In 2019, the gawd of storytelling, N.K. Jemisin and the messiah of the brush strokes, Jamal Campbell created the best dressed Green Lantern to ever step foot in the DC Universe. Far Sector’s Sojourner “Jo” Mullein’s is back. Sojourner’s first mission was to bring peace to the Enduring City (a city without emotion). In DC Power 2024, N.K. Jemisin and Jamal Campbell reunite to give Jo a send off back to OA after a job well done. Her escort is none other than Green Lantern 2814.3 John Stewart. We got to do a quick interview with N.K. Jemisin author of the story ‘Enduring Farewells’ which marks the monumental moment of John Stewart and Jo Mullein meeting for the very first time.
Omar Holmon: It was 5 years ago you got to introduce Sojourner Mullein in Far Sector and she is a hit now. How does that feel for you for folks to enjoy her, keeping her around as a main stay when that doesn’t always happen introducing a new character?
N.K. Jemisin: Well, that was my intention. When I created Far Sector, I had the opportunity to release it as a Black label book. Which is more of like a physical book as opposed to like a compilation or a comic book that would be sold straight in bookstores from what I understand. And I deliberately chose not to do that although as a book author that probably would have worked better for me financially. More of my readers would have bought it because it would have been in the bookstores as opposed to the comic book shops where, for the first 12 issues until the compilation came out later, there was no way my readers would have found those books. I decided against it because, you know, I’m not a current comic book fan, but I have been one and I know enough about the fandom to get that if it got released in this different medium the fans would not have accepted her and it seemed important for me for the books to get released in floppy so Jo could feel like a real Green Lantern.
That DC Comics then was able to move on and put her into Geoffrey Throne’s run on Green Lantern. That actually I was happy to see. Regardless of what actually happened with her. I never wanted to write in the main DC continuity. It’s too much for me. I can’t keep up with the who’s dead and who’s not and all that other shit (pardon my language), but I can’t keep up with it. So, Geoff wanted to do it? Great, enjoy! Have fun Geoffrey. Enjoy my character. I made her to go forth and be part of the continuity in other ways. So, I’m glad to see that that has happened.
Omar: This story Enduring Farewells in DC Power 2024 is like a proper send off from the City Enduring. What’s that like for Jo and for you?
N.K. Jemisin: Originally, I had hoped Far Sector would become an ongoing comic. When we first did it as a 12-issue run, it was a trial. Did it sell well enough to establish itself as its own comic, and sadly, that did not happen. Sadly, that didn’t happen with any of the Young Animal books, even the ones that were popular like Umbrella Academy, for various reasons. That said, once I realized it wasn’t going to be a thing that continued, I discarded a lot of those plot ideas that I was planning to write into the story right after that. But that said, it was nice to at least come back and say farewell to the plot arc that I did manage to do. As far as I’m concerned, it’s about the characters. I wanted the readers that had grown to love those characters and that world to have their own chance to say farewell to it. It was fun to do.
It was also my chance to say farewell to working with Jamal (Campbell). He’s so busy and he should be so busy cause he’s amazing. It’s just so wonderful working with him. I say vague things, and he turns it into this incredibly precise artwork. I don’t know how he does it, but it’s nice to see the magic happening.
Omar: Speaking of magic happening, it was a great showcase seeing John Stewart and Jo together. Seeing Jo showing John around the City Enduring like, “Hey look at this. I helped with this.” And we talk about these scenes Jamal Campbell drew. There was a great scene between them, a Black moment where they side eye each other.
N.K. Jemisin: I don’t know a lot about John Stewart. When I first came onto Green Lantern, I wasn’t all that clear on who was considered the main Green Lantern. I had come up watching Justice League, where it’s all John Stewart. I thought John Stewart was Green Lantern, and I kept wondering, who is this white dude? Turns out it was Hal Jordan, and he’s kinda important. So, I’m not super familiar with Green Lantern, and I never was. What I am familiar with was John Stewart. I wanted it to be clear Jo was a giant raging fangirl of his but had to keep cool while working with him in that moment. I think the bobble head scene gets that across.
Omar: John telling her that she’ll have her own one day is an incredible detail. When I interviewed you when Far Sector first came out, I made a joke that you had the best dressed Green Lantern in the game. Five years later and fandom points it out all the time. Jo is the best dressed Green Lantern to ever do it and we see it again in DC Power 2024.
N.K. Jemisin: Well, that’s Jamal. That’s Jamal. I did not dictate the outfits. What I did do was tell him some aesthetic things I was thinking of. Afro goth. Afro punk. I told him one thing; Jo is the kinda person who always has her eyebrows done. Her eyebrows are always going to be completely on point. That was all I needed to say, and then he was off to the fashion races. I didn’t have to suggest outfits. Literally, he came up with all that. So, I think it was just in his mind, “Oh? Oh, now I can play.” And he did, and it was beautiful. So all that was Jamal.
Omar: One of my favorite things about your writing is your switch between details. It’s eloquent in describing situations and cultures. The humor of it comes when you’re blunt about something. In particular, when you’re talking about Marth you say here’s the side piece and Syzn is the current girlfriend. They give each other the alien version of the Black side eye. Can you speak to their tension in the room (between them) and how it pans out in the end?
N.K. Jemisin: I meant for it to be tension that pans out. It’s meant to be a hint towards a plot line that I never got the chance to explore which was that Marth and Syzn would eventually would have decided that, “Okay we both love her, so we’re just going to share her. We’re going to do like a time share.” *laughs* (Omar: I see why they call you the goat. I see it) And of course Jo would have had some objections, logically, because that’s not how Earth folks do stuff. They were reasonable people from an emotional society that prided itself on rationality so to them it would seem like, “Well we both love her. We’re mostly going to try to do good things to her. So how can we make this work?” That is where I would have eventually ended up. I wanted to show some preemptive tension and a little bit of jealousy, but also that they were able to resolve it and work around it because they both cared about her, and they both wanted to say farewell. So that was literally just a hint at a plot line that I didn’t get to explore. That’s it.
Omar: Speaking of that, Jo’s friends throw her a surprise party and the way you break it down how this normal thing for humans is so foreign for aliens to understand. They’re trying to figure out why humans want to be momentarily terrorized. It’s such a great playful thing in taking this small human gesture and making it this complicated thing for these aliens to understand as something so absurd.
N.K. Jemisin: Yeah, I think Jamal had fun with it to. I told him at one point you can get silly with this point in the plot. You can turn them into lil’ deformed characters, you can make them bobbleheads if you want, and he did. *laughs* He had fun with it! It’s such a joy working with him.
Omar: What was it like to come back all these years later and work with Jamal Campbell? Because to me, there’s certain teams, like Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev. Kelly Thompson, Leo Romero, and Jordie Bellaire. These names that are synonymous with each other. I forget the bar but it’s like, “Top 5 alive and I only got two out.” There’s Far Sector and this DC Power 2024 short story but it’s giving Andre 3 Stacks type status with the work.
N.K. Jemisin: I’ll take it. l mean he’s a delight to work with. He’s at the top of his game. We barely communicate, which is really kinda the weird thing about it. Jamal is kind of a soft-spoken quiet person himself. I am better at communicating in writing then I am verbally. So we email each other periodically. I write the instructions or details that I want to be visible in the script. He will sometimes ask me questions about it but mostly he doesn’t need too. He just pictures it out of my brain, then puts It on the paper, and asks, “What do you think?” and I’m like…. How did you do that? It is a delight to work with another artists who is literally a genius at the top of his game, does not need any type of hand holding, and he gets it right: the little subtilties I put into the scripts, the little character ticks. He gets them all.
He’s the one who suggests ways to make them visual. All I did was say, “her eyebrows are gonna be on point” and suddenly Jo became a fashion plate. I did not envision that. It was so perfect. Like you said, everybody’s like she’s the best dressed. That was his invention, and it was 100% perfect for her. So, all the stuff where readers were like oh my god she looks amazing. I was saying the same thing.
Omar: In doing the DC Power 2024 anthology, how has it been for you stepping into comic books. Is it something you would like to come back to periodically like I come back every so often or I give you one album every five years because people really enjoy your work.
N.K. Jemisin: That’s delightful to hear. I would like to come back at some point. What it boils down to is that my bread and butter comes from other media. Comic world doesn’t pay that well. I make much more money for writing my books, writing my stories, writing film scripts. That’s been my kick lately. I would like to come back to comics, but then it’s gonna have to wait ’til I get some mortgage payments. *laughs* Gotta pay those bills first, then I can play.
Omar: Capitalism will be the end of us all.
N.K. Jemisin: Yeaaaaaah man. Woo–hmmm-*laughing* Okay. That’s a different conversation for a different time *laughing*
Omar: With that, since you would like to come back. You got to create a character that people love, and there are characters that have been around for a long time that may be seen as C-string or D-string. Who would you like to take a hold of and maybe push into the spotlight?
N.K. Jemisin: Hmmm… I’m not enough of a comics fan to know who should be pushed forward. Whose story is complex enough to support that or whose back story needs to be fleshed out. I don’t know enough about comics to know that. I would like to write more Jo. If I did—I still don’t wanna deal with the DC continuity. Just trying to keep track with what’s going on with the Lanterns. Figuring out all the different Lanterns, what’s going on with The Guardians. Are they blue, are they green today? It was a lot goin’ on, you know? There’s so much backstory that I cannot incorporate. Much of it contradictory, much of it— my head still works like a novelist’s.
In my head when a character is dead a character is dead, but that’s not how comics work. So, I can’t deal with the comics contradictions. But, if I ever had the chance to come back, I’d probably wanna do Far Sector itself again or something similar. Create a completely different world or send Jo on her next assignment which is something else on the border of the sectors. I don’t mind creating new worlds. World building is easy for me. It’s fun. Working with the DC world is just too much. *laughing* I get that people would like me to write something that’s in the continuity, It’s. Too. Much. Sorry, that’s not goin happen.
Omar: I guess that’s all my questio— oh, *laughs* My only other question is are you still a Guy Gardner fan?
N.K. Jemisin: I am! I haven’t read him in the last few years. Now if he suddenly turns around and turns into a right wing Trumper or something—
Omar: Oh, no. No. No. He’s from Boston, but he’s not that bad.
N.K. Jemisin: OOOOH yea. Well, okay then. Yeah. As long as he stays not Bostonian. I’m sorry I lived in Boston for eight years I can talk shit about it. But I do still like Guy Gardner.
You can catch Green Lanterns Jo Mullein and John Stewart meeting for the first time in DC Powers 2024, which releases January 31st, 2024.