Green Lantern: Mosaic Part 3
Green Lantern: Mosaic #10-18
It is not an understatement to say that Mosaic stood out a series unlike much else DC Comics was publishing in 1992. If we do a quick survey of the company at the time, we see this was the start of a significant shift in the type of storytelling DC was doing. In the wake of 1985’s Crisis on Infinite Earths the major characters were given fresh reboots and, while there would occasionally be crossover events, most large-scale events felt reasonably contained. 1987’s Legends was more an event based around themes rather than plot. Millenium and Invasion were kept relatively small and with little to no effect on the broader scale of titles. This allowed a bit more creator freedom which we can see in Gerard Jones’ work with the Green Lantern franchise.
Green Lantern: Mosaic’s story feels like a narrative that could affect a broader scope of the DC Universe, with multiple cities and outposts from across hundreds of planets abducted and placed on Oa. However, there is not much of a sense that the homeworlds are scrambling to find these lost places. With other titles and stories like The Omega Men, New Teen Titans, and even Green Lantern there was always a sense that this universe was cohesive and connected. Yes, going back to the Silver Age you find throwaway alien species presented in the pages of Superman, but post-Crisis there was an effort to create a more coherent cosmic landscape.
Green Lantern: Mosaic #10 opens with John Stewart imploring the Guardians of the Universe to yet again let the people of Mosaic World go. He testifies that the beings that live in this diverse landscape have achieved a sort of peace, but the Guardians demand to see firsthand. The rest of the issue serves as a refresher for longtime reader and primer for new ones to species that live in Mosaic World. These beings are all pretty obvious metaphors for aspects of human behavior. There are the Hungries who mindlessly consume any and everything, Homeboys who are amoeboid shapeshifters that appear as buildings, Januses who are two-headed humanoids that have volatile schizophrenic personalities, and more. Jones isn’t hiding his play at philosophy here, but it is some fun and exciting exploration of ideas that most comics at DC weren’t interested in exploring.
From there on, the series takes a decidedly spiritual and social justice orientation. Issue 11 opens with the return of Rockwell, the man who led the humans against their neighbors in the opening arc from Green Lantern. This time he is fully adorned in the garb of the Ku Klux Klan, spouting ideas that these same ideas apply towards human against their alien neighbors. There is an incredibly relevant moment when these KKK members storm the home of humans harboring aliens. John Stewart shows up and scatters them, followed by a neighbor stating he doesn’t agree with those men but he understands them. This neighbor’s dialogue and Stewart’s response can be seen below.
This new outburst by Rockwell marks the beginning of the end for any peace Mosaic World could ever hope for. Relations between species crumble, with a small clandestine alliance forming between a few of the beings against humans. This increase in violence inevitably leads to the arrival of Hal Jordan, The Green Lantern Corps, The Justice League, and armadas from these beings homeworlds to retrieve them. John’s scope of powers begins to expand, and he manages to resurrect his late bride Katma Tui. All of this ends in a somewhat rushed conclusion where John transcends his human form to become a new type of Guardian, the first human one and a being of immense godlike power. And that is where the series ends. John Stewart would be retconned back to his mortal form in subsequent years, and Mosaic World would be all but ignored in the future.
What is strangest is that Mosaic wasn’t failing in sales. By issue five, DC decided to cancel the series and gave Gerard Jones a year to wrap up his story. He admitted in the letters pages of the book that he was forced to compress some plot points that would have had more time to develop. The most enlightening interview about what led to Mosaic’s cancellation came from Comics Bulletin sitting down with artist Cully Hamner in the late 1990s. Hamner explains that the trend in comics in the early 1990s was shifting away from introspective, thoughtful stories to more action-oriented fare. This, he says, is due in part to the phenomenal sales success of Image Comics. Hamner seems a tad bitter about the whole affair and truly believed in the quality of the title he and Jones were producing.
If we look at the direction, DC Comics took in the subsequent years we see an emphasis on highly marketed event books. The Death of Superman. Knightfall. Darkest Night. Zero Hour. The DC Universe stopped being as contained within individual titles and worked to be more cohesive like what Marvel was doing. They were also influenced by Image in trying to darken the tone of their series. The Azrael-Bats from Knightfall. The Destruction of Coast City in the Superman books. The turn to villain by Hal Jordan. Some writers were able to hold onto a fun, lighthearted tone like Mark Waid on Flash, but overall the industry was interested less in thoughtful superheroes and more in gimmicks that would sell a lot.
John Stewart has not lost his prominence in the DC Universe and is now the leader of the Green Lantern Corps. What he has lost is his identity as an architect and any stories of weight dealing with him being a person of color. Gerard Jones, a white writer, wasn’t afraid to address Stewart’s blackness and how even as a Green Lantern, white people judged him based on his race. The letters columns of Mosaic are fascinating, some of the most intelligent debates I’ve ever seen in comics. People question Jones’ place in trying to tell the story of a black man, others laud it. But there is intense respectful debate happening there.
John Stewart’s systematic race erasure in DC is a disappointing turn. Jones did so much work on fleshing this secondary character into a full-fledged three-dimensional one. Maybe one day, a writer who came of age on Mosaic will get the chance to take the reigns of the role and revisit these ideas and these worlds. Even sooner, hopefully, DC Comics will release a collected edition of the entire short-lived title.