I Shall Shed My Light Over Dark Evil

Lynda Carter’s portrayal of Wonder Woman on the Horror Channel repeats has such charm and innocence that I have warmed to the character in a way I hadn’t before. This is especially true of the WWII episodes, which were never shown in my area in the 70s, to my knowledge.

Wonder Woman is one of several comics icons, completely emblematic of their times, whose stories I read but never really connected with. Iron Man is another. So is Green Lantern. I probably owned three or four GL comics as a kid, including the infamous O’Neil/Adams issue below.

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The only time I ever really followed the character was in the 80s in the Wolfman/Englehart/Staton era. Today’s post looks at the facsmile 1963 Giant Green Lantern Annual which captures the Silver Age space cop at the height of his success.

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Battle of the Power Rings: after foiling a freight robbery, Hal finds he’s losing power thanks to Sinestro. The “satanic-faced foe” impersonates Hal at a meeting of Green Lanterns on the planet Yquem. When Hal escapes Sinestro’s yellow cage  in his underwear, the pair have a power ring duel. Sinestro is exiled by the Guardians to orbit the universe in a green capsule for 18 billion years!

This is a hugely imaginative, even mystical, tale. The Packer Gang aren’t worthy of Hal’s interest – and petty crime seems a silly distraction in the series- but the exotic mythos of Green Lantern is something else again. We are introduced to a number of the bizarre Corps members: the insectoid Xaos, the crystalline Barrio; the piscine Aeros; and Green Lantern T41A- a monocular being with tentacles and six legs. Kane’s designs are fanciful and mould-breaking.

Zero Hour in the Silent City: by contrast, a humdrum short about the limitations of the Power Ring. Pieface is established as GL’s secret biographer. Safecrackers using a supersonic drill, which somehow cancels other sounds, accounts for the title. Broome obviously liked it and reworks it three issues later for “Zero Hour in Rocket City”.

Duel of the Super Heroes: This is the “first in a proposed series” for the “dynamic duo”(!) Green Lantern and Flash. While we see the glamorous  lifestyle of early-60s Californians, as Iris West interviews Hal Jordan, Green Lantern has fallen under the domination of the Spectrans. These aliens inhabit a world “beyond the speed of light”.

Flash and GL clash and the Scarlet Speedster, having become top-heavy (as per the cover image), is then subjected to a Spectran mind-probe ( or “computo-analyser”). The two heroes foil the alien plan to duplicate their powers and invade, then reveal their identities to each other. It’s a rather hokey but efficient way of teaming up National’s New Frontier answer to Batman and Superman.

Special features include “Green Lantern Cover Classics” and How I Draw Green Lantern: a three-page masterclass by Gil Kane, with sketches of GL’s supporting cast.

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Too Many Suspects: from GL April 1949, a gutsy tale of the Golden Age/ Earth 2 GL, Alan Scott. Crook Del Lupin gets people to confess to his crimes via hypnosis but falls to his death at the climax ( this is becoming something of a motif at the ‘Optikon, with the recent JSA/Key story and the upcoming Justice Inc. posts!)

We see Doiby Dickles’ green rocket distress signal but curiously, apart from flight, Alan’s ring doesn’t exhibit any other properties. This Alex Toth strip is fabulously visual and virtually the best thing in the comic. It was also reprinted in the comic reviewed here- https://materioptikon.wordpress.com/2012/10/18/the-bear-necessities/

Secret Life of Star Saphire: Carol Ferris is abducted by the immortal alien Zamorans (amazons) who transform her into their queen, Star Sapphire. She hunts Green Lantern with her powers of flight, teleportation and mind-over-matter. However, since she actually wants to be overcome by the hero during her art gallery thefts, the Zamarons elect to strip her of her powers and memories.

This is a giddy tale of 60s gender politics, with a touch of Gene Roddenberry. “Men are a distinctly inferior species!” “I’m defeated. How terrible…no! How wonderful!”The advanced musical powers of the Zamarons costume-creating barrel organ also anticipates Star Trek.

 Starsapphire

Star Sapphire was a Kanigher/Elias Flash villainess from the very late 40s. an invader from another dimension, she also had contempt for males. This almost-dominatrix element was present in my introduction to the split personality Carol Ferris- SS.

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Carol/SS has a much stronger visual than her 40s counterpart and would become a bigger player in the 70s Secret Society of Super-Villains. In the 80s, Englehart would make the connection between the Guardians and the Zamarons and SS would be revamped as a more strident and venomous opponent. Jim Owsley would have her murder GL Katma Tui in a horrible storyline in the late 80s Action Comics Weekly. If there had been a sequel to the GL movie, I imagine Star Sapphire might have teamed up with Mark Strong’s Sinestro.

While this comic was designed to evoke the early 60s, 1998 actually seems more historical: Lost in Space! Star Trek Insurrection!

I am struck by the fact that Green Lantern has a great design, referencing both the blackness of space and the green of oxygenated life. The actor Nathan Filion captures him well in animation: a laconic space cowboy. Hal Jordan is Han Solo. And yet so dull in his stories. A toy salesman. A trucker. An insurance salesman. And the villains! The Tattooed Man. Black Hand.

Goldface.

Replacements for Hal Jordan have had limited success too. Architect John Stweart was reimagined as a marine and a marksman and freighted with tragedy. Recent creation Arab-American Simon Baz was a suspected terrorist and “edgy”90s  imagery was grafted on to the character. Only the 90s Lantern, Latino comics artist Kyle Rayner, ever worked for me.

I wonder if I would have liked GL more if Jim Starlin had served as writer and penciller on the title. His cosmic archetypes of Chaos and Death and his characters’ psychedelic exploits might have been more appealing to me.

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The Emerald Gladiator has, nonetheless, been a hugely successful lead for DC in the last decade and was awarded his own movie in 2011. Although Ryan Reynolds’ tediously contemporary “goofy man-boy” portrayal is out of kilter with suave test pilot Hal Jordan, the film honestly improves with age.

Coming soon:Robert E. Howard and Bran Mak Morn

Images presumed copyright of their respective owners

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One comment on “I Shall Shed My Light Over Dark Evil

  1. Kid Robson says:

    H’mm, I don’t think I’ve got that Green Lantern facsimile Annual. Another trip to eBay for me.

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