It's well past time for a new blast from the past in the form of a moldering--I mean classic Ask Mr. Silver Age column. This one comes from CBG #1582 (Mar. 12, 2004).
The Double Life of Pol Manning!
Green Lantern kept using his third identity to no great advantage
Dear Mr. Silver Age,
I understand that Green Lantern occasionally used a third identity, in which he had exciting adventures and wooed a beautiful woman. What the heck was he thinking?
Mr. Silver Age says: Hal Jordan/Green Lantern did indeed have a third identity, Mike, but there were extenuating circumstances—namely, he didn’t know he had a third identity. Sadly, though much was promised for this plot notion, it faded quickly and never really lived up to its potential. Didn't see that coming, did you?
But Editor Julius Schwartz set the bar pretty darn high in introducing “The Challenge from 5700 A.D.!” in Green Lantern #8 (Sep-Oct 61). The cover blurb alerted us that the issue was “Presenting the first of a series of stories which we confidently predict will make comic book history!” That’s a pretty bold statement for a cover depicting a giant Gila monster shooting power beams at an albeit dramatic (and wash-toned) GL in flight.
What the cover didn’t point out was that the “lizard invasion of Earth” that GL couldn’t stop was not only from 5700 A.D., but it was invading 5700 A.D. So it was hardly a problem for anybody we were familiar with.
Granted, that doesn’t mean GL shouldn’t try his hardest to stop said challenge, but the fear that giant Gila monsters may overrun Earth in 5700 A.D. doesn’t really get my pulse pounding as much as maybe they figured. (Julie claimed he picked the year 5700 because it was his extension number in DC’s phone system, making it easy to remember.)
The story opened with GL pondering his next move as Solar Director in the 58th century. We then flashed back to learn that he was brought to the future by The Solar Council. They couldn’t find a decent leader in their own time, but by searching through past history, Chairman Dasor decided 1961’s Green Lantern could fill the bill. Thankfully, a few delegates found this idea pretty wacky—but, of course, they agreed ultimately that it was a keen idea.
There were only two problems. First, the way people were pulled through time made them lose most of their memories (except for basic things like how to talk, how to go to the bathroom and how to use their power rings).
To resolve that, the council’s secretary, Iona Vane, created a fictitious persona they could beam into GL’s brain upon arrival. Now, I understood their explanation that GL needed memories or he’d be “dazed—of little use to us.” But why not beam his own memories back into his head and let him act as a GL instead of a Solar Director?
The other problem (not counting the legalities and morality of swiping a guy from the past and encoding his brain with false memories to maybe die on your behalf) was that, since GL was a young, virile man, he’d obviously need a “romantic interest,” in the Solar Chairman’s words. “Without that, his mind might be dissatisfied—might feel that something is wrong!”
After I’m done rolling on the floor spewing Pepsi across the room over that notion, I have to admit that it explains a lot about Hal’s life after he broke up with Carol Ferris and started taking random jobs around the country in GL #49 (Dec 66). “Dissatisfied” would be a good description of our pal Hal, from when he started living in his station wagon right on up until he wiped out Carol’s jet in GL #89 (May 72).
This second problem was solved by Dasor volunteering Iona (of course) to play the role of GL’s honey bun. She agreed but was worried. “I—hardly know this Green Lantern,” she overstated. “But—I can’t let my personal feelings stand in the way of the safety of human civilization!”
Spoken like a true patriot! And, needless to say, she tweaked her personal feelings big-time when she was standing chest to chest with the new Solar Director and looking up into his pasty whites.
And that didn’t take long to happen, as the Solar Council locked in on GL while he was in the middle of saving a freighter from being capsized by a gigantic sea monster—a typical GL kind of day, in other words.
Before he could save the ship, he was whisked to 5700 and had his brain quickly encoded to believe he was Pol Manning, a famous space explorer who was summoned to deal with the menace in his otherwise-secret Green Lantern identity.
Within seconds, Pol was cooing sweet nothings to his beloved Iona. They were rudely interrupted by the chairman, who explained Earth’s dilemma. The problem dated to that wacky year 2000, when a species of Gila monsters was assumed to have gone extinct. Instead, they went underground, where they evolved into intelligent, invulnerable creatures who could shoot disintegrating rays from their eyes.
Yowza! Makes you want to go account for every lizard species right now, doesn’t it? The army of 5700 A.D., equipped with only shoulder-mounted, high-speed nuclear rifles, were no match for these super-Gilas. So they needed Hal/Pol to save them.
That adventure went pretty well (what a segue, eh?), wrapping up in the necessary 23 hours, and GL returned to 1961 so he could battle that sea monster.
Iona protested, but it was in vain—oh man, I crack myself up sometimes. The final caption promised “another thrilling future-Green Lantern story in a forth-coming issue!” Julie didn’t ask for feedback to help him decide on the series’ return as he often did, but it’s possible he was overwhelmed with response (although one writer in GL #11 pleaded with Julie not to do any more “future” GL stories, calling it “below par." You can't please everyone.).
Regardless, GL returned to the 58th century in GL #12 (Apr 62) when “Green Lantern’s Statue Goes to War!” This time—in 5702—Dasor and Iona Vane needed GL to deal with three Earth generals who wanted to overthrow Star City.
GL’s two-year absence from directing solarly was explained as Pol being on a lone deep-space exploration.
While he was away, Dasor and Iona issued orders and released proclamations under his signature. Yikes!
That explained his absence to him—what explained it to the people? The convolutions in this series sometimes made less sense than was typical even for the “Don’t ask, just buy it” mentality of DC’s Silver Age fast-track plots.
GL showed amazing administrative and strategic war-gaming abilities, and he defeated the generals. But, of course, they weren’t the true villain, who sadly was way lamer than three generals would’ve been as the troublemakers.
Saddest of all, the statue that went to war on the cover and in the title was actually the solution to the story’s final trap—which took all of one page to wrap up once we reached the cover scene. I’m betting we had a cover image that nearly didn’t get worked into our story, which could be a problem with the cover-first approach Julie often took.
Even though this tale was way more wacky (and flimsier) than the first, fans praised it mightily in GL #15. But either that sliver of reaction was misrepresentational, sales didn’t support the praise or Julie and writer John Broome ran out of ideas. Because GL didn’t return to the 58th century for quite awhile.
So imagine how Iona Vane felt when GL showed up taking a dirt nap! Well, we don’t actually have to imagine it, we saw it happen, and as you can see at left, she was pretty darn rattled.
Fortunately, by the 58th century (5706 to be precise), they’d figured out a way to overcome a little problem like death.
Earlier, a TV announcer high over the city proclaimed that Green Lantern would deal with the problem—and explained GL’s history of having a fake identity (“as most viewers know…”).
Once again, the point of creating a fake identity, instead of using his real identity, eludes me. But for the third straight crisis, this other identity mattered not a whit, since he always remained Green Lantern.
This time, GL returned to 1966 in possession of a tiny gem, which had dislodged from Iona Vane’s necklace and stuck to his costume while they danced just before he was whisked away. It joined his earlier souvenir, a metal sliver from his 58th-century statue, which had been caught in his hair.
He puzzled over these artifacts, and the resulting notion that they made him feel as if he’d “lost someone important to me.” But he never thought to ask his ring what he’d been up to, as he’d done in the past with good results. D-oh!
GL’s curiosity really heated up in GL #51 (Mar 67), when he got the brilliant idea to power-ring the items and discovered they were from the 58th century. He decided to investigate, spurred by a faint cry for help emanating from the items. Say what? Don’t ask, just buy it!
This time, GL arrived (with his own memories intact) to find The Solar Council being attacked by Pol Manning! Before Hal arrived, Pol had explained that GL’s amazing will power, coupled with his “mystic ring force” had caused Pol to materialize on a far-off planet.
There, he gained knowledge and power, took the name Dr. Strangehate (hey, it was 1967) and now planned to overthrow the government.
After Hal pulverized Pol, Iona gave GL a great, big, unanticipated kiss, and Dasor decided he’d better explain the deal.
He hooked up Hal to a huge Kane Kontraption, which spilled the beans. Hal was an understanding guy about the pretense, especially that Iona-kissing part. Needless to say, Pol Manning escaped, he captured Iona, and GL had to ride to the rescue.
(We also got a page of the Guardians explaining to us that GL’s sector of the galaxy still had a GL in the 58th century, of course, but he wasn’t based near Earth during these crises. “This [Hal saving the future] proves our vision of the future is an accurate one!” they gloated. Yeah, right.)
It took nearly two years for GL to return to the 58th century, in GL #66 (Jan 69), to visit his new buds. Wouldn’t you just know, he arrived right after they’d been mind-controlled by the underling to the underling to the real bad guy.
Iona and GL chatted before he skedaddled back to his 1969 lantern for a recharge, and Hal pondered whether the girl of his future was literally in the future.
He finally acted on that notion in GL #137 (Feb 81), after he was called to 5708 for another crises.
Iona asked to return to his time with him, but by then Carol Ferris was back in his life, so he not only rejected her, but he power-ringed her memories of him from her brain. What a great guy.
That was the end of GL’s adventures as Pol Manning—but not the end of Pol Manning’s adventures. First, the “real” Pol Manning had been rehabilitated back in #57 and was no doubt off adventuring.
But then Salakk, another member of the GL Corps, got involved in 5711, starting in GL #213 (Jun 87). He took on the Pol Manning identity (as if it were available) and ultimately married Iona. So she ended up getting her Pol after all.
I think, in retrospect, you should've given Mike Murdock's full name when he asked the question because he was probably almost as obscure a character as Pol Manning is. I'd never even heard of Matt's "twin brother" till the Marvel ESSENTIALS collections of DAREDEVIL came out.
I've read some of these stories, and I've seen other stories similar. I just cannot buy the idea that some incredible futuristic society with the ability to travel through time would need the assistance of a 20th century super-hero, albeit one as powerful as Green Lantern. Of course, if one thinks about this too much the fun of the story is lost. Otherwise you get Chewbacca, and as we all know Chewbacca don't make no sense.
Randy said, "I just cannot buy the idea that some incredible futuristic society with the ability to travel through time would need the assistance of a 20th century super-hero, albeit one as powerful as Green Lantern.
Well all I can say is, at the age of 9, I bought it and in spades. :) As did any of my friends at the time.
Of course, if one thinks about this too much the fun of the story is lost.
Clearly the punchline to most, if not all discussions around these parts, as well as being a very concise statement of the Unified Field Theory of the SA Universe. :)
MSA's policy, Dave, is to allow those writing questions to retain their anonymity, providing only a last initial. That allows them to ask the goofiest questions they (or I) could imagine without repercussions. Admittedly, readers who didn't follow both Marvel and DC SA comics may have a hard time figuring out some of the writers. Heck, those who DID sometimes have a hard time.
The notion that you had never heard of Mike until a few short years ago in that reprint collection makes me weep for your childhood of deprivation.
Pol and MIke probably are on about the same level of visibility. Pol appeared on more covers, but Mike was mentioned specifically on one. Overall, I'd say Mike was higher visibility, since he appeared frequently during his time in at least a few panels, rather than in only a few issues that could've easily been missed, like Pol. But Pol's stories were more spread out, so there was a better chance a SA fan might see one.
Of course, if one thinks about this too much the fun of the story is lost.
I like their idea that they had to give Hal a fake girlfriend. Otherwise, he might look in the mirror and say, "Wait a minute, I'm a handsome, virile guy! Why don't I have a hot chick? Something's not right here!" I also like that Iona Vane threw herself on that hand grenade for the good of future society.
Mr. Silver Age said:
MSA's policy, Dave, is to allow those writing questions to retain their anonymity, providing only a last initial.
I always enjoyed the names of your letter writers. I think I understood every one over the years.
The amnesia part is tough to figure, because it turns the story into a kidnapping and messing-with-his-mind story rather than a call for help. They could have done most of what they did, even the Iona Vane romance, with him knowing who he was.
It's usually easy to tell who read what when they were kids based on their interest or knowledge today. Dave didn't get into Marvel comics until the 1970s, so he didn't know "Mike M." whereas Marvel Zombies wouldn't know the name "Pol M." You both missed out.
Ideally, my column revived some memories and alerted readers to gems they may have missed--which is why I tried to always include reprint locations. At some point, though, those reprints became such a huge list I couldn't include them all, and then it became easiest to just list the Archive/SP or Masterwork/Essential volume.
Ideally, my column revived some memories ...
I always loved the Giant Pink Gila Monsters with their laser guns. In fact, when I decided to introduce Action Lad to the SA GL, I skipped over GL Chronicles v1 and bought him v2 instead, just so he could read the Pol Manning story.
I like the early '60s Schwartz super-hero books for all their leaps of science. It seems to me that Schwartz had spent the '50s, with MYSTERY IN SPACE and STRANGE ADVENTURES, developing all these little spring board science plots with his writers. When Fox and Broome had to write super-heroes, they just pulled out a few of these ideas stuck them together and applied them to whatever super-hero was at hand. But the Schwartz heroes could easily slip into whatever story there was, without much difficulty.
How you get there is a trivial concern. I like GL, Flash, Hawkman and Atom for the fact that they could go anywhere in time or space. Any given story can take you places you might never have imagined.
To answer a previous question about there being no Green Lanterns in the 58th century--when the first Pol Manning story came out, the whole idea of other ring wielders in other sectors of space and their origins had just started to be developed. So there was no expectation that there should be a GL that far in the future. By the time GREEN LANTERN 51 came out, the concept of the Green Lanterns was much more developed--so that's probably why this seeming inconsistency is addressed there (no doubt to quiet those letter writers who had been bugging Schwartz about the matter).
I wonder if they'd considered the ramifications of having one of the GL Corps pass along his ring to Hal, or when they realized that the Guardians and other members should play a big role.
OTOH, I'd think the sectors of space would be so large that there wouldn't be much opportunity for them to interact. There may be two-GL problems, but I'd think there'd be lots of sentient life forms in any one sector to keep each GL pretty busy. But then, GL had plenty of time to test jets and take Carol on dates.
I liked GL, Flash, Hawkman and Atom because they clearly knew and liked each other not just for being colleagues but also as friends. The notion that GL and Flash as well as Hawkman and Atom hung out together as civilians really appealed to me. It was always a springboard for some crisis, but it definitely set DC and Marvel apart, and I think it was appealing to think these guys got along.
When I read through the GREEN LANTERN ARCHVES, a few years ago, I kept looking out for when the Green Lantern Corps becomes a prevalent concept and when the name "Green Lantern Corps" came into regular usage. I probably should have made notes--I imagine someone here has kept track of this and can provide the information--but as I recall "Green Lantern Corps" was never used with any regularity during that period. In fact, I wonder if anyone other than Hal was originally meant to be called a Green Lantern. I believe--other than Abin Sur (who isn't called Green Lantern)--the first alien ring wielder that Hal encounters is Tomar-Re and I think he is never addressed as a Green Lantern in that first appearance.
I would guess that Schwartz and Broome made the revival of Green Lantern their first priority. So they were mainly focused on Hal being a super-hero on Earth. The tie-in with the Guardians and their cosmic police force was just the device--a somewhat more elaborate means of getting the American male hero his super-powers than a radioactive spider or a lightning bolt hitting a bunch of chemicals--and borrowing that origin concept from the Lensmen and a Captain Comet story.
The development into the full-blown Green Lantern Corpse plays out over a long period of time in GREEN LANTERN, until it reaches the point where it almost overshadows Hal as a super-hero on Earth. But I don't think that was the original game plan. Scwhartz probably was just reacting to the feedback he got. And maybe Gil Kane's talent for inventing weird aliens inspired them to introduce more and more bug-eyed extraterrestrials.
Jimmm Kelly said:
I wonder if anyone other than Hal was originally meant to be called a Green Lantern. I believe--other than Abin Sur (who isn't called Green Lantern)--the first alien ring wielder that Hal encounters is Tomar-Re and I think he is never addressed as a Green Lantern in that first appearance.
I never thought about this before, but I think you're right.
The development into the full-blown Green Lantern Corpse ....
Was this intentional or a Freudian slip? ;-P