Comic Book Confidential: Green Lantern Primer
While many characters from DC comic books have found their way onto the big screen, Superman and Batman are two of the earliest and most often used examples; none has quite garnered the same anticipation as Green Lantern. While this incarnation of the emerald ring slinger has been around for over fifty years and even made a few visits to live action television and Saturday morning cartoons, Warner Brothers’ 2011 motion picture bearing his name is his first venture into the theaters. In recognition of this historic event, Retrorama proudly takes a look back at the Silver Age Green Lantern.
Dc Comics premiered the character of Green Lantern in the July 1940 edition of All American Comics. This was what would come to be known as the Golden Age version of the character, an engineer named Allen Scott who finds a magic green lantern carved from a fallen meteor. Scott fashions a ring from part of the lantern’s metal that allows him to materialize anything he can imagine using its energies. The only catch is that he has to recharge this ring every twenty-four hours and its powers have no effect on any object made of wood. Alan Scott’s Green Lantern proved to be a very popular character. He appeared in several different series, was a founding member of the Justice Society of America, and is one of the few Golden Age characters still active in comics today. He was also a victim of changing public opinion towards superhero characters that started in the late 1940’s and by the early part of the next decade, he and many of his peers had vanished from the published page.
Almost a decade later and twenty years after the original Green Lantern had made his debut, a new character with the same name and similar abilities turned up in issue number 22 of DC’s tryout comic title Showcase. Superheroes were coming back into fashion in the late 50’s and DC had recently experienced a great deal of success reviving another Golden Age character, the Flash, with an updated look and a new alter ego. Green Lantern was a natural choice for a follow up revival with a few modifications to make him more appealing to the current science fiction obsessed public.
The Silver Age Green Lantern was test pilot Hal Jordan, a man who, as his profession might imply, was without fear. When Abin Sur, the Green Lantern for space sector 2814 which includes the Milky Way galaxy, is mortally wounded his space ship makes a crash landing on the nearest inhabited planet – Earth. Sur then sends the ring to find a worthy successor for him and it returns with Hal Jordan. After the ring is transferred to him, Jordan quickly finds himself before Sur’s superiors, an ancient race of highly evolved aliens known as the Guardians of the Universe. On the Guardian’s home world of OA, Jordan learns that the Green Lanterns are a galactic police force charged with protecting the known universe from the forces of evil. He is but one of thousands of Green Lanterns, each responsible for a different portion of space. Jordan also learns that his ring is powered by a lantern which is a conduit to the central power battery created by the Guardians. It must be recharged every twenty-four hours and is powerless against the color yellow due to an imperfection in the main battery.
Like his predecessor, the Silver Age Green Lantern became a popular character in DC comic books. After a few issues in Showcase, he was awarded his own book in 1960 and one year later he would help found the Justice League of America. He was supported by his sometimes girlfriend, Carol Ferris, who owned the aircraft company Jordan worked as a pilot for and Tom “Pieface” Kalmaku, an Eskimo who was both his mechanic and close friend. In Green Lantern #40, Hal Jordan met Alan Scott for the first time and the Golden Age Green Lantern’s origin was augmented to fit with his modern counterpart’s (the meteor Scott’s lantern was created from was now a part of the Starheart which was used to create the Guardian’s battery). This would be the first of many team ups for the duo.
Unlike many comic book superheros of the time, Hal Jordan was actually given an extended family that he often interacted with. While not married himself, he did spend a lot of time with his brothers and their families. It was also made clear periodically that, while most heroes could do as they pleased, Jordan was actually an employee of a higher organization and subject to their rules whether he agreed with them or not. In the event that Hal Jordan could not serve the Guardians when needed, he had back ups appointed like Guy Gardner and John Stewart who shared similar moral traits with Jordan but had vastly different personalities and temperaments.
As befitting of a science fiction based superhero like Green Lantern, he had many colorful and interesting foes. His chief nemesis was Sinestro, an exiled renegade Green Lantern who wielded a yellow power ring created by the inhabitants of an anti-matter universe. Sinestro would prove to be a major thorn in Hal Jordan’s side throughout his career. Back on Earth, he battled Sonar, the sonically powered ruler of a small country, the energy absorbing Black Hand, the Tattooed Man who could bring special tattoos on his body to life, and Dr. Polaris who could control any metal with his magnetic powers. Carol Ferris even became the deadly Star Sapphire on several occasions due to exposure to an alien gem stone.
In the early 1970’s, the book sales for Green Lantern were lagging and the series was facing cancelation. Rather than scrap the title, it was turned over to the young duo of scripter Denny O’Neil and artist Neil Adams who were allowed to take the book in an entirely new directions by pairing Hal Jordan up with another hero whose only similarity was his color scheme, Green Arrow.
Coming in the next installment of Retrorama: The Green Lantern / Green Arrow Team!