It’s gone away from me / The thrill is gone baby / The thrill is gone away from me / Although, I’ll still live on / But so lonely I’ll be / The thrill is gone – The Thrill Is Gone, Roy Hawkins and Rick Darnell, 1951
Today, as we currently reckon time, is the day DC Comics launches a brand-new Green Lantern title. Have they done this previously? I mean, previously in 2021. I know it’s only early April, but every week they do not introduce a new Green Lantern title, or at least a new Green Lantern, seems to me to be a rare week indeed.
I’m not complaining about this new series. I haven’t read it. I haven’t even decided not to read it, but, as the song goes, the thrill is gone.
I clearly remember buying the first silver age Green Lantern in late July of 1959. I was a week shy of nine years old, and new superhero launches were very few and quite far between. I took to it as though it were a barbecue beef sammich. A rocket crashes (I’m telling you the short version) and inside the rocket is a dying alien. His ring — his ring! — sought out the nearest fearless person worthy of herohood and found a test pilot named Hal Jordon. Go figger; a handsome white American dude. He said “OK, fine, you’re worthy. Put on this ring and go figure it out. I’m dying here.”
It was really cool. The artwork, storytelling, and design work were stellar, and the new guy could do anything as long as he wasn’t using that ring on anything yellow. Yellow? Do you know how much stuff out there is yellow? For crying out loud, yellow and green are next to each other on the color wheel! Yet the stories were so compelling I accepted that, just the way I accepted his tedious, time-consuming oath. I eagerly followed the three Showcase issues, I was pleased to see he was in the original Justice League of America six months later, and then I was thrilled that he got his own series — all within 10 months!
In no more than a few years, Green Lantern’s bosses thought there should be a standby GL just in case Hal meets the same fate as his predecessor. Guy Gardiner wasn’t around all that much, but he was there when he was needed.
Several years after that, the little blue men with the Dr. Zorba haircuts decided the neighborhood needed still another backup Green Lantern. It was nice to see, John Stewart, a Black man get the gig, a very rare thing for 1971. But I got to thinking…
The little blue men, who took to calling themselves the Guardians of the Universe (the other Guardians have a tree), had divided all of the universe into 3600 sectors (that number later doubled; after all, the universe is ever-expanding). Each sector had its own Green Lantern. OK, initially that was really cool because most of the other GLs did not appear to be humanoid, and such diversity was not so fully embraced in the comics of the time. Hal, and Guy, and John all worked in Sector 2814 and by now all three were full-timers.
Why does Earth get three while every place else only gets one? There’s something really unfair about that.
Kyle Rayner became still another Earthman Green Lantern. That’s four from the same sector. In the ensuing years Simon Baz, Jessica Cruz and now Keli Quintela became part of this overwhelmingly Earthish group of heroes. Even the original-original Green Lantern, Alan Scott from the 1940s, got retconned into this horde, and others in history have popped up from time to time. Sojourner “Jo” Mullein is or was or will be a greenie as well.
Is Anya Savenlovich still a Lantern? Probably; in comics, nobody ever disappears forever. Does anybody remember Charlie Vicker? I think he grew up to be Ryan Reynolds. And then there’s Donna Parker, and I think Jennifer-Lynn Hayden, a.k.a. Jade — Alan Scott’s kid — is back on the scene along with her father’s increased exposure in the DC universe du jour.
I won’t go into the Green Lantern who appeared in last month’s Zack Marathon. That wasn’t a comic book, and if it was supposed to be it never would have been published.
To be fair, I don’t mind the GLs from those thrilling days of yesteryear. History goes back a bit, and it makes sense that the ones from the 20th century were not the first. But I’m not as certain about all those many Green Lanterns from the “future” that lurk around every corner.
The whole Green Lantern concept is no longer special, but, then again, I’m no longer nine years old, my behavior notwithstanding. Soon there will be as many Green Lanterns as there were Elvis impersonators — and Green Lanterns have a much longer shelf-life. Of course, now somebody is going to come up with an Elvis Presley Green Lantern, but I doubt AT&T will pony up the licensing fees.
You may very well be a Green Lantern. If so, please don’t take this personally — I’d take the gig too, if offered. But my power ring wouldn’t work on anything gray.