The discussion about problems with superhero movies got me to thinking about the essence of some comic book characters. I would like to get as many comments as possible on what exactly comprises the definitive version of Green Lantern.

Who is the real GL? Hal? John Stewart? Kyle? What is the greatest or definitive GL storyline? Definitive GL moment? Which creators had the best handle on how to handle him? Who drew him the best? Did he work better when paired with Green Arrow or is he better in a team setting. What were the biggest mistakes in regard to handling the character? Who is the definitive GL villain? Is he better as a spacefaring character or a more earth bound hero?

Any and all opinions appreciated. I don' have a ton of thoughts myself as I only read the character in spurts but I am curious if there is any kind of consensus around the character. If this topic goes anywhere I may want to try it with some other characters. Thanks!

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Dave Elyea said:

Part of the problem is that while most Marvel heroes are characters (that is that, for the most part, Peter Parker has been essentially the same guy for the bulk of his existence) while the DC characters have tended to be icons--their "larger than life" quality has allowed them to survive drastic reimaginings as characters that few Marvel heroes could weather (the Hulk being the most notable exception, and he's pretty darn iconic too.)  Batman, in particular, has had more, and more diverse incarnations than Doctor Who.  In Green Lantern's case, Hal Jordan started out as a test pilot, which was pretty glamorous & exciting at the time (altho I'm surprised they didn't go all the way and make him an astronaut), and was basically a "rugged individualist" type (which is interesting given his status as just one of thousands of GLs), and except for his bizarre turn as a mopey traveling toy salesman, he's tended to remain in some sort of "individualist" character, even when it was as cheesy as being an inter-state trucker during the CB craze.  I'm kind of surprised he hasn't been an actual cowboy yet.  Actually, I wonder why, when the powers that be wanted to really change things up, they brought in other people to be Green Lantern, where they never think twice about giving Batman or Wonder Woman entirely different personalities and world-views.  Well, obviously, it was simpler to just give someone else a power ring, but there's a whole island full of Amazons who could have taken turns being all the characters Diana's been.

Ah... Now this is getting more to the meat of it. The individualist angle rings true to me. And the movie actually did deal with this a little bit, having Hal immediately sort of bucking the Corps to do things his own way and tapping into the test pilot "Top Gun" persona a little bit.
I had forgotten about the truck driver bit. Strange in retrospect. And didn't he have a little alien sidekick that hung out on his shoulder at that time? Kind of like a sci-fi BJ and the Bear.

In the '70s, I found that character development became stronger in comics. At the time I was impressed with that; but now I think it's just a trick.

There's characterization in art, too. Like raised eyebrows and wide open mouths and certain kinds of grins. That's just as much present in the work of C.C. Beck as Neal Adams. The characterization that became prevalent in comics in the '70s was just the verbal version of that--certain idiosyncracies of speech, the propensity of protagonists to  muse about who they were.

I've moved further away from that--at least in my own literary theory of narrative. In a sense the idea of character is a lie. I don't think of myself as a character. I just am. I do what I do--I might reflect on what I did in the past and try to make sense of my actions, but I'm not working according to some theory of character. Character is what we put on other people. We establish in our minds that a person is this character and someone is another character. And we anticipate that they will behave according to the character we've grafted onto them. And then when they do someting that contradiicts our theory of character, we're surprised and say they acted out of character.

But when someone says that to you--do you really accept that critique? Don't you just think, "I acted on impulse. That's what I wanted to do at the time and I wasn't trying to be my character."

And often we feel the pressure to act a certain way, according to what people expect of us, because they've decided this is how we are. I know with my own family they expected me to be a certain person and I hated that. So I see character as something imposed on us by our society, but not necessarily something intrinsic to who we are.

In writing, character is displayed in superficial ways--most often through speech. But speech is just a reflection of where you were brought up. It isn't you. So if you shave away all the affected speech in Marvel comics, are the characters really so different? What used to distinguish the DC characters is that they had better diction.

And so many stories are supposed to have some character arc. But does your life really have an arc? Many of us might achieve a moment in time where everything is going good for us and then other times tragedy strikes. We're like ships on the sea (I was in the navy once), sometimes becalmed, sometimes storm tossed. If we manage to survive all that, then we slowly see our powers ebbing away--bad knees, bad hearing, bad memory--until we finally die from the collective injuries that our minds and bodies have sustained over time. What the hell kind of character arc is that?

No, character development is a lie. That's why I like story over character. I like the way that someone like Isak Dinesen or Fyodor Dostoevsky can weave a tale. It's the ancient art we developed when we used to gather around the communal fire. That's what I value in stories now.

The little alien was Itty. It joined Hal while his feature was running in the back of The Flash (during the Ravagers storyline, which was written by Denny O'Neil and drawn by Mike Grell). Darkmark lists it as introduced in the instalment in The Flash #238, but my recollection is that story introduced its race and Itty debuted in the next instalment, in #240, when GL discovered he'd picked up a passenger. Apparently GL became a truck-driver in Green Lantern #99 and Itty was written out in Green Lantern #106, where it underwent a metamorphosis.

Incidentally, Jason Woodrue became a plant-man in the opening instalment of GL's final The Flash two-parter, in The Flash ##245-246. He had devised a formula and drank it.

As I recalll all the GLs were gathered on Oa to get new rings--I guess the Guardians contracted a design constultant to update the look of the ring (or Mike Grell just wanted to give the ring a new look and they built a story around that). On his way back from Oa, Hal discovered that Itty had hitched a ride.

I fear they were different stories. In the Ravagers of Olys storyline in The Flash the Ravagers attacked a series of targets in different parts of space (concluding with Earth) using different means. Their second target was an artificial environment of unknown origin floating in space that Itty's people inhabited, which they attempted to crush. In the final part of the story it turned out (spoiler warning) that the Ravagers wanted to join an alliance and the attacks were their initiation test. The introduction of the new ring design was apparently in Green Lantern #90, the issue with which the series was revived.

More on Itty here. Adult content warning.

I probably have just mashed it all together in my memory. I should just check the back issues, eh.

Frank Roach said:

Another thought: The Silver Age GL never really had a great rogues gallery did he? This lead to Sinestro being way over used. But other GL foes like Shark, The Black Hand, Doctor Polaris, Sonar and especially the (UGH) Tattooed Man were really lame. Especially when compared to the Flash villains.

I guess I'm unusual, but I always liked Hal's rogues gallery. I have an image of the Tattooed Man (Popeye!) cover on my wall.

Dave Elyea said:

If it was up to me, for a movie (or a reboot of the comic), I'd probably go with a composite version: John Stewart (the best known GL thanks to the JLU cartoon) would be Earth's Green Lantern, but instead of being an architect, he'd be an aerospace engineer working for Ferris Aircraft (Hal had the best supporting cast), and he'd be a sci-fi/fantasy buff given to the kind of over-designed ring-constructs that Kyle used.

That's a combination I could really get behind, and sounds like it would make a strong movie.

Randy Jackson said:

.....Ch'p and G'nort re-enacting the 'hard travelin' heroes' saga.

That would be a kick. I'm not familar with G'Nort. What is he, a Scooby Doo Green Lantern?

That's what I value in stories now.

--Too late to edit my earlier earlier post. But if "that's" refers to story, then I'm saying Story is what I value in stories now--which is redundant. So I'd probably change the statement to something like: That's what I value in fiction now.

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