November 18, 2013
In brightest day, in blackest night... in average afternoon and the smoldering wreckage of a ship...
Linkara: Hello, and welcome to Atop the Fourth Wall, where bad comics burn. And welcome back to Secret Origins Month!
("Secret Origins Month" title is shown)
Linkara: And yes, I know some of you don't like the new "Secret Origins Month" logo, but just consider it a revamping of an old concept, much like Barry Allen for Jay Garrick or today's subject, Hal Jordan for Alan Scott. (beat) Or just that I really like the Avengers theme music.
(Cut to a shot of the cover for "Showcase #4")
Linkara (v/o): Anyway, the year was 1959, and Julius Schwartz was at it again. As we discussed in the "Showcase #4" review, Schwartz was looking to revitalize old properties for the Showcase series, and the creation of Barry Allen had been successful. As such, it was Green Lantern's turn to receive a new lease on life.
(Cut to a shot of the cover of "All-American Comics #16", the origin of the original Green Lantern, Alan Scott)
Linkara (v/o): What happened to Alan Scott? Well, that is the sad tale of comics, my friends. You see, as superheroes were losing popularity, a new character was introduced in the pages of the Green Lantern solo book: Streak the Wonder Dog.
Linkara: And by the way, DC has, like, three or four different (makes "finger quotes") "Wonder Dogs" in their history. Why is it that comic book writers never seem to have access to a thesaurus?
Linkara (v/o): Streak was Alan Scott's dog and could be thought of as his sidekick for a while... until you begin to who is who's sidekick, considering the fact that three separate issues of Alan Scott's book, with Green Lantern logo and everything, have the cover devoted exclusively to Streak the Wonder Dog. That would include the book's final issue, number 38. Yes, things were so bad for superheroes that a friggin' dog was considered more popular than the title character! What's worse, with the ending of that Green Lantern book, Alan Scott would disappear from comics for over a decade, but not Streak! Streak got his own solo feature in Sensation Comics and would eventually serve as the inspiration for Rex the Wonder Dog.
Linkara: One of these days, (points to himself) I'm gonna be a supporting in the show and Pollo is gonna be the host.
Pollo: You're just jealous that I'm better at it than you.
Linkara (v/o): Anyway, the point is that just like with The Flash, Schwartz wanted a revised version of Green Lantern: new powers, new identity, new costume. In particular, he wanted a science-fiction twist on it, handing it over to writer John Broome and artist Gil Kane. And that's where we are now.
Linkara: So let's dig into "Showcase #22" and see the revised origin of the Green Lantern... which most of you are probably aware of anyway, thanks to that movie from a few years ago that everybody but me hates.
(AT4W title sequence plays, and the title card has "We're Going To Fly Now" (from the Green Lantern movie) playing in the background. Cut to the cover for the comic)
Linkara (v/o): Our cover is pretty decent, aside from the logo taking up a full third of the page. It features Hal Jordan attempting to stop this... giant lawn dart with blasts from his power ring.
Text: Featuring "MENACE OF THE RUNAWAY MISSILE!"
Linkara: When a missile is that size and it's a (makes "finger quotes") "runaway", it stops being a menace and starts being a "Holy crap, get the hell out of the way and seek cover!"
Linkara (v/o): Also, said menace is that it's apparently going to destroy this city.
Linkara: Aaaand then Hal Jordan goes insane, kills the Green Lantern Corps, tries to reboot the universe in a crossover, becomes the Spectre, gets reborn again, and Geoff Johns keeps trying to convince us he was the greatest Green Lantern or something. There, I got those references out of the way.
Linkara (v/o): We open with Hal inside of what seems to be a very tiny airplane cockpit and being pulled towards a crashed ship. Seriously, look how small that thing is. I don't even think his arms go anywhere; it looks like they're just shoved into holes along the side of the controls.
Hal: (thinking) This pilot trainer wasn't meant to fly...
Linkara: I hope you're referring to that cockpit you're inside of as a ("finger quotes") "flight trainer", because if you mean yourself, I'm kind of confused how you can train people to fly without having done so yourself. And I mean before the age of Microsoft Flight Simulator.
Linkara (v/o): Yeah, he seems to be referring to the tiny cockpit thing he's in, but again, I'm not even sure how that's an accurate testing device when it looks like the dashboard is shoved up right into his face. There's not even room for a joystick or anything.
Narrator: Hal Jordan had a fine reputation as an ace test pilot whose remarkable lack of fear was known to all his associates!
Linkara: (narrator voice) He was known as a psychopath, since a lack of fear usually means an inability to recognize danger or can even result in reckless endangerment of himself or others.
Narrator: But Hal never dreamed his reputation was so widespread that an unearthly being would single him out to receive the greatest gift in the universe!
Linkara: (narrator voice) The gift of Mylar!
Linkara (v/o): And the actual opening is, well, in the same spot, the crashed ship.
Narrator: In a desolate spot in the southwest U.S.A., where a strange craft has crash-landed... and inside, an alien being is giving off his last thoughts...
Linkara: (imitating dying alien's expression, speaking in thought) Oh, crap, I forgot to pay my water bill this month!
Linkara (v/o): But yeah, this is Abin Sur lying on the floor of his crashed spaceship.
Abin: (thinking) No use...fooling yourself, Abin Sur... You are dying! You have only a short time to live...
Linkara: (as Abin) And it's probably best that I'm spending that short time reminding myself what the definition of (makes "finger quotes") "dying" is.
Abin Sur: (thinking) And you know what your duty is...to pass on the battery of power to...a deserving one!
Linkara: (as Abin, pretending to write something on a piece of paper) Must... fill out... estate tax form...
Linkara (v/o): I love how this is the policy of the Green Lantern Corps: you die on an alien planet, and your most powerful weapon is just handed off to a guy that your super space lantern decides would be okay. I mean, I'm just saying this isn't how normal law enforcement operates. When a policeman dies, his badge doesn't fly off to find a new person to become a cop, although that would be awesome. Joe Friday could be Kilowog. Anyway, Abin Sur puts his hand inside of the battery and commands it to find somebody who deserves it.
Abin: (thinking) Seek and find...and bring him to me!
Linkara: (as Abin Sur) And try to find someone who's in the middle of doing something else in order to heighten drama, tension, and make things as embarrassing for them as possible.
Abin: (thinking) He must be one without fear! Entirely without fear!
Linkara: I hate to keep harping on this, but fear is a perfectly natural and helpful emotion sometimes. Completely fearless people tend to be crazy people who don't care about other living beings.
Narrator: With the speed of light, the energy beam crisscrosses the Earth...
Linkara: (narrator voice) Its GPS keeps pointing it in the wrong direction.
Narrator: Meanwhile, at the Ferris Aircraft Company, Hal Jordan, test pilot, sits in a trainer of his own design...
Linkara: (narrator voice) Since he is a test pilot and not an engineer, it's a pretty crappy design.
Hal: (thinking) This flightless trainer help turn out space pilots of the future--!
Linkara: (laughs) That's not how space travel works, Hal.
Linkara (v/o): The light from the green lantern engulfs the entire test vehicle and sends Hal flying through the air in a green glow.
(Cut to a clip of the Mystery Science Theater 3000 gang watching This Island Earth)
Tom Servo: (as Cal Meacham, whose aircraft glows green) And suddenly, I have a refreshing mint flavor.
(Cut back to the comic)
Linkara (v/o): The test vehicle lands outside the crash and he climbs out. He approaches the ship and finds Abin Sur laying in the wreckage.
Abin: Come in, Hal Jordan!
Hal: (thinking) Good gosh! A spaceman-- communicating with me by telepathy!
Linkara: (as Abin) Yes, and while you may be fearless, I really did not need to know what turns you on!
Linkara (v/o): Hal offers to help Abin, but he says there's no time to heal him.
Linkara: (as Hal) Really? Because you seem well enough to explain all this stuff to me. (as Abin) Nope, I'm as good as dead. (as Hal) I mean, this is the DC Universe. We can probably find a scientist who can heal your injuries. (as Abin) Nah, I'm totally a goner. Just, uh, take the lantern and be a superhero or something. (as Hal) You're just messing with me, aren't you? (as Abin) More like committing insurance fraud, actually. I've got a great life insurance policy that's going to go to my (makes "finger quotes") "twin brother".
Abin: Look at this battery, Hal Jordan...
Linkara: (as Abin) Yes, even on our planet, we have the Energizer Bunny.
Hal: Why...It looks like a green lantern...
Abin: Yes...in your words...a green lantern...
Linkara: Aaaand in everybody else's words, Abin, since everybody else calls it a green lantern. Well, except for Rot Lop Fan of the F-Sharp Bell Corps, but he's a special case.
Abin: But actually it is a battery of power... given only to selected space-patrolmen in the super-galactic system... to be used as a weapon against forces of evil and injustice...
Linkara: (as Abin) It also makes green eggs and ham.
(Cut to a closeup of the carpeting on the floor. A Cybermat rolls across several times, making beeping noises as it does so, creating this message in the floor: "We'll Be Right Back", along with the AT4W logo appearing in the corner. We cut to a commercial. Upon return, the Cybermat rolls across the floor again, this time leaving the message, "And Now We're Back", with the AT4W logo appearing in the corner again. We cut back to the Green Lantern comic)
Abin: It is our duty...when disaster strikes... to pass on the battery of power...
Linkara (v/o): Uh, didn't you just say it was only given to "selected space patrolmen"? I guess "selected" means "the first idiot the ring feels like giving it to.
Abin: ...to pass on the battery of power... to another who is fearless... and honest!
Linkara: I don't recall other Green Lantern stories requiring any members of the Corps to never tell a lie. Or maybe they're always truthful, and if they're not, their noses grow and become green.
Linkara (v/o): Hal gets closer and Abin uses his ring on Hal's face. Yeah, shine a bright, green light in his eyes, dude. That'll endear Hal to your cause.
Abin: Yes...by the green beam of my ring... I see that you are honest!
Linkara: (as Hal) Yep, and that's why they call me "Honest Al". (as Abin) But... isn't your name Hal? (as Hal) Well, yeah, but then it would be "Honest (pronounces the "H") Hal", and who would say it like that? (shrugs)
Abin: And the battery has already selected you as one born without fear! So you pass both tests, Hal Jordan...
Linkara: (as Abin) Now, I'll just need a urine sample and a lock of hair for the next round of tests.
Abin: (narrating) There is still much to tell you...and only moments left!
Linkara: (as Hal) Should I bring a message to your family or something? (as Abin) Nah, I think it'd be better if I just told the story of how I crashed, even though it's not important at all.
Abin: (narrating) My ship was battered... in the deadly radiation bands surrounding your planet...
Linkara: You mean the Van Allen belt? You would think if they were smart enough to build interstellar spacecrafts and rings that can create energy constructs, you would know about that kind of thing.
Linkara (v/o): A bright yellow light blinded Abin Sur at the controls and he was forced to crash. Why is he explaining this? Well, because the Green Lantern ring will let him affect anything around him... unless it's the color yellow.
Abin: The unique metal which charges the battery with its wondrous power has a yellow impurity in it! Strangely enough, if the yellow impurity is removed, the battery loses its power!
Linkara: (as Abin) Admittedly, we probably shouldn't have let our test pilots build the batteries, but... eh, whatever. It's a good thing you humans don't do anything like that.
Linkara (v/o): Now, whenever someone hears about how Green Lantern's weakness is the color yellow, most people groan that it's just a silly and stupid idea that doesn't make any sense... which in turn makes me scratch my head. This is a story about a bald, pink spaceman who talks to a human telepathically so he can hand over a deadly weapon to him in order for him to become a space cop and said weapon allows him to create any green energy construct his mind can think up. This entire friggin' idea is silly! Superheroes are silly! The yellow thing is really not that big a deal in the grand scheme of things. Superheroes need weaknesses or flaws, or they're not interesting. Even Superman is vulnerable to kryptonite, magic and scripts.
Linkara: Plus, we later found out that the impurity is actually an alien space bug that is the embodiment of fear that was locked away inside the central power battery to help protect the universe. (beat) What? It makes sense to me. This is not the weirdest thing we've seen in comics, guys.
Linkara (v/o): Anyway, he further explains that the ring's charge will only last about 24 hours and that it needs to be recharged through the battery. (singsong voice) And then he dies!
Narrator: After Hal Jordan has followed the spaceman's orders in disposing of all the remnants of him and his rocket...
Linkara: Um, narrator, he never told Hal to do that. Did they just run out of room to have him actually tell Hal that? Why would he want it hidden? Hal's gonna choose of his own volition to keep this a secret.
Hal: (thinking) The spaceman told me to take his special uniform!
Linkara: Um, no, he didn't! I've been reading this whole story, dude! Stop friggin' graverobbing!
Linkara (v/o): Maybe that's the secret fetish that Abin Sur detected with his telepathy: Hal's desire to strip dead people naked. Trying out the power ring for the first time, he manages to use it to lift up a group of large rocks.
Hal: Lifting a cliff into the air! I can do anything I want with this ring... Anything I will to happen... I can make happen!
Linkara: (as Hal, holding up hands) I can make One Direction not have horrible lyrics in their songs! Or Robin Thicke! I AM A GOD!!
Hal: (thinking) But to be safe I must use it only in the greatest secrecy!
Linkara: (as Hal) Which is why my outfit will be bright green, and I shall hide myself with only a mask that covers... mmm, part of my face, while I retain the same hairstyle.
Hal: (thinking) I know--! I'll adopt a secret identity-- I'll call myself Green Lantern--after the power battery!
Linkara: (as Hal) Or just like that comic book hero who coincidentally also got a magic lantern that shoots green energy!
Linkara (v/o): And so, our story ends with Hal putting the ring inside of the battery... which seems to be emitting yellow light. Or lime green; take your pick.
Hal: (thinking) And in time I hope to make Green Lantern a name to be feared by evildoers everywhere!
Linkara: (as Hal, holding up fist) I may be fearless, but I do enjoy scaring the crap out of other people!
Linkara (v/o): And like Flash's "Showcase" issue, the other two stories here are short Green Lantern romps that introduce more elements of the character. Since they're not exclusively the origin, I'm gonna leave them out of detailed analysis. First, there's "Secret of the Flaming Spear", which talks about...
Text: The highly-secret experimental space-plane-- called the Flaming Spear...
Linkara: Just a tip: people are usually kind of nervous about flying in something named an object that (makes a falling motion with his hand) falls towards the ground. And is on fire.
Linkara (v/o): Also, as we see here, Hal inherited Alan's ability to just go through walls. However, the story does introduce Carol Ferris, future villainess/sorta heroine, Star Sapphire... who actually becomes Hal's boss at the end of the story. Said story, despite being called "The Secret of the Flaming Spear", does not actually have a secret, but rather some crooks who use a "radiation-sender" – keep working on that name, guys; it's not exactly going to work well in advertising – to bring down the plane. Why were they trying to bring down the plane? Uh... Um... Well, the important thing is that the crooks are caught. Yay, that sure was some secret, wasn't it?
(Cut to the second story, the one displayed on the cover)
Linkara (v/o): The second story is "Menace of the Runaway Missile!", which of course can't be stopped by Hal because it's yellow... because necessities of the plot. The important thing about this story is that despite all the damn talk about Hal being fearless, he's actually really scared about asking Carol on another date, because that makes sense. Speaking of, the dude wraps his arms around her, traps her next to a locker, and keeps asking her out despite her constant refusal.
Linkara: (incredulously) Okay, last week, ToddInTheShadows and I both made references to Alien Ant Farm, and now both the Critic and I have made reference to sexual harassment in the workplace! The hell is going on?!
Linkara (v/o): But yeah, Hal, you're acting like a creepy asshole to your boss. See, naysayers? Hal Jordan does have a personality. It's just not an entirely pleasant one. Also, some asshole scientist wanted to be the first to create sustainable hydrogen power, so he sent off a nuclear missile to destroy the government's research on the subject... and then had a battering ram ready to use on Green Lantern if he showed up, which Hal subsequently transmogrifies into water. Because this is the Silver Age, and the logic is a thing that happens to other people. Speaking of making sense, Hal showed up to a fancy party dressed as the Green Lantern and made out with Carol before he spotted the missile. And she's pissed at the Green Lantern because he kept his eyes open during the kiss, which she shouldn't be able to know because her eyes were closed. Well! Of course!
Linkara: I snark, but the origin was pretty good. The Green Lantern's power set here is... pretty unclear, but the origin is perfectly sound, despite the praising of Hal Jordan being supposedly so "fearless". Next week, we close out Secret Origins Month not with science, but with (spreads arms out) maaaaagic!
(End credits roll)
In case you were wondering, the oath IS said in the Flaming Spear story. It's just we kind of had to overlook that as we were searching for what the "secret" of the plane was supposed to be.
I think most professions should be decided by having a super space object select the next guy to have the job. Presidential elections would be especially neat if there was a ring of office that flew off every four years to select a new guy. "Are you a bad enough dude to BE the President?"
(Stinger: Footage of the Green Lantern movie is shown: Carol Ferris (Blake Lively) discovers Green Lantern (Ryan Reynold)'s true identity)
Carol: (stunned) Hal? (recoiling with her hand over her mouth) Oh, my G...! Oh, my God! Oh, my God! (takes hands away) Hal!
Hal Jordan/Green Lantern: How did you know it was me?
Carol: What do you mean?! I've known you my whole life! I've seen you naked! You don't think I would recognize you because I can't see your cheekbones?!