Sunday, November 13, 2016
Retro Replay: Green Lantern # 123
When I was a kid, the character Green Lantern fascinated me. Did Hal Jordan have the gnarliest power bestowed upon an ordinary human, or what? Okay, so maybe Peter Parker, Jean Grey and Barry Allen trump Hal, but there was something extra cool about sliding on a ring and being able to project your innermost thoughts in green light form. Considering how many plastic toy rings (i.e. junk) you could get out of a bubblegum machine back then, we kids of the Seventies flocked toward Green Lantern in our superhero playtime. Arguments were always abound over who was Spiderman and who was G.L. I usually opted out of those senseless scrums, pulling out my buzzing Han Solo laser pistol and insisting upon crossover character play. "Ahh, geez, Raymond, you're always Han!" the other kids would bark. As I nick from Harrison Ford in departure from my folks following every single visit, hey, it's me!
I came late in the game when I started reading Green Lantern. Even though a mere buck could snag you a few comics at one time, I did have my mandatory selections (drop down to my Heavy Metal post for further elaboration) and by the time Green Lantern # 123 arrived in 1979, the cover price had stepped up to forty cents a pop. I know, boo effing who, Van Horn, considering today's prices.
I reached a point in life, as everyone does, when I didn't have to rely on my allowance for my entertainment funds. By the time I started working a part-time job, though, I was still only reading a few titles religiously. I bought my first car on my own, I paid my car insurance, I needed pizza and Tastycake money for my 10 minute breaks at the grocery store. Then you had to factor in date money, Friday night movie money and I had became such a connoisseur of music at the time I was blowing an easy third of my part-time earnings on albums and cassettes, much as it had been comic books prior to.
In other words, it took me a hell of a long time to get on board with Green Lantern. The 1990s were good to me in the fact I was working two jobs, going to college full-time and running track. My expenses were increased only in the fact I was commuting an hour one-way to the university and doing what I could to slip my folks some extra groceries since they were shacking me up when they didn't have to. While working in the comic book shop (enjoy my reminiscences in the Big Dumb Lists section), I became affluent with the macro comic world and finally, G.L. made my cut.
I went to a lot of area comic conventions, which were hardly the big ticket item they are now. Back then, it was a just a mere banquet room in a regional Holiday Inn with local shops selling their overstock and comic geeks playing the superiority game over one another. I knew a guy who thought you were absolute shit if you weren't reading Legion of Super-Heroes, much less Green Lantern. You've no doubt witnessed fanboy feuds between Marvel and DC cotillions, and this particular dude was pro-DC with such furor it rivaled supporters of the main two presidential candidates this year. I was over this dude in a hurry when he snidely told me "Jonah Hex? Feh. DC's biggest mistake." No, that was Bat-Mite.
On the flipside of this exchange, however, I made it a mission to scarf all the cheap back issues I could unearth of Green Lantern and # 123 was one of my favorites. Unfortunately, fate intervened when I was broke, still a relative newlywed, and I sacrificed a large portion of my comics. I sold my entire run with Kyle Rayner and all those wonderful Hal Jordan issues. It was only recently when I spotted # 123 in a dollar box that I was reunited with the book. A little tattered, but obviously loved. I didn't need a grade appraisal other than the staples were there and the spine retains a full edge.
What's great about Green Lantern # 123 is not only due to an appearance by Sinestro, who was wreaking havoc over Hal Jordan's life (or, being a royal pain in the ass, if you prefer) in numerous issues at this point. It's not even due to a Superman cameo. Prior to this issue, "Mission of No Return!" Hal Jordan and Oliver Queen were teamed up under the Green Lantern/Green Arrow re-brand. As boldly decried upon Gil Kane's in-your-face cover, Hal and Oliver were going their separate ways with Green Lantern "Back at last in solo star-spanning action!"
The truly cool part to this issue, written by Denny O'Neil and drawn by Joe Staton, is seeing a far less smartass version of Guy Gardner, who is trapped in the Phantom Zone (the same one from Superman's world) in this issue. Guy is used as a pawn by General Zod and his motley band of imprisoned cutthroats from the galaxy. Hal takes it upon himself to engineer a rescue, postponing his marriage to Kari and refusing help from his soon-to-be-former partner, Oliver Queen (this story opens the rift between them). He won't even take a hand from Superman himself, who appears merely to open the portal of the Phantom Zone for Hal. There's a good reason Supes doesn't get to join in the fun.
Considering the way DC remolded Guy Gardner into a short-lived, cocky superstar in the Nineties, it's hilarious seeing him far humbler and still in trad Lantern tights circa 1979. Hal is armed with a lead box containing a block of anti-Kryptonite (ta-daaaa!), which helps keep General Zod at-bay even when turning the ring of an unconscious Guy Gardner against Hal. Do the physics in your head why Hal's secret weapon works inside a dimension constituted by a bipolar molecular density; hint hint, the story is destined for the anti-universe, Qward.
These initial shenanigans against Zod (Terence Stamp would've been heartbroken) are a mere warm-up for a long go-round with Sinestro, lying at wait and striking at Hal with his negating yellow ring projections. With Gardner's life hanging in the balance, Hal Jordan reverses his bodily atoms to adjust to Qward's inside-out nature. He takes a lump from Sinestro (in this period, unwilling to take many shots in return) and then, following traditional comic protocol, he comes back to defeat his nemesis. Hal reduces planetoids to space debris and creates a giant fan with his ring to spray back and blind Sinestro before clocking him cold. Good times.
Guy Gardner is effectively in a coma by issue's end, no doubt pondering in obtuseness how he'd look in a blue bomber jacket, pirate boots and mushroom cap haircut.
Footnote, I had a blast showing my son this issue, particularly the advertisements for the network Saturday morning programming from my childhood: Superfriends, Plastic Man, The Bugs Bunny/Roadrunner Show, Fat Albert, Jason of Star Command and Tarzan/Batman. He and I ate Boo Berry cereal while watching the Superfriends on DVD thereafter, manipulated from the way I used to do the same as a kid. Now that's good times.