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The first Green Lantern character, Alan Scott, was created in 1940 during the initial popularity of superheroes. Alan Scott usually fought common criminals in New York City with the aid of his magic ring. The publication of this character ceased in 1949 during a general decline in the popularity of superhero comics, but the character saw a limited revival in later decades.
In 1959, to capitalize on the booming popularity of science fiction, the Green Lantern character was reinvented as Hal Jordan, an officer for an interstellar law enforcement agency known as the Green Lantern Corps. Additional members of this agency, all of whom call themselves Green Lanterns, were introduced over time. Prominent Green Lanterns who also have had starring roles in the books include Guy Gardner, John Stewart, Kyle Rayner, Simon Baz and Jessica Cruz.
The Green Lanterns are among DC Comics' longer lasting sets of characters. They have been adapted to television, video games, and motion pictures
Martin Nodell (using the name Mart Dellon) created the first Green Lantern. He first appeared in the Golden Age of comic books in All-American Comics #16 (July 1940), published by All-American Publications, one of three companies that would eventually merge to form DC Comics.
This Green Lantern's real name was Alan Scott, a railroad engineer who, after a railway crash, came into possession of a magic lantern which spoke to him and said it would bring power. From this, he crafted a magic ring which gave him a wide variety of powers. The limitations of the ring were that it had to be "charged" every 24 hours by touching it to the lantern for a time, and that it could not directly affect objects made of wood. Alan Scott fought mostly ordinary human villains, but he did have a few paranormal ones such as the immortal Vandal Savage and the zombie Solomon Grundy. Most stories took place in New York.
As a popular character in the 1940s, the Green Lantern featured both in anthology books such as All-American Comics and Comic Cavalcade, as well as his own book,Green Lantern. He also appeared in All Star Comics as a member of the superhero team known as the Justice Society of America.
After World War II the popularity of superheroes in general declined. The Green Lantern comic book was cancelled with issue #38 (May–June 1949), and All Star Comics #57 (1951) was the character's last Golden Age appearance. When superheroes came back in fashion in later decades, Alan Scott was revived, but was forever marginalized by the new Hal Jordan character who had been created to supplant him (see below). Initially, he made guest appearances in other superheroes' books, but eventually got regular roles in books featuring the Justice Society. He never got another solo series. Between 1995 and 2003, DC Comics changed Alan Scott's superhero codename to "Sentinel" in order to distinguish him from the newer and more popular science fiction Green Lanterns.
In 2011, the Alan Scott character was revamped. His costume was redesigned and the source of his powers was changed to that of the mystical power of nature (referred to in the stories as "the Green").
In 1959, Julius Schwartz reinvented the Green Lantern character as a science fiction hero named Hal Jordan. Hal Jordan's powers were more or less the same as Alan Scott's, but otherwise this character was completely different and unrelated to the Green Lantern of the 1940s. He had a new name, a redesigned costume, and a rewritten origin story. Hal Jordan received his ring from a dying alien and was commissioned as an officer of the Green Lantern Corps, an interstellar law enforcement agency overseen by the Guardians of the Universe.
Hal Jordan was introduced in Showcase #22 (September–October 1959). Gil Kane and Sid Greene were the art team most notable on the title in its early years, along with writer John Broome.
With issue #76 (April 1970), the series made a radical stylistic departure. Editor Schwartz, in one of the company's earliest efforts to provide more than fantasy, worked with the writer-artist team of Denny O'Neil and Neal Adams to spark new interest in the comic and address a perceived need for social relevance. They added the character Green Arrow (with the cover though not the official name retitled Green Lantern Co-Starring Green Arrow) and had the pair travel through America encountering "real world" issues, to which they reacted in different ways — Green Lantern as fundamentally a lawman, Green Arrow as a liberal iconoclast. Additionally during this run, the groundbreaking "Snowbirds Don't Fly" story was published (issues #85 and #86) in which Green Arrow's teen sidekick Speedy (the later grownup hero Red Arrow) developed a heroinaddiction that he was forcibly made to quit. The stories were critically acclaimed, with publications such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Newsweekciting it as an example of how comic books were "growing up". However, the O'Neil/Adams run was not a commercial success, and the series was cancelled after only 14 issues, though an additional three installments were published as backups in The Flash #217-219.
The title would know a number of revivals and cancellations. Its title would change to Green Lantern Corps at one point as the popularity rose and waned. During a time there were two regular titles, each with a Green Lantern, and a third member in the Justice League. A new character, Kyle Rayner, was created to become the feature while Hal Jordan first became the villain Parallax, then died and came back as the Spectre.
In the wake of The New Frontier, writer Geoff Johns returned Hal Jordan as Green Lantern in Green Lantern: Rebirth (2004–05). Johns began to lay groundwork for "Blackest Night" (released July 13, 2010), viewing it as the third part of the trilogy started by Rebirth. Expanding on the Green Lantern mythology in the second part, "Sinestro Corps War" (2007), Johns, with artist Ethan van Sciver, found wide critical acclaim and commercial success with the series, which promised the introduction of a spectrum of colored "lanterns".
The series and its creators have received several awards over the years, including the 1961 Alley Award for Best Adventure Hero/Heroine with Own Book and the Academy of Comic Book Arts Shazam Award for Best Continuing Feature in 1970, for Best Individual Story ("No Evil Shall Escape My Sight", Green Lantern vol. 2, #76, by Dennis O'Neil and Neal Adams), and in 1971 for Best Individual Story ("Snowbirds Don't Fly", Green Lantern vol. 2, #85 by O'Neil and Adams).
Writer O'Neil received the Shazam Award for Best Writer (Dramatic Division) in 1970 for his work on Green Lantern, Batman, Superman, and other titles, while artist Adams received the Shazam for Best Artist (Dramatic Division) in 1970 for his work on Green Lantern and Batman. Inker Dick Giordano received the Shazam Award for Best Inker (Dramatic Division) for his work on Green Lantern and other titles.
In Judd Winick's first regular writing assignment on Green Lantern, he wrote a storyline in which an assistant of Kyle Rayner's emerged as a gay character in Green Lantern #137 (June 2001). In Green Lantern #154 (November 2001) the story entitled "Hate Crime" gained media recognition when Terry was brutally beaten in a homophobic attack. Winick was interviewed on Phil Donahue's show on MSNBC for that storyline on August 15, 2002 and received two GLAAD Media Awards for his Green Lantern work.
In May 2011, Green Lantern placed 7th on IGN's Top 100 Comic Book Heroes of All Time.
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Alan Scott's Green Lantern history originally began thousands of years ago when a mystical "green flame" meteor fell to Earth in ancient China. The voice of the flame prophesied that it would act three times: once to bring death (a lamp-maker named Luke Fairclough crafted the green metal of the meteor into a lamp; in fear and as punishment for what they thought sacrilege, the local villagers killed him, only to be destroyed by a sudden burst of the green flame), once to bring life (in modern times, the lamp came into the hands of a patient in a mental institution who fashioned the lamp into a modern lantern; the green flame restored him to sanity and gave him a new life), and once to bring power. By 1940, the lantern passed into the possession of Alan Scott, a young engineer. Following a railroad-bridge collapse of which he was the only survivor, the flame instructed Scott how to fashion a ring from its metal, to give him fantastic powers as the superhero Green Lantern. He adopted a colorful costume and became a crime-fighter. Alan was a founding member of the Justice Society of America.
After the Crisis on Infinite Earths (although the original origin story was still in continuity), a later Tales of the Green Lantern Corps story was published that brought Scott even closer to the Corps' ranks, when it was revealed that Alan Scott was predated as Earth's Green Lantern by a Green Lantern named Yalan Gur, a resident of China. Not only had the Corps' now-familiar green, black and white uniform motif not yet been adopted, but Yalan Gur altered the basic red uniform to more closely resemble the style of clothing worn by his countrymen. Power ultimately corrupted this early Green Lantern, as he attempted to rule over mankind, which forced the Guardians to cause his ring to manifest a weakness to wood, the material from which most Earth weapons of the time were fashioned. This allowed the Chinese peasants to ultimately defeat their corrupted "champion". His ring and lantern were burned and it was during this process that the “intelligence” inhabiting the ring and the lantern, and linking them to the Guardians, was damaged. Over time, when it had occasion to manifest itself, this "intelligence" became known as the mystical 'Starheart' of fable.
Centuries later, it was explained, when Scott found the mystical lantern, it had no memory of its true origins, save a vague recollection of the uniform of its last master. This was the origin of Scott’s distinctive costume. Due to its damaged link to them, the Guardians presumed the ring and lantern to be lost in whatever cataclysm overcame their last owner of record. Thus Scott was never noticed by the Guardians and went on to carve a history of his own apart from that of the Corps, sporting a ring with an artificially induced weakness against anything made of wood. Honoring this separate history, the Guardians never moved to force Scott to relinquish the ring, formally join the Corps, or adopt its colors. Some sort of link between Scott and the Corps, however, was hinted at in a Silver Age cross-over story which depicts Scott and Hal Jordan charging their rings at the same Power Battery while both reciting the "Brightest Day" oath. During the Rann-Thanagar War, it was revealed that Scott is an honorary member of the Corps.
On June 1, 2012, DC Comics announced that it would be introducing an alternate version of Alan Scott as a gay man in the title "Earth 2." The New 52 issue was released on June 6, 2012. In its story, an Alan Scott and his partner Sam were both passengers aboard a train, but the latter was killed when their train was wrecked in the railroad-bridge collapse that Scott alone survived, a magical green flame found Alan amongst the rubble. Telling him he is to become an avatar of the flame's great power, and that he must channel this power through an item of importance to his heart, Alan chooses the engagement ring he was to give his boyfriend, becoming the Green Lantern. This alternate version is not a member of the Green Lantern Corps, which doesn't exist in Earth 2, but rather adopts the name Green Lantern for himself, for his powers derives his mystical powers from the Green, the elemental force which connects plant life on Earth.
The character of Harold "Hal" Jordan was a second-generation test pilot, having followed in the footsteps of his father. He was given the power ring and battery (lantern) by a dying alien named Abin Sur, whose spaceship crashed on Earth. Abin Sur used his ring to seek out an individual who was "utterly honest and born without fear" to take his place as a member of the corps. At one point, when Hal Jordan was incapacitated, it was revealed that there were two individuals matching the specified criteria on Earth, the other being Guy Gardner, and the ring chose Jordan solely because of his proximity to Abin Sur. Gardner then became listed as Hal's "backup", even though he had a strong friendship with Barry Allen (The Flash). Gardner would fill in if Jordan was unavailable or otherwise incapacitated. Later, when Gardner was put into a coma, it turned out that by then there was a third human suitable for the task, John Stewart, who was designated as the Earth Sector's "backup" Lantern. Jordan, as Green Lantern, became a founding member of the Justice League of America and as of the mid-2000s is, along with John Stewart, one of the two active-duty Lanterns in Earth's sector of space.
Jordan also automatically became a member of the Green Lantern Corps, a galactic "police" force which bears some similarities to the "Lensmen" from the science fiction series written by E.E. Smith, although both creators Julius Schwartz and John Broome denied ever reading Smith's stories. Nevertheless, the early 1980s miniseries "Green Lantern Corps" honors the similarity with two characters in the corps: Eddore of Tront and Arisia. A different interpretation of Jordan and the Corps appears in Superman: Red Son.
Following the rebirth of Superman and the destruction of Green Lantern's hometown of Coast City in the early 1990s, Hal Jordan seemingly went insane and destroyed the Green Lantern Corps and the Central Power Battery. Now calling himself Parallax, Hal Jordan would devastate the DC Universe off and on for the next several years. However, after Earth's sun was threatened by a Sun-Eater, Jordan sacrificed his life, expending the last of his vast power to reignite the dying star. Jordan subsequently returned from beyond the grave as the Spectre, the divine Spirit of God's Vengeance, whom Jordan attempted to transform into a Spirit of Redemption, which ended in failure.
In Green Lantern: Rebirth, it is revealed that Jordan was under the influence of a creature known as Parallax when he turned renegade. Parallax was a creature of pure fear that had been imprisoned in the Central Power Battery by the Guardians of the Universe in the distant past. Imprisonment had rendered the creature dormant and it was eventually forgotten, becoming known merely as the "yellow impurity" in the power rings. Sinestro was able to wake Parallax and encourage it to seek out Hal Jordan as a host. Although Parallax had been trying to corrupt Jordan (via his ring) for some time, it was not until after the destruction of Coast City that it was able to succeed. It took advantage of Jordan's weakened emotional state to lure him to Oa and cause him to attack anyone who stood in his way. After killing several Green Lanterns, Jordan finally entered the Central Power Battery and absorbed all the power, unwittingly freeing the Parallax entity and allowed it to graft onto his soul.
The Spectre bonded with Jordan in the hopes of freeing the former Green Lantern's soul from Parallax's taint, but was not strong enough to do so. In Green Lantern: Rebirth, Parallax began to assert control of the Parallax-Spectre-Jordan composite. Thanks to a supreme effort of will, Jordan was able to free himself from Parallax, rejoin his soul to his body and reclaim his power ring. The newly revived (and rejuvenated) Jordan awoke just in time to save Kyle Rayner and Green Arrow from Sinestro. After the Korugarian's defeat, Jordan was able to successfully lead his fellow Green Lanterns in battle against Parallax and with help from Guardians Sayd and Ganthet, imprisoned it within the personal power batteries of Earth's Lanterns, rendering the Green Lantern's rings free of the yellow impurity, provided they had the power of will to do so. Hal Jordan is once again a member of both the Justice League and the Green Lantern Corps, and along with John Stewart is one of the two Corps members assigned to Sector 2814, personally defeating Sinestro in the Sinestro Corps War. Jordan is designated as Green Lantern 2814.1.
Post-Sinestro Corps War, DC Comics revisited the origin of Hal Jordan as a precursor to Blackest Night storyline, the next chapter in the Geoff Johns era on Green Lantern. Hal Jordan is the Green Lantern portrayed by Ryan Reynolds in the 2011 Green Lantern film.
In the late 1960s, Guy Gardner appeared as the second choice to replace Abin Sur as Green Lantern of sector 2814. Gardner was a candidate to receive Abin Sur's ring, but Jordan was closer. This placed him as the "backup" Green Lantern for Jordan. But early in his career as a Green Lantern, tragedy struck Gardner as a power battery blew up in his face, putting him in a coma for years. During theCrisis on Infinite Earths, the Guardians split into factions, one of which appointed a newly revived Gardner as their champion. As a result of his years in a coma, Guy was very emotionally unstable, although he still mostly managed to fight valiantly. He has gone through many changes, including wielding Sinestro's yellow Guardian power ring, then gaining and losing Vuldarian powers, and readmission to the Corps during Green Lantern: Rebirth. He later became part of the Green Lantern Honor Guard, and oversees the training of new Green Lanterns. Gardner is designated as Green Lantern 2814.2 within the Corps.
Guy Gardner helped lead the defense of Oa during the events of Blackest Night.
Following his outstanding acts of valour, the Guardians appoint Guy to a unique role and highest rank in the Green Lantern Corps Sentinel, answering directly to the Guardians themselves.
In the early 1970s, John Stewart, an architect from Detroit, was selected by the Guardians to replace a comatose Guy Gardner as the backup Green Lantern for Jordan. When Jordan resigned from the Corps for an extended period of time, Stewart served as the regular Lantern, coming into his own as he battled numerous Green Lantern villains and played a key role during the Crisis on Infinite Earths. During that time the Guardians of the Universe assigned Katma Tui to train Stewart, and the two developed romantic feelings for each other. They married, but Katma was soon murdered by longtime Green Lantern villain, Star Sapphire. Stewart was crushed by this, and his life began to unravel. He reached his lowest point when he failed to save the planet Xanshi from destruction during the Cosmic Odyssey.
John Stewart redeemed himself during the Mosaic crisis, when an insane Guardian abducted cities from all over the universe and placed them together on Oa. When the Guardian was defeated, the cities remained, as the other Guardians claimed to not have enough energy in the Central Power Battery to send them home. While they gathered the resources, John Stewart was assigned to oversee the jammed together communities. Using his intellect and unconventional thinking, he formed the warring communities into a cohesive society. He was aided by Rose Hardin, a farmer from West Virginia who was trapped on Oa, due to her town being abducted. Stewart once again found love with Rose, and the two of them came to feel more comfortable on their new world than they did back on Earth.
Stewart eventually deduced that the Guardians had the energy to send the cities home whenever they wanted, and that they let them remain on Oa as an experiment in cosmic integration, and also as a test for John Stewart. Stewart passed the test, and discovered that he was a figure in Oan prophecy. That was why the Guardians directly chose him instead of allowing a Power Ring to do it, as is standard procedure. John Stewart rose to a new level of awareness and became the first mortal Guardian of the Universe. He was also rewarded with the resurrection of Katma Tui, which caused him to break up with Rose.
Stewart's new powers and resurrected wife were taken from him when Hal Jordan went mad and became Parallax, absorbing the power from the Central Power Battery. During this time, the Green Lantern Corps was disbanded, and Stewart went on to lead the Darkstars, a new organization of universal peacekeepers led by the Controllers, offshoots of the Guardians of the Universe. During a battle, Stewart was badly injured and left paralyzed from the waist down. Hal Jordan eventually restored his ability to walk before sacrificing himself to save Earth's sun. Soon after, John Stewart found himself hunted by a serial killer from Xanshi called Fatality. She sought out any remnants of the Green Lantern Corps so that she may kill them in the name of avenging her doomed planet. Stewart fended off Fatality with residual energy he blasted from his body, which was in him due to Hal Jordan healing his crippling condition, however, this left him unable to walk again.
Stewart later visited Fatality while she was in custody, and she revealed to him that his back was fine, and he had the ability to walk if he wanted to. Stewart had imposed a psychological block upon himself due to feeling guilty over his sister's death. Stewart overcame this condition and was given a power ring by Kyle Rayner. Rayner departed Earth and Stewart became the Green Lantern of Earth once again, and also a member of the Justice League of America.
When the Green Lantern Corps reformed, Stewart begun serving with Jordan as one of his sector's two designated regular-duty Lanterns, designated as Green Lantern 2814.3. Since then, he played key roles in all big Green Lantern events, such as The Sinestro Corps War, and Blackest Night.
In the New 52 continuity, John Stewart was a U.S. Marine along with being an architect and the son of a social activist. He started a romantic relationship with his longtime enemy Fatality, who by that point had become a Star Sapphire and apparently forgave him for failing to save her world. In the events leading up to the "Uprising", Fatality was captured by shape-shifting Durlans, and a Durlan operative replicated her and took her place. John Stewart was at first hesitant about the relationship, but he eventually came to love Fatality, but it turns out that it had been the impostor by that point. In the final battle of the "Uprising", the impostor revealed itself as Verrat Din, an eons old Durlan, and destroyed Fatality's Star Sapphire ring, having no use for it after gaining the power of a Daxamite. Though Stewart defeated the powerful threat, he was shaken by having been misled so long, and having been intimate with a Durlan shape-shifter.
Stewart immediately set out to find the real Fatality, and when he did, he was astonished to discover that she had reverted to hating him. Fatality revealed that she was forcibly inducted into the Star Sapphires and brainwashed into being one of them. When her ring was destroyed, the spell was broken. Every moment she was with Stewart, she was trapped within herself. She revealed that she never loved John Stewart and departed, leaving Stewart emotionally crushed.
Kyle Rayner was a struggling freelance artist when he was approached by the last Guardian of the Universe, Ganthet, to become a new Green Lantern with the very last power ring. Ganthet's reasons for choosing Rayner remained a secret for quite some time. Despite not being from the same cloth of bravery and fearlessness as Hal Jordan—or perhaps because of that—Rayner proved to be popular with readers and his fellow characters. Having continually proven himself on his own and with the JLA, he became known amongst the Oans as The Torch Bearer. He briefly operated as Ion after using the power of the entire Green Lantern Corps. He was responsible for the rebirth of the Guardians and the re-ignition of the Central Power Battery, essentially restoring all that Jordan had destroyed as Parallax.
Kyle Rayner was chosen to wield the last ring because he knew fear, and Parallax had been released from the Central Power Battery. Ganthet knew this and chose Kyle because his experiences dealing with fear enabled him to resist Parallax. Because Parallax is a manifestation of fear, and yellow, none of the other Green Lanterns, including Hal, could harm Parallax and, therefore, came under his control. Kyle taught them to feel and overcome fear so they could defeat Parallax and incarcerate him in the Central Power Battery once again.
Kyle became Ion, who is later revealed to be the manifestation of willpower in the same way Parallax is fear. During the Sinestro Corps War between the Green Lantern Corps and the Sinestro Corps, Ion was imprisoned while Parallax possesses Kyle. In Green Lantern (vol. 4) #24, Parallax consumes Hal Jordan. Hal Jordan enters into Kyle's prison, and with his help, Kyle finally escapes Parallax.
Afterward, Ganthet and Sayd trap Parallax in the Lanterns of the four Green Lanterns of Earth. Ganthet asks Kyle to give up his right to be Ion and become a Green Lantern again. Kyle accepts, and Ganthet gives Kyle a power ring. Kyle is outfitted with a new costume including a mask that looks like the one from his first uniform. Kyle is now a member of the Green Lantern Corps Honor Guard, and has been partnered with Guy Gardner.
Kyle now shows up mostly as part of the ensemble cast of Green Lantern Corps. Corps rookie Sodam Yat took over the mantle of Ion. Sodam has made an appearance in the Legion of Super Heroes Final Crisis tie-in Legion of Three Worlds as the last surviving Green Lantern/Guardian of the Universe.
Kyle is designated as Green Lantern 2814.4 within the Corps.
Kyle Rayner died in Green Lantern Corps #42 (Jan. 2010) after sacrificing himself to save Oa from an attack by the Black Lantern Corps. The following issue, Kyle is brought back to life by the power of a Star Sapphire who connects Soranik Natu's heart to his heart.