Wednesday, June 29, 2016

How Green Was My Lantern

The first time I saw the original Green Lantern was in the pages of Flash 129 (June 1962), and I was intrigued.
The gently graying Jay Garrick, the original Flash, was reminiscing with his wife Joan about his last adventure with the Justice Society of America 11 years before. He recalled Hawkman drenching the villain’s henchmen, Wonder Woman hoisting a submarine out of the water and Green Lantern deflecting bullets inside a power-ringed, armored shell.
The idea of having a second Justice League somewhere out there was thrilling to me — and this second Emerald Crusader, especially so.
I have since come to love Gil Kane’s elegant, clean-lined and streamlined black-and-green design for the Silver Age Green Lantern costume worn by Hal Jordan. But taste was not my strong suit as a child, and at 7 I preferred things garish. Alan Scott’s original costume certainly filled the bill, with its sweeping collared cape and dominant purples and reds (a “Green Lantern” dressed in red?).
Jon Morris wrote, “A red blouse dotted with yellow insignia, a purple collared cape with emerald green lining, forest green pants, red boots, yellow laces and a broad leather belt made up most of the outlandish costume, accented with his purple domino mask and, lest anyone mistake his color scheme or purpose, a detailed image of a green lantern smack in the middle of his chest.
“The costume served Alan Scott well enough through the end of his popularity, at which point he was effectively replaced in the pages of his own book by a crime-fighting dog.”
Martin Nodell’s concept for the character — a superheroic Aladdin complete with lamp and ring — was an excellent one. Beyond all the claptrap about “will power,” Green Lantern’s ability was one he would share with all his readers — the power to wish for things.
But when I finally read the original GL’s earliest adventures decades later, I was disappointed. Beginning with the hero’s origin in All-American Comics 16 (July 1940), the art was crude, the opponents pedestrian. His vast, fantastic powers seemed to be deliberately played down, as if dullness was actually supposed to be the point of the stories.
As with many DC Comics superheroes, the stories produced after World War II, in the twilight of the Golden Age, were much better. The whole tone of the comics improved considerably.
With talented writers like John Broome and the Hugo Award-winning Alfred Bester and accomplished artists like Carmine Infantino, Alex Toth and Irwin Hasen, Green Lantern now faced memorable menaces like the unstoppable swamp zombie Solomon Grundy and the cheeky rogue Harlequin, who diverted GL’s crusade against crime into a battle of the sexes.

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