The latest DC hero to hit the small screen is Green Lantern, as a part of the DC Nation Block on Saturday mornings on Cartoon Network.The Green Lantern Animated Series looks to make amends and bring Hal Jordan into a palpable medium outside of comics. They’ve chosen a new style to do it in, using computer-generated imagery and tapped some of the greatest comics in the character’s lore as the launching point. After five episodes, it appears that another DC hero has made a successful leap into animation. BuzzFocus had the pleasure speaking exclusively with producers Giancarlo Volpe and Jim Krieg to talk about the first season and how Jordan’s brightest day on TV is yet to come.
Was there concern to moving to Saturday morning after Young Justice along with the Man of Action cartoons like Ben 10 made Friday night a destination point for cartoon fans?
Giancarlo Volpe: It’s interesting, I’m sure that people who come in and do the programming and have fancy charts about when kids are watching the show and when ratings are optimal, that made them make that decision. But if I could read your mind, or read the mind of what people are thinking, it’s probably, now that we are moving it to Saturday morning these are going to be kiddy shows again. But my approach to making shows including Jim and Bruce’s (Timm) try to make these series with a sound story structure and a good show that adults would like and then all you really have to do is tone down the violence and never show sex [Laughs] or any obvious things like gore so that it’s kid safe. Even Pixar uses this kind of mantra for their movies. The goal is that it holds up with adults and it’s kid safe as opposed to being a kiddie show that you’re trying to age up. We’ve never been in a place where we’ve been told we can’t do something because we’re now a Saturday morning show. It’s still the same show had it aired Friday night.
One of the things I found frustrating with the scheduling of the Young Justice (which we love) is how much it was broken up. It was not an easy show to maintain that great momentum when it was off the air or showing repeats after showing just a handful of episodes. How is Green Lantern going to be released?
GV: Fortunately we’re airing new stuff now [after a two-episode teaser in November and long build up of anticipation] and we have a regular airing schedule for the first 13 episodes, and then there’ll be a summer break with 13 more in the fall. Hopefully it will give people a chance to find the show and get in the momentum of it. I think that’s part of the intent by DC Nation, is to give it something a little more concrete that okay, this is the place to find it. Every Saturday, 10am, this is where you’re going to find Green Lantern, Young Justice and the DC Nation Shorts.
Were you looking to adapt from the stories fans have maybe read or were you using those as inspirational launching points for new stories?
Jim Krieg: What we did was avail ourselves of everything from the comics as springboards to tell stories. We weren’t slavishly close to the comic book series but certainly we stayed close to the spirit of the characters, all of the different alien races and ring colors.
We were thrown so much Green Lantern material last year between the film and the comics. Can you talk about the scope of the Green Lantern Animated Series?
GV: It’s so obvious to do Sinestro, but we thought it was kind of cool to do a nod to the color spectrum Geoff Johns set up, but not use the obvious villain. It gave us a chance to do a big space battle. Green Lantern is kind of Star Wars / Star Trek in nature, so a lot of the things they were bound to in the movie like servicing Hal’s life as an earthling and his day job–we didn’t necessarily need to explain much. We can just get him in space and getting him fighting aliens as soon as possible.
What can we expect out of the lore of Green Lantern to appear in the first 13 episodes?
JK: Just telling the story of confrontation between the Green Lanterns and the Red Lanterns is our big nod as far as what comes out of the comics. We more or less alternate between telling stories of the Red Lantern invasion and stand-alone episodes where we develop character and meet new characters inside the Green Lantern world. We are going to run into some of the other ring colors and characters that ultimately run into those other colors that we’ll see in the first 13 episodes. For example the Star Sapphires will be in attendance.
GV: Red Lanterns are killing off Green Lanterns. Hal and Kilowog are stuck in frontier space to face these guys and they’re outnumbered. They’re going to have to rally up whatever little help they can get to fight these guys and we’re going to learn about the back-stories of not only the Red Lanterns but the guardians as well and their history. There are a lot of things that we’re nodding to the comics and putting in the show. We’re going to build to an insane two or three episodes in this run so I think it is really worth sticking with and seeing through.
It’s great that you’re staying in the cosmic realm.
GV: It worked out well. I’d personally get bored of heroes stopping bank robbers [Laughs] I just feel it’s so cliché, and I’m not saying we’ll never do that, but with a character especially like Green Lantern, he’s like Superman, he’s almost like a god, he’s certainly god-level strong. He needs to be fighting other deities.
Was the Red Lanterns chosen to for the conflicts we can get or was there an aesthetic reasoning because of red and green being complimentary colors on the color wheel?
GV: We had mentioned that red and green being opposites on the color wheel. The downside of that is that the show can sometimes look like Christmas or an Italian flag, which isn’t a bad thing in my book. [Laughs] If you think about the villains in the book, the color spectrum alone, if we couldn’t go near Sinestro, it really only leaves the Red Lanterns. The Star Sapphires / Indigo tribe and the Orange Lanterns are kind of gray, they’re kind of bad, but then you realize they’re not so bad, with Orange being a slight exception. Once you broke it down in that way it became obvious. I think it would have been a mistake to go straight to the Black Lanterns. You don’t want to do that before you’ve set up all of the other colors. And you get it; rage is a primal emotion. Characters that are so angry and have been really wronged by something or someone, and they’re very revenge driven. It was convenient (on an aesthetic level) that the colors worked out that way.
What kind of development are we going to see in Hal Jordan in this first bunch of episodes?
JK: Hal starts off as a real hot head as he always is. He’s super cocky and arrogant. He’s lovable and he’s funny. There are elements of ourselves that we see in him and you can’t help but like him. But he’s fairly irresponsible. He always acts before he thinks. Kilowog’s role in some ways is to make him stop and think, make him look before he leaps. Hal tends not to do that. Even in the pilot, Hal doesn’t charge his ring and even admits to Carol that he doesn’t charge his phone.
Essentially by the end of the first 13 (episodes), he goes from someone who acts before he thinks and becomes someone who looks before he leaps. Hopefully by the end of the series he goes from someone who slightly more thoughtful, but still a man of action to someone who’s an actual leader and learns how to take responsibility not only for his own actions but for those of the people he’s leading.
Warner Animated seemed to be holding a torch to two-dimensional cel animation. Yet you’ve chosen to go with a more three-dimensional, computer generated look, can you talk about what led to that decision?
GV: It was decided by the very top of the food chain to take a stab at a CG show. That was a very early decision. I get it, what’s something we haven’t done yet? Let’s do a CG show and Green Lantern’s a good place to start because it’s so science-fiction related so you get lots of space battles, flying in space, and shooting lasers; it seems ripe for CG. Even from a business standpoint, CG tends to draw bigger audiences than 2D and I’m talking about feature animation, but they want to test to see if that’s true in television as well. A lot of other studios are doing the same, so I think we’re trying to stay competitive and show we can do a CG show as well.
What’s the coolest construct you’re excited for audiences to see?
GV: Let’s put it this way, we’ve made a joke about how limited Kilowog’s imagination is; he always uses his hammer, which is something new for the show as he doesn’t really do that in the comics but there’s a certain point when he gets put back into a corner and he decides to use a different weapon and I think it’s a pretty cool moment in the series.
Catch new episodes of Green Lantern: The Animated Series on the Cartoon Network as a part of the DC Nation Block, Saturdays at 10am ET/PT.
Pictures courtesy of Cartoon Network and Warner Bros.