Tuesday 24 December 2013

Dreaming of a Green Christmas


Have a very merry Christmas
and happy holidays

from
Flodo's Page!


This terrific sketch of Santa Flodo was sent to me by my good Twitter buddy Jim Jacouzzi.  Check out his awesome webcomic, Tom Oxen, at tomoxen.com.


Saturday 30 November 2013

THE PROBLEM WITH YELLOW

As most Green Lanterns over the last billion years or so will attest to, yellow impurities suck.  One minute you're saving the galaxy from certain doom, barely breaking a sweat, thoughts drifting to the planetary lap of honour you intend to take when you've finished, one eye on the tea and biscuits waiting for you in the Corps mess back on Oa... when all of a sudden that destructo-bomb turns out to be yellow, the monster du jour breathes unstoppable golden flames and the bad guy turns up in a pastel lemon suit firing bullets of a certain shade of dandelion and hocking up buttercream spitballs.



Well, gigantic alien monsters and Weapons of Universal Destruction are one thing.  Not pleasant but the sort of stuff a GL is warned about in basic training.  But what about the more mundane side of life?  When a two-bit crook takes you down with a pocket flashlight, that's just plain embarrassing!  The most powerful weapon in the universe, "Green Lantern's Light", is negated by the fog lamp from a very ordinary automobile - is there something wrong with this picture?



Luckily they don't call Hal Jordan 'the greatest Green Lantern of them all' for nothing!  Our quick-thinking hero has more than a few ways to get round a little old thing like a yellow impurity.  And if all the usual tricks fail? Well, sometimes I think that's just Hal's excuse to break out a good old fashioned dose of fisticuffs.  He does so like to "Zwok" it to them, after all.




Tuesday 19 November 2013

The Day They Walked Away: Green Lantern!

Super-Blog Team-Up #3 of 6


The act of reading a comic book more often than not is a solitary experience.  And for many enthusiasts, myself included, there is not a whole lot opportunity to share our favourite pastime as we go about our daily lives.  Apart from a few brief conversations on the weekly trip to my LCS or a fairly one-sided exchange with my loving and very patient better half I don’t really have anyone in my day to day that I can geek out with.  So it pleases me no end to be part of a thriving online comic book community instead. We fanboys and fangirls love to hang out on the interwebs.  Check out the sidebar on this page for links to some of my favourite blog sites and podcasts!

 
And so it is that the Super-Blog Team-Up came about.  @Charlton_Hero, the Professor X to this motley crew, gathered together a bunch of bloggers with a shared passion for the Silver Age and comics of yesteryear to suggest we combine our mighty powers in a project that would span across all of our blogsites.  The goal was to find a theme that united our various interests and to write about it in a globe spanning crossover event (if you’ll excuse the aptly borrowed comic book parlance).  For each of us a different hero or team, or indeed time-period, lies at the centre of our passion so it wasn’t easy to come up with a suitable topic.  Luckily @LBoxGraveyard (who is probably Cyclops in our X-Men analogy but I see him more as the ever wise Beast) hit on the magic formula.
 
“What is the one thing that any long-running hero worth his or her salt has done at some time or other?”   The answer is, “Quit”.  Throw in the towel.  Hang up the cape.  Dump the spandex costume in a back alley trashcan and declare, “No more!”
 

Which is why, without further ado, I want to tell you all about the time that Green Lantern turned his back on the hero life and told the Guardians they could “Take this ring and shove it…”
 

Dave Gibbons infamous cover to Green Lantern #181 (vol. 2) depicts a furious Hal Jordan hurling his power ring to the floor and roaring at his immortal masters, “I’m tired of being your whipping boy!!  I quit!!”  As is so often the case, the cover of #181 does not quite ring true to the narrative that takes place in the issue itself where a calmer but still impassioned GL struggles between the devotion he’s feels towards his duty as the protector of Sector 2814 and his devotion to the woman he loves.  It may surprise you to learn, however, that this issue published in 1984 with Len Wein in the writer’s chair was not the start of the Hal Jordan “I quit” saga - not by a long shot.

Rightly speaking the story begins all the way back in Green Lantern #148 (vol. 2), dated January 1982, under the watchful eye of legendary scribe Marv Wolfman.  And it does not reach its conclusion until Steve Englehart’s Green Lantern #200 (vol. 2), cover date May 1986.  Joe Staton is the artist for both issues but he was off the Green Lantern books completely for some four years in between times!  The final arc of the piece is directly linked to the outcome of DC Comics’ historic crossover event Crisis on Infinite Earths, itself a yearlong running story also penned by Marv Wolfman and published in 1985/86.
 
As an ace test pilot, a man of action and a handsome fellow to boot, it comes as no surprise that Hal Jordan has had more than a few ladies in his life over the years but fans will attest to the fact that none of them could hold a candle to Carol Ferris.  Carol is Hal’s ‘meant to be’.  His Lois Lane, if you will.  But, to quote Gene Pitney, true love never runs smooth.  From her earliest depictions Carol has been shown as a strong willed business woman who made Hal jump through more than a few hoops as he tried to make a romantic impression upon her.  In GL #148 an alien race called the Ungarans beseech Green Lantern to rescue their home planet from certain destruction.  The Ungarans are particularly notable as this was the race that Hal Jordan’s predecessor, Abin Sur, came from.  Unfortunately Hal was already preoccupied with the comparatively minor threat of espionage that threatened to destroy Ferris Aircraft leaving Carol and her father penniless.  In conflict with his sacred oath he turns his back on the helpless space travellers in order to deal with his girlfriend’s problems instead.  The Guardians of the Universe have been monitoring all that has transpired and are not best pleased at their Corpsman’s wanton dereliction of his duty and so they summon him to Oa to confront him.


The dialogue in this sequence is very telling.  Hal is unusually callous in his outlook, presumably as a result of his infatuation for Carol and his desire to protect her, even if it is only her business interests that are in jeopardy.  The Guardians call him out on it, “Your problems are all meaningless, Earthman, they deal with troubles in commerce.  Personal gains mean nothing to us!  Our Corps was created to save worlds!  The needs of the Ungara affect millions, yet you, Green Lantern of Sector 2814 - you refused their pleas to merely appease the outward needs of a few?  You are neglect in your duties, Green Lantern of Earth!  You are arrogant in the selective use of your powers!”  All the while, Carol begs the Guardians to release the GL from his duties so he can help her troubled company.  When put so plainly even Hal cannot ignore the obviousness of the situation but he does not show regret for the decision he made:  “N… No, he’s right.  I swore my duty to the Corps… I have to go when I am called.  But I won’t split my loyalties in the future.  I love you Carol – too much to ever risk losing you again.  So I’ll go to Oa, I’ll help solve whatever problem there is on Ungara – and then I’m going to hang up my power ring… forever.  Let someone else be Green Lantern!  I’ve had it!”

 
And that was the end of issue #148.  But, as I have already mentioned, Jordan did not quit the Corps until issue #181.  So just what happened in the meantime?  The Guardians sent Hal to Ungara and during the course of saving an entire planet from destruction he mellowed a little.  He realised how important his calling as a Green Lantern was and he accepted the he was wrong to have ignored plight of the Ungarans.  Faced with a serious breach of their directives but also well aware of the Earthman’s outstanding record, the Guardian ruled that he should serve a penance which would require that he could not set foot on his home planet again for a full year.  Carol was devastated when her hero declared his love for her before taking off to make his new home in the stars.

 
At 20 issues Hal’s yearlong exile actually took up the best part of two years in real time.  The stories told over this period were both fantastic cosmic adventures and vivid lessons in morality.  I like to think of them as the ‘Star Trek years’ because of how reminiscent they are of Captain James T. Kirk’s adventures in the original 60s series. His Oan masters sent him on missions that would challenge his perceptions of the world.  Under their carefully orchestrated tutelage he learnt about diversity and the value of life in whatever form he might find it.  Also during this time, Hal being Hal, he rescued a beautiful redhead called Dorine from a band of evil tyrants dubbed the Headmen.  Dorine fell for him instantly and it wasn’t long before he’d swept her off to the space ship that he was domiciled on during his exile.  Although nothing is said explicitly I think it is safe to assume that she wasn’t only there in the capacity of his travelling companion!  But when his year was up Hal sped back to Earth and as fast as he ring could carry him.  He was back in Carol’s arms by nightfall while poor Dorine didn’t even rate an editor’s footnote in a filler panel.
 
 
While Hal was away doing his space thing, the lives of the people he had left behind continued to unfold within the pages of Green Lantern.  The man behind all of Ferris Aircraft’s troubles, Congressman Bloch, continued his plotting.  Not long after GL arrived back to take up his post as the company’s star pilot (and it’s boss’s leading man) the congressman pulled his most dastardly stroke yet.  He hired the villains known as the Demolition Team to turn the aircraft company’s office and research buildings into so much rubble.  The timing of the attack could not have been worse for the Hal as the Guardians chose this moment to summon him across the galaxy to Omnicron Ceti IV, a normally beautiful world that was suddenly wracked with planet-wide earthquakes.  Bound by his oath and hard-learned lessons the protector of Sector 2814 took to the stars at warp speed and so was forced to abandon his friends to their fate.
 
 
 
Oddly, even without their resident Green Lantern on call, Ferris Aircraft found they still had a super-powered being who could come to their defence - a violent individual who introduced himself as The Predator.  He dispatched with Demolition Team in no time and even managed to steal a kiss from Carol Ferris before making his exit.  Although slightly confused, Carol certainly couldn’t be described as looking offended at having her personal space invaded in this manner!  By the time Hal made it back home the battle was over and the only assistance he could offer was in the form of a giant green fire extinguisher construct to quash the last remnants of fire flickering amongst the rubble.
 
 
Carol’s reaction to her boyfriend’s return marks the tipping point in the wider story of Hal resigning from the Green Lantern Corps.  She is furious that the hero had left her in her hour of need.  Holding the ring-slinger responsible for all of the destruction her father’s company had suffered, she confronts him with an ultimatum (and a stinging slap across the cheek), “No more buts, Hal!  Either have the courtesy to be here for me when I need you –or set me free to live a normal life again!  It’s that lousy ring or me Hal!  The choice is yours!”  Somehow, despite all that he’d been through Hal found himself back where he’d started, forced to choose between the love of his life and his duty as a Green Lantern.


Turning to the superhero community for advice doesn’t make things any clearer.  A typically cavalier Green Arrow commends his friend to risk it all for love.  He reminds Hal there are 3599 other Lanterns in the universe but only one Carol Ferris.  The Flash is up to his neck in woes of his own and sits on the fence while Superman, ever the idealist, holds that those with power must endure personal sacrifices for the greater good.  In the end though Hal Jordan the man wins out over the Hal Jordan the hero and so it is with a heavy but determined heart that he sets off for Oa to deliver his decision to the Guardians of the Universe.  His closest friends in the Corps head him off on route and try talk around with little success.  Len Wein deserves credit for knowing his Green Lantern history with Katma Tui unleashing her anger on Hal for turning his back on the Corps “for the love a of woman”.  Way back in Green Lantern #30 published in 1964 the shoe was on the other foot and Jordan convinced Katma to leave her own fiancé in order to pursue her future with the GLC.  The apology that follows seems a little weak and understandably fails to redress the balance.
 

 
The opposition from his friends dispels any lingering doubts as Dave Gibbons’ image of Hal throwing open the doors of the Citadel on Oa makes it clear to the reader that this is really going to happen.  Within three emotion charged pages the work of a quarter of a century is undone and, for now at least, the superheroes of Earth can no longer count a Green Lantern among their number.  The issue ends on an uncertain note as Carol and her man are reunited.  She begs him not to hate her and he comforts her at once, “I could never hate you!  The choice was mine to make, and I know I’ve made the right one…”  But when the scene pulls back to reveal a wondrous vision of the starry night broken only by a small thought bubble rising above the young lovers, “Haven’t I?”, I can imagine Lantern fans across the ages screaming as one, “Noooo!  Of course you haven’t...!!”



Before long John Stewart is recruited to take over as the Guardians’ representative in Sector 2814 but this does not mean that Hal is forgotten about.  Green Lantern continues to follow the trials and tribulations of the folks at Ferris Aircraft where John has conveniently been taken on as an architect to rebuild after the Demolition Team attack.  With The Predator continually leaping to Carol’s defence unbidden and being more than a little forward in his advances towards her, the pilot turns detective to track down his violent rival.  Here the story takes a startling turn.  It transpires that  The Predator and Carol are two parts of the same being and that being is, of course, Star Sapphire.  For those who joined Green Lantern with Geoff Johns it should be pointed out that Star Sapphire has been a villain in the GL mythos for years.  When the Zamarons wanted to take a new queen they brainwashed Carol Ferris with a gem that emits purple energy beams.  Star Sapphire wanted to take Hal for her consort and for some reason decided the best way to do this would be to repeatedly attempt to kill him.  This surely is the definition of ‘tough love’ in its purest form!
 

 
The Predator and Carol are combined and once again the personality of Star Sapphire takes over.  A rather odd thing happens after that in my opinion.  Maybe it is a result of having lost the ring and being resigned to his status as an Earthbound human but when Star Sapphire returns to Zamora Hal just lets her go.  He doesn’t react as if this is a brainwashed Carol acting against her will and in need of rescue.  It seems instead he is reconciled to the fact that his love has gone for good and he isn’t going to try to do a thing about it.  This stance does not sit right with me at all.  Even without a ring, the guy still knows Superman.  If it was the girl I’d just sacrificed my whole world for I’d be straight on the phone to the Justice League looking for a little back-up.

What we do get, however, is Hal’s thoughts returning to the Corps and the life he has given up.  “I gave up everything for Carol… and now I have nothing!  Somewhere Katma Tui must be laughing, and deservedly so!  I’ve finally taken my own medicine.”  (Hello Hal… are you a little confused between getting dumped and having your girlfriend kidnapped by aliens again?  An easy mistake to make, I guess).  “But maybe… maybe I could rejoin the Corps.  Maybe I could start all over.”
 
Meanwhile John Stewart is proving himself to be a very competent wielder of the Green Light, so much so that when a certain Harbinger shows up to recruit a handful of heroes from across several dimensions to save the multiverse as we know it, John is front and centre with the best of them.  Crisis on Infinite Earths is a story for another blog but if you love DC Comics and you haven’t read it I suggest you rectify this immediately after you’ve finished reading these 6 fine issues of Super-Blog Team-Up!  For now it is suffice to say that the world of the DCU was changed forever after an epic battle between good and evil on a cosmic level scale.
 

Green Lantern tied in 5 issues with COIE including a 'Giant-Sized Spectacular'.  They are of paramount importance to Hal’s return so I will try to do justice to them here in a very brief summary.  The big bad of Crisis, the Anti-Monitor, erected a barricade around Oa to cut off the Corps’ link to the Central Power Battery.  Half the Guardians were placed in stasis and eventually killed.  The rest split into opposing factions disagreeing on the correct action to take in the face of the Anti-Monitor’s scheming.  One group woke Guy Gardner from a coma he had laid in for years and when he came to his personality had changed.  He had become cocky and self-conceited, itching to take his misfortunes out on the world at large.   The Guardians tasked him with raising a team of super-criminals to go after the Anti-Monitor and destroy his power at the source on the moon of Qward.  John Stewart and his fellow Corpsmen are sent to stop Guy on the basis that success in his mission will actually hurry the ultimate destruction of the multiverse.  Hal has been brought to Oa and convinced by a Guardian that Guy’s mission must succeed.  He is finally given a power ring but notably not a GL uniform to go with it.  At some point Sinestro gets involved and confuses matters even further!  Are you still with me?
 
 
Guy and Hal set off for the anti-matter universe with the villains in tow but the two fall out when Guy uses lethal force to kill the Qwardians who stand against them.  Hal feels that they can be taken down humanely but he almost pays the ultimate price when a jealous Guy tries to kill him too.  The Green Lantern Corps show up to save the day while a depowered Hal is side-lined after giving his all in one last attempt to stop Gardner.  John eventually wins out in a battle of will against the newest power-hungry Lantern but the strain on both men is immense.

Meanwhile Goldface, an infamous GL villain and a member of Guy’s band of marauders, attacks fan favourite Tomar-Re.  The impurity in his ring meant the GL was defenceless to Goldface’s assaults as the villain’s costume is covered in yellow gold from top to toe.  Suffering fatal wounds at his enemies hand and sensing the end is close Tomar-Re bequeaths his power ring to “one who is fearless and honest”.  Oddly the ring selects John Stewart to be its wielder even though he is already a Green Lantern.  The ring itself explains that John is wearing Hal Jordan’s ring.  With that John’s ring leaves his finger and plants itself on Hal’s instead while Tomar’s ring moves to take its place.  Hal crouches over his dead friend as a Green Lantern uniform forms around him.  It is John who makes his fellow Earthman’s induction official in the name of the Guardians as he declares, “Once a Green Lantern, always a Green Lantern.

 
And there it ends, more or less.  What Hal learned from the whole experience is very much up for debate.  Love is blind?  Or never trust a woman who has a habit of turning into an alien warrior queen?  Some people are born to be heroes?  Or, like Superman tried to tell him, those who are blessed with power beyond that of mortal men must face personal sacrifice in the name of the greater good?  Maybe it’s a simple tale of comradeship?  When you have trained and fought side by side with a group like the Green Lantern Corps it is impossible to turn your back on them even if you try to tell yourself otherwise.  If Hal had come to me for advice instead of The Flash he wouldn’t have found me sitting on the fence.  I’d have given it to him straight: “Dude, you’re Green Lantern!  That isn’t something you walk away from”.

The storytelling over the years that this saga takes place is some of the most emotionally charged I have read in comics anywhere.  There are many creators who came together to produce this long-running drama, more than I have named here, and every one of them deserves credit for the tremendous part they have played.

 
(As a footnote, I’d like to add that in the very next issue Hal comes to his senses and returns to Zamora to rescue Carol from her Star Sapphire persona only to find that the two are in explicably linked and bringing back the woman he loves is impossible.  A sad moment for the Emerald Crusader to be sure but, with hindsight at twenty-twenty, it proves to be a great lead in for thrilling adventures yet to come).

****
 
So now you’ve read issue #3 of the spectacular SUPER-BLOG TEAM-UP crossover event which it has been my pleasure to contribute to, go check out these other amazing blogs to learn why some of your other favourite super-heroes decided to call it “Quittin’ Time…”
 

Links:
 

#4 The SuperHero Satellite: Superman 
#6 Fantastiverse: Hank Pym - COMING SOON!!

 


 

Sunday 3 November 2013

Construct of the Week #28


Construct: Cosmic Arm Wrestling

Generated by: 
Hector Hammond & Hal Jordan



Appeared in: Green Lantern #177 (vol.2), 1984


Wednesday 30 October 2013

Love and Will: Sides of a Triangle

At the risk of falling foul to understatement I think it is safe to say there is a whole lot going on in the in Green Lantern right now.  'Lights Out', the story arc currently playing out across the four main Lantern titles, has delivered drama by the bucket load.  The Blue Corps of hope have been wiped out, the energies of the emotional spectrum are all but depleted and the planet Oa, the spiritual home and base of operations for the Green Lantern Corps has exploded into so much space debris.  Wherever we look the status quo has been turned on it's head.
 
In the middle of all this cosmic action we could be forgiven for passing over a smaller, more personal drama that is playing out in the pages of Green Lantern: New Guardians.  A situation that could also have serious ramifications for the GL universe as we know it.
 
Carol Ferris, long time love interest of Earth's premier Green Lantern Hal Jordan, declared in Green Lantern #21 that she loved Hal but she could not be with him anymore.  Since then she seems to getting very close to one young and undoubtedly handsome Kyle Rayner, formerly regarded as Green Lantern 2814.4 and often considered by fans as a pretender to Hal's crown.
 
Where this will go no-one can say for certain but it may interest you to know that this is not completely uncharted territory.  In 2002 DC Comics published a 3 part 'Elseworld' mini-series called Evil's Might which was set in the streets of old New York when Irish gangs fought tooth and nail in the crowded alleys of the Bowery.
 
 
In this imagined tail Hal Jordan was a police inspector of noted repute and Carol Ferris was his fiancé and the daughter of a very wealthy business and politician.  Kyle Rayner, on the other hand,  was an impoverished Irish immigrant who reluctantly found himself in embroiled the protection rackets and petty crime that passed for everyday life for anyone who had 'stepped off the boat'.
 
 
His world was suddenly changed when he came across a strange old lantern and an emerald ring hidden away in a pawn shop.  At last Kyle was able to follow his heart and set about helping the downtrodden inhabitants of the Bowery under the guise of Green Lantern.  His heart led him down another road too as he set about wooing Carol Ferris.


 
Coming from such different walks of life, one would assume that Carol and Kyle had nothing to connect them but this was not in fact the case.  She was a campaigner for women's right to vote and he was a clandestine political artist satirising the upper classes who played games with people's lives in the pursuit of wealth and power.  Even Miss Ferris' own engagement to Hal was orchestrated by her power-hungry father to gain influence over a decorated police inspector.  Through all this Carol and Kyle's shared desire for justice and equality burned brightly.

 
Hal became aware that he had a rival for his betrothed affections and plotted against him, turning his back on his higher moral code to join forces with Kyle's enemies in the gangs in order to take the Irishman out of the picture.  A plan to kill Rayner in a mining explosion turned sour when Hal realised that Carol had stumbled into the trap as well.  He finally showed what he was really made of when he placed his own life in mortal jeopardy to save the love-struck couple.

 
In a sure sign that love conquers all the delicate debutant and her roughshod street urchin defied the odds to share wedding vows and pledge their lives to one another.  Kyle gets his girl and Hal Jordan (eventually) accepts he had lost in love and steps aside.
 
This is not the end of the story and I thoroughly recommend you track down a copy of Evil's Might.  While love wins out, the path of a Green Lantern is seldom easy.  It wasn't for our young Elseworld heroes and it is unlikely to be for the members of the ring-slinging love triangle in our comics today as they struggle with their own feelings while fighting to protect the universe from ever-present disaster. 



Wednesday 2 October 2013

Golden Age Collectables!!!


Any die-hard comic book fan would be thrilled to receive 
an original golden age Green Lantern statuette...


but there is just no pleasing some people!





Saturday 21 September 2013

Construct of the Week #27



Construct: Flying Surfboard
 
Generated by: Hal Jordan
 
Appeared in: Justice League of America #111, 1974




Tuesday 17 September 2013

Who Turned the Lights Out?


As happens to us all from time to time, I recently found myself in the unfortunate position of having to cut down my comic book pull list while I divert my finances towards more practical requirements.  On the plus side this means I have ample opportunity to reacquaint myself with my back-issue collection, including a 5 year run of JLA.
 
 
All the talk recently of the up-coming 'Lights Out' storyline running across the Green Lantern titles reminded me of another time when the lights went out for GL.  Whereas in the excellent Green Lantern #23.1 featuring Relic it looks like the Lantern Corps power batteries are literally going to fade throughout the DCU, the incident I recall was a much more personal experience for Kyle Rayner.

The scene played out in JLA #43 & #44, in the 'Tower of Babel' storyline written by Mark Waid.  Unbeknownst to his fellow Justice Leaguers Batman had devised plans to neutralize each of them in the event that they went rogue or fell under the control of evil influences.  The problems began when Ra's Al Ghul used his resources to hack the Bat-Computer and steal the emergency plans so he could take down the League before initiating a nefarious scheme to wipe out mankind.

Superman obviously has his Kryptonite but Bats had to think a little differently to overcome the resident Green Lantern on the team.


Fans will know the thing that makes Kyle Rayner such a unique and talented Green Lantern is his background as an artist.  In the right hands a power ring will create anything its wearer can imagine which in Kyle's case is pretty much unlimited.  Whereas Hal Jordan spent years reusing the same tried and tested fist construct, his successor produced any number of fanciful creations.  From Manga characters to alien beasts we have been spoiled with a visual smorgasbord of the wild and wonderful.


What Batman realised was that Green Lantern's strength was also his weakness.  His ability to wield the ring relied on visualising the constructs he conjured up.  All Batman (or in this case Ra's) had to do to take Kyle out of the game was to rob him of his sight.  Not being able to see the world around him made the GL virtually powerless and easy prey for Ra's and his daughter, Talia.


For those who are curious as to how exactly Kyle was rendered blind in the first place and how his terrifying predicament was eventually reversed in true comic book style, you need look no further than the old post-hypnotic suggestion trope.  And I am very pleased to report some 13 years after the 'Tower of Babel' arc was originally released that our hero and his teammates where able to overcome their dastardly plight and save the Earth once again.


 


Sunday 25 August 2013

*** UPDATE *** THE COLOUR OF STEEL


Regular visitors to ‘Flodo’s Page’ will remember my interview with the very talented graphic illustrator, ColourOnly85.  In celebration of the release of Man of Steel, the artist set himself a daunting challenge to produce designs of the entire cast of DC Comics in the months before the movie hit our screens.  All the while he promised us the ultimate tribute to Zack Snyder’s much anticipated reworking of the Superman story with an original ColourOnly movie poster.
 
I recently had the pleasure of catching up with ColourOnly85 again to talk Man of Steel and, of course, a little bit of Green Lantern.
 
FP: Good to speak to you again, man.  Man of Steel has been out in cinemas for a few weeks now and you have completed your final piece for your MoS challenge.
 
The first thing I've got to ask, what did you think of the movie?!
 
CO85: It's great to be back!  Thanks again for having me.
 
I really enjoyed the film.  From news and trailers it was always pegged as being a much darker and more serious take on Superman, and I was happy that it delivered on that.  Things like seeing Superman brawling with Faora and the others the way they did was just what I had hoped for.  I also really liked the different approach to the Superman story, with the spotlight being put on Krypton - that was refreshing.  I appreciated Nolan before but this film has definitely put me on his fan list.  I can't wait for number two.
 
 
FP: Your Man of Steel movie print is awesome.  You must feel very proud.  How would you describe the process that went into producing that image?  A labour of love?
 
CO85: Thanks so much, I'm very grateful.  Haha, labour of love and labour of frustration probably sums it up best.  I probably went through more revisions on that design than any other.  During the design process I realised I wanted it to reflect the styling of the movie, so I had to keep modifying it until it felt 'right’.  I was definitely glad when it was finished that's for sure...
 
FP: So now you have crossed the finish line can you tell me, altogether, how many DC comic characters were lucky enough to receive a ColourOnly85 treatment?
 
CO85: The total was around 160.  It's a far cry from the total number of DC characters, but I’m glad to have accomplished the number I did.
 
 

FP: 160 characters is no mean feat!  And finally, I can't let you go without saying a few words about Kilowog.  You kept your promise and 'Wog is looking mighty fine.  Is this a case of the show isn't over until the fat lantern sings..?

CO85: Thanks so much.  It was a lot of fun doing ‘Wog, although I'm looking forward to doing him again during the second project where I can do him more justice.  Time caught up with me on this first project, so I'm looking forward to the second one where I have a bit more freedom.

It's definitely a case of 'it ain't over’.   I'll be launching a new project on 1st September called 'The 215 Project'.  The project will be similar to the first, so I'll be doing designs counting down to Man of Steel 2; however, I’ll be limiting the number of illustrations being done.  I really want to push the individual designs much further in terms of style and feel, something I wasn't able to do with the previous challenge due to the time restraint.  I will also be doing things a little differently in terms of the characters being illustrated.  I'll be announcing more news of that on my Instagram shortly.

FP: We’ll all be looking out for that one!  If you’re taking suggestions for the ‘The 215 Project’ I’d love to see what you could do with the current star of Green Lantern Corps and my favourite GL, John Stewart.  In the meantime, thanks again for sparing time to share a few words with ‘Flodo’s Page’ and congratulations on producing a spectacular homage to Man of Steel.


Wednesday 14 August 2013

LIGHT UP ROOKIES, WELCOME TO THE CORPS



I’ve been approaching my Green Lantern comics with cautious optimism over the last couple of months.  Five Lantern titles hit the stands in July and although only one of them bore a #1 on its cover they might as well have all been brand new.  Every writer and most of the art teams were starting out on their respective book for the very first time.  In fact, with the exception Alex Sinclair’s irreproachable brilliance colouring constructs in the main title and a showing from old hands Keith Giffen and J.M. Dematteis, I didn’t know very much about the creators involved.  Having just said goodbye to the previous generation of stalwarts I didn’t have a clue what to expect from this new bunch.  Word on the street, or more accurately the internet, was that they were all pretty reliable so I tried to convince myself that I didn’t have any real cause for alarm.

What I did have were questions running around my brain about the future of the franchise.  Will it carry on along similar lines to the event laden stories of the last few years?  Or will it feel fresh?  Will the new teams introduce original concepts and directions?  Will the roster of characters remain largely unchanged?



So now that I’ve read the first two issues from each of the new teams I have to say that for the most part I’m impressed, and maybe a little bit relieved.  This is unashamedly a new beginning for the GL universe but it nods respectfully to the history that has come before it.  It seems to me that Larfleeze sits apart in its own world, perhaps choosing to remain outside continuity or in a different timeframe, but the other four books come together well to kick off the next chapter in our favourite ring-slingers’ lives.  They contain enough shared elements to achieve cohesion while putting their own stamp on the world being created (or should that be recreated?).  Each book has a very definite sense of style about it.  They each offer a tone that felt very suitable for that particular title without being a carbon copy of the preceding 20 issues.  There was a danger that the writers would struggle to move past implications of the First Lantern event and become bogged down in the past.  Instead they use this event as a springboard to produce great starting points for some exciting new storylines.  And they give me faith that they will successfully take charge of the Green Lantern mythos.

In the first issues (the #21s) the overarching theme of all four titles is reconstructing the Corps.  Losses are high and its reputation is in tatters.  Their base of operations on the planet Oa lies in rubble.  There seems to be an acceptance that the Templar Guardians would take over from their fallen brethren as leaders and advisors to the GLC but the Guardians want to educate themselves to the ways of the universe for a while before they take on the duty of protecting it.  I don’t know if I’d automatically want to place my trust in this unknown quantity just because they share heritage with the previous lot.  I mean, look at how those guys turned out.


  
Hal Jordan is chosen to shoulder the responsibility of command in the Templar Guardians absence.  He immediately is pulled in all directions and quickly realises his usual ‘fly by the seat of your pants’ attitude isn’t going to cut it.  He has to find and train new recruits and rebuild the citadel.  At the same time he has to protect his Corpsmen from the Red Lanterns, and he doesn’t trust his new bosses much either.  He relies on his closest allies, the Earth Lanterns, to handle the dangers for him.  This is the premise of Green Lantern: New Guardians (which has never been more aptly named by the way). Kyle Rayner is enlisted to guide and where necessary contain the new Guardians!  Get it?  Acting as Hal’s other man-at-arms, Guy Gardner is sent to fill the even less appealing role of an undercover spy in the Red Lantern Corps.  That he ends up defeating Atrocitus in combat and leading that Corps instead is on the one hand ‘sooo Guy’, and on the other a mind-boggling new angle that excites and surprises.  If all this weren’t enough, Larfleeze unleashes a brutal attack on Oa and all troops are called on to defend the planet.  A busy first day on the job.

John Stewart’s place in the shared world of Green Lantern is going to be very interesting in the coming months.  He will be the main focus of Green Lantern Corps.  Perhaps more so than Hal even, John feels that it is his responsibility to ensure the new recruits receive the training they need to represent the Corps honourably and, more importantly, live to tell the tale.  While Hal leads from the front, John is in among the rookies showing them how it’s done.  His new purpose is best described with his own words in Green Lantern Corps #22, “Lesson four, Rookie: never leave a lantern behind!”.

I have always appreciated that the Green Lantern titles exist in a shared universe, something that happens in one book impacts on the next.  Some readers find this daunting.  They would rather have a comic that tells its own story in isolation.  To those people I would say it is perfectly possible to pick up any of the four issue #21s and read it by itself without having to worry about missing something.  I would then advise them not to!  The four books weave together naturally to create a fixed point of reference before kick-starting their own adventures.  I very much look forward to them all coming together again down the road.  The creative teams have obviously put quite a bit of thought into making sure no book could be considered less relevant.  The much publicised new ‘Big Bad’ of the GLU is first introduced in Green Lantern: New Guardians thereby giving it equal weighting to its more famous sister titles.  Elsewhere some as yet unknown force is affecting the ring energies of all the coloured Corps and this is picked up through unrelated incidences in more than one book.  And having laid a strong foundation in #21, each title strikes out confidently with its own exciting storytelling in #22.


There is more than enough in each of these books to satisfy both old and new readers.  While the new creators have undoubtedly given the world we were familiar with a shake-up, they haven’t thrown away everything long-time fans hold dear.  One of the first things Hal does as leader is to send out the hundreds of rings belonging to his fallen companions so that they can seek out new Lanterns.  There are new faces to get to know in both Green Lantern and Green Lantern Corps.  But alongside them we get to spend time with fan favourites like Salaak and Kilowog who have to cope with massive changes to their lives following the fall of the Guardians.  The new writers did their research well and succeed in ensuring the personalities of our much loved characters continue to ring true.  I was particularly pleased to see Sinestro’s daughter, Lantern Soranik Natu, make her first significant appearance since DC Comics’ ‘New 52’ reboot began back in 2011.

In case anybody reading this blog is trying to decide whether or not to pick up one or all of the Lantern titles for the first time, or after a spell away, I will briefly relate my impression of each.  Even for a dedicated fan like myself the Green Lantern books have been quite a slog over the last several months, not because the writing wasn’t good (except possibly Red Lanterns where I have to admit it wasn’t) but because the books have been heavily entrenched in bringing to bear the huge concepts Geoff Johns had been working towards for a number of years.  They were not books that you could just pick up randomly at your comic book store and have any real hope understanding what was going on.  I enjoyed everything the ‘Wrath of the First Lantern’ crossover had to offer but it has been a breath of fresh air in the last two months to see my favourite characters roll up their sleeves and get back to focusing on the Corps again and having a few swashbuckling space adventures to boot!



Green Lantern #21 & #22 – As the flagship title of the collection and formerly penned by Johns for the best part of a decade all eyes are going to be on this book.  Robert Venditti has made a really interesting choice by placing responsibility for the Corps squarely at Hal Jordan’s door.  It gives us a chance to explore the character with fresh eyes which I think is important for any new writer taking on a book after his predecessor has been so long at the helm.  The last thing I want to read is a poor imitation of what has come before.  Issue #21 pitches straight into the action with a flashforward to a battle with Relic that we will do no doubt see more of soon.  The scene setting that follows is necessary but does not feel obligatory.  Before long we are taken back into the thick of battle as Larfleeze shows up to attack Oa knowing the Corps is at its weakest.  With constructs aplenty and new recruits having to learn their trade in the heat of battle there is lots for any GL fan to sink their teeth into.  I was particularly interested in the sub-plot of the unrepentant criminal who escapes her sciencell prison with the aid of a Star Sapphire ring.  Again, there is plenty to suggest that Venditti intends to tells stories unlike anything we have read before.  Like all of the new artists on these books, Billy Tan is still finding his feet but there is enough quality in there to give me confidence that he will be competing with the best of them on Green Lantern in no time at all.



Green Lantern Corps #21 & #22 – This book is a little different to the others in that it is the only one where the main character, John Stewart, does not start out on Oa.  Instead we find him on a mission with the Star Sapphire Fatality to save a planet from unidentified thieves whose miscreant actions are about to cause nuclear disaster.  In all honesty, despite my professed favouritism for Stewart over the other Earth Lanterns, Green Lantern Corps #21 didn’t work for me as much as I had hoped.  I put my misgivings down to two main factors: 1) Van Jensen is still finding his way with the book and his lead character’s voice – suffice to say by #22 this was no longer a problem and I was completely sold on the writer and the direction he and co-plotter Venditti are taking; and 2) Bernard Chang’s art felt ‘off’ to me – I put this purely down to the fact I have been spoiled by Fernando Pasarin’s outstanding contribution on GLC over the last couple of years.  Art is a matter of preference and often takes longer to adjust to than writing style so I fully expect to be singing Chang’s praises from the rooftops before very long at all.

The main thing a long time reader should be aware of with the switch in writers is that, thematically speaking, Green Lantern Corps has a new agenda (or seems to at any rate).  This title was primarily a war book under Tomasi’s guidance.  The Corps was an army marching into battle or dealing with the fallout from a previous skirmish.  John Stewart’s most significant contribution was his military court martial.  Under Van Jensen the book is much more about what makes people tick.  John’s complicated relationship with Fatality is put under the microscope.  Salaak’s reaction to the betrayal of the Guardians, and his fellow Corps members’ distrust of him as their closest associate are all put under scrutiny too.  And even more interesting are the new recruits that show up in this book.  While the rookies in Green Lantern are initially viewed through Hal’s eyes, Green Lantern Corps takes time to understand that each recruit has come from somewhere and has a past that makes them unique.  It poses the question of how a diverse group with different motivations and influences can work together to achieve a common goal.

With all of this high-brow soul searching you’d be forgiven for thinking the book might be short on the action department but not a bit of it.  Major run-ins with Khunds and Durlans in these two issues mean the book isn’t short on the blood and guts either.  All that and the first sight of the Emotional Entities in the New 52 make this a comic book with a whole lot of promise.  I am intrigued to discover if it can deliver.

 Green Lantern: New Guardians #21 & #22 - This is another title that is being rebuilt from the ground up by the new creative team of Justin Jordan and Brad Walker.  I imagine that Kyle Rayner, the lead figure of the title, could be a very difficult character to write these days.  From the very beginning of the New 52 he has been a man apart from the Green Lantern Corps, a renegade on the run from the evil manipulations of the Guardians of the Universe.  More recently, with the extraordinary abilities of the White Lantern at his command, there is a real danger that Kyle could suffer from the same foibles as many less than successful Superman stories over the years, namely that he is so powerful there is nothing of interest to challenge him.  Luckily this does not seem to be the case.  That he is the first Lantern to face off against Relic is not insignificant itself but, more to the point, Justin Jordan gets Kyle.  He knows who the man is and what he’s been through.  And he manages to write a story that is both a huge cosmic tapestry, very much complimented by Walker’s art, and an intimate personal tail sharing the hallmarks of a well written soap opera (if there is such a thing!).

Kyle feels a weight of responsibility on his shoulders surpassing even his own great gifts and when Hal asks him to accompany the Templar Guardians on their mission of learning he turns the new Green Lantern leader down flat.  The last thing he needs is to waste his time on a baby-sitting job when there is so much good he could be doing in the universe.  It is only when Hal points out that the Guardians are too powerful for anyone else to deal with if they stray onto the path of their evil predecessors that Kyle relents.

Something that caught my attention in GL:NG was Kyle’s “connection” with Carol Ferris, a fact neither hero seems to be consciously aware of.  The book doesn’t go into to detail on what this might mean yet but I get the feeling that the Star Sapphire is going to be a regular feature in the book and I can’t be alone in speculating that Hal Jordan might have a little competition on his hands on the relationship front.  With a track record of being unlucky in love these two look to be a great fit for one another at the moment.  If giant space sharks and villains from another universe aren’t enough to grab your attention then surely the possibility of a little bit of romantic tension is going to bring you back for more.


Red Lanterns #21 & #22 - Truth be told these issues were going to be make or break for me.  Peter Milligan's run was not ticking my boxes at all and since I am no longer doing regular weekly reviews here on Flodo's Page there was really nothing to keep me on the book except a masochistic Lantern completism.  What it also meant, however, was that this was the switch up I was feeling most positive about.

 As it is, all this positivity came crashing down around me when I opened issue #21 and was greeting with a maudlin Atrocitus spouting the same old theatrical nonsense he had for the previous 20 issues.  Luckily, it transpired this was just Charles Soule attempting to bridge the gap between old and new.  Red Lanterns continues to have its faults; the art is a little shaky and if I were to nitpick I could wonder why Dex-Starr has the ability to create construct bubbles in the same issue the Reds make it clear only Rankorr possesses this ability.  But I will not nitpick.  Instead I will tell you to go out and buy this book.  NOW.

 Soule has managed to capture the voice of Guy Gardner at his most, well ...’Guy-like’.  While the premise is that Guy is undercover in the Red Lantern Corps, it’s not long before we wonder if this isn’t where the angry man of the Greens should be in the first place.  There certainly weren't any complaints coming from this corner when he deposed Atrocitus and beat him to within an inch of his wretched life.  Guy brings a moral code to the RLs that they were missing previously but a question for the reader is how long will it be before the deliciously unfettered and unrepentant thirst for revenge overcomes him completely, and will anyone care?  We are only two issues in but already Red Lanterns is shaping up to be the no holds barred action thriller we had all hoped for way back in issue #1.


Larfleeze #21 & #22 I haven’t a whole lot to say about these books really.  If you were a fan of Keith Giffen and J.M Dematteis’ run on Justice League International or in the mini-series Formerly Known as the Justice League you’ll like Larfleeze.  If you are into comic books that are tongue-in-cheek or kooky you’ll like Larfleeze.  If you like your humor falling firmly in the realm of purile and pushing on the boundaries of good taste you will like Larfleeze.  And to be fair I like all of those things.  This is a funny book.  But if you want to read a Lantern book that has any consideration for previous continuity or has a bearing on the future of the GL universe Larfleeze is NOT the book for you.  In issue #21 the keeper of the light of avarice gives a version of his own back-story and even he admits it’s not exactly accurate!  So until DC Comics confirm any different I will take it that this title sits outside of the New 52 DCU.  I prefer to think of it as a bawdy romp for the sake of rompery all alone in its own little world.  And isn’t that how Larfleeze would want it in any case?

If you’re hoping to read a version of Larfleeze that pays its dues to Geoff Johns’ original ‘Agent Orange’ storyline you are better off sticking with Green Lantern #21 and #22 and leaving the revelry to somebody with a bit less nerd in their DNA…

So there you have it.  The rookies have landed and bar none they have made their mark on Green Lantern in one way or another.  And although there may be a few teething problems while writers and artists get to know their subjects in the same depth as many of us have had the pleasure of for a good many years, I think it is safe to say that the that the legacy of Green Lantern is in a safe hands. Big, green safe hands.