Wednesday 24 September 2014

Green Lantern and the Little Green Man

Welcome back to another round of the legendary Super-Blog Team-Up.  By now I'm sure you all know the drill but just in case we have any newbies jumping on, here's the low down.  Every three months the marvellous Super-Bloggers come together to geek out over a shared theme, each blogger exploring the chosen subject in their own .,,  inimitable style. This time around we are diving into the world of 'team-ups'.  How did it take us so long to think of that one?!

So here's what I've got for you.  Green Lantern #87, volume 3.  On the face of it this is the most boring comic that was ever written.  99.9% of the real action takes place between the panels.  Yawn!  I'm going to race through the plot at Flash speed to give you some idea of what I mean.  Try to stay awake...

Page one opens with not one but two panels showing a steaming coffee mug and very little else. Jade is taking pictures of it. Some dude called Access appears out of nowhere looking for Green Lantern. Jade tells him GL is not around. She conjures up a baseball bat construct but doesn't hit anybody with it.  Access isn't scared but disappears anyway.  The scene shifts to the JLA watchtower on the moon. The JLA have just finished a meeting.  Everybody goes home except Green Lantern and Martian Manhunter.  Manhunter teaches GL how to use the surveillance monitor.  Scintillating stuff I think you'll agree.  And by this time we are already 8 pages into a 22 page comic!

Suddenly (not so suddenly) an alarm goes off and Kyle and J'onn fly out into space to investigate a gigantic vessel utilising a dastardly laser to cover southern California in plants.  GL creates an unnecessarily seductive construct of a lady pirate who launches an old fashioned cannonball at the space ship.  Not surprisingly it has no effect whatsoever.  He spends two pages cutting his way into the ship and discovers the only crew member is dead. J'onn sneaks up on him.  Oh, the tension!  The Martian telepathically links to the ship and concludes that the rest of the crew has bonded with the ship's computer.  He convinces the ship (off panel, mind you) to fly to the dead planet formerly known as Mogo and terraform there instead of southern Cali.  Kyle and J'onn have a moment. Fly away. The end.

So why, I hear you ask, have I bothered to waste your time recounting this sorry tale, especially in the illustrious company of the Super-Blog Team-Up?!  The thing is, as well as being the most boring comic on the planet, it is an absolute classic!  And before I get completely drowned in a sea of 'WTFs' let me put things in context a little.  GL #87 was written in 1997.  Kyle Rayner had only been wearing the ring since issue #50 so at the time he was still very much the new guy on the block.  I'm going to go through the story again but this time I'm going to put on my green tinted glasses and share with you what happens inside the mind of a comic book fan and Green Lantern obsessive reading the same book in 2014.  To forewarn you, I may say "BOOM!" a lot.

Opening page; Jade is camping out in Kyle Rayner's apartment.  BOOM! - Kyle is still going out with Donna Troy but here he is hanging out with the girl we GL fans know is his future one true love. Reinforced by no less than Geoff Johns 20 odd years later in the run-up to Blackest Night.

Access appears.  BOOM! - Access? Access?  He's only the gatekeeper between the DC Universe and the Marvel Universe.  The missing link in the biggest intercompany crossover of all time, DC vs Marvel (or Marvel vs DC as some would have it).

Access tells Jade her power isn't like Green Lantern's, much to the superheroine's protest.  BOOM! - Jade. Daughter of Alan Scott, the original Green Lantern.  Turns out Alan and Jade's power comes from the Starheart, the collected essence of all the magic in the universe.  Some of the biggest stories in the DCU tie in to this little throwaway nugget.

Kyle sits in on Justice League meeting. BOOM! - Following a brief stint in the Teen Titans GL had been inducted into the JLA a few months previously when the self-titled team comic went back to basics and called on the heavyweights of the DCU to represent.  But this was the first time that Green Lantern readers got a chance to see their hero take his place on the A team.   Did I say BOOM! already?

Wally West invites Kyle for dinner.  BOOM! - The Brave and The Bold, people.  It's a thing! Go look it up.

Kyle stays behind to learn the ropes from J'onn J'onzz.  Maybe not a BOOM! moment in itself but massive nevertheless.  Martian Manhunter IS the Justice League of America.  He's the glue that holds it together, showing up in nearly every iteration of the team since it was created in 1960.  Learning from J'onn means our ring-slinger is learning from the very best, bar none!  Ron Marz and guest penciler Tom Grindberg come together to create an exchange between the two heroes that has 1990s buddy-cop nostalgia written all over it.

The villain's spaceship is revealed. BOOM! - Any double page spread that draws a vehicle so big that it blocks out the earth and the moon in one go deserves a BOOM!

In a sense it is the team-up up with J'onn that makes this such an action-lacking adventure. He is so powerful that dangers are effectivley evaded before they ever present themselves.  Kyle is, by comparison, unsure of himself and generally immature.  When I read his nervous inner monologue I remember how much I loved following the character's growth over the years.  This was the first faltering footsteps of an exceptional journey.  Did I mention the dude is a godlike White Lantern these days?

Even the shamefully stereotyped pirate construct had some value. Every ornately detailed construct Kyle produced in these adventures came with the subtext "No more boxing gloves".  The limitless potential of the Green Lantern's power ring was being explored to the maximum.  You give the most powerful weapon in the universe to an artist and you're going to get some mighty pretty pictures for your efforts.

Just before Green Lantern flies off to try and board the ship J'onn says something that might have little significance to your average reader but has barrels of meaning to Green Lantern fans.  "The last time I trusted a Green Lantern an entire world died.". BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! - A Cosmic Odyssey.  The story that took my favourite Green Lantern, John Stewart, and twisted him inside out.  He kicked Martian Manhunter to the kerb and in his arrogance managed to blow up the planetoid Xanshi, wiping out its millions of inhabitants in the process.  With that weight on his shoulders he spent everyday since making up for his mistake and molding his guilt with humility until it became his greatest strength.  Nice reference! BOOM!

No matter how much of a geek I am I have to admit that the clumsy story jump from J'onn explaining the clear and present danger in one panel to Kyle congratulating him for a job well done in the next is pretty much unforgivable.

Except that I'm a Green Lantern geek and the next page pulls out to reveal... Mogo. (You know what's coming next) B-O-O-M!! The sentient Green Lantern planet was taken off the board when Hal Jordan destroyed the Corps in Emerald Twighlight. This was the first time in Kyle's run that we get an inkling that the big guy might return someday, a prophecy later fulfilled by Kyle himself when he wakens Mogo from his slumber in a future issue.  All is forgiven.

As Green Lantern and the not so little green man fly off into the cosmos looking suitably heroic I suppose you are wondering what the takeaways are here.  Well for me it is this:

Takeaway 1: Given that J'onn J'onzz has the power to enter people's minds and stir up emotions and memories that have been long buried, it is only fitting that a team-up book containing the Martian Manhunter should do the same.  Green Lantern #87 tugged on my heartstrings and resurrected memories of a great many story arcs that I thoroughly enjoyed.  With the extensive history of the Green Lantern Corps and my long association with it, it is not always easy to remember all the twists and turns that took us to where we are today. If an occasional offering from the longbox forgoes traditional action sequences in favour of dropping a marker for future generations to reflect on, then who am I to argue?

Takeaway 2: The Martian Manhunter needs a catchphrase.  What's the point of being able to solve any problem virtually as it happens if your fellow heroes don't even know you did it because you are the strong, silent type?  All the best heroes have them. Some even have whole verses of poetry to make it clear to all and sundry they are taking names and kicking ass.  "Beware our power" ringing bells for anyone?  But the way I see it J'onzz needs something short and to the point. Something that says he has arrived.  Something that says "BOOM!!!"



Super-Hero Satellite: Superman and The Masters Of the Universe 

LongBox GraveYard: Thing / Thing

Superior Spider-talk: Spider-Man and the Coming of Razorback!?

The Daily Rios: New Teen Titans/DNAgents 

The Middle Spaces:  Super Hegemonic Team-up! Spider-Man, Daredevil & 'The Death of Jean DeWolfe

Chasing Amazing: Spider-man/Spider-man 2099 Across the Spider-Verse: A Once in a Timeline Team-Up 

Vic Sage/Retroist: Doctor Doom/Doctor Strange 

Fantastiverse: Superman vs. Spider-man 

Mystery V-Log: The Avengers #1 

In My Not So Humble Opinion: Conan /Solomon Kane 

The Unspoken Decade: Punisher/Archie!! 

Flodo's Page: Green Lantern and the Little Green Man 

Between The Pages:  World’s Finest Couple: Lois Lane and Bruce Wayne

Bronze Age Babies: When Friends Like These ARE Your Enemies 


  1. In "Understanding Comics," Scott McCloud makes the case that most of the real action in comics occurs in the "gutter" between panels, but I think you've taken that to a whole new level, here, Flodo!


  2. Martian Manhunter NEVER gets his due. The guy could arguably take out Superman, but he just seems to be there to get beaten up so we know that a threat is a big deal before Superman takes it out. Some guys, like Ostrander and Mandrake, or Morrison/Porter use him well. I appreciate getting to see him here, and I appreciate the way he was used. Great work.

    Also, even if he could take out Superman, Martian Manhunter loses to Captain Marvel. Believe it!

  3. Love the buddy cop synergy between Manhunter and Rayner! I wish some writer of worth would do a great Manhunter book..we have yet to see him done well..although they do a great job here!

    Very enjoyable post Flodo..of course!

  4. It ain't easy being green. BOOM!

    I've been a fan of J'onn J'onzz, the Martian Manhunter, since the very bizarre but cool four issue miniseries by J.M. DeMatteis & Mark Badger that was published in 1988. Poor old J'onn hasn't had all that many solo stories since that time, but most of them I have enjoyed. The three issue American Secrets miniseries by Gerard Jones & Eduardo Barreto, the Special in 1996 by Paul Kupperberg & Mike Collins, J'onn's solo story from JLA Annual #1 in 1997, and the superb ongoing series by John Ostrander, Tom Mandrake & friends that lasted from 1998 to 2001 are all well worth picking up if you like the green guy.

    And, yes, I also like Kyle Rayner. Yes, I absolutely HATED that Hal Jordan was thrown under the bus in "Emerald Twilight." But I definitely think that Ron Marz did excellent work developing Kyle's character over the next several years.