Cartoon Network series takes “Green Lantern” into a new dimension

After soaring onto movie screens this past summer, DC Comics superhero Green Lantern is preparing to defend another realm of entertainment when Green Lantern: The Animated Series premieres at 7pm Friday on Cartoon Network.

Executive producer Bruce Timm, who was a major creative force behind both Batman: The Animated Series and Superman: The Animated Series, returns to helm these largely outer space-set tales following the adventures of Hal Jordan (Josh Keaton) and his fellow band of galactic defenders. His main companion is Kilowog, his old Lantern Corps drill sergeant, portrayed by voice-over stud Kevin Michael Richardson. Tom Kenny, best known as the voice of SpongeBob SquarePants, plays a ball-shaped Red Lantern (they’re the bad guys) named Zilius Zox. Hal and Kilowog travel around in a spaceship “exploring the universe out on the fringe of Guardian space,” says Timm, who didn’t shy away from a description of the show as a superhero version of Star Trek.

“One of the big appeals of doing this show is that I’ve done a lot of Earth-based superhero shows, and Green Lantern has always been a much more science-fiction-oriented character,” Timm said to reporters at this summer’s Comic-Con in San Diego. “I love the science-fiction genre, so to me this was a chance to do an entire series that’s not just based in Gotham City or Metropolis. Every episode is on a new world and with new weird alien races. To me, it was like gravy.”

As respected as Timm is, there is trepidation among animation purists that the CGI visuals will lose the charm and craft that was so evident in Batman and Superman, making them beloved contributions to the genre. It’s true that much of the hand-drawn feel is gone, but the look of the characters and settings greatly resemble Timm’s usual aesthetic, as they might look put through a Pixar machine. So, in essence, like The Incredibles. Nothing wrong with that.

Where Green Lantern will part ways with previous Animated Series will be in continuity, though Timm said fans are welcome to disagree with him about that.

“In my head, it’s not connected to the continuity of everything we’ve done from Batman to the Justice League,” he said. “But there’s not necessarily anything that makes it a contradiction of that. So, I will leave it up to the fans to decide whether the series is connected or not, because they’re going to debate it anyway.”

The series is also not connected in any way to the events of the somewhat underperforming feature film that starred Ryan Reynolds, although Timm acknowledges the film had a lot to do with getting Cartoon Network interested.

“[The filmmakers] didn’t even really have time or the desire to make sure we followed what they were doing,” he said. “Fortunately, we had [DC Comics chief creative officer] Geoff Johns, who was actively involved in the movie. We discussed the show with him a lot when we were first starting. Basically, everybody came to realize very early on that what they were doing in the movie wasn’t a radical rethink of Green Lantern based on the comic. Whenever we’ve done a comic book-based show, we usually stay pretty true to the comics as well. So it’s kind of like, ‘OK, Sinestro is Sinestro is Sinestro.’ It’s not like they decided Sinestro was going to be a rock instead of this guy. It’s actually been very easy on us. But we didn’t want to tie ourselves so directly to the movie that it limited us in terms of what we could do in future story lines. The biggest difference between our series and the movie is that our show is a little bit more of an ensemble show.”

Photo: © Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. and DC Comics