The Power Ring and the Comic Book (Part 3)

Green Lantern #18 reads like something of a reprise of issue #11, with Sinestro once again playing mind-games on the hero and luring him to Qward as well.  This time, Hal Jordan begins to show a little more savvy than usual, anticipating the villain and outmaneuvering him.  The B-story eschews comedy this time in favor of more action: a hobo named Bill Baggett gets hold of GL’s ring, forcing the hero to pit his willpower against the hobo’s.

Issue #19 features the second appearance of Sonar, as Broome and Schwartz try to build up the hero’s weak showing in terms of an earthbound rogues’ gallery.  The backup tale cycles back to comedy, as GL helps an old lady when his ring accidentally taps into her distress-call.

Green Lantern #20 reteams GL and the Flash against a world of microscopic aliens who (as one scientist describes them) “like parasites, prey on the world above—our human world.”

Doctor Polaris, a villain with a Jekyll-and-Hyde complex, displays his magnetic personality in Green Lantern #21.  Following the lead of 19th-century healers like Franz Mesmer, Polaris uses magnetism to enhance his patients’ health.  It seems even health is too much of a good thing, for Polaris develops a Hyde-like personality and launches a career of crime.  The B-story brings back Carol’s long-absent father Carl (note the first-name similarity), as the old fellow gets involved with art-thieves.

Hector Hammond’s last GL appearance in issue #5 portrayed him as a man who made other men into big-brained prodigies.  The character then made an intervening appearance in Justice League, where he used his miracle-meteor to change himself into such a prodigy.  In that form he attempts to steal the power ring in issue #22, without success.  The follow-up is one of the more amusing “Jordan Brothers” tales.

Gardner Fox is recruited to give GL a new earthbound enemy, the Tattooed Man, in Green Lantern #23.  A subplot touches on Carol’s jealousy toward a perceived rival for the hero.  The second story teams up GL with another alien Lantern, the insect-alien Xax.  From this point on, scripting duties are roughly divided between Fox and Broome, while Gil Kane’s pencil-art becomes increasingly sophisticated in terms of action-graphics and expressiveness.

Green Lantern #24 is all-action this time.  In the second (but cover-featured story) GL helps a living planet against a devouring force at its core.  Of most lasting consequence was the first story, introducing the Shark, Broome’s most intriguing super-evolved menace.  Being that he’s a shark who evolves to a humanoid form, he’s entirely motivated by the desire to hunt powerful prey, attempting to make the fearless crusader feel fear first.

Issue #25 gives readers the serial’s first (albeit indirect) villain team-up, as Hector Hammond uses his mental powers to secretly manipulate a battle between GL and Sonar.

All-action again in #26, as Star Sapphire returns to menace GL with a threat more marital than martial.  Carol’s no longer manipulated by the alien Zamarons as in the previous tale, but the Sapphire persona has become an inextricable part of her psyche as she endeavors to break down GL’s will and make him marry her.  She succeeds in part, but when she re-assumes Carol’s persona she forgets having been a villainess.  A second story introduces a magical foe, Myrwhydden, improbably imprisoned by Abin Sur in the ring Hal now wields.  Wonder if the wizard ran into the Blandings back in issue #10?

Following so many issues devoted to building up the rogues’ gallery, GL #27 is a little dull, pitting the hero against a crook who can slide across dimensions and a meek little guy who taps into the power ring to make his wishes come true.

Issue #28 brings back the Shark for a second hunt, after which the hero’s menaced by a gimmicked-up house which gives him a lot more trouble than it should.  (Now if Hal had the old GL’s vulnerability to wood, it would be a different story.)

Green Lantern #29 debuts another latecoming addition to the rogues’ gallery, the maxim-spouting Black Hand.  The second story also focuses on action, as the hero fights once more the planet-devouring Protonic Force seen in issue #24.

Issue #30 leads with a cover-featured tale about GL battling intelligent alien pterodactyls.  The secondary story holds greater significance, introducing the alien Green Lantern Katma Tui.  Katma made periodic guest-appearances until the character was killed off, but even had she never appeared again, the tale’s sexual politics would be of interest.  GL is sent to Katma’s world when she announces that she plans to abandon her calling as a Green Lantern in order to get married.  It’s Katma’s idea, not her prospective husband’s, that she can’t be both a wife and a Green Lantern.  Once she’s formulated this “either-or”, GL resorts to some mild deceit to persuade her to forsake marriage for law-enforcement—though GL’s own thoughts make clear that he still envisions marrying Carol some day without sacrificing his superheroic identity.

Green Lantern #31 features a story about yet another race of manipulating aliens, the Grolls, and then follows up with a mildly amusing tale in which Jim Jordan marries his girlfriend but still can’t convince her that he’s not the Emerald Crusader.

Issue #32 fires up the marriage meme once more, as Hal thinks he’s proposed to Carol and revealed his identity, only to realize that he’s been transferred to an alternate dimension with another Carol Ferris.  In a second story GL helps some alien superheroes against their local supervillain.

Doctor Light, a Justice League villain who had taken up the practice of attacking League-members separately, shines his little light on Hal Jordan before getting trounced.  The next story pits GL and Pieface against a crooked facsimile of Edward G. Robinson.

Hector Hammond’s back in the manipulation game in issue #34.  Hammond mentally tracks GL all the way to Oa, making him one of the first Earthmen to learn the nature of the hero’s mission.  The villain then creates an “energy duplicate” which somehow possesses all the powers of a Guardian, in addition to gaining a psychological advantage over the hero by using one of GL’s masters against him.  Once again GL never figures out who’s behind the “renegade Guardian” but Hammond loses anyway.

A one-shot antagonist, the Aerialist, leaps into action in his crusade against the Ferris Company.  As an interesting side-note, the defeated criminal is judged insane and goes to an asylum rather than prison.  A second story sees the hero switch bodies with an eagle before he fights some more garden-variety spies.

Green Lantern #36 has the hero change himself into a robot to fight more spies (this time allied with yet another disposable mad scientist).  The follow-up shows Hal Jordan playing at being a lady-killer as he tries to charm a young lady—just as an experiment, as he has no intention of cheating on Carol, or so he says.  Upon learning she’s an alien rebel, he lends aid against her tyrannical foes, a species of big-brained extraterrestrials called the Headmen.

Green Lantern #37 gives Hal woman trouble again, as a female spy hypnotizes the pilot into revealing military secrets; GL manages to foil her and her allies while keeping his double identity secret.  Gardner Fox recycles a villain-name from the old Justice Society comic and creates an alien villain named Evil Star, the second individual villain (after Sinestro) to be ambitious enough to usurp both the Guardians and the Green Lanterns to pave the way for interstellar conquest.

And for the last issue in the Showcase collection #2, the two tales both feature villain-action.  The first is a one-shot shape-changing alien named the Changeling, who gives both GL and Tomar-Re a hard time.  Second up at bat is a scientist named Keith Kenyon, who invents a serum of invulnerability out of gold.  Shortly afterward his defeat, he’d be re-christened as “Goldface” in patent imitation of Ian Fleming’s villain Goldfinger.

Next time out, a thematic summation.

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Also by Gene Phillips:

Minutes to Midnight: Twelve Essays on Watchmen


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