Review by Win Wiacek
Having successfully revived and reworked the Flash, DC were keen to build on the resurgent superhero trend. They settled on updating another hero popular during the 1940s, and once again the guiding lights were editor Julie Schwartz and writer John Broome. Assigned as illustrator was action ace Gil Kane, generally inked by Joe Giella
This fabulous paperback compilation features the same content as the black and white Showcase Presents Green Lantern Vol. 1, with the important difference being the presentation in colour. It gathers the first two years of Hal Jordan’s superhero career from his late 1959 origin to late 1961 and reveals how a Space Age reconfiguration of the 1940s superhero with a magic ring replaced mysticism with super-science.
Jordan is a Californian test pilot when an alien policeman’s spaceship crashes on Earth. His ring can materialise thoughts, so a mortally wounded Abin Sur commands it to seek a replacement officer, honest and without fear. Scanning the planet it selects Jordan and brings him to the crash-site where the dying alien bequeaths his ring, the lantern-shaped Battery of Power and his profession to the astonished Earthman.
In six pages Broome and Schwartz, the editor heavily involved in the plotting, establish characters, scenario and narrative thrust of a series that would increasingly become the spine of DC continuity, leaving room for another two adventures in that premiere issue.
The idea was innovative for an era captivated by the Space Race, and brought to expressive life by Kane. An industry veteran, and a notable contributor to DC’s SF-themed anthologies, he’d never become indelibly associated with a strip. Beginning with redesigning Green Lantern, he’d remain artist for a decade, his dynamism and visually arresting pages defining the character. For the sake of completeness, we should note Ross Andru, Joe Giella, Carmine Infantino and Mike Sekowsky contribute pencils to a single story.
Broome quickly exploits action away from Earth, alternated with contemporary thrillers set against the backdrop of the aviation industry when the Cold War was at its height. Back in the day a superhero who travelled to another world was heady stuff. GL first saves an emerging race from a deadly threat at the behest of the as-yet-unnamed leaders of the Green Lantern Corps. It would be some while before Broome added the Guardians of the Universe as those allocating the Green Lantern rings and power batteries, first properly seen when introducing a renegade Green Lantern named Sinestro who’s become a threat to the entire universe.
Before then Broome had been gradually building a selection of recurring foes, the first being the rather lame Puppet Master. More threatening are the diabolical Weaponers of Qward, a twisted race who worship evil, and this collection also supplies the first appearance of Hector Hammond, but Broome’s charismatic supporting cast are more prominent.
Hal’s boss Carol Ferris runs her father’s aviation company, a radical concept in 1960 when most women in comics were under-developed. She won’t date an employee, but is deliriously happy for him to set her up with the glamorous, mysterious Green Lantern. Less enlightened in contemporary terms is Hal’s Inuit (then “Eskimo”) mechanic Tom “Pieface” Kalmaku, but the terminology apart, it’s a respectful relationship, not a revival of the comedy sidekick. Late on we also meet Hal’s two brothers, and the snoopy reporter one will later marry.
These are snappy, awe-inspiring, beautifully illustrated captivatingly clever thrillers that amuse, amaze and enthral both new readers and old devotees. They were earlier spread over Green Lantern Archives Volume 1 and Volume 2. More follow in The Silver Age Volume Two.