I’ve recently started reading some comic books from the 1990s, and I started with the reboot of Green Lantern which started in June 1990. These comics actually came out while I was an avid comic book fan, but my tastes back then tended more towards the Marvel Universe and the X-Men series. Just over two years ago, a very good friend of mine introduced me to the Green Lantern universe. She was so adamantly passionate about Green Lantern that I started reading some of the later Green Lanterns and we watched the Green Lantern Animated Series on Thanksgiving of 2013.
There’s a lot going on in my life right now, but I found some of the comic books from the reboot of the Green Lantern series in 1990. I’ve been spending some time reading those and it’s been a really good experience.
As I begin my reading journey of these classic comic books, I have to say that I only have a very rudimentary knowledge of the Green Lantern and DC Comics Universe in general. I know that the Green Lanterns have rings they receive from little blue guys and that their rings can be used to do anything their imaginations can think of, so long as their rings are charged from their lantern every 24 hours. Their rings are powered by Will power, which means that they have to have the will to do what is required to solve their issues.
The cover of the first issue of the new Green Lantern comic books features Hal Jordan, John Stewart, and Guy Gardner. The three of them are very different personalities and the story begins with Hal Jordan in regular clothes, talking about a journey he’s taking across the United States on foot. I have no idea what’s happened prior to this issue, but there’s clearly some massive things that happened in Hal Jordan’s past. So Hal Jordan jumps off a cliff and then his Green Lantern part kicks in and he transforms into his costume at the last second and flies away, disrupting the camp site of several gentlemen on the ground.
Hal Jordan and Guy Gardner obviously don’t get along, and Guy Gardner isn’t really is a people person. Hal Jordan is shown as the ideal for the series, showing resourcefulness and is something of a ladies man, always focusing on the women around him. Guy Gardner is the typical male ego from that time, with the posturing and calling everyone names. This introduction comic book also shows some of the trauma of John Stewart and how he’s clearly suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder of some sort, where he holds himself responsible for the mistakes of the past.
Hal Jordan wanders to a farm and it feels like he’s not sure about who he is as a person without being Green Lantern. He stops at a selection of much quieter environments where he works for room and board and does what he can to have a simple life.
One of the things that really reminded me of my youth was the last page of this comic book, where it has a picture of Superman standing in space with the Earth in the background. The page says: “Be a Hero. Save the World. EARTH DAY 1990.” and then it gives an address to write to. This really struck me because I remember how the comic books I read as a younger person always seemed to focus on trying to subtly teach us how to be better people to each other and how to make the world a better place. The X-Men comics were designed to represent diversity and to help people see the similarities of the people around them instead of the differences. I was always a fan of the Marvel Universe as a younger person because Marvel took a lot more average people and gave them extraordinary powers. It always felt like the DC Comics Universe demonstrated people who were already extraordinary doing things to help other people, which didn’t resonate as well with me. With the notable exception of Green Lantern, which did take more average people and give them special gifts in the form of a ring of power.
Now, as an adult, there are a lot of good messages in these comics that I don’t know if I would have been ready for if I had been reading them when they first came out. These first eight issues of Green Lantern, from June 1990 through January 1991 mostly deal with the interpersonal relationships between Hal Jordan, John Stewart, and Guy Gardner. They show how some people attempt to deal with their issues by confronting everyone about everything and by attempting to use violence to solve all your conflicts, as is the case with Guy Gardner. They show John Stewart who attempts to bury his past and runs away from the memories of his mistakes only to find himself in a much worse situation with a being who granted him his Green Lantern ring. They show Hal Jordan and his continuous search to be a part of something, but how all he really does is form temporary connections with people who affect change through different interpersonal interactions on their own; how he is more likely to focus on his own issues, rather than help other people first.
All three of these characters are distinctly different in the methods they use to enact change in their world, and all three of these characters have different story archs through the first eight issues where they are attempting to solve the issue of a Guardian gone rogue, who is lonely and therefore attempting to build his own eclectic planet of all the places he has fond memories. These first eight issues address what happens on an individual level and on a universal level when power starts corrupting those who wield it. In these first eight issues, Hal Jordan and Guy Gardner abandon their Green Lantern rings in order to participate in a macho fist-fight and their rings are then used by people without their sense of duty to cause destruction. The Guardian named Old Timer uses his power to gather cities from all across the universe to build a place where he won’t be alone anymore. Guy Gardner is seen to use his ring to open beer cans and pick on reformed criminals.
Even the best, when presented with enough power or specific circumstances, can be corrupted by the power they wield. The underlying message of these first eight comic books is along the lines of what having power means and what that power shouldn’t be used to accomplish. It’s about people’s intentions and what motivates them to take action that will benefit themselves, but harm other people.
Overall, I’m happy to be reading these comic books and I would probably rate issues 01-08 as a three on my rating scale. The story is mostly interesting and the characters are all reasonably different and reasonably flawed.