The story behind my brief Hollywood moment and how I missed it.

Images © DC Comics, Inc.

While I’m best known as a letterer, back in the early 1980s I tried other comics jobs, while I was on staff at DC, including writing. After selling a few short mystery/horror stories for DC anthologies like HOUSE OF MYSTERY, I was asked by then GREEN LANTERN editor Ernie Colón to write some short backup stories for that feature, in a series known as “Tales of the Green Lantern Corps.” The idea was to focus briefly on some of the many non-Earth GL Corps members in stories about seven pages long. Not a lot of room, but it was an opportunity to write, and I took it. Early in the process, Ernie teamed me up with artist Dave Gibbons, then looking for work at DC after a successful early career in British comics. We hit it off well, and did a story together that we both liked called “Apprentice.” Ernie liked it, too, and asked for more. In fact, he called me into his office one day when he had Dave on the phone, and asked if we could hash out a plot for Dave to draw up, as he needed work. Dave and I talked out a story about a gypsy caravan in space and a previously unseen Green Lantern who helps them out of trouble. We agreed that Dave would draw this up and I’d write dialogue for it when the finished art came in, in what’s often called “Marvel style” comics writing, as pioneered by Stan Lee. As far as I can recall, the look of the new GL was left completely up to Dave. We both knew what Green Lanterns did, so the specific look was not that important, as long as it was new. Dave sent in the art, as well as layouts like the one above, indicating where he thought captions and dialogue might go, and I wrote them to fit.

Here’s that same page with the text that I wrote and lettered added. Our GL did not have a name in this story, he was simply called “Green Lantern.” But, as you can see, Dave gave him an amphibious look, and his skin was colored pale yellow-green to match that idea. Dave and I did several more stories using this character, and I don’t believe we ever gave him a name.

A few years later I became the regular writer of THE OMEGA MEN, and I brought the character into that series, after stripping him of his Green Lantern ring and powers. In the backstory I created, this fellow grew up on the planet Uxor from amphibious ancestors, in a society where individuality was scorned and each person is called simply by the job title they hold. When he was chosen to be a Green Lantern, that became his name, but when he renounced the Corps, he asked his friends, the Omega Men, to call him The Green Man. Shawn McManus was the main artist of that series, and drew the character somewhat differently, as you can see above. He appeared in over a dozen issues before the book was cancelled. After that, he and the other Omega Men were rarely seen, and in the miniseries INVASION, Green Man was apparently eaten by a Durlan in monster form. Now, I’d have no trouble explaining that death away. See, I’d established his species as having highly poisonous blood, so shortly after his apparent death, Green Man would have emerged from the dying Durlan, badly wounded, but alive, and eventually recovered. At any rate, Green Man was considered dead in the DC Universe for quite some time.

Green Lantern went through lots of changes, and some high and low points, and in the mid 2000s was on an upsurge of popularity. In 2006 DC launched a new GREEN LANTERN CORPS series written by Dave Gibbons, and Dave got in touch to ask me what I thought about him bringing back The Green Man. I thought it was a great idea! I told Dave about the apparent death of the character, but reminded him that in comics, no character remains dead when someone wants to write about him. And, sure enough, when the series began, there was The Green Man, and I was delighted to note that Dave sidestepped the entire death thing altogether, not mentioning or explaining anything. Good move, I thought!

So, Green Lantern continues to rise in popularity, largely because of some great writing by Geoff Johns on his title, and I began to hear about plans to make a big-budget live action film about him. I thought that sounded like a great idea, too, and hoped it would be good. I’d certainly go see it, but my involvement with Green Lantern had ended long ago, so I expected to be merely a fan and observer. Then, in the spring of 2010, I got a surprising and unexpected phone call from Geoff Johns, who I’d never met or spoken to up to that point. Geoff told me that he’d enjoyed the Green Lantern Corps stories I wrote (in fact, he chose some for two recent trade paperback reprints DC published), and he had an offer for me. Geoff was involved in the making of the Green Lantern film, and wanted to use The Green Man as one of the background Corps members in the film. If Dave and I would sign a rights contract allowing DC to use the character any way they liked, we’d get a cash advance up front, and a share of any royalties generated from him, on things like toys. While Geoff emphasized his role in the movie would be small and non-speaking, it was always possible he’d be used more later in cartoons or other films. This was pie in the sky for me, and I was happy to sign the contract DC sent along in a few weeks, and I believe Dave did the same.

So, when I went to see “Green Lantern” in the theater last week, I was hoping to have a good time, and I also had my eyes peeled for The Green Man. But, sadly, I never saw him. I figured he’d not made it to the screen.

I talked about this on the Green Lantern panel I was on at the Philly Comicon last Saturday, and someone in the audience said, “Well, they did make a toy of him.” I confessed I knew nothing about that, and made up my mind to find out more. When I got home, I searched online, and this is what I found:

There is, indeed a Green Man toy, part of Mattel’s Green Lantern Movie Masters series. It sure doesn’t look like the versions I wrote about, but I know it’s the same one, because the write-up about it mentions his home planet of Uxor. I guess they thought it would be cool to push the amphibious look further, and this toy looks much more froglike. Not a terrible idea, though I’m not crazy about the head. But, given the opportunity, I could probably write a story about this version of the character. One thing that’s kind of strange is the name, which doesn’t particularly work anymore, since he’s a Green Lantern again. Oh, and I won’t even go into the things that have happened to the character in the GREEN LANTERN CORPS comic since Dave stopped writing it. The poor character became an Alpha-Lantern, and now has his Lantern embedded in his chest. Not a great idea! But, at least he’s still around.

So, was he in the film? I asked for comments on Facebook, and two people who saw the movie said they thought they saw him in the background. And now you know why I titled this post as I did. It’s my Hollywood moment, such as it is, and it was so brief that I missed it!

So, if you spotted the Green Man in the movie, let me know. I’ll have another look when it comes out on DVD. And, by all means, if you like comics character toys, I’d be delighted if you buy this one. I think there are two versions at two different sizes. Go ahead, buy them both! Maybe someday Dave and I will get a small royalty check out of it. And, considering that the advance I got on the contract was already way more that I got paid for writing all his stories, I’m ahead of the game. Thank you, Geoff Johns, thank you DC. Thank you, readers!

4 thoughts on “The story behind my brief Hollywood moment and how I missed it.

  1. Patrick Rott

    I enjoyed your Omega Men stories and several Tales of the Green Lantern back in the day. It was enjoyable to read your account of the history and refreshing to encounter such a positive reaction to the entire situation. Congratulations and continued success.

  2. geoff

    I love to see a post with a more detailed explanation of the Marvel Style. Seem like the artist has much more input on the story this way.

  3. Marcel

    Wow, what a interesting story! Shows how the things really work on Hollywood: they “bought” your character, change everything in it, and haven’t even used it in the movie! Anyway, the toy looks cool in a weird sort of way.

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