Interview: Charles Soule Talks The Roughnecks And Oddballs Of 'Red Lanterns'

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Acclaimed writer Charles Soule takes up residence in the cosmic end of the DC Universe on June 26th, when "Red Lanterns" #21 hits comic shops.  MTV Geek recently got the chance to chat with him about his goals for the series, his approach to storytelling, and what makes the Red Lantern Corps unique among DC's spacefaring teams.

MTV Geek: Charles, your first issue of "Red Lanterns" is released in a few weeks – tell us what we need to know before jumping in.

Charles Soule: Well, the Red Lanterns are part of the spectrum of Lanterns that were established in the Geoff Johns run on "Green Lantern," where every color has its own Lantern Corps, and each color is tied to a place on the emotional spectrum.  So, the Blue Lanterns are powered by hope, the Greens are powered by the force of will, and the Red Lanterns are powered by rage.  Each of the Red Lanterns had something terrible happen in their lives that essentially soaked them in rage, which gives them the ability to wield a Red power ring.  The Red energy sought them out, gave them this power, and now they go around the galaxy avenging wrongs that are similar to what happened to them.  That's the set-up.

Now, the first thing I'm doing as writer: I'm bringing in a character named Guy Gardner, who has quite a history in the DC Universe.  He was formerly one of the major Green Lanterns, but he didn't quite fit the mold.  He was kind of a loose cannon in that company.  He's unpredictable, he's kind of a hothead, and that's what makes him so well-suited to being a Red Lantern.  He has a lot of anger, he's not the square-jaw hero type.

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Geek: Tell us a little more about Guy.  What should we know about this character?

Soule: Guy Gardner, before he became a Green Lantern, was a cop from Baltimore.  So effectively, I'm thinking of him as another member of the cast of "The Wire."  We never saw him onscreen, but just for fun I like to think he was there, part of that world.  He hasn't had an easy time.

And then, as a Green Lantern, he's never really felt comfortable.  Part of the character's appeal is that he never quite fit in…  Guy has, rightly or wrongly, seen himself labeled as an also-ran in GL history.  He's never been seen as on the level of John Stewart or Hal Jordan or Kyle Rayner, and that's been a constant point of frustration for him.  He's had trouble defining his own identity, except in relation to other people.  And in switching his Corps, no longer being second-banana in the Green Lanterns, instead becoming a star of the Reds – he's using this chance to carve out his own identity in a way where he won't be so overshadowed.  This is his chance to step out on his own.

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Geek: So then, let's talk about the Red Lanterns as a group.  What makes this team interesting?

Soule:  Well, for starters, they're much more rough and tumble than the Greens.  These are a bunch of roughnecks and oddballs.  My key to this is that these aren't "space cops" like many of the Lantern Corps – they're more like the characters from "Sons Of Anarchy" or "The Shield."  They're given this power, and it's pretty entertaining to see what they do with it.  They aren't necessarily good people, and we're seeing them getting a chance to become good people, but not always going about it in good ways.

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Geek:  What are your storytelling goals in your first few issues?

Soule: The first arc is a mix of establishing a new status quo and re-establishing history for the readers that are just jumping on board.  In the first six issues, I'm trying to make it as accessible as I can.  That's always one of my goals when I'm working on a serial – you can pick up any one issue and be entertained, whether or not you've read what comes before.  I introduce everybody right off the bat, and then there's a cool crossover coming in just a few issues which will involve an amazing villain Rob Venditti came up with called Relic.  Events spinning out of that crossover will help to set up the Reds' place in the larger universe.

So my three immediate goals are: making sure I get everyone properly introduced and established; handling the Relic crossover in a satisfying way; and laying out the new continuity that will sustain things going forward for a long time to come.  It's really exciting working in this family of books alongside creators like Robert Vendetti, Van Jensen and Justin Jordan, and I'm working to build a story engine that will just keep spinning out new cool things.

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Geek:  So, are you focusing more on the huge cosmic side of the Lanterns, or are you more interested in telling the stories that happen in the edges of this universe?

Soule:  While there's always a huge cosmic thing at the core of these stories, the Red Lanterns aren't just tied to the giant world-shattering space stories.  As I said, they're not self-styled space cops –  they're more like a space biker gang.  They have their own code, they do things their way, they have their own interests.  Think of the way that biker gangs have their territory, they control it, and they deal with the competition.  That's what these guys do, they're carving out an identity for themselves in a universe full of other gangs.  The Reds have sometimes seemed to be the last-ditch weapons for everyone else, but they can be more than that.  I want them doing their own thing, not just coming in to add muscle when the Greens can't handle it on their own.  It's gonna be big, and crazy, and exploitative, and outrageous.  And it's funny!  I don't want to lose that element, because there's a lot of fun to be had here, when you have this motley assortment of characters thrown together.

My goal is to establish The Reds as a big part of this universe, and also make them stand on their own.  The Green Lantern family of books have a deep bench so far as continuity goes, and I'm very aware of that – I'm nodding to that, giving it its due, but making sure the stories aren't being overwhelmed by it.  I want to make sure this book is accessible, works for everyone who picks it up, and delivers as much entertainment in every issue as it possibly can.

Red Lanterns #21 is out June 26th.