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Ringing the Changes – 75 Years of Green Lantern

Trading Places Movie Poster

Remember Trading Places with Dan Aykroyd and Eddie Murphy?  32 years later, it is time for a sequel.  Flodo Span and I are trading blogs today!  My favorite Green Lantern fan, Flodo Span, is writing today’s post on Between the Pages and my post is appearing on Flodo’s Page.

The reason? This month marks Green Lantern’s 75 Birthday! Green Lantern first appeared in All-America Comics #16 back in July 1940.


75 Years of Green Lantern


Before we get to Flodo’s post, it wouldn’t be a Between the Pages post without some mouth watering yummies. So, for this occasion, I made Flodo Span cookies!


Flodo Span Cookie

Flodo Span Cookie

Flodo Span Cookies


Here’s Flodo:


Flodo's Page Logo


75 years after Martin Nodell and Bill Finger first came up with the character it is hard to imagine a time Green Lantern wasn’t popular.  With the warmly received animated series and all the excitement already bubbling around the Green Lantern Corps movie slated for 2020, it is fair to say that the peacekeeping emerald gladiators have their fair share of followers.

However, though it saddens me to have to confess (pass the tissues please), the Green Lantern ongoing comic book has seen several cancellations and publication breaks during those magnificent 75 years.  Luckily, this never meant the character had disappeared completely and he could relied on to keep popping up elsewhere in the DC Comics line-up. 

One memorable such occurrence was in 1988 when volume 2 was brought to a close with issue #224 around the same time that DC were experimenting with Actions Comics, transforming it into a weekly released anthology title.

Action Comics Weekly 601

Green Lantern’s appearances in the title are at times intriguing and more often than not a whole lot of fun.  Who can forget the opening splash panel of Action Comics #608 with Oprah Winfrey standing in front of a TV camera screaming, “Where the heck is Green Lantern?”

Where the heck is Green Lantern?

It’s almost as if the writers felt as if they were out of the spotlight a little and could take some risks with their storytelling.

The long standing and much loved character of Green Lantern Katma Tui, wife of Earth GL John Stewart, was dramatically killed off in the very first 8 page feature.  DC were ringing in the changes!

Attempts were made to make substantial changes to the other elements of Green Lantern’s backstory.  Amusingly none of it stuck. 

When Hal Jordan and his fellow Corps members made it back to their own relaunched namesake title in 1990 the events of Action Comic Weekly were largely ignored. 

Ignored but not forgotten!  I’d like to entertain you for a few moments with four of the biggest Action Comics retcons to the Green Lantern mythos that were never mentioned again anywhere else.


The Justice League of America

Hal Jordan was not the first human Green Lantern!

And I’m not talking about Alan Scott either.  I mean a fully-fledged galactic cop whose mission was to protect Sector 2814.  While following a wooden ship across space (don’t laugh – that ship is the main protagonist in the whole Action run (and is quietly forgotten about after!)) Hal happens upon a ruthless tyrant who claims to have stolen his father’s green power ring.  Astonishingly, 200 years previously his father had been an Earthman who was assigned to protect the same sector of space as Hal is now.


Wallace Squire

Oddly, the power ring continues to wield green energy even though Hal is supposed to have the only functioning ring in the universe.  Even more oddly, Lord Malvolio chose to wear a red and green costume seemingly inspired by the afore mentioned golden-age Green Lantern even though the tyrant was raised light-years away from the planet of his birth!  Needless to say, DC didn’t find Malvolio a particularly interesting character and he has never been seen again since.

Lord MalvolioHal Jordan does not need a power battery to charge his ring!

When Green Lantern accidentally destroyed the very object that he was named for, the lantern shaped source of his superpowers, he was taken aside a by a Mr. Miyagi type with the unimaginative name of Priest and trained to be a will powered ninja.  He was able to imagine and construct a new power batter out of energy that he apparently drew from inside himself.  The battery was a mental crutch that he relied on to focus his powers but did not, in fact, really need.  So maybe more of a will powered Dumbo than a will powered ninja…

Green Lantern and PriestHal Jordan was not without fear!

Of course nowadays, post Geoff Johns, Green Lanterns have the ability to overcome great fear but back then and for decades previously the sole requirement on the job spec was to be without fear.  But according to ACW this was not actually the case.  The story would have it that the Hal Jordan was effectively lobotomised by his new power ring in order to become a man without fear.  Even then it wasn’t an obligatory trait for a Lantern.  Abin Sur had been terrified at his own impending death and instructed the ring to find a successor who wouldn’t suffer the same weakness.  The ring took Abin’s instruction literally and when it couldn’t find a completely fearless human being it created one instead.  Not only was this story revision dropped from future GL titles – it was basically retconned away again anyway in the very last issue of Action Comics Weekly.

Green Lantern's Origin
Which brings me to the biggest change to the silver-age Green Lantern mythos since the character was created in 1959…

Hal Jordan was not the ring’s first choice to be Green Lantern!

If you’ve gotten this far into my article, first of all thank-you for your interest, and secondly, I’m making the assumption that you broadly know the history of Hal and his recruitment into the Green Lantern Corps.  But just in case you don’t thank you even more for your indulgence and I will briefly relate to you the generally accepted turn of events.

An alien called Abin Sur crashed a space ship on Earth and with his dying wish commanded his ring of power to seek out a worthy successor who, as has been noted, is without fear.  Hal Jordan was that guy.  No ifs, no buts.  The well-read geeks among you will know that a character called Guy Gardner came a close second but Hal was first and the rest, as they say, is history.

Abin Sur
Or not.  In the Action Comics version of proceedings the ring’s search led to a certain mild-mannered reporter being nominated for the position first of all. 

Superman could have been a Green Lantern! 

The last 75 years would have looked very different if the Man of Steel was given the most powerful weapon in the universe to add to his arsenal of superhuman Kryptonian abilities. 

Eventually Abin realised that the man that the ring presented to him was not a native of the planet he found himself on.  So the dying lawman told Clark he couldn’t wear the ring after all as it was a breach of the GL rulebook to be assigned to a sector you didn’t originate from.  Even the rule itself is a bit of a liberty as quite a few Lanterns have been known to protect foreign sectors …but I digress.

Clark Kent...Green Lantern?Abin Sur showed Superman images of all the other possible candidates who had been identified by the ring and the hero recognized Hal Jordan from an interview he conducted in his secret reporter identity.  So not only was Hal not first choice for the job, it is likely he wouldn’t even have been offered the position at all if it weren’t for the world’s greatest superhero giving him a job reference!

Choosing The Next Green Lantern
Whether you are new to GL or a long-time fan (obsessive!) like myself I hope you enjoyed this article and maybe learned a thing or two along the way.  But don’t worry if you didn’t – it’s my guess that none of this forgotten treasure-trove of storytelling is ever going to be relevant to any DC comic book you will read in the future. 

Let’s catch-up again in another 75 years to find out!

Action Comics Weekly 634

I hope you enjoyed Flodo’s awesome post.  Remember to visist Flodo’s Pages for more Green Lantern Goodness.  I’ll be back here tomorrow. But, I’m feel the need to warn you that I’m bringing Thanos with me!


75 Years of Green Lantern Comics