The Power Ring and the Comic Book (Part 2)

Green Lantern #3 makes the Weaponers of Qward the hero’s first repeat villains, as the extra-dimensional villains create an illusion to aid them in stealing Green Lantern’s power battery. The issue’s “B-story” is perhaps played a bit more for comedy than usual, as Green Lantern uses the power ring to create his very own “Leap Year Menace” in order to distract Carol from proposing marriage to him.  It’s a silly story, but it does establish Green Lantern’s reputation for being a “chick-magnet.”

It’s “one cosmic, one mundane” again in Green Lantern #4. GL faces the Weaponers again, who force GL to fight a giant robot in order to save Pieface’s life.  The robot is the persecuted underclass-figure this time, perishing when he rebels against the worshippers of evil.  The second story pits the hero against “himself”—or rather, a crook posing as Green Lantern.

Green Lantern #5 introduces the hero’s first major enemy, Hector Hammond, who is also (just as the 2011 film suggests) a rival for Hal’s claim to Carol Ferris.  A miraculous meteorite gives Hammond the power to advance evolution, so he captures a cadre of scientists and forces them to be his super-evolved “think tank.”  Hammond is also the first villain to get ahold of the Power Ring—or a facsimile thereof—and fight GL ring-to-ring.  This story is also the first full-length adventure of the Green Lantern title.

Green Lantern #6 cover-features the hero’s first encounter with an alien Green Lantern, the bird-headed Tomar-Re of Xudar.  However, the full-length tale is more notable for combining the idea of rebellious mental constructs (like the Invisible Destroyer) with the idea of an underclass, albeit in the role of villains.  The hero encounters the alien world of Aku, where the inhabitants have taken to heart the old maxim, “As for living, our servants can do that for us.”  The physical bodies of the Akusians sleep in suspended animation beneath the planet’s surface, while their “thought-images” carry on the activities of daily life (“Sims,” anyone?)  However, the images decide that they not only want to run the show on Aku, they want to rule the galaxy as well.  Interestingly, GL defeats the rebellious phantoms by creating images of himself to supplement his power.

In Green Lantern #7 it seems that someone—perhaps Broome, perhaps editor Julie Schwartz—realized that the Qwardians made for pretty dull devils, as they were all near-identical bug-eyed humanoids. Thus, in his second audience with the Guardians, GL learns of the renegade Green Lantern Sinestro.  In retaliation for the renegade’s crimes, the Guardians cast Sinestro out of their starry “heaven” and into the anti-matter “hell” of Qward.  The mythopoeic resonance of this setup goes a long way toward explaining why the devilish-looking Sinestro became GL’s most celebrated villain.  As for issue #7’s B-story, it’s comedy time again, when GL accidentally transforms Pieface into a seagull, the day before the young Eskimo is supposed to meet his betrothed.

Green Lantern #8 devotes the entire issue to Green Lantern getting a new identity and a new romantic interest, both of whom he’s consciously unaware (showing again Broome’s fancy for mind-games).  The citizens of a future-Earth civilization (5700 A.D. to be exact) use a time-machine to spirit Green Lantern to their world, whereon they brainwash him into thinking he’s their “solar director,” a sort of all-around culture hero.  After GL helps the future-people defeat the menace of super-evolved gila monsters, they send him back to his own time, none the wiser, though a girl in the future pines after him.

Green Lantern #9 quickly returns Sinestro to the forefront, and gives the villain his own yellow power ring— a minor toss-off notion that would later be multiplied outrageously in the contemporary Blackest Night mega-event.  The issue also sports the first general gathering of a couple dozen alien Lanterns and the first sight of the giant Power Battery on Oa.  The B-story in #9 introduces Hal’s brothers Jack and Jim, and gives brother Jim a daffy Lois Lane-like sweetheart who’s convinced Jim is really Green Lantern.

Issue #10 takes the hero into an “atom world” within his own power ring.  Physicist Jason Blanding, disgusted with the “war and conflict” of Earth, flees into a micro-world with his wife, his adult daughter and the daughter’s fiancée. However, the micro-world happens to be inside GL’s ring, which means the hero needs to get the micro-squatters to move.  In addition, like the natives of Aku in issue #6, Blanding’s family makes the mistake of building an underclass to do their work for them: a gang of robots who turn on their creators.  The B-story is then devoted to detailing some mundane adventures that led to the particular words GL uses in his ring-charging oath.

Sinestro makes yet another quick return in Green Lantern #11, once more playing mind games on Hal so that he seems to be guilty of serious misconduct and so gets exiled to Qward by the Guardians.  For the first time Sinestro acts the part of the devil he resembles, trying to persuade Hal Jordan to the ways of evil. Green Lantern naturally refuses and with the help of his fellow Lanterns outfights the villain.  The second story is a rare kid-centered GL story, as a boy gets hold of the hero’s ring when it comically falls out of Hal’s pocket.

Issue #12 contains a B-story told largely from the POV of Pieface, and another tale with the future-people of 5700 A.D. This time they’re menaced by a “junta” led by a trickster named Aldebaran, who like Hector Hammond in #5 is figured as being a rival celebrity: “the most striking figure of our age—except [Green Lantern], of course.”

Green Lantern #13 teams up the star with Broome’s other major superhero, the Flash, as they are manipulated by rather plebeian alien conquerors from a world called “Spectar.”

Green Lantern #14 offers another comedic chapter in the life of Jim Jordan, once again under suspicion of being a superhero by his girlfriend. The lead story features a new villain, the sonically-powered Sonar, who commits crimes not for personal gain but to garner media-attention for his beloved country Modora.

Sinestro comes back for another trouncing in #15, trapping the hero in an all-yellow world, while the B-story is another gimmicky crook-caper.

Green Lantern finally builds up some myth-figures other than Sinestro, as Hal encounters his own sweetheart Carol changed into Star Sapphire, who elevates the “war of the sexes” between Hal and Carol into a superheroic battle.  For once the B-story expands on the GL mythology, rewriting the story of how Hal’s predecessor Abin Sur came to perish on Earth and to pass on his ring to Jordan—writer Gardner Fox’s first contribution to the Silver Age Green Lantern.

Finally, the last story in the first GL collection is another tale from Gardner Fox, but unfortunately, it’s also an undistinguished tale of GL fighting spies once again.

Next time, Showcase Green Lantern #2…

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Also by Gene Phillips:

Minutes to Midnight: Twelve Essays on Watchmen


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