Descent Into Madness
♦ Tripwire’s contributing writer Scott Braden gives us his latest in a regular series about comic series that never were. Today it’s the turn of Paul Kupperberg’s Emerald Interlude…
Paul Kupperberg’s Emerald Interlude
Over several decades, Paul Kupperberg made his mark as one of comicdom’s most prolific writers. At the turn of the century, he was going to add an important chapter to the legend of Green Lantern Hal Jordan in the pages of DC Comics’ Legends of the DC Universe.
Kupperberg snagged the three-issue Green Lantern assignment, “Emerald Interlude,” for Legends of the DC Universe from legendary editor Bob Schreck. But how exactly did that come about?
“I pitched the story to Bob,” Kupperberg said. “I hadn’t liked the abrupt way that Hal Jordan was flipped from good to evil in the ‘Emerald Twilight’ storyline in Green Lantern #48 (January 1994) – 50, the way they took him from being the greatest Green Lantern of all time and turned him into Parallax. I wanted to explore that turning point and give it some context, which is how I came up with the story that turned into the three-part ‘Emerald Interlude,’ which would be drawn by Peter Doherty and Joe Rubinstein.
What was it exactly about the landmark “Emerald Twilight” storyline that made Kupperberg want to write his lost tale?
“Like I said,” said Kupperberg, “I didn’t buy Hal’s abrupt turn. It was totally out of character for a guy who had been built up for years as being the exemplar of the qualities of the Green Lantern Corps. There had to be something that motivated it beyond what we’d been show, through no fault, really, of writer Ron Marz. The decision to make the change was editorially and market-driven, with Ron being given three issues to effect the change to take advantage of the book’s 50th anniversary issue and introduce the ‘new’ GL, Kyle Rayner.
“Ron later told me, ‘Ideally, I would’ve preferred about six issues to tell the story. Hal’s descent into…well, if not madness, at least psychosis…is abrupt, especially after he was portrayed as relatively normal in issue #47…The irony, I think, is that if the same sort of story was done now, it would be a 36-part crossover spread across an entire line of books.’
“So, if the writer was having a hard time buying into his character’s motivations, it was bound to rub off on the readers. But while the story was set in stone, there wasn’t anything that said I couldn’t write a story set in an instant between moments in the story. That takes place literally between the panels. A series of time travel and flashback events that drive Hal over the edge and explain, at least somewhat, what motivated him to kill Sinestro and the Guardian.”
“The story was simple (but very convoluted in its telling),” explained Kupperberg, “Rip Hunter, Time Master snatches Hal out of his moment in time just before he is about to drain the power battery energy from the Guardian. Hopping in and out of Hal’s own timeline, he learns that Sinestro has also been time traveling, with the intent of killing young Hal Jordan before he ever has the chance to become Green Lantern and interfere with his plans. Hal and Hunter thwart several of Sinestro’s attempts at various points in time, but the big reveal was that it was Sinestro who was responsible for the death of Hal’s test pilot dad; the crash in which he died was caused by Sinestro. Hal, a visitor and observer to the flight, was supposed to have been died in the crash as well.
“Of course, Hal survives, and even though he doesn’t explicitly remember the events of the story, the hatred he feels for Sinestro for causing his father’s death is so deeply ingrained it influences his actions in ‘Emerald Twilight.’”
“Part of the reason the storytelling was so convoluted, Kupperberg continued, “was because while I had pitched ‘Emerald Interlude’ as a two-part story for Legends of the DCU, Bob insisted I write it as a three-parter, probably because of the page count for future trade paperback collections. I said there wasn’t enough story for three issues, he thought there was. Turned out I was right. Part 2 is pretty much all fluff and padding.”
Now that Kupperberg has written bright and shiny Silver Age Green Lantern stories as well as a darker Grim-and-Gritty one, which does he prefer? Or, does it matter?
“I was raised on the bright and shiny Gil Kane Silver Age Green Lantern stories, and I wrote a lot of pre-Crisis GL and GL Corps stories (including one that was drawn by Gil Kane), so I’m sort of predisposed towards that version. I always thought of the GL Corps as an intergalactic Knights of the Round Table and Hal as its Sir Lancelot, the greatest and noblest of knights, so darkening him was a jolt to me. I didn’t then, and still don’t, believe that Hal Jordan was corruptible.
“On the other hand, I was an early adaptor of the grim-and-gritty, writing over-the-top titles like Vigilante, Peacemaker, and Checkmate in the later-80s. I enjoy writing that stuff, but it’s not a model that fits every character, despite the industry’s efforts in the 1990s. Vigilante, even Batman, sure. Green Lantern, doesn’t work for me.”
Some might say that there is a dark theme of masters and students throughout Kupperberg’s story. Was he playing with the idea that (almost) every master Green Lantern turns dark?
“I wasn’t consciously playing with any specific theme in the story, but I’m sure there’s one in there, somewhere. There usually is, whether I knowingly add one or it just emerges on its own. But I don’t buy that every master GL turns bad. Abin Sur didn’t, and the only two I know of who did were Sinestro (whose name alone should have been a tip-off to those big-brained Guardians!) and Hal. And even with the help of my story, I’m still not buying that one.”
Although not currently chronicling the adventures of the Distinguished Competition’s Green Lantern, Kupperberg does continue to write within and outside the comics industry.
“I’m working on several projects right now,”Kupperberg said, “including a memoir and a young adult novel, as well as Paul Kupperberg’s Guide to Writing Comics, which we’re preparing for publication in the next few months from Charlton Neo Comics (morttodd.com). I’m also writing two new online series for Archie Comics, The Golden Pelican and Rogue State, and my mystery novel, set in the comic book industry of 1952, The Same Old Story, and short story collection, In My Shorts, are available on Amazon or from Crazy8Press.com. I’m on Facebook and Twitter, as well as at PaulKupperberg.com.”
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