The Golden Age Green Lantern Archives Volume 1

The Golden Age Green Lantern Archives Volume 1
The Golden Age Green Lantern Archives Volume 1 review
  • North American Publisher / ISBN: DC - 1-5638-9507-2
  • Volume No.: 1
  • Release date: 1999
  • UPC: 9781563895074
  • Contains adult content?: no
  • Does this pass the Bechdel test?: no
  • Positive minority portrayal?: no
  • CATEGORIES: Superhero

The Green Lantern debuted in 1940 just as superheroes began to dominate comics, supplanting newspaper strip reprints and stock genre characters in anthologies. The Emerald Gladiator was devised by up-and-coming cartoonist Martin Nodell, and as fleshed out by Bill Finger in the same generally unsung way he had contributed to the success of Batman, Green Lantern became a sensation. He gained his own solo title little more than a year after his premiere and appeared in other anthologies for just over a decade before, like most first-generation superheroes, he faded away in the early 1950s.

This quirkily beguiling deluxe Archive edition covers appearances from mid-1940 to mid-1941 in a parade of raw, graphic enchantment. It starts with the incredible history of The Green Flame of Life. Ambitious young engineer Alan Scott only survives the sabotage and destruction of a passenger-packed train due to the intervention of a battered old railway lantern. Bathed in its eerie emerald light he is regaled by a mysterious voice with the legend of how a meteor once fell in ancient China and spoke to the people, predicting Death, Life and Power. The star-stone’s viridian glow brought doom to the savant who reshaped it into a lamp, sanity to a madman centuries later and now promised incredible might to bring justice to the innocent.

Instructing Scott to fashion a ring from its metal and draw a power charge from the lantern every 24 hours, the ancient artefact urges the engineer to use his formidable willpower to end all evil. It’s a mission Scott eagerly takes up by promptly crushing a corrupt industrialist who had callously caused wholesale death to secure a lucrative rail contract.

The ring makes Scott immune to all minerals and metals, enables him to fly and pass through walls, but living materials such as wood or rubber can penetrate his jade defences and cause mortal harm. The saboteurs duly punished, Scott resolves to carry on the fight and devises a “bizarre costume” to disguise his identity and strike fear and awe into wrongdoers.

Scott is located in Metropolis long before it became the fictional home of Superman, in civilian life working for radio broadcasters APEX and pursuing Irene Miller. Thanks to Finger, Green Lantern is initially a grim, mysterious and spookily implacable figure of vengeance weeding out criminals and gangsters but, just as with early Batman sagas, there was always a strong undercurrent of social issues, ballsy sentimentality and human drama.

Celebrated strip cartoonist Irwin Hasen began his long association with Green Lantern in time to illustrate the first appearance of overnight sensation Doiby Dickles. The rotund, middle-aged Brooklyn-born cab driver was simply intended as light foil and occasional sidekick for the poker-faced Emerald Avenger, but became one of the most popular and beloved comedy stooges of the era; soon sharing covers and even bylines with the star.

As this raw and vital high-energy compilation ends, the threat of involvement in the “European War” was a constant subject of American headlines, and Green Lantern displays his bombastic might against tanks, fighter planes and invading armies. Soon mystery men would become patriotic morale boosters parading and sermonising ad infinitum in every corner of the industry’s output as the real world brutally intruded on the hearts and minds of the nation. Volume 2 awaits.