DC's post-Apokolips War animated efforts have been outstanding. These movies have allowed DC and Warner Bros to broaden the scope of their stories in genuinely exciting ways. Continuity plays second fiddle to quality storytelling, which has been evident in almost every animated film the studio has put out in the last two years. DC's newest animated film, Green Lantern: Beware My Power, at last tells John Stewart's origin story. Fans of the Justice League animated series from the early 2000s grew to love this character dearly. As far as Green Lanterns go, John Stewart is Hal Jordan's opposite in many respects: he's calm, rational, and humble whereas his fellow space cop is impulsive, explosive, and arrogant.
Lending his vast talent and experience to Beware My Power is John Semper, Jr., a seasoned writer and director whose credits include Static Shock, Spider-Man: The Animated Series, Rugrats, and DuckTales. We recently caught up with Semper Jr. to talk all things Green Lantern: Beware My Power…
STARBURST: Can you give our readers a quick, spoiler-free synopsis of Green Lantern: Beware My Power?
John Semper, Jr: It’s an origin story! It's how John Stewart goes from being a soldier who's dealing with PTSD to being a Green Lantern. It’s a personal journey. He's something of a reluctant hero. He gets dragged into the Rann/Thanagarian conflict while also trying to learn how to be a superhero. That's pretty much the story!
We love seeing a Green Lantern origin story that for once is not centred on Hal Jordan. What makes John Stewart such a compelling character?
Obviously, the fact that he's the first Black Green Lantern and one of DC's first black superheroes for DC. This is the 50th anniversary of his creation. We are exactly at the fiftieth anniversary. But I also think that he's a strong character. He genuinely wants to do the right thing. I think that what we see in this story is him realising that his need to protect people, to save lives, overrides his own personal demons and his own temporary desire to never be in battle again. That’s a very dramatic, compelling story.
For a whole generation of people, he really is their Green Lantern. They grew up with him in Justice League. We're bringing to them something that is long overdue, which is putting him back onscreen and enjoying his personality, his humour, and his clear thinking. I think he's a very well-written, well-created character.
In many ways, John Stewart is Hal Jordan's antithesis, but he's a really compelling one.
I think Hal at times is more of an adolescent and John is more of an adult! I think people have been waiting for this. I think they've been waiting longer than they should have. It's going to be very cathartic to have this character back onscreen. I'm very excited about the way that we've done it. The animated movie arc that we're in right now is a very dramatic one. It's a very deep one. I think this is a great time for him to be reintroduced.
What kind of preparation or research did you do before writing the movie?
I know the character pretty well! I actually am old enough to have picked up the first John Stewart comic book and that first arc that Denny O'Neil and Neal Adams did. I was in college when that came out. It blew me away. I was a regular comic buyer at that time, so I remember firsthand what it was like when those comics came out.
I wrote the John Stewart character once before in an episode of Static Shock. It had John Stewart and Sinestro in it. I was very anxious to dive into this. I feel very connected to it. I've said this before, but I'm probably the first real screenwriter who is black, maybe in the history of animation but certainly in the history of TV animation. I've always gravitated toward black characters as a way of bringing them to the forefront and making sure that they were fully rounded.
You co-wrote Green Lantern: Beware My Power with Ernie Alterbacker. How do you two complement each other as creators?
It's no secret that I actually gave Ernie his first job in the business. The way that I work is that I would bring in people who were a little rough around the edges and then teach them how I would like for them to write. So it's very easy for me to interact with Ernie because he writes the way I like other people to write. [laughs] It's really a nice payoff. I'm very proud of the career he's had since we all worked together on Spider-Man. The great thing about the whole situation on Spider-Man was that we all became very good friends. It was like writing with a friend. It was seamless.
Green Lantern: Beware My Power is available on Blu-ray and DVD now.