A Tribute to the of

Capitalism and free markets triumph again!  I've said before that one of the downsides to this hobby/obsession is that sometimes you just had to figure that an intriguing issue was forever out of your reach unless you miraculously stumbled across it someplace or were able to get it in a reprint format.  Many are the ads I used to see in the old collection of my boyhood thinking, "Oooo, that one looks interesting!  I wonder what it was about?"  Thanks once again to the wonders of eBay (and the kindness of my good friend, the webmaster) I have the opportunity to satisfy my curiosity about one of those very issues that I'd long wondered about.  That, of course, brings me to the subject of this review where I'll ask you to join me in exploring Green Lantern #59 from March of 1968 which features a story conceived by the father of the DC Silver Age, editor Julius Schwartz and one of his most frequent collaborators John Broome, with art by Gil Kane and Sid Greene. The tale is entitled "Earth's Other Green Lantern!"  Take a good look at that stunning cover and tell me how anyone couldn't be drawn in by it.  Time now to see if the story lives up to that cover.

Things begin on Oa, home of the immortal Guardians of the Universe who oversee and train the Green Lantern Corps.  Hal Jordan is in his uniform and is in attendance for a two-day seminar on the higher techniques of the Guardians.  They are in the process of showing him a fantastic machine of their own invention.  They call it the mental post mortem as it has the ability not only to see world events in real time, but also to record and store data taken from brains after death.  The Guardians explain further to Jordan that his predecessor, Abin Sur, was transported to Oa following his death and that prior to enshrining his body in the crypt, (a sort of intergalactic Arlington National Cemetery, one presumes) they recorded his last hours on Earth, taken from his brain.  Hal leaps at the opportunity to view it and soon a cartridge is inserted into the machine and the face and voice of Abin Sur appear, re-telling those final fateful moments following his crash landing on Earth.  The readers are then shown the familiar events leading up to the beginning of Hal's career:  Abin Sur realizes he's been mortally injured and further understands he must hurriedly find a worthy successor to entrust with the battery of power.  He presses his ring to the battery and instructs it to seek a deserving being and to bring him to the ship.  "He must be one without fear!  Entirely without fear!"  At Abin Sur's bidding, a bolt of pure emerald energy criss-crosses the planet to search for the candidate.  Then, a surprising twist as thoughts pulsed back to the Green Lantern:  "There are two deserving ones!…One is Guy Gardner—an instructor in an Eastern school in this country!  The other is a test pilot named Hal Jordan in nearby California!  Both are identically worthy—and free of fear!"   Abin Sur quickly decides that the only logical course of action is to choose the closer candidate and Hal Jordan is transported by the ring from Ferris Aircraft Company to the location of the crashed spacecraft.  Abin Sur explains who he is and why Hal has been summoned.  He bathes Jordan in the green light of his power ring to confirm that he is honest and without fear.  He then explains the circumstances of his crash landing on the Earth.  How his ship was battered by the intense radiation bands surrounding the planet and the blast of yellow light, the one weakness in the power battery due to a yellow impurity.  The ring is then passed on to the Earthman and the alien succumbs to his injuries.  

An amazed Hal Jordan tells the Guardians that he's both surprised at the existence of the other candidate and that he cannot help but wonder what would have happened if Guy Gardner had been selected over him.  "We can show you what would have happened!"  Yet another ability of the amazing machine is to compose different possibilities in the future, based on alternative postulates of events.  After some data input and adjustment, the screen flickers to life again and the machine provides the narration of events.  This time it is Guy Gardner who is being swept along to the location of Abin Sur's vessel.  Guy is a physical education instructor and soon he is in receipt of the wondrous power ring and battery. 

At first, somewhat like Hal's experience, the going is rough.  He must learn to channel his willpower through the ring to make it function properly and effectively.  Also like Hal, he maintains his civilian life along with a secret identity as Green Lantern.  Soon it is time for his first test as Green Lantern when he decides to tackle saboteurs in East City.  He scours the city until his ring detects a hidden radio transmitter.  Blasting through the solid walls of the hideout, he quickly erects a shield to stop the bullets of the gang members.  Guy doesn't yet trust his mastery of the ring, so he decides to take advantage of his peak physical condition to take each of the three members down.  His first foray as the Emerald Knight is successful. 

The story text then explains that he proceeded to take on a series of super-criminals and the terrific full-page art shows some of the newly inducted members of his rogue's gallery. (This page, slightly modified, appears in The Amazing World of DC Comics #11, dated April 1976.)  They include Sonar, sultan of super-sonic sound; The Shark, preyer on human beings; Blackhand, the cliché criminal; Doctor Polaris, master of magnetism and of course Sinestro, the renegade Green Lantern.  Flipping the page, the text informs us:  It was after Guy Gardner's resounding defeat of Sinestro that the Guardians summoned him to Oa and revealed to him the source of the mystic power which had been conferred on him!  When he power-ringed homeward… 

We now go back to "wide-angle" and Hal comments that Guy's "career" has been a close parallel to his own.  He then notes that the Green Gladiator on the screen is taking a different route back to Earth than he had ever taken.  The Guardian in attendance comments that perhaps this change will be significant. 

Gardner suddenly encounters bursts of high-powered energy exploding around him and that they're originating from an isolated planet dead ahead.  He decides it bears further investigation.  As he flies toward the planet's surface he sees two figures firing weapons at one another, revealing the source of the energy bursts.  When the dueling duo spots Green Lantern, they proceed to open fire on him.  A quick burst of energy from the power ring sends the two sprawling while the ring reveals to its wearer that these are actually robots.  Guy resolves to get to the bottom of matters as the curtain is drawn on Part I.

As Part II begins, Green Lantern has immobilized the robots and is now seeking answers from their computer brains.  He soon learns that only children who never age inhabit this planet, Ghera.  The parents of these children, who were wiped out eons ago by a mysterious yellow plague, had created the robots.  The plague destroyed the adult populace, but left their offspring in a perpetual state of childhood.  Their primary form of recreation has become endless war games with one group defining themselves with the color orange and the other blue.   

Armed with this new knowledge Gardner flies off in search of the children, determined to bring peace to the planet.  He doesn't get far, however, when he finds himself gripped in a powerful mental force that brings his now rigid figure to the home base of the "blue" group.  The children of Ghera believe that the green and black clad figure is merely a toy or mechanism.  Unable to move in any way, Gardner is helpless to inform them otherwise.  They decide to use him as a new weapon against their "orange" foes and soon dispatch him with the command to defeat the orange army and take them prisoner. 

The first thing Gardner encounters is a huge robot bird.  He is commanded to destroy it and does so by creating an emerald mountain in its flight path.  To Guy's relief no one is piloting the automaton. 

The next task is engaging a submarine equipped with lightning bolt defenses.  Green Lantern is again victorious and he is next sent to seek out the orange home base.  Upon his arrival their mechanical defenses attack, but Green Lantern is equal to the task and soon lays waste to all of them, successfully turning their own weaponry against them.  In the next tense moments, the orange group attempts to wrest control of Gardner from the blues and a mental tug of war begins.  Guy struggles to maintain his sanity and uses every bit of will power he can summon to break free amid the conflict.  Successful, he quickly creates armor shielding for himself to assure no further mental control by the warring factions of children. 

His long experience as a public school instructor serves him well as Gardner manages to convince the two groups to abandon their warring ways and to compete in sports and athletic competitions.  What else would the old gym instructor come up with?  Before leaving Ghera, Guy also uses the amazing powers of the ring to return the children to normal so that they'll age naturally. 

Green Lantern quickly resumes his journey to Earth, just in time to recharge his ring.  The 24-hour limit was nearly up.  Guy successfully reaches his power battery and touching the ring to it, goes through the recharging ritual.  Note, however, the different oath he utters while doing so:  "On worlds afar or scenes at home, wherever the cause should make me roam, always I vow to fight the good fight-- to combat evil with all Green Lantern's might!"

No sooner is the task completed, however, than he begins to shake uncontrollably.  He looks into a nearby mirror and in horror realizes that he isn't jaundiced.  His sweating, yellow visage reveals that he has contracted the yellow plague of Ghera!  The ring cannot help and he doesn't have much time, so he follows the example of his predecessor and sends forth a beam of energy from his ring to find a successor.  Soon the beam returns with Hal Jordan in tow.  Guy explains what Hal must do as the new Green Lantern, adding that the Guardians will contact him in time.  He then points out the power battery and tells him that it is proper to take an oath.  Before he can teach it to him, though, he succumbs to the plague.  Hal takes the wondrous ring from Gardner's finger and charges it, making up an oath of his own on the spot.  It should sound familiar:  "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!"  The newly minted Green Lantern then flies off and the showing on the screen ends.  The Guardian with Hal says that now he sees what would have happened if Guy Gardner had received the ring from Abin Sur.  Hal thinks that it seems he was destined to wear the ring and asks permission to make the acquaintance of Guy Gardner.  Permission is granted.

The scene then switches back to Earth not long afterward.  Guy Gardner and Hal Jordan are chatting and Hal tells Guy that he used to be a test pilot, but now works for an insurance company and is in town for a couple of weeks.  Hal had joined the athletic club to make sure he ran into Guy.  Gardner remarks that he feels like they've met before. 

As the two new friends part, Hal thinks to himself that he'll keep in touch with Guy and the story comes to a close.  Directly below the final panel is a line of text reminding the readers to "See Green Lantern on your local CBS TV station every Saturday morning!"            

This story had a pretty interesting twist.  After yet another of what I refer to as DC's misleading covers, it turned out to be a form of an imaginary story, or perhaps more of a speculative story, only this one could have happened in another time and place, while still driving home the point that ultimately, Hal Jordan was destined to be the Green Lantern of Earth or more properly his assigned space sector.  I thought it was really very well done.

I don't know for certain when the character of Guy Gardner was first revisited or what form he took.  The only exposure I'd had to him was in modern continuity and he's morphed into a first class jerk.  Childish, self-centered and overflowing with attitude, he's more of an anti-hero and I haven't quite figured out why he even still bears the ring and symbol of the noble Green Lantern Corps.  Frankly, I don't much care.  What little I've read of this unfortunate metamorphosis has been more than enough and I tend to cringe at his modern persona.

That, however, has no bearing on the story at hand and my long-held curiosity was satisfied quite nicely, so I'll give it a 9 for an enjoyable read somewhat out of the norm in the classic Silver Age tales of Green Lantern.  I'd happily recommend it to your reading list.

Mark your calendar to return in approximately two weeks to this location for the latest selection for review.  As a matter of fact, that next installment will mark the anniversary of the feature and I hope to make it a memorable one.  In the meantime, you can correspond with me at professor_the@hotmail.com and I hope you will.

Untill then...

Long live the Silver Age!

© 2000-2004 by B.D.S.

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