With the Green Lantern movie being released this month, now is a good time to look back at the mythos and characters behind the Green Lantern franchise. Green Lanterns are members of an intergalactic police force named the Green Lantern Corps. They are endowed with Power Rings that are able to create any construct or form they can imagine by summoning their willpower. Members are chosen from all over the universe based on their ability to overcome fear. Any form of sentience can become a member of the Corps. Throughout DC Comics history, there have been five Green Lanterns that have hailed from the Planet Earth. Since their inception, they have consistently been among DC?s most popular and famous characters. So in commemoration of their big screen debut, we have ten of the most important Green Lantern comics in history, presented in chronological order from their first release.
10. All-American Comics #16 (July 1940)
Debut of Alan Scott
This was the debut of Alan Scott, the very first character to bear the title of Green Lantern. The comic follows engineer Alan Scott as he survives a train wreck and discovers a lantern made of emerald in the wreckage. The lantern contains a power known as the Green Flame of Life, a force which came to earth in a meteor around 2,000 years ago. Alan cuts away part of the lantern into a ring which he then uses to fight crime. Although Alan Scott was never part of the Green Lantern Corps (and in fact gets his powers from a totally different source from the other Green Lanterns on this list) , his character helped establish many of the key tropes that would come to be associated with the franchise. This issue in particular establishes four essential attributes: 1) The power-restoring Lantern 2) The Green Lantern Ring 3) The ring must be recharged every 24 hours by the lantern 4) The first incarnation of the Green Lantern oath. While the entire Green Lantern mythos would be reintroduced and rebooted with the introduction of the Corps and Hal Jordan, Alan Scott retained his powers and remains a key member of the Justice Society of America.
Showcase #22 (October 1959)
Debut of Hal Jordan
Debut of the Green Lantern Corps
Debut of Carol Ferris
After the character of Alan Scott had waned and disappeared, DC decided to reboot the Green Lantern franchise in 1959. They did so by introducing Hal Jordan, a test pilot who discovers a crashed spaceship containing an alien named Abin Sur. Abin Sur is a member of the Green Lantern Corps and, in his dying moments, bequeaths his power, ring, and lantern to Hal. Hal Jordan would serve as the only member of the Green Lantern Corps from earth for almost a decade before the introduction of Guy Gardner. But even after the introduction of three more Green Lanterns from earth, Hal Jordan would always remain the most popular and widely used. This particular issue also gave us one of the most important additions to Green Lantern lore: their weakness to the color yellow. Much like Kryptonite for Superman, the color yellow is enough the null a Green Lanterns power. This issue also introduced the character of Carol Ferris, Hal?s main love interest who would eventually become the super-villain Star Sapphire.
Green Lantern Vol. 2 #7 (July-August 1961)
Debut of Sinestro
A good superhero is nothing without a good super-villain. Superman has Lex Luthor. Batman has the Joker. Green Lantern has Sinestro. Sinestro was a fascinating supervillain for his era, since he was not a mindless killer or psychopath. He was a former disgraced Green Lantern who had abused his power to enslave his home planet. He was a hero who was corrupted by power. The Guardians of the Universe, the aliens who head the Green Lantern Corps, banished him to the planet Qward in the Antimatter Universe as punishment. But he managed to escape his prison and has ever since wreaked havoc across the universe. In the modern era, he has even managed to form his own Lantern Corps, the Sinestro Corps. While Green Lanterns fuel their rings through willpower, members of the Sinestro Corps fuel their rings through fear.
Green Lantern Vol. 2 #59 (March 1968)
Debut of Guy Gardener
Easily the most charismatic Green Lantern from earth, Guy Gardener has served the Corps with his brute strength, unflinching personality, and churlish antics. His first appearance was in the pages of Green Lantern Vol. 2 #59. But Guy did not have a regular origin story. He was introduced as a character in a “what if?” issue where the Guardians of Oa used a Memory Machine to examine what would have happened if Abin Sur?s ring hadn?t gone to Hal Jordan. According to the machine, which records the memories of every Green Lantern for historical preservation, Abin Sur?s ring would have gone to Guy. At the time he was living as a physical education instructor in the creatively named East City. Both the Guardians and Hal were impressed with how Guy would have performed, and eventually sacrificed himself, in the line of duty. After his visit to the Memory Machine, Hal traveled to East City to meet Guy. The two would become close friends. Guy would continue to serve the Corps as Hal?s replacement in case he was unable or unfit to carry out his duties.
Green Lantern Vol. 2 #76 (April 1970)
During the early 70s, Hal Jordan shared his comic with co-star Oliver Queen, aka Green Arrow. The two were close friends, but also served as perfect foils: Hal was a staunch conservative while Oliver was a die-hard liberal. For 46 issues the two would travel across America and focus on real life problems instead of intergalactic criminals. This format allowed for DC to use the book to highlight and examine some of the eras most important and pressing social issues. The most famous storyline from this period was “Snowbirds Don?y Fly,” a two-part anti drug story where Green Arrow discovers that his sidekick Speedy was a drug addict. But that story arc was largely centered on Green Arrow. The most important story to focus on Green Lantern from this team-up came from Vol. 2 #76. The issue found Green Arrow escorting Hal throughout city slums observing America?s modern-day problems. In one of comic book history?s most controversial moments, Hal is berated by an old black man who claims that he spends too much time working for the “blue skins” (the Guardians of Oa) and not enough time for the “black skins” (impoverished humans).
Green Lantern Vol. 2 #87 (December 1971/January 1972)
Debut of John Stewart
John Stewart has long been one of DC?s most controversial characters. He was one of their first major African-American heroes. He was a veteran of the United States Marine Corps and carried a healthy distrust of authority figures. However, when Guy Gardener got seriously injured in an accident, he was selected as Hal Jordan?s second substitute in cases of emergency. In his premiere issue, writers used Stewart to tackle the issue of racism by having him foil a fake assassination attempt by an African American against a racist politician who organized the debacle for political gain. His actions established himself as a fitting replacement for Hal Jordan. He has since become one of the most famous Green Lanterns in history, due in large part to his participation in the television shows Justice League and Justice League Unlimited.
Green Lantern Vol. 3 #48 (January 1994)
Debut of Kyle Rayner
One of the events surrounding the death of Superman in the early 90s was the destruction of Coast City, Hal Jordan’s home town. The catastrophe led to Hal going mad and trying to recreate the city and its inhabitants with his ring. Afterwards, he ended up killing all but one of the Guardians of the Universe when they tried to strip him of his ring. The last remaining Guardian, Ganthet, came to earth and gave the last working Green Lantern ring to graphic artist Kyle Rayner. For almost a decade Kyle Rayner would serve as the only Green Lantern in the universe. Rayner also blazed new ground by being the first Green Lantern who wasn’t vulnerable to the color yellow. It was in Green Lantern Vol. 3 #48 that Rayner made his very first appearance.
Green Lantern Vol. 3 #50 (March 1994)
Hal Jordan Becomes Parallax
Debut of Kyle Rayner as Green Lantern
After the destruction of Coast City and his destruction of the Guardians of the Universe, Hal Jordan turned on his fellow Green Lanterns, becoming the super-villain Parallax. He proceeds to massacre most of the members of the Corps and his old nemesis Sinestro. It is during this issue that Kyle Rayner first receives his ring and assumes his position as Green Lantern. This issue was a turning point in the franchise: one of DC?s most established and beloved heroes became evil and his old mantle was passed on to a fresh face. Hal Jordan would continue to spread chaos throughout the universe, even at one point trying to literally reboot time itself to prevent the destruction of Coast City. There was a massive fan backlash against the decision, leading to groups of fans getting organized to demand Hal Jordan?s return as Green Lantern. All of the anger can be traced back to this issue where a hero fell, but a legacy was continued.
Green Lantern: Rebirth #4 (March 2005)
Return of Hal Jordan as Green Lantern
After a decade of absence, Hal Jordan returned to the DC universe as Green Lantern in Green Lantern: Rebirth #4. The Rebirth storyline described how Hal Jordan?s transformation into a super-villain was the result of being possessed by the cosmic entity Parallax which was literally a parasitic embodiment of fear. Parallax was responsible for the yellow impurity in the Green Lantern rings. When Coast City was destroyed, Parallax managed to possess Hal Jordan in his ultimate moment of weakness when his greatest fears were realized. In the Rebirth storyline, Hal Jordan was finally able to free himself from its control. His return was a highly celebrated event written by comic superstar Geoff Johns. The explanation of Parallax controlling Hal Jordan was also a way to pardon him for all of the crimes that he had committed while possessed. Hal Jordan’s return was seen as a revitalization of the Green Lantern franchise, along with the events that took place in the next entry.
Green Lantern Corps: Recharge #1 (November 2005)
Return of the Green Lantern Corps
In addition to restoring Hal Jordan as the resident Green Lantern of earth, Geoff Johns reinvented one of the most crucial elements of Green Lantern mythos: the Corps. Of course, most of the Corps had been killed off when Hal Jordan became possessed by Parallax. So Green Lantern Corps: Recharge saw a massive recruitment drive of 3,600 new Green Lanterns. This was an opportunity to introduce a whole bevy of new characters and alien races. The newly formed Corps would go on to star in four high profile DC events: The Sinestro Corps War, Blackest Night, Brightest Day, and the War of the Green Lanterns. With the Corps return, they were now one of the most important features of the DC universe.