“In brightest day, in blackest night, No evil shall escape my sight. Let those who worship evil’s might – Beware my power–Green Lantern’s light!” – The Oath of the Green Lanterns.
Despite the ‘somewhat disappointing’ Ryan Reynolds film, any DC comic fan can tell you that the Green Lantern comics are actually part of a really intriguing and exciting space opera with a super hero twist and chock full of symbolism. I for one highly recommend Geoff Johns’s brilliant run on the character.
With the recent announcement of DC’s upcoming slate of movies including a new Green Lantern Corps film, and the 75th anniversary of the original GL character, I figured it was a good a time as any to cover the history of the various Green Lanterns over the years…
The Green Lanterns are an intergalactic peace-keeping force of emerald knights who utilize the power of will to battle the forces of darkness throughout the universe. Founded by an immortal race of Guardians on the Planet Oa, near the center of the universe, the Green Lantern Corps utilize a highly sophisticated device known as a power ring – a device with the ability to harness the green energy of willpower from its’ user. In addition to providing a suit, a protective aura, and the ability to fly at incredible speeds, the ring also enables its wearer to create constructs, manipulate matter, form force fields, analyze the environment, and generate energy blasts. Each Green Lantern patrols one of 3,600 sectors and is chosen for his or her ability to overcome great fear.
There have been a number of human Green Lanterns of Earth (Sector 2814) – Hal Jordan, Jon Stewart, Kyle Rayner, Guy Gardner, Simon Baz, Jessica Cruz, etc – but technically the first one introduced in the comics was Alan Scott (the current ‘Green Lantern’ of Earth 2).
First appearing in “All-American Comics” #16, in 1940, Alan Scott became “The Green Lantern” of the Golden Age, after discovering a mysterious lantern powered by emerald flames. Unlike the later incarnations of Green Lanterns to follow, Alan Scott fought crime with a magic-fueled lantern and a power ring created from the ‘Star heart’ – an ancient mystical artifact created by the Guardians of the Universe as a prototype. Scott would go on to become a founding member of the Justice Society along with the original Flash, Jay Garrick.
Then, in the Silver Age comics, Green Lantern was given a sci-fi reboot with the introduction of Hal Jordan in Showcase #22, 1959. Hal was a cocky test pilot for Ferris Air when he encountered the dying Green Lantern, Abin Sur, an alien being whose ring had chosen Jordan to replace him. After finally accepting the responsibility bestowed upon him, Jordan used the ring to protect the ones he loved and defend Coast City from criminals and mutant freaks like the parasitic psychic Hector Hammond.
What Hal Jordan didn’t realize was that when he took on the responsibilities of a Green Lantern, his responsibilities extended far beyond those of Earth. Upon being officially inducted into the Green Lantern Corps, Hal was trained by fellow Lanterns, Tomar-Re (the scholar) and Kilowog (the drill sergeant). During his early patrols, Hal worked alongside his mentor, Sinestro, Abin-Sur’s apprentice. (Green Lantern #7, 1961)
After helping to defend Sinestro’s home-world of Korugar, Hal soon discovered that Sinestro had become a dictator, using his power to instill fear in the citizens of his planet. For abusing his power, Sinestro was banished to the anti-matter universe where he encountered the Weaponers of Qward. It was there that Sinestro had a yellow ring forged – which harnessed the power of fear! Sinestro escaped and became Hal’s arch enemy in his quest to get revenge on the Guardians. Sinestro eventually formed an army to take on the Green Lanterns: the Sinestro Corps!
Back on Earth, Hal’s on-again, off-again girlfriend / boss, Carol Ferris (the CEO of Ferris Air) was abducted by an ancient, all female, alien race of beings called the Zamorans. Carol was inducted into the Star Sapphires: another contingent of the emotional spectrum, the Star Sapphires are powered by a gem that taps into the violet energy of love.
In Green Lantern #87 (1971), Hal was injured in a disaster, which led to the Guardians choosing a backup Lantern in his place: John Stewart.
John was an architect in Detroit with a military background whose first mission as a Green Lantern was to protect a racist senator, which was a bit challenging considering he was African American. Stewart worked as Hal’s backup on a number of occasions, eventually becoming a full-fledged Lantern Corps member and rising in the ranks to become the leader of the Corps. Unlike most Green Lanterns, John Stewart’s light-constructs aren’t hollow, making his some of the strongest, because he builds them bolt by bolt in his mind. Stewart also stood apart from Hal by choosing to not have a secret identity.
During “Crisis on Infinite Earths” (1985), another Green Lantern of Earth was summoned to help defeat the Anti-Monitor: Guy Gardner. Guy was a juvenile delinquent turned social worker. As fierce as he was stubborn, Gardner had unshakable willpower. Guy Gardner is a bit of a wildcard, between his fearless courage and quick temper.
Then in “Emerald Twilight” (1994), Coast City was destroyed, along with 7 million people, by an extraterrestrial war lord called Mongul in an attempt to terra-form Earth into a new ‘War World’. An anguished Hal Jordan fell into a deep, dark depression that soon led to his seduction by the fear entity known as Parallax. Jordan was transformed into a power-hungry and rage-fueled villain as he went on a murder spree across the galaxy – completely decimating the Corps, killing Green Lanterns and stealing their power rings!
In the devastating aftermath of Parallax’s reign, one of the last surviving Guardians, Ganthet, used the last of his power to create a final power ring – which he gives to Kyle Rayner, a graphic artist in Los Angeles. Kyle’s skill as an artist helps him envision and create some of the most detailed constructs ever created by a Green Lantern. His ability to overcome great fear was honed by dealing with rejection in his work and pushing through. Rayner would eventually inherit the mantle of the White Lantern – a being with the ability to control all forms of the light spectrum!
Years later, in Green Lantern: Rebirth (2005) by Geoff Johns and Ethan Van Sciver, Hal Jordan was resurrected, the Green Lantern Corps were restored, Coast City was rebuilt, and Hal was redeemed when it was revealed that he was being controlled by Parallax. Together, Hal, John, Guy, and Kyle helped to reform the Lanterns to defend against the rising threat of the Sinestro Corps.
Following the Sinestro Corps War, the Green Lanterns captured Sinestro and were transporting him back to Korugar were he was to be to be put on trial by his people. During the transfer, the convoy was attacked by a contingent of Red Lanterns! The rage-fueled Red Lanterns were led by Atrocitus, a malicious despot from the barren volcanic world of Ysmault, determined to bathe the stars in blood for the murder of his family and the annihilation of his planet at the hands of the Manhunters.
The Green Lanterns soon discovered there were other lantern corps forming in their midst… The Blue Lanterns of Hope were first brought together by Ganthet on the planet Odym and led by Saint Walker. These non-violent protectors had the ability to charge the ring of a Green Lantern and were the only force that could cure a Red Lantern.
The mysterious Indigo Tribe of Compassion – a band of warrior monks, from the planet Nok, made up of converted intergalactic criminals with the ability to teleport at will. The Indigo Tribe was first formed with the help of Abin Sur, in order to stop the prophesied coming of the Blackest Night…
And then there’s The Orange Lantern – a creature of insatiable avarice from the Vega system: Larfleeze! Larfleeze aka Agent Orange, is the sole wielder of the Orange Lantern. Powered by greed, Larfleeze is able to collect create a construct from each of his kills.
When “The Blackest Night” finally came, Hal Jordan and the Green Lanterns brought all the Corps together to protect the cosmos from the Black Lanterns – an army of the dead led by Black Hand, with one mission: to end all life in the universe.
During this war of light, Ganthet duplicated the seven rings, taking a Green ring for himself and then deputizing six other lanterns of Earth. The Flash got the blue ring of hope, the Scarecrow got the yellow ring of fear, Mera got the red ring of rage, Wonder Woman got the violet ring of love, The Atom got the indigo ring of compassion and Lex Luthor got the orange ring of greed!
Together the combined light of the emotional spectrum managed to hold back the darkness and defeat the Black Lantern invasion.
Since then, Earth has received two new Green Lantern recruits: Simon Baz and Jessica Cruz. As rookies, they’re forced to work together with the same lantern power battery. Simon’s hot-headed and impulsive, while Jessica is struggling to overcome crippling anxiety, but together they balance each other out.
(Read “Green Lanterns” for more!)
Meanwhile, out in space – Hal Jordan, John Stewart, Guy Gardner, Kyle Rayner and the rest of the GL Corps are putting aside their differences and working alongside the Sinestro Corps (in the pages of “Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps”)!