Green Lantern is the name of several fictional characters, superheroes appearing in comic books published by DC Comics. The first (Alan Scott) was created by writer Bill Finger and artist Martin Nodell in All-American Comics #16 (July 1940). The best-known is Hal Jordan, created by John Broome and Gil Kane in Showcase #22 (Oct. 1959).
Each Green Lantern possesses a power ring that gives the user great control over the physical world as long as the wielder has sufficient willpower and strength to wield it.
While the ring of the Golden Age Green Lantern (Alan Scott) was magically powered, the rings worn by all subsequent Lanterns were technological creations of the Guardians of the Universe, who granted such rings to worthy candidates. These individuals made up the intergalactic police force known as the Green Lantern Corps.
After World War II, when sales of superhero comic books generally declined, DC ceased publishing new adventures of the Alan Scott Green Lantern. At the beginning of the Silver Age of Comic Books, DC editor Julius Schwartz had writer Broome and artist Kane revive the Green Lantern character, this time as test pilot Hal Jordan, who became a founding member of the Justice League of America. In the early 1970s, writer Denny O'Neil and artist Neal Adams teamed Green Lantern with archer Green Arrow in groundbreaking, socially conscious, and award-winning stories that pitted the sensibilities of the law-and-order-oriented Lantern with the populist Green Arrow. Several cosmically themed series followed, as did occasional different individuals in the role of Earth's Green Lantern. Most prominent of these are John Stewart, Guy Gardner, and Kyle Rayner.
Each of Earth's Green Lanterns has been a member of the Justice Society of America or the Justice League, and John Stewart was featured as one of the main characters in both the Justice League and the Justice League Unlimited animated series. The Green Lanterns are often depicted as being close friends of the various men who have been the Flash, the most notable friendships having been between Alan Scott and Jay Garrick (the Golden Age Green Lantern/Flash), Hal Jordan and Barry Allen (the Silver Age Green Lantern and Flash), and Kyle Rayner and Wally West (the modern age Green Lantern and Flash), as well as Jordan being friends with West.
Green Lantern (sometimes called The Green Lantern in the early days) was created by Martin Nodell (using the name Mart Dellon) and Bill Finger. He first appeared in the Golden Age of comic books in All-American Comics #16 (July 1940), published by All-American Publications, one of three companies that would eventually merge to form DC Comics. The collector market for original copies of this issue is strong, with a sale in October 2007 selling on an online vintage comic trading site, ComicConnect.com, for $29,250. This Green Lantern was Alan Scott, an engineer who had come into possession of a magic lantern. From this, he crafted a magic ring which gave him a wide variety of powers. The limitations of the ring were that it had to be "charged" every 24 hours by touching it to the lantern for a time, and that it did not work on wood.
Nodell had originally planned to give Green Lantern the alter ego "Alan Ladd," this being a linguistic twist on Aladdin, who had a magic lamp and magic ring of his own. DC considered the wordplay distracting and foolish, and the character's name was changed before publication to "Alan Scott." In May 1942, the film This Gun for Hire suddenly made the journeyman actor of the same name a movie star. Nodell would always joke that they'd missed a great opportunity.
Green Lantern was a popular character in the 1940s, featured in both All-American Comics and in his own title and co-starring in Comic Cavalcade along with Flash and Wonder Woman. He was a charter member of the Justice Society of America, whose adventures ran in All Star Comics. After World War II, the popularity of superheroes declined. The Green Lantern comic book was cancelled with issue #40 (October 1949). All Star Comics #57 (1951) was the character's last Golden Age appearance.
In the late 1950s, DC Comics successfully revived superheroes, ushering in what became known as the Silver Age of comic books. Rather than bringing back the same Golden Age heroes — as Atlas Comics, the 1950s precursor of Marvel Comics, unsuccessfully attempted — DC reimagined them as new characters for the modern age. Following the successful revival of the Flash in Showcase #4 (Oct. 1956), a new Green Lantern was introduced in Showcase #22 (September-October 1959).
This Green Lantern was Hal Jordan, a test pilot who was given a power ring by a dying alien, Abin Sur, and who became a member of the Green Lantern Corps, an interstellar organization of police overseen by the Guardians of the Universe. The Corps' rings were powerless against anything colored yellow, due to a necessary impurity in the ring. Jordan's creation was motivated by a desire to make him more of a science fiction hero, editor Julius Schwartz having been a longtime fan of that genre and literary agent who saw pop-culture tastes turning in that direction.
The Silver Age Green Lantern was unique in several ways. He was the first DC superhero with a family. Written by John Broome and drawn by Gil Kane, these stories have been reprinted in deluxe hardback editions.
This Green Lantern was a founding member of the Justice League of America and starred in his own title as well; in issue #40 (Oct. 1965), he met his Golden Age predecessor, who was established to live on the parallel world of Earth-Two, separate from Jordan's Earth-One. The two Lanterns struck up a close friendship and have periodically come to each other's aid. Hal Jordan's Green Lantern also became close friends with Barry Allen, and the two heroes appeared frequently in each other's comics to team up.
With issue #76 (April 1970), the series made a radical stylistic departure. Editor Schwartz, in one of the company's earliest efforts to provide more than light fantasy, worked with the writer-artist team of Denny O'Neil and Neal Adams to spark new interest in the book and address a perceived need for social "relevance" — a general pop-culture catchphrase of the time. They added the character Green Arrow (with the cover though not the official name retitled Green Lantern Co-Starring Green Arrow) and had the pair travel through America encountering "real world" issues, to which they reacted in different ways — Green Lantern as fundamentally a lawman, Green Arrow as a liberal iconoclast. Additionally during this run, the groundbreaking "Snowbirds Don't Fly" story was published (issues #85 and #86) in which Green Arrow's teen sidekick Speedy (the later grownup hero Arsenal) developed a heroin addiction that he was forcibly made to quit. The stories were critically acclaimed, with publications such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Newsweek citing it as an example of how comic books were "growing up". However, the O'Neil/Adams run was not a commercial success, and after only 14 issues, the two left the title, which was cancelled.
The title would know a number of revivals and cancellations. Its title would change to Green Lantern Corps at one point as the popularity rose and waned. During a time there were two regular titles, each with a Green Lantern, and a third member in the Justice League. A new character, Kyle Rayner, was created to become the feature while Hal Jordan first became the villain Parallax, then died and came back as the Spectre.
In the wake of The New Frontier, Geoff Johns returned Hal Jordan as Green Lantern in Green Lantern: Rebirth. The Green Lantern Corps would follow with Green Lantern Corps: Recharge. Currently there is a regular series for each, as well as some specials. Johns and Gibbons have been bringing back many elements from the title's rich and varied history, including formerly dead characters, ideas from Alan Moore's Green Lantern Corps' stories, with a sci-fi cop feel. This culminates in the creation of the Sinestro Corps and the Sinestro War. The Sinestro War ended shortly after the Guardians issues the first of ten new laws: Green Lantern's rings are now authorized to kill any member of the Senistro corps. This seems to have been Sinestro's goal because people will now fear Green Lanterns.
Alan Scott's Green Lantern history traditionally began thousands of years ago when a mystical "green flame" fell to Earth. The voice of the flame prophesied that it would act three times: once to bring death, once to bring life, and once to bring power. By 1940, the flame had been fashioned into a metal lantern, which fell into the hands of Alan Scott, a young engineer. Following a railroad bridge collapse, the flame instructed Scott how to fashion a ring from its metal, to give him fantastic powers as the superhero Green Lantern. He adopted a colorful costume and became a crimefighter. Alan was a founding member of the Justice Society of America. He is also an honorary member of the Green Lantern Corps. However, two subsequent stories threw this separation of Alan Scott from Corps history into question.
At least one story during one of the earliest cross-over adventures of the Justice League with their pre-Crisis Earth-2 counterparts, the Justice Society, showed Hal Jordan and Alan Scott charging their rings from the same Power Battery, an impossibility if the source of the two rings' power was different and incompatible. Thirty years later, a post-Crisis Tales of the Green Lantern Corps story brought Scott even closer to the Corps' ranks. It was revealed that Hal Jordan was predated as Earth's Green Lantern by a citizen of ancient China. Not only was the Corps' now-familiar green, black and white uniform motif not yet adopted, but this ancient Chinese GL altered the basic red of his uniform to more closely resemble the style worn by his countrymen. Power ultimately corrupted this early GL and the Guardians allowed his ring to manifest a weakness to wood, the material from which most Chinese weapons of the time were fashioned. This allowed the locals to ultimately defeat their corrupted “champion." His ring and lantern were burned and it was during this process that the “intelligence” inhabiting the ring and the lantern, and linking them to the Guardians, was damaged.
Harold "Hal" Jordan, a second-generation test pilot, having followed in the footsteps of his father, Martin Jordan. He was given the power ring and battery (lantern) by a dying alien named Abin Sur, whose spaceship crashed on Earth. Abin Sur used his ring to seek out an individual who was "utterly honest and born without fear" to take his place as Green Lantern. Jordan became a founding member of the Justice League of America and as of the mid-2000s is, along with John Stewart, one of the two active-duty Lanterns in Earth's sector of space.
Jordan was also a member of the Green Lantern Corps, which was modeled after the "Lensmen" from the science fiction novel series written by E.E. Smith. The early 1980s miniseries "Green Lantern Corps" honors this with two characters in the corps: Eddore of Tront and Arisia. A different interpretation of Jordan and the Corps appears in Superman: Red Son.
Following the rebirth of Superman and the destruction of Green Lantern's hometown of Coast City in the early 1990s, Hal Jordan seemingly went insane and destroyed the Green Lantern Corps and the Central Power Battery. Now calling himself Parallax, Hal Jordan would devastate the DC Universe off and on for the next several years. However, after Earth's sun was threatened by a Sun-Eater, Jordan sacrificed his life expending the last of his vast power to reignite the dying star. Jordan subsequently returned from beyond the grave as the Spectre, the divine Spirit of God's Vengeance, whom Jordan attempted to transform into a Spirit of Redemption, which ended in failure.
In the late 1960s, Guy Gardner appeared as the second choice to replace Abin Sur as Green Lantern of sector 2814. This placed him as the "backup" Green Lantern for Jordan. During Crisis on Infinite Earths, the Guardians split into factions, one of which appointed Gardner their champion. He has gone through many changes, including wielding Sinestro's Qwardian power ring, then gaining and losing Vuldarian powers, and readmission to the Corps during Green Lantern: Rebirth. He later became part of the Green Lantern Honor Guard, and oversees new Green Lanterns' training.
n the early 1970s, John Stewart, an unemployed architect, was selected by the Guardians to replace Guy Gardner as the backup Green Lantern for Jordan. When Jordan resigned from the Corps for an extended period of time, Stewart served as the regular Lantern for that period. Since then, Stewart was in and out of action due to various circumstances, even joining the Darkstars when the Green Lantern Corps was destroyed by Parallax. After that he took over being Green Lantern for Kyle Rayner when he left Earth, also taking his place in the JLA. Now he has begun serving with Jordan as one of his sector's two designated regular-duty Lanterns.
Kyle Rayner was a struggling freelance artist when he was approached by the last Guardian of the Universe, Ganthet, to become a new Green Lantern with the last power ring. Ganthet's reasons for choosing Rayner remained a secret for quite some time. Despite not being cut from the same cloth of bravery and fearlessness as Hal Jordan — or perhaps because of that — Rayner proved to be popular with readers and his fellow characters. Having continually proven himself on his own and with the JLA, he became known amongst the Oans as "The Torch Bearer". He was responsible for the rebirth of the Guardians and the re-ignition of the Central Power Battery, essentially restoring all that Jordan had destroyed as Parallax. Rayner later began operating as the Green Lantern known as Ion.
Kyle Rayner was chosen to wield the last ring because he knew fear, and Parallax had been released from the Central Power Battery. Ganthet knew this and chose Kyle because his experiences dealing with fear enabled him to resist Parallax. Because Parallax is fear, and yellow, none of the other Green Lanterns, including Hal, could harm Parallax and, therefore, came under his control. Kyle taught them to feel and overcome fear so they could defeat Parallax and incarcerate him in the Central Power Battery once again.
Kyle became Ion, who is later revealed to be the manifestation of willpower in the same way Parallax is fear. During the Sinestro War between the Green Lantern Corps and the Sinestro Corps, Ion was imprisoned while Parallax possesses Kyle.
The daughter of Alan Scott, the Golden Age Green Lantern, Jennie-Lynn Hayden would discover she shared her father's mystical connection to the Starheart, which gave her the abilities of a Green Lantern. Choosing to follow in her father's footsteps, she became the superheroine Jade. She would later fight a manifestation of the Starheart and lose those abilities.
After Jade was stripped of her powers, Kyle Rayner gave her a copy of Hal Jordan's power ring. When Rayner left to restart the Green Lantern Corps, Jade donned the classic Green Lantern uniform and served as Earth's Green Lantern until losing the ring during a battle with the villain Fatality. When the ring was later returned to her, she changed to a modified version of Rayner's Green Lantern uniform. Jade continued to function as a Green Lantern until Rayner, as Ion, used his power to restore her connection to the Starheart. During Infinite Crisis, she died while trying to stop Alexander Luthor, Jr. from destroying the universe to create a new multiverse. Upon her death, Jade returned all her Starheart powers to Rayner.
Green Lantern is famous for the oath he recites when he charges his ring. Originally, the oath was simple:
...and I shall shed my light over dark evil.
For the dark things cannot stand the light,
The light of the Green Lantern!
(This oath was later given as an in-joke to Tomar-Re, Green Lantern of sector 2813 and the first Lantern Hal Jordan met after Abin Sur.)
In the mid-1940s, this was revised into the form that became famous during the Hal Jordan era:
In brightest day, in blackest night,
No evil shall escape my sight
Let those who worship evil's might,
Beware my power...Green Lantern's light!
—Hal Jordan/All Current Lanterns
The word "blackest" was often replaced with "darkest" to avoid racist connotations. The above is the most popular version of Green Lantern's oath. Science fiction writer Alfred Bester, who wrote many Green Lantern stories in the 1940s, has been credited as the creator of this oath. However, in an interview with journalist F. Gwynplaine MacIntyre at the 1979 World Science Fiction Convention in Brighton, England, Bester stated that the brightest-day oath was already in place before he began writing for the character.
It had been established in the past that each Green Lantern has his, her, or its own oath. For example, Medphyl, the Green Lantern of the planet J586 (seen in Swamp Thing # 61, "All Flesh is Grass"), a planet where a sentient plant species lives, has the following oath:
In forest dark or glade beferned
No blade of grass shall go unturned
Let those who have the daylight spurned
Tread not where this green lamp has burned.
Other notable oaths include that of Jack T. Chance:
You who are wicked, evil and mean
I'm the nastiest creep you've ever seen!
Come one, come all, put up a fight
I'll pound your butts with Green Lantern's light!
and that of Rot Lop Fan, a Green Lantern whose species lacks sight, and thus has no concepts of brightness, darkness, day, night, color, or lanterns:
In loudest din or hush profound
My ears catch evil's slightest sound
Let those who toll out evil's knell
Beware my power, the F-Sharp Bell!
Since Green Lantern: Rebirth and the restart of the Green Lantern Corps, the only oath used has been the Brightest Day, Blackest Night version.
In Green Lantern 27, the Alpha Lanterns are revealed to have their own oath:
In Days of peace, in nights of war
Obey the Laws forever more
Misconduct must be answered for,
Swear us the chosen: The Alpha Corps!