By Dennis Nishi
Green Lantern Zero
The DC universe got upended last year when the New York-based comic publisher rebooted its entire superhero lineup with its “New 52? initiative. Superman got pants, Wonder Woman went on an odyssey and the newest member of the “Green Lantern” Corps.–Simon Baz–is an Arab-American from Dearborn, Mich. Not coincidentally, “Green Lantern” writer and chief creative officer for DC Comics, Geoff Johns, has a similar background since he drew from his own life in Michigan to create Baz. Speakeasy spoke with Johns about “Green Lantern” issue zero which is out today.
What’s the big rollout in September and why are you calling it the “Zero Month?”
DC re-launched our comic universe last year. Everything launched as issue one as a starting point. But September will be “Zero Month” and every title will have a zero issue that will delve into an origin. So “Batman” zero will look into the early days of “Batman.” “Aquaman” zero will look into the early days of “Aquaman.” And “Green Lantern” zero will look into the origin and introduction of the newest human “Green Lantern” Simon Baz.
Did 9/11 inspire you to introduce a Arab-Muslim character, considering that it plays an important part of Simon Baz’ life?
When we re-launched our universe last year, diversity was a very important of the thinking when introducing characters. When I thought of the story, I had to introduce a new character into the “Green Latern” Corps. There was a lot of thought about his background, and that’s when I came up with the Arab-American “Green Lantern.”
What parts of your own life did you use when creating Baz?
My father is Lebanese so I have some of the cultural experience. I also worked with the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn on the script to make sure it had the authenticity of an Arab-American.
An Arab protagonist seems timely since there is this swirl of social issues that Muslims in post 9/11 America have to deal with.
True. As fantastic as the concept of “Green Lantern” is of an intergalactic police force, the comic has had a history of grounding in the now and dealing with modern characters and concepts and Simon Baz is that. I wanted to create a character that everyday Americans have to deal with.
When 9/11 hit, he was 10-years-old. His family was devastated, just like every other American. He’s grown up in that world. It’s just part of the daily life, the new normal.
The fact that the color green has a historical connection with Islam is probably coincidental but will religion play any part in future stories?
The background is in the DNA of who he is but it doesn’t define who he is. It’s more about a compelling character than anything else.
Why did you choose Michigan to set the story in?
As a writer, you inject yourself into everything you do. Certainly, setting it in Michigan, which has affected all of my comics and the culture itself. Dearborn also has one of the largest Arab communities in the country. I know that when I was a kid and there was a character in my home town, I was excited by it. When I was young, the Justice League was based in Detroit and that was really cool. It’s nice to go back to your roots and do something there. Personally, I hope that people from Dearborn and my fellow Michigan-ders will be proud of the character.
Did you include any of your favorite haunts from when you lived there?
We did a lot of regional research. Doug Mahnke, the artist for the issue, did a phenomenal job on it. He did a lot of research. Even more so in the next issue. There are some landmarks in Dearborn that you’ll see. We’re trying to get a real feel for the city and state.
The new cover shows “Green Lantern” in a full mask and armed with a handgun. Isn’t that a bit of a departure?
The cover is kind of a representation of the months ahead and what Simon Baz has to deal with. You’ll learn about the mask in issue 13. The gun, the sidearm, is introduced in issue 15.
Any other previews of what’s to come?
This new “Green Lantern” is going to join the Justice League of America in February so is going to be fighting alongside characters like Green Arrow, Hawkman and Catwoman. Over the next few months, “Green Lantern” will really be integrated into the DC universe. It’s going to be a lot of fun to see how they react to him.