The Green Lanterns are here to protect planet Earth. And as soon as they figure out how, the world will be a better, safer place.
This month, DC Comics, as a part of its new “Rebirth” revamp, introduced the first issue of “Green Lanterns.” The “s” at the end of Lanterns is important. There are two of them. And neither is Hal Jordan, the most recognizable Lantern, or John Stewart of “Justice League” animated fame.
The two Green Lanterns currently in charge of the third planet from the sun are Simon Baz, an Arab American, and Jessica Cruz, a Latina. Neither of them has been a Green Lantern long, and they’re both learning on the power-ring-enhanced job.
“Green Lanterns” writer Sam Humphries says new readers checking out the series for the first time need not worry if they don’t have the vast history of Green Lantern comics set to memory.
“This is the new generation of Green Lanterns. Anyone can pick this book up and be swept into a sci-fi world of adventure and heroism,” Humphries told The Washington Post’s Comic Riffs. “We’ve got two characters with big responsibilities — protect planet Earth — but they don’t know what they’re doing, and they don’t know if they can trust each other. They’re in over their heads — but dang, they’re wearing Green Lantern rings. They can fly, protect themselves, make giant, green, glowing constructs — being a Green Lantern is awesome.”
Jordan, considered by many fans to be the greatest Green Lantern of all, makes a key appearance, but he tells Baz and Cruz he’s not going to be there as they learn their way and take their lumps. So they better figure things out quickly. He even goes out of his way to fuse together their lantern batteries (the objects Green Lanterns use to charge their rings).
“People forget that Hal has a good sense of humor,” Humphries said. “Fusing their batteries together will force them to work together, but it’s also a metaphor, a lesson-in-action, about one of the core tenants of the Green Lantern Corps: We can only save the universe if we work together.”
One thing not to expect between these two rookie Lanterns: romance.
“This is a buddy cop story. Only both cops are rookies, and they’re strapped with the most powerful weapons in the universe,” Humphries said. “This is ‘Lethal Weapon’ with alien technology.”
Looming over this inexperienced Green Lantern team are the villains, the Red Lanterns, who also wield power rings. While the Green Lanterns’ rings are powered by their own will, Red Lanterns use rage as the power source of their rings, and they have their sights on an Earth protected by Green Lanterns who may not be ready to take them on.
“The Red Lanterns are classic Green Lantern villains,” Humphries said. “They’ve got their own story, which collides with Jessica and Simon. And in any good story, the villain is the hero of his own story.”
This Green Lantern team is also representative of the efforts throughout the comic-book industry, especially with superhero comics, to diversify. This isn’t the first time the Green Lantern Corps has welcomed an Earth Lantern of color — Stewart holds that distinction from his debut decades ago. But Cruz and Baz together represent a continuation of the efforts to make sure any comic fan, no matter their background, can see a hero that looks like them.
“Yes, it is a big deal,” Humphries said of his Arab American and Latina Green Lanterns. (DC Comics confirmed to Comic Riffs that Cruz is Mexican American.) “Representation matters. Having a Muslim and a Latina as the Green Lanterns of Earth, as members of the Justice League — it’s important.”
Humphries is also quick to mention that representation on the page isn’t enough.
“Of course, true representation is predicated on diversity of characters and diversity of creators, and we’re not there yet,” he said. “Ultimately, I write Simon and Jessica as individuals. Their backgrounds are a part of their lives, but not their defining characteristics. Just like real-life people, they don’t speak for anyone but themselves.”
Any writer crafting stories in the Green Lantern universe for DC Comics has to deal with the very long, green shadow of Geoff John’s decade-long run writing the comic. Johns introduced the multi-colored emotional spectrum — the idea that there aren’t just Green Lanterns but multiple colored Lanterns with power rings, each color connected to an emotion.
Geoff “is the architect of the modern Green Lantern mythos, and he keeps us focused on the core concept: courage over fear,” Humphries said. “That’s all you need to understand to read ‘Green Lanterns.’ It’s a jumping-on point for anyone who has had to overcome fear in their lives.”