Thursday, July 28, 2011

Comical Wednesday: How Green Was My... errr... Lantern?



In my last post, I wrote an overly-dramatic and tongue-in-cheek story about my figuring out that Skip Simpson had "padded" the votes for my poll about what the very first subject for Comical Wednesday* should be. I decided that either The Golden Age Green Lantern or the actual winner, Long Underwear Characters, would be first, depending on which post got finished first. I really "got into" the writing of the post that follows, so... Green Lantern won. (Besides, the Long Underwear post promises to be a lengthy one despite my best intentions, so I need to make it a multi-parter... and I didn't want to start my Comical Wednesday entries with one of those!) Next week: Long Underwear Characters... Part One!

Maybe you saw the recent Green Lantern movie. Maybe you didn't. Maybe -- if you saw it -- you liked it. Maybe you didn't.

No matter.

You see... Today's post isn't about that Green Lantern, Hal Jordan (although he will be mentioned here and there). It's about the first Green Lantern of the comic book world, Alan Scott. And although I could easily supply you with an overly-wordy, in-depth history of the character -- come on, you know I could -- this is going to be a relatively text-light (for me) roller-coaster of images, where I tell you only the very basics of what you "need" to know!

So hang onto... errr... whatever you want to hang onto, fellow babies, because here we go!

First, here is an absolute, bare-bones, reader-friendly history of comic books, and DC Comics in particular. I'm purposely leaving out a ton of crap information! You're welcome:

1. Comic books in the format by which we know them today (more or less) started out by reprinting popular comic strips of the 1930s. These (mostly) 64-page comics ate up a lot of material quickly, necessitating the creation of stories specifically for this new medium.

2. The 1938 debut of Superman in DC's Action Comics #1 started a wave of super-powered (mostly), costumed (almost always) "mystery men" in comic books. In the years preceding and during World War II, DC Comics alone (along with its "sister" company, All-American) introduced scores of new characters, including Batman, Wonder Woman, the Sandman, the Flash, the Spectre, and others. This ended up being called "The Golden Age of Comics" several years after the fact.

3. During the Golden Age, several of the DC and All-American heroes banded together in a group called The Justice Society of America, which made its home in All-Star Comics.

4. Superhero comics were the rage during WWII -- although hardly the only kind of title published, of course -- but sales started dropping drastically, roughly coinciding with the end of the war. By the early 1950s, most of the superheroes were gone. "Big guns" such as Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman survived. The superheroes were mostly replaced by horror stories, "crime" comics, adaptations of famous novels (most notably the Classics Illustrated series), Western titles, movie adaptations, sports comics, "teen" comics (notably the entire Archie Comics line), anthropomorphic "funny animals," romance comics, etc.

5. During the mid-1950s, DC began re-tooling some of its 1940s concepts for a more intellectual, "science-minded" readership. Thus began the "Second Heroic Age," better known as "The Silver Age of Comics." New versions of Green Lantern, the Flash, the Atom, Hawkman, and others began appearing throughout the rest of that decade and well into the 1960s. During the early 1960s, the former Timely Comics, now re-christened Marvel Comics, revived and/or re-vamped some of their 1940s characters like Captain America, the Sub-Mariner (that's pronounced sub-MARR-in-er, not sub-ma-REEN-er, btw), and the Human Torch, as well as introducing new concepts like the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, Iron Man, Dr. Strange, Ant-Man, and the "incredible" Hulk.

6. Sometime soon after this Silver Age began, the comic book writers -- urged by young adult readers/fans who still remembered the original versions of their heroes -- started bringing the older characters back, integrating their 1940s-1950s fictional histories with the new breed.

7. And that's where I came in. As I've (partially) explained before, the pre-adolescent, nowhere-near-Silver Fox branched out from the Superman and Batman titles (which made up my earliest attempts at reading) to the early Marvels, as well as others in the DC line (plus the "lines" of numerous other comic publishers, too).

*  *  *  *  *

Okay, as promised, now I cut down on the words (as much as possible), and start throwing the pictures at you!

Unfortunately, I missed the following four key issues... barely.





And why were those issues "key" issues, you wonder?

Briefly, The Flash #123 ("Flash of Two Worlds") re-introduced the original Flash, and explained that his 1940s and 1950s adventures had occurred on another, parallel world, which became known as Earth-2. ("Our" characters lived on Earth-1.)

The two Justice League of America issues pictured above brought back some of the Justice Society's members, in the first of many inter-dimensional JLA/JSA crossovers to come.

And finally, Green Lantern #40 was the first team-up of Earth-1's Hal "Green Lantern" Jordan and Earth-2's Alan "Green Lantern" Scott in the Green Lantern title itself. 

At this point, I was well aware that comic books had been around longer than I had, and wanted to learn more about the so-called Golden Age.

DC was nice enough to reprint "Flash of Two Worlds" not long thereafter, by the way.


By the time of the second JLA/JSA crossover, I was buying JLA regularly. The yearly team-up of both groups was my favorite event!


I missed the following issue of Green Lantern too... but isn't this a great cover?


Well, fellow babies, although I've always loved the Hal Jordan Green Lantern, I developed an affinity for his oddly-garbed (to say the very least!), apparently color-blind, Golden Age, Earth-2 counterpart, Alan Scott. But I had to content myself with Scott's occasional GL and JLA appearances until the early 1970s.

In late 1971 or early 1972, y'see, I found (and purchased) a virtual treasure trove of books about comic book and comic strip history, in the markdown section of my local Waldenbooks. (More on that some other time, I'm sure!) My favorite was, no doubt, Jules Feiffer's The Great Comic Book Heroes from 1965.



Feiffer's nostalgic tome reprinted several Golden Age comic stories of Superman, Batman, the Human Torch, Captain America, Will Eisner's The Spirit, Plastic Man.. and the very first Green Lantern story from All-American Comics #16!

Here's a little-seen treat for you, by the way! It's a never-published, preliminary page for the Green Lantern origin!


And here's the very first page (sans color) of GL's fabled premiere story.



And here's the cover to that same issue!



Green Lantern was created by artist Martin Nodell (1915-2006). As it happens, Nodell was the original artist for two of my favorite characters. One was Green Lantern, and the other? None other than Poppin' Fresh, the Pillsbury Doughboy!


And one more item about Martin Nodell (well, two, actually): In 1984, he drew a few pages for the All-Star Squadron Annual. Here's one of them, before it was "fixed" by the DC editors.



And then, for Green Lantern's 50th anniversary in 1990, Martin Nodell was once again allowed to draw his most famous creation in this special issue.



Here are two pages from this, the last new Nodell drawings to appear in the GL title.



Back to Green Lantern himself. As the series went on, he proved to be incredibly popular. He appeared regularly in All-American Comics, All-Star Comics, Comic Cavalcade, and of course, his own title, known as... errr... Green Lantern.

For quite a while, he had a comic relief sidekick, a cab driver with a heavy Brooklyn accent named Doiby -- "Brooklynese" for "derby" -- Dickles. Eventually, Doiby was phased out. Stories relied more and more on a super-villainess called the Harlequin, who was actually Alan Scott's secretary, Molly Mayne. She had a crush on him, and began a half-hearted life of crime to get his attention!








Unfortunately, with the slow-but-sure fall of the superhero titles, Green Lantern himself was eventually supplanted in billing by a Rin Tin Tin wannabe named Streak, the Wonder Dog! Oh, how the mighty [had] fallen!




The less said about that canine kibitzer, the better!

Anyway, fellow babies, if you're wondering whatever became of the Alan Scott & Molly Mayne romance, it took almost forty years for it to reach its logical end!


And they lived happily ever after... pretty much.

After that, I watched with a gradually-growing disinterest as DC tried to keep Alan Scott as a major player. They played with his aging process, and even tried giving him a new identity as "Sentinel," as if there was a problem in having one more damned Green Lantern in a universe which contained 3600!



Thankfully, the Sentinel bit didn't "take." 

They've done a lot more to the character since I stopped reading new comics, but as for me? I'm finally done with my own reminiscences!

By the way, I should probably mention that all of the Golden Age cover scans (and interiors) were taken from the internet. I only own one Golden Age Green Lantern appearance, the All-American Comics #99 which embarrassingly states on its cover that it contains "An exciting adventure featuring Streak the Wonder Dog and Green Lantern!" (Second billing to a freakin' mutt! Who'da thunk it?)

Why did I mention that I only own one of these valuable Golden Age comics? I guess I didn't like the thought of any of you turning... errr... green with envy!

*  *  *  *  *

And on that note... Thanks for your time.

*And many thanks to Alan Burnett for the unsolicited but otherwise ideal "Comical Wednesday" title. Next time you visit the USA, Alan, swing by Massachusetts and I will buy you a beer... or two!

14 comments:

  1. Okay compadre. All kidding aside. That was a thoroughly researched and fantastic post you just did! You should think about writing your own book about the history of certain super-heroes (much like how you were going to write the history of rock music when we shared that pad in Massachusetts back in the early 80's). I AM impressed!!! And just to let you know... I kidnapped Sharpie and threw him in the trunk of my car so he can't make his wiseass comments! He screams like a girl.

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  2. I got out of the trunk thanks to some girl who likes Star Wars. I read your article and I really like it. Now I'm going to take my new girlfriend for a hamburger or two.

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  3. @Skip: Thanks! Truthfully, however, the scans came from the 'net, but virtually all the information came from up here.

    Oh. Sorry. You couldn't see that when I typed "up here," I was tapping my right temple with my right forefinger.

    @Sharpie: Didn't I warn you about those Piefa...

    Oops. Sorry.

    But... A girl? A real girl? Why do I have the feeling we might not see you again... at least for a while?

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  4. Unlike that Skip Simpson chappy, I cannot be bought with a miserable pint or two of beer. Having said all that I did enjoy your encyclopedic dissertation (and hope you will adopt a similar image-packed approach when you get on to your article on the nameless girl in her underwear). But one question, Professor, if I may. In a genre that was always forward-looking and attempting to pre-guess the scientific developments of the coming years (space travel, laser guns etc) how come a character seems to be harping back to that symbol of Victorian fog-filled streets. the lantern, albeit green?

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  5. dude...it was fun tripping through the lore with you...have not seen the movie as i really don want it to mess up my image of GL...def props for the coolest superhero poem...

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  6. @Alan: Wow, maybe I should have made this one a two-parter!

    As briefly as possible:

    1. The 1940 GL's character wasn't as scientifically-based and "forward-looking" as a lot of others. In fact, his lantern's origins as presented originally were magical -- although other-worldly -- in nature. (Long story there, even longer than one of mine.) The lantern that came into his possession had been thought to be a totally "normal" trainman's lantern until the sentience within it revealed its powers to Alan Scott.

    2. The modern-day Green Lantern Corps -- which includes Hal Jordan -- wear rings fashioned in the shape of the gigantic "power battery" which supplies their... errr... power. It was created and maintained by extra-terrestrials, who shaped it into something which coincidentally and oh-so-conveniently resembles an earthly lantern... and they did it millions of years ago! I guess they were "forward-looking," without realizing it, huh?

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  7. @Brian: Skip, who -- all blog kidding aside -- is indeed a fan of the GL comics he grew up reading in the 1960s, saw the film and enjoyed it. I haven't seen it yet, but plan to, relying on his recommendation.

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  8. Ah, Skip will be forever claiming that cheating pays. Or maybe it's just that having friends pays. ha. And the Pillsbury Dough Boy? Who would have guessed!

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  9. haha and that wasn't a long one?..haha

    Agreed he must have been a bit color blind. Really informative trip now Green Lantern road. Admit he was never one of my favorites, never overly fond of DC. I'll wait for the dvd before I watch the movie.

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  10. @Betsy: Nahhh, it had nothing to do with "cheating pays" or "having friends pays." I don't play favorites in cases like this. Heh. As I said, this one was finished first because the "long underwear" post got a little out-of-hand, lengthwise.

    @Pat: Ignore virtually all the illustrations, and it's a pretty quick read... for one of my posts, haha! I don't have too many Marvel ideas coming up in the near future, but I have several older posts that focused on Marvels -- click on the "comic books": label if you have the time -- and I'll be dealing with a lot of characters from various other companies, as well.

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  11. The long underwear post got too long? Hmmm... Maybe you need to find the comic book heros that wear briefs and write a post about them? :)

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  12. @Betsy: Ha! Very clever! I love the ol' "beauty and brains" combination!

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  13. That was great! I have no clue about comic books so it was nice to get a history. And thanks for making it condensed as my attention span is short!

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