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These best stories of the comic books are preceded by their issue number. They were edited by Julius Schwartz.
This article deals with the Green Lantern Hal Jordan of the Silver Age. There is a separate article on the Golden Age Green Lantern Alan Scott of the 1940's.
Inexpensive paperbacks of the Green Lantern tales, are available in the Showcase Presents: Green Lantern series:
Broome's stories tend to come in series. These are two or three stories with common subject matter and approaches. Apparently his creative imagination worked that way: rarely just one story, and rarely four or more in a series, but rather two or three. There are three main early stories about Qward, and three stories about Sinestro and the Green Lantern Corps: these two series were the science fiction high point of the early magazine. There were also three Sonar stories, two Zero Hour tales, two Star Sapphire stories, and so on. It makes sense to discuss these series of stories in groups.
Green Lantern was unusual among comic book super heroes in that his powers were not fixed and limited. Instead, whatever he could imagine, the ring could do. Broome tried not to repeat himself from issue to issue. Instead, he tried to make each super feat something that Green Lantern had not done before. The newness of the feats was not underlined by editorial comment; it just was. Still, it is remarkable to see Broome stay fresh across stories.
Green Lantern's powers were unusual in that they could explore the inner workings of the human mind. He could shine the rays from his ring on a person's brain, and it would penetrate to its hidden resources and memories. Many stories center on the ring's exteriorizing people's thoughts, giving them bodily shape outside a person's mind. The ring translates Green Lantern's wishes and thoughts directly into green beams, for instance. The monster in "The Invisible Destroyer" (1959) emerges from a character's subconscious, as does that of "The Leap Year Menace" (1960) in #3. The creature in "The Leap Year Menace" also bears a visual resemblance to the earlier monster in "The Creature That Couldn't Die" (1960).
Green Lantern also had the role of exposer of hidden truth. The ring had remarkable search capabilities. In the first story, "SOS Green Lantern" (1959), it searches the entire globe of Earth, for example.
Broome tends to write his scripts as learning experiences for the protagonist. They do not have all the answers when they start. Instead, they learn about something in the course of the tale. This is especially good at showing new planets. It also allows the characters to achieve new insights into their life experience and choices.
However, Kane only rarely shows few if any signs of Infantino's interest in multi-media, such as incorporating drawings of photographs in the stories; or in Infantino's fondness for sequence shots. Nor can I recall any instances in Kane of Infantino's triangular panels. Kane's panels are seem to be all rectangular, despite their very varied page layouts.
There are occasional multi-media features in Kane's art. They tend to occur more often in the short features in the back of the magazine, than in the main stories. It is as if Kane felt that these tales needed a sense of style, features designed to give the tales some individuality and distinction. These features include newspapers with black and white "photographs" as illustrations, in "Green Lantern's Brother Act" (1961). The opening of "Zero Hour in Silent City" (1962) shows Thomas working at his desk, surrounded by photographs and a statue of Green Lantern, these multi-media art objects being drawn within the panel as part of "reality". This tale also has a unique stylistic feature. When the city descends into silence, as a side effect of a science fictional weapon, people open their mouths to talk, but no sound comes out. This is represented in comics language by having people talking with empty balloons, blank where the dialogue should be. It is an ingenious effect. One wonders who dreamed it up: Broome, Kane or Schwartz. One suspects Kane, for there are similarly unusual balloons in Kane's "The Friendly Enemies of Space" (Strange Adventures #81, June 1957), written by France E. Herron. In that tale about synesthesia, the balloons are not simply blank, but filled with color, to show that people are "talking in color".
Another standard Infantino feature, the picture sequence, shows up in "The Trail of the Missing Power Ring" (1962). This is a series of images, all with a common background, which show the motion of some objects in the foreground. Infantino regularly used such devices in The Flash, to convey the movement on which that magazine depended.
Kane's art has a pure geometric quality that is unique to it. Green Lantern's power ring effects tend to include circles and straight lines, while the backgrounds are more often made up of rectangular buildings. This geometric quality in Kane links his art to Constructivism, and other abstract art movements that stressed geometric patterns. The geometric cities, made up of rectilinear solids, remind one of Kazimir Malevich's Architectonics (1920's), for example. Kane's depiction of contemporary cities tend to consist entirely of such rectilinear solids, whereas his futuristic cities feature circles, spheres and cylinders. These futuristic cities of Kane are less often seen in Green Lantern than in such sf comic books as Mystery in Space.
One can also see gender symbolism in the ring effects. The curving, circular quality of the ring effects, the lantern, and the ring itself are links to the female principle in the universe, whereas Hal himself is male and the world he lives in tend to be made up of the male symbolism of straight lines. This means that the ring allows Hal to get in touch with the female side of nature.
There are other Malevich like effects in Kane's art. When Green Lantern travels to a parallel universe in "Green Lantern's Wedding Day" (#32, October 1964) (page 11), Kane uses the comic book convention of representing this travel as an abstract art light show, filled with geometric patterns. In addition to circles, Kane includes repeated long, narrow rectangles, all titled on a parallel angle, and nested against one another. Such rectangles unmistakably resemble those in Malevich's Suprematist compositions (1915 - 1920). One also notes the spiral in this sequence: although not Malevich like, it is visually striking.
Kane had a remarkable gift for flying sequences. Green Lantern always seems poised in space. He almost seems to be swimming in air. He can convey a sense of fast motion if his wishes, but more often there is a sense of extreme comfort and maneuverability of his hero through space. This is unlike the flying sequences of any other comic book super hero.
The shots at overhead angles from the air are among the best in Green Lantern. These include the circus scene in "The Secret of the Black Museum" (1960), the finale of "The Creature That Couldn't Die" (1960) in the same issue (Showcase #24), and the cover of #5. In general, the art in Showcase #24 is some of Kane's best work in the series.
The Silver Age (1958 - 1965) was a unified cultural period in many art forms other than the comics. In films and real life, it was the era of the playboy. Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack made a series of films during this period. Sinatra and his buddies lived the playboy life style more than anyone else in the "real world", but their films do not fully capture it. The definitive movie image of the slick American playboy was created by Rock Hudson, in a series of comedies costarring Doris Day. Before 1958 he appeared as the idealistic hero in a series of films directed by Douglas Sirk among others, but now he was a slick, well to do, well dressed party animal. European film makers created a parallel set of imagery with Italian playboys, a series of sophisticated, well dressed men who experienced La Dolce Vita in Rome. In addition to that Fellini film, one also recalls the playboy heroes of L'Avventura and Last Year at Marienbad. Even a film maker as tradition oriented as John Ford picked up on the playboy image, with Spencer Tracy's party animal son in The Last Hurrah (1958), one of the most vivid screen delineations of the type. In real life JFK embodied much of the same image, as did his pal Sinatra. You can't be a playboy without a city, and most of these men were associated with one location: Sinatra and the Rat Pack with Las Vegas, Rock Hudson with New York City, JFK with Washington, and the Italians with Rome, although they also spent a great deal of time on Mediterranean cruises. Playboys existed completely before hippies and the counter culture, and before the Beatles. They were always dressed in either suits or tuxedos, and they drove exciting cars, often convertibles. Movie playboys tended to be weak willed, self indulgent and spineless. However, they were never mean or cruel or malicious. Usually at the end of the film they were mildly punished for their lack of backbone. Then they would try to reform, and marry the heroine.
Visually, the character of Green Lantern was modeled not on Rock Hudson or Sinatra, however, but reportedly on the movie star Paul Newman. Newman played plenty of men with a playboy side himself during this period, especially the cool cars and clothes, but there always was an edge to character, part idealism, part rebelliousness, that moved him beyond the playboy stereotype into a more serious mold. This edge was appropriate to the heroic Green Lantern. The resemblance to Paul Newman is especially close in the second Green Lantern story, "Secret of the Flaming Spear" (1959). The last panel in the tale, when he becomes full of frustrated romantic longing for Carol, is virtually a portrait of Paul Newman.
John Broome wrote the tales of Captain Comet. "The Guardians of the Clockwork Universe" (Strange Adventures #22, July 1952) introduces characters similar to the Guardians in the later Green Lantern stories. "The Invaders From the Golden Atom" (Strange Adventures #37, October 1953) introduces in one brief tale, subjects and imagery that will be developed in Broome's first 19 Green Lantern comic books. Please see the article on Captain Comet for details.
Broome and Kane worked jointly on three non-series science fiction stories published around the same time they were creating Green Lantern, that echo Green Lantern in various ways. Please see the article on Mystery in Space.
One might note that the second origin story also builds on elements first found in "Summons From Space" (1959). The Guardians explain the voice from the Lantern in that earlier tale. And the interplanetary adventure is similar to that in "Summons".
The events on the other planet also recall the movie King Kong (1933). Broome has "science fictionalized" the story of King Kong, placing it on another planet, and giving the large monster science fictional powers, unlike Kong, who is simply a giant ape. Broome has completely stripped away the racist imagery that disfigured King Kong: the superstitious, primitive natives are now light skinned in Broome's version, and the huge monster is no longer covered with black fur.
The art is completely redrawn in the second story by Gil Kane. It shows the same story events as his original, and the same imagery, but shows them from new angles, perspectives and distances, often moving his point of view closer or further from the action in the second version. Neither version is "better" than the other; instead, it is as if two different sets of camera teams were recording the same events, each with their own camera set ups. We see more of the cone tip of the alien space craft in the first version. The two space craft have slightly different shapes; and the interior cockpit has also been slightly redesigned. This is one of the few space ships in the series; later Green Lantern will travel between planets using nothing but the powers of his ring. Kane's imagination of what a space ship might look like is virtually a "landscape"; everything in it is original looking. It emphasizes strange, complex curves.
Green Lantern's ring does not produce any "realistic" shapes here; there are no hammers or nets. Instead, the power beam produces a series of abstract shapes. We see the ring engulf the trainer ship, in a series of unusual shaped green bulges, and wrap itself twice around the world in rings. There are also two abstract images based on circular rings: one showing the radiation coming from the Lantern, the other the fatal yellow rings engulfing the Earth. Both of these abstract designs anticipate the later abstract images of the translation to Qward, which are also composed of circles. So right at the start here, we have a celebration of abstract art, integrated into the narrative framework of a tale.
Abstract art was originally designed to be "non-objective": to depict spiritual states experienced by humans, to give pictorial expression to emotions and to religious experiences they underwent. The abstract art in Green Lantern often has a surprisingly similar function. The green beam responds to Green Lantern's will, and gives his inner thoughts external embodiment. This first story also has a religious side. Green Lantern is called to his task, the way a Prophet in the Bible was called.
Several other Silver Age comic book artists had an interest in abstract art. Carmine Infantino, who also worked on the Schwartz edited publications, often fused abstract art within his work with realist drawing. Stevc Ditko's Dr. Strange series showed the magic of the characters as spectacular abstract patterns. There is much less abstraction in the Superman family; however, Al Plastino's circular vortex in "Lois Lane Weds Astounding Man" (Lois Lane #18, July 1960) comes to mind.
Summons From Space (1959). Thoughts from the lantern summon Green Lantern to Venus, to help primitive humans there. This story extends the Green Lantern mythos in some positive ways. It is the first Green Lantern story set in outer space, and establishes that Green Lantern can travel through space and function on other planets.
It also shows for the first time the thoughts coming from the lantern. We learn that Green Lantern has promised Abin Sur to obey these voices' commands. Neither Green Lantern nor the reader knows whose thoughts these are - we will later learn in "The Planet of Doomed Men" (1960).
This tale includes another first: having Green Lantern become his own rival to secret identity Hal Jordan, in courting Carol Ferris. This replicates the long-standing Superman-Clark Kent-Lois Lane triangle, although Green Lantern is far more passionate in pursing Carol than Superman often seems to be with Lois. It is a workable plot line, but unoriginal, and less interesting than the fact Carol Ferris is a woman business executive, set forth in the previous issue's "Secret of the Flaming Spear".
Riddle of the Frozen Ghost Town (1960). Thomas Kalmaku gets Green Lantern involved with a treasure hunt in the Arctic. The origin of Thomas Kalmaku, who works as an airplane mechanic with pilot Hal Jordan, and as friend and ally to Green Lantern. The Green Lantern series is notable for the number of continuing character Good Guys it kept adding to the stories. Thomas Kalmaku is the most likable and important of these characters.
Thomas Kalmaku shows good reasoning skills, at the end of the story. His deduction from a clue reminds us that Broome emphasized clue-based detective reasoning in his Big Town tales.
Broome has concealed the clue, in the artwork for the story. Such nonverbal clues in the art were a staple of 1960's comic books, appearing infrequently but regularly.
This story is constructed like a typical Western - only it takes place in the far North in the Arctic. The tale introduces a Western staple, a ghost town, but offers a surreal and science-fictional Arctic version. Broome has taken a Western plot, and "science-fictionalized" it. "Science-fictionalizing" a plot is a core Broome method for constructing a story.
The "frozen" town recalls a villain Broome created as an adversary for The Flash: Captain Cold, and his gun that can "freeze" things, covering them with a layer of ice. Captain Cold debuted in "The Coldest Man on Earth" (Showcase #8, June 1957).
Other than the ghost town, the thriller aspects of the tale seem routine. The scene where Green Lantern has to show courage and resiliency in the face of disaster, has a certain inspirational quality, however.
Earth's First Green Lantern (#16, October 1962). Writer: Gardner Fox. This short prequel shows us the background of Green Lantern Abin Sur's final mission. It explains what he was doing when he met Hal Jordan in the Origin story, and passed the Green Lantern role on to him. It was written by Gardner Fox. It was his first story for the magazine, and shows his typical vast science fiction perspectives. This tale is pleasant but minor. It has some nice sidelights, including the futuristic architecture on the planet Ungara.
Abin Sur is a professor of history on his home planet of Ungara: a thoughtful profession that is far more scholarly than most of the characters we encounter in Green Lantern. He always seems to be a very serious person, one with a grave sense of purpose. Although this tale and the origin stories are among his few appearances, he makes an indelible impression. Gil Kane has done his usual great job imagining a different race of humans: both the facial features and the red skin convey a dignified look at another, imaginary race.
Earth's Other Green Lantern (#59, March 1968). A computer shows Green Lantern what history might have been like, if the other best choice for Earth's Green Lantern, teacher Guy Gardner, had been chosen instead of him. The origin of Guy Gardner. Broome and Kane also retell the origin of Green Lantern. This tale's architecture is closely based on Otto Binder's "Superman's Other Life" (Superman #132, October 1959). In both stories, a computer shows an alternative history, in which another man fulfilled the protagonist's super-hero role. Both stories come to a similar kind of conclusion, as well.
Later, post-Broome comic books made a big deal of Guy Gardner, featuring him in a series of stories. His origin story is strictly minor stuff, however. The most original part of Broome's tale is his epilogue, depicting a meeting between Hal Jordan and Guy Gardner. This echoes Broome's theme of friendship between men.
Gil Kane's cover shows a fight between the two men. No such fight takes place in the story. This is one of the few Broome Green Lantern scripts which ignores its cover. Broome has some funny, tongue-in-cheek narrations in the story, which compare the grandiose, sf actions of the tale to ordinary aspects of life on Earth. These comparisons emerge matter-of-factly in the narration. Broome often used his narrations to add humor to a script.
The name Guy Gardner clearly is an homage to Gardner Fox. Guy Gardner also bears some resemblance in Kane's art to other illustrations one has seen of Fox. See Sid Greene's art for "Menace of the Shrinking Bomb" (Strange Adventures #113, February 1960), a tale whose hero is a Fox stand-in called Gregory Farmer. Kane's cover makes Gardner look especially macho, with short red hair and his mask removed. His depiction in the interior art is more humanized and individualized. There is an especially good portrait (p14).
Gil Kane's cover includes one of his largest portraits of GL's lantern. The lantern used by GL to charge his ring is distinctly Constructivist in Kane's art, made up of spheres, cylinders and other pure geometric shapes. It has a circular handle, attached to two circular plates at the side of the lantern. The lantern is a sphere, with a conical hole drilled in the side to radiate the green light. Two squat cylinders are attached to the sphere's top and base. Along the side of the sphere, unique curling lines rise up, emphasizing the curvature of the sphere. The whole object is very beautiful.
Green Lantern's continuing romantic problems, being rejected by women he longs for, were already present in this second story. These will recur in later 1960's superheroes, such as Steve Ditko's Spider-Man (1962 - ).
Broome often showed a climactic situation developing step by small step, through a series of stages. The relationship between Carol Ferris and Hal Jordan in this tale is an example.
This is the first Silver Age tale to have Green Lantern reciting his oath.
The tale establishes that the lantern is kept in the hero's private dressing room at the company, giving Green Lantern a base of activities. The base is small and modest: much smaller than Batman's Batcave, for example. But it is thoroughly personal and private, and an effective locale for headquartering the lantern and Green Lantern's activities. It is also a place where Green Lantern can change into and out of his uniform, like that storeroom at the Daily Planet used by Superman. The dressing room is a fixed, well-defined place though, unlike that vague, briefly seen storeroom. As a room full of lockers, originally designed for Hal Jordan to change in and out of his business suit into his flying clothes, the dressing room has a masculine, technology-oriented feel.
The Secret Life of Star Sapphire (1962). In later tales, Ferris got a secret identity of her own. Periodically, she blacked out, and adopted a new identity as Star Sapphire, a super powered villain. Eventually she would resume her identity as Carol Ferris, and have no memory of her attacks. One always got the impression that repressed inner conflicts were driving this transformation, especially conflicts over the state of women in 1960's America.
A letters column pointed out that the character of Star Sapphire was a villainess from the 1940's; writer John Broome has revived her here in the 1960's in a new format and incarnation, just as he did with Green Lantern himself.
Rays are never just straight lines in Kane's art. He gives a completely different shape to Star Sapphire's rays than to Green Lantern's. This conveys that her rays have different powers and are of different substance. They also make different shapes when they land on an object and "splat"; GL's always radiate out like a circle with a star's points, not just here but throughout the whole saga. The scene where the two rays meet and duel is especially interestingly drawn.
Star Sapphire Unmasks Green Lantern (1964). Writer: Gardner Fox. Carol Ferris resumes her role as Star Sapphire, and tries to prove she is a better crime fighter than Green Lantern. Fox turns Carol's transformation into Star Sapphire into a repeatable cycle. He has the Amazons give her a standard way to become Star Sapphire, and a standard way to return to her Carol Ferris identity. As usual in a Fox cycle, the protagonist is in the same state at the end as in the beginning.
Once a Green Lantern -- Always a Green Lantern (1964).This tale (written by John Broome) also deals with women's issues. It centers on another planet's Green Lantern (each planet has one), a woman. She is debating whether or not to resign from her Green Lantern job, in order to get married and raise children. One wonders immediately why she can't do both jobs, but this point of view is not raised. While this is anti-feminist, many other aspects of the story are strongly pro-feminist. She is depicted as brilliant at her Green Lantern job. Our Green Lantern of Earth is sent on a mission by their bosses explicitly to talk her out of quitting. And the end of the story does not wimp out. It takes her work with the utmost seriousness.
For more instances of feminist comic book tales, see my Index to stories with political and social commentary and search for "feminist".
However, in retrospect, many of these worldly advantages seem like disadvantages, at least in our enjoyment of the comics. For one thing, the Hal Jordan of the Showcase stories is clearly a member of the military-industrial complex. He spends much of his time hanging out with military people, and many of the villains in the earliest Showcase tales are traitors, saboteurs and other Cold War bad guys - not the typical villains in most Silver Age comics. Even as a kid in the early 1960's, I found this military-industrial world distasteful. This attitude reflects my Mid-Western upbringing. Many people here in Michigan regarded, and still regard, defense contractors as leeches on their taxes. Tax dollars would be pumped out of states like Michigan, where people mainly earned their money in civilian industries like the automobile industry, and sent to states like California, to be spent on elaborate pork barrel weapons projects.
Hal Jordan's endless machismo in these early tales also seemed dubious. Clark Kent was a reporter, Barry Allen a police scientist; neither was glamorous, but both were solid, well respected professionals in jobs that required skill. By contrast, Hal Jordan mainly earned his living by being more macho than other people. This did not seem like a good role model to me. Jordan also was Making It as an Organization Man in ways that were alien to Clark Kent and Barry Allen. It was clear that he had the right mix of machismo and charm to marry the boss' daughter and take over the company eventually.
The first Showcase issue describes Green Lantern's test pilot work as being located somewhere in the American Southwest; this was indeed typical of real life test pilot programs, which tend to be focused in the deserts of Southern California and Arizona. By the second Showcase issue, Green Lantern was living in Coast City, which seems like a thin fictionalization of Los Angeles, California, although it has a suspension bridge that looks a lot like San Francisco's Golden Gate. The magazine describes it as being on the West Coast of the United States. Later issue will make it clear that it is in California.
Much of this military-industrial complex background faded away when GL got his own magazine. The stories tended to concentrate on science fiction, and less on test pilot work. Hal Jordan's earthly duties become much more involved with the growing space program in the US, a far more laudable activity.
The Invisible Destroyer (Showcase #23, November-December 1959). This is a second early Showcase tale in which Green Lantern is involved with the military-industrial complex. In both stories, Green Lantern has to cope with weapons of mass destruction: here the Bomb, missiles attacking a city in the previous story. These tales deal directly with the Atomic Age: Green Lantern is posed as a figure who can defeat the monstrous weapons of modern times, and bring them under control. This is a central aspect of his early definition as a hero: GL's fight against both weapons was the cover subject of the first two Showcase issues.
Numerous science fiction films of the 1950's dealt with monsters that were unleashed by atomic radiation: Godzilla, and Them!, for instance. These films were widely seen as responses to the anxieties of the Atomic Age. These Green Lantern stories are far more direct: they represent the new weapons realistically, and imagine a hero who can defeat them. This is one of the most direct, unvarnished, undisguised looks at Atomic Age anxieties in any medium. A prose sf writer's look at the same material: Clifford D. Simak's Way Station (1963).
The picture of scientists is very different from that of the Superman family comic books edited by Mort Weisinger. In Superman, scientists were usually heroes, contributing good advances towards human progress. Here, in the military-industrial world portrayed by Green Lantern, scientists are bad guys. Mainly they are working on weapons systems. As this story suggests, even worse things are lurking in their subconscious's, waiting to get out. They tale combines two great fears: fear of modern weapons, and fear of what destructive forces lurk in our subconscious. It suggests that much of the work of scientists on military weapons is in fact driven by their sinister subconscious longings and destructive urges.
I had not read these tales as a child, and was disconcerted to find them here. If much of Green Lantern's work soars off into the Heaven of outer space and science fiction, this early work is like a descent into the Inferno of modern militarism.
Broome also wrote a non-series sf story about refugees in the magazine Mystery in Space, "Behind the Space Curtain" (1959). Broome is clearly a writer with a major humanistic vision.
For more instances, see my Index to stories with political and social commentary and search for "refugees".
The images in the Qward stories showing the transition from Earth to Qward are visionary works. They are pure geometric patterns of brightly colored circles, in the tradition of geometric abstraction, looking a bit like Kandinsky's paintings of circles, and also of Alexander Rodchenko. They anticipate the abstract art still to come in Steve Ditko's Dr. Strange comic books.
The Amazing Theft of the Power Lamp (1960). This is the weakest of the three stories. It has some good ideas towards the start, with the hallucination sequence. This is a story in the same genre as Otto Binder's "The Super-Hallucinations" (Jimmy Olsen #22, August 1957). The hallucination is mirror-reversed: Kane shows this visually by reversing the polarity between two shots of GL arriving at Ferris Aircraft, one on the top of page 2 with the tower on the left, the second at the bottom of page 3 with the tower on the right. Such low angle shots of industrial buildings remind one of the transition shots in Ozu. The images have many cylinders of different widths and lengths; they are all aligned along the same axis, so they are perfectly parallel with each other.
The tale also has one of the first yellow domes or spheres in the magazine; such yellow spheres will play a major role as traps in the stories to come. Their perfect spherical shape accords with Kane's interest in drawing geometrical figures. GL himself is inside a green sphere on the cover. The rocks on the cover, and in the introductory panel, remind one of the elaborate rocks in the comic strip artist Burne Hogarth. The rocks have "similar shapes but are pointing at all angles, in an interesting composition": this is the same pattern used by Kane to draw groups of boards or girders in other stories.
The Diabolical Missile From Qward (1961). This story shows Broome's tendency to build long stories out of multiple segments. Here there are really two tales: one about a missile set on Earth, the second about a robot on Qward. He could easily have made these two short stories, but they are cobbled together to form a single work. The missile story shows some of Broome's greatest ingenuity in plotting traps. The sinister leaders of Qward are here dubbed the Weaponers. Both their name and their missile demonstrate Broome's deep seated fear of the use of modern technology to construct weapons, a fear shared by most people on Earth. Most people repress such fears consciously during the day time. But works of art, like Broome's tale, allow such ideas to rise up from the subconscious, and be contemplated.
Gil Kane's art makes much out of a set of boards shattered loose from a farm barn. The individual boards are arranged into a series of fascinating geometrical compositions. Kane achieved a similar effect in "The Man Who Mastered Magnetism" (#21, June 1963), with a series of metal girders attracted to GL. These appear in both the introductory panel, and in the tale itself.
This story also introduced Tomar-Re, a Green Lantern of a bird like alien race, and a continuing character in the magazine. Tomar-Re is an excellent character, serious, intelligent and kind. Bird people have a long history in prose fiction, notably Rima in W.H. Hudson's Green Mansions (1904), and humans have an especial love of the concept. Tomar-Re is the first of all the alien Green Lanterns we see in the saga. He is a harbinger and a representative of them all, the one I suspect most readers first think of when they think of the Green Lanterns of numerous worlds. Gil Kane's art for Tomar-Re is excellent. He first designed such bird people for the cover he did of Mystery in Space #42 (February-March 1958), and re-used the same design here.
The Green Lanterns of multiple worlds are a key example of an approach Broome for story construction: the "science fictionalization" of a previous idea. Broome had earlier shown one Green Lantern: why not make many Green Lanterns, and have them part of a universe wide team? This takes a previous concept, and turns it into a whole science fictional system. Broome's science fictional imagination is one of his strongest traits as a writer, and his science fictionalizations are usually peak points of his work.
Some of Broome's science fictionalizations have the formal effect of adding a new dimension to his tales. Here, there are a series of Green Lanterns, when before there were only one. It is not hard to conceive of these Green Lanterns all lined up in a row - Broome and Kane will show such a line-up in a later tale. This linear row functions as a dimension, an independent variable in mathematical terms, which defines the various Green Lanterns. If a factor analysis were to be performed on the ideas in Broome's story, this "Green Lantern dimension" would be one of the factors.
The multiple Green Lantern concept, and Tomar-Re, only appear in the very beginning and end of a long, three part story. Most of the rest of this tale is taken up with a science fiction adventure on another planet that is much less interesting. The beginning and ending are outstanding, and make one recommend the story as a key moment in GL history, but the bulk of the tale is ordinary.
One of the persistent concepts in the Green Lantern saga is the ability to materialize thought. Green Lantern's ring works this way, and several villains in the series are projections of other beings. Many science fictional devices in the series involve projecting thoughts or images, or controlling other people's minds. Here Broome has pushed this concept to a sociological extreme, by imagining a planet where everyone is projecting a thought image of themselves. This is typical of modern science fiction: an idea will start out in stories being used by one person or a few people, then a story will follow where it is in mass use by a whole society.
This story concludes with a marriage. Broome portrays the marriage as an alternative to the sterility of a "perfect" society, where people only interact by thought. A similar marriage will end "Prisoner of the Power Ring" (#10, January 1962). The idea of a possible future marriage between GL and Carol Ferris was much discussed in the letters column. Broome also wrote non-series tales about people trying to leave oppressively "perfect" societies, for example, "Escape From the Earth" (Mystery in Space #61, August 1960). I have always been dubious about this theme, which has been used by many sf writers. There are plenty of poor people in the world whose lives would be much better in such perfect societies - it seems absurd to despise them, merely because they are not filled with adventure.
The Day 100,000 People Vanished (1961). This is the first of a trilogy of great stories about the Green Lanterns. These stories create an awesome vision, an inspiring view of the wonder of the universe. They are the imaginative high point of the Green Lantern saga.
All three stories have a continuing villain, Sinestro. This is the first series villain in the Green Lantern books (Hector Hammond had already been introduced in a single story, but did not become a series character until later). According to the letters column of #9, "Sinestro" is pronounced with the accent on the first syllable, as in the word "Sinister". Sinestro is a well done character, and one who plays a major role in all three tales. Despite this, these fine stories are not "about" Sinestro. He is instead one character in a science fictional tapestry. These stories are ultimately about a noble vision, the universe and the Green Lanterns who thrive in it. The emphasis in these tales in not on evil, but on good.
Still, the depiction of Sinestro's corruption in the start of this story is a major piece of storytelling. It offers an unusually plausible view of how power and vanity can corrupt a person. The story is part fable, part realistic drama, part political text. It serves as a key warning to readers of the magazine: it is clearly designed to be didactic, to hold up a model to readers to warn them against, a reminder they can check on in their own lives in order to swerve them from these paths.
Sinestro's story has several antecedents. In part, it recalls the fall of Satan in Milton's Paradise Lost, with Sinestro recalling the renegade archangel of that epic poem. One can certainly see the Guardians as representing a Divine Power, the Green Lanterns as the angels, Sinestro as the fallen angel Satan, and Qward to which he is banished as Hell. But Sinestro also is a portrait of all the dictators who have plagued the 20th Century. He is similar to how many Americans in 1961 viewed Fidel Castro: they had supported him in the early days of his struggle against Battista, only to watch him convert himself into a Communist dictator. Sinestro is searching for only one thing throughout his appearances: a chance to become a dictator again.
In addition to such classical and real life political references, one can also see antecedents to this story in prose science fiction and in other comics. The central world Oa on which the Guardians live recalls the planet Trantor in Isaac Asimov's The Foundation Trilogy (1941 - 1950). The banishment to Qward anticipates the banishment of criminals to the Phantom Zone in the Superman family. And the attack on dictators here recalls similar attacks on dictators in the Superman comic book.
The article on The Flash discusses how Sinestro's portrait draws on Broome's earlier villain Gorilla Grodd, Please see the entry on "Super-Gorilla's Secret Identity" (Flash #108, August-September 1959).
The Battle of the Power Rings (1961). This is the story that puts it all together about the Green Lanterns of many worlds. In many ways, it is the culmination of the early Green Lantern saga.
The Strange Trial of Green Lantern (1962). This third story in the trilogy is a bit more light hearted, more of an adventure tale than the others. It is still completely delightful, with a recapitulation of many of the themes and ideas of the trilogy. We see the concept underlined here that Sinestro is a sinister "double" of Green Lantern, one who has given in to the temptations that the Green Lantern of Earth has resisted. Such a doubling is common in films and TV: it was used many times by Alfred Hitchcock, for example. This story is filled with genuinely dream-like imagery.
Peril of the Yellow World (1962). Sinestro returns in this entertaining tale. There is nothing about the Green Lanterns of many planets in this story, which is lighter and more humorous than the trilogy. Still, it makes enjoyable reading. Broome has re-included many elements of Green Lantern tradition in this carefully paced work, making sure they are not dropped by the series. It opens by giving us more about the relationship between Hal Jordan and Carol Ferris. Then there is a small sf mystery on Earth, a series of puzzling events. Such a mystery was the start of many of Green Lantern's early adventures. GL would look for the cause of the mystery, and be caught up in another sf adventure. That is exactly what happens here, and most pleasantly. Then Sinestro returns, escaping from a trap again, and there is more about Qward - two returning favorites. Both of these elements are full of gentle comedy. Finally there is adventure on another planet, this time all yellow. This is a logical culmination for GL's weakness with yellow - a whole planet filled with yellow objects. The story concludes with another small mystery.
Gil Kane's cover is superb, showing a transition from an Earth city to a desert on a yellow planet. It is a surrealist image, showing a sudden and abrupt change from one environment to another. It is an archetypal image of transition.
The World of Perilous Traps (1963). Green Lantern swears not to use his ring again, after it seems to harm people. This story is an instant replay of "Peril of the Yellow World", right down to the title. It shows lesser craftsmanship than the earlier Sinestro tales, but is still a fun example of storytelling. This would be the last Sinestro story in Green Lantern for four years.
SPOILERS. The dream is constructed like one of Broome's detective stories. It proceeds step by logical step, each step getting Carol closer to the truth about Green Lantern's secret identity.
The dream suggests sexual potency: Hal Jordan is dressed in formal day wear, coming from his wedding. This is a very potent image for men. Just before the dream, we see Hal Jordan in other activities that suggest potency: flying a jet, driving a sports car.
The "giant monster wrecking a city" plot in the tale's second half, recalls 1950's movies about such monsters. Like many such monsters, the one in the tale is:
Wings of Destiny (1961). This short tale deals with events in the daily lives of the characters on Earth. This is a typical pattern in Green Lantern - there is a long science fiction story, then a short work moving their personal lives along. This story introduces Thomas' fiancee Terga.
The story is most notable for its dream sequence. It is one of two great dreams in the magazine, the other being in "The Creature That Couldn't Die" (Showcase #24, 1960). That dream was Carol Ferris'; this dream is done by Green Lantern himself. Carol's dream dealt mainly with Green Lantern's secret identity; GL's is about his friendship with Thomas. The story takes us right into Green Lantern's subconscious.
We also see Green Lantern's bedroom, one of the few sequences in his home anywhere in the series. #17 says that Hal Jordan lives in a boarding house; this seems to be the first indication of this fact anywhere in the magazine. Already in this tale, which was published over a year earlier, it looks as if Hal Jordan might have a single room in a large modern building. This story takes place at the opposite pole from most GL stories: they take place during the day, this is set at night; they take place in the public realm, this is at the most personal level.
Two other aspects of the boarding house are unusual:
Please see my list of Comic Book Heroes in Tuxedos.
Green Lantern's Brother Act (1961). This tale introduces the Jordan brothers, including Hal's older brother, a serious man who is running as D.A. against a crooked political machine, and his comic younger brother Jim. The way Green Lantern gets involved in a political contest here, where a crooked machine is trying to win an election, reminds one of the Aquaman story, "The Great Ocean Election" (Adventure #263, August 1959).
This comic story includes a take-off on the "Lois Lane suspects Clark Kent of being Superman" plot in the Superman family. In fact, Lois Lane is mentioned by name in the tale. Whether this is a reference to a fictional character, the way many mystery writers refer to Sherlock Holmes within their stories, or whether the writers are referring to a "real" woman who lives in Metropolis, with the Superman mythos cross pollinating that of Green Lantern, is not clear. I suspect the former: Lois Lane here is a fictional character, and the people in Green Lantern have read her stories, and know about her as part of their cultural background. If so, this is a fairly rare instance of one comic book referring to another, as part of the mental furniture of its characters.
I enjoyed the gangsters in this tale, and their inspiration from gangster movies. This film parody reminds one of the many Hollywood take-offs in the Superman family.
My Brother, Green Lantern (1962). This is another comic tale, this time a spoof of Dashiell Hammett's The Maltese Falcon (1929), especially the John Huston film version (1941).
There are some clever plot ideas on switched rings. This sort of ingenuity is close to that employed in the Superman family magazines.
I liked the art at the end, showing Hal Jordan in white tie. He is definitely the Best Dressed of all comic book heroes. After all, this is a man who puts on a tuxedo the same casual way guys today slip on a sweatshirt. Please see my list of Heroes in White Tie and Tails.
Dual Masquerade of the Jordan Brothers (1963). This is the best of the Jordan Brothers tales. It takes place at a costume party, in which everyone is impersonating everyone else. Please see my list of costume parties in comic books.
This "someone is impersonating Green Lantern at a party that Hal Jordan is attending" plot was previously used in "Secret of Green Lantern's Mask" (#4, January-February 1961). This second version builds more complex plot complications out of this premise. It is also a much more good natured party than in the earlier story, where the middle class Hal is trying to crash a Society function to which he was not invited. It makes for an intriguing situation. GL is watching someone who claims to be him. It is like meeting yourself, or finding another person who is dressed just like you. The way that the Green Lantern impersonator here is his own brother Jim adds to the doubling effect. Jim looks remarkably like his brother Hal, when dressed in the GL uniform. He also looks just plain sharp - the GL uniform is one of the best designed of the sixties. It is one that one could imagine wearing on the street in real life, and looking more good than weird in it - it looks a lot like athletic wear.
Multiplying Green Lanterns also occur in other stories, notably the first Hector Hammond tale, "The Power Ring That Vanished" (1961). These are "real" GL's, created by the power ring, not impersonators as in this tale.
This third Jordan Brothers story also builds on the "switched rings" plot ideas of the second story "My Brother, Green Lantern". It shows one ring, dependent on another. This multiplication of rings also recalls "The Trail of the Missing Power Ring" (1962).
Pay Up -- Or Blow Up (1964). Jim and Sue's wedding plans are interrupted by a criminal who is blackmailing their town by threatening to send deadly radiation over the electrical power lines.
One can see Green Lantern's ancestry in the Mystery in Space sf comic book: the title uses the same double hyphen frequently used in that comic.
While Hal Jordan was originally modeled after Paul Newman, in this tale he looks more like Cliff Robertson. Jim's similarity to Hal is underlined in this tale by having him rub his hand behind his head - a classic GL gesture.
There is some good art depicting caves (page 11).
Saga of the Millionaire Schemer (1966). Sue enlists Uncle Titus Jordan's help in her quest to prove that her husband Jim Jordan is really Green Lantern.
Two Green Lanterns in the Family (#53, June 1967). Hal baby sits his new godson, Jim and Sue's baby Howard.
There is something trivial about Green Lantern using his powers to fight ordinary criminals on Earth. There is a disproportion here. However, the powers of sense and perception that Green Lantern displays in these tales are genuinely imaginative.
The Origin of Green Lantern's Oath (1962). Several early GL stories focused on his role as crime fighter on Earth. As the science fiction elements multiplied in the 1960's, this role stood in danger of being lost. A story like this one helped preserve it. It functioned much as a refuge area does for animals, giving an endangered or dwindling species a chance to survive. One sometimes felt that some of the earliest Green Lantern stories were stretched out, that a small idea had been milked for a long tale. This work goes to the opposite extreme: it is an anthology of three stories, all contained within a framework tale about Green Lantern's oath. Each story contains the sort of plot idea that in earlier issues would have made a whole tale. It is if Broome had been taking a whole series of story ideas, and condensing them all down here, so that they would be preserved, publish and survive amid the more sf plots of the sixties.
The stories here deal with perception. Green Lantern can use his ring as a sensing device, picking up on clues that would be invisible to ordinary human senses.
The tale has an unusual opening panel: it is a triptych composed of three panels, each showing one the three stories making up the tale. This is unusual, and I cannot recall any other instances in DC Silver age comic books where the opening panel was not one single large scene. Kane has drawn them as three tall, narrow vertical panels; this anticipates the cover of "Peril of the Yellow World" (1962), which also is made up of two tall vertical panels, showing the transition from one world to another.
Noteworthy here is another of Kane's aerial shots. This involves a green beam search from the air, just as in "Menace of the Runaway Missile" (1959), from the first Showcase issue. Here however, we see all of the Ferris Aircraft company from the air. It is a fine piece of art. It also helps establish Green Lantern's world. Here is the entire place where he works, all imagined and laid out for the reader. Where the Green conical beam reaches the Earth, it makes an elliptical ring around the Ferris company. This is mathematically correct: the intersection of a cone with a plane at this angle does in fact produce an ellipse! The ellipse is a beautiful geometric figure in Kane's composition, as well.
The Green Lantern stories were filled with "extras". These were ordinary people on the street, who would react to or take part in the events of the tale. Although they would show up for only a few panels, Kane put great emphasis on drawing them, as did George Papp in Superboy. They tend to be middle class people in Kane's art, with the men well dressed in suits and ties. Many of these people are as glamorous as Green Lantern himself: take the young man in the suit who is in the foreground of the magnesium flare image in the story.
Zero Hour in Silent City (1962). The silence here transforms an entire city. It is related to other such cities in Green Lantern: the city blinded under magnesium flare in "The Origin of Green Lantern's Oath" (1962), and the town emptied of people in "The Day 1000,000 People Vanished" (1961). All of these involve the city losing a key dimension, losing some major part of itself. As in the magnesium story, this involves the senses. The senses are very important in Green Lantern tales: one also recalls the hallucination in "The Amazing Theft of the Power Lamp" (1960), the second Qward story, and the tuning fork induced hallucination in "The Man Who Conquered Sound" (1962). There is some good art in the story, showing overhead shots of the city.
Both of the Zero Hour tales stress Hal Jordan's feelings. These are not the feelings of his personal relationships. Rather, they are the feelings he has for his surroundings: here how he thinks about his work, and the enjoyment he gets from a baseball game. The later story shows his awe of a rocket launching at Cape Canaveral. This gives an unusual look into the emotional life of a super hero. The feelings are conveyed with sensitivity and delicacy.
Zero Hour in Rocket City (1962). The astronaut launches of the early 1960's genuinely impressed the writers of the DC comics books. They were the real life events of the time that resonated positively through all the pages of the stories, both those edited by Mort Weisinger and Julius Schwartz. Here, Hal Jordan gets involved with this for this first time. Hal Jordan flies to the Cape on a government mission. This is the most significant thing Hal has had to do in his own identity since the first Showcase issue, which also emphasized his test pilot role.
Gil Kane's art shows one of his modernistic airports: always some of the best drawn buildings in the series. Kane's art emphasizes pure geometric forms. His airports tend to have a huge glass walled tower in their middle, serving presumably as a control tower. This tower always has a complex polygonal shape, that tends to make it look like a huge diamond. Combined with the rectangular shapes of the rest of the airport, we get an interesting architectural extravaganza.
Hal Jordan also gets some new clothes here: his flying togs. Previously we have seen him in coveralls while working on his planes. But these are a whole flying suit. Comics are a visual as well as a verbal medium. If a character is going to take on a new role, the artist tends to emphasize it with a new costume. Here Hal Jordan's increased prominence in the series as a pilot is underlined by his new flying suit. Other characters also get new clothes: there are many pilots around the Cape in full uniform. These recall the elaborately uniformed pilot in the opening panel of "Wings of Destiny" (1961). The colorist has also made these uniforms a similar shade of gray.
The Spy Eye That Doomed Green Lantern (1962). Writer: Gardner Fox. It is one of the best stories in Green Lantern. Here the emphasis is on Hal Jordan, and his contribution to the space program. Hal gets to accomplish something worthwhile, in his own identity and with his own talents and efforts. Even Carol Ferris is impressed. Hal's work here, with a rocket plane that flies into and out of orbit, seems to be an ancestor of today's space shuttle. It is a good concept, and one that was still ahead of its time in 1962. Hal Jordan recognizes its historic significance, and knows about where it might lead in the future.
There is much more in this richly plotted tale. The spy eye recalls the remote TV cameras and monitors in "Green Lantern's Statue Goes To War " (1962) and "Peril of the Yellow World" (1962). Such TV viewers are ingenious scientific devices. But they are also well suited to a visual medium such as comics, allowing events to be shown to the readers. We see more of the boarding house, where Hal lives. Once again, Gil Kane has him in his flying suit, emphasizing his role as pilot. The intricacies of the plot, and its emphasis on penetrating Green Lantern's secret identity, recalls the stories appearing in the Superman family magazines.
The thinking processes of the people in the story recalls other Green Lantern stories. They piece together clues, and gradually reason their way to discoveries. It is the bad guys in this tale who do this, but it is often Hal Jordan himself in other stories.
The Duel of the Superheroes (1962). This story teams up the two characters Broome scripted: Green Lantern and the Flash. While they had been together for some of Schwartz' group magazines, this was their first outing as a pair. This long story is good at all levels. It has a rich science fiction background, like many of Broome's tales. It also gets us close to the personal lives of Green Lantern, Carol Ferris, Thomas, Terga, Barry "The Flash" Allen and his girlfriend Iris West. The characters do a lot of personal interaction, and these delightful encounters give readers what they want out of such a tale: much friendship between the continuing characters, as well as much fencing around the subject of secret identities.
All of these characters get together for a weekend at a resort with a swimming pool, and we see the swimming pool life of California that was the envy of the rest of the United States in the 1960's. This gives Broome's typical balance: an Earth setting, often quite glamorous, alternating with science fictional locations. The sf background here is in the tradition of Qward: another dimension with evil rulers. By making this a non-series story, Broome gets to resolve sf plot issues here at the end of the story more completely, than in the ongoing Qward saga, where essentially nothing can change.
Broome put much careful thought into how his heroes would collaborate. DC produced a huge number of Superman - Batman pairings in the 1950's and 1960's, and these had a major problem: Superman was vastly more powerful than Batman. Green Lantern and Flash have a similar problem of balance: Green Lantern is virtually all powerful, whereas the Flash is merely fast. Broome compensates for this by weakening GL: he is hypnotized by aliens near the start of the tale, and has to be rescued by the Flash. He also gets knocked out at some points, a device frequently used in Green Lantern to make his otherwise all powerful hero vulnerable. Broome used this trick so much that readers began writing humorous letters, satirizing GL's clumsiness. Broome also includes sequences in which the two heroes work together, and sequences in which they fight each other.
Broome has the Flash in a more science fictional setting than usual in his own magazine, and he takes advantage of it to produce an unusual twist on Flash's origin. This is an example of Broome's approach of "science fictionalization". Broome has taken an earlier idea, the Flash' origin from chemicals and lightning, and turned it into something that could potentially be mass produced. One could envision multiple Flashes, just as earlier Broome created the Green Lanterns of multiple worlds. This could be viewed as a new dimension of multiple Flashes; such new dimensions are frequently formal patterns involved in Broome's science fictionalizations. By the way, Broome did not create the Flash' origin: that was done by Robert Kanigher. So this is chance to personalize that origin, and to put his own creative ideas into it.
Gil Kane gets to draw the Flash here, a hero who is normally illustrated by Carmine Infantino. He does a good job with both the Flash and Iris. The grids of overhead lights beloved by Infantino in Iris West's Picture New Office show up here - perhaps as a homage to one of Infantino's favorite subjects. One can see some friendly humor here on Kane's part, picking up on a colleague's stylistic mannerism. Barry Allen is glamorized much more than in Infantino's version - he comes off as one of Kane's glamorous playboys, sitting around in his swimming trunks.
Kane is good at depicting thought on the characters' faces. One can see what they are thinking: puzzling things out, reasoning and other cognitive tasks are often portrayed with subtlety. Complex emotions are often portrayed as well. Kane also includes some of his patented overhead shots, this one a beautiful view of a clover leaf highway.
Parasite Planet Peril (#20, April 1963). This is the second Flash-GL teaming in Green Lantern. Its best part is at the beginning, where Iris and Carol compare notes. It also has some good sequences with police scientist Barry Allen, reminding us of how much respect scientists typically received in DC magazines. Here Barry is using an electron microscope. This must be one of the first mentions of this fascinating device in all of popular culture.
This story is lively reading, but it is not as creative as the first Flash-GL outing. Much of the plot revolves around a microscopic world, the subject of an earlier Green Lantern tale, "Prisoner of the Power Ring" (#10, January 1962), one of the magazine's more minor stories. The political situation, and its resolution in the microscopic world, resembles that of the earlier Flash-GL tale "The Duel of the Superheroes" (1962), however.
Catastrophic Crimes of Major Disaster (1966). Writer: Gardner Fox. This is one of the best Green Lantern - Flash team-ups. Fox rings many ingenious variations on the heroes' powers and secret identities. As in the earlier pairings, both Iris West and Carol Ferris play roles, as well as Thomas Kalmaku. The story has a satisfying symmetry. Fox's stories often have "doubles", men who exchange places and roles. Here Green Lantern and the Flash become Fox doubles. The story also shows that Fox staple, the high tech search for a hero's secret identity by a bad guy.
Broome did not invent Earth-Two; instead, the concept had exclusively appeared in stories written by Gardner Fox up till this point. Even in The Flash, a magazine largely scripted by Broome, the Earth-Two tales had been written by Fox. Fox had previously revived Alan Scott, the Green Lantern of the Golden Age, in "Solomon Grundy Goes on a Rampage" (Showcase #55, March-April 1965), and had established that he was now the president of the Galaxy Broadcasting System.
This story and its two sequels were Broome's first essays into this subject. The idea of another dimension was a natural for Broome, who had previously had great successes with his Qward tales. The relationship between the two Green Lanterns is quite different from that between the two Flashes in Fox's stories, however. Fox depicted the Flash of Earth-Two as an older man, one with a wife, a past career, and gray hair at the temples. The relationship between Barry Allen and Jay Garrick was one of Barry meeting his childhood hero, a man of a different generation.
By contrast, Broome and Kane depict the two Green Lanterns as young men of the same age. There is complete equality of position between the two men, who have the same role as Green Lanterns in the two dimensions. This is one of Broome's odes to friendship. There is deep regard between these two equals. Many plot ideas in the series center on the two men working closely together and pooling their abilities. This recalls Broome's GL-Flash pair-up, "Captives of the Cosmic Ray" (Flash #131, September 1962).
Another difference: Broome's stories do not bring in the Justice Society and Justice League, as many of Fox's do. Instead Broome sticks closely to the mythology of the two Green Lanterns, including Alan Scott's delightful comic assistant Doiby Dickles, and his cab named Goitrude. There is also no sense of nostalgia in Broome's tales, unlike Fox's. Fox's stories referred to Earth-Two as the home of 1940's comics, and often recalled old adventures of the Golden Age. In Broome's tales, both dimensions are completely parallel to each other, and both lead a fully contemporary life. This is consistent with Broome's love of modern times.
This tale purports to show the origins of the Guardians. However, all of this is a shuck. Many key facts about their beginnings are deliberately withheld. Furthermore, what the tale does show is disappointing. The tale is one of Forbidden Knowledge: the Guardians are Not Meant To Know their origin, and bad things happen to them and the universe every time they try to find out. I've always found Forbidden Knowledge tales to be anti-intellectual and anti-scientific, and this one is not better than the others in this dubious genre.
The cover has beautiful art by Gil Kane. He is especially skilled in his portrait of Alan Scott in his original Green Lantern uniform. The cover also shows the Guardians. It underscores the fact that the Guardian's outfits have many common features with that of the original Golden Age Green Lantern's, notably the Lantern logo encased in a circle on their chests.
Prince Peril's Power Play (1966). Doiby Dickles, the Man Friday of Alan Scott, summons both Green Lanterns' help when Princess Ramia of the planet Myrg is threatened by the evil Prince Peril. This is the best of the three Alan Scott tales that Broome wrote.
This comic story is delightfully tongue-in-cheek. The whole idea of an outer space princess in trouble was already old hat by the 1960's, although George Lucas revived it with a straight face in Star Wars (1977). Broome sees the exuberantly comic side of his material. Yet he also gives it a full story telling development.
This story adheres to the political ideals that had always informed the Schwartz magazines. Prince Peril represents the pro-war group on Myrg; the Princess, Doiby and the Green Lanterns defeat him, and his rule is replaced by that of a Peace Party on Myrg. This plot had appeared in countless non-series sf stories in Mystery in Space and Strange Adventures. During the 1950's and 1960's, such a plot was not too controversial. War mongering dictatorships like Prince Peril's were easily identified with Hitler and the Soviet Union. The US Government had launched countless disarmament proposals, all of which had been torpedoed by the Soviet Government, which refused to allow disarmament with inspection. History clearly records that Soviet obstructionism was the main road-block to disarmament during the Silver Age. Prince Peril's military parade exhibiting his weapons of offense here seem modeled on the ugly parades of military hardware the Soviet government put on every Mayday. They form a delicious satire of such Red parades. The story's conclusion here represents a deeply held wish fulfillment fantasy about what might happen to such a parade, depicted in a full-page panel. Broome and Kane show their delightful wit and gifts of satire here.
However, by the time this tale was published in 1966, the United States had been involved in the Vietnam War for three years. Publishing an anti-war story like this, even one that was strongly anti-Communist, was an obviously much riskier business. Schwartz, Broome and Kane deserve credit for sticking to their pacifist beliefs. The Gardner Fox-Murphy Anderson "The Million-Year-Long War" (Hawkman #12, February-March 1966) of the same year is equally pacifistic.
The costumes of the Prince and the other Myrg courtiers combine Viking and fairy tale aspects, with those of Kane's Costructivist approach. Both the helmets, and the designs on the chests, are made up of pure geometric shapes.
Our Mastermind the Car (1967). Both Alan Scott and Hal Jordan investigate, when Doiby Dickles' beloved cab Goitrude develops a mind of her own, and leads a crime gang.
This story explicitly refers to My Mother the Car, a real life TV series of the era. My Mother the Car was a fantasy comedy about a man whose late mother has returned to Earth in the guise of an antique car, one who talks, thinks and gives him maternal advice. The show was widely reviled by TV critics of the era as a horrible example of how dumb television had become. The show was so ridiculed in the press that it was quickly canceled. In retrospect, the whole controversy seems overblown. Looked at from today's perspective, the show was perhaps not as bad at it was made out to be at the time. For one thing, everyone agreed that the show was harmless, non-violent, G rated family fun. Considering some of the sleazy entertainment in today's Hollywood, its wholesomeness might be refreshing. Also, critics of the day might have equated fantasy with stupidity. Despite their popularity in the 1960's, both science fiction and fantasy had zero cultural prestige. Critics felt able to ignore or ridicule anything that contained sf or the fantastic. Comic books themselves, at an astonishing peak of quality during the Silver Age, were given absolutely no recognition by mainstream critics of the era. Because they dealt with outer space, they were dismissed as low brow junk.
My childhood memories of My Mother the Car suggest that the show was a pleasant, somewhat mild, and not especially inspired comedy, one that was by no means as bad as the critics said. Broome's reference to the show is respectful and pleasant. In fact, his mention here is virtually the only contemporary evidence that anyone liked My Mother the Car.
While this story's plot idea and title was undoubtedly inspired by My Mother the Car, there are antecedents for it in Broome's own work. Broome had written a charming, whimsical work in which newsman Steve Wilson's car thinks and acts and tells us his feelings about sharing Steve's news cases over the years: see "The Four Wheeled Newspaperman" (Big Town #42, November-December 1956). This tale is a brief burst of fantasy in an otherwise non-fantastic, realistic comic book about a New York newspaperman.
The stories have similarities and differences. In both tales, the car is intelligent, and can act on its own; there are funny scenes of its driving itself. In "The Four Wheeled Newspaperman", we see the car's thoughts, but it cannot talk. In "Our Mastermind the Car", the car talks, but we do not share its thoughts. In "The Four Wheeled Newspaperman", the car is a 100% good guy; here, Goitrude is acting as a villain. We do not know Goitrude's inner motivations here, which are kept as a plot development later in the tale: this perhaps explains why Broome chooses not to show her thoughts. Goitrude recruits and leads a human mob of cheap crooks here; these guys are much dumber and more low brow than she is, and follow her brilliant masterminding of crimes. Such as non-human leader of a gang of crooks recalls Broome's Captain Comet tale "The Guilty Gorilla" (Strange Adventures #39, December 1953), in which an intelligent gorilla similarly builds up and leads a mob. The two tales are similar in their approaches. Both are equally nutty and surrealistic.
This tale is notable for some good portraits of Alan Scott by Gil Kane; he is often featured in the images, as such a tale is a rare chance by Kane to draw this character. Several of these show him from above, flying (p7,8). Kane gets good geometric effects out of the complex curvature of his cape (p10). There are also straightforward portraits of high quality: one emphasizing a single curly lock of his hair (p7), and one that includes both head and chest (p10). The finale shows the two Green Lanterns shaking hands, one with his hand on the other's shoulder (p23). It is a classic image of friendship.
Hammond is also an Older Man, with hair graying at the temples. As a "scientist who is older, wealthy with a mansion" he recalls the scientist in "The Invisible Destroyer" (1960). That scientist was an apparently Good man who had evil impulses lurking in his subconscious. Hammond is a full-scale villain. Older Men with wealth and power are seen as villains and threats to the hero in early Green Lantern tales. And they seem linked to images of Scientists.
Hector Hammond is a recurring type of Broome villain who comes out of nowhere, has awesome powers, and becomes a famous public sensation.
Early scenes show a flying Green Lantern being admired by a crowd of young men on the street, paralleled by a subsequent scene of Hector Hammond being admired by a group of rich young men at a Society party. Broome villains are often driven by a craving for fame and admiration. This often corrupts them and leads to their committing crimes. Good guys in Broome are also subject to the same temptation, an example being the adulation shown Green Lantern here.
Gil Kane's art shows both crowds as full of very handsome young men, all dressed in suits. They are examples of Kane's Leading Men. The crowd admiring Green Lantern is a bit younger, and distinctly more middle class in dress, than the rich young men admiring Hammond. Both groups seem like Good Guys, however: the crowd admiring Hammond has no idea that Hammond is secretly a bad guy.
The cover shows Green Lantern losing his power ring, an image of performance anxiety if there ever was one. The story itself opens with a recreation of the cover situation. Then the tale flashes back, to explain how the cover situation arose. Having stories "explain" a dramatic cover was a comic book tradition. Here, the "cover and explanation" approach is worked right into the structure of the story, with its flashback construction.
SPOILERS. The evolution, devolution and ape aspects of this story, echo material Broome used previously in his tales about villain Gorilla Grodd, which began with "Menace of the Super-Gorilla" (Flash #106, May 1959). Apes were huge audience draws in this era: young comic buyers were eager to buy comic books with apes on their covers, for example.
The interesting impersonation elements remind us that Broome included impersonation in some of his Big Town detective tales, such as "The Man Who Stole Steve Wilson's Face" (Big Town #39, May-June 1956) "Steve Wilson's Last Deadline" (Big Town #41, September-October 1956) and "The Mysterious Masquerader of Big Town" (Big Town #49, January-February 1958). See the section of the Big Town article on "Actors and Doubles". All of these Big Town tales involve men who impersonate the hero, becoming his exact double. This is also the approach in "The Power Ring That Vanished". However, this tale goes beyond mere impersonation, to involve duplicate power rings, a science eviction element without parallel in the non-sf Big Town tales.
The Man Who Conquered Sound (1962). Sonar, a villain who uses a tuning fork to control sound, battles Green Lantern to bring publicity to his tiny Balkan country. Broome's villains tend to have limitless needs for public recognition. They are motivated by a need for fame and the trappings of modern media celebrity, as by anything else. The comic villain Sonar is a bit more sympathetic than most, because he is searching for fame, not for himself, but for his obscure country.
Kane has Sonar tricked out in a elaborate uniform that looks like a Balkan prince's in a silent movie dealing with Ruritanian romance. It is at once dashing, and a bit ridiculous. Its brilliant and clashing blue and red colors hold the eye. This sort of comic opera uniform and Graustark-like kingdom background popped up fairly regularly in the Superman family of comic books. See "Jimmy Olsen, the Boy Swordsman" (Jimmy Olsen #41, December 1959) or "The Secret Life of Krypto" (Superboy #97, June 1962).
Master of the Power Ring (1963). Writer: Gardner Fox. Hector Hammond returns, in a tale in which Green Lantern investigates mysterious meteors. This is Gardner Fox's transformed version of Hammond, now immobile and with an enlarged head. This is a very different character from John Broome's original conception.
The first half of the story does not include Hammond. It features Green Lantern investigating a series of strange phenomena. Each investigation follows a similar template:
The first episode involves a sandstorm in the Kalahari Desert. Having his hero travel to a Southern Hemisphere location like the Kalahari, recalls the openings of Fox's Adam Strange tales.
The Threat of the Tattooed Man (1963). Writer: Gardner Fox. A crook who can make his tattoos come alive and fly though the air robs art museums. The powers of the Tattooed Man are similar to Green Lantern's own, in that he can turn his thoughts and images into physical reality.
With its museum robbery background, and sub-plot of a jealous Carol, this story resembles Broome's "The Mirror-Master's Magic Bullet" (Flash #119, March 1961).
Hal has an apartment here, not a rooming house, but little is made of this change.
Half a Green Lantern is Better Than None (1964). Based on a cover sketch by Mark Hanerfeld. Black Hand, a cliché spouting crook, causes half of Green Lantern to vanish into another dimension. Aside from Sinestro, the series villains in GL are mainly not that interesting. Black Hand is an exception, because he is such a funny character.
This story represents an enthusiastic return by Broome to the spirit and quality of his early GL tales. This tale, and "Once a Green Lantern -- Always a Green Lantern" and "Pay Up -- Or Blow Up" in the next two issues, contain many new ideas that extend the GL mythos. They build logically on the early stories, and continue the trends already started in them, such as the Green Lanterns of multiple worlds, and the saga of the Jordan brothers.
The villain's three brothers in the tale remind one of the Jordan brothers. They are as good as he is bad, and clearly very accomplished, just like the Jordans.
A note on the name Black Hand. During the early part of the Twentieth Century, organized crime in the United States was known as "the Black Hand". This is clearly where Broome is getting his criminal's name.
This World is Mine (1964). Writer: Gardner Fox. A protonic force that can inhabit any object battles Green Lantern at a fairground; first he occupies a giant statue of Green Lantern, then a large yellow topaz ring. Each of the two sections of this story is a Fox cycle. The two sections operate in parallel, with similar events taking place in both. This sort of construction in typical of many Fox tales. Each cycle has these components:
This story is very loosely linked to Broome's "The Strange World Named Green Lantern" (1963). At the end of that tale, a fire ball was expelled from the center of the planet. In "This World is Mine" Fox suggests that that fire ball contained a protonic force, which becomes the villain of this story. This is a new idea; it is not present in Broome's story. It does help Fox integrate his tale into the existing Green Lantern mythos. Fox also sets this tale against a background of observation by the Justice League of America, whose tales Fox regularly scripted in their own magazine. He gives the League's teenage chronicler Snapper Carr some good lines. Snapper always talked in a weird but entertaining dialect of his own, vaguely related to the Beat poetry of the 1950's. Such characters with their own linguistic style are an ancient comics tradition, one with its apogee in George Herriman's Krazy Kat.
The conclusion of this story treats Green Lantern as Earth's hero, just as Fox's Adam Strange tales depicted him as Champion of Rann. It is a very moving portrait. Carol Ferris' admiration for Green Lantern is also seen in a more idealistic light here, as a genuine admiration for a good man, and less as a simple crush.
Evil Star's Death-Duel Summons (1966). Writer: Gardner Fox. Evil Star, a villain as powerful as the Green Lanterns, challenges Green Lantern to a conflict on the Guardians' planet Oa.
The Jailing of Hal Jordan (1966). Writer: Gardner Fox. A wealthy crook frames Hal Jordan for a crime. People were always getting framed in Fox's tales starring the Atom; the Atom himself was made to look responsible for a coin robbery in "I Accuse Ray Palmer -- Of Robbery" (Atom #13, June-July 1964). Hal Jordan's experiences seem less desperate; Green Lantern has so many powers that he is in less real danger than the Atom. However, Hal still has to show determination and courage.
This story shows Fox's sense of fun. It is a strictly terrestrial story, concentrating on non-super-powered crooks in Coast City. Hal Jordan appears in it more than Green Lantern. The tale is clearly designed as a change of pace, and to keep a side of Hal in view that was not emphasized in the more science fiction tales of 1965-1967. The tale is filled with nice little bits of imagery, low key but charming. Some involve Hal and GL in young people's crazes of the sixties. Fox had a gift for building stories around small but interesting bits of detail: see his Wyoming Kid story, "The Gift of Danger" (Western Comics #82, July-August 1960).
Gil Kane has an excellent splash panel portrait of Hal Jordan.
Goldface's Grudge Fight Against Green Lantern (1966). Writer: Gardner Fox. Kyle Kenyon (Goldface) returns, with the ability to turn people into gold; meanwhile, Green Lantern dates glamorous movie actress Zu Zu Lamar. The villain's ability to turn people into gold here is a typical Fox cycle. The cycle has three steps:
Fox often builds his stories by varying the protagonists of a cycle. This is true of this tale as well. Fox rings down many ingenious changes of the protagonist throughout this tale.
The Hollywood subplot is a favorite subject of Broome satire. Broome had involved the Flash with the movies on a number of occasions; here it is GL'sturn. Kane excels at later images in this tale, showing figures against clouds of dust. The clouds make beautiful abstract designs behind the figures. The figures of both Goldface and Green Lantern are also excellent.
The Spectacular Robberies of TV's Master Villain (1966). Green Lantern goes up against an apparently fictional character called the Dazzler; meanwhile, he decides to bring his relationship with Carol Ferris to a head.
This story resembles the Jordan Brothers tale "Saga of the Millionaire Schemer" (1966), in that it is a mystery about an apparently fictional villain who comes to life. Both of these tales show considerable imagination.
This story is very sophisticated about television. It wittily reflects Broome's ideas on the sort of TV show represented by Batman - a TV series for which Broome's New Look Batman had helped pave the way. Broome had also involved his 1950's newspaper man hero Steve Wilson with numerous TV shows: see "The Casebook of Unsolved Mysteries" (Big Town #40, July-August 1956), "Steve Wilson's Last Deadline" (Big Town #41, September-October 1956) and "The Mysterious Masquerader of Big Town" (Big Town #49, January-February 1958). These Big Town stories all depict protagonist Steve Wilson's direct involvement with television; by contrast, Green Lantern here serves solely as a sleuth investigating a TV show.
Many of the Steve Wilson tales also dealt with actors, notably "Steve Wilson's Last Deadline" and "Halfway to Peril" (Big Town #21, May-June 1953). This Green Lantern tale also shows ingenuity in dealing with the theater. Broome had given a previous look at the stage in his Kid Flash tale "Mystery of the Matinee Idol" (Flash #138, August 1963). As usual, Broome is deeply sympathetic to actors and stage people. He often depicts them as nice people and serious artists, but having major career problems - something that shows accuracy and realism.
The Green Lantern Disasters (1963). Writer: Gardner Fox. The Guardians send Green Lantern to investigate why Xax, the Green Lantern of a world of intelligent insects, has not been using his power ring recently to fight criminals. Most of the tale takes place on Xaos, the world of the insects.
This insect world is delightful. It is a world in miniature, in two ways. All the inhabitants are insects, and very small compared to human beings. And it is like a toy model of our own world, complete with its politics, ecology, economics, and laws. This world is not a kid's world of whimsy: it is a real sf world. Yet there is an undertone of bright color and joy.
World Within the Power Ring (1964). Writer: Gardner Fox. Abin Sur appears in flashback here, in this tale of a duel with a sorcerer who has been exiled to a microscopic world inside GL's power ring. This tale of magic is among the most fantastic of GL stories. It had a powerful effect on my imagination when I read it as a child. It is perhaps not a coincidence that Abin Sur's main return appearances are both by Gardner Fox. Fox was writing in a comic book created by another author, John Broome. It looks as if Fox made a conscious effort to base his work as much as possible in the existing Green Lantern mythos. This would ensure continuity between his work and Broome's. It looks as if Fox was very careful to do nothing that might be inconsistent between his and Broome's work.
Mystery of the Deserted City (1964). Writer: Gardner Fox. The inhabitants of an isolated city disappear into a parallel dimension; to Green Lantern, it looks as if the city is deserted. This story reminds one of the earlier GL story, "The Day 100,000 People Vanished" (1961).
Fox's multiple dimensions here recall Earth-One and Earth-Two, in his Infinite Earths stories. Fox stresses the sheer ability to travel from one dimension to another here, not the parallel aspects of the dimensions, however. In fact the dimensions are wildly different from our own, and each other. A tale like this is very stimulating to the imagination. It can trigger vast amounts of day dreaming, as I learned when I read it as a child. Fox's stories for Green Lantern in 1963-1964 often seem to be the result of letting the imagination soar. They explore new worlds or dimensions, where almost anything might happen. They encourage the reader to contemplate the infinite possibilities of the universe.
The little boy Ted who saves the day here is in a Fox tradition of bright, resourceful little kids. They tend to be good with machinery and physical objects - they know how things work.
The Challenge From 5700 A.D. (#6, September-October 1961). Future humans who need Green Lantern's help transport him to the future, erase his memory, and make him leader of their war against an alien invasion. This story and its sequel take place in the same far future era. They are way below quality of the other early Green Lantern tales. Both are basically war stories, and if you can't stand their simplistic militarist ethos, you're not going to like them.
Some political notes. The stories show that future humanity have evolved into a whole series of new races in the future, with blue and green and yellow skin. This is a terrific idea, and probably an accurate one. It reminds people that today's races are not set in stone, but will evolve into something new over time. All the races seem to be getting along just fine. The whole thing is an admirable Civil Rights message.
Far more problematical is the treatment of women. In 5700, humanity still seems to be ruled by men; the only woman in sight is a director's secretary. That's right, in 5700 women will still be restricted to being secretaries, and will have no political power! This whole idea is just a disaster, and far from Green Lantern magazine's usually sensitive treatment of women's rights, as exemplified by successful business woman Carol Ferris. Also dubious is the idea of the Solar Director, a man who wields immense power in the future world. He gets appointed by a council. In the second tale, a rebellion against him is depicted as an attack on democratic government, but there is still no sign of any election anywhere in sight. So we have that other noxious cliché of sf, the future that is not free or democratic. This is pretty hard to take.
Green Lantern's Statue Goes To War (#12, April 1962). Green Lantern is again pulled into the same future era. The second story is moderately better written than the first. The best part of either tale is Gil Kane's art in the second story, especially his depiction of a futuristic plaza surrounded by an elevated circular walkway. This is a splendid conception; it shows up on both the cover and the later sections of the story. Green Lantern is also shown against circular backgrounds here, making for interesting geometric compositions in the art.
The second story has a good opening, in which Green Lantern finds a small fragment while combing his hair, and he begins to have subconscious memories. He begins to piece things together, using the sort of reasoning that is frequent among Green Lantern characters. The small fragment from the future recalls the flower brought back by the Time Traveler in H.G. Wells' The Time Machine (1895).
In the second tale, Green Lantern's statue is animated, like a robot, and he follows its progress with a television monitor. This is similar to the series of robots in Jimmy Olsen that are controlled by a keyboard and monitored by TV; the series seems to go back to Otto Binder's story, "The Robot Reporter" (Jimmy Olsen #41, December 1959).
The villain in the second tale, the magician Aldebaran, rises into celebrity status in the media of the future, before he becomes a villainous threat. This is an unusual sort of background for a heavy. Broome uses a similar history for another bad guy in "The Man Who Mastered Magnetism" (#21, June 1963). The latter story's bad guy becomes a media celebrity in modern day America before turning to a life of crime. Broome liked to include life histories for his characters. These histories tend to show their step by step progression, starting out with an ordinary existence, and gradually turning the character into someone far removed from conventional society. In these stories, the characters are villains, but many other tales have biographies of heroes and sympathetic characters.
Green Lantern Lives Again (1966). When a plague threatens the 58th Century, Green Lantern is brought forward to fight it. This is the best of the futuristic Green Lantern tales.
The story involves some of Gil Kane's most inventive art. He has created numerous delightful Constructivist costumes for the characters in this tale. No two costumes are alike, and there are dozens of people in the story. These are the best Constructivist costumes since Alexandra Exter created the costumes for the silent science fiction film Aelita, Queen of Mars (1924), directed by Jacob Protazanov. The many buildings and machines of the future also in Kane's best Constructivist approach. The whole tale is a riot of visual invention.
The portrait of space explorer Pol Manning (p3) shows him against an abstract background, representing outer space. The beautiful background is full of abstract geometric objects in Kane's Constructivist tradition. Numerous branched straight-line tubes connect spheres. There are also starbursts, and a large circular planet-like object filled with smaller circles of various sizes. The painting can be viewed as a pure abstraction, and a very good one. The various objects can also be seen as standing for space travel. The branched tubes can be seen as symbolically standing for space routes. The circles can represent planets; the starbursts stars; the circle with the smaller circles either a large planet, or a pocket mini-universe filled with smaller worlds. Kane used a similar art for depicting the dimensional translation between Earth-One and Earth-Two in "Our Mastermind the Car" (1967). Such abstract art transitions between dimensions are a long tradition is both Kane's work and other comics artists. In the art for "Our Mastermind the Car", the small, diamond shaped sunbursts and the large circles of this tale are replaced by circular regions with zigzag, sunburst style boundaries. There is also an interesting Kane dimensional transition panel in "Prince Peril's Power Play" (p 20).
Pol Manning's costume is made up of geometric figures here, like the other Constructivist costumes in this story. His magnificent helmet is like a geometric version of a Roman soldier's. Other aspects of his costume, especially the draped fabric hanging from the front and rear of his belt, seem Pre-Columbian. The whole effect is strikingly macho. Pol Manning is the secret identity of GL in 5700, and this picture is in Kane's most heroic traditions. Kane had previously garbed the Atom in Inca costume in "Voyage to Beyond" (Atom #11, February-March 1964), an equally spectacular image.
The curving blue transparent plastic face mask in his helmet also shows Kane's interest in geometric curves. The tops of his boots have truncated spheres on them. Each sphere is decorated with a repeating series of spherical, holed protuberances. Similar figures are on Manning's armbands. The wide, erect, cylindrical collar of the space suit is also very macho. It emerges at different levels from the space suit, which has an up and down flowing boundary as it travels around Manning's body.
Early sections of this tale show three huge outdoor TV screens. Each screen has its own Constructivist decoration along its upper edge. It is an indication of Kane's inventiveness in this tale that he depicts not one screen here, but three different ones.
Also notable: the cityscape (p7).
Green Lantern's Evil Alter Ego (#51, March 1967). Pol Manning, the fictional alter ego created for Green Lantern in the 5700's, comes to life as an independent person, and villainously tries to take over the planet. Broome had written previous stories about fictional characters who come to life: "Saga of the Millionaire Schemer" (1966) and "The Spectacular Robberies of TV's Master Villain" (1966). However, unlike them, this tale is not a mystery, and this aspect of the story is treated simply.
This tale concludes the saga of the 58th Century. Like many of Broome's tales designed to conclude a series, it is more perfunctory than imaginative.
Gal Kane's portraits of Pol Manning are the best part of this otherwise minor story.