IVAN COHEN INTRODUCES HANUKKAH TO "GREEN LANTERN: THE ANIMATED SERIES"
Wed, November 14th, 2012 at 9:01am PST
CBR News: Ivan, you worked for years at DC in a number of capacities including in Editorial. For fans who may not recognize your name, what are some of the comics you had a hand in making that you were proud of and felt were indicative of your time on that job?
Ivan Cohen: I think Greg Rucka's "Wonder Woman" run was certainly the biggest thing I ever worked on at DC as a solo editor. That book meant a lot to me, and I feel like it was the kind of book I liked reading. There were other books I worked on that I liked. I worked with a lot of different people on "Secret Files" when I was editing there and gave some people their first sequential work at DC. I think Phil Noto's first sequential work was on that book. Giuseppe Camuncoli, who does a lot of superhero work now, came over, and I was his first DC editor after he'd done some stuff at WildStorm. There was a book called "Bloodhound" which I worked on with Dan Jolley and Leonard Kirk. I liked that a lot, though it kind of disappeared without a trace.
And I also worked with Dan DiDio and the rest of the Editorial team and was sort of in charge of making sure the trains ran on time for everything that ran into "Infinite Crisis." The "Wonder Woman" piece of that had Wonder Woman killing Max Lord of course, but overall it was an epic management of creative talent and publishing schedules. I remain very proud of that.
You worked with a lot of different characters on various projects there and while working with the Warners film division. Was there anything about working across the entire DCU that's impacted you as a writer now that you're doing books like "Green Lantern: The Animated Series"?
Well, there are limits you work under. While I was working on the film and TV stuff and even when Geoff Johns started taking over that part of the media world, there were times where the focus was on trying to make the characters consistent even when the universe wasn't always consistent. So the "Wonder Woman" DVD didn't have Batman showing up in it, but you wanted it to feel like that was part of the familiar DC Universe and that all the characters were consistent with the qualities that made them interesting in the comics.
I'd worked in the early stages of the development of "Green Lantern: The Animated Series," and so when I got the opportunity to write the comic, trying to make it consistent with the show was very important to me. There were some limitations on that because there are characters and ideas I wanted to use that the TV show hadn't introduced yet, and that's a fine line to walk. But having Hal be the Hal from the TV show -- who I think is pretty close to the comic version if a little more jokey -- was key. I didn't see any way around that. And the take on Kilowog from the TV show is one I really liked. I try to keep them together with that kind of sparring relationship.
Your first issue of the comic series was #4 which used classic GL villain The Tattooed Man in a flashback to earth. Was there any guidance from the show on how to represent Hal's time on earth or how to portray that character that the show would likely never tackle in space?
There wasn't that much direction from the show, but since my first issue was a fill-in, I had pitched Editor Kristy Quinn on a bunch of ideas, and she liked that one since the TV show hadn't done an episode set on earth yet except for part of the pilot. And they weren't planning to do an earth episode for a while. Meanwhile, Art [Baltazar] and Franco who were writing the comic at the time had no plans to do one, and so the Tattooed Man story gave us a chance to do something different on the book.
As we're moving forward, I was talking to my friend Mike Siglain who used to work at DC and is now an editor at Disney, and I realized that doing this "Green Lantern" comic is like doing "Star Trek." There's a new alien race every issue with new problems all seen through the lens of these familiar characters. But instead of being Kirk, Spock and McCoy, it's Hal, Kilowog, ship computer Aya and the Red Lantern Razer. We get to play with the format a little. The TV show has a few limitations in that it's a CG show with an elaborate process for designing new characters, but in the comic, we can create whole races that only appear in one panel if we want. Although my artist Luciano Vecchio wouldn't be too happy about that. [Laughs]
So the theme of this week's issue is "a Green Lantern Hanukkah comic." How in the world did that come about?
[Laughs] Well, we knew my second issue would be shipping in November, and so I pitched Kristy a bunch of story ideas – none of them Hanukkah related. Then she called me and said, "Looking at the schedule and what Art and Franco are planning, we don't have a holiday issue set for this year. You can do what you've already pitched, or if you want, you can do a holiday story." It was totally up to me, and I don't know if I'd say I always love a challenge, but this one was interesting to me. I pitched three Green Lantern Christmas stories and then one Hanukkah story. And I guess I always imagined that someone named Kristy Quinn would go for the Christmas stories, so I got really excited for those. Then she picked the Hanukkah one, and I thought, "Geez. This is going to be the hardest one to write!" [Laughs] I was all set to do Hal as Rudolph using his ring to guide people through the darkest sections of space, but the Hanukkah story ended up being a lot of fun if super challenging.
Well, it's not the traditional kind of holiday story where the hero comes across a Jewish family and learns the "true meaning of Hanukkah" or something like that. This is still a space adventure story. How did the holiday inform what is in many ways still an action comic?
That was a huge challenge to do because Hal is not Jewish, so we were never going to have him marooned on an alien world saying to his friends, "You know on earth, they're celebrating Hanukkah right now. Let me tell you the magical story of the flame that burned for eight days." That would be phony and horrible. [Laughs] Even as a Jewish comics reader, I would have known that was nonsense and that I was being condescended to.
So I tried to figure out things you can do with that story that fit this comic. And there are precedence for that kind of thing. I remembered that old "Legion of Super-Heroes" story where Superboy tries to find the star showing over Bethlehem. That kind of thing. I wanted to do something a little more abstracted, and the thing about the Hanukkah story is that it's already a story about a battle. It's a story that has soldiers kicking ass. But it's also a story about a miracle where this thing that's supposed to last for one day lasts for eight days. That was the lightbulb moment for me. "Traditionally, Hal's ring lasts for one day on a charge from the Green Lantern. What if I could do a story where he has to make his power last for eight days?"
From there, I just added in other traditional Hanukkah elements wherever I could so it would really be a Hanukkah story. He's on a planet where the names are connected to Judah Maccabee, the hero of the traditional story, so one of the characters is named Mk'Abee in the classic kind of comic book alien spelling. And her little brother is named J'Dah. Their tribal colors are white and blue, which are the traditional Jewish/Israili colors, and they're called The Hammer Tribe, which is what the Judah name's translation literally means. And also, you get to watch Kilowog eat latkes, which was for me the highlight.
There is a tradition in superhero comics and in the DCU of holiday-themed stories. Geoff Johns' old "JSA" Thanksgiving dinners come to mind. Did you have any favorites from the past that informed how you approached this one?
I read those comics when I was a kid. I was a voracious comics reader, and I believe -- I'm kind of embarrassed to admit this -- that there is a published letter by me in an issue of "DC Comics Presents" talking about how much I loved the issue that featured Superman and Santa Claus. In retrospect, I don't think I loved the issue so much as I was just home with pneumonia and wrote into 20 different comics to see if I could get a letter printed. That was one of three that got in. [Laughs]
I do remember a story about the Atom from the '70s that seemed to indicate Ray Palmer was Jewish, and it was never mentioned again. Years later, I know it was a big deal that when the new Batwoman was introduced that she was a lesbian...but it was also a big deal that she was Jewish! That was crazy. I mean, nobody noticed except me and other Jewish comics readers, but it was exciting because religion doesn't come up very much for these characters.
Still, as for religious comic book stories, the Christmas ones are a pretty big deal. And the Geoff Thanksgiving issues are fantastic. Joe Kubert also did lots of great Old Testament Bible comics that were straight adaptations and fantastic. So there are no specific stories I'm referencing here, but things like that Legion story I remember which Paul Levitz wrote. It was an honest attempt to do something tricky which is acknowledge Christian theology in the DC Universe. It can be tough some times as a Jewish comics fan to read stories that seem to canonize the idea that Jesus is divinity. But on the other hand, when I was a kid reading comics it was when they introduced the Spear of Destiny as this powerful artifact that got involved in the Crisis stories. So that stuff can work in there. You've just got to find the right way.
A lot of the books coming out of the DC West Coast editorial office are formatted first for digital devices like the iPad where the printed page of the comic are two "screens" stacked on top of one another. Is that something you've been playing with to make these comics available via the DC Kids app?
I don't think we thought about that so much in my first issues as much as we have with the later ones, but yeah, you won't be seeing any two-page spreads or as many splash pages. That's a realistic consideration because the kids books are always made with an eye towards "How can we get this out in as many formats as possible?" They translate them into foreign languages and release on tablets with the hope that parents will download them for their kids to read on a reader like the iPad. I don't know if you've ever read any comics on a phone, but it's not an ideal way to read a comic. We try to make choices that help that, and Luciano has made some choices to help make the pages feel big even when they're formatted in a way that can work for a smaller screen.
Wrapping up, what's your next step for this series and for comics in general?
I become the regular writer on "Green Lantern: The Animated Series" with issue #10, and that's the first issue I've done with Dario Brizuela who is the regular artist on the series. I'm very proud of how that one came out. My next issue after that is #12 which introduces a new character to the Green Lantern universe that I'm shocked Geoff Johns hasn't done yet. I'm excited to add that new character to the mythos, which is a planet-sized Red Lantern. It's basically the Red Lantern equivalent of Mogo.
Apart from that, there's some other stuff that I have limited ability to talk about. I'm consulting on a PBS documentary about superheroes right now. I've also just written the introduction to the latest volume of "Wonder Woman Archives" which just came out last week. It's an essay about how much I hate Steve Trevor. [Laughter] I've also written an episode of a new DC animated series that should be debuting late next year or early the year after.
"Green Lantern: The Animated Series" #8 is in stores today from DC Comics.
GREEN LANTERN: EMERALD KNIGHT DTV -- OFFICIAL PRESS RELEASE FOR PROJECT ON WHICH
IVAN COHEN WAS EXECUTIVE IN CHARGE OF PRODUCTION FOR DC COMICS
The origins of the ultimate intergalactic police force are revealed across six interlocking tales of the legendary Green Lantern Corps in the all-new Green Lantern: Emerald Knights, the next entry in the popular, ongoing series of DC Universe Animated Original Movies. Building up to the release of the highly anticipated live action film, Green Lantern, in theatres June 17, Green Lantern: Emerald Knights arrives on Blu-Ray™, DVD, On Demand and for Download June 7, 2011 from Warner Premiere, DC Entertainment and Warner Bros. Animation.
The full-length animated Green Lantern: Emerald Knights will be distributed by Warner Home Video as a Blu-Ray™ Combo Pack and DVD. The film will also be available On Demand and for Download.
Green Lantern: Emerald Knights weaves six legendary stories of the Green Lantern Corps’ rich mythology around preparations for an attack by an ancient enemy. As the battle approaches, Hal Jordan mentors new recruit Arisia in the history of the Green Lantern Corps, telling tales of Avra (the first Green Lantern) and several of Hal’s comrades – including Abin Sur, Kilowog, Laira and Mogo. In the end, Arisia must rise to the occasion to help Hal, Sinestro and the entire Green Lantern Corps save the universe from the destructive forces of Krona.
Primetime television stars Nathan Fillion (Castle) and Elisabeth Moss (Mad Men) lead a diverse array of performers as the voices behind the Green Lantern Corps.
Fillion provides the voice of the animated film’s central character, Hal Jordan, the human Green Lantern assigned to Sector 2814 (which includes Earth). Fillion has starred in several primetime television series including his current hit Castle as well as Desperate Housewives, Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. He has also developed a popular cult following as a pair of Joss Whedon’s heroic captains: Capt. Mal Reynolds in the space-western series Firefly and follow-up film, Serenity; and Captain Hammer in Whedon’s internet sensation Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog. Fillion returns to the DC Universe after his successful turn as Steve Trevor in the animated film Wonder Woman, and has performed voice work on the animated series Justice League, Robot Chicken, The Venture Bros., and several Halo video games.
Moss gives voice to Arisia, a young recruit forced into her first mission on just her third day as a Green Lantern. Prior to starring as the ever-evolving Peggy Olson in AMC’s ground-breaking series Mad Men, Moss was featured on The West Wing, Invasion and Picket Fences. Moss has been active in voiceovers for animation with previous roles in Steven Spielberg Presents Animaniacs, Freakazoid! and It’s Spring Training, Charlie Brown!.
The voice cast for Green Lantern: Emerald Knights also features actor/spoken word artist Henry Rollins (Sons of Anarchy, The Henry Rollins Show) as Kilowog, Jason Isaacs (the Harry Potter films) as Sinestro, legendary professional wrestler “Rowdy” Roddy Piper (They Live) as Bolphunga, Arnold Vosloo (The Mummy) as Abin Sur, Kelly Hu (The Vampire Diaries) as Laira and Wade Williams (Prison Break) as Deegan. Radio Hall of Fame commentator/talk show host Michael Jackson voices the esteemed Guardian, Ganthet.
Bruce Timm is executive producer of Green Lantern: Emerald Knights. Directors are Lauren Montgomery, Jay Oliva and Christopher Berkeley. The six interlocking tales are penned by comic book luminaries Geoff Johns, Dave Gibbons, Peter J. Tomasi, Eddie Berganza, Alan Burnett, Todd Casey and Michael Green & Marc Guggenheim.
“Green Lantern: Emerald Knights is filled with wonderful backstory and exposition on the Green Lantern Corps going far beyond Hal Jordan, making this film a perfect complement to the live-action major motion picture, Green Lantern,” said Hersin Magante, WHV Marketing Director, Family & Animation.
Green Lantern: Emerald Knights Blu-Ray™ Combo Pack has over 2 1/2 hours of exciting content, including:
* Feature film (est. 75 min)
* Sneak Peak at Batman: Year One, the next DC Universe Animated Original Movie
* Behind-the-Scenes look at All-Star Superman
* Featurette: “Only the Bravest: Tales of The Green Lantern Corps” – Bravery is the unique, identifying characteristic of each Green Lantern. Yet what does it mean to be brave? How has the world of Green Lantern and the Corps made bravery into something we can all relate to? This story reveals and defines the bond that holds together the Green Lanterns’ affection for the ring, and the ring’s unwavering loyalty in return.
* Featurette: “Why Green Lantern Matters: The Talent of Geoff Johns” – Geoff Johns is a force to be reckoned with. He’s not only the Chief Creative Officer of DC Entertainment, he’s a New York Times bestselling writer with a fresh and vibrant storytelling perspective. Johns discusses his contemporary take on the Green Lantern character and why that character resonates in our culture.
* Pod: From Comic Book to Screen: Abin Sur – Take a peek into Geoff John’s “Green Lantern Secret Origin” book which, for the first time, showed fans what really happened to Abin Sur before he crash-landed on Earth and passed his ring to Hal Jordan.
* Pod: Beautiful … But Deadly – From Comic Book to Screen: Laira Omoto – Green Lantern: Emerald Knights again creatively weaved a riveting comic book short story into the intricate plot of the film while introducing the honorable Green Lantern, Laira Omoto. Known as one of the Green Lantern Corps’ fiercest warriors, this mini-featurette takes a deeper look into the history and origin of this humanoid marital artist and her family feud with the Golden Dragon!
* Audio Commentary: Dan DiDio and Geoff Johns
* “Green Lantern” Digital Comic Book
* Two bonus episodes from animated television series handpicked by Bruce Timm.
* Standard and high definition versions of the feature film
* Digital copy on disc of the feature film
About Warner Premiere:
Warner Premiere is a Warner Bros. Entertainment production company focused on the development, production and marketing of feature-length-DVD and short-form digital content for this growing space. Warner Premiere is committed to being at the creative forefront in the evolution of quality product in the direct-to-consumer business, creating material that exemplifies the commitment to story, production and brand equity for which Warner Bros. is known.
About Warner Home Video:
With operations in 90 international territories, Warner Home Video, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company, a division of the Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Group, commands the largest distribution infrastructure in the global video marketplace. Warner Home Video's film library is the largest of any studio, offering top quality new and vintage titles from the repertoires of Warner Bros. Pictures, Turner Entertainment, Castle Rock Entertainment, HBO Video and New Line Home Entertainment.
About Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Group:
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Group brings together Warner Bros. Entertainment's home video, digital distribution, interactive entertainment/videogames, direct-to-DVD production, technical operations and anti-piracy businesses in order to maximize current and next-generation distribution scenarios. WBHEG is responsible for the global distribution of content through DVD, electronic sell-through and VOD, and delivery of theatrical content to wireless and online channels, and is also a significant worldwide publisher for both internal and third party videogame titles.
About DC Entertainment:
DC Entertainment, home to such iconic DC Comics properties as Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, Flash, MAD Magazine, and Fables, is the creative division charged with strategically integrating across Warner Bros. and Time Warner. DC Entertainment works in concert with many key Warner Bros. divisions to unleash its superheroic characters across all media, including but not limited to film, television, consumer products, home entertainment, and interactive games. Publishing over 1,000 comic books, graphic novels and magazines each year, DC Comics is the largest English-language publisher of comics in the world.
GREEN LANTERN and all related characters and elements are trademarks of and © DC Comics.
About Warner Bros. Animation:
Warner Bros. Animation (WBA) is one of the leading producers of animation in the entertainment industry, with an innovative and talent-rich roster boasting some of the most accomplished writers, producers and artists working today. The studio is on the cutting edge of animation technology, and has both CG and traditionally animated projects in current production and development. In 2010, WBA unveiled three new CG cartoon shorts that feature iconic Looney Tunes characters Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner, rendered in stereoscopic 3D. The films have been released theatrically, attached to Warner Bros. Pictures releases. For television, WBA currently produces Batman: The Brave and the Bold, Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated, MAD and Young Justice for Cartoon Network, and will soon launch The Looney Tunes Show, ThunderCats, Green Lantern: The Animated Series and more. WBA also creates the highly successful series of DC Universe Original Animated Movies for DVD. Producing for multiple platforms including TV, digital and home entertainment both domestically and internationally, WBA is highly respected for its creative and technical excellence, as well as for maintaining the Studio’s rich cartoon heritage. It is also the home of the iconic animated characters from the DC Comics, Hanna-Barbera, MGM and Looney Tunes libraries. One of the most-honored animation studios in history, WBA has been honored with six Academy Awards®, 35 Emmy® Awards, the George Foster Peabody Award, an Environmental Media Award, a Parents’ Choice Award, the HUMANITAS Prize, two Prism Awards and 20 Annie Awards (honoring excellence in animation).