A Tribute to the of

I'm sorry to report we recently lost a pioneer in comicdom.  Martin Nodell, (along with a credited Bill Finger,) creator of the original Green Lantern, passed away December 9th, nipped in the bud at 91 years of age.  Here's a snippet from the online news item:

Nodell was looking for a new idea for a comic book in 1940 when he was waiting for a New York subway and saw a train operator waving a lantern displaying a green light, said Maggie Thompson, senior editor of Comics Buyer's Guide. Nodell imagined a young engineer, Alan Scott, a train crash survivor who discovers in the debris an ancient lantern forged from a green meteor. Scott constructs a ring from the lamp that gives him super powers, and becomes a crime fighter.

He brought his drawings and story lines to All-American Publications, which later became a part of National Periodical Publications, the company that was to become DC Comics, Thompson said.

The first Green Lantern appearance came in All-American Comics #16 dated July 1940, an eight-page story in a comic book also featuring other characters. The character then got his own series, and Nodell drew it until 1947 under the name Mart Dellon.

After its cancellation in 1949, the series was reborn in 1959 with a revised story line, and it has been revived several times. Meanwhile, Nodell left the comics field for an advertising career. In the 1960s, he was on a design team that helped develop the Pillsbury Doughboy.

In later years, Nodell traveled the comic book convention circuit with his wife, Caroline, who died in 2004. "There were myriad of fans who would come up to my dad and would say `Green Lantern got me to read´ or `Green Lantern got me to do something in my life,´" Spencer Nodell said.

As luck would have it, courtesy of my copy of "The Great Comic Book Heroes" by Jules Feiffer, I have at my disposal a reprint of that seminal story by "Mart Dellon" and Bill Finger entitled simply "The Green Lantern" in the classic green flaming letters.  By way of tribute, I share it with you now:

Things start off with a bang, quite literally, when "out in the great West" a train is traversing a new trestle bridge on a test run.  Aboard is the construction engineer, Alan Scott, with an unnamed companion.  The man tells Alan that he's worried Dekker will try something dangerous, but Scott dismisses his co-worker's concerns over vengeance for his company's successful bid on the bridge for the Government.

Well, prophecy doesn't seem to be Scott's long suit as the bridge promptly blows up, sending the train plummeting downward and killing everyone but a shaken up Alan Scott, who is still holding the green railroad lantern that was at his side in the cab of the train.  The lantern begins to emit a green glow that gets steadily more intense and causes Alan Scott to become dizzy and faint.  "From within the aura of the green flame comes a voice…an ageless, toneless voice, that penetrates into Scott's sub-consciousness…""I am the green flame of life/listen chosen one and hear the tale of the green lantern!"

Maybe it's the notion of a green flame, but I swear I can hear the voice of the Great and Powerful Oz.  Sorry…

The next page and a half is devoted to the history of this strange lamp, going back to ancient China when a meteor crashed to earth and broke open, revealing a small pool of flaming liquid metal, which promptly burst into green flame and spoke to the stunned and superstitious people around it:  "Three times shall I flame green!  First – to bring death!  Second – to bring life!  Third – to bring power!"  Presumably this was spoken in Mandarin Chinese.  Anyway, the strange flame goes out and the metal begins to cool and solidify.  Soon Chang the lamp maker goes to it, saying that its come, just as the old book said.  One of the onlookers says that Chang is the evil one because he reads old volumes about sorcery.

It isn't long until Chang has plied his skills and crafted a lamp from the green metal, but the people are frightened and convinced that they must rid the village of Chang and his new lamp or suffer the wrath of the gods.  A handful of men rush Chang's house and overcome him and begin to destroy his books, but before they can do much more the lamp flames a bright green hue and we are reminded, "Three times shall I flame green!  First – to bring death!"  Sure enough, the men drop lifeless to the floor.

Our story continues that the lamp passed through many hands, bringing luck and fortune to the good and destruction to the bad until we catch up with it in America outside an insane asylum.  It is discovered by attendants of the asylum and they decide to give it to "old Billings" who makes lanterns out of metal.  Fascinated with the unique color of the old Chinese lamp, Billings recrafts it into a more modern train lantern when it issues forth a powerful green light that bathes the room.  Again we are made to know that "Three times shall I flame green!  Second – to bring life!"  Billings is fully restored and walks out of the asylum a cured man.

We now return to the supine form of Alan Scott and the glowing lantern that continues to "speak:"  "You have heard the tale of the Green Lantern!  Now to you I bring fulfillment of the prophesy…third – to bring power!  For I am the flame of life!  Green, as are the plants, the growing things!  You, who are to have this power, you must use it to end evil!  The light of the green lantern must be shed over the dark, evil things…for the dark evil things cannot stand light!  Power shall be yours, if you have faith in yourself.  Lose that faith and you lose the energetic power of the green lantern, for will power is the flame of the green lantern!"  Unconsciously, Alan wonders if he must always carry the green lantern to have this power and the lantern replies:  "It would be well for you to utilize part to make a ring—a ring with my flame!  To renew its power, the ring must touch the green lantern once every twenty-four hours!"  The flame then dwindles down to a small flicker and Alan Scott begins to revive as a final comment comes forth:  "The green lantern…to shed light upon dark evil!"

Scott wonders if he dreamt it, but retrieves the lantern and feels a surge of energy in his body, confirming that he did not imagine the miraculous events that just occurred.  Looking over the carnage he becomes filled with rage and vows that with the help of the green lantern he'll have vengeance upon Dekker.  He furiously begins to fashion a ring from part of the lantern, moving as a man possessed, but once he places it upon his finger, rational thought returns and he decides to test the power of the ring on his right hand.  Instantly the ring responds to his mental wish to fly to Dekker and soon he's hovering outside a building and pondering whether or not he can use the ring to go through the fourth dimension and therefore through objects.  He soon discovers he can do just that and fades into a wall.

Inside, Dekker and his henchmen are congratulating themselves on a job well done when a green glow emanates from the wall, ultimately revealing the emerald figure of Alan Scott.  Drawing weapons they first shot pistols, then knives, to no effect.  Strangely, an ordinary wooden club penetrates the protective emerald glow.  The temporarily stunned Scott decides that the ring only affords protection against metals.  Leaping into the fray he also notes he seems to have only his normal strength, which is sufficient for the task at hand.  Then, scooping up Dekker, he takes the man for a joy ride into the ether until he agrees to sign a full confession of his criminal activity.  The strain of everything happening around him was apparently too much, though, as Dekker keels over from a heart attack.

Alan Scott then determines that it is his destiny to continue fighting evil and as he returns to his own sanctum he ponders matters further:  "If I must fight evil beings, I must make myself a dreaded figure!  I must have a costume that is so bizarre that once I am seen I will never be forgotten!"  If I were to guess, I'd attribute that thought bubble to Bill Finger.  It sure sounds remarkably similar to the classic panel where Bruce Wayne sits alone in his sanctum thinking:  "Criminals are a superstitious cowardly lot, so my disguise must be able to strike terror into their hearts.  I must be a creature of the night, black, terrible…a…a…a bat!  That's it!  It's an omen…I shall become a bat!"

The final panel shows Scott in full garb declaring, "…and I shall shed my light over dark evil…for the dark things cannot stand the light…the light of the Green Lantern!"

Interestingly the ring is now on his left hand and in later continuity there it remained.  I have no idea what the significance of that is, but it was consistent when he appeared in the Silver Age.  Note particularly the cover of Justice League of America #22, which contains both GL's in action.  Hal, of course, bears his ring on his right hand.

Thanks to my copy of "Mythology", a recent birthday gift (with a grateful nod to my best friend, the webmaster) I only recently learned a little bit of relevant trivia contained in Alex Ross' "Kingdom Come".  Toward the end of the story a panel contains a depiction of some of the surviving heroes to include Wonder Woman, Superman, Green Lantern and Batman and Alex cleverly placed "extras" in the background.  Well, those "extras" were actually tribute portraits of the creators of these characters and over GL's left shoulder is none other than Mart Nodell.  A classy touch.

Thank you, Mart, for your creation of the character that would morph into one of the most important figures in our beloved Silver Age and indeed would make his own appearances in some classic crossover tales that we've enjoyed in this space.  Your legacy is secure.  Rest in Peace.

Thanks for spending some time with us and as always I'll kindly solicit your thoughts, questions or requests.  Address all e-mails to professor_the@hotmail.com and rest assured of a response.  We love hearing from you. 

Make sure you tap your way back to this space in the usual two weeks for the latest review, and…

Long live the Silver Age!

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