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Green Lantern

"In brightest day, in darkest night,
No evil shall escape my sight.
Let those who worship evil's might,
BEWARE MY POWER....Green Lantern's Light!"

Green Lantern is the eponymous superhero of a comic book series published by DC Comics. He is armed with a special ring which allows the wearer to do nearly anything provided there is sufficient willpower to enable it. The feats possible include allowing the wearer to fly, create functioning structures made of energy, protective force fields, move objects amoung many others.

Table of contents
1 The First Green Lantern
2 The Second Green Lantern
3 The Third Incarnation
4 The Decline
5 The Fourth Lantern

The First Green Lantern

There have been four distinct (but related) incarnations of the Green Lantern character over the years, plus many spinoffs. The first Green Lantern debuted in issue #16 of All-American Comics, in 1940. His name was Alan Scott, and he had come into possession of a "magic lantern." He crafted a ring from the metal of the lantern, which gave him the power to control any object made of metal. This eventually was changed into a "green flame," and it was able to affect any material—except wood. Alan Scott was the character to recite the first Green Lantern oath:

"...and I shall shed my light over dark evil
For the dark things cannot stand the light
The light of the GREEN LANTERN!"

Scott was also one of the founding members of the first superhero team, the Justice Society of America (JSA) as of 1940's All Star Comics #3. Green Lantern's career lasted throughout the 1940s, but his series was cancelled when superheroes fell into decline in the 1950s, and for a brief time before cancellation the character was reduced to the role of a sidekick to Streaky the Wonder Dog, a heroic canine cut from the mold of Rin-Tin-Tin and Lassie. The Alan Scott Green Lantern was later revived along with the rest of the JSA and his appearances have mostly been in association with that team ever since. Alan Scott is currently known under the name "Sentinel" and is a member of the current incarnation of the JSA.

The Second Green Lantern

The second Green Lantern was created in 1959, when editor Julius Schwartz presided over a re-creation of several of DC's superheroes, including The Flash, Hawkman, and Green Lantern. The intent was to give a more "science fiction" approach to their stories, and thus boost comic book sales. The second Green Lantern was Hal Jordan, a test pilot who was given the Power Ring and Power Battery by a dying alien named Abin Sur. When Abin Sur's spaceship crashed on the planet Earth, the alien used his ring to seek out an individual to take his place as Green Lantern: someone who was "utterly honest and born without fear." Jordan eventually learned that Abin Sur was a member of an elite force of intergalactic law enforcers called the Green Lantern Corps, who carried out the orders of the Guardians of the Universe.

The Green Lantern Corps was clearly based upon the Lensman stories of E.E. "Doc" Smith. Instead of one Green Lantern wielding a magic ring, there were 3,600 Green Lanterns patrolling the entire universe. Their rings were powered by the Central Battery at the planet Oa, where the Guardians lived. Like the original power ring, the Oan power rings had to be recharged every 24 hours. Instead of wood, the power of the ring was ineffective against the color yellow, due to a "necessary impurity" in the design of the Rings.

Hal Jordan's career lasted for more than thirty years of comic books, encountering supervillains such as Star Sapphire, Hector Hammond and the rogue Green Lantern, Sinestro. He was also made a founding member of the Justice League of America (JLA) as of 1959's Brave and the Bold #28 along with DC's other main superheroes. When Dennis O'Neill took the helm of the comic in 1971, he used it to spearhead the "relevancy" trend sweeping the comic book industry at that time. He teamed Hal Jordan up with Oliver Queen, the Green Arrow, and over the next two years they undertook a "search for America" that gained acclaim for the comic book. But acclaim wasn't enough to keep sales up, and the series was cancelled in the mid-1970s, only to be revived a few years later.

The Third Incarnation

Green Lantern continued to battle evil through the late 1970s and 1980s, when fate (and changing trends in mainstream comic books) brought him to the next stage in his development. He was exiled into space for a year by the Guardians in order to prove his loyalty to the Green Lantern Corps (he was charged with paying too much attention to Earth when he had an entire "sector" of the cosmos to patrol), and when he returned to Earth he found himself embroiled in a dispute with his longtime love, Carol Ferris. Faced with a choice between love and the power ring, Hal Jordan chose to resign from the Green Lantern Corps. The Guardians called Jordan's backup, John Stewart, to regular duty; however, Hal Jordan's fate continued to be intertwined with that of Green Lantern.

In 1985, DC Comics made sweeping changes to its comic book line with the comic book story Crisis on Infinite Earths. This story had a profound effect on Green Lantern, as it closely involved the Guardians of the Universe, the Green Lantern Corps, Hal Jordan, and John Stewart. It also introduced the "rebel" Green Lantern, Guy Gardner, to the DC Universe. At this time the Green Lantern series was being written by Steve Englehart, and he rose to the challenge of the Crisis with some of the best superhero action to be seen in the entire series. But after the Crisis was over, the series' days were numbered.

The Decline

The years following the Crisis saw the decline and fall of Green Lantern, both as a character and as a comic book series. The Guardians of the Universe briefly laid aside their Guardianship, departing to another dimension for a while. During this time, the Green Lantern Corps was left to run things on its own, but the grand galactic police force that had patrolled the universe for billions of years withered away in the space of a few short years. Debate still continues in comic book fandom over whether the dissolution of the Green Lantern Corps was a positive move for DC Comics, but for better or for worse, a mere two years after Crisis, the great Power Battery of Oa came crashing down, and the Corps was cast into ruin.

The comic book series was cancelled, only to be re-started again after an unsuccessful attempt by DC to turn its Action Comics magazine into a weekly series, with Green Lantern running as one of several features. The Green Lantern comic was re-started once again, and it began with the return of the Guardians and Hal Jordan's attempts to work with them and re-build the Corps. This effort did not last long, however, as yet another development occurred.

Defenders and supporters of the story of Parallax describe it as a tragedy, the tale of a great hero's fall from grace, in a manner similar to that of Sir Launcelot. Critics and nay-sayers counter with the charge that the fall of Hal Jordan was a shrewd marketing move on the part of DC Comics, with the sole intent of boosting sales of the comic book; worse, the story was very poorly written.

DC was in the middle of the "Death of Superman" story arc, and one of the developments of that story was the total destruction of Green Lantern's home, Coast City, and with it the death of his love Carol Ferris. This event drove Hal insane, and he became obsessed with the idea of altering history itself to bring back Coast City. To achieve this end, he went berserk: he slaughtered Green Lanterns left and right, invaded Oa, and in a battle that laid waste to the Guardians themselves, destroyed the great Central Power Battery. Hal gave himself the name of Parallax, and a second Crisis-style story, Zero Hour, followed. In the end, Parallax repented at the final moment and sacrified his life to save the Earth from being destroyed. Hal died a hero's death, but many Green Lantern fans say it was too little, too late from DC Comics.

The Fourth Lantern

The fourth Green Lantern, Kyle Rayner, made his debut during the Parallax story. The last surviving Guardian literally picked an unknown person off of the street, Kyle Rayner, and gave him a new power ring which could directly affect yellow and which had a charge that lasted depending on how much it was used rather than a set time limit. Thus armed Kyle battled Hal Jordan/Parallax as the new Lantern. With Rayner, the writers and editors of Green Lantern followed a trend that was sweeping across mainstream comics during the early-to-mid 1990s, to "modernize" its aging heroes and make them more identifiable with the newer, younger generation of comic book readers (Green Arrow also met his end at this time, to be replaced with a newer, younger bow-slinging hero.)

(Hal Jordan's story did not end with the death of Parallax. In a move that had comic book fans shaking their heads in disbelief, DC Comics brought Hal Jordan back from the dead... sort of. He has assumed the mantle of The Spectre, the undead spirit who exists as the embodiment of the "wrath of God.")