Comic Book Legal Defense Fund

Pulp Culture
The 'true' Green Lantern
makes his comeback

November 25, 2004
By Franklin Harris

At long last, Hal Jordan is coming back.

For more than 30 years, Hal was Green Lantern, a distinguished member of the Green Lantern Corps and the Justice League of America. He was a hero, armed with a power ring fueled by alien technology and his own seemingly limitless willpower. Then everything went bad.

Hal Jordan reclaims the role of Green Lantern in the DC Comics mini-series ''Green Lantern: Rebirth.''
Courtesy Art
Hal Jordan reclaims the role of Green Lantern in the DC Comics mini-series "Green Lantern: Rebirth."
An extraterrestrial warlord named the Mongul destroyed Hal's hometown, Coast City, and in a futile attempt to change the past, Hal went mad. He killed the rest of the Green Lantern Corps and became Parallax, a villain who tried, time and again, to alter history and "set things right."

Eventually, Hal came to his senses and sacrificed his life to save the Earth. Then, in an odd twist, he was resurrected as the Spectre, a supernatural avenger struggling to find redemption.

Meanwhile, a new hero, Kyle Rayner, assumed the role of Green Lantern.

Obviously, a lot of readers who had followed Hal's comic-book adventures through the years were not happy. Other heroes had come and gone, of course. Hal wasn't even the first Green Lantern. He replaced Alan Scott, who had been Green Lantern during the 1940s. The Flash (Barry Allan) died a hero during the "Crisis on Infinite Earths" only to be replaced by his former sidekick, Wally West.

The problem was how Hal was replaced.

He had gone crazy and become a mass murderer. His replacement wasn't a former sidekick, but some nobody. Change was one thing, but how DC Comics went about replacing Hal wasn't just change, it was disrespect, both toward the character and the fans who had grown up cheering him on.

Some of Hal's more rabid fans responded by forming H.E.A.T. (Hal's Emerald Advancement Team). Since 1996, H.E.A.T. has lobbied DC Comics for Hal's return as Green Lantern. And while H.E.A.T. has been the butt of jokes, it has persevered. Hal Jordan might be "just a comic-book character," but his fans weren't going to "get over it."

DC has a history of heroes going bad. Apart from Hal, half the cast of the 1980s series "Infinity Inc." has crossed to the dark side. In contrast, Marvel Comics likes villains who mend their ways. Hawkeye, the Black Widow, Emma Frost and the Thunderbolts all started out as villains before joining the good guys. (The same is true of the Scarlet Witch, but, like Hal, she recently went nuts and killed her teammates.)

But now DC is rehabilitating its prodigal children.

"JSA" writer Geoff Johns started with Obsidian, the Silver Scarab (now the new Dr. Fate) and Brainwave, all members of Infinity Inc. in need of redemption. Now, in a new six-issue mini-series called "Green Lantern: Rebirth," he and artist Ethan van Sciver are out to give Hal back to his fans. One way or another, by the end of "Rebirth," Hal Jordan will again be the one, true Green Lantern. Any other outcome would be like Capt. Kirk not finding Spock at the end of "Star Trek III: The Search for Spock."

Why did DC go to such lengths to replace Hal in the first place? At the time, DC considered Hal a dinosaur. Superman and Batman are ageless, but by the mid-1990s, Hal was showing his gray, literally. On top of that, he was too much of a straight arrow. DC wanted a younger, more flawed hero, and it created one in Kyle Rayner, whose youth and angst gave him more in common with Spider-Man than with his predecessor.

Despite the complaints, DC's plan worked at first. With Kyle as its lead, readership of "Green Lantern" picked up, and Kyle developed his own fan base. But Hal cast a long shadow, which is why DC has slowly set the stage for his return, first as the Spectre and, finally, as Green Lantern.

Of course, Kyle's fate once Hal returns is up in the air. Who knows? In a few months, rabid Kyle fans may start their own support group.

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