My love of the Green Lantern(s) is no secret (partly because I think I mention it on every single podcast that we do) and it’s a franchise which has had a bit of a rough time over the last few years. We don’t need to speak about the 2011 film which caused so much hate and arguably derailed Warner Bros plans for a DC Extended Universe before it even got off the ground but the comics also featured a Rebirth storyline in 2004 (different from the current DC Rebirth) which rejuvenated what was seen by some as a lost, tired character and this was down to Geoff Johns, a certified member of the comic book royal family who then worked the same magic on The Flash in 2009. Johns now serves as a co-runner of the entire DCEU lending his hand to producing, writing and managing the project as a whole in a similar way to Kevin Feige over at Marvel.
There have been many huge storylines which cover both time and space but this isn’t the time or place to discuss those, I instead want to focus on the individual Green Lantern’s who have protected Earth rather than the wide-ranging Corps mythos itself. If, however, you DO want to read some of these then I urge you to look into:
- Emerald Twilight
- Blackest Night
- Brightest Day
- War of the Green Lanterns
- Sinestro Corps War
Through the years there have been thousands upon thousands of Green Lanterns patrolling the entire universe – which is divided up into different sectors – but I want to just focus on those closest to home, the Green Lanterns of Earth which is a part of sector 2814 and it all started back in 1940 with an unknown railroad engineer…
The first big difference here is that this first incarnation of the Green Lantern wasn’t actually a cosmic figure, he was using magic! Alan Scott finds an old railroad lantern and, instructed by the magic flame contained within, is told how to fashion a ring out of the metal which gives him never before seen powers with one huge drawback – the ring’s power was useless against wood. I know… of all the weaknesses in the world – why wood?? The ring had to be charged every 24 hours by touching it to the lantern and this is a trait which continues on to this day and has served as a nagging difficulty for all future Lanterns as the ring has a finite charge and when it’s gone it simply becomes a normal ring and the wearer is vulnerable and powerless.
Alan was also a founding member of the Justice Society of America alongside, amongst others, Jay Garrick who we know as the first Flash.
The character wasn’t terribly popular and was one of many titles cancelled after World War II and this marked the end of what we now refer to as “the golden age of comics” which later gave way, oddly, to “the silver age” where many characters were brought back, reimagined and popularised.
Alan Scott and his back-story were changed during DC’s New 52 run where the character was now announced as being gay and his life is saved by a mysterious green energy which controls and affects all natural and botanical life on Earth known as “The Green” (most commonly associated with Swamp Thing and Poison Ivy).
Hal Jordan: Part I
Regarded by many as being THE most powerful Green Lantern of all-time, Hal Jordan was introduced during the silver age in 1959 and was originally a reinvention of the character before it was decided that the Justice Society of America’s adventures had taken place on an entirely separate Earth (dubbed Earth Two) and so had existed in parallel with Earth One which allowed for crossovers to take place. This reinvention also allowed the Green Lantern to move away from magic and into the realms of sci-fi where the powers were given a more cosmic origin. The weakness against wood was removed but now each Green Lantern ring was said to have an impurity against the colour yellow which was later expanded on and explained in spectacular detail…
Each Green Lantern still had their own lantern to charge their ring with every 24 hours but each of these lanterns was powered by the so-called central battery on Oa, the homeworld of The Guardians who had created the Green Lantern Corps to patrol and protect space. When charging the ring, each Green Lantern now has to recite an oath:
“In brightest day, in blackest night,
No evil shall escape my sight.
Let those who worship evil’s might
Beware my power–Green Lantern’s light!”
Hal is the son of a test pilot and spends his entire life wanting to follow in his father’s footsteps and when his father was tragically killed during a test flight he saw this as his opportunity to do so. Hal became a test pilot with the US Air Force but sadly also adopted his father’s reckless streak and love of danger.
Years later, an alien known as Abin-Sur crashed landed his spacecraft into Earth and instructed his power ring to find a worthy successor – the ring chose Hal Jordan and he was very quickly given a crash course to explain the powers and duties of a Green Lantern as he had now been inducted into the galactic police force known as the Green Lantern Corps – as you can see, the scale of the character has grown significantly – and the use of the ring now allowed the wearer to create physical constructs to fight, fly or otherwise aid themselves. The ring is powered by will and only those with strong willpower can become a Green Lantern. This also opened up the world to the idea of an emotional spectrum which became more of an issue with later Green Lanterns…
Over the years Hal fought many enemies, some from Earth, many from space and was a founding member of the Justice League of America with Superman, Batman, Green Arrow, The Flash, Wonder Woman, Martian Manhunter and Aquaman. But while success followed him everywhere so did tragedy as his long-time love, Carol Ferris, was chosen to become the Star Sapphire – an intergalactic villain with similar powers to the Green Lantern and, in later years, the Star Sapphire is shown to be another part of the emotional spectrum.
While Hal’s story continued, we were also treated to two more Green Lantern’s during this time and this is where it started to get a bit confusing for some…
It became commonplace for each Green Lantern to have an understudy so that in the event of their death or injury a successor had already been chosen and could be drafted in quickly. Guy Gardner, the hot-headed miscreant son of an abusive father who had anything from an ideal upbringing, was said to be chosen as Abin-Sur’s replacement alongside Hal Jordan but Hal was closer and so Guy was to sit on the bench as his backup.
Hal learned of Gardner and arranged to meet him, the two became friends and Guy was eventually taken to Oa to complete his Green Lantern training under Kilowog but was still seen as an understudy should anything ever happen to Hal.
Irony struck when Guy himself was injured and so a new backup was chosen! See below…
Guy would have a rocky career as the Green Lantern and would later take on a solo career first as “Guy Gardner” and then as “Warrior” as he struggled to find his way and often blurred the line between hero and anti-hero. Oh I should mention that his time as Warrior was possible due to latent alien DNA which was activated within him which gave him, amongst other powers, the ability to shape-shift and create weapons out of thin air! Not bad for a guy who used need a power ring, eh?
During Green Lantern: Rebirth, Guy was given a power ring again and brought back into the continuity alongside four other active Green Lanterns and given a senior position within the Corps when he was appointed to the Green Lantern Corps Honor Guard where he was no longer serving a single sector and could instead be called upon to help across the entire galaxy wherever he was needed.
The DC Rebirth storyline has continued with Guy as a full member of the Green Lantern Corps where he is a respected long-serving member known for his strength of will and determination which makes him a valuable asset.
When Guy Gardner is injured during an earthquake, a new backup is needed for Hal Jordan and so The Guardians appoint John Stewart – a former US Marine with a dislike of authority figures but whose determination could never be questioned.
John often acted as backup for Hal Jordan and took part in many missions over the years, sometimes as a member of the Justice League and was actually the active Green Lantern for Earth during the Crisis on Infinite Earths where he – alongside every other hero in the DC universe – took up arms against the Anti-Monitor.
John’s time in the spotlight wasn’t without hardship either – his ring lost all power and he spent time in an African prison where he was beaten and tortured, he left Earth to find himself in space but was unable to stop the destruction of a planet in space and left John a broken man, haunted by the lives he was unable to save and this has often been a characteristic of John – broken, damaged but always able to overcome tragedy and turn it into triumph.
One key feature of John as a Green Lantern is that he, unlike most others, refused to wear a mask. He was not prepared to hide his face or his identity and instead wanted to be seen as a positive role model to young African-Americans.
During the Green Lantern: Rebirth story, John and Hal share responsibilities as Green Lantern of Sector 2814 and now during the entire DC Rebirth line John actually serves as the leader of the Green Lantern Corps and finds himself both leading on and off the battlefield, coordinating attacks across the galaxy.
Hal Jordan: Part II
Now remember what I said before about the yellow impurity? Well this was later put down to the presence of Parallax – the physical embodiment of Fear, the polar opposite of Willpower in the emotional spectrum – within the central battery on Oa where he had been imprisoned by The Guardians. When Hal’s hometown of Coast City was destroyed during the “Reign of the Superman” by long-time Superman villain, Mongul, Hal became susceptible to grief and fear and Parallax was able to control and manipulate him before ultimately escaping the battery and physically possessing Hal’s body and turning him into one of the deadliest and most powerful villains the world has ever seen. This all took place during the iconic “Emerald Twilight” story arc.
As Parallax, Hal reeked terror across the galaxy and was killing his way through the entire ranks of the Green Lantern Corps as he sought more and more power until Ganthet – the last remaining Guardian – decided that the only thing that could stop a rogue Green Lantern was another Green Lantern and so the decision was made to take the last remaining power ring and find a new host…
Kyle Rayner, a struggling freelance artist in LA, was awarded his ring by Ganthet with the now-immortal line of “you will have to do”. Hardly the greatest endorsement on your first day of work, right? But his path as a superhero has shown that decision was not only right but also inspired. Hal Jordan, a fellow human, is regarded as the greatest Green Lantern of all-time but he was also the first human to ever be chosen and while humans in general are chosen because of their natural affinity for willpower, Kyle was specifically chosen because he had demonstrated throughout his entire life that he was not fearless but was instead vulnerable to fear but also uniquely able to overcome and overpower it. This strength would serve him well during his time as a Green Lantern and beyond.
Kyle first coasted through the role, cracking jokes and not taking it seriously at all until his girlfriend was killed and stuffed into his refrigerator. This became a much-talked about point about how women in comics are often killed or abused to further male-centric plots and has caused a lot of controversy. As expected, this tragedy spurs Kyle on to take his training and his role as Green Lantern more seriously.
One signature of his time as a Green Lantern which often set him apart from others was the magnitude of his constructs – where others would use the ring to either project energy blasts or simple fists, Kyle would create elaborate robots, heroes and weapons to fight with – a fitting tribute to his artistic mind.
Kyle flirted with the Teen Titans but eventually became a full member of the JLA and would often serve alongside the new Green Lantern (Connor Hawke) and The Flash (Wally West) both of whom became his close friends and allies.
At one point in his life, Kyle was imbued with all the galactic willpower and became Ion – the physical embodiment of willpower in the same way that Parallax embodies fear – but he gave all this power up when he was asked to again become a Green Lantern when the Corps was reformed after he himself siphoned off some of his power to recharge the Central Battery on Oa. One of many selfless acts which would ultimately lead Kyle to his ultimate triumph.
Kyle would become the second human admitted to the Green Lantern Corps Honor Guard (after Guy Gardner) but all these achievements were stepping-stones to his ultimate achievement where, after mastering the entire emotional spectrum, Kyle is instilled as a White Lantern meaning he has control and power of Will, Fear, Hope, Greed and Compassion.
In DC Rebirth, Kyle continues as the White Lantern and is responsible for rescuing Hal Jordan after another sacrifice he makes in order to save the universe.
SIDENOTE: Kyle Rayner is MY Green Lantern, he was wearing the mask when I first started reading comics and will always be the person I most associate with the role even though he is absolutely second fiddle to Hal Jordan. Emerald Twilight and Parallax Saga are two of my favourite titles of all-time, this is when my love of comics first started!
Hal Jordan: Part III
For all the wrong and evil that he committed, Hal ultimately would lay down his life to save the world when an entity known as the Sun-Eater threatened to extinguish the sun and Hal used all of his energy to reignite the dying star, thus saving everyone. His sacrifice was noted by many and was seen as a sign of redemption where he came full circle back to the hero that so many knew and loved.
When Hal was brought back to life in the Green Lantern: Rebirth storyline, it was here that it was revealed that he had been possessed by the fear demon Parallax and was therefore not responsible for any of the crimes and atrocities that had been committed in his name. This was the first step in mending many, many bridges which had been torched and allowed his legacy as the greatest, most powerful Green Lantern of all-time to remain intact.
In DC Rebirth, Hal once again demonstrates his power and unique abilities where he is able to conjure himself a new power ring out of sheer willpower itself. That’s right… he manages to harness willpower and solidify it into a power ring. This is a pretty big deal considering all other power rings had been created by the Guardians and this event actually alerted Kyle Rayner who, serving as the White Lantern, is able to feel such things. Think of it as the way Jedis and Sith can feel disturbances in The Force.
Hal is also charged with instructing Earth’s two new Green Lanterns on their mission and briefly serves as their guide before another mission takes him back across the galaxy to battle his longtime nemesis and former friend, Sinestro who – over the years – had himself moved away from willpower and towards fear, eventually creating his own Corps (The Sinestro Corps) who wear yellow instead of green and are powered by fear.
Simon Baz & Jessica Cruz
Earth now has two Green Lanterns in its ranks and both serve as full-time members of the Justice League alongside Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, The Flash and Cyborg.
Simon Baz and Jessica Cruz were both introduced in the now-defunct New 52 reboot of the DC Universe which wasn’t very well received and many found to be convoluted and changing things simply for the sake of change. They are now featuring in their own DC Rebirth title – Green Lanterns – where they have been left in charge of Earth by Hal Jordan but have both only been doing the job of Green Lantern for a short time and are still learning what it means to wear the power ring.
Simon carries a gun because it once saved his life and actually killed Sinestro (who came back to life, long story…) so now he views it as his backup should the power ring ever fail or run out of charge. He carries it as a sort of comfort blanket but is also wary of not using it as Simon has demonstrated a few times that he is very prone to bouts of rage, making him susceptible to one day becoming a Red Lantern? (who harness Rage from the emotional spectrum) Who knows.
His partner, Jessica Cruz, is a woman crippled by her own fear and doubts, she doesn’t believe that she is worthy of being a Green Lantern and so her doubt means she is often unable to create constructs and is instead more reliant on energy blasts and protective shields. She has had moments where she has shown her true worth and has been able to make constructs and has actually saved Simon’s life on occasion – this is when she shows her true grit and determination and her worth as a Green Lantern.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this piece, a long babbling delve into my favourite character of all-time and while the mythos and history is so expansive and wide-ranging I also find it fascinating and utterly gripping. I hope you do too!