Blackest Night's Tim Seeley Talks Bringing the Tale to the Dark Multiverse
Liam Nolan
In 2009, Green Lantern's Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis united for Blackest Night, which saw the evil and malevolent Nekron working through William Hand/Black Hand to create the Black Lantern Corps. The horror-inspired crossover event took a number of dark turns, with the living fighting against dead friends and lovers in an attempt to avoid being assimilated into Nekron's horde. At a key point in the battle, Sinestro tries to use the power of his newly acquired White Lantern ring against Nekron but fails. Hal Jordan eventually wrests control of the weapon and creates the White Lantern Corps to beat Nekron and save the universe. However, Tales from the Dark Multiverse: Blackest Night #1 imagines a universe in which Sinestro kept control of the ring, dooming the universe as a result.
Written by Tim Seeley and penciled by Kyle Hotz, Blackest Night #1 is the newest one-shot that reimagines a key event from DC history in the worst-case-scenario Dark Multiverse. CBR spoke with Seeley by phone about the project, and he revealed just how he went about approaching Blackest Night and the process of adapting the story.
CBR: Tell me about your relationship with the original Blackest Night.
Tim Seeley: I actually hadn't read it when it came out. I was sort of out of superhero comics at that time, because I think I'd just started working in indie comics, and I just sort of missed the whole thing. But when I started working on Green Lanterns at DC, I went back and read all that stuff, because we were going to use Atrocitus and a lot of that concept. So much of that stuff was built by the time I was writing Green Lanterns. So much of that current mythology and so much of that world was built off Geoff's rebirth of Hal Jordan and all that stuff that he set up in a sort of big, epic story, so I had to make myself very familiar with it.
What particular challenges did you have when writing Blackest Night?
Seeley: The hardest one: How do you make that story better? So the idea of these one-shots is that they're kind of playing a little bit off that sort of old Marvel What If? comics idea, and also the things that they set up in [Dark Nights: Metal], which was that there's this churn of infinite worlds in the multiverse, and the ones that are just like these absolute failures fall into the deepest, darkest parts of the universe to sort of keep them from infecting the rest of it.
When they were sending out ideas for these, they said, "We want you to do Blackest Night, and you have to think of an ending that is a failure," and, like, how? I mean, so much of the story is about sort of how, in the end, darkness triumphs and this army of undead Teen Titans and everything.
So the challenge was to try to figure out a character who would sort of epitomizes the failure, and I think we decided it couldn't be Hal, right? Because we've already seen that story. We've seen Hal with Parallax, and we've seen Hal lose morally. And this would just be a repeat, I thought. So I felt like Sinestro would be the guy to do it, because in the original Blackest Night, Sinestro kind of redeems himself, because he ultimately sort of realizes that he's not the guy to defend life, at least that's one way I think you could interpret it. So, I felt like, instead it'd be the failure of Sinestro. He almost made himself someone who wasn't selfish all the time in that story, and this one had to say, "Nope, this is where he was... the man that he always expected that he was. He was the one that failed the entirety of humanity, which is all life. It was him who failed."
Why do you feel he fails this time around? What was going through your head [in terms of understanding] what was going through his head?
Seeley: I think it just had to be that Sinestro doesn't ever want Hal to win, even if it means Hal winning saves the rest of us and even if it saves him. He's still bitter that Hal got picked over him, or that Hal's considered the greatest and he isn't. I think that's his primary motivation and, though sometimes he can rise above it, in this we're saying this is the Sinestro that chose his bitterness over the universe.
You mentioned the Teen Titans earlier, and one of the things I found really interesting when reading this was, in the original Blackest Night, Dove definitely plays a key role in the Titans tie-ins, but she's a lot more secondary to the storyline as a whole in the main book. Can you tell me about that choice to really put her front and center this time around?
Seeley: The part of the fun of these is, you can correct the things that bothered you. In that original story, I was kind of like, "Well, I would really like to see [why Dove] was important to this," because clearly her powers makes sense to be able to resist this sort of thing. I thought she should be more important to the universe than she was in that particular story. So I got to play my version of events and do my quote -- unquote "correction" and put her in the forefront.
But for her, she's been through something pretty horrible... Because she had to turn away from her partner, I think she feels as though she doesn't know what her place in this is. If she's supposed to be this great avatar, why was she the one who abandoned Hawk? I think that that's kind of her motivation is this redemption track, to feel like she earned being picked as Avatar of Order.
Without spoiling too much, you bring Lobo and the New Gods into this, and they end up playing a pretty big role in this one-shot. Can you tell me about that choice to bring them into the fold?
Seeley: The original story is so complete. It's such a perfect unit that it kind of felt like the only way to expand it is to see the things we didn't deal with. We didn't see how Lobo dealt with a universe full of Black Lanterns. And we didn't see how that would affect the New Gods either. So I kind of felt like it was the only things Geoff didn't touch. And for me, that's the thing that I have to grab onto. It's the only thing I can bring something new to, because his knowledge of DC is so complete and his ability to build these universes is pretty impressive. And so for me, it's like, "Okay, well what wasn't involved in these stories?"
Also these are two of my favorite aspects of DC Universe stuff. I love the New Gods [and] any [Jack Kirby] stuff. I've also been waiting to write Lobo pretty much my entire adult life.
So it's a dream come true.
Seeley: Yeah, I mean those kind of characters, like Harley and Deadpool and Lobo. Like people, kind of crazy bad people, I don't know why those are my best [and the] easiest for me to write.
Was there anything that you would have liked to have added to the story that you didn't get to for one reason or another?
Seeley: I had so much fun with the New Gods and Darkseid. I really would have liked to have done more with that, but I've only got so many pages. And it's not Darkseid's story, obviously. He's just really cool... There was stuff I would have liked to have seen Kyle draw. I would have loved to have spent some time with Swamp Thing and the horror characters. I would love to have seen how the guys who are used to fighting demons and monsters and zombies would have dealt with this. So if I could have done Constantine and [Etrigan the Demon] and Swamp Thing, I would have loved to do that, but we only had room for one army, and they're the ones I picked.
At its core, as you were just talking about thinking of potential horror characters, your Blackest Night and the original draw a lot from horror as a genre. Can you tell me a bit about how you approach doing horror in a genre in which people have superpowers?
Seeley: I don't think it changes anything. When it comes down to it, a zombie story is about losing hope and being swept into a group and having your individuality taken from you. It's this sort of fear of contamination and fear of just losing your identity. And so I think you can do that with superpowers. It doesn't affect anything, but I think it works well with a Green Lantern story because so much of any Green Lantern story is about these connections between people.
In fact, one of the things that Geoff came up with in the original story was these tethers that the dead sort of rode back to life, and those tethers were always some emotional connection, which is how the Lantern rings work anyway; they're powered by emotions. It ends up being this really great personal experience, because the zombie is coming for you, because you're the brother that they felt betrayed by, you're the friend that abandoned them, you're the whatever the case may be. It's a very personal thing. Instead [in] most zombie stories, you're just running from these faceless masses. And then the really good meat of the story comes when the person has to face the zombie version of their kid or their grandma or whatever. And this is all that.
That was something that struck me when I was reading the Teen Titans tie-ins, which is Wonder Girl has to confront her dead child, and that is...
Seeley: That was grim! That was grim. That was one thing I knew, that we can't go as dark as that. That's my own self-limiting. We're not gonna do anything in which Wonder Girl crushes the head of her baby. We're just not gonna do it. And as a new dad, I just can't go there.
The Limbo Lantern is something I'm really interest in. Could you talk to me a bit about that process and collaborating with Kyle on that?
Seeley: When we came up with the idea of using Sinestro as the lead, we were trying to come up with something that hadn't been done, because... you're switching with these characters. You've seen Red Lantern Sinestro and White Lantern, and all this sort of stuff. You've seen variations of all these [looks].
We had to do something new. And I believe it was one of the editors who actually said, "Well, what if we make him trapped in the middle," and I was like, "Limbo Lantern!" I thought it was a great idea, and then people started making fun of it, like he was doing the limbo... This sort of between life and death and really that being the torment, you know, because he can bring someone to life, but then send them back immediately. So they get this moment of life and then... I thought that was very Green Lantern kind of dark to play with that. The design was all Kyle. Our idea was like we have to keep him from looking too much like Two-Face, but that's hard because they're both burnt up, rotten dudes.
Is there anything else you'd like to add?
Seeley: I just hope people check it out and enjoy it for the compact unit it is. It's not meant for you to have had to read Blackest Night, but if you have, I think it works. And if you liked this, I think you would really enjoy the original Blackest Night, because it's a pretty epic tale.