As the Green Lantern 75th anniversary celebrations continue I felt it was high time to pay our respects to the rank and file of the Green Lantern Corps. These are the men and woman (and sentient beings of all descriptions) who you spot in the background of panels. They put their lives on the line in the defence of universal peace day after day and year after year without aplomb or accolade. There was never a more true example of this than the second Green Lantern of Earth. A man who struggled to find his way in a universe that seemed very different to the world he grew up in. A man who did his duty and served his Corps faithfully at all times.
Let me guess. You’re thinking, “That doesn’t sound much like the Guy Gardner I know!” And you’d be right. The hero I’m writing about, the second Green Lantern of Earth, was a man called Charlie Vicker. Charlie first appeared in Green Lantern, vol. 2 #55 (1967) and faced down evil for almost 30 years until his death at the hands of Darksied’s son in Green Lantern, vol. 3 #75 (1996). If I were to liken him to a character in Star Trek, Charlie would be a ‘red shirt’ who served under Kirk in the 60’s TV series and in all of the 80s movies, and then continued to man the Enterprise throughout Captain Picard’s tenure in Star Trek: The Next Generation.
Charlie’s story is touched with tragedy throughout. When we first came across him he was an actor who had landed a role playing Green Lantern in a TV programme. He was a bit of a playboy who preferred the party life to old fashioned hard work. Although he looked every inch the hero physically, he was the last person you’d expect to step up and be counted in a crunch. In fact, on an occasion that he couldn’t even be bothered to turn up to record the GL TV show, he sent his brother to take his place for the day. No-one could ever have guessed that would be the fateful day when enemies of the Green Lantern Corps would mistake Charlie’s brother for the true Green Lantern, Hal Jordan, and strike him down with a deadly energy beam fired from a spaceship floating hundreds of miles above the Earth.
It was to be the turning point in the guilt laden actor’s life. He joined Hal on a mission to avenge his brother and when the real Green Lantern gave him a copy of his own power ring to protect him in the fight, it didn’t take Charlie long to realise he had found his new calling.
Not that it was an easy ride being a member of the GLC. Fans have often wondered why there can be 3, 4 or even 5 Green Lanterns all born on Earth and simultaneously serving the Corps, and seemingly assigned to protect their local sector 2814. No such luck for our Charlie. In their infinite wisdom (in the days when there was only one Green Lantern assigned to each space sector) the Guardians of the Universe decided to assign Charlie to sector 3319. For much of the time he served there he never came into contact with a single humanoid, much less an actual human being. He found life tough and in his numerous dark moments he wanted to jack it all in and hand back his power ring. But he never did. The duty came first. Eventually Vicker learnt to look beyond the surface and realised that some of the giant bugs and odd looking furballs he worked so hard to protect shared the same moral values he did, even if they didn’t have recognisable facial features to show it.
Charlie Vicker lived through many of the major touchstones in the Corps’ modern history. When the Central Power Battery on Oa was destroyed after the trial of Sinestro, Charlie lost his powers along with the rest of Corps. Unlike the majority of his brethren, however, he never even knew what had occurred. He had been entrenched in a battle protecting the inhabitants of 3319 and was unable to heed a summons to Oa for the trial. To all intents and purposes he was abandoned in space without explanation. Even then, Charlie Vicker rose above his predicament and drew on his previous skills as an actor to inspire the local population to victory against their oppressors with tales from the works of Shakespere and other noble plays.
Much of Charlie’s life happened off panel, of course. Comic Vine puts him as appearing in eleven original comics (and several reprinted collections) throughout his entire tenure. Of those eleven issues he is the featured character in only five. Truth be told, I have read the issues and I’m not even certain I can find him in them all. He’s the superhero equivalent of Where’s Wally? (or Where’s Waldo to my transatlantic pals!). But continuity tells you Charlie Vicker was right there, representing all the Green clad warriors whose time served didn’t involve tossing in their ring every five minutes or socking a Guardian in the jaw before breakfast.
Even after the Corps tragically fell to a crazed Hal Jordan who internalised their power source and took the supervillain name of Parallax, Charlie refused to throw in the towel. Together with a handful of former Lanterns led by John Stewart, he joined the Darkstars, a sort of cousin of the GL Corps whose abilities came from an advanced exoskeleton suit instead of a power ring.
This was to prove to be his final undoing. The Darkstars themselves suffered one setback after another until their numbers were whittled down to just eighteen recruits. They were to unable to mount a credible defence when they were attacked by Darksied’s son, Grayven, and his murderous horde. Ironically even the death of Charlie Vicker, violently and bloody though it was, merely played as background art to the dialogue captions of two more prominent characters from the story. Regardless, he died a hero’s death doing the job he signed up to do – saving a world that was not his own from certain destruction.
So charge your tankard with sector 3319’s famous Hwagaagaaian scrumble and join me in a toast. To a man who came from simpler times. A man who turned his back on fame and fortune to do what he knew was right. A man who journeyed far from home, upholding this self-same mission on planets far away from his native Earth. Protecting people that were inconceivably different in appearance and culture to the friends and family he left behind. A man who found new family in the Corpsmen of every species who shared his righteous mission. And a man who ultimately gave his life for that mission. This man was Charlie Vicker. This man was Green Lantern.