Sunday, June 3, 2012
Green Lantern, You're Still My Hero!
"And I shall shed my light over dark evil,
For the dark things cannot stand the light,
With those words, Alan Scott, the original Green Lantern, charges up his power ring from his magical lantern before heading off to fight evil. Alan Scott this week took down One Million Moms in their latest homophobic outrage on Facebook, and good for him.
Well, he got them to take down their Facebook page. If only he could take them down, period.
See, here's the deal: Recently, DC Comics rebooted their entire universe. They have updated costumes (for example, Superman no longer wears his undies outside his tights) and histories and origins as they rebuild their entire network of multiple of universes from the ground up.
Back in 1940, a young artist named Mart Nodell got the idea for a superhero when he saw a New York subway employee waving a red lantern to stop a train at a work site, and a green lantern to signal it was safe for the train to go on its way. He combined the idea of a humble railway lantern having the powers of Aladdin's magic lamp, and in All-American Comics #3, the character of the Green Lantern made his debut. In the 1950's, most of the heroes from the '40's faded away for a while, but in the early 1960's DC revived most of their old heroes in new ways. The Flash, for example, went from being a guy dressed like Mercury who got his powers from a strange meteor to being a red-suited speedster who got his powers from a freak lightning strike. Green Lantern was revived as a sort of space policeman. His alter ego's name was changed to Hal Jordan, a test pilot who became the Green Lantern of Space Sector 2814 when his predecessor's spaceship crashed on Earth.
But later editors at DC decided there was still value to be found in the older versions of the heroes, and they invented another Earth, "Earth-2," where the heroes from the 1940's still fought crime, including the heroes who had more modern versions on "our" Earth. And that included Alan Scott, the railroad engineer turned broadcaster who wore a magic ring that made anything he imagined become real (albeit colored green.) There were numerous adventures on both Earths, often involving both versions of the character having to work together to fight off the threat.
So. Back to the reboot. Last year DC updated all of its characters and made a ton of changes. Superman is no longer married to Lois Lane. Lois doesn't even know that Clark Kent is Superman any more. Costumes were changed, other changes were updated, but the characters were essentially the same. Bruce Wayne was still a tortured orphaned billionaire who became Batman. Superman was still Kal-El from Krypton. And Green Lantern was still Hal Jordan, test pilot for Ferris Aircraft. By all accounts, the reboot was successful, with comics like Batman, Justice League of America and Green Lantern consistently selling in the top 10 every month. (Marvel Comics, the home of Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four and the X-Men, used to have the top 10 all to themselves.)
Apologies for the history, but it's relevant. We're one year into the New DC, and they have decided to expand a bit. One of the things they are expanding into is the alternate Earth idea. On the new Earth-2, the Holy Trinity of Heroes -- Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman -- gave their lives to stop an alien invasion by an evil god, Darkseid. This left a world sorely in need of heroes, and the old Earth-2 versions of these heroes are stepping up to fill the void. There will be NEW "old" versions of the Flash, the Justice Society ... and of Green Lantern.
And on this new Earth, Green Lantern is gay.
And I couldn't be more pleased.
For what was once a stodgy old comics publisher that was hopelessly out of touch with mainstream culture, DC has really turned things around. They started by dipping their toes in the water with second-tier characters like Obsidian coming out of the closet, but stepped up their game when they made the new Batwoman, Kate Kane, a lesbian. In the pages of her comic, Batwoman regularly dates and kisses and, we presume, does more with Maggie Sawyer, a gay Gotham City detective. And now the original Green Lantern is out of the closet. Fantastic!
Predictably, the anti-gay homophobes, including the One Million Moms, were outraged -- outraged!! -- at this latest assault on our kids' "values." They put up an anti-comics, anti-gay rant on their Facebook page, but it worked out about as well as the boycott that they called for against J.C. Penney when JCP hired Ellen DeGeneres as a spokesperson. There was so much pro-gay, pro-Green Lantern, pro-Alan Scott posting on their page that they felt forced to take it down. You can read more about it at http://io9.com/green-lantern/ .
Once again, Green Lantern shed his light over dark evil ... and the evil couldn't stand against it. "For the dark things" -- the bigoted, the prejudiced and the ignorant -- "cannot stand the light."