Back in the Silver-Age, however, things were very different. In those days the rings abilities were literally limited only by imagination - the writer's imagination that is. I've previously posted brief observations of Green Lantern mimicking the power sets of his Justice League colleagues, and this is something I want to look at in more detail in the future. For now I’d like to share my enjoyment of one particular story that has all the hall-marks of a Silver-Age classic.
Green Lantern #36 (vol. 2) has a cover date of April 1965. The issue contains virtually every element you might look for in a Gardner Fox/Gil Kane GL original. Flipping past its gripping cover we are treated to two complete super-hero adventures. It's the first story that has captured my imagination and illustrates the limitless gifts of the power ring perfectly (except on anything yellow of course!). I'll recount the bones of the story itself for those of you who haven't been lucky enough to read it but I heartily recommend you track down the reprint in Showcase Presents: Green Lantern vol. 2 and a whole lot more of Hal Jordan's other Silver-Age antics while you are at it!
The tale is introduced, as was so often the case back then, with a teaser page showing Hal Jordan in seemingly inescapable peril. The scene is set and the action fully joined within the opening three panels. A small mechanical clown pogoes across Carol Ferris’ office and steals the plans to a multi-million dollar fighter jet right out of her hands. It leaps out of the aircraft boss' window and springs over the head of a hapless Hal Jordan to make its getaway. Carol and Hal speed after it in a convertible two-door roadster with the Green Lantern having to hide his secret abilities from his feisty companion. Following an “invisible trail” from his power ring, Hal hurtles through fields, smashing fences that the morally stout Miss Ferris promises to pay for later. They skid to a halt on the edge of a cliff as their animated quarry throws itself into the waters below. Then, in a complete reversal of character-type, Carol happily follows Hal’s suggestion to drive back home leaving him stranded alone to “somehow contact the police”. Keep in mind this was 20 odd years before the invention of the mobile phone.
Finally free to change into his Green Lantern costume, Hal flies off in pursuit and trails the bouncing figurine to a house occupied by a crooked toy-making mobster and his henchmen. In a move that screams of mad professor the toy-maker has filled the room with radiation that only he and his cronies are immune to so as to kill anyone that tries to disturb them. Hal’s failure to conjure an invisible microphone inside the room leads him deduce that the radiation has a yellow base, his power ring’s one weakness.
Hal comments that it would be easy enough to wait for the robbers to leave the building and round them up but he is in rather a hurry and comes up with a mysterious plan to storm the place instead. He smashes through a window and swashbuckles in fine style for three pages seemingly unaffected by the deadly yellow radiation around him.
The big reveal is a joy of science-fiction gold. Green Lantern punches his opponent so hard in the jaw that his own hand comes off. It is immediately obvious to everybody that the ring-slinger is actually a robot! Inspired by his recent pursuit Hal realized that a mechanical man would not have to breathe in poisoned air and used his rings extraordinary powers to transform himself. I am very willing for a clever modern day creator to prove me wrong and script this into a future GL story but I’m fairly certain that DC New 52 Green Lantern cannot rewrite his or her biological make-up on a whim. In those fabulous innocent days when realism was not an issue this was entertainment at its finest. I bet every kid who bought this 12 cent comic wished they had a ring that could turn them into a robot too!
The mobsters realize they are outclassed and flee in their getaway car. Hal is left with the minor dilemma of elctro-magnetic walls clamping his metal body in place because, you know, every toy-making gangster likes to ensure their radiation room is electro-magnetically protected. The quick thinking Lanterrn makes short work of the trap and sets off after the villains once more. Employing the veil of invisibility for the third time in this adventure, Hal creates a solid wall which the unsuspecting crooks plough straight in to.
He scoops them up by the scruff of their necks with his trademark giant green hands and deposits them back at their hideout were the police have conveniently cleared out all noxious radiation. Our hero outsmarts his prisoners by letting loose another robot robber who deposits his stolen booty right at the feet of his criminal creator thus proving the toy-maker was the beneficiary of the toy’s ill-gotten gains.
The adventure concludes with our hero personally returning the stolen jet plans to their rightful owner and a fawning Miss Ferris is so pleased that she rewards Green Lantern with dinner. In a closing exchange that is beautifully typical of Silver-Age comics the Emerald Crusader happily plays cuckold to his own out of luck alter-ego, Hal Jordan! The final panel is a real chuckle as Gil Kane forgoes his usual heroic rendering of the Lantern in favour of a Hanna-Barbera-esque goofball shrug.
So there you have it. The composition of Silver-Age comics is unlikely to make a resurgence anytime soon, if ever, but it should not be ignored. Writers had a chance to explore stories as they saw fit without enduring endless scorn from supposed 'fans' or the tedium of editorial continuity that often plagues their modern day successors. And to my mind that is right and proper. The "most powerful weapon in the universe" should be without limits and the 'Secret of the Power-Ringed Robot' strikes a balance between adventure and amusement that reminds me why I started reading superhero comics in the first place.