Thursday, April 29, 2010

Who Died And Made You Green Lantern?

One of the things I'm not loving so much about the Superman: New Krypton/War of The Superman storyline is that it takes away from the uniqueness of Superman. I really dig the idea that any given time, there's maybe two others out there who can do what he does.

And a dog. Cannot forget the dog!

That said; let's take a look at The Green Lantern Corps.

Over the course of two decades, the protection of Earth and the galaxy has fallen to four, count 'em, four Earthmen, begging the question:

"What makes THEM so damned special?"

There's like, a kabillion people (or not-people) who can do what they do!

Depending on when you were exposed to the Green Lantern mythos; he's been Hal Jordan, a test pilot who fought aliens, fell in love with a girl but not really, quit being Green Lantern, came back, went crazy after a Superman storyline, killed the whole damn Green Lantern Corps, committed suicide, became The Spectre, gave that up and became THE Green Lantern, again.

Or he's been John Stewart, a formerly angry black man who was re-introduced as a "not-so-angry," an ex-Marine and architect. He's kinda awesome but only in cartoons.

Or he's been Guy Gardner, a formerly brain damaged, alpha-male, ex-school teacher who who had more attitude than sense, who found out he was the last of an alien race, could turn his hands into bazookas and when that didn't work out, he opened up a bar. And yes, he was sort of awesome.

And then there was the final Lantern. You know, Kyle Rayner, the Gen-X'er with a heart of gold. He was just standing in an alley one day and because of his good heart, his girlfriend was stuffed in a refrigerator. And yes, he was sort of awesome.

Now here's the thing: anyone of these guys could actually headline a comic called, "Green Lantern," and at different points in time, all of them except Guy have been. So, Hal's parent company, DC Comics, decides Hal Jordan needs to come back from the dead and "BIGGREENBOXINGGLOVE" later and he's THE Green Lantern, despite the fact the other were doing just fine without him.

Seriously? What makes Hal so great? He quits things, alot. He's sort of just always there, lurking. Glowering. Being...

I don't know... Hal Jordan?

He punched Batman, you know. In. The. Jaw.
"One Punch!" (© Ted Kord)

Let's look at it. John has his troubles. He can be a little broody, when he wants to be he can be a bit of a bad-ass but lately, he sort of has played the role of "Magical Negro," speaking on things he's familiar with like regret and forgiveness; freeing the hearts of his fellow Lanterns to be OK with themselves, absolving them of all past screw-ups. Stewart was last seen covering someone's ass with a lime-colored, ring generated machine gun.

Guy has been cured of his brain damage and what we're left with is intriguing; the big brother you sort of want. Guy follows his own logic. And like most males, when he's using it, it makes glorious sense to him. In that, he is awesome. He's become the the embodiment The Corps' fighting spirit and that's never been more apparent than when Kyle "died" during Blackest Night. Guy watched as someone who'd become like a brother to him fell and declared war upon everything connected with death. 'Til this day, the image of Guy with a Red Rage chainsaw is still emblazoned on my mind. What it proved was Guy's loyalty to his fellow Corps members and just how scary he could be if he ever, sort of, lost it again.

And what can we say about Kyle. He's a good, good man who's had circumstance beyond his control thrust upon him and did the best with what he had. I've always considered Kyle to be "YOU" as a Green Lantern. His heart has been broken, he's watched those closest to him die, he comes from a single parent household, he was usually in over his head but was always willing to learn from his mistakes. He was a man, that's what a man does.

And Hal? I get why folks like him, I just don't get him. He's brash and loves baseball. He shuns authority, he flies a plane and breaks girls hearts. He quits alot and still gets rewarded. Because of his ability to do these things, he is the face of the Green Lantern Corps.

He's the knucklehead all we wish we could be or could marry.

He's the ultimate American male.

When did it go and become so damned two-dimensional?

8 comments:

the HZA said...

I guess the easy and stupid answer is, "It's comics, Jake."

A slightly more thought-out answer might be, "he's supposed to be two-dimensional." His origin story says he's utterly fearless, and while that doesn't play as well today, for a good couple of decades that was what you got with Green Lantern. I've never been a GL subscriber, but I like it when he guest-stars - kind of the same vibe that Robinson ran in "Starman" when Jack Knight goes on patrol with Alan Scott. He represents something to his comrades, and presumably to his readers. He inspires.

It's actually kinda close to how you describe Guy. Guy's not wholly noble or wise or anything, but you love it anyway. Hal's not perfect or ideal, but you respect what he is. (Conversely, and I don't want to make this about hate, but it's why I can't get on board with Kyle.)

--screw all three of them, I want a John Stewart: Green Lantern cartoon book and I want it now.
hza

kingbeauregard said...

Actually, Guy or Kyle is the face of the Green Lantern Corps these days. They're the headliners in the GLC comic, while the GL comic (nominally starring Hal) is about whatever big story ideas Geoff Johns is working on. What I'm getting at is, Guy and Kyle get as much quality writing time as Hal, who tends to take a back seat to "this month I'm going to introduce you to the next color in the spectrum".

I never bought Kyle as "an average guy" because there is no way an actual human being would put up with the unending shit Kyle has and not give up the ring. The guy's a born hero, and no degree of affected unwillingness changes that.

Devon Sanders said...

Beau,

Trust me, Hal's the face most of the world will identify as GL.

When it was time to do an animated feature, guess who was chosen.

When it was time to choose a Lantern for a massive 3D summer tentpole flick... well, again.

What I'm saying is that when it comes to Lantern's the reason Hal's so popular a face is that he's not very deep, thus, the easiest to present to the masses.

Nate said...

Kyle is the Peter Parker of GL's. I'm always so surprised when you hold him up.

Devon Sanders said...

@Nate

I admit it, I just really identify with the guy. He's trained in graphic design, was raised by a single parent, stays having woman problems and when his mom passed away, he became the Lantern I most wanted to succeed. Guys like that need rooting for. :)

kingbeauregard said...

Of course, John got the JLU gig, and it's Guy who keeps showing up in "Batman: The Brave and the Bold". I really don't think DC is trying to bury the other GLs in favor of Hal.

I think the problem is Sinestro: he's a Hal enemy far more than anyone else, and if you're going to do a GL feature with GL vs. GL archenemy, the only pairing that makes sense is Hal and Sinestro. Did Sinestro ever really feel right as the arch-foe of Kyle ("Superman: The Animated Series") or John (JLU and "Static Shock")? If you're going to use Kyle or Guy or John in a movie, what archenemy are you going to use ... Nero or Goldface or The Predator? You can't even get it to work with Alan Scott, because everybody "knows" Solomon Grundy is a Superman enemy (thanks, Crash Test Dummies).

Peter said...

@king

I agree that Sinestro is an important part of the Green Lantern mythos. However I disagree that he necessarily needs to a "Hal" villain. I thought it was perfectly fine when he fought Kyle and John and even Guy on Brave on the Bold. But then when he fought Kyle I wasn't reading comics, he wasn't that big of a character in JLU, and when it came to fight Guy I was kind of Hal Jordan'ed out.

But in regards to the post, I agree that Hal Jordan is kind of hard to get a read on. He's suppose to be a rebel but he also represents authority? How does that work? A lot of the time he's written, they're trying so hard to convince you he's cool it becomes annoying and hard to read.

Now full disclosure, my favorite GL is Kyle, but most of that is because he was the GL on the JLA when I started reading. Other than that I can see why people don't like him. Most of his stories in the 90s (at least the ones that I've read, which admittedly aren't that many) seem to go like this: Kyle doubts his worthiness to be GL, Kyle meets another character (hero or villain, doesn't really matter), they doubt his worthiness to be GL, Kyle messes up, he doubts some more, Kyle gets it together, he demonstrates his ability to wield the ring, "I AM Green Lantern", second character comes around, "Maybe you do have what it takes kid."The End. Wash, rinse, repeat.

Towards the end of his book, things were changing and we were finally going to move past this type of story, but then BOOM Hal's back and it's Kyle who? That Facebook spoof (http://www.comicsalliance.com/2009/10/05/super-social-networking-comic-book-character-facebook-status-u/ if you haven't seen it) really does some it up nicely.

kingbeauregard said...

I really couldn't stand how Kyle was defined as "not Hal" for the longest time; that's not a complaint against Kyle, but against poor writing. After about the first year, you'd think the rest of the DC Universe would have figured out that Kyle knows what he's doing, and would have realized how insulting it was to keep treating him as an amateur; but I guess that was part of the "Peter Parker everyman" vibe they were trying to give him.

Now that Hal's back, it's forced writers to try to define Kyle on his own terms, and the result is a much better Kyle. Tougher for poor writers to write, but that's the challenge of a character who is more than a collection of tropes.

As for Hal, I don't think the rebellious authority figure is quite as self-defeating as it sounds. We actually had a good storyline on that theme ("Wanted: Hal Jordan") right before the Sinestro Corps started causing trouble; in a nutshell, Hal figures his ring and his track record are all the justification he needs to do what he believes to be right. You don't get any angsty self-doubt (the lazy writer's friend), but you can create plenty of external conflict that way.