Primer: Green Lantern

With the release of Green Lantern this week, as a comic book fan I thought I’d put together a quick primer on this character’s background.

So how long has this character been around, anyway?
The movie tells the story of Hal Jordan, the second hero to use the moniker Green Lantern. This version of the character debuted in 1959, during the “Silver Age” of comic books, and was created by John Broome and Gil Kane. He was the second 1940s character re-imagined for the Space Age, after The Flash (Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman didn’t see the decline in sales that other superhero comics did). Rather than the mystical powers of the original Green Lantern, this version was an Air Force pilot, and the ring and lantern was granted to him by a dying alien, Abin Sur (Temuera Morrison in the film).

What are his powers, exactly?
As a Green Lantern, Hal Jordan uses his power ring to create a variety of effects, or constructs, limited only by his imagination and willpower. The greater the will, the more effective the construct. The ring allows Jordan (and other Green Lanterns) to fly, generate force fields, translate alien languages, communicate with other Green Lanterns, diagnostics, etc. Originally, the ring needed to be charged every 24 hours, while reciting the Oath as follows:

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!

But his weakness is…the color yellow?
It used to be. That was done away with recently, and thankfully! That part was always dumb.

Who are all the other guys in uniform?
Unlike Batman or Superman, where there is only one hero, Hal Jordan is a member of the Green Lantern Corps, an intergalactic police force based on Oa, the planet at the center of the universe. The Corps is overseen by the Guardians of the Universe, little blue men, who look like Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion. There are 3600 members of the Corps, one for each sector of the universe, with Hal Jordan being the first ever human member to be chosen.

I heard Blake Lively was in the movie! She’s hot!
Yes, she is, and she plays Carol Ferris, Jordan’s love interest. She is the vice president of Ferris Aircraft, where Hal Jordan works as a test pilot. Originally, like the standard comic book love interest, she was in love with the dreamy Green Lantern, but didn’t give Hal the time of day. She eventually gets her own ring, becoming a Star Sapphire, and brainwashed into trying to destroy Hal Jordan. But that’s probably for the sequel.

Any reading recommendations?
Absolutely! The thing I would recommend most is the recent retelling of the origin, called Green Lantern: Secret Origin, written by Geoff Johns and penciled by Ivan Reis (now with a snazzy new movie tie-in cover!). From there, you can read Sinestro Corps War, also by Johns (who worked on the film).

If you’re interested in the Space Age origin of the character, I would recommend either reprints of the original comics, or Darwyn Cooke’s DC: New Frontier, a 2003 period comic that introduces the major DC Universe characters against the backdrop of the Cold War.

MTV also has a ‘Top Ten’ list of Green Lantern reading. Two of these are #1 and #2, but there are 8 other suggestions to keep you busy!

What if I hate reading?
There is an excellent animated film based on the New Frontier story I was just talking about. Jordan is voiced here by David Boreanaz, and Carol Ferris by Brooke Shields.

There are also two other animated films, First Flight, with Christopher Meloni providing Hal’s voice, and Emerald Knights, with Nathan Fillion voicing Hal. They are perfectly decent efforts, but New Frontier is the most enjoyable, I think.

Have any questions about Green Lantern? I’ll answer them! Comment below, or on Facebook or Twitter!