Wednesday, April 28, 2004

The big comics news today is that Hal Jordan is returning as Green Lantern later this year. This should come as a surprise to exactly no one, since it's the kind of thing one expects when a publishing company, trying to play catchup with all the cool young comics companies, decides to turn a beloved, long-running character into a psychopathic murderer and then systematically tear down pretty much all of that character's mythology, leaving just enough pieces around which to base their cool! new! young! hip! Green Lantern character.

That's not to say that replacing Hal, or even killing him off, was an inherently bad idea, but the execution was so ham-handed and metafictionally wrong that it was pretty much inevitable that there would, eventually, be a restoration and a hand-wave of all the bad stuff the character was made to have done, just because, well, a very large portion of the reading public's reaction to the last 10 years of what DC has been doing with Hal Jordan was basically, "No, really, when's he going to be Green Lantern again?" If Hal had died heroically and been replaced, there would have been grumbling from fans -- there's ALWAYS grumbling from fans when characters die, or are massively changed, or just change their costume or hairstyle or codename -- but it wouldn't have been the same sort of grumbling that followed taking a great character with one of the best costumes ever and making him a psycho killer, and then teasing his return two or three times a year for the better part of a decade. I'm pretty sure that in 1998 Hal Jordan, as Green Lantern, in flashbacks or time-travel stories or whatever, appeared in more comics than his replacement, Kyle Rayner.

I don't even know if I'll be picking up a new GL book, but it will be nice not to have to dance around the subject of what's going on with Green Lantern these days every time the character comes up with my father-in-law, who's told me in about every fifth conversation I have with him that he owned all the old Green Lantern comics from the 60s when he was a kid.

My one hope, actually, is that John Stewart gets to keep his ring and remain an active, heroic character. When I was a freshman in college, I was waiting for a Metro train and reading something or other that had the Hal on the cover. And a middle-aged black man walked up to me and said something like, "Excuse me, but...I had heard that a black man was now Green Lantern?" Thank GOD, I was able to tell him truthfully that, yes, you'd heard correctly, and that there were several Green Lantern comics featuring different versions of the character, and one of them, Green Lantern: Mosaic, starred John Stewart. And that answer seemed to please this guy, who had probably not read a Green Lantern comic in years.

Fortunately, this encounter didn't happen six months later, when John's book had been cancelled, or a few years after that, when John lost his ring and was, first, shunted off to join a third-rate super-team and, second, crippled and put in a wheelchair for several years, until the use of the character on the new Justice League cartoon prompted his return to active GL status in the comics.

So if anyone at DC is reading this, well, find a place for John Stewart in the new green order, OK? It matters.

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