Saturday, May 16, 2015

75th Anniversary of Green Lantern

On (or about) May 21, 1940, a new superhero was introduced to the world: the Green Lantern! Now, this isn't the same Green Lantern seen in the recent (and much derided) movie starring Ryan Reynolds. In fact, that version wasn't created for almost another two decades. This isn't Hal Jordan, but rather Alan Scott, the original Green Lantern. He enjoyed popularity for roughly a decade in what is now called "The Golden Age of Comic Books" before the superhero genre began to tire out after the end of World War II, and he and many other once-popular heroes faded into obscurity. When DC looked to revitalize the genre in the 1950s, they did so by creating different characters entirely, simply retaining some of these older heroes' names and powers.

Long-time comics fans already know most of this, of course, but my own first exposure to the fact that there had been another Green Lantern came around the time of DC Comics' mega-event, Crisis on Infinite Earths, and the Who's Who series released alongside it (these titles, themselves, recently celebrated their 30th anniversary. For more information, I invite you to listen to the podcast, Tales of the Justice Society of America, which is doing an issue-by-issue celebration of Crisis this year, and back-episodes of The Fire and Water Podcast, which has recently wrapped up a review of the original Who's Who series). As I would peruse issues of these series at my local grocery store (yes, grocery stores still carried comic books back then!), I came to realize that the world of DC's superheroes was far larger than I had previously realized. I learned of the existence of parallel Earths, on which different versions of DC's (then) main superheroes existed. This is where all of those pre-WWII heroes still lived, and DC would feature them in crossover stories from time to time. While some of these alternate heroes (such as Superman) were essentially the same as the version I knew (only older), others, such as Flash and Green Lantern, were noticeably different. It was an exciting time to start reading....

... just in time for all of those "alternate" heroes to be shunted off into limbo (literally, if fictionally), supposedly never to be seen again.

Thankfully, that state of affairs didn't last. Green Lantern (and several of his comrades) started to make a few appearances in various flashbacks, and eventually returned to the DC universe properly a mere half-a-dozen years later. Alan Scott found a new audience, and some of the titles he was featured in (notably the 1999-2006 incarnation of the JSA title) were among DC's most popular books.

Then, Flashpoint happened, and all this was lost (or so it appeared at the time) when the "New 52" began. A character named Alan Scott existed, but it's hard to call him the same character, so I won't.

Just recently, we've been teased (through the currently-ongoing "Convergence" event) with the idea that all of those earlier versions of DC's characters are indeed still out there somewhere. Whether the proper version of Alan Scott's Green Lantern will be allowed to appear after this remains to be seen, but in any event, it's worth taking the opportunity afforded by this anniversary to stop and remember. Please join me in remembering the era of Alan Scott: the original Green Lantern!

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