMatteis enough credit for the excellent job he did handling one of the most difficult and thankless jobs in comics–writing Hal Jordan in The Spectre, following the first major Johns-driven overhaul of the greatest Green Lantern.
For those unfamiliar–Johns wrote a miniseries called Day of Judgment, in which The Spectre’s host (Jim Corrigan) decided that rather than return to earth to rein in the destructive force of God’s wrath, he would stay dead and enjoy time with his departed loved ones. Left with not a lot of great options, the heroes of the DC Universe allowed the spirit of Hal Jordan to return to the land of the living with them to take control of the entity. Hal, you see, had gone insane, killed a bunch of people, destroyed the universe, fixed it, gone insane some more, fought Green Lantern, and then sacrificed himself to save the world. That heroic sacrifice bit got him the gig, although a number of characters (notably Batman) weren’t crazy about it and a number of readers (notably almost everyone) thought the whole thing was a little crazy and hackneyed. Hal’s time as The Spectre was pretty widely maligned, with most fans just refusing to read it and waiting out the clock until he took over as Green Lantern again. That would take nearly five years, until Johns wrote Green Lantern: Rebirth.
During those five years, Hal served as The Spectre, and for two and a half of those, DeMatteis wrote an ongoing, monthly series featuring the character. Hal struggled with his humanity and the demands of The Spectre’s role, as well as interacting regularly with his friends and supporting cast, living and dead.
It’s not uncommon for fans to complain that both Hal Jordan and Barry Allen are pretty one-dimensional characters, and for all Geoff Johns did to distance readers from that notion, at the end of the day they are still far more interesting and compelling when they’re punching something than when they’re talking. DeMatteis reversed that dynamic, forcing Hal to deal with the moral and psychological consequences of doing a job that demands blood when in his heart, he’s a hero who wants justice.
After doing an absolutely smashing job working on X-O Manowar, the big, ambitious cosmic hero at Valiant Comics that can be seen as their Green Lantern, so to speak, Venditti came over to DC for a plum job writing Constantine, the New 52 version of Vertigo’s long-running Hellblazer title. While controversial, the series is bound (at least in the short term) to be a best-seller and the attention it will get from fans and the press will make it an immediate cult favorite if it’s as good as everyone hopes.
Of course, before the first issue was even finished being written, Venditti left the book abruptly and was replaced by Jeff Lemire, who already writes the character of John Constantine in Justice League Dark. What was DC’s explanation at the time?
“Robert came to us with a fantastic pitch for Constantine,” DC Editor-in-Chief Bob Harras said in an interview. “We really loved what Robert’s doing — he’s working on Demon Knights now, and he’s also working on another project for us that I really can’t go into which is a big deal for us. But at the end of the day, Robert and Dan [DiDio] and I spoke, and Constantine was, for him, one book too many. It was the one thing that we had to go, ‘If we want you to focus on this one project, maybe we should make a change on Constantine‘ Jeff Lemire and Ray Fawkes very professionally, very nicely stepped up to the challenge [of launching Constantine].”
That underline there is added for emphasis, and probably tells you all you need to know about the likelihood of Venditti taking on the enormously high-profile Green Lantern job.
This one’s a difficult one to justify, since Giffen has been attached to a string of critical and commercial missteps in the New 52, but hear us out.
The veteran writer/artist, who has worked on basically every title DC has published in the course of the last thirty or so years and who has a good relationship with his former O.M.A.C. collaborator and DC Co-Publisher Dan DiDio, recently took a job on Legion of Super-Heroes. It was to be a return to greatness for the struggling series, which saw Giffen re-team with his former LoSH collaborator Paul Levitz.
It was over almost as quickly as it began, though, and with no real explanation.
Meanwhile, Giffen helped guide the successful 52 with a steady hand and then left the sinking ship of Countdown when he saw what DiDio couldn’t: the writing on the wall. that seems to have endeared him to DC, as he’s had a number of great gigs since then and during the New 52, things like the failure of Green Arrow didn’t stop him from getting a job co-writing Superman–and the fact that Giffen and Jurgens’s Superman didn’t take off didn’t prevent Giffen from being handed the Legion.
What do the Legion and the Green Lantern Corps have in common? Alien races, super-science, and everybody wears a ring. He’s also writing Threshold, which stars Larfleeze the Orange Lantern. Giffen is ready for action TODAY. Put him in, Coach.
Look, DnA are just a phenomenal pairing, even when they can’t seem to sell a lot of mainstream books. They create high-quality work, addictive work, and great character work that lacks perhaps a bit of the big picture that Johns has been providing for the Green Lantern titles for the last decade.
But that’s perfect for this situation. All eyes will be on whoever replaces Johns, and DnA will knock it out of the park and give those people watching something to really enjoy.
Also, it’s hard to argue against getting the guys behind the fan-favorite Guardians of the Galaxy run, upon which the movie is reportedly heavily based, on board with DC just before their movie turns into the biggest thing anyone’s talking about at Marvel.
Besides which, that same Guardians of the Galaxy run pretty much shows that they can do super-teams in space. They can do massive, cosmic threats. And they can work with any number of curveballs being thrown at them by editorial.
The downside? All that Guardians of the Galaxy/Guardians of the Universe confusion will only get worse.
For a minute there, with contributions to the massively-successful Sinestro Corps War and a run on Supergirl that people are still sorry ever ended, Sterling Gates looked like one of the hot young creators on the rise at DC Comics. That he was friends with Johns (they met while working together on the Blade TV series), has had great reviews for most of his work and seems generally easy to work with and good with the fans all worked in his favor.
Then, when the New 52 came around, he didn’t get a single book to himself and got relegated to co-writing (briefly) Hawk and Dove with Rob Liefeld. That could have put a damper on anyone’s career, and it certainly seemed to queer Gates’s cozy relationship with DC; he hadn’t worked with them again in months until it was recently announced that he will be taking over Justice League of America’s Vibe in May.