GREEN LANTERN: BEWARE MY POWER Interview With Co-Writer Ernie Altbacker On John Stewart's Return (Exclusive)

Green Lantern: Beware My Power marks John Stewart's long-overdue return as a lead in an animated project, and co-writer Ernie Altbacker (Injustice) breaks down why now was the right time to bring him back.

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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. 

The movie is now available to buy, and we caught up with co-writer Ernie Altbacker (whose credits include Injustice and Batman: Hush) to discuss why now felt like the right time to put the spotlight back on John. 

Reflecting on reuniting with John Semper after they previously collaborated on Spider-Man: The Animated Series, Ernie talks us through their approach to telling this story. The writer also explains why he was pleased to shift focus away from Batman and Superman and how this movie gives him the chance to focus on a character he hoped to include in Green Lantern: The Animated Series.

As always, Ernie shares lots of fascinating insights into making this movie and even shares some of his hopes for the future. Check out our full chat with the writer below along with links to the rest of our Green Lantern: Beware My Power interviews!
 

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You obviously worked on the very popular, but short-lived, Green Lantern: The Animated Series, so how did it feel to return to this world for Beware My Power?

It is fantastic. The weird thing is, it’s coming out and Green Lantern: The Animated Series is having its tenth anniversary. I’m sure nobody planned that [Laughs] but it just happened as kismet, so it’s been great. 

I’ve read there were plans for John Stewart in the second season of that show, so did any of the ideas you had for him there carry over into this movie?

It doesn’t really have too much to do with the TV show, but you’re right, we did plan on bringing in Green Lantern John Stewart in the second season. That was a thing we never got to do, and we really were itching for it. We wanted to bring the character into that show and make him do something really cool [Laughs]. So, when this project came around and Jim Krieg came to John Semper and myself…I didn’t really go straight there and say, ‘Yes! Now I get to do John Stewart!’ because I knew we were going to be doing something vastly different. However, it does feel pretty good to finally get him in there. 

You co-wrote this movie with John Semper, so what was your process like in terms of working together to tell this story? 

Well, it was very cool. I don’t know if you know, but John gave me my first job in Hollywood writing on the Spider-Man show he wrote and produced. I’d done some of these before and he hadn’t, so Jim suggested, ‘How about you guys do this team-up?’ Basically, our process was to go and talk with Jim and get a rough outline of the story. Then, we went to Butch [Lukic] and pitched it to him and he added some great ideas. Then, it was divide and conquer. I wrote the first half, he wrote the second half, and then we matched them up and each took a pass on each other’s work when notes came in. It was a very easy process. It was quicker than normal. I think this script from start to finish was three months or so. Maybe less. Sometimes they can be a lot longer. 

You mentioned Spider-Man: The Animated Series there, so what an awesome place to kick your career off working on that show?

It was! The Ralph Bakshi Spider-Man was one of my favourite shows when I was growing up eating sugary cereal and watching Saturday morning cartoons. So, getting the chance to write some Spider-Man was fantastic. 

This is a bit of a buddy movie with John and Oliver Queen, and while comic book fans will be familiar with Ollie’s dynamic with Hal, what about this budding friendship was fun for you to see play out?

Everybody talks about the team-up with the hard travelling heroes, but for the people who actually read the comics, there isn’t a whole bunch of teaming up! We actually wanted to make good on that premise [Laughs] by having them be together, grate on each other, and then grow a respect for each other. Ollie has just met John, and he has his friend’s ring, so that was important. I thought it turned out really well, especially with the actors they got for this movie. 

This is a very cosmic movie that takes the action into space, so what was the thought process behind moving the action from Earth and exploring that DC mythology? 

Jim, right at the beginning, wanted to do an Apocolypse Now or Joseph Conrad’s The Heart of Darkness. They would go into space, up the river, to try and find what turns out to be our ‘Colonel Kurtz.’ They’re trying to find Hal and don’t know exactly what’s going on because of the fog of war, and that was Jim’s idea. We thought it would be great for the team-up aspect, so we sometimes call it a road trip, but it’s really them going up the river [Laughs]. 

This movie quite deliberately shifts the spotlight away from Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman, so was that quite refreshing for you? 

Yes! That’s the short answer. It’s a lot of Batman and Superman. They say there’s a bunch of the Trinity, but there’s not that much Wonder Woman. We hope this project, in some small way, puts John Stewart into the pantheon of DC’s greatest heroes where he deserves to be. I think it’s a long overdue thing. We’re trying to raise his profile a lot and it was great that with Warner Bros, it never came up…they never said, ‘How can we get Batman or Superman in this?’ It was just these characters we hadn’t seen before. 

Adam Strange and Hawkgirl is a really interesting addition to this movie, so what about them was most fun to explore here?

John and I being comic nerds, we knew the characters, but this is going to be chock full of introductions for your animated moviegoing audience. We hope that we did a good job. It was really fun working with them.

For many people, John is the main Green Lantern in their eyes thanks to that Justice League Unlimited cartoon, but what’s your take on why it was important to focus on him here rather than the other human Lanterns?

The reason why John is perfect for this story is that, if you’re going to do an Apocalypse Now-style story where you’re heading up the river into the fog of war, John Stewart is a Marine. We see that very clearly in the movie, and I’m mixing my movies and metaphors here, but he’s got damage and trauma from his combat experience. He knows the only way to get rid of that is to go back into the jungle, but this time, the jungle is space. With John’s background, he was the perfect choice to be the Green Lantern in this movie. Plus, I think everybody at Warner Bros. Animation feels he is an underutilised character, especially since Justice League Unlimited where Dwayne McDuffie put him front and centre. He hasn’t marched forward from there. The John Stewart ball has been dropped. We’re trying to get it back in play here. 

This is an origin story for John Stewart that very much leaves the door open to continuing his journey, so have you given any thought to where you’d like to take him next?

You know, we want to put him in with the Justice League in this continuity. Jim is working on creating that [continuity] with Butch. I’m sure that’ll happen. I don’t know, but as far as solo adventures, I’d love to do something like Mosaic or the revolt of the Alpha Lanterns in Alpha War. I think those would be great movies to put John front and centre where he’s the star. Or the War of the Green Lanterns from his point of view. That would be great as we could also get Kyle Rayner in which everybody has been asking for for forever [Laughs]. You’d have all of the Lanterns like Simon Baz and Jessica Cruz which would be pretty cool. 

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
ALSO READ: Green Lantern: Beware My Power Interview With Co-Writer And Spider-Man: The Animated Series Creator John Semper
ALSO READ: Green Lantern: Beware My Power Producer Butch Lukic On Long Wait For The Movie And Future Plans
 

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