“I am a middle-aged suburban housewife with four kids and a husband, two dogs and a cat who has trouble figuring out what the litter box is for. I probably have waaaay too much time on my hands.”
Sally Pascale, lifelong comic fan and author of ‘Green Lantern Butt’s FOREVER’, the biggest weblog about the super-hero “Green Lantern”.
Last year, I interviewed the ‘CEB’ (Link), blogger and comic book critic at ‘Collected Editions’ (Link).
This year, with Warner’s ‘Green Lantern’ movie (Link) in cinemas around the world, I contacted another profilic and outspoken comic book blogger:
Sally Pascale was born in 1958 and has been reading comic books for all her life.
Since the late 8oies, she has been a fan of DC Comics (‘Superman’, ‘Batman’, ‘Wonder Woman’, ‘The Flash’ etc.) and their space-cop hero Green Lantern.
…and since 2006, she writes about her day-to-day comic-reading experience at her blog ‘Green Lantern Butt’s FOREVER’.
Over the past four weeks, Sally has answered nearly 50 questions about the joys, frustrations and surprises as a long-time comic reader: In our month-long conversation, we have collected nearly 30 pages of answers, from very general aspects of being a blogger and a fan… to the minutiae of 2011’s big storylines and characters (…like the big DC ‘Relaunch’).
This week, for my series of Super-Hero essays (Link) at the Berlin Tagesspiegel (Link), I will translate and edit these answers to a shorter, comprehensive (German-language) interview for the Tagesspiegel.
Right here, you’ll get a more complete, geeky version:
What is it like to embrace a 70 year-old hero concept… a nearly 50 year old main character… 30+ years of monthly crossovers, twists and ‘comic events’…
…as a middle-aged blogger from Hartford, Connecticut?
“It’s not rocket science – but it’s a blast.”
Stefan Mesch: I have been reading your blog longer than I have been reading actual ‘Green Lantern’ comics – because I like your mild-mannered, personal, not overly snarky approach to the DC characters.
Lately, I’ve been wondering if we could do an e-mail interview about ‘Green Lantern’ before the movie premieres in Germany, on July 28th. Let me know. I’d be delighted!
Sally Pascale: Thank you so much for your very kind words about my silly little blog.
I’ve never DONE an interview before, so please be patient. But I hope that we can do whatever it is that you would like to do: You can send your questions to me any time, I’m here, I’ve seen to movie (twice!) and I’m burning to pour out all my love for the Green Lantern Corps [Link].
Stefan Mesch: Great! To prepare for our interview, I’ve read most ‘Green Lantern’ comics (chronology/list here) over the past six weeks. But I think I’m ready now
How would you “pitch” the monthly Green Lantern comics series to someone who has never heard of it? What’s good about it?
Sally Pascale: How would I “pitch” the Green Lanterns to someone who is a neophyte? Probably by saying that they’re “Cops in SPAAAAAAAAACE!!!”. An Intergalactic bunch of Peace-Keepers, with magical wishing rings, that let them use their imaginations and “willpower” to do practically anything that they want, from flying through space, to making giant boxing gloves, to containing a super nova in a large safe. Oh and I would probably mention that they look very very nice in those uniforms.
Throw in the idea that Hal [Jordan, the main character] is a lot like Captain Kirk from Star Trek, but in a better uniform and the aliens aren’t quite so cheesy.
Stefan Mesch: The character of Hal Jordan was introduced in 1960 as a brash, womanizing test pilot who got a Green Lantern ring from Abin Sur, an alien who had crash-landed on earth.
Did you read these comics in your childhood, too? You started out as a fan of DC’s rival company, Marvel Comics (Link), right?
Sally Pascale: The first comic that I can EVER remember reading, was Asterix, at the Dentist’s office. It was in French, and I didn’t understand a word… but I was still quite fascinated by the pictures.
I actually started reading comics seriously when I was fifteen. I came across a copy of an Avengers issue [a Marvel super-hero team, Link] in the local drugstore, and was hooked… mainly because it had Thor on the cover, and I was a Norse mythology fan at the time.
Stefan Mesch: So when did you enter your first comic book store? And how did it feel? Was it ‘tomboyish’? Was it ‘nerdy’? Did you read the books openly? In school? What did your parents think?
Sally Pascale: I bought my books in drugstores, not comic book shops, although I do believe that they were just beginning to make their appearance.
I read my books openly at home. I didn’t take them into school, mainly because it never occured to me to do so. My family considered me to be a bit on the… eccentric side… but they’d been considering that for YEARS!
I didn’t really talk that much about my comics through High School. However, when I went away to college, I brought all of them with me, and my girlfriends in my dorm would all get together and read them, using silly voices, that we would record on our old-fashioned cassette recorder, and then replay and laugh ourselves sick. We were a little… strange, looking back, but we did manage to enjoy ourselves.
I found my very first Comic Book Store, right next to my dorm, at the University of Connecticut, which is located in Storrs [Link]. It began as an agricultural school, so it is pretty much out in the boonies. There was a nice little bookstore there, and Lo and Behold…they sold comics! New comics! AND, they had BACK ISSUES!!!! It was awfully hard to GET back issues then.
I saved up my pennies (literally) and saved apples all week to eat on the weekends, so that I could afford to buy comics. This was back in 1976, and I managed to get by on about $20 a MONTH spending money. Of course it only cost about $4,000 a year to go to college back then.
Stefan Mesch: Even today, (super-hero) comics are very much a boys’ medium and a boys’ market. Reading these comics of the 197oies, did you feel included? Part of the target audience?
Sally Pascale: I’m not sure that I felt a part of the target audience. I was a rather young and naive eighteen at the time. It really didn’t OCCUR to me to be socially concious. I just… liked them. I will say that it was a bit easier as a woman back in the 1970’s however, because while women didn’t have a whole lot to DO in comics… this was the age of the Stan Lee Girl [Link] after all… at least they weren’t so outrageously over-sexed the way that they became in the ’90’s [Link].
I was pretty much a Marvel Zombie at the time, you had Sue Storm in the Fantastic Four, who spent her time being motherly and getting yelled at by Reed, you had the Scarlet Witch in the Avengers, who didn’t do a whole lot except point her hands, and swoon. You had the Wasp, who didn’t swoon quite as much, but spent most of her time mooning over Hank Pym and flirting with anything in pants. The Black Widow was probably the most overtly “sexy” of the bunch, and even she was covered from head to toe (Link). It was a more innocent time.
Stefan Mesch: So for years, Marvel’s Thor (Link) was your favourite hero, but you were not very interested in the DC heroes…
Sally Pascale: Oh yes! I bought up ALL the Thors at the store, and moved into the Avengers, since Thor was IN the Avengers, and because I just couldn’t get enough of that beautiful beautiful John Buscema artwork [Link].
I found out that the owner of the store had ANOTHER store in Willimantic, which was about 8 miles away. I didn’t have a car… heck I didn’t even have a license, and neither did anyone else on my floor… so I borrowed my roommate’s bicycle, and rode the 16 round trip miles…just to find MORE back issues. I think I was a little obsessed. Or crazy. Or both. But happy. Tired… but happy. [more details here]
At the time, I didn’t read much DC. I knew OF DC of course, but they seemed a bit stodgy in comparison to Marvel. Still…I always did like Green Lantern for some reason. I think it was his costume. It was so… cool. And unfussy. I still think that.
Then I discovered the X-Men [Marvel, Link]. And I was REALLY hooked. This was back when Claremont took over [1975 to… 1991! Link], with Dave Cockrum, and John Byrne, and it was just so fabulous.
Then I got married, and had four kids, and just dropped out of collecting for a bit. I kept all my books of course, and occasionally would pick up some. But the thrill had gone for about ten years or so.
And then all of a sudden I was back into collecting, and what was weird was that I had discovered the Lt. Blueberry books [European / Franco-Belgian Western comics; Link], by Charlier and Giraud (aka Moebius) [Link]. I was madly trying to find ALL of the books, which was awfully hard, since they were out of print, and in French. Fortunately, Marvel started reprinting a bunch of them, and I was searching out all of Moebius’ other work [Link], and having a fine old time. And I started picking up my old books again, but this time, I was reading DC too.
Stefan Mesch: In 1986, two big creative changes happened at DC comics: The 12-issue “Watchmen” series (Link) by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons and Frank Miller’s violent “Batman” story “The Dark Knight Returns” (Link) started a trend of more mature, bloody, sexualized and political super-hero stories.
Even though both “Watchmen” and “DKR” are pretty complex and intelligent by themselves, the copycat authors following their footsteps only used the most superficial elements of both books: the sexism, the big muscles, the casual killing/slaughtering of enemies – and created the “Dork Age” (Link) of the 1990ies: Women had gigantic breasts, men were hyper-muscular, everyone used guns, everything was “exxxtreme” (Link) in a juvenile and silly way.
The second big change happened in the DC series “Crisis on Infinte Earths” (Link): For nearly 50 years, DC Comics had been telling stories set on multiple, parallel earths. On Earth-1, Superman was 30 or 35 years old. On Earth-2, Superman and Batman had been around since the Second World War.
Other heroes (often established years ago by bankrupt rival comic publishers and bought up by DC, like the hero Captain Marvel (Link)), lived on places like Earth-S (Link), Earth-X or the evil Antimatter Universe (Link).
During “Crisis on Infinite Earths”, a gigantic cosmic menace from the Antimatter Universe, the Anti-Monitor (Link), destroyed the parallel worlds until the heroes were able to create one final, merged world (and thus push a storytelling ‘reset button’):
In 1987, all DC heroes lived in this new universe: Many were younger. Many series and stories established a new beginning. And until today, 2011, most big stories in the “DC Universe” start with this Crisis.
Ironically, Hal Jordan’s adventures as “Green Lantern” did not reinvent themselves, failed to find much attention… and were cancelled in 1988, after 28 years.
So when you came back to comics in the late 1980ies, Sally, that was what you found? New violence. New maturity. And some good, new starting points? But not a lot of “Green Latern”?
Sally Pascale: Indeed. When I came back to comics after my hiatus, I was actually rather thrilled. I hadn’t realized how much I missed it all. [At Marvel comics, who did not have a crisis / reboot,] there was a LOT of continuity to get caught up on, but being a History Major in college, continuity is sort of my “thing”, and I plunged into it with considerable zest. If there is one thing that I enjoy, it is knowing a whole lot of esoteric and totally ridiculous useless knowledge.
And things had definitely changed. This was also the beginning of the whole “collector” bubble (Link) of course. People were convinced that all they had to do was guy five copies of X-Men #l (a new series from 1991, Link) and that they would be set for LIFE! Never mind that the value of the old comics that at the time were selling for so much money, were actually quite rare, because so many of them had been swallowed up by wartime paper drives and such. The scary thing was that people who didn’t even READ the books were collecting. It was “cool”.
I’ve never been cool in my life, but I did find that I didn’t mind admitting that yes, I was a grown woman with children who read comics. Who LOVED to read comics. Not only comics, but SUPERHERO comics. I will say, that I was quite the hit with a lot of my own offspring’s friends. But I was also considered weird because although I did put my comics away after reading them, I also… well… READ them. A lot.
I doubt that I have a single copy that is in mint condition [Link]. I tore the polybags off and READ those suckers!
But comics had also gotten a whole lot… sexier in the interim. Heck, even ubermom Susan Storm [of Marvel’s Fantastic Four, Link] was flashing skin. It was a bit disconcerting. Jim Lee [Link] didn’t help, and then Rob Liefeld [Link – one of the most horrible and derided artists] came along and oh my god, but there was a whole lot of terrible terrible artwork. But I didn’t care. I blush to confess this, but I actually DO have a whole lot of X-Men books and simply boxfuls of dreck from this particular point in time.
Let us move on to a more appealing subject. Green Lanterns!
Stefan Mesch: On your blog, you often talk about one particular series from that era, “Justice League International” (started in 1987, Link) with Guy Gardner (Link), Earth’s second Green Lantern.
Even today, this series is one of your favourites.
And it’s a pretty popular classic, too. Mostly because it went against the fashions of the time: instead of violence and crazy powerful heroes, it featured less popular and less dangerous heroes and had a lighthearted, at times even comedic tone. Lots of banter, jokes… even some slapstick.
Sally Pascale: When Justice League with Keith Giffen [Link] and J. M. DeMatteis [Link] came out, I was hooked immediately. It was that very first cover [Link], by Kevin Maguire [Link]. It…it was just so PERFECT!
All of a sudden, instead of all the heavy hitters, (although after the Detroit League, I hesitate to use that term) no Superman, no Wonder Woman. Batman WAS there, but he spent most of his time being alternately surly and embarrassed. Martian Manhunter [Link] was there, and basically served as the team babysitter. Black Canary [Link] was there too, in that ridiculous costume [Link].
We had A Green Lantern [Guy Gardner, great link], although it wasn’t THE Green Lantern [Hal Jordan, silly link]. And Blue Beetle [Link], and Captain Marvel [Link] of all people, and so on and so forth.
Stefan Mesch: Traditionally, DC’s “Justice League” (Link) is a super-hero team series with DC’s most powerful and/or most well-known characters. It started in 1960 with Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Green Lantern, Aquaman (Link) and the Martian Manhunter – but over time, the team has often expanded and changed.
In 1986, after “Crisis on Infinite Earths”, a new Justice League was started in Detroit (Link). It featured young, urban and minority members like Vixen (Link), a black supermodel that could talk to animals, Gypsy (Link), a young Roma who was… very good at stealing things (Link) or Vibe (Link), a ridiculous hispanic break-dancing hero who has, since then, found a certain ironic cult following (Link).
This “trendy, urban Justice League” failed, so in 1987, Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis could explore their own concept of a big, funny, bickering cast of less important characters: It was a “minor” and less aggressive League… but it still worked very hard on being competent.
Sally Pascale: These heroes were definite second stringers. And they didn’t fight huge cosmic menaces all of the time. They did fight some pretty big villains, but it was in between the down-time at their headquarters. Having the UN involved [as political backing of their international operations] was a smart move.
We also got Booster Gold [Link], and Fire [Link] and Ice [Link], and Mister Miracle and [his wife] Big Barda and [his manager] Oberon [Link], and Max Lord [the non-powered, but arrogant and clever corporate chairman of the League, Link], and…and…it was all just so FABULOUS!
Stefan Mesch: These characters are energetic, fallible, colorful and have big followings, even today. From 2010 to 2011, there even was a new, 24-part series that brought the team back together, “Justice League: Generation Lost” (Link).
Pulitzer-winning author Michael Chabon knew Mister Miracle and Big Barda from their stories in the 197oies: He says that their marriage was a model and an inspiration for his own marriage, and that he admired Big Barda until today (long, fun personal essay here… but takes a while to load).
It’s interesting to see how these characters were beloved for their charms and their affection… not their powers.
Sally Pascale: They hung out together, and did stupid things, and fun things, and fought and bickered like children sometimes, and played practical jokes on each other, but they were there when it counted, and they did their jobs. They did their jobs well and they did their jobs efficiently, which is something that has been overlooked a bit since then.
As much as I love a huge brawling storyline, it is also nice sometimes, to just have quieter issues, where everyone has a chance to take a breath. The old JLI told great stories, it had beautiful artwork, it had funny and appealing characters… what wasn’t to like? To this day, it remains one of my absolute favorite books.
So starting with JLI, I started picking up more and more DC books, which suddenly weren’t stodgy at all, but cool and fun and interesting. I eventually went through the mail-order companies to find back issues, and started getting all the Green Lantern books… and the rest is history.
Stefan Mesch: Since 1960, test pilot Hal Jordan had been the Green Lantern of Space Sector 2814, the part of the galaxy that includes our solar system. Jordan was handed his Green Lantern power ring by Abin Sur (Link), an alien who crash-landed near Hal’s home town Coast City.
The power rings picks persons with great willpower… people with “the potential to overcome great fear”… so naturally, Hal is assumed to be the bravest person on earth.
In later adventures, starting in 1968, writer John Broome (Link) introduced Guy Gardner. Guy was a football star at the University of Michigan when Abin Sur’s space ship crashed on earth. But if Abin Sur had landed nearer to Michigan…
Sally Pascale: …Guy Gardner would have been the official Green Lantern of sector 2814, exactly. When I first came across Guy, I was a bit confused. I knew about Hal Jordan of course, but who the heck was this incredibly obnoxious red-head? And why, almost against my will, did I end up liking him so much?
You could say that Guy’s scenes in the JLI were my gateway drug, because I first came across Guy in that book, and was so intrigued that I started collecting Green Lantern, and Green Lantern Corps, and Green Lantern Quarterly, and then Justice League Quarterly…
Guy Gardner in the Justice League was a heck of a lot of fun, because he wasn’t your typical superhero. He was loud, rude, lewd, crude and a major jerk (Link). He insulted women, the handicapped, short people, tall people, fat and thin people and he did it with such vigor, that I found it to be a tiny bit…endearing (Link). Apparently, I LIKE jerks.
He didn’t start out this way, though: When he was originally introduced in Hal Jordan’s book, Guy was a nice, polite gym teacher who turned out to be a possible alternate candidate for being picked to be Green Lantern, yes.
Hal was a bit staggered by this bit of news, and sought him out, and they became casual friends. Later, Guy goes on a trip with his students, and ends up falling off of a cliff in an earthquake AND being hit by a school bus! This put him out of action for a while, so that they could introduce John Stewart as the other alternate Green Lantern.
Stefan Mesch: John Stewart (Link) is an architect and a former US marine sharpshooter. He’s black, and he was introduced in the 1970ies as a “socially relevant”, “modern” character.
A few years earlier, an older black man had famously told Hal Jordan off (Link) because Jordan had gotten his power ring from the Guardians of the Universe, a race of immortal, powerful, blue-skin aliens.
“I been readin’ about [how…] you work for the blue skins […] and you done considerable for the purple skins! Only there’s skins you never bothered with -! The black skins!”
John Stewart, as a black side character, was an attempt to fix this, so by the 197oies, Hal Jordan had two (seldom-seen) replacements: John Stewart and Guy Gardner.
Sally Pascale: For years, Guy Gardner didn’t do much except recover from his injuries, but when Hal’s power ring [Link] started to misbehave, he contacted Guy again, gave him a ring and his [Hal’s] own power battery, and basically told him “good luck” while he went off to Oa to see what was going on.
Stefan Mesch: Oa is the planet at the centre of the universe (Link) where the power rings come from. Four billion years ago, an alien race called Malthusians settled on Oa, achieved immortality and started to research the secrets of the universe. These ‘Oans’ wanted to help and protect the younger races and created a police force of robot soldiers called Manhunters (Link)… but the robots went crazy.
After “Crisis of Infinite Earths” turned out to be a bestselling “comic event” in 1986 and 1987, the follow-up 1988 DC “comic event” “Millennium” (Link) saw these Manhunter robots return to earth, infiltrate the hero community and wreak havoc.
Sally Pascale: Sadly, the wise and ancient Guardians of the Universe [Link] are actually NOT… that great. In fact, they are pretty piss poor examples of omnipotence, to put it bluntly. I used to actually… sort’ve… LIKE the Guardians. Yes, they were short and blue, and had no fashion sense, but gosh darn it, they were just a little bit adorable
They had been around for umpteen billions of years, and had, after a few false starts [like the Manhunter robots]… created the Green Lantern Corps [Link]. They also seemed to actually be looking out for the best interests of the Universe, enforcing Law and Order throughout the cosmos, and all that jazz.
Stefan Mesch: So after the Manhunter robots massacred whole civilizations 3.5 billion years ago, the Oans learned to harness the mysterious green energy of willpower: They built little “power batteries” in the shape of lanterns (Link), forged green rings that could wield the energy from these lanterns… and divided the universe into 3600 sectors.
Then, they set free the rings, and all rings scanned their respective sectors for fearless people, ready to use their willpower.
Sally Pascale: Once a new recruit is found, the ring transports him or her back to Oa to receive a basic, military-like training. Oa also has a giant power battery that powers the individual power batteries that in turn power the individual rings. So naturally, once Hal caught his own ring misbehaving, he flew back to Oa to have it checked.
Well, it turned out that the problem was actually in the battery, not the ring, and the second time that Guy, back on Earth, tried to use Hal’s battery, it blew up!
Oh, and apparently it killed Guy, as well.
Hal took this hard, and went off to comfort Guy’s [human] gypsy girlfriend, Kari Limbo (Link), who was upset or about five minutes, until they decided to console each other. In fact they consoled each other SO much, that Hal was going to marry her! In the church, Kari has a vision and realizes that Guy ISN’T dead… just blown into another dimension, and he’s actually really really pissed, since he’s been watching Hal hit on his girl. Then Hal feels guilty and goes off to free him, but Guy ends up being tortured by Sinestro of all people, and ends up in a mysterious coma with mysterious brain damage.
Stefan Mesch: Sinestro (Link) is Hal Jordan’s biggest enemy. He was the Green Lantern of his home planet Korugar, but decided to rule the planet with despotism and fear. Personally, I think he’s one of the most complex villains in comics: a former Green Lantern who turned knight templar (Link) / well-intentioned extremist (Link) / dictator.
Let’s talk about Sinestro later, though: How did Guy’s story continue? By the time he became a member of the JLI in 1987, he had suffered some brain damage, right?
Sally Pascale: Guy didn’t come out of his coma for a couple of years – just in time to participate in Crisis on Infinite Earths, when the Guardians pulled him out and he becomes the crazy jerk that we all know and love… since he’s still suffering from brain damage, yes.
He’s also insanely jealous of Hal, and in general makes a pest of himself. After he drives most of the rest of the Green Lantern Corps crazy, he decides he’s worn out his welcome and hi-tails it over to the Justice League, where Giffen and DeMatteis used him so well. If you can find those later issues of Green Lantern [Link], from #180 or so and up, to when the comic gets re-named “Green Lantern Corps” [Link], written by Gerald Jones [Link], it is well worth your time. They are great stories, involving the entire corps.
Stefan Mesch: You really enjoy the larger mythology of this ancient, cosmic organization: The Green Lantern Corps seems to be more interesting than Hal Jordan’s solo adventures on Earth…?
Sally Pascale: Frankly, I LOVE the idea of Cops In Spaaaace [Link]! The Earth is full of costumed heroes, who all run around fighting bad guys and doing their thing, but an intergalactic corps of peacekeepers is just a neat idea. It makes the Universe seem a whole lot bigger for one thing.
With all of the diffreent sectors of space, and all the infinite variety of aliens, all united in their ability to overcome fear, and wield willpower, the ability to tell stories is simply vast and amazing.
They’ve created the planet Oa, where the Guaridans hang out, and provide the power and motivation for this happy little band: Although their methods may occasionally be flawed…their motives are pure. Mostly anyway. Yes, they’ve had a few bumps along the way, the whole mess with [mad scientist] Krona [who discovered the Antimatter universe and started a war in two different realities, Link], and the Manhunters going crazy… but finally, the Guardians came up with the idea of the power rings, and it’s just a lot of fun.
The Green Lanterns also have some of the coolest-looking costumes around. The simplicity of the Black and the Green is incredibly eye-catching. The variety of the body shapes, the sheer variety of the aliens, and the different planets and cultures and conflicts is just wonderful [Link]. It’s science fiction in comic book form.
And, although I love novels, and I would kill for a Green lantern television show, and more movies, I just LIKE comics. I like the artwork. I like the stories. I like the fact that it is a serial form of entertainment, with cliffhangers, and years and years of convoluted continuity and different writers and different artists, all combining to create a messy and yet still compelling story.
Marvel really doesn’t have anything comparable to the Green Lanterns, although they are doing their best with Nova [Link]. But’s it is a pretty blatant imitation, and I just haven’t been able to get into it. The Green Lanterns have been around for a VERY long time, they have their own history, and archives, and the Book of Oa [Link], and traditions, and rules and hierarchy.
And since it does have such a rich sense of history, it can be very easy to continue to mine that history for an almost infinite array of tales to be told.
And that’s a very good thing!
Stefan Mesch: It’s fun that the “Green Lantern” franchise existed for 20 years before Hal Jordan, the Corps and Oa were created in 1960, though: The first Green Lantern of Earth was not sent by the Guardians. His name was Alan Scott (Link), he had his first adventure in 1940 (Link) and his own comic from 1941 to 1949.
Sally Pascale: I will be the first person to admit that although I like Alan Scott very much [Link], he’s not my favorite Green Lantern. Still… he WAS the first, and although he isn’t officially “in the Corps”, his Golden Age adventures established the name and the hero and some of the mythology.
Stefan Mesch: The “Golden Age” of comics (Link) started with Superman in 1938. In a couple of years, Batman (1939), The Flash (1940) and Wonder Woman (1941) had their own comic book series, too.
There also was a super-hero team, “The Justice Society of America” (Link), that featured heroes who were not well-known enough to have their own comic book, like Black Canary or the horror-hero character “The Spectre” (Link), God’s spirit of vengeance. Eventually, Alan Scott joined the JSA. And through time-travel and multiple multiversal crises, Alan is still alive today, in his sixties and chairman of the modern-day Justice Society (Link).
I’ve read that Alan is named after “Aladin”… and that’s where the magic lantern / lamp came from, too. Another big influence was the Chinese concept of the five elements (Link), Earth, Water, Fire, Wood and Metal. Thus, the magic green fire from Alan’s ring was helpless against wood.
Sally Pascale: Alan’s ring and lantern have been retroactively explained as being derived from magic, rather than from the willpower that powers the modern Green Lantern Corps. This makes a certain amount of sense I suppose (comic book sense [Link]) but at the time that Alan’s stories were being written, it was just a fun way to create a hero, and have a rather unnusual method of crime-fighting at his disposal.
Besides, who wouldn’t like a magical wishing ring? And since every hero has to have some vulnerability… so Alan’s ring being susceptible to natural elements was brought in, although it usually was mostly portrayed as being most vulnerable to wood. It was fun: Here’s this guy who can do practically anything… and he can be taken out by a baseball bat!
I haven’t read a whole lot of the original Golden Age stories with Alan, I am more interested in him as the Elder Statesman version that he occupies in modern continuity… along with Jay Garrick [fun, charming Link], the original Flash, [the old-school boxing hero] Wildcat [Link] and some of the other magnificent Old Farts from the Justice Society.
I’ve actually always thought that having these older heroes around was one of the more brilliant concepts that DC came up with. Marvel really doesn’t have anything to compare… with the possible exception of Nick Fury [Link]. But here are all the original Mystery Men [the super-heroes who fought in the World War 2, Link], who through any number of bizarre circumstances, became a part of the present day Universe, and serve as someone that even the heroes look up to.
I’ve always thought it was significant that Alan Scott can make even Batman sit up and stand at attention. He’s also one of the few people who can make Hal Jordan sit down and behave.
And besides, I have to admit to loving Alan’s costume. It is so UTTERLY ridiculous really (Link)… that color combination should NOT work, with the red and the green, and the puffy sleeves and all. It’s garish and absurd, and yet… such is Alan’s stature and self-confidence, that he MAKES it work. It is also a bonus, that even though he wears a cape, Alan STILL manages to flaunt his magnificent buttocks… just as a Green Lantern should. Batman and Superman hardly EVER show theirs off.
Stefan Mesch: In recent years, Alan also had some great moments as the leader of Checkmate (2006 to 2008, Link), a modern-day, international spy agency who tries to keep super-heroes under control.
Sadly, back in 1954, a German-born psychologist named Fredric Wertham published a book called “Seduction of the Innocent” (Link) and started a moral panic (Link) across the US. Comic books were suspected to ‘teach’ deviant behavior and homosexuality to children, and as a result, the publishers decided to self-censor, adapt a strict code of conduct (Link), stop publishing horror and true crime comics and make their stories safe and tame.
Sales plummeted, public opinion was against the industry, all super-heroes but Superman, Batman, Aquaman and Wonder Woman were cancelled – and the “Golden Age” was over.
It took nearly five years before a new “Silver Age” (Link) started and the sales recovered – with sillier, more harmless stories… and lighter, less dramatic heroes. In one word…
Sally Pascale: Hal Jordan.
Stefan Mesch: From 1960 to 1994, Hal Jordan was the main character of “Green Lantern”. He’s also the focus of the current “Green Lantern” movie, where he’s played by Ryan Reynolds (Link).
Hal was created at a time when the US were competing in a “space race” (Link) with Russia: In the 1960ies, from “I Dream of Jeannie” (Link) to the astronauts documented in the 1979 novel “A Few Good Men” (Link), a lot of heroic characters were pilots, air force men and astronauts.
So what’s unique about Hal Jordan, hotshot test pilot from Coast City, California?
Sally Pascale: Oh Hal. You’re impulsive, brave, reckless, and slightly dim-witted, and yet you have a bizarre appeal.
There are a LOT of fans who don’t particularly like Hal. They find Kyle [Hal’s younger replacement in the 1990ies, Link] to be more appealing, or John to be smarter, or Guy to be even more reckless, or Alan to be much more dignified.
And yet, still, after all these years, since the Silver Age, Hal Jordan is still THE Green Lantern. Some people find him to be boring. Some people find him to be “too perfect”. Some people are reading as closely as they should.
Hal Jordan is NOT too perfect. He has a whole lot of faults… but he’s very adept at either getting away with stuff, or covering them up. And let’s face it, being a hotshot Test Pilot is actually a pretty cool thing to be.
When Hal flew planes at Ferris Aircraft [Link], it was a lot more interesting than the series of stupid stuff that writer Denny O’Neill [Link] put him through in the late Sixties, when he was wandering around the country with Oliver Queen [Link] trying to “find himself”.
Stefan Mesch: Oliver Queen is one of my favourite heroes. He’s the Green Arrow (Link), an urban, non-powered Robin Hood expy who is very rash, outspoken and easily irritated with the establishment: If there is one person even more cocky and impulsive than Hal… it’s Ollie!
In 1969, Dennis O’Neill brought Hal and Ollie together for a double-feature book called ‘Green Lantern / Green Arrow’ (Link). They got into in a van and drove around the coutry, helping the helpless, and their adventures were socially relevant, political… but very preachy and one-dimensional: Ollie was very angry, liberal and left-wing. And Hal was clueless, ignorant and patriotic.
Sally Pascale: I liked that Hal was best friends with Barry Allen, the Flash [more about this friendship here, Link]. I liked that Hal was best friends with Ollie. I loved that Ollie and Barry [Link] fought over Hal… because that’s just the way that Hal liked it [Link].
But Hal really did have to put up with a lot from Ollie! It can’t be much fun being dragged around the countryside in a cramped pick-up truck, stuck with a short former Guardian, and being called names by Ollie every ten mintues. Sheesh!
Stefan Mesch: The Guardian. I forgot! When news reached Oa that Hal wanted to give up his ring and travel through small towns with Ollie, a Guardian decided to transform into a more human-like form and join them.
The Guardians do not embrace individual names. But he was soon called “Old-Timer” (Link) and learned a lot about humanity on this road trip…
Sally Pascale: This Denny O’Neill and Neal Adams [the book’s artist, Link] era was beautiful to look at [Link], and they covered a lot of “hip” and “happening” things, such as Speedy’s drug use [Link], and prejudice and so on, but those stories were incredibly heavy-handed in their moralizing, and don’t really hold up all that well in my opinion. And Hal became a lot less self-confident and a lot more whiney.
I hate whiney! To my mind, some of the best stories about Hal are the very early ones in the Silver Age. They are just so… insane! And hilarious! He doesn’t have his ring on? He fights a Bear using his HEAD! He has his own fan cllub of hysterical teeny-boppers all wanting to marry him! He’s egotistical and selfish, but he really does have a good heart underneath, and he is a true hero…not matter how stupid he may act occasionally.
I have to admit to liking the old Hal, of [writer] John Broome [Link] and [artist] Gil Kane [Link] a whole lot better. Originally Hal was a lot of fun. He flew with his legs open. He showed off his ass in practically every shot [absurdly extensive Link]. He hit his head. A lot. [absurdly funny Link]
He also had this thing about forgetting that he was actually vulnerable to the color yellow. Really, the color yellow, which made his weakness just as absurd as Alan Scott’s weakness against wood: When you have as much potential power as Hal Jordan does, you really HAVE to create a weakness. So yellow was Hal’s Kryptonite (Link). Heck, he got hit in the head with a yellow ceiling tile, and was blinded by mustard, and all kinds of silly things.
Stefan Mesch: On your own website, you often post these two kinds of pictures: The artists showing off Hal’s back… or Hal getting hit in the head. It’s a trope and in-joke for many Green Lantern fans.
Sally Pascale: Part of Hal’s appeal is that even though he’s handsome and daring and weirdly charming, he’s also a bit of a klutz. He always leaps before he looks, and strangely hilarious things happen to him… yet he always manages to overcome the indignities thrown his way [Link], and come out smelling like the proverbial rose. And he drives Batman crazy. Granted, this is more of a recent development, but you could see echoes of it even back in the sunny old Justice League days: Batman plans and thinks (Link), and plans some more. Hal just… does it. By the seat of his pants. And manages more often than not, to get away with it.
Stefan Mesch: A lot of times, Hal acts like an ignorant, idolized super-hero fratboy: There are a lot of DC heroes that I respect as persons (read this essay about Lois Lane as an inspirational character, for example). But with Hal, I always wonder ‘Is he a moron? Or is he an evil person trying to pretend he is nothing more than a harmless moron?’
Either way – even in very recent comics, I don’t think he’s very likeable.
Sally Pascale: One of the things that I don’t like about Hal, is that he is… smug. Smug and priviledged and oblivious to anybody else’s problems. Hal just has this tendency to assume that things will ALWAYS work out in his favor… simply because he is Hal Jordan. His treatment of Carol Ferris [Link] is pretty outrageous for one thing. She’s his BOSS… and she’s doing her best in a very difficult situation, to keep him at bay and run a company, which let’s face it was a pretty unusual occupation for a WOMAN back in the day.
Hal never paid any attention, and kept chasng her around the disks in a way that would get him into a lot of trouble nowadays. He also treated his family in a rather cavalier fashion: Back in the old days, he and his brothers, Jack and Jim [Link] and their wives would go and visit their rich Uncle Titus. Sue, who was his younger brother Jim’s wife, was convinced that Jim was actually the Green Lantern, and Hal would cynically use this to his advantage all the time. And smirk when he did it.
Stefan Mesch: Carol Ferris inherited Ferris Air and employed Hal as a test pilot. But frequently, an evil Alien energy, the Star Saphire (Link), would latch onto Carol and transform her into a dangerous sexual predator (Link). Hal and Carol had several relationships… but they never stayed together too long.
Sally Pascale: Hal’s had a LOT of girlfriends over the years. Although Carol has always been the one that he seems to care about the most, that hasn’t stopped him from going after a lot of other women. To his credit, he seems to date only one at a time, which is nice, but he has this pathological fear of commitment, and never lets anyone get too close. Probably because of the fact that his Dad, whom he idolized was killed in front of him [when his plane crashed at Ferris Aircraft while Hal was still a young boy], and that his mother then spent all of her time trying to destroy Hal’s love of planes and such.
Nevertheless, Hal has a habit of using women, and then dumping them in a minute. It’s a good thing he’s cute!
Stefan Mesch: Whenever I learn about specific heroes, their powers and their individual supporting casts, there is a moment when I feel overwhelmed: Every hero has an origin story, a specific home town, one or several love interests…
For the longest time, Hal Jordan even had a (non-superpowered) sidekick, the youthful Inuit airplane mechanic Tom Kalmaku (Link).
There are long articles that explain the details of Hal’s story (Link). There are snarky articles that make fun of the weirdest and most stupid twists (Link). There also is a great web cartoon from last month that I love to pieces because it’s funny AND truthful (Link)…
…but I think the best advice, when you have to navigate the world of a super-hero, comes from Scipio Garling, my favourite comic book blogger (Link) and his theory of the ‘Dynastic Centrepiece’ (Link):
Most heroes have a junior counterpart… a female counterpart… a kid sidekick… a romantic interest… an elder statesman… a civilian companion… an authority figure… a black sheep… a contextualizing city… and sometimes even an animal companion.
The more of these ten slots that are filled, and the better that these roles interact, the bigger is the hero’s standing: The Dynastic Centerpiece model provides a useful matrix (Link) to look back at Alan Scott’s “Green Lantern” series… compare it with Hal Jordan’s “Green Lantern” series… and understand how the faces and the tone of the individual series do change a lot – but the underlying dynamics do remain.
Sally Pascale: I’m glad that you’ve read Scipio’s dissertations: He always has a unique and usually brilliant take on things.
Stefan Mesch: I did read Scipio… but I didn’t read lots of early “Green Lantern” stories. All together, I have tried three reprint collections (Link) of Hal Jordan’s early adventures.
“Green Lantern: The greatest Stories ever told” (Link) is quite tedious and depressing… especially once you consider that *these* silly Silver Age stories are considered to be the “greatest stories ever told”.
“Tales of the Green Lantern Corps” (Link) collects Guardian- and Oa-themed stories from the very early 80ies… and I must say: I hated the stilted dialogue and the naive conflicts.
and finally, the old stories collected in “Green Lantern: In Brightest Day” (Link) aren’t much better. But they were hand-picked by current “Green Lantern” writer Geoff Johns (Link), and they’re extremely important if you want to understand what’s happening today, 30 years later. It’s not a very good book – but it’s required reading.
Did you, personally, like all the stories of the late-70ies “Bronze Age” (Link)?
Sally Pascale: I really liked the books starting the issue 188 [Link], when writer Steve Englehart [Link] took over: Englehart made much more use of the actual Corps and we saw a lot more of characters like Katma Tui [Link], Kilowog [Link], Salaak [Link], Ch’p [Link] and Tomar-Re [Link]. John Stewart became the main character for a while… This was when a lot of the mythos was established concerning the Corps, and it was a heck of a wild ride.
Then sadly, the Guardians disbanded, and went off to make whoopie with the Zamarons, and they accidentally executed Sinestro, and mostly the Corps was shut down… with the exception of a few, who all went to live on Earth with Hal.
Stefan Mesch: I have no idea what you talking about. This must be about 1986, 1987, when the series was renamed from “Green Lantern” to “Green Lantern Corps” and the Manhunter robots came back during the “Millennium” crossover (Link)…?
Reviews were so bad that I did not read this.
Sally Pascale: Even that era was fun, because Englehart had a sure way with the different voices of the characters: Guy came out of his coma and became a whole lot more fun, and John and Katma got married [Link], and Hal was busy making out with an underage Arisia [Link], which was a bit squicky [Link], but hey.
Stefan Mesch:For the longest time, I really did not like these Green Lantern Corps characters too much. I understand that in the DC Universe, most alien species are genetically related or derived from the Maltusians (Link)…
…but I still think it is lazy and sexist storytelling to show all these (conventionally attractive) space girls (Link) with their mini skirts, their big breasts and their names like ‘Katma’, ‘Arisia’, ‘Lyssa Drak’ (Link)… Every female character’s name is ending with an -a or does sound stereotypically feminine.
Sally Pascale: All these Alien Women and their tiny tiny mini-skirts… I blame this on Star Trek, quite frankly: All they ever did was paint the actresses blue or green or pink – but they all had long legs, high heels and perky perky breasts. They might have antennae, and weird eyebrows, but they were all definitely humanoid females.
All the better to be lusted after by Hal Jordan.
That’s probably why I liked Boodikka [Link] so much when she was first introduced. She was this HUGE and completely unattractive Warrior Woman [Link], who could have picked up just about any Green Lantern other than [massive drill sergeant] Kilowog and broken them in half. They ended up prettying her up after a while [Link], which was a shame [Link!!], but dammit, she had such a great character.
Brik [Link] was another female character that was not made in the “pretty-pretty” mode. She was a silicone-based life-form, if I remember correctly, and basically was made out of rock. She still had breasts of course, because otherwise how would you KNOW that she was a woman, but she was a fun character. She also had this totally unrequited crush on Hal. Hal of course was busy lusting after all the other more nubile alien women.
There are some really cool alien races in the Corps, however: Kilowog has to be one of my absolute favorites. His planet of Bolovax Vik [Link] was unfortunately destroyed, but he had had a wife and a family. They also all were able to collectively feel eveyone’s thoughts and feelings,so he was particularly bereft when he lost his entire home and species.
And who wouldn’t like the concept of Rot Lop Fan [Link]? He’s blind, so he can’t see a Green Lantern, but he can HEAR the tone that it makes [Link]. That’s fun. There is also Leezle Pon [Link], who is a super intelligent virus, and I think that there is a mathematical equation that is a Lantern [Link], and one that is shaped like a cube.
Apros [Link] is fun, I’ve always wanted a stuffed plushy toy Apros [Link]. And G’Nort [Link]. Man, I just love G’Nort [Link]. Also try and find the story “A Guy and his G’nort” [Link]. G’nort was a Green Lantern, who was also a Dog, and who had a ridiculous canine crush on Guy.
This is why I would love it if they would revive the Green Lantern Quarterly book [Link], just so that we could have more stories about the REST of the Corps.
Stefan Mesch: In these first years after the Crisis, almost all major super-hero series thrived: “Wonder Woman” and “Superman” had popular reboots (Link) and redefined the personal lives of the characters. “Batman” got darker and much more popular. There were smaller series like (the excellent!) “Suicide Squad” (Link), Dennis O’Neil’s “The Question” (Link) oder Mike Grell’s darker version of “Green Arrow” (Link) that were mature, moody and very influental, to this day.
“Green Lantern Corps”, on the other hand, was cancelled in 1988… and in a (not very popular) science fiction mini-series named “Cosmic Odyssey” (Link), John Stewart tries to save a planet named Xanshi (Link)… refuses the help of the other heroes… and sees the planet destroyed as a result of John’s arrogance.
In 1990, while Guy was busy in “Justice League International”, a new series starring Hal Jordan was started: “Green Lantern” (Vol. 3) (Link). The writer was Gerard Jones (Link), the art came from Pat Broderick (Link) – and Hal was noticeable older now, with grey temples and a midlife identity crisis.
Sally Pascale: Suddenly, Hal got these weird gray sideburns, and became morose and even more angsty than when he was going around with Ollie twenty years earlier. He wasn’t nearly as much fun, moving from job to job, and being rootless and cranky all the time. At the same time however, Guy was becoming more and more interesting.
DC was going to through a strange period at the time, with Superman and Batman all getting different treatment in an effort to be “relevant” [Link]. And suddenly making perpetual horndog Hal Jordan suddenly look as though he was forty was a poor move. Instead of being charming and charismatic, he suddenly looked like a creepy older uncle.
Stefan Mesch: The 8 opening issues (Link) of this series had Hal flying around, searching for a new place in life. And they must be one of the most annoying comics that I have read… because all the characters looked like gay fetish men (Link).
There’s a lot of casual sexism and objectification in comics, and I don’t think it’s necessarily worse to include gay fantasies in mainstream super-hero books than to include… stripperific women (Link). But once Hal Jordan started fighting the shirtless, hairy sailor with the hanky code handkerchiefs (Link) on his jeans, it was obvious that no one at DC strongly cared (Link) about this book and the artist, Pat Broderick, just tried to get all kinds of “crap past the radar” (Link)…
Sally Pascale: Hal Jordan was doing his own thing in his own book there for a while, yes. Occasionally, Guy would drop in and play off of Hal, and these issues were usually hilarious. Then, both Guy [in “Guy Gardner” / “Guy Gardner: Warrior”, 1992 – 1996, Link] and John Stewart [in “Green Lantern: Mosaic”, 1992-1993, Link] got their own books… and “Mosaic”, which again was written by Gerard Jones, was, in a word… sensational.
Stefan Mesch: “Green Lantern: Mosaic” (Link) is an unconventional and remarkable book in the DC Universe, and you were very happy about it (Link)! Even though the Guardians left their home planet Oa in “Millennium” (1988), Appa Ali Apsa, the more human-like “Old-Timer” Guardian who had traveled through the US with Hal and Ollie, had decided to stay back on Oa on his own.
Over time, he grew mad and started stealing whole cities from different planets to transplant them to Oa: He created a “Mosaic World” (Link) where hundreds of species were forced to live side-by-side, and even though Hal was able to defeat the mad Guardian, no one could break up the intergalactic mishmash city… so John decided to stay on Oa and help these civilizations with their cultural problems.
The series is remarkable for the eye-popping, weird 90ies art (it reminded me of artist Anthony Ausgang, Link) and the Charles-Bukowski-like, deliberately erratic dialogue and storytelling. Also, “Mosaic” is one of the few series with a black main character (Link) that was making good money: After 18 issues, “Mosaic” was not cancelled because of poor sales.
Personally, I did not enjoy the writing style and the “groovy”, pretentious, surrealist stories. But it was an ambitious concept – and nothing that I can see DC Comics publishing today, in 2011.
Sally Pascale: And next, Hal turned crazy and killed all his friends.
Stefan Mesch: The story started when Superman was killed by a monster in 1993 (Link). A short while after his death, several ‘replacement Supermen’ (Link) showed up: a youthful clone (Link), an inventor in a steel suit (Link), a sentient computer directive from Superman’s home planet Krypton (Link) … and the violent Cyborg Superman (Link).
Until today, the Cyborg Superman is one of the most important villains in modern “Green Lantern” storylines. He also serves as a nice parody of Marvel’s “Fantastic Four” hero Reed Richards (Link), because both characters have nearly the same backstory… but vastly different heroing careers.
With Superman still dead, his old enemy Mongul (Link), an alien despot (with the personality of a schoolyard bully) decided to attack Coast City. With the Cyborg Superman standing by, Mongul killed 7 Million people (Link)…
Sally Pascale: Coast City was destroyed, and Hal couldn’t save it. He rather lost his marbles after that, and the Guaridans certainly didn’t help at all. Instead of getting him some therapy, they yelled at him and told him to stop moping. Naturally, this just made him mad [Link]. And then he tried to fix things, and they yelled at him some more. So he flew back to Oa, and basically just mowed down everyone in his path…
Stefan Mesch: Hal murders the friends who try to stop him – Boodika, Kilowog, Arisia, and many more – and steals their power rings (Link). Then, he kills Sinestro (Link)…
Sally Pascale: …and destroys the central battery [Link], and that was that for the Green Lantern Corps.
Stefan Mesch: I read about Coast City’s destruction when I was 14, in Roger Stern’s “The Death and Life of Superman” novel (Link). To this day, the book is one of my favourites, and I can highly recommend it to everyone who knows nothing about the DC universe.
Hal Jordan’s descent into madness has also been released as a trade paperback (Link) collection, titled “Emerald Twilight / A New Dawn” (Link). It is not very good… but to this day the single most important piece of backstory you should know when you read modern-day “Green Lantern” comics.
Sally Pascale: To this day, there are a lot of fanboys who start frothing at the mouth at the very thought of the “Emerald Twilight” storyline, but DC wanted to get rid of Hal and the Corps and start all over with a newer younger version of the hero. So Hal was turned into a huge villain, and tried to destroy the Universe, and it was a pretty shabby treatment for someone who had been one of their classical heroes, really.
He also beat the crap out of Guy, tore out his eye and put him into another coma.
Stefan Mesch: The 199oies were the “Dark Age” (Link) of comic books: Excessive violence, new, ‘radical’ replacement heroes… and once Superman’s death turned out to be a (real-life) media spectacle and a bestseller, every other hero had some big catastrophe shaking up his status quo (Link): Batman was put in a wheelchair (Link), Wonder Woman was replaced by a more violent Amazon named Artemis (Link), Green Arrow was killed by terrorists (Link)… and Hal Jordan became the villain in an event book called “Zero Hour: Crisis in Time” (Link).
To this day, “Zero Hour” is just about the dumbest, least inspiring and most joyless comic book I have read: Dozens of heroes die while Hal Jordan calls himself “Parallax” (Link) and tries to travel to the beginning of time (Link) to change history. In the end, Ollie shoots him in the heart to stop him (Link). It’s a horrible story… and a good case of “Character Assassination” (Link).
But hey: It gave us Kyle Rayner. (Link)
Sally Pascale: I wasn’t particularly happy when Hal got Parallaxed and went nuts. A LOT of people weren’t too happy about it. A number of really angry fanboys even started up HEAT [‘Hal’s Emerald Attack Team’, an initiative to bring back Hal], and were sending death threats to poor Ron Marz [Link], the new writer, which is incredibly bizarre.
However, since I really only started reading the “Green Lantern” comic of 1990, I didn’t have the emotional attachment that I developed later, so all I thought was that it was an interesting story [to find a replacement for Hal after 50 issues].
I’m able to look back now and realize that for all that it did such horrible things to a reasonably beloved character… it nevertheless was a seminal comic book event, and one that would have VERY large repercussions for the future.
But getting to Kyle. I like Kyle. He’s young, adorable, a bit confused, not always too bright, but he’s got a lot of heart and compassion, and he’s just trying SO hard to be a good hero. Frankly, the idea that Ganthet [the last surviving Guardian, Link] just found him standing in an alley outside of a bar [Link] is hilarious. And he does fulfill the first requirement of being a good Green Lantern… he has a really fabulous arse [Link].
Stefan Mesch: Kyle Rayner is a commercial illustrator / freelance artist. When we first meet him, he lives in LA with his girlfriend Alex deWitt (Link) and has only been out of college for a couple of years. Kyle has an overbearing mom, an absent dad and he really likes the comfort of a long-term relationship: There *always* is a girl in his life, and he *always* can’t wait to marry her.
The ring has not been picked Kyle for his bravety / willpower, though: He only found it by chance, and since there is no Oa and no Corps anymore, he has a hard time learning the ropes.
Interestingly, Alex turns out to be very helpful there: The two of them have a nice, loving dynamic, and the comic starts out a little one-dimensional (because of Kyle’s naivité)… but still quite charming.
Sally Pascale: Kyle’s first stories weren’t really in the epic, earth-shattering, cosmic vein. He was spending a lot of his time trying to figure out how the ring worked, and how to BE a Green Lantern, without a Green Lantern Corps. Everyone else had been depowered or killed off. He also had to deal with all of Hal’s friends and comrades in arms. For example, Oliver Queen, the Green Arrow couldn’t stand him, because his friend Hal had gone bonkers, and now here was this good-looking upstart in his place.
Ollie wasn’t the only one, either: So a lot of the early Kyle stories were mostly about him trying to figure out is place in the universe.
Frankly, I really really liked Alex, and I was devastated when she was fridged. To this day, I think that she’s still the best girlfriend that he ever had.
Stefan Mesch: It’s remarkable that today, a lot of people in screenwriting, comic books or feminism know the term “he/she is getting fridged” (Link). It originated with Kyle and Alex, back in 1994, when a villain named Major Force (Link) found out where Kyle lived, visited their apartment…
Sally Pascale: …ripped off Alex’s limbs one by one and stuffed her body into the refrigerator, where Kyle could find her [Picture/Link]. Alex DeWitt’s death lead to quite the interesting idea of “Women In Refridgerators” [Link], which became a feminist code for a lot of the tings that women find annoying about comic books.
Such as always killing off the hero’s girlfriend… or at least having highly unpleasant things happen to the hero’s girlfriend… so that the HERO will have angst.
Stefan Mesch: Anita Sarkeesian from Bitch Magazine (Link) made a cool video and explained the “Women in Refrigerators” trope. She also gives a lot of cool examples:
“Big Barda [Link] is just one of many female characters whose random and meaningless death was constructed in order to create a more intricate storyline for a male hero.”
Sally Pascale: The term “Women In Refridgerators” was coined by the incredibly talented Gail Simone [a hair dresser and web writer in the 1990ies, Link], and she wrote an amazing essay [Link] about it, some years ago.
Women, sidekicks, supporting characters, minorities… all seem to be very prone to WiR syndrome… in that so many writers take the lazy way out, and use the girlfriend, the relative, the best friend’s death as a way to motivate the HERO and to give him a reason to be angry or sad.
I can’t think of too many instances where a woman has a boyfriend killed, which in turn causes her to become a superhero. Another lazy writing trick is to have a heroine be raped [Link] and use that for her motivation. Again, not too many male heroes use that as their reason for fighting crime.
It has become such a cliché, and I’m tired of it.
Stefan Mesch: In 60 years, we had five major characters fill out the title role of “Green Lantern”: Alan, Hal, Guy, John and Kyle…
All of them have been American males, and every notable female character in the series – Arisia, Katma Tui, Jade (Link), Soranik Natu (Link) – sooner or later became a girlfriend to one of the guys and plays a supporting, secondary, clichèd role (Link with examples).
Of course, this is not exclusive to “Green Lantern” stories (even though the GL franchise does have a male-driven, macho sensitivity, stronger and more notable than in “Superman” or even “Batman”, for example).
Starting in September of 2011, there are 52 ongoing comic series at DC comics (Link). Two of the writers – Gail Simone and Amy Reeder [Link] – are female. The rest is male [Link with details/discussion].
And from 28 characters who have their own books, only 6 are female… and only two of these, in turn, are not distaff counterparts [depressing Link] / female versions of pre-existing male characters.
So whenever a woman or a minority character in these stories dies [Link]… they are leaving a much bigger hole – because there has never been lots of diversity in comics, in the first place.
Sally Pascale: I’m also getting annoyed with the way that they are killing off the replacement heroes [“Legacy Characters”, Link], such as Ryan Choi [the Asian-American “Atom”, Link], so that Ray Palmer [the more well-known, “classic” and white “Atom”, Link] could come back as the “official” Atom.
Stefan Mesch: Geoff Johns is a big fan of this strategy, and it brings a lot of problems: The oldest, classic heroes usually have the biggest brand value in comics, so when a comic book series is failing, it is easier to kill off the hero, invent a new person with slightly different powers and make him the new star… with the same name (Link).
Like Alan Scott, most Golden Age heroes of the 40ies were replaced by fresh, timelier characters with the same super-hero identity in the Silver Age of the 60ies…
…and in die 70ies and 80ies, a lot of “-girl” characters showed up: There was a new, female Dr. Light (Link), a new, female Wildcat (Link)… there even have been female Robins (Link), from time to time.
Sally Pascale: If there are so many Bat characters running around, and so many Green Lanterns, not to mention a whole passel of “Super-” People, surely there was room for two Atoms. The gratuitous and casual killing off of good characters is infuriating.
It used to be a Very Big Deal when a hero was killed… but they’ve used that ploy so often, that it has lost most of its impact. Needless to say, I would be thrilled beyond belief if they could bring back some of the really fabulous characters that they have so needlessly killed off in the recent past – such as “Blue Beetle” Ted Kord [Link/Picture], Ralph and Sue Dibney [Link/Picture], Mr. Miracle and Big Barda [Link/Picture], Ryan Choi [Link/Picture], Lian Harper [Link/Picture]… well, you get the picture.
Stefan Mesch: It was hard for me to enjoy the recent “Brightest Day” (Link) event, because there were two young black characters – Ronnie Raymond (Link), the second hero to be named “Firestorm”, and Jackson Hyde (Link), the second hero to be named “Aqualad”. Both boys seemed likeable and full of potential… but also very much like the characters that get sidelined and forgotten (Link) once they fail to interest the (mainly white) readership.
What made these two “Brightest Day” storylines so unnerving was that both young heroes had non-superpowered (step-)parents, and that their two fathers were heavily featured in the story: In the past couple of years, Tim Drake’s father was killed (Link/Picture), Kyle Rayner’s mother was killed (Link/Picture), Clark Kent’s father had a heart attack and died (Link/Picture), Supergirl lost her father (Link/Picture), Lois Lane’s father killed himself twice (Link/Picture) and Wonder Woman’s mother died three times (Link/Picture) and – one of the most idiotic and wasteful stories – a villain named Weather Wizard let his baby son be murdered to prove that he was still evil (Link).
I was reading the 24 issues of “Brightest Day”, waiting for these two kind, smart, but unspectacular middle-aged black men to be killed off… and I’m very surprised that it didn’t happen. I don’t think DC is committed to this sort of supporting character… at all.
Sally Pascale: Let me just say that I LOVE supporting characters: A good supporting cast can really make or break a superhero. Look at Superman…where would he be without Jimmy Olsen or Lois Lane? Batman could hardly exist without Alfred or Commissioner Gordon.
To my mind, Jaime Reyes [Link], the new Blue Beetle has one of the very best supporting casts out there [Link/Picture: Jaime’s mom and Guy Gardner], and I thank God on a daily basis that they haven’t killed HIM off [Link/Picture]!
There are a TON of Green Lantern supporting characters of course, and when they are well written, they become very important to the reader: Not only are there all of the myriad Lanterns, but all of the cool villains. Where would Hal be without Sinestro?
Stefan Mesch: There are amazing characters around, and more of them than there are comic books to give them space to shine.
But I think people are so bitter or angry about these deaths because the heroes, most of the time, manage to come back from the dead – especially if they are the most popular, “iconic” and “classic” person to hold a super-hero name (interesting analysis, Link). For women, minorities, girlfriends and side characters, staying relevant is even harder.
Sooner or later, almost everyone gets killed, forgotten or left behind to keep the hero “fresh” and without “boring” responsibilities (Link to a ‘Spider-Man’ storyline that destroyed Peter Parker’s marriage to keep him “hip” and “relatable”).
Stefan Mesch: For 10 years and more than 140 comic book issues, Kyle was the main character of “Green Lantern” (1994 to 2004). And all this time, flat side characters might have been the series’ biggest problem:
One the one hand, Kyle’s series was very fresh and accessible because he was the last and only Green Lantern, so we did not see many storylines concerned with Oa (destroyed), the Corps (disbanded), Hal Jordan (evil and crazy). Instead, Kyle moved to Greenwich Village, found a favorite coffee shop (Link) and hip neighbors and led a life reminiscent of “Seinfeld” (Link) or “Friends” (Link), with lots of post-college soul-searching and girlfriend trouble.
One the other hand, Kyle’s girlfriends were extremely flat characters: After Alex, the freelance photographer, was killed and stuffed into the fridge, Kyle dated Donna, a freelance photographer (and hero, Link), who then was killed by an evil robot.
Next, he dated Jade, a fashion photographer (and hero, Link)… until she, too, was killed in the 2005 event “Infitine Crisis” (Link), the sequel to “Crisis of Infinite Earths”.
Kyle is a likeable, charismatic character… but the people in his personal life are written so one-dimensional that large parts of this era of “Green Lantern” read like a weaker, more naive version of “Starman” (Link), another 90ies series about an urban, young, hip hero in search of his identity (Link to an essay of mine, German).
For nearly 10 years, “Green Lantern” felt like “Starman”… for stupid people (Link).
Sally Pascale: We can definitely bring up the phenomenom of Kyle’s reputed ‘Kiss of Death’. It is absolutely amazing just HOW many of Kyle’s love interests have come to a sticky end. First there was poor Alex. Then they killed Donna off, although it ultimately didn’t stick and she came back from the dead. Then they killed Jade, then they killed his mother, then they killed practically anyone who had ever been in the same room with him. I am really hoping that Soranik Natu, his current girlfriend, is the one to break the jinx.
Stefan Mesch: While Kyle started dating Donna, there was a whole generation of teenage heroes reaching their mid-twenties in the DC Universe:
Dick Grayson, the former Robin, was now Nightwing (Link). Roy Harper, Green Arrow’s drug-addicted ward Speedy, became Arsenal (Link). For more than 30 years, Donna Troy had been Wonder Woman’s Wonder Girl (Link), but by the 90ies, these heroes had successfully searched for their own identity and had started to grow up.
At the same time, their former (sidekick) roles were getting filled with new, more unconventional characters: an Asian-American Batgirl named Cassandra Cain (Link), a 1/4-black, 1/4-Asian buddhist monk named Connor Hawke (Link) who turned out to be Oliver Queen’s long-lost son… and replaced him as Green Arrow shortly after Kyle replaced Hal.
In the late 90ies, DC Comics had became more multicultural and the authors worked hard to show us established hero concepts… with young, fresh faces:
Kyle was part of this larger trend, and even today, he is the most popular and enduring of these characters.
Sally Pascale: I will be the first to admit that I am not much of a Donna Troy fan, though: I find her to be dull. I was never much of a “Teen Titans” [Link: A huge hit series in the early 1980ies] fan, so I didn’t like her particularly there either. Although I will admit that Kyle was a much better love interest for her than her late, unlamented husband, Terry Long [Link]. *shudder*
Stefan Mesch: Terry Long was a middle-aged, divorced college professor, and Donna Troy was only 20 or 21 when she married him. To make things worse, Terry looked very much like Marv Wolfman (Link), the author of that relationship (and a long-time Donna Troy fan).
In 1997, Terry (and Donna’s son Robert, Link) were killed in a car crash. After that, the grieving Donna broke up with Kyle… and Kyle started to live with Jade/Jenny-Lynn Hayden, the green-skinned daughter of Alan Scott.
Sally Pascale: I can’t STAND Jade! She is one of the few people who actually have the Green Lantern power internalized… something that she inherited from her father, Alan Scott. And she’s green, and actually had a rather nice costume, and I keep thinking that I should like Jade… but I just LOATHE her!
She’s whiny, and she’s fairly incompetent, and she cheated on Kyle! KYLE! Of all people! He’s a bit dim sometimes, and a bit self-centered, but dabnabit, Kyle is sweet, and he’s a nice boy and he just tries SO hard to be heroic all the time, and he’s out in space and she’s two-timing him, the little hussy! I was GLAD when she was killed…glad! Bwhahahahahahahaha!!
Stefan Mesch: I think the character of Jade was so annoying because Kyle basically had the very same story, with two different women: For the first five years, Kyle’s adventures were written by Ron Marz. But in 2000, a young author named Judd Winick (Link) took over and repeated many of the naive conflicts and stories that Marz had done before.
Ron Marz’ “Emerald Allies”, where Kyle and Connor Hawke search for Kyle’s absent father, is a good, character-driven collection (Link).
Ron Marz’ “Emerald Knights”, where Kyle meets a time-travelling, younger Hal Jordan, is highly recommended (Link).
…and Brian K. Vaughn’s 10-part mini-series “Green Lantern: Circle of Fire” has lots of serious, intelligent character development for Kyle (Link).
But overall, the Kyle Rayner era of “Green Lantern” is very much a kid’s book – and era that only ended in 2006, with Ron Marz’ naive, 12-part “Ion” series (Link)… where Alex’s killer, Major Force, [pretends to] stuff the body of Kyle’s mom into an household oven.
Ironically, Ron Marz has also… said some of the smartest things about constructing characters that I have ever read (Link), by drawing attention to a short sentence in an afterword (Link) by Stephen King:
[King:] “I have no quarrel with literary fiction, which usually concerns itself with extraordinary people in ordinary situations, but as both a reader and a writer, I’m much more interested by ordinary people in extraordinary situations.”
Kyle, who has found his Green Lantern ring in an alley behind a bar, is presented as the quintessential “ordinary” person, whisked away to cosmic adventures. He still has enough of a personality to be an interesting character…
…but it is notable that the DC heroes that people feel most passionate about – Batman, Wonder Woman, Superman, Oracle (Link), Jason Todd (Link), Damian Wayne (Link), Kate Kane (Link), Catwoman, Hal Jordan, Guy Gardner – do *not* have ordinary personalities, at all.
Instead, what had me invested in DC comics in the first place… was blogs like yours – that talk about the personalities and less about the always-the-same plot twists (Link) -, artists like Amanda Conner (Link) – that show the small, everyday moments between the heroes – and writers like Greg Rucka (Link), who likes to write from the perspective of complicated, competent women (Link).
Stefan Mesch: Moving on to Kyle’s second regular author, Judd Winick. In 2000, Winick won a Pulitzer Price for a personal graphic novel about HIV, “Pedro and me” (Link), a book that I can’t recommend enough.
Once Green Arrow Oliver Queen came back from the dead (Link), Winick also wrote some great scenes for Mia Dearden (Link), an HIV+ former teen prostitute who became Ollie’s new “Speedy” sidekick (Link).
Winick’s “Green Lantern” comics, on the other side, seemed rather dull.
The only Kyle books that I’ve really enjoyed were issues 138 and 139 (Link), where Kyle and Jade visit some Israel-like planet (Link) and have to deal with diplomacy and terrorism.
Sally Pascale: Quite frankly, Winick has the ability to drive me absolutely nuts. He CAN be a good writer… when he wants to be. I get the impression that he thinks that superhero comics are a bit beneath him, and he writes them with a certain amount of contempt.
Recently, he changed the backstory of Tora [Olafsdottir, Guy’s girlfriend Ice from the old Justice League International, Link]: His retcon [Link] is insulting, unnecessary and just plain bad [Link]. He doesn’t seem to write women very well. He CAN write men failry well…again, when he feels like it.
He did a fairly decent job with Kyle back in the Green Lantern books. However, he also has this habit of writing about things such as drug use, or homosexuality, or whatever… and making a HUGE deal out of it. It reminds me a bit of Dennis O’Neil [in “Green Lantern / Green Arrow” in 1968] actually. There is a feeling that he has one eye on the award ceremony, and only one eye on his writing, because it is Just So Socially Relevant!
Terry Berg, the teenage art assistant the Winick introduced [Link], was a decent enough character, but he was there mainly for Winick to make a Big Point [about bullying / gay-bashing and homophobia, Link].
Winick has also done some very good character stuff with Kyle… but having him answer to his real name while in costume or transforming into Green Lantern in the middle of a busy coffee shop? …or was it Ron Marz who did that? I’m too lazy to look it up right now.
Stefan Mesch: While Kyle was dating Jade, Alan Scott, the first Green Lantern, had some nice visits/scenes as a potential father-of-the-bride. Since his powers were magic-based, he also still was very active with the Justice Society.
But what changed for Guy and John? When Hal turned crazy, they both had their own books, “Mosaic” and “Guy Gardner”. But suddenly, through Hal’s actions, their GL rings were powerless.
Sally Pascale: When Hal got Parallaxed, they decided that Kyle was going to be the ONLY Green Lantern, so they cancelled the Mosaic book, which was a darned shame. It is quite fabulous, and poor John Stewart has never been quite as interesting since.
“Guy Gardner” was renamed “Guy Gardner: Warrior” [Link] and Guy recovered from his fight with Hal, went off to find the Warrior waters [that grant people superpowers, Link] and under the aegis of writer Beau Smith [Link], became Warrior. The whole storyline is pretty ridiculous [Link], but I didn’t care, because Guy actually managed to get his brains back. He was still a jerk of course, but now he was a jerk on purpose. And with a heart of gold of course.
Stefan Mesch: John Stewart – and Donna Troy, of all people – joined an intergalactic team of super-powered peacekeepers, the Darkstars (1992-1996, Link). These comics weren’t very good… and I don’t understand why there even *was* a poor man’s Green Lantern (Replacement) Corps, all of a sudden.
Sally Pascale: They did bring in the Darkstars after the Green Lantern Corps were pretty much kaput… and man, I HATED the Darkstars! Their uniforms were gaudy, and they seemed to just try to be copying the Lanterns. The Controllers [Link, an ancient rival race to the Guardians] were the ones in charge… and they just wanted to be the Guardians in the WORST way. But they just didn’t have the innate sense of arrogance [Link] to be able to pull it all off.
Stefan Mesch: Both “Guy Gardner: Warrior” and “Darkstars” (Link) were cancelled in 1996, but Guy had just opened a sports bar in New York, “Warriors”, so once a month, Kyle, John, Guy and Alan met there and drank a beer.
John also moved to New York, together with Merayn (Link), an alien woman he had met at the Darkstars: John was in a wheelchair at the time, so Meryan cared for him.
Donna Troy was helping Kyle rearranging his furniture… Meryan sat in John’s appartment to clean his things… It is pretty depressing to read these comics today… and seeing John as a dull, spiritless man in a wheelchair.
Sally Pascale: John has been around for quite some time, but he’s undergone quite a few changes over the years. Originally, in 1972, he was hand-picked by the Guardians to be Hal’s backup after poor Guy ended up in his first coma.
John was a stereotypical angry young Black Man [Link], and he and Hal didn’t get along at ALL. But that changed fairly quickly: I liked the fact that John was an architect, and that he loved coffee, and Barbra Streisand and ABBA. He fell for Katma Tui, and she for him, and they got married during the Super Bowl, which was fun. Also, he never bothered wearing a mask [Link]. Then the editors at DC decided that he was too happy, I suppose, and they killed off Katma, in one of the most stupid ways possible (and definitely a “Women in Refrigerators” moment, Link).
Then Hal turned evil, and then John was a Darkstar, and then he was paralized, and “Final Night” happened [a boring 1996 event where Parallax returned for one final time and decided to throw himself into the sun to save mankind from a cosmic “sun-eater”, Link] and Hal healed John’s spine, but then John realized that he still wasn’t able to walk and THEN he went to a psychotherapist and it turned out that he had a repressed memory of being responsible for the death of his baby sister and THAT was why he was still paralized.
Stefan Mesch: All of this was badly plotted, joyless to read and gradually marginalized one of only five or six well-known black DC heroes. To this day, I do not understand John, as a character: He is stern and humourless, uses his ring for elaborate, technically accurate energy constructs… and has been a Marine sharp shooter before he worked as an architect.
I know that John was in the highly popular “Justice League Unlimited” cartoon (Link) and that there is a whole generation of TV-watching children who see a picture of Hal Jordan and say “But I always thought that Green Lantern was black guy!” [racist discussion, Link]…
…but from what I have seen of John Stewart in the comics, all “Green Lantern” writers of the last 20 years seem to be bored by his sober, serious personality – and have no idea what to do with him.
Sally Pascale: John’s (retconned) past as a Marine sniper came because this was his background in the Justice League cartoon on television [2004-2006, Link], and when the comic book writers heard of it, they decided to keep it.
Basically, John is probably the smartest of the four Earth Lanterns… although Guy is a whole lot smarter than people think that he is. Frankly, Hal and Kyle are pretty, but dumb. John is quietly competent, stoic, and steadfast. He’s the one who keeps his head when others are losing theirs. He is calm and he is efficient, but he is NOT particularly charismatic. I liked it when he was teamed up with Hal, because frankly Hal NEEDS someone to keep him on an even keel.
I liked it even better when Guy and Kyle were partners [starting in 2007], because they work beautifully together, AND they’re funny. Now of course, in the new DC reboot coming out in September, they are going to have Guy and John paired, which is something that they really haven’t done so much before. It should be…interesting.
It is as though between them, Hal, Kyle and Guy use up all the charisma, and John is left over. Nobody really seems to know quite what to do with him. Quiet competence isn’t flashy. He’s awfully handy to have around, though.
I like John, I really do…and yet I can understand why you have a hard time getting a clear picture of him.
Stefan Mesch: Judd Winick gave John this soap-opera-like dead little sister (Link) repressed memories (Link) Freudian excuse (Link). At the same time, an alien woman, Fatality (Link) came to earth and held John responsible for the destruction of her home planet Xanshi. For more than 10 years now, Fatality has been this sexually aggressive, shrill female Hannibal Lector (Link), waiting to destroy and/or sleep with John.
Sally Pascale: I’ve never been much of a fan of Fatality, and she was fighting against Kyle so often when, quite frankly, it always seemed as though she should have been more of a John Stewart villain… since he was the one who was resposible for the destruction of her planet: John got cocky and didn’t think that he needed Martian Manhunter’s help, and really really made a mess of things. Lately, they seem to be trying to redeem Fatality, making her join the Star Sapphires [Link]. But it will be interesting to see what they ultimately do with her.
Stefan Mesch: After Hal Jordan went crazy… and traveled back in time to destroy the universe… and got shot in the heart by one of Ollie’s arrows… and flew into the sun and died… He was star of the 1999 “Day of Judgement” event (Link): The Spectre, God’s Spirit of Vengeance (Link), had been using a number of dead human hosts as an “anchor” to humanity. After various esoteric fights between angels and demons, Hal Jordan becomes the Spectre’s new host. But did it work? Is it worth reading?
It wasn’t a very popular or well-received series… but it was one of the first comics written by Geoff Johns (fun Link), a young writer who, in 2005, had bigger plans for Hal.
Sally Pascale: From 2001 to 2003, Hal Jordan had his own “The Spectre” series [Link]. But did it work? Is it worth reading? I have to admit that this was the low point of my interest in Hal: I was depressed enough that he went all crazy and became Parallax and killed his friends. I like Kyle of course, but I still MISSED having the Green Lantern Corps.
As for the Spectre… I’m not that invested in that particular use of Hal: It was nice that Hal was back… sort of. Kind of. A bit, perhaps. It wasn’t the same as having Hal as HAL, but at least he wasn’t DEAD dead. And it was interesting having him try and turn the Spectre into the Spirit of Redemption rather than the Spirit of Vengeance. It didn’t really work out in the end, but darn it, Hal was trying at least.
There were some good stories that came out of it, though: The “Quiver” storyline [Link] by [famous indie director] Kevin Smith [Link] told the resurrection of Oliver Queen and used Hal as the Spectre, and that was pretty fabulous. But I haven’t read a whole lot of the other [religion- or horror-based] Spectre stories, because I just couldn’t muster up the interest.
Stefan Mesch: …until finally, in 2005, a new mini-series, “Green Lantern: Rebirth” (Link) brought Hal Jordan back from the dead.
Sally Pascale: When Hal went bonkers and the Corps was destroyed, it was awfully hard on a lot of GL fans. They brought in Kyle, yes, and I LIKE Kyle, but it just wasn’t quite the same. For a while, I still had Guy to read about in “Guy Gardner: Warrior”, which was a lot of completely over-the-top insanity, but I MISSED him as a Lantern. John was sort’ve back, too… but still. I missed Hal.
Yes, Hal was shallow, self-centered, egotistical and a little bit dumb… but dammit, he always added some excitement. I even missed the stupid boxing glove construct he sometimes made with his ring [Link]!
So Hal’s return and all of the rebuilding of the Green Lantern mythology that followed has been wonderful…
Stefan Mesch: Geoff Johns, the new writer, had been reading the old, 1960ies “Silver Age” stories of Hal Jordan in his grandmother’s attic when he was a kid (Interview/Link).
Since he started at DC Comics in 1999, he has brought back old characters from the Justice Society (Link), worked on older, out-of-date heroes like “Hawkman” (Link) and “Aquaman” (Link), made Hal Jordan the main character of “Green Lantern” again… and brought back Barry Allen, the Silver Age Flash (Link).
On a racial / diversity level, it is problematic that Johns wants to recreate the hierarchies from his childhood and replace the younger heroes with their original (always white) counterparts (Link).
On a commercial level, though, it is easier to make movies about Hal Jordan than about Kyle Rayner (…and Kyle’s complicated passing-of-the-torch backstory).
It is Geoff Johns’ – highly successful – 2005 revitalization of the “Green Lantern” franchise that made the 2011 movie possible in the first place.
Sally Pascale: I really do love Geoff Johns as a writer. Not everything that he does is perfect, and he’s had his share of clunkers, but on the whole, he is a very careful writer. He plans the whole thing out in his head, not just for a few issues, not even for a year’s worth of issues, but for years and years worth of issues! He had the whole plot to “Rebirth”, the new “Green Lantern” books [Link], and the “Green Lantern Corps” books [Link], the “Sinestro Corps War” [Link] AND “Blackest Night” [Link] planned out at the beginning.
Johns loves to go dumpster-diving into DC continuity. It can be quite a treat to someone who is well-versed in that same continuity to see odd little facts and long-forgotten ideas pulled out, dusted off, and refurbished. And if you don’t know all that much about the history of the DC Universe? Well, the fact that he’s reused ideas doesn’t make them any the less intriguing.
Stefan Mesch: “Green Lantern: Rebirth” was the second “Green Lantern” book I’ve read (Link), back in 2008… but I found it convoluted, murky and overly didactic.
(Plus, for the first and only time in a “Green Lantern” book, I found the colors to be so dull and dark (Link) that the book gave me a… medieval, claustrophobic feeling).
Johns’ basic idea is that years ago, when Hal named himself “Parallax” and killed his friends, he had been possessed and brain-poisoned (Link) by an actual cosmic monster named Parallax – the cosmic avatar / personification of fear.
This angry, yellow Parallax monster [Link] had been held captive by the Guardians inside the central Power Battery on Oa [Link], but Sinestro, Hal’s enemy, coaxed it into “infecting” Hal.
Since people require big willpower to use a Green Lantern ring, Geoff Johns made Green the actual color of the Universes’ collective willpower [Link]… and yellow the color of the Universes’ collective fear. Parallax was ‘the yellow entity that was made out of living fear’, and this “emotional spectrum” of energy-emotions (Link) was supposed to explain why for 40 years, the rings had not worked against yellow objects, either.
It was an okay explanation and a powerful retcon (Link), and once Parallax was defeated, Hal had his body reconstructed and the Guardians decided to start a new, second Green Lantern Corps on Oa.
Hal Jordan was the star of the new, monthly “Green Lantern” book… Kyle had his 12-issues “Ion” mini-series… and Guy and John starred in the new “Green Lantern Corps”.
Sally Pascale: It’s been nothing short of wonderful. The Powers That Be made it almost impossible for Hal to be rehabilitated… and yet… Geoff Johns managed to do just that, and in an extremely satisfying way. And WITHOUT killing off Kyle! That’s a miracle in and of itself. And we got Guy back as a Lantern, and John, and Kilowog and Salaak, and the Guardians, and Oa and the Oath [Link]… and all that cool cool stuff.
Thank goodness it’s all fixed now!
The Corps was a rich and valuable mythology back in the day… and we lost a LOT of story-telling potential when they killed Hal off, and only told stories with Kyle as the last Green Lantern. Now it is all back, and better than it ever was, and I am eternally grateful.
Geoff Johns has a gift for being able to go into the past, and mine obscure bits of continuity… and then reuse it to explain things that are happening now [Link]:
Frankly, I think that using Parallax as a kind of Yellow Fear Monster was utterly brilliant, because it also explained the whole “yellow” weakness of the old books, and tied up all kinds of loose ends.
Also, it gave Hal a way to come back after killing those people and still allow him to be a hero. And it even turns out that the friends Hal killed weren’t dead after all, just imprisoned on Biot [Link], which was the planet that the Cyborg Superman had made into his lair! You remember Cyborg Superman: He’s the one who blew up Coast City with Mongul in the first place! He’s the one behind the reprogrammed Manhunters [Link]! It…it all makes SENSE now!
I adored “Rebirth”. The art [by Ethan van Sciver, Link] was gorgeous, and it brought back Hal, as a hero… and Hal also lost those goddamned grey sideburns! Man – I hated those!
It’s funny how the pendulum swings in comics. In the ’90’s, they decided the older heroes were obsolete, and should be dumped for the newer, younger, hipper heroes, such as Kyle and Wally [West, the third Flash, Link], and Connor Hawke and so on. And I LIKE those newer characters, really I do.
But I’ve always liked Barry [Allen, the original Silver Age Flash, Link] too, and although Barry’s death was actually quite moving and epic, I missed him, so I was quite happy that Geoff Johns brought him back [article by me, German].
But of course, I don’t want to lose Wally either. Lately, they’ve rather shuffled both Wally and Connor into the background. I was SO thankful that they didn’t kill Kyle off…and it would have been SO easy to do so.
Stefan Mesch: This is the way you sound on your blog most of the time, too: enthusiastic.
Sally Pascale: I am! By god, this is the best current comic book out there!
The Corps is back, and in their own book, they all go around doing their Space Cop thing, and it’ a heck of a lot of fun. Hal and Guy still fight, of course, but it’s a lot less angry than it used to be. Besides, Guy Gardner is one of the few people in the Universe who can make Hal Jordan… nervous. And that alone endears him to me!
We even got Coast City back: It has been rebuilt now, and people have moved there, and it’s even known as the City Without Fear [Link]. Take THAT, Gotham! Carol Ferris, Hal’s old flame at Ferris Aircraft, had gone and gotten married to someone else. But then she dumped him, and now she and Hal are even making goo goo eyes at one another again.
And Sinestro [Link] came back as well. And this is a Very Good Thing. Sinestro has always been SUCH a good villain, and I’m sure that he missed Hal terribly. Without Hal to fight, the whole joy of battle had just gone, and it turns out that having Sinestro be the one who was talking to Parallax the whole time that he was imprisoned inside the Central Battery on Oa actually was the impetus behind Hal’s fall. And that has been very very satisfying… to Sinestro.
Stefan Mesch: From what I’ve seen of Sinestro so far, he’s an excellent villain: I really enjoyed Geoff Johns’ “Green Lantern: Secret Origin” (Link), a retelling of the first meetings and backstory between Hal Jordan, Carol Ferris, Abin Sur (Link) and Sinestro. It is the best starting point to anyone interested in the “Green Lantern” mythology.
On the other hand, neither “Green Lantern: No Fear” (Link) nor “Green Lantern Corps: Recharge” (Link) or “Green Lantern Corps: To be a Lantern” (Link) are very good… or make a whole lot of sense.
I wouldn’t recommend these books to interested readers.
Only with “Green Lantern Corps: The Dark Side of Green” (Link), the whole saga started to get really, really complex, dynamic and good. But no matter where you start: You have to read some pretty bad comics to understand what is going on.
Sally Pascale: The older books still have a lot of relevance, yes. But it is fairly easy to find them, since DC has actually been reprinting a lot of their old material in handy dandy collected books [Link]… because who could afford to buy the extremely rare and valuable… not to mention impossible to find… originals from 50 or 70 years ago?
Is the “Green Lantern” mythos necessarily an easy place for a novice to jump onto? Probably not. Although I suppose that can be said of just about ANY comic book!
I don’t know if I am typical: When I find a book that I like, I start to read it, and then I get interested, and start looking for back issues, and trade paperbacks so that I can figure out exactly WHAT is happening, and who those people ARE, and why are they acting the way that they do. I tend to get a little bit obsessive.
When I began reading Green Lanterns, I hunted down back issues with absolute lust: I went to every comic book store I could find. I had lists. I had mail-order catalogues. It is a lot easier nowadays, because they are reprinting so many of the old old issues in black and white [as cheap “Showcase” Collections, Link]. I don’t obsess about having the originals… I just want to read the STORIES!
I did the same thing when I discovered James Robinson’s [Link] “Starman” books [Link] …and when I found the “Lt. Blueberry” books by Charlier and Giraud: Do you have any idea how hard it is to find thirty-year old French westerns? It’s darned near impossible! But still, I’ve managed to get my greedy little hands on a whole bunch of the reprints.
I actually think that it would be easier for a new reader to start with some of the Silver Age Green Lantern books [Link], to find out who exactly Hal is. Then when he starts to behave strangely in the Denny O’Neil era, or even later in the Gerard Jones era, you will have a better understanding of his fall… and his redemption. If you start with Rebirth, you will have one heck of a story…but you won’t necessarily understand WHO Hal Jordan is… or why his return is such a Big Deal.
But if you really really like Green Lanterns… it is truly worth it.
Stefan Mesch: There is one reprint collection that I have found extremely helpful: “In Brightest Day” (Link), with stories edited and selected by Geoff Johns. The collection features some 1980ies stories written by cult author Alan Moore (Link) that played a big role in all the “Green Lantern” stories since 2005… but especially the 2009 “Blackest Night” event (Link with interesting, snarky quote by Alan Moore).
Let’s talk about Sinestro some more, though: He was a very competent, prideful and serious Green Lantern from the planet Korugar (Link) who realized that the planet was much more secure if he ruled it with an iron fist. From there, it turned violent… and he began to be a menace to the Guardians.
Sally Pascale: Really, Sinestro is a fabulous character: Introduced as THE villain for Hal [Link], he’s probably one of the reasons that “Green Lantern” became so popular. All heroes need a good villain, and Sinestro is one of the best [Link].
And the funny thing is… he doesn’t think of himself as a villain. According to Sinestro’s lights, he’s the GOOD guy. He’s just trying to save the Universe, and he happens to think that the best way to do that is to install order. He’s a little bit like Marvel’s Doctor Doom [Link] in that respect. One can’t help but think that if Doom ever DID take over the world, he’d do a really good job running it.
Sinestro got a little bit carried away [with his dictatorship] on Korugar, and the Guardians turned on him [Link]. They seem to have a bad habit of doing that sort of thing.
Abin Sur, one of the greatest of the Lanterns, was Sinestro’s friend and Mentor. This is a retcon, so it has never happened in the original stories, but it’s a pretty good one: Sinestro fell in love with Abin Sur’s sister, Arin Sur [Link], and she was killed [depressing Link], which made him awfully sad and bitter.
It has never been said that Abin’s sister is actually the mother of [Sinestro’s illegitimate daughter and co-star of the new “Green Lantern Corps” series] Soranik Natu [Link], but the implication is there. Soranik was a surgeon on Korugar, and now she is a Green Lantern in her own right… but she thinks that Sinestro is a monster. And there is no denying that he’s done some extremely heinous things: Like destroying Kilowog’s entire planet!
Geoff Johns has been working on Sinestro a lot in the past few years: “Rebirth” has brought the character back from the comic book purgatory where he had been lurking, and we were all very happy to see him.
In the big 2008 crossover [Link] “The Sinestro Corps War” [Link], I think that Geoff Johns wrote one of the Very Best Green Lantern stories ever: I liked it even better than Rebirth!
Stefan Mesch: Of course! Me, too: “The Sinestro Corps War” is a big, fast-paced, incredibly cinematic blockbuster where two years of build-up and exposition in “Green Lantern” and the sister series “Green Lantern Corps” culminated in a war between Green Lanterns… and Sinestro’s Yellow Lanterns [Link], ready to spread fear across the galaxy. It was not a very cerebral or thoughtful story… but BIG fireworks, and BIG fun.
Sally Pascale: I always found it interesting – and a little bit sad at the same time – that Sinestro formed his OWN Corps, but that he just couldn’t let go of his old obsession with the Green Lanterns… he forged rings just like theirs, he has a Power Battery just like theirs, the command structure is the same, and so many other things that he just can’t seem to let go of: He is understandably bitter about the Guardians, and also towards Hal, whom he considered his friend until he “betrayed him”. Hal doesn’t see it that way, of course. But Sinestro’s point of view is naturally quite different.
Stefan Mesch: I like Soranik very much, and from a German perspective, it’s fun to see a planet that has overcome fascim only a couple of years ago… and still deals with a lot of anger and ambiguity when it comes to the actual foreign / interestellar politics (Link).
From what I’ve heard about the way Sinestro has ruled Korugar in the past (Link), he does strike me as a kind of “Space Hitler” (Link). Has that been handled with any kind of political complexity in the old comics, too? Or is Sinestro just your run-of-the-mill despot?
Sally Pascale: I’m not sure that I would describe Sinestro as a Space version of Hitler: He isn’t a hater so much as someone who is trying to “fix” things. He doesn’t necessarily see genocide as the solution to all of his problems. He WAS originally a bit of an archeologist, but I don’t see him as a fanatic about architecture. He would like to have a New World Order however. And he does seem to see himself as being the most competent person to run it.
Something that I will admit I have always rather liked about Sinestro, is that he’s been portrayed as having a rather dry sense of humor. A black sense of humor, but still… he has a kind of dark wit. You can’t be a complete villain if you can see the amusing side of things. And this was before Geoff Johns got a hold of him, so it’s really a part of his core character. And seriously, who wouldn’t like David Niven [Link] with pink skin and a yellow ring?
Stefan Mesch: Starting to read these modern comics, I feel like both “Green Lantern” and “Green Lantern Corps”, running side by side, had a few false starts: “Green Lantern Corps”-author Dave Gibbons (Link) is very popular because he was the artist of the “Watchmen” comic (Link) in 1986, but his first stories were like… boring episodes of “Star Trek” from 20 years ago.
When artist Patrick Gleason (Link) and new writer Peter Tomasi (Link) took over, though, GLC got really, really good.
I think that Peter Tomasi’s books, “Green Lantern Corps” and the recent “Green Latern: Emerald Warriors” [Link] are the best series currently published by DC.
Sally Pascale: Tomasi [Link] really does a fabulous job writing „Green Lantern Corps“… and Pat Gleason is one of my absolute favorite artists. He can draw aliens like nobody’s business [Link], and he’s endlessly inventive about the ways that he does it. And his artwork is just so…fluid. It flows so effortlessly from panel to panel. And he draws Guy Gardner simply beautifully [Link]!
He also draws different body types, and different noses, and he draws women so that they don’t all look exactly alike [amazing Link], except for the color of their hair: Iolande [Picture/Link] looks quite different from Arisia [Picture/Link], who looks different from Soranik [Picture/Link], who looks different from Brik [Link], who looks different from R’amey Holl [Picture/Link]. They are all beautiful women, but they are all INDIVIDUALS!
Stefan Mesch: “Green Lantern Corps” works very much like a (dark and complicated) police procedural: A group of multicultural GL’s from all over the cosmos try to solve individual crime cases, stop despots or deal with cosmic mysteries.
The ring is a very powerful weapon, and the Guardians have decided that instead of one ringbearer per sector, there will be two, bringing the number of Green Lanterns up to 7200 (Link)…
All of this could be cheesy, chaotic or boring… but fortunately, Tomasi has a great eye for details, a good ear for characters… and he likes to put these space cops through unnerving, morally complicated situations (Link). I have not read a team comic *that* compelling, especially on a psychological level, since Ed Brubaker’s “Gotham Central” (Link) police drama.
Oddly, Peter Tomasi is a big fan of “Body Horror” (Link), so cases that start out colorful and a little bizarre can quickly shift into complete Nightmare Fuel (Link) Territory… with characters like Kryb (Link) or thousands of eyeballs of dead family members raining from the sky (Link)… It’s an incredibly intense comic.
The only problem is… it is a big, complicated, long-term story with no good jumping-on points. And you have to read both comics, “GL” and “GLC”, to get the full picture (reading order and recommendations, Link).
Also, with only 20 pages of story material a month, most plotlines are years-old: I loved reading the whole saga this June, in just about two weeks (Link). But I don’t know if I would enjoyed it to read it in little snippets, month by month, for over five years… with old, old conflicts and mysteries still not resolved.
Sally Pascale: There ARE a fair amount of lose ends and dangling plot lines at the moment, yes.
However, for the most part I do trust that Geoff Johns and Peter Tomasi and [new “Green Lantern Corps” writer] Tony Bedard [Link] will be diligent about tying them all up… sooner or later. There is still that whole plot line about Evil Star [Link] and the Kroloteans [they are evil goblins and they invented the German language… Link] from way back [Link], not to mention the current location of Sodam Yat [my favourite new character – Link] left over from the “Emerald Warriors” book to be wrapped up.
But Geoff Johns is notorious for taking a LONG view when it comes to writing his books… and he is very fond, and vey deft at planting clues and hints. You read it, and you don’t necessarily make the connection… until five or six issues later… when all of a sudden, you realize that the little clue he dropped in there suddenly makes a WHOLE lot of sense. You do have to be patient when reading Green Lantern.
I like the serial nature of comic books… the monthly storyline… the cliff-hanger… the drama and the waiting… anticipation is one of the most enjoyable parts of being a comic book fan. It’s a little bit like having Christmas but every month! When finally after four weeks or so, your favorite book is right there in your trembling hands… and you get to see how the hero survived, or failed, or what happened, and oh God, it all starts over, because there is yet another cliff-hanger! It is something that can’t really be duplicated in movies, because movies take so long to make. The “Harry Potter” movies probably have come the closest, but even that is a bit different, because most of the fans have already read the books.
I just hope that comic books stay popular and viable and profitable for another fifty years!
Stefan Mesch: Well… what do you think? Will they? Sales numbers have been dropping for years now (Link), and frankly, I’m amazed that DC Comics even bothers doing “small” books with less popular heroes:
Books with “Batman” or big “Green Lantern” events can sell about 100.000 units a month… but “Wonder Woman” usually has a mere 30.000, and cult favorites like “Power Girl” (Link) or the acclaimed (but horrible-looking) “R.E.B.E.L.s” (Link) sold less than 20.000. Do you think there will still be 50 to 70 different DC books a month (Link)… ten years from now?
Sally Pascale: Do I think that comics will still be around in ten years? I certainly hope so… although I am pretty sure that the digital market is probably going to be the wave of the future. Still…there will be a lot of old farts like me, who like to hold the book in their hands, and actually have a physical copy of it.
And I have to admit that I LOVE actually going to the Comic Book store on Wednesday, and talking in person with the other patrons about the new books, and complaining about whatever stupid thing the comic book companies have just done (Link). It is a personal connection that I treasure. I love the internet, but sometimes, human contact is also very nice to have.
These are pretty durable characters, all things considered. Batman and Superman have been around for 70 some years now! That’s a pretty good track record for something that was considered to be “kid stuff”. And a lot of those kids grew up and were nostalgic for the beloved stories of their youth, and that spawned a whole new generation of fans, who may be older, but who continue to buy and read comics.
They have been predicting the “End” of comics for years now… and still they manage to hang on. I do wish that they would expand their customer base a bit… there actually are a LOT of women who love comics… and it gets tiring being told that we aren’t the audience that they want. (Link)
Stefan Mesch: I grew up watching “Lois and Clark” (Link) on television… and I was always fascinated by the complicated continuity of the DC Universe. In 1997, I bought the “Death and Life of Superman” novel (Link), in 2001, I bought the “Kingdom Come” novel (Link), and all the while, there were cool “X-Men” (Link) and “Spider-Man” (Link) movies in the cinema and “Birds of Prey” (Link) and “Smallville” (Link… though I never liked that) on TV.
In 2003, I bought a German “Superman” sampler (Link). In 2004, an online test (“What super-hero are you?”) told me that I’m Hal Jordan, so I went to Wikipedia (Link) to find out who this “Green Lantern” person was. In 2006, I read about “52” (Link) and was very intrigued (because I liked “24” at the time, Link). And in 2008, I bought “Infinite Crisis” (Link) on a whim and enjoyed it very much.
For an internship that summer, I had to take a 3-hour commute by train every day for three months, so I decided to buy some comics and read them on the train (List of books that I read back then, Link). It was a magical, exciting summer (I wrote personal essay about it here, Link)… and places like your blog helped me understand what was going on.
The funny thing is, though…
I buy the books on Amazon. I don’t visit German comic shops, and I have no comic-reading friends around. I understand that there is a certain “boy culture” and casual sexism in comics… but online, the smartest and most vocal and interesting people talking about comics… are all women and/or minorities:
Your own blog, “Green Lantern Butt’s Forever”.
“The Absorbascon”, a collection of essays from gay former comic shop owner Scipio Garling.
“The feminist “DC Women Kick Ass” blog by Sue, a woman who’s part white, part Hispanic.
“When Fangirls Attack” and “Dispatches from the Fridge”, sites that collect links about women and minorities in comics.
Mike, a German comic book vendor at Berlin’s “Grober Unfug” shop, frequently blogs about gay and lesbian DC characters.
…and the reviewer CEB at “Collected Editions”, who does not draw attention to his/her personal life and gender (Interview here, Link).
I know that there are *some* other parts of fandom/discourse that are more male-skewing (author Grant Morrison, for example, seems to have a rather big male following, Link).
I also noticed that that in the letter columns of Kyle’s GL series from the 90ies, there was only ONE kind of (young, overenthusiastic “Whoa! I really liked Sonar’s HUGE gun! This guy is KILLER!”, Link) kind of male letter writer. 95 percent of the letters were written by teenage (?) boys.
Can you explain what happened there?
Why is the discourse on the internet SO different from the real-life demographics? I never picture comic book fans as (predominantly) white, straight and male because the people talking online are almost NEVER white, straight and male.
Is there another universe of well-written, thoughtful, intelligent and critical white, straight and male DC blogs that I have never found?
Sally Pascale: That is one heck of a question, and it is one that I wonder about all of the time as well. The internet seems to be a whole different animal from what you see in “real life”. I am so accustomed to going through my daily routine, reading all of my favorite blogs [Link, blog roll available on the right side], writing something inane in my own blog, going through the various Message Boards and so on, that it seems as though the whole world is interested in Comic Books. But that of course, would be wrong.
As much as I hate to admit it, MOST people don’t give a darn about comic books, and consider people who DO, to be… a little on the odd side. You wouldn’t believe the funny looks that I get at work, when I announce on Wednesdays, that the new books are in, and that I have to GO… and buy them! I’m not embarrassed about it any more, because I’m old enough and eccentric enough not to care.
But yes, I am usually the only woman in my beloved local comic book store. Not always, there are some other, usually younger women who are patrons, but not all that many. But with only a few exceptions, I have been extraordinarily fortunate, in that the other male patrons have accepted by presence without a murmer. There are some stores that it is practically taking your life or your virtue in your hands to even enter [a comic book store].
My store is not like that…thank goodness! I’m even able to have long-winded and obscure discussions with Matt, the proprietor, and the other customers. I also always make sure to bring Matt in home-made cookies and brownies and such… and I end up with the best covers, and occasionally action figures and statues and other stuff! Hah!
But comics are, by and large, made BY males FOR males. DC admitted target age of the new DC reboot [Link] is aimed at men, from 18 to 34. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t any female fans, there ARE…but it does make us feel a little bit left out of things. If you are trying to maintain, and increase your customer base, it seems foolish to go out of your way to ignore and annoy a rather large section of that base [Link].
There are the Trolls of course. I am a lot less confrontational in my blog than some of the ones written by women, so I don’t get TOO many Trolls, but I’ve certainly gotten enough, and they are a royal pain.
There is a rather peculiar subgroup of male fans who see any complaint from women as being an ad hominem attack on THEIR hobby, and they react with unprecedented fury. Most women fans, like a lot of the same things that the guys do… I can appreciate a good solid kick to the head any day. I love capes, and sound effects and ridiculous science, and so on.
It would be nice if the women characters weren’t portrayed in QUITE so blatantly a sexy way, or if the female characters weren’t the fist ones to get killed, or if they could stop making rape be the default origin of all the heroines, or making the female characters weaker and stupider. But it doesn’t mean that those mean women want to take away your superheroes and turn them into Romance Comics. We just want the female heroes to be a competent as the male heroes… without arching their backs [Link] and wearing thongs.
So… I think that there are a lot of women who find the internet a safer place to talk. Which sounds a bit odd considering how many trolls are out there. There are PLENTY of men who are blogging, and writing articles and leaving huge essays on message boards… in fact I think that the majority of comic book blogs are still by men. But there are a lot more women coming into the fandom, from even a few years ago, and I think this is a good thing.
There are also a lot more women attending the various conventions and doing the whole cosplay thing too. There are more women gamers. Science fiction, superheroes, fantasy…these are genres that are appealing to EVERYONE… not just straight white young men. I think that it has ALWAYS been that way… it’s just that women, and minorities and gays and everyone is a bit more vocal about it now.
The Comic book companies have actually made some strides in opening things up and having characters that appeal to everyone… certainly more so than in the past. There is a lot more that they could do… and probably will need to do, if they want to remain relevant and solvent in the future. Comics SHOULD be for everyone.
Stefan Mesch: It might have been a pretty smart move of DC to say that their comics are for grown-up men, though: Even the bloodiest or darkest DC comics – Gail Simone’s “Secret Six” (Link), the awful “Titans” (Link) and “Magog” (Link) or the horrible “Spectre” comics from 5 years ago (Link) – all have a pretty immature, youthful sensibility. These books *look* somber and gritty and there is lots of blood…
…but there is hardly sex or character complexity: Events like “Blackest Night” (or *this* stupid cover, Link) seem perfect for 12 to 15-year old boys who want to be titillated by “manly” blood and guts.
Obviously, there are a lot of older, nostalgic men reading comics, too. But especially the DC relaunch in September and covers like this (1), this (2), this (3), this (4), this (5), this (6), this (7), this (8), this (9), this (10), this (11) and this (13) look like DC wants to tell violent, stereotypically “manly” stories.
Some of the October 2011 covers look even pulpier and trashier: This (1), this (2), this (3), this (4), this (5), this (6), this (7), this (8) or this (9), to name a few.
It looks darker and more macho than ever. But it also looks dumber than ever.
Sally Pascale: I think that 12 to 15 is an ideal age to get interested in comic books. You don’t want the kids to be TOO young, because some of the violence can be pretty…graphic. But teens always find a kick to the head to be hilarious.
Stefan Mesch: My best friends’ daughter is 9 years old and we’ve been reading comics since last summer. We started with a great manga about a young girl, “Yotsuba!” (Link) and we are currently reading “Bone” (Link).
I have some… 300 DC trade paperbacks lying around and she asked me if we could read some of them – but there is hardly *anything* age-appropriate for someone who’s in elementary school.
In three or four years, she could read “Batgirl” (Link), “Supergirl” (Link to German essay) or “Justice League Dark” (Link). But right now…?
Sally Pascale: I’ve always considered the DC television cartoons (Link) to have been an excellent introduction to comics. Look at how many of the TV cartoons from the ’80’s are being turned into movies nowadays! There are a LOT of media attractions out there that weren’t around in the good old days. So by all means, I think that DC and Marvel should be putting out quality cartoons, good video games and good movies as WELL as comic books.
When it comes to recommending a book for a child to read from either DC OR Marvel…I have to say that I am at something of a loss.
Unfortunately the trend in comics for far more mature audience leaves out a LOT of paying customers, and I think that it is also a recipe for disaster sooner or later. If you want to continue to make comics, then you have to get YOUNG people interested. It used to be that EVERYONE read comics, boys and girls, because they were cheap and fun. But it is a lot harder to have to come up with $2.99 or $3.99 per book than 10 cents or 25 cents in the old days. The inflation rate is much higher than it should be.
The “Tiny Titans” book [Link] is fabulous, and I am staggered to understand that you can’t get it in Germany. I wonder why not?
Do you get the “Batman: the Brave & the Bold” book [Link] in Germany? It’s a spin-off from the superb television cartoon [Link] in comic book form, and it is both hilarious and beautifully written and drawn. Kids AND adults love this book!
Your friend’s daughter might also like to check out the new “Blue Beetle” book [Link] that will be coming out in September. Or check out the back issues or the trade paperbacks [Link] of Jamie Reye’s first adventures as written by Keith Giffen and John Rogers [Link]. “Blue Beetle” was fun and young and cool and had a fabulous cast of characters.
Stefan Mesch: When I noticed that Guy Gardner is a big supporting character in “Blue Beetle”, I read the books to prepare for our interview. It’s a charming (great Link to a TV episode) and very dynamic series with an Hispanic, 17-year old hero who has told his parents the truth about his powers. He also has two best friends – Paco and Brenda (Link) – who create lots of snarky, fun situations reminiscent of Harry, Ron and Hermione from “Harry Potter” (Link). Jaime also has a smart, independent sorceress girlfriend named Traci 13 (Link), and there’s a positive, intelligent, life-affirming attitude in this book that makes it fun to read. [The first collection is not very good. But with book 3, the title finds it’s voice.]
Before we return to “Green Lantern”: Are there any other DC series that you would like to recommend?
Sally Pascale: “Green Lantern” is my favorite fandom of course, but there are plenty of other books that I like as well: I’m not much of a Bat fan… frankly, Batman’s arrogance and omnipotence annoys the heck out of me. Which is why I really REALLY enjoy it when I see a scan of him doing something stupid [Link].
I like the Justice Society of America… mainly because I just LOVE all those old farts, such as Alan Scott, Ted Grant, Jay Garrick etc. running around showing the young whippersnappers how it is done.
I enjoy “Birds of Prey” [Link], especially as written by Gail Simone. I LOVE the Secret Six… again written by Gail Simone. And I feel passionately in love with the “Starman” series, as written by James Robinson.
I simply adore Jonah Hex [Link]. Mainly because I REALLY like Westerns. And he’s really a very very cool character [Link]. The book is a million times better than the movie [Link], by the way.
I have never been much of a fan of the Teen Titans [Link] for some reason. Or the Legion of Super-Heroes [from the 31st century, Link] for that matter.
I’ve always seen them as bratty Teenagers from the Future [Link]. My feelings are mainly rooted in those old Silver Age books [Link] that show them getting bored every other week or so and staging fake try-outs for the poor wannabees [Link] and then mocking and humiliating them for their own pleasure. Spoiled rotten Teenagers from the Future! Bah!
When it comes to my favourite crossovers and events, I have to admit that I actually rather liked “Identity Crisis” [2004, Link]… it’s the story that really got me into lots of DC books, mainly because I was so infuriated with Marvel at the time.
“52” was excellent. Really really good [Link]. I loved these weekly books that DC was doing: Even when it wasn’t so good, like the “Countdown” book [Link], it was still nice to know that there would be a book every week. And “Trinity” wasn’t terrible [I wrote about it here, in German].
I also liked parts of “Justice League: Generation Lost”: It was my only chance to read about some of my absolute favorite characters in the world, with Booster Gold, Blue Beetle, Fire and Ice. And the whole thing has lead to the re-introduction of a NEW “Justice League International” book [Link] for which I am very very grateful.
I’m still angry that Judd Winick changed Ice’s backstory, though [Link]: Both women, Fire and Ice, were just written…very poorly. Especially Ice. You don’t take one of the nicest, sweetest and most adorable characters in the DC Universe and suddenly have her swearing and whining and being simply awful. It was TOTALLY out of character.
And then of course, Winick went and gave her a new generic “X-Men” type of origin [Link], when there was NOTHING WRONG WITH HER OLD ONE… for no purpose whatsoever. It had no bearing on the final conclusion of the story, and did nothing but enrage Ice fans [in-depth article, Link]. *pant pant*
I’ll try and calm down now! Sorry.
Stefan Mesch: No – don’t calm down yet! I was about to ask you about your least favorite moments: What’s annoying about comics? What scenes were horrid and bad?
Sally Pascale: Well… we talked about the way that the Comic Book companies keep killing off perfectly good and viable characters for no more than a momentary thrill. By now, it has lost whatever shock value it ever had. Usually, the heroes end up coming back anyway…
Stefan Mesch: …but children, side characters, women and non-heroic minorities stay dead, more often than not. [Link]
Sally Pascale: It has gotten a tired and boring cliché, and I wish that they would stop it. Of course, there are a whole lot of Green Lanterns that have bit the dust, and it is a shame. Mogo being the first – I LOVED Mogo [Link]! And his partner Bzzd [Link] is also gone, and it’s a shame. Kreon [Link] and Laira [Link] and Chaselon [Link] are gone, and I don’t know what the heck ever happened to G’Nort [Link], but I’d love to see him again.
If you have gone to the trouble to create these wonderful characters, with a long and rich history, it is an awful shame to get rid of them just for a momentary cheap thrill.
Also, it is possible to tell perfectly wonderful, exciting stories about married couples [cute Link], such as Clark Kent and Lois Lane [Link] and not have it be boring. Or Peter Parker and Mary Jane [Link] for that matter. I realize that conflict and danger and angst are a part of comics, you can’t have a good story without some peril of course, but does every story have to try and one-up the one before it, when it comes to mindless gore and destruction? How many times can we destroy New York anyway [Link, published Sep. 2001]?
And while I’m on a good rant here – stop getting rid of good villains! Heroes NEED good villains.
Still, in the long run, there is more that I love about my comics than what I hate. I’ve never quite understood the mind set amongst some of the fans who do NOTHING but complain [Link]. Everything is terrible, everything is “lame”, it’s all awful and horrible, and they hate hate hate it.
I can’t really imagine having a hobby that I hate: I read comics because I enjoy them. I may like some more than others, and sometimes I’m disappointed, but that’s pretty rare, most of the time. So… read the books that you like. And don’t read the books that you dislike!
Stefan Mesch: That’s the problem with all these interconnected books: I did not like Geoff Johns’ first four “Green Lantern” books, at all… but they were too important to skip.
I dislike Hal, because he seems to succeed mainly since he’s the main character, not because he knows what he is doing (Link), and I am torn when it comes to Geoff Johns’ storytelling.
On the one hand, Johns is very good in creating an atmosphere of importance and urgency: You always feel like you are reading something momentous, relevant and big, and there are hardly any ‘filler’ moments.
On the other hand, all the characters explain (and rectify) complex backstory through dialogue: Johns uses so much retroactive continuity, explanations, remarks and throwbacks to the past…that the dialogue seems very artificial, lifeless, stilted and weird.
It gets worse when there are obvious contradictions between the way a character has behaved for 40+ years… and the way Johns wants to modernize him: Frequently, Johns uses old facts as evidence that the exact OPPOSITE of what we had thought to know about someone has been true all along. A (made-up) example:
Hal: “Barry, you were always such a slow and patient police scientist.”
Barry: “Is that how it looked, Hal? To tell you the truth, I was so impatient and reckless back then that I FORCED myself to slow down. I think I was the most impatient man in the world.”
It’s not problematic or wrong to do that… but it does sound unnatural, and it’s boring and depressing (Link with examples) because you constantly feel like everything you knew was wrong: Reading Geoff Johns feels like working… or learning… from a teacher who is constantly lying about the history book.
I have no problems with retcons. But I don’t like the resulting insincere and heavy-handed dialogues.
Sally Pascale: You made a good point when you brought up Hal and Barry talking, and referencing moments from their past, that have been reconstructed. People really don’t talk like that… especially not old friends like Hal and Barry.
Geoff Johns feels that he sometimes has to explain Every Little Thing about a character. And he does have a tendency to get a little heavy-handed sometimes. But this is a minor flaw to me, most of the time: Being such a huge Green Lantern fan, I’m willing to cut him a great deal of slack, so long as he keeps dishing out my particular drug of choice!
Stefan Mesch: He’s doing a great job, coordinating all these characters and sweeping storylines. It’s just hard that as a reader, you can’t really cherry-pick the good books and ignore the rest. And especially his pre-“Sinestro Corps” Hal Jordan stories struck me as badly-constructed:
By now, I have seen Carol Ferris in about… 60 comic books written by Geoff Johns, but I still can’t think of three adjectives to describe her: “Competent”, “well-groomed” and… “black-haired”?
Recently, as an Air Force Pilot, Hal has also met a blonde girl with a cowboy hat that calls herself “Cowgirl”, and together, they crashed in Chechnya and were tortured by Chechnyan rebels for months [Link].
Hal does not like to wear his power ring when he is piloting a plane, so he could not free himself.
But at the same time… he is friends with the whole super-hero community AND the Corps. Batman didn’t ask for him? Kyle, Guy, John and the Guardians didn’t care? Superman did not hear his heartbeats or his cries, with his super-hearing?
If you want to enjoy the complicated “Green Lantern” sagas, you have to be attentive and alert to understand all the implications and hidden consequences. And then all of a sudden, something like this happens: Hal Jordan, tortured and forgotten in Chechnya. Seriously?
Sally Pascale: I will have to say that some of these stories leading up to Sinestro Corps War were NOT among my favorites. The whole Prisoner of War story with Cowgirl in Chechnya really dragged [Link].
And I actually find Cowgirl to be a bit of a bore, too: She’s blonde, and she flies, and she wears a cowboy hat. That seems to be the sum of her character [Link]. She’s like [1940ies pilot character] Zinda Blake, aka Lady Blackhawk [Link], but dull. However, she apparently puts out, and that seems to be the sum of her attraction for Hal.
Carol Ferris is a much more rounded character. She’s been around for quite a while, and different writers have actually added things to her personality. She ran a business, and that was something of an achievement in the Silver Age days [Link]. She’s perfectly competent and probably as good a pilot as Hal is [Link]. Heck, they were even kids together [Link].
Stefan Mesch: I’m also quite puzzled by Hal’s (human) enemy Hector Hammond (Link) – a crazy psychic with a gigantic, swollen head who’s also in the “Green Lantern” movie (Link).
In 5 years of comics, Hammond only sat around and looked unhappy and bizarre (Link)…
Sally Pascale: I understand that you haven’t seen the movie yet, which takes a few liberties with some of the comic book canon – but in a way that actually works for the movie.
In the comics, Hector Hammond was a successful business man who had the hots for Carol… and wasn’t particularly happy that she had a crush on Hal/Green Lantern (I really don’t think that she didn’t know that Hal was Green Lantern, he was far too careless about it… but she played along to keep him happy).
Hector is quite possessive of Carol – but in a weird sort of way, he has a crush on HAL too! Hector does know that Hal and Green Lantern are the same, and once he is able to read Hal’s mind and see all of his exploits, he’s desperately jealous. He wants to BE Hal Jordan… to do the sort of things that Hal does, and experience what Hal experiences. The meteor rock that gave him his powers also makes him grotesque and unable to move, so all he can do is experience things vicariously, through Hal and Carol. In the movie, they do a pretty good job of showing Hector’s descent and made it so that he knew Carol and Hal as a child as well.
You really do have to feel a little bit sorry for Hammond: It’s not necesariy his fault, at least in the movie. But I don’t want to give more away, since you haven’t seen it yet.
Stefan Mesch: Did you enjoy the movie?
Sally Pascale: I’ve seen the movie twice! And I was actually quite surprised when Blaise decided to go and see it with me. Originally, he wanted to wait, because he figured that I’d be yelling out all the things that were wrong with it [Link]. Heh.
But we ended up going to a matinee, and having a really good time. I was surprised a bit that he DID like it so much because usually, his eyes start to roll when I start talking about my comics. He knew a bit about “Green Lantern”, since he’s overheard me and the kids discussing things, but he didn’t know all THAT much. He was able to follow the plot pretty well, and enjoyed it enough to come with me and see it AGAIN… this time with two of my sons. Who enjoyed it as well.
The audience seemed to like it. The second time, when the credits started to roll, a number of people began to leave, and I must admit that I spoke up and told them to wait, because…well, I don’t want to spoil if for anyone, but you HAVE to wait through the credits, because there is a rather intriguing scene hidden at the end, and you WILL be sorry if you don’t wait to see it. Everyone stayed and enjoyed it.
If the movie has a problem it is that it tried to cover an AWFUL lot of stuff in a relatively short time. I think that it would have been better with one villain… not two [Parallax and Hector Hammond? Or does Sinestro get evil, too?]. Still, as a huge Green Lantern fan, I enjoyed the heck out of it, and I’m already thirsting for a sequel [Link].
I would love for the sequel to be a lot more about Oa, and the other Lanterns, because that part of the movie seemed to be everybody’s favorite part. The visuals for Oa and the Guardians and the Corps was simply spectacular… and we were left wanting more.
Oh, and putting Guy, John Stewart and Kyle into the sequel would be very nice!
Stefan Mesch: Seriously? Your husband is named Blaise?
Sally Pascale: Yes – my husband’s name is Blaise Xavier Pascale. Just like the French mathematician and philosopher [Link], only with an “e” on the end of “Pascale”. Most people misspell his name, using a “z” instead, which makes him sigh a lot. A few smart people realize the connection…and yes, his parents DID name him after the original.
He IS very good at math, less prone to philosophy and sexy as hell.
Stefan Mesch: Before I started reading “Green Lantern”, I was a little nervous about the many other planets and space heroes in the DC Universe [Link].
I really like Adam Strange [Link], a 1950ies picture-story-[Link!]-turned-comic-book hero with a ray-gun and a jetpack who defends the timid people of the planet Rann from all kinds of monsters.
Other notable parts of DC’s science fiction books are Lobo [Link], L.E.G.I.O.N. [Link], Captain Comet [Link], Starfire [Link], Hawkman’s planet Thanagar [Link], Daxam [Link], The New Gods [Link] as well as Darkseid [Link] and Apokolips [Link], villains Despero [Link], Starro [Link] and Lady Styx [Link]…
It’s a busy, colorful shared universe, and I was ready to read a comic book that played with these cultures, full-time.
Before “Green Lantern”, I enjoyed DC sci-fi adventures like:
“Adam Strange: Planet Heist” [Link]
“Superman: Exile” [Link]
“Legion Lost” [Link]
and “Starman: A Starry Knight” [Link]
But I still did not feel prepared for the full politics and all the backstory of “Green Lantern Corps”.
Ironically… there *is* not much of a (shared universe) backstory: Sometimes, other space heroes drop by. But strangely, all of DC’s various non-earth characters exist in their own little bubbles, mostly.
What a wasted opportunity…
Sally Pascale: It does seem a little strange in retrospect that there wasn’t as much fraternization between the Corps and the more cosmic side of DC. You would think that Green Lanterns would be running into people like Adam Strange and Captain Comet all the time… or at least Space Cabbie [Link].
Since “Rebirth”, though, this sort of thing DOES happen on a fairly regular basis. Back in the old days, the books were pretty much being written as entirely self-contained. Lobo did show up occasionally, though: In “Guy Gardner: Reborn” [1992, Link], he’s one of the main plot points, and frankly, it is hilarious. And violent. And Lobo and Boodikka actually had a little fling, which I thought was an interesting characterization.
Usually, the other Cosmic groups would only show up in books like Green Lantern Quarterly, and the New Gods and Apokolips always seemed to be off on their own. Again, you see Green Lanterns showing up on some of the more notable planets nowadays – which is only sensible.
Stefan Mesch: Let’s talk about the Sinestro Corps War (Link), the big crossover storyline from 2007. During that year, the Amazons (Link) from “Wonder Woman” declared war on Man’s World and started invading Washington, D.C (Link). There was a seven-part “Amazons Attack” mini-series (Link), a parallel storyline in the monthly “Wonder Woman” book and six “tie-in issues” (Link) from other titles, like “Supergirl”.
“Amazon Attack” was a collosal failure: The politics did not make sense, heroes were running around like headless chicken, the pictures were pretty – but no-one understood what these Amazons wanted, anyways (misogynist Link).
Two months later, the first big shared storyline between “Green Lantern” and “Green Lantern Corps” started when Sinestro captured Parallax, joined forces with the Anti-Monitor on Qward and manufactured yellow, fear-instilling rings (Link).
These rings were circling through the universe and picked people who had the “ability to instill great fear”. One ring even wanted to pick Batman.
And then – in 11 chapters and 5 specials/tie-in issues – all hell broke loose: After the failed “Amazons Attack”, “The Sinestro Corps War” became the new template for successful, engaging comic book events…
…and it was the storyline that put Hal Jordan on the A-List.
Since 2007, it has been a good time to be a “Green Lantern” fan (Link).
Sally Pascale: Oh, you had to bring up “Amazons Attack”! Man, that was pretty bad, all things considered: I’m getting a bit tired of the Amazons always going nutso anyway [Link to a recent “Flashpoint” controversy about the Amazons castrating men[. But yes, the Sinestro Corps War was a breath of fresh air! It was well-written, it was beautifully drawn, the tie-in issues weren’t ridiculous [Link to the usual, bad concept of a crossover tie-in issue], and gosh darn it, it was one HECK of a good story. Of the trilogy of “Rebirth”, “Sinestro Corps War” and “Blackest Night” (2010, Link), the Sinestro Corps War is my favorite.
You had the four Earth Lanterns, running around doing their Four Musketeers impression, which was fun. Poor Kyle was having a rather rough time, getting Parallaxed himself [Link], but it was chilling to see how sweet little Kyle could be so…evil. Then throw in the Anti–Monitor, Cyborg Superman and Superboy-Prime [an evil Superboy from a parallel universe, Link], along with Sinestro, and you’ve got one heck of a bunch of villains!
We were also introduced to all those cool Sinestro Corps members, such as Kryb, Karu-Sil [Link], and Arkillo [an evil counterpart to Kilowog, Link]. You had the Lost Lanterns [Link] running around being snooty to Hal, Hal trying to laugh it off, John being pissy, and Guy as usual… having all the best lines. We got to see Kyle figuring out a way to triumph over Parallax, everybody and their cousin fighting the bad guys… and getting their butt’s kicked.
I can remember blogging about it… with the utmost enthusiasm. Everyone had theories, every one was reading it… even people who weren’t necessarily Green Lantern fans. I can remember being so happy on Wednesdays, when the new books were out, I’d go to my beloved local Comic book store, and we’d all discuss it. There is nothing quite like being with other people who love something just as much as you do. Thank god for the Internet!
And yes, I do think that this is the event that really propelled Hal to being an A-Lister. People talked about “Rebirth” and they liked it, but THIS event really put Hal and the Corps on the proverbial map.
In the finale, Hal got to show how much he really does love his brother [Link] and what is left of his family, and then he and Kyle get to fight Sinestro… hand to hand, without rings! It was fabulous: Guy ends up with the Despotellis virus [Link], the virus that killed Kyle’s mother – and then, the virus is defeated by Leezle Pon, the sentient Green Lantern small pox virus [Link]! The good guys won, the bad guys lost, and we were all quite happy for some time.
Stefan Mesch: I was happy about the many consequences of “The Sinestro Corps War”: It felt like once all their series had found their tone, Peter Tomasi tried to create one really emotional, honest moment every issue. In “Green Lantern Corps”, there’s always blood, cosmic horror and people eating eyeballs…
…but then, there’s also lots of stuff like this (Link) glorious moment between Guy and Ice.
Sally Pascale: Yes, the scene with Guy kissing Tora in the aftermath of the war is one of my favorites. And then she tells him she’s not ready to get back together again, after coming back from the dead [Link]! ARGGHH!
Some other really fabulous Gleason artwork was the splash page [Link] in the issue where they are looking for a missing Arisia and Sodam Yat and end up on the planet with Mongul’s Black Mercy plants [Link], and all the dead bodies that orbit the planet rain down on them…including a whale [Link]. It’s disgusting, it’s violent, and it’s…quite fabulous.
So I agree with you that Peter Tomasi is an excellent writer, and I love his stuff to death. He and Geoff Johns have seemed to forge a really excellent working relationship together, and his portrayals of Guy and Kyle in particular seem to me to be absolutely spot on. It’s not always easy to write for Guy… he can be a tricky character!
Art-wise, I also greatly enjoy the scene from “GLC: Recharge” [Link] where Guy moons Batman… in space [Link]. Kyle is embarrassed, John is horrified, Batman is stoic, Superman is quite surprised, and Wonder Woman… looks intrigued. A wonderful piece of art!
Stefan Mesch: Another cool consequence of Sinestro’s Corps was that the Guardians became a lot more nervous, timid and twisted. Last week, I had a short article about Green Lantern in the Berlin Tagesspiegel (Link, German), and when I posted it my Facebook page, a feminist friend of mine asked “Why should I care about these characters? All of this sounds so lame!”
There’s a beautiful contradiction at the core of the “Green Lantern” concept, I told her:
The rings search the galaxy for people with the ability to overcome great fear. In most cases, such people are rebels, free thinkers, people with a death wish etc. …socially problematic, even anti-social characters.
These are the people that the Guardians expect to come to Oa, ask no questions and serve in a militaristic Corps.
And that’s working… as good as can be expected: Not at all! Complex, messed-up characters. Clashes about free will and leadership. Dysfunctional teams in existential, nightmarish conflicts… a dark, bizarrely violent tone… and still: a celebration of the human spirit and the wealth of emotions.
You wrote an interesting text about the Guardian’s tragic role in this ever-escalating conflict on Oa, yourself (Link).
Sally Pascale: The Guardians get their tiny blue asses saved over and over and over again. But do they express gratitude? No… they do not.
Countless species throughout the cosmos have been able to wield their willpower in the name of the Corps. But the Guardians themselves have been riddled with fear… ever since Hal came back, and the Corps was re-established. They keep making the same stupid mistakes, and they keep failing to trust in their own people. The Guardians obviously are NOT able to overcome Great Fear. Therefore, in my humble opinion, they are NOT worthy of being Green Lanterns… and they CERTAINLY are not worthy of running the whole show.
Back in the day, they used to be a lot more dignified. A bit remote perhaps, but at least you had the feeling that they had the best interests of the Universe AND the Corps at heart. Now, they are a bunch of terrified bratty children.
Stefan Mesch: What has made the Guardians so afraid? An ancient prophecy that had warned of a “War of Light” [Link]… and the emergence of other, rival Corps: Sinestro uses fear to fuel his rings. The Star Sapphires [Link] were able to harness love and turn it into a dangerous, repressing weapon [Link].
Gradually, Hal learned about the existence of four additional, different-colored Corps:
Stefan Mesch: It’s a new, rich cosmic mythology (Link), and there are lots and lots of new characters and potential dramatic situations. On the other hand, though, *one* emotion can often be very comic-like or one-dimensional (Link), and with the “Green Lantern Corps” having all these secondary, flat characters around…
…I don’t know if the new characters really get enough space to shine (Link): So far, naive Star Sapphire Miri Riam (Link), evil Sinestro Corps jungle girl Karu-Sil (Link), aloof space elephant Brother Warth (Link) or raging, blood-and-napalm-puking (!) Red Lantern leader Atrocitus (Link) seem to be very flat and/or underused characters.
Sally Pascale: I’ve rather enjoyed the various colored corps, and we’ve certainly gotten some wonderful characters, some of which, yes, are only secondary or teriary characters, but that is not necessarily a bad thing.
Considering how many secondary and teriary characters keep getting killed off in the various cross-overs, you need to replenish those ranks, simply through attrition. And seriously, how can you NOT like Dex-Starr, the Rage Kitty from the Red Lanterns [Link]? Or Miri, who is the most adorable Star Sapphire ever [Link]?
What I DO find interesting about the various corps however, is that it is far too simplistic to say that the Red Corps is “Bad” and the Indigo Corps is “Good”. The further away you get from Green, which is at the center of the Spectrum, the more extreme are the emotions – so Hate and Love are the MOST extreme, while Fear and Hope are less so. Hate and Love may be opposites… but they are also a heck of a lot alike when it comes to the depth of their feelings.
Sinestro’s Yellow/Fear would seem to be a “bad” emotion – but Fear can also be a good thing… it’s one of the things that keep you alive. And Batman was chosen by a Yellow Ring [Link]!
The Indigo Tribe of Compassion is probably the most mysterious one: You would think that Compassion would be a GOOD emotion, but we have seen them perform what seem to be mercy killings… or were they? Also, Indigo-1 [Link] is quite a different person when the ring is off of her finger.
Recently when John Stewart had an Indigo ring on this finger, he decided that he had to kill a… certain member of the Green Lantern Corps [Link] instead of taking an extra minute to try and find another possibility. So… I think that there is a whole lot more about the Indigo Corps that hasn’t been revealed yet. Really, the Blue Corps of Hope seems to be the most benevolent.
Stefan Mesch: I hated the “Green Lantern” collection “Agent Orange” (Link): A new artist, Philip Tan (Link) was doing his best… but for a while, Hal just seemed to fly around the cosmos to meet random new colors and get infected by their energy for five minutes (Link 1, Link 2, Link 3, Link 4).
The first meeting with Larfleeze (Link), Orange Lantern of Greed / Avarice, seemed particularly tone-deaf (Link)…
…but lately, Larfleeze has become a fan favorite (weird Link): A greedy, ignorant boar from the mysterious Vega system (Link) who is very much like Disney’s Uncle Scrooge… only even more clueless, self-centered and brusque (Link). In a very successful “Superman” storyline (Link), Lex Luthor dealt with the influence of an Orange Ring, too.
Sally Pascale: I like Larfleeze, but I have to say that he was a whole lot scarier when he was first introduced (Link)… he’s become almost comic relief lately… until something happens that shows you just how dangerous he can be.
Atrocitus is an interesting character, though: Someone you would think would be completely unlikeable… until you realize that as nasty as he is, he did have a huge injustice done to him and his people: The Guardian’s Manhunter Robots destroyed all living beings in his sector [Link].
Stefan Mesch: It took about a year to introduce and explain all seven Corps. Then, Geoff Johns started his most ambitious (and most financially successful) “Green Lantern” event to date: A new, 9-part series named “Blackest Night” (Link).
“Blackest Night” ran through 10 chapters of “Green Lantern”, 9 chapters of “Green Lantern Corps”, 9 special “Blackest Night” books, 8 new, special one-shot books that featured old, cancelled comic series and “resurrected” them for a special “Blackest Night” adventure (Link), a lot of tie-in issues for series like “Outsiders”, “Titans”, “Green Arrow” and “Superboy” as well as…
…3 special “Tales of the Blackest Night” one-shots and a lot of three-part events like “Blackest Night: Batman”, “Blackest Night: Superman”, “Blackest Night: Wonder Woman”, “Blackest Night: Flash”, “Blackest Night: Justice League” etc.
All in all, “Blackest Night” consisted of about 90 comic books (Link), the more important ones collected in 7 trade paperback collections (Link) …and was the bestselling comic series of 2009 and 2010.
I have read the complete thing (Link)… and hey: It’s good!
Sally Pascale: Geoff Johns does like Big Events. And when one Big Event has ended… well then, things start to slowly build up to the NEXT Big Event. This has led to some excellent storytelling along the way. But sometimes, it can also lead to Big Event Fatigue [Link].
After “Blackest Night” [helpful Link] came “Brightest Day” [helpful Link], and after that, there was “War of the Green Lanterns” [Link], so I have to admit that there have been so very many Big Events lately that I’m feeling just a wee bit burned out.
I wouldn’t mind a few issues where they just fight Space Pirates, and it doesn’t have anything to do with anything in particular… just Green Lanterns, out doing their jobs. If Johns has a weakness, it is a weakness that I think most good comic book writers share… you sometimes have to have a little bit of down-time. Let everyone catch their breath, and relax for a little bit, before they get thrown back into the thick of things.
“Blackest Night”, though, was a pretty darned good story. I don’t like it QUITE as much a the Sinestro Corps War, which is probably my favorite, but still…
it was an amazing concept.
Stefan Mesch: Hal – and the recently resurrected Barry Allen (Link) – had to fight another, secret Corps that was attacking the hero community: The Black Lantern Corps (Link), whose rings could only be worn by dead bodies.
Friends, children, rivals, parents… whoever had died around a hero – the rings created an evil, powerful and zombie-like replica of their dead bodies to attack the heroes… and feast of their emotions: Black Lanterns look like zombies. But they act like emotion-eating vampires.
It was genuinely exciting to see the heroes form alliances, deal with their private demons and, over the course of one night, come up with desperate strategies to defeat the Black Lanterns, their leader Nekron (Link) and Black Hand (Link), his human ally (Link).
Nearly 20 different authors, telling ONE story in parallel, monthly comic books titles: It must have been a big organizational challenge. But it really paid off.
You can omit some weaker “Blackest Night” stories like “Titans”, “Teen Titans”, “The Outsiders”, “Wonder Woman”, “The Flash”, “Justice League” and most of the ‘resurrected’ titles (“Starman” was good, “Catwoman” and “The Question” were okay). Do not spend money on “Blackest Night: Black Lantern Corps” 1 (Link) and 2 (Link).
Even if you read nothing else, don’t miss Saint Walker’s origin story in “Blackest Night: Tales of the Corps 1” (Link).
…and don’t get angry when, in typical US- and Earth-centric DC fashion, Hal Jordan realizes that Earth is the secret place where all cosmic life originated… and that emotion-wise, humans are the most exceptional and complex beings:
“Earth. The most diverse and emotionally rich planet in all the universe.” (Sigh! Link)
Plus, most of Johns’ writing seemed to be too concerned with promoting and praising Barry Allen (angry, subjective Link).
Sally Pascale: As for Barry getting the spotlight… I think that Geoff Johns has a habit of playing with some of his characters as if they are new toys. I’ve always rather liked Barry, so I didn’t mind him coming back. Now he and Ollie can fight over Hal again!
Having the Rings wear the bodies of the dead heroes… instead of the other way around was brilliant.
I did read most of the “Blackest Day” tie-ins, although I skipped the “Titans” one [horrible link of Donna Troy crushing her zombie son’s skull], because frankly I can’t STAND the Titans for the most part. For some reason I didn’t pick up “The Outsiders” [trashy link] either. I liked the three “Wonder Woman” books [surprising link] well enough… although to this day I still miss the OLD [more positive] version of [JLI character-turned-“Wonder Woman”-foe] Max Lord [Link].
I liked the “Green Arrow” book [Link]. I don’t like Superboy all that much, but the way that he beat the Black Lantern ring was pretty clever, too [Link]. And I rather liked the book with Ray Palmer, the Atom, meeting his evil dead wife [Link] and getting the Indigo ring. Loved that costume [Link]!
I wish that there had been a separate book for Ice… but at least we got to see her interact with Guy in “Green Lantern Corps”. I also liked that it was Guy’s idea to use make a gigantic net [Link], straight out of an old Star Trek episode [Link]. Genius!
I liked the end of “Blackest Night”, too, because we actually got some dead heroes back [Link], and that this always a good good thing. Not ALL of my favorites made it back amongst the living, but darn it, I liked the return of Aquaman and Martian Manhunter!
Stefan Mesch: That story was told in the sequel, a bi-weekly, 25-part series named “Brightest Day” [Link], written by Geoff Johns and Peter Tomasi.
Stefan Mesch: In early 2010, once “Blackest Night” was over, a lot of things changed around the “Green Lantern” line:
Hal had more (boring) multi-colored problems in the main book, now drawn by talented “Blackest Night” artist Doug Mahnke (Link). And Carol Ferris had become Queen of the Star Sapphires… in an outfit that had many feminist readers disappointed (Link).
Tony Bedard (Link), a former editor, took over “Green Lantern Corps” and wrote adequate but standard stories about Boodika, the mind-controlled, heartless Alpha Lanterns (Link) and Soranik getting kidnapped by one of Sinestro’s Weaponers of Qward (Link).
In a new, third monthly GL book named “Green Lantern: Emerald Warriors” (Link) written by Peter Tomasi, Guy Gardner struck a secret deal with Atrocitus and helped Arisia to save her boyfriend Sodam Yat (Link) from the crazy, xenophobic people on his home planet Daxam.
Three monthly GL books are better than two… but even though all storylines were leading towards a new crossover, “War of the Green Lanterns”, I felt like all writers were mostly treading water: Everything that happened in Tony Bedard’s book was… standard.
Sally Pascale: Tony Bedard isn’t bad at all. I wasn’t that familiar with his other writing [“Birds of Prey”, “The Great Ten”, “Countdown”, “Supergirl and the Legion of Super-Heroes”], although he did “R.E.B.E.L.S.” [Link] most recently, and it was an excellent series…more cosmic adventure, but with main character Vril Dox [Link], the arrogant son of “Superman” villain Brainiac [Link].
I think that it may take Bedard a little bit of time to adjust, and get in synch with Johns and Tomasi – but he’s certainly got the potential. The recent “War of the Green Lanterns” storyline was pretty darned good [Link]. I’d say give him a bit of time.
Even with the most recent crossover done, though, it seems that there is never time for the individual books to actually have some of their OWN stories going on… everything is always leading up to The Next Big Thing.
Stefan Mesch: I felt that “Brightest Day” was a problematic series. It is named after the beginning of the oath [Link] that Green Lanterns recite while they charge their rings in their power batteries:
“In brightest day, in blackest night, no evil shall escape my sight
let those who worship evil’s might… beware my power: Green Lantern’s light!’
I thought it would tell the story of eight heroes and four villains – one of them Jade, Kyle Rayner’s ex-girlfriend (Link) – that had been resurrected by a mysterious White Lantern entity (Link) at the end of “Blackest Night”.
And it works beautifully, in the way “52” did: As a real-time (but somewhat slow, Link) ensemble book that showcases a diverse group of minor characters.
It is NOT a “Green Lantern” story, though.
And so far, the White Lantern entity rather seemed like a “deus ex machina” device (Link).
Also, five of the resurrected characters – Jade, Max Lord, Professor Zoom (Link), Captain Boomerang (Link) and Osiris (Link) – have their stories told elsewhere and play no role in the book.
But hey: Both middle-aged black fathers survive the plot… and only ONE Asian-American family gets killed and stuffed into a supermarket freezer (Picture/Link)! DC is making… baby steps.
Sally Pascale: “Brightest Day”…was decent. It didn’t blow my socks off or anything. I think that it delivered on some of the things it promised to do… and less so on others. You’re right: Hal really was hardly in it at all. Nor Jade, or Captain Boomerang. And Max Lord was busy in Winick’s parallel-running “Justice League: Generation Lost”. I was primarily happy to read the Aquaman segments, because I like Aquaman, and I’m happy that he’s back. I like the new Aqualad, too.
Some of the tie-ins to “Brightest Day” [among them the first 5 to 12 issues of “The Flash”, “Birds of Prey” and “Green Arrow”, Link] seemed a bit… forced – but that is par for the course for ANY crossover. I’m not exactly thrilled about the return of Swamp Thing to the DC Universe [Link], either, although I think it was a clever twist. All in all, “Brightest Day” did seem… a bit over-long.
Stefan Mesch: Before we’ll talk about your own work as a blogger some more, I have another personal question. In all your time as a “Green Lantern” reader… what scene has hit closest to home?
Sally Pascale:In Green Lantern #25 from 1992 [Link], written by Gerard Jones, Hal suddenly decides that he wants to be the Green Lantern of Earth and goes and tries to take it away from Guy Gardner.
Naturally they end up fighting, and although Guy gives it all that he’s got, Hal plays “rope a dope” [Link] and outlasts him… and takes his ring. To this day, this particular issue drives me insane… because Hal IS THE VILLAIN!
He has no real reason for taking Guy’s ring, other than he WANTS to be the GL of Earth. But the Guardians had appointed Guy, while putting Hal on recruiting duty. Granted, this is when Guy was in his brain-damaged period, but still… he was doing a decent enough job of it. And everyone is cheering for Hal! Hal has his job as a test pilot, his family, the love and admiration of the Corps and the Justice League, etc. etc.
At this point, Guy has Tora and his ring. He can’t go back to being a teacher because of the brain damage. His family is mostly gone, and he can’t stand them anyway [Link]. He has no friends, he has nothing but the ring and Corps…and Hal takes it away without pity or remorse.
Seriously – this is one of the reasons why I liked the Parallax retcon so much: It made me able to read this issue and realize that Hal had the white temples, so he must have been under the influence of the fear entity [Link].
But then… as annoying as Hal Jordan can be… and lord he CAN be… I still love the character, and I loved the WAY that he was brought back. He’s a jerk sometimes, and he’s thoughtless and selfish, but if you hit him over the head often enough, he does eventually figure things out and even tries to do better, because all he really wants to do is go out and be a hero.
And whether or not you love or hate him, it is awfully hard to ignore Hal.
Stefan Mesch: When I read the comics, though, I was happy that you had been right all along: Guy IS the more interesting character. He’s incredibly smart, and he’s had some great scenes!
Sally Pascale: I remember one scene in “Green Lantern Corps: Recharge”, the six-part series that introduced Soranik Natu, Vath Sarn [Link] and Isamot [Link], when they are getting the Corps back together… rounding up the veterans and training the rookies:
The Spider Guild [Link] in the Vega sector are creating black holes that start sucking in stars, and Guy and Kilowog and the newbies discover this. There is a moment on Oa, when the Spider Guild has attacked, and the Corps is still weak, and things look pretty bad… and Guy Gardner of all people, steps up and LEADS the Corps in reciting the Green Lantern Oath, around the new Central Battery… and his idea is what ultimately defeats them and leads to his being appointed to the Honor Guard [Link]. It is quite the moment really.
Stefan Mesch: This month, all DC books will end. And in September, there will be 52 new series, with 52 new jumping-on points for new readers.
Most successful “Batman” books will continue their concepts without major changes, but Superman will never have married, Barbara Gordon will no longer be in a wheelchair (Link), and the status of several other characters – Power Girl, the Justice Society, The Question, Cassandra Cain – is unclear.
What do you think will change for “Green Lantern”?
And how do you feel about this “Relaunch” (everything gets a new start) or “Reboot” (everything is back to the start)?
Sally Pascale: DC is refusing to call it a “Reboot” – which it is. They are compressing the timeline and making everyone younger, but they are also cherry-picking thoughout continuity, leaving some people [and events] out, putting some people into limbo, and in general messing / fooling around with things, simply to… fool around with them.
Almost all of the books are getting reboots [there are some minor exceptions like “Batman: Odyssey” and “DC Universe Online Legends”], and some books have
been cancelled and some new books are coming in. However, the Bat books and the Green Lanterns books are probably going to be the least affected. It really doesn’t make much sense to mess with a good thing… although I wouldn’t put it past them. But the Bat books and the Green Lanterns have been the most popular.
Plus, Green Lantern fans tend to be REALLY noisy and cranky, and DC has learned that it doesn’ t really pay to mess with them TOO much.
In September, they are cancelling “Green Lantern: Emerald Warriors”, which I find rather disappointing, because it features Guy Gardner. However, everyone who is writing and drawing EW [Peter Tomasi and artist Fernando Pasarin, Link] will be moving back to “Green Lantern Corps”, which will now feature Guy and John Stewart. So we really aren’t losing anything – they are just changing books.
Then, there will be the new “Green Lantern: New Guardians” book [Link], which will be by Tony Bedard, who was on GLC, and it will feature Kyle Rayner along with the rest of the Emotional Color Corps: Carol Ferris as a Star Sapphire, Blue Lantern Saint Walker, Sinestro Corps member Arkillo, Orange Lantern Glomulus [Link], Red Lantern Bleez [Link] and Indigo-2 [Munk, Link]. I am assuming that Kyle will once again be hosting Ion, the avatar of Willpower [Link].
“Green Lantern” will continue of course, but with Sinestro as the main character. Hal has been sent back to Earth and has to put his life together without a ring… but you know and I know that he’ll be back in a few issues. Geoff Johns didn’t go through all the work and effort of bringing Hal back, just to dump him now. Besides, it will be interesting to see Hal’s private life for a change, and see how he copes.
And they are introducing a fourth book, “Red Lanterns” [Link], which will feature Atrocitus, and Dex-Starr and Bleez and so on and so forth and will be written by Peter Milligan [Link]. Of all the different Corps, I never would have suspected that the Rage Corps would be the one getting a book, but I’m willing to give it a chance.
Johns, Tomasi and Bedard are sticking around for a while, which I find rather comforting. It used to be that a writer and an artist woud stay for years on a book, but nowadays, it is more like six issues or so. It’s hard to keep the plotlines flowing and the proper characterization if you have a new writer every few months… so I’m quite content.
I’m not sure that DC is necessaritly going to gain huge numbers of new fans, but hopefully the movie and the new GL cartoons [Link] will help to build an audience. I think that the current fans of Green Lantern will be able to make the transition relatively painlessly. There will be complaining of course… but there is ALWAYS complaining!
Stefan Mesch: What about the new “Justice League International” book (Link), written by Dan Jurgens (Link)? Tora will be there. Guy, too?
Sally Pascale: Yes, Guy will be in the new book. Guy always makes any book automatically better, in my opinion.
Stefan Mesch: But despite all these characters and different, interconnected books… you would still encourage new readers to jump in… and join the fun?
Sally Pascale: I think that it is perfectly possible to jump into the middle of a storyline. You do have to like comics, that helps a LOT… and you need to have the ambition to go back and try to find the previous issues that will explain things.
That is why it is SO nice that they have all of those collections now: It is a heck of a lot easier to read old stories without having to pay a fortune for the rare old single issues. Today, it is fairly easy to find most “Green Lantern” storylines since DC has reprinted so much of them [great Link!]. Who could afford to track down all the original issues?
If you are interested in “Green Lantern”, it actually isn’t a bad idea to see the movie and then do a bit of research: The movie is obviously different from the books, but close enough in the essentials. To understand the rest, you might have to work at it a little bit… but heck – things are better when you HAVE worked for them!
Stefan Mesch: Most other DC books are either centered around Batman and Gotham City… or characters from the Justice League (Link). For the new 52 books, I found this infographic [Link] to be extremely helpful: In the center, there are “blockbuster” comics and big, mainstream heroes. In the outer circles, there are more obscure and experimental concepts: Maybe a book like “Voodoo” (Link), “Stormwatch” (Link), “Demon Knights” (Link) or “Resurrection Man” (Link) will become a new cult favorite?
Sally Pascale: A lot of books come out, have a run of a couple of years, and then are ended… only to come back with a new writer and artist in a year or so, and start the whole thing all over again. I like that the different heroes have their own supporting casts, and I love that these casts can also show up in OTHER heroes’ books. There are some institutions that are common to all of the titles, like S.T.A.R. Labs [Link], or Amanda Waller lurking in the background [Link].
I tend to stick with the books that I know I like. I also have a bad habit of overlooking new books – and then I have to go back and try to find all of the back issues, because I was too stupid to realize how good they were it at the time that they came out. I am quite proud of myself for buying “Hitman” [Link] right from the beginning, instead of realizing halfway through the run that I wanted to read it.
Stefan Mesch: When Scipio Garling criticized the new 52 DC books one by one (Link), he did not bother to talk about the individual four “Green Lantern” books. Instead, he wrote:
“More Lantern stuff. I know Lantern fans are all agog over the Dramatic Change in the Status Quo. But Lanterns fans are continually agog over the latest Dramatic Change in the Status Quo. I’m not really among them.”
Sally Pascale: Scipio is right of course… he usually is. The Green Lantern fans are luckier than most because not a whole lot is going to be changed to their books. Personally, I can’t say that I’m particularly pleased with some of the changes, such as dumping Lois and Clark’s marriage. That seems a bit draconian. And making everyone younger, and squeezing the last fifty or so years of comics into a five year time-line seems a bit ridiculous. But I guess we’ll wait and see.
Stefan Mesch: What about Marvel’s books (Link)? You have been reading Marvel’s “The Incredible Hercules” (Link) for a while. Is there anything that interests you? And could you ever switch back to them?
Sally Pascale: Would I ever go back to Marvel? That’s hard to say… maybe if they started making books that I was actually interested in reading: I’ve been enjoying the “Thor” books, and “Hercules”, but it seems that lately every time that I really start getting into a book it ends up cancelled.
I loved “Nextwave” [Link] and “Thor: the Mighty Avenger” by Landridge and Samnee [Link], and the books with Hercules and Amadeus [Link] which were a hoot. But every since “Civil War” [Link] and the whole Spiderman-seling-his-marriage-to-the-devil fiasco [Link], I’ve been pretty much cold to Marvel books. But that could always change I suppose.
Stefan Mesch: You were born in 1958. Five years ago (Link), you started blogging. How did you start?
Sally Pascale: How did I start blogging? Ah, that is a rather silly story. Back then, I was back to reading comics for more than 10 years – but I hadn’t really become quite that computer-literate until around 2003 or so, when I had some young teenagers who could show me what to do. Yes, I’m OLD! And occasionally cranky.
One day it dawned on me that perhaps if I went onto the computer, there might be OTHER people who liked comic books too… and there were! And it was a heck of a lot of fun, because when you like something, it is somehow a comfort to be able to discuss them with people who feel the same way.
I started reading Ragnell’s blog at Written World (good sample entry here), and Kalinara’s blog at Pretty Fizzy Paradise (dito), and Bully (dito) and Scipio at the Absorbascon (dito), and Chris Sims (must-see!) and a whole bunch of other wonderful people who love comics and who are really really good at being able to dissect the books and discuss the continuity and the psychology of the characters and the sheer madness and joy of it all.
I also discovered Message Boards…and Oh My Goodness! Those people are…crazy! They hate EVERYTHING! And yet, it was just as much fun to read about all the stuff that they hated… and continued to buy apparently.
So, I started dipping my toe into the blogosphere, commenting occasionally as an “anonymous” because I didn’t have a blog of my own yet, and I barely knew how to get ON the computer! And it started to get a little… addictive. And finally one day in September of 2006, I was sitting around with my teenagers, and probably had had one cocktail too many, and lo…”Green Lantern Butt’s Forever” was born.
It is an awfully silly name for a blog. But I DO like Green Lanterns, and I really really like their behinds… and so… there you have it. I would like to say that it was profound and deeply meaningful, but I am basically a rather silly person sometimes.
Stefan Mesch: Why “butt’s” instead of “butts”? What’s up with the apostrophe?
Sally Pascale: Finally…oh you HAD to bring up the apostrophe? I really don’t quite know WHY there is an apostrophe in the word “Butt’s”, but as I have said before, alcohol and teenagers were involved. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it!
I try to rationalize it by saying that the apostrophe is in the possesive form, and then tried to say that it means that Green Lantern Butt IS forever, making it sound quite philosophical. Pick the one that you like the best!
We even had one heck of a blog entry about that damned apostrophe: Some anonymous poster was being QUITE obnoxious about it, and just wouldn’t STOP being obnoxious about it, and lo and behold a ton of people showed up to defend my beautiful apostrophe. It started to get a bit silly, but a good time was had by all…except Anonymous (Link). I don’t get too many trolls, but when I do, my readers usually show up and give them the business!
So yes, there really is no rational explanation for the apostrophe, except that I’ve had it for five years now, and I’m fond of it, so I’m keeping it. Plus it drives people crazy.
Stefan Mesch: Your husband is not sharing your love for comic books. What about your kids? You have four children. Do they read comics, too?
Sally Pascale: My husband does not SHARE my love of comics, but he’s pretty good natured about all of it: It did surprise the heck out of me when he did come with me to see the movie… BOTH times! He really enjoyed it.
I also have managed to get him addicted to the television cartoon “Batman: The Brave & the Bold” [Link], which is FABULOUS. He won’t actually admit to enjoying it… but he’s watching with me, and he always reminds me when it is on. His interests are cars… mainly Porsches, which is a worthwhile thing, certainly, but not comics.
I did manage to bring up my kids right, they are ALL comic book fans, and read Green Lantern diligently. My oldest had a crush on Gambit [Link] for a while, but we managed to talk her out of it eventually. She is 25 now and a teacher. My oldest son is 23. Chris is mildly autistic and lives at home, but he does love comics. He’s also into Yu-Gi-Oh [Link], which I find incomprehensible, but he does seem to enjoy it. My next son just got married last month and is doing very well, while my youngest is on her own and working and going to school too. So far, they have buried the bodies and seem to be functioning adults, which is all one can really ask for as a parent. And they ALL like comic books.
It probably started when they were in elementary school, and I was just getting back into comics myself: I started drawing again and would make pictures of Nightcrawler [Link] or Wolverine [Link] or Batman for them and their friends.
So once their little hands weren’t quite as grubby, and they could actually read, I’d let them go through some of my old books: They liked “X-Men”, they liked “Spider-Man”, they liked “Batman” of course and they liked the Green Lanterns, although that might have been because I liked Green Lanterns. And thanks to all of the comic book movies that are out, comics are now considered… cool.
My co-workers, sad to say are NOT comic book fans. But they are fairly indulgent of my fangirl ways. Most people really aren’t fans, but they seem to think that I’m simply eccentric, but not necessarily crazy: And I’ve been at this for so many years now, that they just consider it one of those funny things that Sally does.
Stefan Mesch: You had no difficulties getting started… or finding your voice.
Sally Pascale:I barely knew what I was doing, but I had all these lovely books about the Green Lanterns, and some other nice people liked talking about Green Lanterns TOO…
I like to think that I have a decent perspective on comics, and I can wax very passionately about them. I obviously am NOT the most learned fan: There are a TON of books that I know very little about, and there are a LOT of people on the internet who are far far more experienced and intelligent than I. But I do enjoy blathering on about my little hobby, and being able to talk about it with people who ALSO like comics is the most fun you can have with you clothes on, that I know.
Once I started, I found out that you can post pictures as well. And then some very nice people actually started leaving comments! And I was even being linked [Link] and stuff. That sort of thing can be quite intoxicating: There is a bit of a rush when you do see your name somewhere. Or when you get a lot of hits. Or when a writer or an artist takes the time to comment. That always makes my day.
It’s also nice when people comment and tell you about books that they have read. I like to do a weekly review of all the books I bought [Link], and I like to recommend books too. Sometimes you are lucky and find a real gem!
I will admit that trying to come up with something brilliant or at least not terribly stupid just about every day is REALLY HARD. Which is why you will get a lot of entries on Tuesdays that whine a lot [the week’s new books only reach the stores on Wednesday], and then I just post a picture of Hal’s backside or Batman doing something stupid.
I have a rather… odd sense of humor, as you have no doubt already come to realize.
I hope that I can instill a bit of joy about comics in my readers, and I hope that I can intrigue them enough to go out and investigate “Green Lantern” books. Or ANY comic book. Comics are our friends! And as annoying as I can occasionally find them, I DO love comics.
I’ve met some amazing people and made friends (and a few enemies)… and discovered that there is a HUGE number of people who are interested in some of the same things that I am interested in. Honestly, I had no IDEA! Sometimes, it appears that too many people have far too much spare time on their hands, because some of the stuff that they chose to complain about is pretty silly. But then again, writing about fictional characters and their behinds is pretty silly too. And it keeps me out of trouble and off of the streets!
It’s not rocket science, but it is a blast.
… more of Sally’s “Green Lantern” Fan-Art: here (Link)
Stefan Mesch: From time to time, you draw pictures of Guy and the other Lanterns or JLI members. What about the more engaging sides of fandom? Did you ever dress up and visit a convention?
Sally Pascale: I have a tendency to collect the action figures and display them in my study, where I also do my drawing and store all my books. Collecting these books can get expensive sometimes, I’ll tell you that!
I’m usually on the lookout for a particular book that I don’t have, and when I DO manage to find it, it is such a thrill that I’m happy for days! It’s a bit ridiculous really, I’m a grown woman, with grown kids, and I collect and read comic books… Still it is cheaper than doing drugs, or buying shoes, and since my husband collects cars and antique fire trucks, it is a heck of a lot easier to store MY books than his stuff!
Stefan Mesch: How would you characterize the “Green Lantern” fandom? Almost all main characters are men, and since Hal is such a “Top Gun” cliché, a lot of feminist readers don’t like him very much. From what I have seen online, “Batwoman”, “Birds of Prey”, the various Batgirls, “Gotham City” stories by Paul Dini, the characters Dick Grayson (Link) and Jason Todd (Link) and Gail Simone’s gory “Secret Six” have a big female readership.
People are also enthusiastic about the more recent DC authors Amy Reeder (Link), Paul Cornell (Link), Sterling Gates (Link), Scott Snyder (Link) and Jeff Lemire (Link)… as well as artist Nicola Scott (Link).
…who loves “Green Lantern”, though?
Sally Pascale: It must be said that “Green Lantern” fans have a tendency to be QUITE devoted to their respective favorite Lanterns. There are the rabid Hal fans, the equally devoted Kyle fans, and quite often the two sides get together and start bad-mouthing each other’s choices. The John fans are a bit more civilized. The Alan Scott fans wander around and tell everyone that THEIR boy was first. And the Guy Fans… well, we’re a slightly twisted bunch.
From my own experience and in comparison with some of the other fandoms, Batman or Superman, or The Flash, there are a LOT of women who really really like Green Lanterns. Possibly, because it is such an all-encompassing mythos. There is a potential Lantern for just about anyone’s personal taste.
There are some really fabulous alien Lanterns in addition to our stalwart Earth lanterns. There is the cameraderie amongst the Lanterns themselves that a lot of people…myself included…find very appealing.
And heck, the Green Lantern costumes are some of the best looking ones out there. They have the basic “standard” uniform, like the one that Hal wears: It is simple, it is striking, and it shows off their muscles so very very nicely. But you can do just about anything that you want, since the costumes are ring-generated, wihch is one of the ideas that Geoff Johns brought in.
I still think that Guy’s outfit is the best.
If you ever visit some of the variety of Green Lantern Message Boards, you will see that people get VERY passionate about this particular fandom. I had been reading Ragnell at “Written World” [Link] and Kalinara at “Pretty Fizzy Paradise” [Link] for a long time. Then I made my silly blog and found all kinds of other crazy ladies who ALSO like Green Lanterns:
Sea of Green at the “Hoosier Journal of Inanity” [Link] loves Green Lanterns and has all kind of fabulous stuff. Duskdog has a blog called “Long Dogs and Long Boxes” [Link] as well as another called “Towards Twilight” [Link], and she has some wonderful fan fiction and essays about the boys.
And there are a LOT of other women that I love to talk with, and visit on their blogs, that may not be as huge a Green Lantern fan as I, but can certainly appreciate a well-drawn pair of GL buttocks.
Seriously, considering what great asses they all have, I’m sure that it is a requirement of the Guardians in order to become a Lantern. That whole bit about overcoming great fear was just added as camoflage.
One last reason that so many women seem to like the Corps, I think, is because there is so much excellent character-related stuff going on along with all the epic battles and blows to the head.
Stefan Mesch: What have you learned from five years of blogging? Do you think you will still write about “Green Lantern” in another five years?
Sally Pascale: Sometimes it is such a pain to sit down,stare at that blank screen and desperately try to think of something witty. It is damn hard to think of things to write about every day. I don’t know how professional columnists DO it! Fortunately for me, I can always fall back on putting up a picture of Hal getting hit in the head, or showing off his buttocks.
I have to say that getting to bloviate about stuff is also quite seductive: The ability to be able to express your concerns, and fears and joys, and the insidious delight of going on a full bore rant (Link) is a heck of a lot of fun. Of course, there are some people who take this to extremes. I have never been able to understand the type of fan who complains about EVERYTHING! Sometimes I get cranky. But in the long run, I love my comics a lot more than I dislike them.
Stefan Mesch: Is there anyone particular that you want to thank… or honor?
Sally Pascale: There are SO many people who have inspired me, and encouraged me that it is practically impossible for me to thank everyone without accidentally leaving somebody out: The list of blogs in my sidebar on my blog is a handy place to start. These are people that I visit and read every single day practically [Link].
I have also been fortunate enough to have Beau Smith, Pat Gleason, Dan Slott [Link] and Keith Champagne [Link], all professionals, post on my silly little blog and say nice things, and it is a real thrill.
I would love to meet Geoff Johns, but I would probably make a fool of myself by gushing, or else start wondering why he can’t bring Katma Tui back. And while I do love his writing, I would like it if he stopped ripping eveybody’s arms and hands off. It’s getting a little out of hand. *snicker*
Finally, I’d like to thank DC for making these comics, without which, our lives would be so much duller. Yes, you make me crazy sometimes, but for the most part, I’m happy.
Stefan Mesch: Thank you so much for taking all of July and e-mailing me all those excellent answers. It was a blast, and I learned a lot!
Sally Pascale: Frankly, I’m thrilled to pieces that someone is actually interested in my comical book experience. I’ve had the time of my life!
Egad, is this…the End?
- Sally’s Blog, “Green Lantern Butt’s Forever”
- my interview with ‘CEB’, DC Comics critic from “Collected Editions”
- a personal, literary essay about Clark Kent, my favourite DC character.
- my “Tagesspiegel” comic work (German)
Questions? Contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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