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…”


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



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