Think you know Green Lantern?
Think again. In the Justice League of America, there's a new Green Lantern in town, and he's got an Arabic tattoo on his arm and a gun on his hip.
But that doesn't mean this new Green Lantern is a bad guy. Far from it. Yet his approach and the lessons learned from his past do make Simon Baz unique among the heroes of the new Justice League of America.
Now that DC has created its "New 52" universe, Simon Baz isn't the only hero who might not be familiar to DC readers. Most of the DC Universe has gotten a revamp, giving many of them new origins and starting them over as younger characters.
As we lead up to the launch by Geoff Johns and David Finch of their new title Justice League of America on Feb. 20th, Newsarama is spotlighting the heroes who make up this "other" Justice League. Who are these characters? Where did they come from? And what's their story within the JLA?
As we turn the spotlight on Green Lantern, we talked to Johns and his Green Lantern collaborator Doug Mahnke to get the story behind this character and his role in the DCU of the New 52.
Simon Baz grew up in Dearborn, Mich., the child of Arab-American Muslims. After the World Trade Center/Pentagon terrorist attack of 9/11/2001, Simon and his sister Sira were unfairly harassed because of their heritage.
Tragedy hit Simon again when he gets into street racing, but he's in a crash that injures his sister's husband, Nazir, putting him into a coma. Simon continues to feel guilty and ashamed of his role in Nazir's injury.
After the economy floundered in Detroit, the auto plant where Simon worked was shut down, and he desperately turned to car theft to make ends meet. One night, he stole a van and was racing away from the police when he noticed there was a bomb in the back of the van. It appeared to be counting down with only a minute left before detonation, so Simon drove the van into the abandoned car plant, where he knew the explosion couldn't hurt anyone.
After the bomb goes off, Simon is arrested. Because of his Arab-American heritage, he's treated like a terrorist, complete with the threat of torture by the FBI. But in the midst of a heated interrogation, a Green Lantern Ring busts through the ceiling, goes onto Simon's finger and breaks him out of jail. He has inherited the ring that once belonged to Hal Jordan, who is currently trapped.
"We have a character who is under a horrible condition, wrongfully accused, and yeah, that has happened," said Doug Mahnke, the artist who co-created Simon Baz in Green Lantern #0. "Thankfully, in our little world, Baz gets to escape."
Eventually, one of the FBI agents who is tracking Simon sees proof that he wasn't behind the bombing, and he asks Simon to come with him to help clear his name to the rest of the FBI. But Simon chooses not to spend time proving he's innocent, because there are other Green Lanterns in trouble who need his immediate help.
Simon currently carries a handgun on his hip, as a "back-up" in case his Green Lantern ring runs out of its charge. (He made this choice after his ring lost power during a fight.) Simon claims that carrying a handgun is a "smart" and practical thing to do. But his fellow Green Lantern B'dg claims it's because Simon doesn't "have faith in the ring and himself."
But Simon does have enough faith, apparently, to use his Green Lantern powers in a way that other Corps members usually cannot: He willed his brother-in-law Nazir out of his coma.
"I will for the ring to fix him," Simon said in Green Lantern #17, pointing the energy of the ring at his brain dead brother-in-law.
Simon's fellow Corps member B'dg, who watched him in astonishment, claimed that many Lanterns have tried to raise the dead or cure the sick with their rings, but have not been able to do so.
Yet Nazir woke up.
"I don't know how you did that," B'dg said. "I'm not sure Hal Jordan could. Or even Sinestro. Maybe the ring did choose you for a greater purpose. Maybe you are a greater part of this than I'd ever imagined."
Because Simon has dealt in the past with significant guilt and harassment, his Green Lantern Corps uniform reflects his personality.
"I thought about how he would perceive himself, because I think that's part of what goes into making a Green Lantern costume," Mahnke told Newsarama. "I liked the idea of having as much black as possible on his costume... the black fits him because he can be more invisible when he wants to be. And I think that fits his personality.
"And then the fact that he pulls a mask down over his face to hide himself," the artist added. "He doesn't want the world to know that he's there. I think it has less to do with being a Green Lantern than he's just trying not to be seen."
Within the pages of Green Lantern, readers have already been shown that Amanda Waller is aware of Simon Baz's new role as a Green Lantern. But we haven't seen him specifically recruited yet for the brand new Justice League of America.
"I think Green Lantern and how he gets involved in the team, and why he's on the team, is probably going to be the most antagonistic — not necessarily for him, but for the people trying to manipulate him," Johns told Newsarama.
"This JLA is not a team that is just set up and they're off and running and punching Despero in the face," said the writer, who also co-created Simon Baz. "They have their orders and they have their missions and people are trying to control them. And that's something that Simon Baz doesn't respond well to. Neither do any of the other members. Waller will have her hands full."
Johns has also indicated that he'll revisit the Green Arrow/Green Lantern relationship that was so beloved in the past (to the point where the duo supported an acclaimed ongoing series). But Johns said the relationship will be a lot different, not only because it's a different type of Green Arrow, but a completely different person in the Green Lantern costume.
"Geoff and I have already talked about doing a new version of the Green Arrow/Green Lantern team-up with the new Green Lantern Baz," Green Arrow writer Jeff Lemire told Newsarama.
While Simon may be a member of this secondary Justice League of America, the character is already not on the good side of the existing Justice League team. Soon after getting the ring, Simon had a confrontation with the Justice League, which may contribute to further problems between the two teams leading to the conflict of Trinity War.