Monday, May 8, 2017

Green Lantern: The Color of Excitement

The colors were what I found irresistible at first glance.
I was 6 years old when Green Lantern 3 (Nov.-Dec. 1960) appeared on the newsstand, and I’d already met the Emerald Crusader in the pages of Brave and the Bold 29 (April-May 1960). That was the second issue featuring something called the Justice League of America, a concept that left me dizzy with delight.
GL 3 drew my dime like a magnet, I think because of the cover’s child-pleasing array of vivid colors. Yellow futuristic tanks fired red lightning bolts that bounced off Green Lantern’s defensive force bubble. I had a thing about lightning bolts (which simply must be drawn with little jagged edges, you know). Red ones were particularly appealing.
And within that force bubble, drawing the eye, was Gil Kane’s intriguingly designed, form-fitting costume for the jet-age Green Lantern, with its spring-green torso balanced by arms and legs as sleek and black as an oil spill.
What I didn’t see at that time was John Broome and Kane’s careful construction of an elaborate cosmic mythology to amplify and extend the Aladdin’s lamp concept of the 1940s’ Green Lantern.
Their ideas tumbled forth in rapid profusion, among them a parallel universe where the moral polarity is reversed, a series-within-a-series set in the far future and an exotica, Lensman-like police force whose power battery insignias identified them as nearly omnipotent space patrolmen.
“Broome’s stories tend to come in series,” noted comics historian Mike Grost. “These are two or three stories with common subject matter and approaches. Apparently his creative imagination worked that way: rarely just one story, and rarely four or more in a series, but rather two or three. There are three main early stories about Qward, and three stories about Sinestro and the Green Lantern Corps: these two series were the science fiction high point of the early magazine. There were also three Sonar stories, two Zero Hour tales, two Star Sapphire stories, and so on.”
“What was most wonderful about Green Lantern was the science fictional background. Story after story opened vistas of life among the galaxy, life lived by dozens of intelligent races among the stars. The fact that these races were literally of all colors sent a civil rights message that resonated with the politics of that era.
“Green Lantern was unusual among comic book super heroes in that his powers were not fixed and limited. Instead, whatever he could imagine, the ring could do. Broome tried not to repeat himself from issue to issue. Instead, he tried to make each super feat something that Green Lantern had not done before. The newness of the feats was not underlined by editorial comment; it just was. Still, it is remarkable to see Broome stay fresh across stories.”
“Green Lantern also had the role of exposer of hidden truth. The ring had remarkable search capabilities. In the first story, SOS Green Lantern (1959), it searches the entire globe of Earth, for example.”
“Green Lantern’s powers were unusual in that they could explore the inner workings of the human mind. He could shine the rays from his ring on a person’s brain, and it would penetrate to its hidden resources and memories. Many stories center on the ring’s exteriorizing people’s thoughts, giving them bodily shape outside a person’s mind. The ring translates Green Lantern’s wishes and thoughts directly into green beams, for instance. The monster in The Invisible Destroyer (1959) emerges from a character’s subconscious, as does that of The Leap Year Menace (1960) in #3.”
All that power-packed wonder, and the lyrical lines of Gil Kane’s art. Who could resist? Why try?

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