Friday, July 2, 2010

Funky Friday - In Brightest Day

Warning: this post contains superhero imagery and geeky content from the start.

Typically I’ll try to handbrake most jabber and blab about my comic habits. But with just three posts in three years - hope you can indulge me with one more.

I've been a Bat-fan since the age of three, with some of my earliest reads still in the collection - although, it's a much lower-league legend, mostly unknown to non-comic fans, that I've constantly collected for over thirty years - Green Lantern. I won't bore you with his biog - there's a danger it may reduce down to nerdism - but it's all here should you fancy some backstory.

Almost all superheroes are icons directly or indirectly reflecting the climate of their time: from Superman in the 30s (farm raised immigrant becomes new world power) to Marvel's sixties super-types: Spider-man (the swinging sixties), The Hulk (nuclear mutation) Silver Surfer (space travel). Green Lantern is no exception. A superhero shaped by fifties sci-fi, jet age boom-busting, America's earliest space-racers and a young Paul Newman informing the looks of Lantern's alter ego Hal 'Highball'Jordan. Stylistically Lantern is Dr Who meets David Bowie : a focused, solo player but slight outsider and space cadet blasting through space epics and earthy adventures, kitted out in Gil Kane's glitzy, almost Ziggyish, white gloved jumpsuit.

From it's 1960 debut, The Green Lantern title middled along for almost a decade, until, in an attempt to resuscitate stalling sales and add some contemporary edge, Denny O'Neill (script) and Neal Adams (art) were drafted in from Batman/Detective Comics - having previously repositioned The Dark Knight away from TV's campy trappings, returning him to shadowy artwork, gothic plots and increased credibility and circulation.

O'Neill and Adams literally brought Green Lantern down to earth with a cultural bump. Adams documentary-ish artwork and O'Neill's protest tales teamed GL with the liberal, left-leaning Green Arrow for an Easy Rider style road trip through the America's underclass and dropped-out, drugged-up, counter culture. Alien invaders and space states were scrapped for teen drug addiction, ghetto poverty, political corruption and cult religious leaders - kick-starting the 'relevance era' in comics. Ultimately, these protest tales proved too worthy and weighty for DC's readership and the title was cancelled in 1972. Ironically, it's the O'Neill/Adams 'Hard Travelling Heroes' issues that have become high priced collectibles in the Lantern's back catalogue.

Green Lantern 76: expect to pay anywhere between £1000 - £2000 for a near mint quality copy

It’s a common plot and publicity device for super-types to be killed off only to be reanimated at some later date (in case you didn't know Batman's alter ego Bruce Wayne died a year ago). Following three decades of hot runs, restarts, cancellations and the eventual death of Hal Jordan, Green Lantern was brought back from the dead, revived and ready for action in 2004. A reboot that has brought the title it's greatest levels of success and saturation in a fifty year history. Green Lantern The Movie is being filmed as I blog (scheduled for a June 2011 release). More significantly DC publishing clearly have grand plans and great expectations for Green Lantern - for the first time in seventy years, DC are deliberately positioning and putting some promotional focus on a character ahead of their traditional Holy Trinity of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman.

Green Lantern has never really crossed over into the same cool, cultural or rock and roll referencing as Spiderman, Batman and Superman. As far as I'm aware the he's only been name-checked in one song. Historically you've probably heard his name countless times without realising. In Donovan's Sunshine Superman...

Superman or Green Lantern ain't got a-nothin' on me

Donovan - Sunshine Superman (full version)

Big Jim Sullivan - Sunshine Superman

Mel Torme - Sunshine Superman

From the sixties to the noughties - one from every decade


PopCultureCarePackage said...

Lovely stuff, Mondo.

Big fan of that Adams/O'Neill run, I've got all the issues except for 76 *pulls angry comic collector face*. It was such a game-changer. When people talked about comics growing up after Watchmen & Dark Knight, clearly they were unaware of this. Neal Adams' art, next to the poppy Ditko/Kirby Marvel years, just totally captured the switch from the hippy era to the darker seventies – so Adams = Altamont. Kinda.

Did we discuss Green Lantern: Mosaic? That's worth a squint. Very atypical superheroness, reflective and thoughtful.

Ooh, by the way...*fights the urge to be pedantic. Fails* are you forgetting the original Golden Age Green Lantern from 1940 then? And isn't Batman lost in time, rather than dead?

Mondo said...

It's a run that's completely Manson/EasyRider/Woodstock/Altamont/In The Ghetto isn't it? And finally fizzles out when the sixties do. yeah got Mosiac, Guy Gardener - various cross overs, collections and variants, guest appearances

Didn't overlook Alan Scott, but the Golden Age lot JSA etc.. are like The Dad's Army of comics and always left me a bit cold. Golden Age Flash even looks like Walmington ARP warden!!

Jim Steranko's another one really need to get collecting

Re:Bats - presumed dead by the good citizens of Gotham - I'm guessing you know already, but have you heard Neal Adams is coming back to Batman

lil said...

It’s amazing how The Green Lantern has slipped under my radar all of these years?
Brilliant post Mondo!
Can’t wait to see the film when it’s released next year...

Anonymous said...
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Mondo said...

I'm comletely buzzed for it Lil - I'm reading this at the moment - a real eye opener..

Piley said...

Never really touched on the latern Mondo, always escaped me, but for no reason. Perhaps I should try some?

I'm hoping that Kevin Smith may get round to having a little og on the fella, as he is working his way around all the 'greens'. He did a wonderful spell on the Green Arrow a few years back, and is currently doing a blinding job on the Green Hornet. He just needs the Lantern (and possibly the Hulk!) for the full set!


Mondo said...

Geoff Johns is doing the honours on the GL series at the mo' and is completely on fire. He's also working on Flash new series. His technique is to take the traditional essence of the character and related history and expand on what's best successful about it. His Blackest Night series, is one the best mini-series I've read in years. And if you read the Director's Cut edition there's so many layers and levels built in you'd never pick up on in one read