Hank McCoy (Before the Fur)

So at the con, a lot of people were wearing Green Lantern shirts. This isn’t surprising, given that Green Lantern and “the Corps” have gotten increasingly popular in the last couple of years. Still, even though Hal Jordan and company have a die hard cult following, the idea of who Green Lantern is, or rather, the Green Lanterns are, remains kind of elusive in the public's eye as implicated by our good friend’s (a not-so-into-comics con visitor who will remain nameless) reaction “what is the deal with the shirts?”. Maybe part of the confusion has to do with the wide variety of characters who have started as the Green Lantern in the DC Universe since its inception. I count no less than five different people who have called themselves Green Lantern- and actually, I’m pretty sure they’re all currently alive, have a ring that produces fields of energy that conform to whatever they think of, and call themselves Green Lantern (well, I think Kyle Raynor calls himself Ion or something, these days. But we’ll get to that.) Before I go any further here, it probably bears mentioning that the term “Green Lantern” isn’t really a superhero name, as much as it’s a professional title, like “Detective,” “Doctor,” or even “Knight.” So DC doesn’t have five guys going around calling themselves Green Lantern, but referring to themselves as A Green Lantern, or Green Lantern-John Stewart, Green Lantern-Guy Gardner, or even THE Green Lantern of Space sector blabbedy blah, etc. In this case, the term is probably roughly equivalent to “Space-Marshall-peacekeeper.” In other words, there’s a lot of them- an entire corps, organized like a military force, but spread thin over an entire galaxy. In fact, probably the coolest thing about reading Green Lantern Corps, the comic, is to take a good look at the tons of interesting alien cultures the writers dream up and how each Green Lantern “thinks.” That is, home team representative Hal Jordan dreams up distinctly “human” things with his ring- missiles, jackhammers, whatever. Other Green Lanterns sometimes create items or come up with ideas that are strikingly alien and bizarre (at least, by our standards) or use their rings in interesting ways that a human wouldn’t necessarily think of. My favorite, is of course, Mogo. Mogo is a small planet that is a Green Lantern. That is, not that all the people living ON Mogo ARE Green Lanterns. The planet, itself, is sentient and is a Green Lantern. Wild. Anyway, at the center of the Green Lantern Corps are the Guardians- the little blue skinned dudes who wear read robes. An ancient race from a planet called Maltus, the Guardians have played an extremely pivotal role in many elements of the DC Universe history. The race is ridiculously long-lived, essentially immortal- so many of the Guardians currently alive today are Guardians that were around in the DCU hundreds of thousands of years ago. That is to say, some of the Guardians who lead the corps are the same ones who founded the corps. The Guardians mastered many scientific practices and eventually set about creating the rough equivalent of an intergalactic peacekeeping force- the Green Lanterns. They built a central “Battery,” chose members of different species that they felt exemplified cultural sensitivity and strength of will, and gave each one a ring, powered by the battery. For the longest time, the rings had the weirdest (lamest) weakness. It “didn’t work against the color yellow.” This was one of those superhero weaknesses that never seemed particularly clear and well thought out. Essentially, the ring’s fields were nullified and inoperable against any object that was yellow. So if a Green Lantern was flying along and you threw a yellow paint can on him or her, they were likely to plummet to the pavement. Years later, they retconned the whole thing. It wasn’t just that the rings didn’t work against that specific color- the whole problem had to do with this fear-inducing cosmic entity known as Parralax. Parralax was entombed in the main ring power battery by the guardians a long time ago- it was, of course, bright yellow. The end result was that somewhere, in the deep subconscious of every Green Lantern wearing a ring, was the influence of this malevolent entity, psychologically convincing them that the rings didn’t work on the color yellow- as if sending the subliminal message “The big horrible yellow monster is out there, somewhere, and one day it’ll get free and you can’t stop it.” Eventually, some of the corps actually got over their fears and can use the ring on anything. Of course, the revelation of Parralax’s existence has spurred a host of long time Green Lantern enemies to action. Led by former Green Lantern turned galactic criminal Sinestro, the Yellow Lanterns stand for the inverse of everything the GLC stands for. The Green rings derive their power from their user’s willpower- the “Sinestro Corps” use rings that actually grow more powerful the more fear it’s users are evoking in those around them. The Sinestro Corps membership is like a laundry list of some of the most truly horrible monstrosities in the entire DCU, and includes members like- Hank Henshaw, A.K.A. Cyborg-Superman (the guy who obliterated Coast City, Hal Jordan’s old neighborhood), the now mostly deranged Superboy-Prime from Infinite Crisis, Fatality (a survivor of a planet that GL-John Stewart accidently destroyed, obsessed with revenge), Mongul (Superman bad guy, and creator of Warworld), Ranx (a sentient city that is prophesied to kill Mogo), Starro (YEAH, the big weird starfish thing), and Yellow Lantern- who is really just a bizzarro clone of Hal Jordan from Bizzarro World. Very telling moment- Batman, and later Jonathan Crane, A.K.A. Scarecrow, were both given an opportunity to join the Sinestro Corps. Interestingly enough, while the source of every Green Lantern’s power is mostly scientific in nature, the Guardians and the Corps are kind of steeped in mysticism. That is, the Guardians are subject to visions, prophetic dreams, and precognitive trances, in which elements of the future are often revealed to them- albeit in symbolic form. In fact, the current planet that the Corps uses as it’s headquarters, Oa, contains a Bible-like tome of Guardian knowledge. Here’s a nice example- Hal Jordan’s entry into the Corps, and most of the major events of his life, are all written down in the book. I’m pretty sure all of it was written down in the book hundreds of thousands of years before he was even born, however. The big Green Lantern story that is up and coming at DC this next year is called The Blackest Night. This is actually a suave reference to a campy little chant the Green Lanterns traditionally espouse just before they take a bad guy down: "In Brightest Day, in Blackest Night, No Evil will Escape my Sight, Behold my Power, Green Lantern’s Light!" Goofy, I know, but I’m a sucker for reinvention. Anyway, Blackest Night is going to introduce a slew of different colored lanterns- which I could (and probably will) write an entire column about. As far as I know, Yellow and Red Lanterns are the only two to have made an appearance. But prophecy’s in the book of Oa and press releases from DC implicate the imminent arrival of Black, or Death, Lanterns. You can be sure that whatever form these guys arrive in, it won’t be pleasant. Anyway, the Green Lantern mythology is pretty extensive these days. I’d love to see a film- or actually? How about a good video game? Like maybe a real time strategy game, featuring the Sinestro War. Just a thought. But if you’re still feeling overwhelmed, here’s a brief primer on the human-Green Lanterns in the DCU- Alan Scott- Okay, this one’s the most confusing. Forget almost everything I just told you- Alan Scott was the original GL from the Golden Age of the DCU. He came across his own ring and power battery (a green lantern) accidently- it fell from the sky. He isn’t an official member of the Corps, but later, it was revealed that Scott’s ring was some long lost artifact that the Guardians had lost a long time ago. Interesting, Scott hails from Gotham City and operated out of there when he was in his prime. Hal Jordan- The most well known of the franchise, Jordan was a test pilot for Ferris aircraft (the heiress to the corporation, Carol Ferris, has been Jordan’s on-again off-again love interest). Jordan’s ring came from a Green Lantern who crashed landed on earth after being fatally wounded. At one point, Jordan was possessed by Parallex and caused immeasurable destruction to the Corps- eventually, he redeemed himself in a fatal moment in which he plunged himself into Earth’s sun in order to rid it of an alien entity called the Sun-Eater (Final Night). After that, Jordan served a tour of duty as the host for the Spectre. Recently, he’s been resurrected and is not the star of the monthly book again. Guy Gardner- Guy was one of Jordan’s “backups,” selected by the Guardians to step in if anything every happened to him. Guy is strikingly un-superheroic. He’s arrogant, sexist, not-too-bright, and constantly picking fights that he can’t take on. Once in a while, however, Guy has a moment where you see that really, deep down, he’s just a big softie. For great portrayals featuring Guy, I highly suggest Formerly Known as the Justice League and I Can’t Believe It’s Not the Justice League. Funny stuff. John Stewart- Another backup, but a well known one. Stewart is a former Marine and highly disciplined. He’s got something of a martyr complex, however, as he is somewhat responsible for the destruction of the entire world (Cosmic Odyssey). Kyle Raynor- The most recently created, fans of Mr. Morrison’s now famous run on Justice League will remember Raynor. My favorite bit about Kyle is that he’s a graphic artist- so he has a penchant for creating some really unique, intricate stuff for his ring. Raynor always appears a little overwhelmed with the whole intergalactic-warrior-business, but has become a pretty seasoned Green Lantern by now. At one point, Kyle was fused with an alien entity known as Ion, who you could think of as sort of the Green Lantern disembodied equivalent of the Sinestro Corps parallax. Now a days, he’s just a straight up lantern.