When Iron Man was announced as Marvel Entertainment’s first self produced film release, some, like this author, doubted that this was a safe move for the comic book publisher who yearned to become a film production company. Yet, Iron Man has proven that he is not the second string character that many thought he was. Instead, Iron Man now officially joins the upper echelon of Marvel Comics’ characters that inspire viewers and readers. Can the same be said of DC Comics’ Green Lantern franchise?
Green Lantern Hal Jordan
Green Lantern is one of DC Comics’ oldest characters. First appearing in
All-American Comics #16 in 1940 as engineer Alan Scott, Green Lantern, created by artist Martin Nodell and writer Bill Finger. He was a modern day Aladdin, wielding a magic ring that could create anything he could think about. Dressed in red and green, this Green Lantern, known today as the Golden Age Green Lantern, soon became one of All-American Publications’ most popular characters, earning him his own series, published several times per year, from 1941 to 1949.
Alan Scott was part of the Justice Society of America, the first super hero team. Because he earned his own series, he soon became an honourary member of the series, like the Flash. Alan Scott appeared on the cover of several comic books along with fellow Justice Society members the Flash and Wonder Woman, who were the most popular characters from the publisher before they would merge with sister company, National Comics, which published Superman and Batman.
All-American Comics #21 - Green Lantern Alan Scott
In 1959, Green Lantern was re-imagined as test pilot Hal Jordan, appearing in
Showcase #22. This new Green Lantern had a costume redesign and was part of the Green Lantern Corps, a space-based police organization headed by the Guardians of the Universe, little blue men with red robes with vast mental powers and protector of the giant green lantern on planet Oa. Green Lantern was the second character from DC Comics’ stable to undergo a reboot in what would be known as the Silver Age of American comic books. The Flash, was modernized in
Showcase #4 published in 1956.
Like the previous Green Lantern, Hal Jordan joined with the premier super hero group of his era. As a founding member of the Justice League of America, Hal Jordan became one of the premier characters of the company and one with the most complex set of secondary characters and villains. The concept of replacement Green Lanterns, allowed DC Comics to cast other characters as Green Lantern for periods of times. The first was Guy Gardner, introduced in 1968 in
Green Lantern # 59, Volume 2, as the alternate Green Lantern candidate that had been passed over in favour of Hal Jordan who was closer.
When writer Dennis O’Neil and artist Neal Adams modernized the Green Lantern series in the Green Lantern #76 in 1970, they introduced a new black Green Lantern that would answer the question an old black man had asked Hal Jordan about why he did not help them more. John Stewart, introduced in
Green Lantern #87 in 1971 was another back up Green Lantern to Hal Jordan and like Gardner, would serve in the Justice League at times where Hal Jordan wasn’t a member.
Green Lantern #76 "What about the black skins?"
Green Lantern in Other Media
For the creation of the Justice League cartoon series by Cartoon Networks in 2001, John Stewart was chosen instead of Green Lantern Kyle Rayner who had been the main Green Lantern featured in comic books since 1994 and had appeared in earlier Superman cartoons set in the same continuity. This move created a controversy with some comic book readers saying that Stewart was included only because he was black. Nevertheless, the creators of the Justice League series quickly developed the character differently from his previous comic book appearance and had made him one of their most popular characters.
Unlike other main DC Comics characters, Green Lantern has never had a live television series, a cartoon series or even a film of his own. He has appeared mostly in the Super Friends and Justice League related-series, such Justice League New Frontier. In many instances, such as New Frontier, Green Lantern was a central character. There are plans for a Green Lantern movie set to appear in 2010.
John Stewart - Source: www.worldsfinestonline.com
Of all major DC Comics’ characters, Green Lantern, and to some extent, Green Arrow, is the only one that has not starred in his own productions. Green Lantern is often mentioned right after the Flash in terms of major DC Comics characters after Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. Without any doubts, Green Lantern has entered the popular culture. He is even referred to in The Simpsons cartoons. However, unlike the Flash, the average North American knows nothing about the character.
Part of the problem comes from the multiple main Green Lanterns vying for first billing. Is Hal Jordan, the most popular Green Lantern character the one that DC Comics should focus on or should it be Kyle Rayner, which from 1994 to 2004 was Generation X’s Green Lantern? Even in the cancelled Justice League live film, John Stewart was the character that was supposed to be the Green Lantern.
Kyle Rayner - Ion
The situation has not been resolved in the comic books either. Special designations have been assigned to various Green Lanterns to not diminish their status in the eyes of their supporters. For example, Guy Gardner is now known as the Green Lantern #1. Kyle Rayner was known as Ion, a super Green Lantern. John Stewart is frequently the Green Lantern assigned to the Justice League comic book series. Even Alan Scott is revered as the first Green Lantern, and although he did not bill himself as Green Lantern from 1994 to 2003, he called himself Sentinel.
DC Comics has long recognized that the Green Lantern property is a lucrative one. With so many human Green Lanterns and thousands of alien ones, there is a Green Lantern for everybody. By creating the Green Lantern Corps, DC Comics also created a Jedi-like organization before Star Wars was an idea in creator George Lucas’ mind. The Green Lantern history is complex and filled with characters and drama. As a toy franchise for DC Direct, Green Lanterns statues, props and action figures have proven very successful and easily lend themselves to a collectors’ property because of the diversity of characters and concepts.
Green Lantern Power Battery
Green Lantern VS Iron Man
Yet I will argue that Green Lantern, like Iron Man before his film release, are still B characters begging to leave the shadow of more established properties. Aquaman, often dismissed as a guy who talks to fishes, is better known in popular culture than Green Lantern. Green Lantern is a bit more complex to explain and the name does not evoke a clear concept. Although called Green Lanterns, it is their rings which are their most known artefacts. The lanterns that Green Lanterns carry are used in their private lives but not in public.
Iron Man was a member of the Marvel Comics super hero team, the Avengers for years. Like Green Lantern, he was featured in many outside adaptations of the Avengers outside of comic books. Yet, he was never treated by Marvel Comics before the film’s announcement as a property with that could make the company as much money as say, Spider-man. Following initial responses to the film, there is no doubt that from now on Iron Man will always get top billing with other Marvel Entertainment franchises, such as the X-Men and the Fantastic Four. If he had ever been the butt of jokes or stand up comedians, like fellow comic book character Aquaman, this will change now.
Super Friends' Aquaman
Meanwhile Iron Man is probably overshadowing the two other characters in whose league he was often part of. Both Thor and Captain America appear to be minor characters compared to Iron Man today. In the case of Green Lantern, for years, he has been overshadowed by Aquaman and Flash, although he was often considered to be in the same range or popularity.
Yet, like Iron Man, Green Lantern has had important storylines that defined the character. While Iron Man was a weapon’s maker, an industrialist who had more in common with typical villains than super heroes, he has been plagued with personal challenges like alcoholism, depression and bankruptcy. Various Green Lanterns have seen their loved ones transformed into their arch nemeses, seen them slaughtered by opponents, been imprisoned and fall from grace following judgment errors.
In terms of classic storylines, Iron Man had his alcoholism, his armour wars and the fight for the survival of his company. Green Lantern Hal Jordan, for example, along with best friend Green Arrow, toured America in a pickup truck trying to understand the country during times of changes.
Iron Man’s multiple armours offer a fertile ground for multiple action figures, props and play sets. Green Lantern’s multiple main characters, villains offer the same.
Both comic books series featuring Green Lantern and Iron Man are good sellers for their publishers. Like Iron Man, the thought of an Avengers’ series or a Justice League series without a Green Lantern is unheard of. He’s considered one of the main elements.
DC Comics' Approach to Second String Characters
Unlike Marvel Comics, DC Comics promotes the prominence of one set of character over the others. Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman are considered the publisher’s trinity. As the concept of trinity suggest, they are gods above all others. Marvel Comics has no apparent cast system. At Marvel Comics, it seems that any property that can expand outside of its traditional limits is encouraged. Marvel Comics readily encouraged the Blade film trilogy. In the comic books, Blade is a minor character. He can’t even sustain his own series. Green Lantern over the years has had many series published concurrently. At one point, Guy Gardner and John Stewart each had their own series that sold very well, along the main Green Lantern series and even a quarterly series dedicated to the Corps. Yet DC Comics cancelled all three profiting series to focus on only one series with only one Green Lantern.
Hal Jordan and Arch Nemesis Sinestro
Green Lantern comic books and products easily sell better than Wonder Woman goods. Yet, DC Comics continues to artificially promote Wonder Woman as one of the company’s most important characters, even when evidence shows this to be a mistake. I don’t understand why DC Comics willingly castrates promising properties like Green Lantern in order to continuously reaffirm the superiority of Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman. This is a zero sum game vision where no place is given to other properties to shine.
Marvel Comics' Approach to Second String Characters
At Marvel Comics, a more organic way has evolved over the years. When Wolverine was clearly shown as a driving force behind the X-Men, he was given more publicity and visibility. This did not take away from the X-Men franchise. It only made it stronger. Similarly, when the X-Men became popular in 1975, Marvel Comics did not attempt to limit their reach in favour of Spider-man and the Fantastic Four, which were traditionally considered as more important to the publisher. When Frank Miller established Daredevil as an author’s series in the early 1980s, after a few years of trial and error, Marvel Comics allowed his series to be a forum where creators could tell more mature stories with greater complexity than Spider-man, although Daredevil had always been considered a poor’s man Spider-man.
The Invincible Iron Man
Today, Iron Man is proving to be one of Marvel Comics new stars which reaches the minds and imagination of the public, in a way Spider-man, the X-Men nor the Fantastic Four ever did. Over at DC Comics, the publisher cannot make up its mind and figure out how to profit from the rich lore and potential offered by Green Lantern. Instead, it keeps Green Lantern as a property on a tight leash, instead of releasing Green Lantern upon the public as the major myth maker and property it really is.
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I think you make some very solid points. I particularly agree about the different cultures at DC and Marvel, and the fact that one encourages the expansion of its formally lesser known properties while the other does not. That being said, Marvel is now its own film studio with the expressed purpose of capitalizing on it's decades of publishing history. DC, on the other hand, must compete with other interests for the same recognition from its parent company (Warner Bros.).
I do think there is hope however. A Green Lantern film is finally in development (and I can't wait to see how it turns out), and currently there is once again multiple ongoing Green Lantern comic book series that are selling well (better than the main Iron Man book I might add).
Interesting insights into the cultures of the two companies. I guess now that Iron Man has proved so profitable, DC execs must be discussing Marvel's new business model. I know you make me yearn for Green Lantern on the big screen!
Man i would love to see the green lantern movie on the big screen. And i would love to see the john stewart verging.Not just becuase he's a black man but becuase he's the one this generation grow up off of.And for the fact of the matter i'm 31 and i remeber a black green lantern when i was little.An it would give the young black kids a hero that's not from hell no disrespect to storm or spawn.but it's time an i can see it (JAMIE FOXX)as the GREEN LANTERN. one peace one nation and one love
i would hate to see jamie foxx as a green lantern. He is a mess now. I love what will smith did with his super hero movie(i forget the name). I would love to see a green lantern movie, I actually have a green lantern tattoo since i believe 2003 or 04.I loved the background history on both companies and characters. A bit late, but I still wanted to give my opinion. YEAH GREEN LANTERN MOVIE!!!!
Excellent treatment of the lanterns. I, too, would love to see a Green Lantern movie (although I'd prefer Hal Jordan to Jon Stewart). I hadn't wanted it until recently, but seeing how well they've done with other movies, especially Iron Man, makes me hope that it could be good.
In my own blog, I used the Lanterns as a touchstone for the history of comics and all the different eras.
i need to see GREEN LANTERN first at tv series like SMALLVILLE.for anyone to familiarized the hero in this generation.i knew hal jordan since SUPERFRIENDS.i want in in series first before the movie.all actions will be possible by the aid of computers and I'm hoping to see it more realistic
With everything that's going on in the world of Green Lantern right now, the only way to go would be to go with Hal Jordan. The animated Green Lantern First Flight was a great way to introduce the character to the masses as well touch up on what's going on right now with Blackest Night. Since Hal doesn't have as convoluded a origin I think Secret Origins with a mix into Sinestro Wars would be the perfect script treatment for the movie...& Ryan Renolds as Hal Jordan is pretty much on the money, I do like the concept of doing the Jon Stewart thing but I don't know if I'd go with Jamie Foxx...maybe someone more imposing of stature & voice like Common who has the perfect voice for Jon Stewart or a Wesley Snipes "type", someone that was built like a brick house with an intensity to match maybe he should be introduced near of the end of the film. I think a perfect Kyle Rayner would Patrick Demsey, Guy Garnder...I don't know
I think that Ryan reynolds would make a good hal jordan or kyle rayner. he may play a better kyle rayner, but either way he should play as a green lantern. i like the idea of Common playing as john stewart and even though i like jamie fox as an actor i don't think he would be the right choice as an existing green lantern.even tyrese gibson would be a nice choice. i agree with Praneel sing( blog #7) that john stewart should be introduced towards the end of the movie or he be introduced as hal's back-up during the beginning and become more of the main charctor or main green lantern towards the end of the movie. the green lantern movie should star hal jordan as the main green lantern but the justice leage movie should star Common as john stewart because he is the main face of the justice league GL so it should be kept that way. i dont like that people say that he is so big because he is black. that is one reason of his popularity but he is known as the current green lantern. i also don't like the chance of the justice league being known as a white group. besides jean jones (Martian Manhunter) even the alians are white. their should also be a statci shock movie made and maybe even a teen titans movie, even though many things about the teen titans contradict with main stream DC comics history. the green lantern should really change the sucky reputation of the recent 2k DC comics movies. The Dark Knight was good though. if you have questions or comments e-mail, facebook, or myspace me. i may even make a twitter page. ckeck anyway.
Though I bought a handful of GL comics 20 years ago, I just could never get into the Green Lantern character - he's basically given a ring by aliens which has a special power - a seemingly trivial, materialistic possession, which has no true symbolic or spiritual function for the development of the character.
Iron Man on the other hand needs his power source to stay alive - his main power is also his biggest weakness should it fail...since Stark personally invented it to save his own life, this possession has symbolism which is appealing - the strong power source sustains his fragile life now.
The Lord of the Rings has already explored film-goers desire for rings with power this generation...so a ring that gives special powers has already been given its recent trilogy...which will hurt GL at the box office.
Batman movies of late have added a lot of appealing symbolism (bats in the cave for Batman = his desire to overcome his fears), but Superman is very weak on it - more alien superpowers like Green Lantern, which people will have trouble identifying with and getting emotional over.
Marvel has done a great job with balancing humanistic symbolism in creating its characters various superpowers - their strength is also a major weakness typically, but DC hasn't been able to do this successfully...in their movies at least.
I've always liked Iron Man, but never collected his comics.
That said, I think Iron Man will no longer be very interesting in about 20 years, because the U.S. Army will probably have robots or armored suits for soldiers like IM's suit. So IM will probably lose its novelty "soon".
My 2 favorite comic characters are Batman and Daredevil. Both are very human and have a very personal human justification to fight crime their entire lives. Both characters symbolize the need for justice.