High Velocity Super Disco

An occasional selection of writings pertinent to our day and age, including musings on the arts, music and culture, politics and religion, ninjas and comics. In fact mostly ninjas and comics when I think about it...

Wednesday, November 15

"Green Lantern's Light!"

Halllooo again everybody. Sorry, it’s been so long, again, and man, just when you think you’ve been the only one blogging about Green Lantern; you suddenly find out everyone else has been doing it…

Oh, and while I’m at it – thanks again to Mr Mike Sterling for the link (now there’s an proper blogger) – makes me wonder how much traffic that actually brought my way, anyone know how to check that?

I’ve been working on this entry for a while now, making notes here and there (on the train to London, at work instead of working on fund specs, you know – the usual places), and generally feeling like I’ve actually got something to say. “Feeling Like” of course being very different to “Definitely Having”.

My first post in this series was the result of completing another of those stupid online quizzes that just seem destined to waste our lives, and then thinking that it’d be a good idea to do an entire series of posts on the GLC, sorry The Green Lantern Corps.

And that’s the crux of it, people often ask me (are you looking for the motherlode? Ha! No! No, my child, this is not my desire…) who my favourite GL is, and to be honest, I don’t really have one. Instead, what I really love is the Corps itself. Which is why I’m not writing about Hal Jordan, Alan Scott, John Stewart, Kyle Rayner or even Guy Gardner, but rather the Corps as a whole.

The central idea of Green Lantern is brilliant; an individual capable of overcoming great fear is granted an object of immense power, capable of performing virtually any feat that the wear can think of (a “Wishing Ring” as Daniel of The Endless called it), and is then instructed to patrol their particular sector of the universe. In essence then, a space police force armed with potentially the most powerful weapon in the universe, patrolling their beat.

The relevance if this was recently increased when each sector was given two GLs, i.e. now every beat cop has partner, and also in the first arc of the new Green Lantern Corps, which had Guy Gardner and Soranik Natu buddying up to do detective work like shaking down witnesses, and searching for clues. You know, police work.

Now the idea of Universal Space Police Force is nothing new, but then again neither was Green Lantern – but when you weld the two ideas together…

Thing is, the police in the real world are there to uphold the law, which is all well and good where there are jurisdictional boundaries and clear laws to advocate. But in space, whose laws do the Corps follow?

Enter the Guardians of the Universe (yes, I know, as a title, it is rather pretentious and self-important, but these guys were one of the first races in the universe, but still…). Anyway, while it is the Guardians that would be the ultimate arbiters of justice in the universe, it is never really made clear how or why. It could be perhaps that they still feel some form of moral responsibility for having loosed entropy upon the universe, or that their billions of years of existence and knowledge has given them all the authority they need. See, that’s what I don’t understand, it’s not as if the entire universe decided en masse that it would be the Guardians who would, could and should impose order, they just took it upon themselves to do so. But then again, who said the JLA could do the same on Earth (which I suppose makes the Corps universal vigilantes).

But what are the Guardians? Where do they stand in relation to their Green Lantern Corps, in fact, what is the structure of the Corps? We know the Corps is a group entity, and as such is made up of free thinking individuals. And bearing in mind that, like any society, it consists of individuals as disparate as Kilowog, Guy Gardner, Salaak and G’Nort, then the definition of that society gets harder to pin down.

Kilowog for instance comes from a collective society, and subsequently readily took to Communism. Does this therefore imply that the Corps is itself a communist organisation? Well, everyone within the society could be considered to be an equal, or at least treated equally, each works towards the benefit of the society as a whole, and there is an almost benign dictatorship controlling the interests of that society. Then again, it’s not as if it could in any way be described as a dictatorship of the proletariat. And that’s where the comparison fails, as the means of production (whatever they could considered to be) are not controlled by the proletariat.

So, we have a collective society, controlled by a dictatorship; switching to the other end of the political spectrum, is the Corps fascistic? Again, probably not, as any fascistic order is dependent on a hierarchical form of organisation organised from a single, central leadership. And, within the Corps, there is no defined form of hierarchy, and neither is there the near fanatical subjugation of individual free will that any fascist state requires.

Neither Left Wing nor Right Wing, what then is it? I’m sorry, did someone just ask if it could be considered democratic? Please, don’t make me laugh.

No, what the Guardians most resemble are the Philosopher-Kings of Plato’s ideal city Kallipolis. This would therefore make Oa something akin to an ancient Greek city-state, and the Corps the militia of that city-state. (Although, yes, I do know that the militia would ordinarily been drawn from the population of the sate, but I think we can stretch the analogy a bit here).

You wanna know how well the Philosopher-King parallel works? Both the terms Philosopher-King and Guardian are virtually interchangeable in the text of The Republic.

" Whichever of the two are best able to guard the laws and institutions of our State--let them be our guardians. "

Furthermore, this helps define their status within the universe, and their title, because, if we take them to be what considered the ideal rulers of any state, then it follows that they can impose order (or their will) throughout the universe, via the Corps.

So what is the Corps? Purely and simply, it is a society, and, essentially, a microcosm of the universe, with each GL representing a different aspect of the universe. Which is why the Corps can legitimately represent the universe.

But, like any society, it is, as I said earlier, made up of very different individuals. And here is where we unearth one of the reasons I love the Green Lantern Corps so much. Because, while they are all the same, in that they’re all Green Lanterns (with the same powers, abilities and mission), as individuals they’re all very different. (And yes, I know that’s a rather obvious statement to make, but bear with me). That is, each individual has their own personality and quirks while still being a GL. Which I’m glad to say Geoff Johns is exploring in the Green Lantern solo title, where he tries to explain how each Lantern uses their ring differently.

And obviously, this whole idea of creating a bunch of different individuals leads to more interesting stories. Yes, there are loads of superhero teams where the whole point is that they’re all different (Giffen and DeMatteis' Justice League is probably the best example) but not so many where they all have the same power. I’d also like to make to make the distinction here that GLs are not really superheroes per se, and reiterate that they’re policemen. And, as such, they are an elite, as they’ve all be selected and chosen according to certain criteria, chiefly the ability to overcome great fear, and haven’t simply been granted their powers by accident.

Except for Kyle Rayner.

Who is actually the exception that proves the rule, as he has demonstrated all the capabilities of being a Green Lantern, and has clearly shown his ability to overcome great fear. And, when the Corps was reformed, was automatically granted a place. (Indeed, whether he really was chosen at random by Ganthet is up for debate). This is known as Character Development, whereas turning your character into someone with godlike powers is just called a plot device.

We thus have two aspects of the Corps; one on the individual level, demonstrated through the singular Green Lantern title focussing on Hal, and secondly with the Corps as a single unit, as shown in the Green Lantern Corps title. And, both comics are doing just that, and if any conclusions as to why I love the Corps can be drawn it’s here.

It’s the versatility of the concept. Firstly, you have a singular Green Lantern with a power ring that can do anything within the willpower of that GL. So it’s only real limitation (other than the colour yellow) is the GL’s (or rather the writer’s) imagination. Secondly you then have the Corps as a group of aliens (and already you have scope for epic science fiction space adventures) all armed with a power ring, all doing things differently but the same, and accordingly, you can write different stories with each one. Basically, much like the power ring itself, the concept can be stretched as far as it can go, and the only limit is the imagination.

So yeah, in conclusion, I’d have to say my favourite Green Lantern is G’Nort.

Phew, finished, and I didn’t even get to mention my theory linking Green Lantern to Gaiman’s Sandman…


  • At Fri Nov 17, 04:13:00 pm 2006, Blogger mick said…

    Some interesting points. I like the fact that the yellow impurity in the battery is also what makes it powerful. It's kind of a metaphor; We are who we are because of our flaws.
    (A serious point! I don't always do wee-wee!)
    GL has, in his time, had some of the best artists of that era; Gil Kane, Neal Adams, Dave Gibbons et al. He also had the coolest costume of any of the silver age guys.


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