Revived, rejuvenated Green Lantern heads for the big screen

By Andrew A. Smith

Scripps Howard News Service

Green Lantern, who gets his first big-budget movie June 17, was my favorite DC Comics superhero as a child. Given the loving care lavished on the character in recent years, he’s my favorite once again.


Hal Jordan was introduced in1959, at the beginning of the space age. He was allegedly based on Chuck Yeager, the legendary test pilot, and everything about him was sleek, cool and hip. He had essentially Aladdin’s lamp on his finger, which could do anything he imagined (except affect things colored yellow) – which was really appealing to youngsters like me, who could imagine quite a lot (especially numerous ways to get around that yellow thing). He was chosen by the Green Lantern Corps for being born without fear, had a really cool job (test pilot) and dated his boss, Carol Ferris.


This guy was just a stud. I may have felt like Peter Parker when I was growing up, but it was Hal Jordan I wanted to grow up to be.


And Green Lantern just got bigger and cooler with every issue. Gradually we learned more about the other alien Green Lanterns, and the little blue immortals in the red dresses who ran the show, the Guardians of Oa. We learned there were 3,600 Green Lanterns in all, each patrolling a wedge-shaped (but potentially infinite) sector of space radiating from Oa, which was in the center of the universe. Two more “back-up” Lanterns from Earth were introduced, one an African-American architect named John Stewart, who was featured in the Justice League cartoon.


Eventually we learned that there had been another Green Lantern back in the 1940s, who bore no relation to the current one except the name. That character was invented in 1940, when creator Martin Nodell was taking a commuter train, and noticed that red lanterns meant “danger” while green lanterns meant “everything’s safe.” Everything’s safe? Bingo! And so a hero was born, who had a green ring that was literally magic. Naturally, Hal Jordan got to team up with his older namesake now and then (who is still around, and still not related to the Green Lantern Corps).


But something happened to the Emerald Warrior. Like in the 1940s, the new guy’s popularity fell off. Maybe he was simply too powerful to plausibly challenge, or there were so many Lanterns he stopped being unique. Maybe his life was too good to be interesting. Maybe that “yellow weakness” was too ridiculous, or aging fans began to realize that being “born without fear” makes you a psychopath, or a short-lived idiot. Regardless, Green Lantern was canceled in 1972, and made fitful restarts over the next few decades. DC tried everything to make the title interesting, like breaking up Hal and Carol (repeatedly). They even turned Jordan into an actual psychopath in 1994, one who murdered a bunch of fellow Lanterns, and replaced him with a young slacker as “the last Green Lantern.”


Fortunately, none of that lasted. A young writer named Geoff Johns – now the Chief Creative Officer at DC – virtually rebuilt the franchise. He managed to explain away that old, stupid yellow weakness and Jordan’s trip on the crazy train by blaming an entity called Parallax, who embodies fear and powers yellow rings. He also invented an entity called Ion who embodies will and powers the green, and then blue, orange, purple, red and violet entities that power five more corps of ring-bearers, all of which together comprise not just the rainbow, but the “emotional spectrum” as well. Johns re-wrote “born without fear” into something more heroic: the “ability to overcome great fear.” He also introduced the creepy idea that rings fly off to find new hosts when their bearer dies – but that also means that it wasn’t the dying Green Lantern of Sector 2814 that chose Hal Jordan: It was the ring itself.


All of this is will be fun to know if you plan to see Green Lantern. The movie’s Big Bad is Parallax, a relatively new creation, along with the huge-headed Hector Hammond, a character from the 1960s (that Johns made nastier). You’ll see a mix of Green Lanterns old and new, from the first one Jordan met, Tomar-Re, to his drill sergeant, Kilowog, to the Green Lantern who went rogue, Sinestro.


And you’ll know that Hal Jordan, played by Ryan Reynolds, deserves his ring – because it will choose him. And after seeing the movie, maybe you’ll want to grow up to be Hal Jordan, too.


1. RYAN REYNOLDS as Green Lantern in Warner Bros. Pictures' action adventure "GREEN LANTERN," a Warner Bros. Pictures release. Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures. ™ & © DC Comics

2. BLAKE LIVELY as Carol Ferris in Warner Bros. Pictures' action adventure "GREEN LANTERN," a Warner Bros. Pictures release. Photo by François Duhamel. ™ & © DC Comics

3. MARK STRONG as Sinestro in Warner Bros. Pictures' action adventure "GREEN LANTERN," a Warner Bros. Pictures release. Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures. ™ & © DC Comics

4. (L-r) Kilowog, voiced by MICHAEL CLARKE DUNCAN, and Tomar-Re, voiced by GEOFFREY RUSH, in Warner Bros. Pictures' action adventure "GREEN LANTERN," a Warner Bros. Pictures release. Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures. ™ & © DC Comics


Contact Andrew A. Smith of the Memphis Commercial Appeal at

Views: 299

Comment by George on June 17, 2011 at 12:42am

Time magazine critic Richard Corliss (who panned it, like most of the critics are doing), came up with an offbeat analysis: GL as a right-wing, Ayn Randian fantasy figure:


"Politically, Green Lantern could be a Tea Party recruitment video. It believes that the federal government is both omnipotent and inefficient, and that the country, nay the world, can be saved only by an individual hero — a Paul Revere out of Sarah Palin's mythology, who uses his lantern to warn the enemy that we will not give up our arms, especially such muscular ones. Positing Hal against Hector, Green Lantern praises test pilots over scientists, the military over the university, brute force over knowledge. Granted, Hal was drafted into this galactic battle; he didn't volunteer. But once he gets to exercising his Will, he's nearly an Ayn Rand hero — less Luke Skywalker than Howard Roark."

Comment by Cavaliere (moderator emeritus) on June 17, 2011 at 1:37am
Alex and I will be going to see the movie--in 3D!--tomorrow. We'll both be sporting green rings on our right hands, too.
Comment by Jeff of Earth-J on June 17, 2011 at 8:16am
I heard two stories on the radio this morning related to the new GL movie. One was a review (mostly negative), and the other was an analogy comparing the GLC to America's foreign policy (which was at least written by someone familiar whith the character when comics were 12 cents apiece). But I think your article is the best of the three telling a mainstream audience what they... well, not need to know but probably should know... before going into the theater. 
Comment by Figserello on June 17, 2011 at 8:27am

America's foreign policy was written by a Silver Age GL fan?  




Comment by Wandering Sensei: Moderator Man on June 17, 2011 at 3:04pm
I noticed you got a nice shout-out on today's 11 O'Clock Comics podcast, Cap! Congratulations!
Comment by George on June 17, 2011 at 4:28pm
USA TODAY has a long article about it. Says the filmmakers decided not to make it "dark" and "edgy," but a movie for the whole family (like the Fantastic Four movies) ... an approach that might not go over so well with young fanboys who like their superheroes "gritty."
Comment by Emerkeith Davyjack on June 17, 2011 at 4:49pm

...BTW , I will say this again , Do you think that Warners , anyway , felt that the fact that:

Eminems's DJ is ( Or was - he with him anymore ????????? ) named DJ Green Lantern - Since I suppose he can claim derivation from the railroad concept , I don't suppose DC would get on his behind ( Isn't Eminem's label WEA-distributed , anyway ??????????? ) if he played it carefully - But , anyway , the existence of the Em-man certainly has contributed to -

  The number of " Green Lantern Ring " T-shirts - with no other DC logos/imagery , but nothing about the DJ , either , official DC mersh for sheezy - I have seen in the last decade .

  Might been a helper in " introducing " the concept to " Da Yoof of Today " ????????? Word to your mudder .

  Maybe I've been too cutesy here ( What , MOI ??????????? ) but do you get my point ?????????

  Eminem's wheels-steel man calls himself Green Lantern .

  I have seen a lotta GL-ring shirts around , outside , during the last decade . 

  I just started a GL-flick post on a " real " science fiction site that I'm sort of the bused-in comic book fan/Affirmative Action case on , so.......

Comment by Emerkeith Davyjack on June 17, 2011 at 5:04pm

...I was exposed to Alan Scott's origin as Green Lantern at pretty much the same time I discovered comic books in general/perhaps even before I acquired any GL comics , as I got Jules Feiffer's THE GREAT COMIC BOOK HEROES early - So I knew of that Lantern , and I had read that story anyhow .

  I suppose , to " classic " Silver Age fans - " High Silver Age " - I am a bit of a " notch baby "/back door scruff , as I stated reading cbs about mid-1966 , after  , I suppose , in many fans' eyes , " the all-time peaks of the Stan-Jack and Stan-Steve partnership " , the Galactacus Tripogy and Spidey throwing of that big , uh , whatever that was , in that water-infester area underground , and " DC had begun to lost its way " .

  It's not my fault , Big Brother/Uncle , I was 6 years old then !!!!!!!!! I couldn't help it , sniff , if my parents weren't suitably reproductively fast for me to have been " born at the proper time " !!!!!!! It isn't my fault . Sniff . Have pity on me .

  Waaaaaah .

Comment by Captain Comics on June 17, 2011 at 5:18pm

I expect people younger than 40 or so -- which is most people -- probably discovered Alan Scott at the same time as whoever was starring in Green Lantern. I was just following the process of the character, who didn't acknowledge a predecessor until "Crisis on Earth-One/Crisis on Earth-Two" in Justice League of America #21-22. Then Alan Scott appeared in Green Lantern, But I don't think it was until Green Lantern #45 or so.


Anyway, as I said, I was just following the general history of the character, not implying that everyone should have discovered the characters and concepts in that order. I think it's important to demonstrate, especially to newcomers, that what we know now wasn't created out of whole cloth from the beginning. Otherwise, imagine a newcomer's confusion picking up Showcase Presents: Green Lantern Vol. 1! "What's this?" they'd say. "Why is Sinestro in a yellow outfit, and why doesn't he remember training Hal Jordan? Where's Kilowog? How come Jordan doesn't know about the Guardians?" And so forth.

Comment by Emerkeith Davyjack on June 17, 2011 at 5:21pm
...Yeah , and I've realized that , in my potted/pocket exlanation of ( some of ) the " real " GL mythos over on that " real " SF site , I confusedKilowog with G'Nort ! Is my face - ur , - red !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Over to there !!!!


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