Today is part two of of our series on the Justice Society of America.
Since we already talked about the man on the far right of this picture we’re going to move over one and talk about the man with the green mask and cape. This is a special post because that hero is the Golden Age version of the Green Lantern, the blue print for one of the most famous and prominent heroes around today.
Origin and career:
Thanks to the Green Lantern’s popularity we know quite a bit about the Green Lantern’s history. However, what’s really interesting is that the original version of Green Lantern shared almost none of the traits and history of the Green Lantern we know today.
The original Green Lantern’s name was Alan Scott. He was a humble railroad engineer who was minding his own business when an alien entity named Starheart saved him from a terrible accident. Starheart took the form of ring and pushed Alan towards adopting the persona of the Green Lantern.
What makes this iteration of the Green Lantern interesting is just how similar he is to the Green Lantern we know and love and how different he is at the same time. It turns out that this Green Lantern had more of a mystical tint to it since it was discovered that Starheart was actually a meteor that crash landed on Earth thousands of years ago and has had quite a history with humans prophesying that it would act three times: once to destroy, once to heal, and once to give power. Alan Scott just happened to be the third one.
Like the current Green Lantern the original Green Lantern had a wide variety of powers. The ring allowed Alan Scott to fly, project light that could blind opponents, and project solid light constructs that could knock someone out.
The ring also made him invulnerable to every type of weapon except those made out of wood for some reason (the Golden Age was weird) and had to be recharged but touching a large Green device shaped like a lantern every 24 hours.
In terms of stories and enemies the Green Lantern had a pretty lackluster career. In his solo work he mostly fought human antagonists although he did introduce future DC heavyweight villains Vandal Savage
and Solomon Grundy.
He would later join his other superhero compatriots that weren’t selling well and become one of the founding members of the Justice Society. During this time he became the head of a Broadcasting Company and spent the war making money and kicking Nazi butt.
So what happened?
After fulfilling his Nazi beating quota Green Lantern suffered the same post war decline in readership that almost every hero who wasn’t named Batman or Superman had. His books were cancelled in 1949 but he would make a roaring comeback in 1959 with the dawn of the Silver Age of Comics.
A quick note about the Silver Age of Comics. This period of comic book history took place between 1956-1970 and was known for two things. First, it saw the rise of Stan Lee and Marvel Comics.
and for drawing most of its influence from this
Yes, the Silver Age was a time when popular culture was dominated by science, the power and possibilities of atomic energy, and mankind’s first forays into space. Comic books were quick to pick up on these new fascinations and nowhere was it more apparent that Green Lantern who introduced a new face of the franchise in 1959: Hal Jordan.
Right away you can see several differences between Hal and Alan. For starters there’s no cape and the comic has more of a science fiction feel to it rather than a gangster/fantasy spin. The new comic also featured several other changes that would become standard Green Lantern lore. Hal was a test pilot instead of a railroad engineer and while the ring could still use green light to project solid light constructs and provide powers of flight and protection it could also work against wooden weapons. Instead it’s new weakness was the color yellow (just the color yellow, the Sinestro Corps didn’t exist yet). As for its origin the new Green Lantern wasn’t just a hero who had been given magic powers. Now he was actually a member of an intergalactic police force run by the immortal Guardians.
So DC comics now had a new Green Lantern with a more detailed backstory and a focus on science fiction over fantasy which, looking back, made him quite a bit more interesting.
That being said Alan Scott didn’t just disappear. In fact, he would go on to have a long and illustrious career as his own character. One of DC Comic’s big Silver Age stunts was the creation of the Multiverse, the idea that the DC universe existed in multiple universes which gave the writers and creators the excuse to keep a lot of characters around without having to deal with a lot of pesky continuity flaws. The idea was introduced in the Flash of Two World’s story and allowed DC to keep a lot of it’s old Golden Age heroes around.
As one of the founding members of the JSA, Alan Scott continued to exist as his own man through the Silver Age, even working with Hal Jordan on several occasions.
And he’s been hanging around the DC universe ever since. No matter what has happened within the DC universe and no matter what Earth shattering event has occurred, the original Green Lantern has always been there watching over Earth’s other heroes with his magic ring.
One thought on “Golden Age #11: Golden Age Green Lantern”
His weakness to wood was explained as being a result of the Starheart’s connection to living things. So any sort of plant or wood material was something it couldn’t affect because you can’t defend against yourself. This made Solomon Grundy a great archenemy because his corpse was full of swamp material.
Great post! It’s fun to revisit the Golden Age!
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