GREEN LANTERNMedium: Comic books
Published by: DC Comics
First Appeared: 1959
Creators: Julius Schwartz, John Broome and Gil Kane
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by 1959, a new version of The Flash was firmly established in a regularly-published comic. Could a new Green Lantern be far behind?
That question was answered in the 22nd issue of Showcase (Sept-Oct 1959), a comic where DC tried out new concepts before committing itself to a regular series. Showcase had already fielded several winners, including Adam Strange and Challengers of the Unknown. Green Lantern was to be one of its biggest.
That Showcase issue told the story of test pilot Hal Jordan, who suddenly found himself teleported to a UFO crash site, where he was given a new mission in life. A dying alien had one last duty to perform — he must pass his ring of power, entrusted to him by the Guardians of the Universe, on to a worthy recipient; and Hal, because he was a good man and had been born without fear, was chosen. The ring, if charged daily by the power battery that came with it, was capable of doing almost anything, limited only by its user's imagination and an inability to affect anything colored yellow. Hal's first use of the ring was to create a duplicate of the alien's costume — a sleek, stylish number altogether easier on the eyes than that of the 1940s GL — and to give the alien's body a decent burial. Then, naming himself after the power battery's appearance — Green Lantern — he began his career as a superhero.
With stories by John Broome and sometimes Gardner Fox, fabulous action-oriented art by Gil Kane and the whole package edited by Julius Schwartz, Green Lantern was an instant hit. After two more Showcase issues, he moved out into his own comic, where he quickly acquired enough science-fictional accoutrements to rival Buck Rogers. An early source of villains was the anti-matter universe of Qward, where evil was considered the proper moral standard. He was a frequent visitor to a sub-atomic world that existed inside his power ring, and to an exotic 58th-century Earth menaced by gigantic, super-evolved gila monsters. Most important, he gradually came to know his fellow members of the Green Lantern Corps, each assigned to one of 3,600 space sectors, and the mysterious immortals who ran that elite cadre of interstellar law enforcement agents, the Guardians of the Universe themselves.
His personal life, too, had points of interest. He had a classic Clark-Lois-Superman triangle, in that he was in love with Carol Ferris but Carol was in love with Green Lantern, but there were two twists — one was that Carol occasionally came under the control of evil aliens who transformed her into the villainous Star Sapphire; and the other was that, as CEO of Ferris Aircraft, Carol was his boss. After 50 issues, however, she gave up on Green Lantern and went with another man, leaving Hal completely out in the cold. He quit his job and started wandering aimlessly — and the series started wandering aimlessly as well, with a succession of less-than-stellar writers and artists delivering soap-opera storylines. By the end of the '60s, it was a good candidate for cancellation.
Doom was stayed, however, with a development that led to a series of issues now considered classic. Starting in #76 (April, 1970), hot young writer Denny O'Neil teamed up with hot young artist Neal Adams to set Green Lantern against evils more subtle than costumed bad guys trying to conquer the world. He was paired with Green Arrow, who had recently been given a social conscience in a personality makeover, and put on the road to discover America. Over the next couple of years, the green guys fought uncaring landlords, suppressors of free expression, drug addiction, and other trendy menaces.
These stories were a critical success, but not a commercial one. The Green Lantern comic book came to an end with #89, dated April-May, 1972. It was brought back four years later, but with a more standard superhero slant. This revival lasted a little over a decade, full of alien menaces, super villains, and suchlike — and also full of the constant lurching from one personal crisis to the next, that had become standard in superhero comics. Eventually, unable to come up with anything else to keep the character "fresh" in the eyes of its crisis-jaded audience, writers reduced his home town to slag, drove him berserk, and sent him on a murderous spree of killing his fellow Green Lanterns. He ended up the only decent way a character treated so shabbily can possibly end — dead. The final blow was delivered in the company-wide crossover mini-series Zero Hour, published in 1994. By that time, his place in the DC Universe had been taken by an even newer Green Lantern.
But neither his disgrace nor his demise could still the voices of his many fans. He recovered from death, as superheroes sometimes do, in another crossover mini-series titled Final Night — but at the end, was killed even deader. In 1999, DC brought him back again as a new incarnation of The Spectre, an immortal entity who usually takes on the persona of a restless spirit.
As restless as Hal Jordan's spirit must have been, with all those sins to atone for, one would think he'd continue to be The Spectre for a long time to come. But no — in the 2004-05 mini-series Green Lantern: Rebirth, it all got erased. He's back again to being Green Lantern, and the future is as wide open as if it had never happened.