Wednesday, February 8, 2017

"In Brightest Day, In Blackest Night"

The Green Lantern Oath.  It still resonates with me.  Especially now, because I believe my country is experiencing a pretty black night right now....

Clearly, one of my great childhood influences has been the character of Green Lantern.  I can't say why the character speaks to me.  I tried to explain it a little in the blog description.  As a kid I knew that I could never be a Superman, because I was not rocketed to Earth from another planet and had no inherent alien ability to change the course of mighty rivers or bend steel in my bare hands.  And I knew I could never be a Batman, because I was not an orphaned billionaire with access to all kinds of research and development hardware that I could use in my personal war on crime.  But I could be a Green Lantern.  He's a space cop.  He works on the side of the good guys.  His particular good guys are ancient alien immortals who figured out how to channel willpower into a force for good.  They invented a ring that can turn that willpower into reality.  Anything you can think of, you can make with a Green Lantern ring.  You can fly; you can breathe in space; you can build or make anything you can imagine out of the green light of willpower.

The only things you really need to be a Green Lantern are to be able to use your willpower, to overcome your fear, and to be The Right Guy.  The right guy (or girl) in the right place at the right time.  What a brilliant, amazing, empowering idea for an eight-year-old boy to wrap his mind around.

When I first discovered Green Lantern, I was indeed an eight-year-old boy.  I was not allowed to buy comics.  I did not get an allowance -- my parents didn't believe in giving kids an allowance, not even to reward chores -- and all the money I earned from my paper route went straight into my parents' pockets.  Seriously -- all of it.  Every penny.  Since my dad worked on Saturdays and my mom wouldn't (or couldn't) pay for a sitter, she would bring me with her when she went to "get her hair done" at the local mom-and-pop "beauty parlor" (which was literally in some nice lady's parlor, but never mind.)  My mom was not the only one who brought her kids with her, so the beautician had a basket of comic books for kids to occupy themselves while Mom had her head under a hair dryer the size of R2-D2.  The comics were a pretty mixed bag.  There were Archie Comics (including Archie's Pal Jughead, Betty and Veronica, Little Archie and Archie's Pals 'n' Gals), some Disney Donald Duck and Uncle Scrooge comics, and a handful of whatever National Periodical Publications were on the rack at Carlino's Drug Store that month:  Batman.  Superman.  Detective.  And Green Lantern.

The first Green Lantern comic I read was number 4.  "The Secret of Green Lantern's Mask Revealed!" and "The Diabolical Missile from Qward!"  It blew me away.  I was immediately hooked.

Today a similar brand-new comic book from DC costs about three bucks.  As you can see, back in 1961, it cost a dime.  From this point on I lived the Great New Jersey Lost Quarter Hunt.  I walked with my head down so much that my parents were convinced I was depressed.  (Well, I was, but that's another story, and it's not why my head was down.)  I was looking for lost change in the gutters of Raritan, New Jersey.  Shortly after my first Green Lantern comic, the price went up from 10 cents to 12 cents, which meant that for a quarter I could still buy two comics and a piece of penny candy at Carlino's.  Sure, I had to sneak the comics home because my mother was convinced that comic books were responsible for everything from gang violence to moral turpitude, but it was still totally worth it.  Like most kids, I tried to hide the books under my mattress and like most moms, mine found them when she changed the sheets and promptly threw them away and gave me a lecture.  It didn't matter.  In a few days I had found or scrounged another quarter and blew it on a copy of Green Lantern, a copy of Justice League of America (because Green Lantern was a member) and a piece of Bazooka bubble gum.

For some reason, I have never lost my fascination for the character.  I have pretty much every Green Lantern toy and action figure ever made, including some pretty high-end ones aimed at adult collectors such as myself.
(My favorite:  Cloth uniform; alternate heads...set me back a cool 70 bucks.)

I also have a fair amount of Green Lantern paraphernalia, including a "working" life-size replica of his Power Battery.  (See, the gimmick with Green Lantern is that his powers come from that ring given to him by the Guardians.  But the ring only holds a charge for 24 hours, after which it has to be recharged with a Battery, which looks like a GREEN LANTERN.)  When the price came down to below $300, my lovely wife finally relented and I brought home this baby:

She relented even further and lets me keep it in the living room.  And yes, I occasionally light it up by touching a GL ring to it.  (Whether or not I recite the GL Oath is my business and my business only.)

And then there are the rings.  Yes:  rings, plural.  This is my current favorite:

It's reasonably subtle, and fairly dressy, and I can get away with wearing it in public without most people noticing.  Just my little secret.

So in spite of the fact that I only rarely use this blog to talk about GL and pop culture, I think I'll keep its title "Citizen of Oa," and the colors, and the artwork by the great Howard Chaykin.  

And don't be surprised if every now and then I comment on the comics.  :)

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