GREEN LANTERN: BEWARE MY POWER Interview With Co-Writer And SPIDER-MAN: TAS Creator John Semper (Exclusive)

John Semper talks about writing Green Lantern: Beware My Power, the importance of John Stewart to the DC Universe, and the legacy of Spider-Man: The Animated Series, a show he served as Head Writer on.

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In Green Lantern: Beware My Power, recently discharged Marine sniper John Stewart (Aldis Hodge) is at a crossroads in his life, one which is only complicated by receiving an extraterrestrial ring which grants him the powers of the Green Lantern of Earth.

Unfortunately, the ring doesn’t come with instructions - but it does come with baggage, like a horde of interplanetary killers bent on eliminating every Green Lantern in the universe. Now, with the aid of the light-hearted Green Arrow (Jimmi Simpson), Adam Strange (Brian Bloom) and Hawkgirl, this reluctant soldier must journey into the heart of a galactic Rann/Thanagar war and somehow succeed where all other Green Lanterns have failed. 

Screenwriter John Semper is a legend in the world of animation, working on projects with the likes of Jim Henson, George Lucas, and Stan Lee. Among his credits are iconic projects like Spider-Man: The Animated Series and Static Shock, but he most recently teamed up with Ernie Altbacker (Injustice) to pen this latest Green Lantern adventure. 

We recently caught up with John to discuss his work on Green Lantern: Beware My Power, learning more about his approach to telling this story, his love of John Stewart, and why he enjoyed writing dialogue for a villain like Sinestro. He also reflects on Spider-Man: The Animated Series' legacy and the possibility of a revival. 

He also shares high praise for Hodge's take on this iconic DC Comics character in the movie, along with the rest of this impressive ensemble. 

Check out our full conversation with John below:
 

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This is a story that borrows from a lot of different comic book storylines and moments, so what did you enjoy most about delving into those to tell an original story?

The thing that I think I enjoyed the most was being able to tell a really powerful story that feels original even though we are borrowing a lot from the different comics. I always liked to try and enhance the material, and the material was so good that being able to reinterpret it and plus it was just heaven for me. It’s really great material and I like to deal with that sort of content. This movie had a really dramatic, powerful ending. It’s got strong characters, all of whom came from the comics. I’ve had some experience translating characters from the comic books in the past, and it’s a tricky affair. There are some things that work really well in those that don’t work when you get it up on the screen. Conversely, there are some things that seem really minor in comics that you can expand on and turn into something really special on screen. This was the best of all possible worlds for me because we had a lot of good bits to string together that we were able to compile into a powerful movie. 

Having spent some time with this character now, what is your take on why John is someone who resonates with fans? 

Interestingly enough, I first wrote John Stewart when I was showrunner on Static Shock many years ago. It was great fun to become acquainted with him way back then, and if you’re familiar with the show based on the Milestone character, that was my first experience writing him. He’s such a really interesting character. There are lots of shades to him. As a Black writer and probably the first real Black writer in animation, I have always gravitated to telling stories about really strong Black superhero characters.

He is such an iconic character. This is his 60th anniversary and getting to be a Black writer dealing with such an iconic Black character on the anniversary of his creation by arguably two of the greatest comic creators ever, Neal Adams and Danny O’Neil, is just so exciting. He’s symbolic, integral to the DC Universe, and historic. There’s a whole generation that grew up with him on the Justice League animated TV show, and they’ve been waiting for him to come back. There’s an excitement out there in the world for this character, so it’s the perfect place for me to be and the right place at the right time. 

Aldis Hodge is a great actor who has obviously gone from this movie to playing Hawkman in Black Adam, so what’s it been like for you to hear him bring the lines you wrote to life as John?

This is such a thrill. It isn’t often you get to work on a project where, when it ends up on screen, you’re just delighted. You’re delighted with every choice made by the producer and director. The actors were wonderful performers and brought a lot to the characters. It doesn’t always happen that way. When I sat down and watched this, even the minor changes that were made from the script to the screen, I thought made everything better. That’s really rare because you usually wince when you see any kind of change that was made. Everything was tightened and the performances were spectacular. It was ridiculously exciting as there are only a few projects in my entire career, and I’ve been in this business for 40 years, where I felt that my best effort ended up on screen. One of them, of course, was Spider-Man: The Animated Series which I produced and was Head Writer for. This is probably the most exciting thing I’ve done since then and that was 25 years ago. For me to be at this point of my career and be looking at a really excellent interpretation of the words Ernie and I put on paper is a phenomenally exciting moment. 

I grew up on Spider-Man: The Animated Series, and as a huge, huge fan of that character, I’d love to know how you look back at the legacy of the series and the love it still gets from fans today?

Well, it feels spectacular. I am, right at this moment, very happy to be me [Laughs]. I do get wonderful feedback from fans. Just about every other day I get an email or a letter out of the blue from someone saying about what the series meant to them. I always hoped the show would have longevity and an impact down the line, and that people would appreciate the kind of drama we brought. It was threading that needle of appealing to fans, older people, and introducing Spider-Man to a new generation of kids who were totally unfamiliar with him. I think we did a really good job on that series doing that and working on this Green Lantern movie is the first time I’ve felt a similar feeling. I feel like this movie is going to resonate with fans and have real longevity, and I hope it stacks up as one of the better DC Animated Universe movies. The same thrill I get watching one of the really good episodes of Spider-Man is the thrill I’ve gotten each time watching this one. I’ve watched it three times now. I really love it. 
 

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With X-Men: The Animated Series coming back on Disney+, are you hopeful some sort of revival could happen down the line? 

I think, right now, they’re doing an updated Spider-Man. They’ve done a number of shows since mine and they’re doing another right now. I don’t think that the politics of the situation will allow for the 90s Spider-Man series to be revived. If they did revive it, I don’t know if I’d get to be involved. I was in a very good position because I was really able to have a lot of creative control over that show after episode 13 or 14. I don’t know if I’d ever have that situation again, so it would really make it a different kind of thing.

Strangely enough, the kind of creative freedom I would like to have is the kind of creative freedom Ernie and I had on this Green Lantern film. I might point out that myself, Ernie, and Jim Krieg are all alumni of Spider-man: The Animated Series. Jim and Ernie were on staff, so we really had a similar kind of situation here. I don’t know if I’d get that on a Spider-Man revival given it’s now a property that’s owned by two studios and there’s a lot of politics involved. But hey, if someone wants to call me and say, ‘Hey, we’re gonna do more episodes and we’re going to leave you alone,’ I’d be there in a heartbeat.

Sinestro is a great villain, but what did you enjoy most about exploring this version of the character?

The funny thing is, again, in my Static Shock episode, it was John Stewart and Sinestro! [Laughs] There was a little bit of deja vu. He’s a wonderful character. Any character that starts out being good and essentially turns bad, I like. He’s bad in our movie all the way through, but I like his origin and I like characters that have more of a backstory than twirling their moustache and wanting to take over the world. There are a lot of dimensions to all the characters in this. No one is pure evil or pure good. Everyone is dealing with their own issues and, as you know, Sinistro’s situation in this movie is complicated. I can’t go too much into that, but he’s a great villain and I thoroughly enjoyed getting reacquainted with him for this movie. 

Also looking to the future, do you hope to continue telling John Stewart stories after this movie? Do you have any ideas where you’d like to see his story go?

Absolutely, I’d love to return. As I said, as the first Black animation writer for television, to be able to handle this iconic character, I would do it again in a heartbeat. I’d love to take his story and flesh it out even more. We only just got started with this script, so I’d love to do more. 

Green Lantern: Beware My Power arrives on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and Digital on July 26!

ALSO READ: Green Lantern: Beware My Power Star Jamie Gray Hyder On Playing Hawkgirl And Her Inhumans Role
 

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