In Comics 101 I breakdown a comic character’s back history in an easy to understand way for newbies.
The story of Green Lantern began in 1940 with Alan Scott. Unlike the latter and more long running Green Lantern, Scott was based in mysticism and magic. He is a railroad engineer at the time and discovers a mysterious green lantern that imbues him with a magic ring. The ring gives him the power to fly as well as manifest constructs from it. Scott ended up being a founding member of the Justice Society of America, a World War II era precursor to the Justice League. He also had two children out of wedlock, Todd and Jennie who would grow up to be the super heroes Obsidian and Jade, respectively. Scott is still around, as a member of the JSA, and partnered with his old pals plus some new blood. But the core of the Green Lantern story really began in 1959.
In the late 1950s, the Silver Age of Comic Books began. DC has sort of pulled back its superhero publishing, with Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman being about the only remainders. Julius Schwartz, the editor in chief at the time was wanting to take names used by heroes back in the 1930s and 40s and create all-new characters around them. This time around, Green Lantern was to be ace pilot Hal Jordan. While testing an experimental craft for his employer Ferris Air, Hal was pulled by a mysterious force to a crash site in the middle of the desert. There lay a dying alien wearing a strange green and black uniform. His name was Abin Sur and he told Hal he was part of the Green Lantern Corps, an intergalactic police force. Sur was dying as a result of the crash and Hal was deemed the only one on Earth worthy to wield the ring. Hal accepted and became Earth’s Green Lantern. The ring held 24 hours worth of energy and would have to be recharged in an accompanying lantern. The only catch in its seemingly invulnerable power was an impurity that made it vulnerable to the color yellow in spectrum. Hal would go on to battle a cavalcade of odd 60s appropriate villains, but his arch-nemesis would always be Sinestro.
Sinestro was also a Green Lantern, but unlike Hal, he saw his place as using the ring to control the population of his home planet Krougar. The masters of the Green Lantern Corps were known as the Guardians of the Universe, small blue skinned men whom demanded total submission from all the Corpsmen. Sinestro and the Guardians clashed and as a result he was stripped of his ring. Enraged that this power would be taken from him, Sinestro sought out other sources. He found a way into the Anti-Matter Universe, a sort of reality underneath our own and home to the Weaponeers. The Weaponeers constructed a new ring for Sinestro, a yellow ring that specifically affected the power of the Green Lanterns. While the green ring used the aspect of Will, the yellow ring tapped into Fear to feed itself. For years, Sinestro plagued Hal Jordan and was eventually killed.
Along the way, other Earthmen took up the ring. Hal would become increasingly annoyed with the Guardians dictates and leave the Corps. In time social worker Guy Gardner became a Green Lantern, as well as architect John Stewart. Hal also befriended many of the alien Corpsmen: Kilowog, a lumbering brute, Tomar-Re, one of the most noble of the Lanterns, Salaak, a typically annoyed and distant being, and Arisia, a young girl whose family were a long line of Lanterns. Things went dark when Hal’s home town of Coast City was attacked by Mongul, an alien warlord. Mongul’s massive engine city/ship destroyed the city and killed everyone there. Hal became obsessed with using his power to fix things, rebuild Coast City. This obsession led him into madness and he began to kill other Green Lanterns to amass a large collection of rings. The Guardians were desperate to stop him and resurrected Sinestro. The two old enemies clashed and in the end the Guardians, the GL Corps, Hal, and Sinestro were obliterated. Except for one solitary ring.
This ring found its way to Earth and into the hands of young artist Kyle Rayner. Unlike Hal, Rayner had no one to teach him how to use the ring so he underwent a lot of trial and error. In time, he joined the Justice League and established himself as the one true Lantern. Hal returned as a villain, Parallax, infused with an almost infinite power. Parallax attempted to destroy reality and recreate it in his own image but the heroes of the DC Universe stopped him. He returned once more when Earth’s sun was being devoured by an alien Suneater. Making the ultimate sacrifice and redeeming himself, Parallax flew into the sun, reigniting it. He was rewarded for this act of bravery and made The Spectre, the manifestation of God’s wrath. Kyle Rayner continued on as the Green Lantern and eventually unlocked a power in his ring that turned him into a being called Ion, a sort of pure manifestation of the Green power.
Things changed suddenly when Kyle crashed to earth, after having been missing in space for a few months. Along with this, Coast City suddenly appeared rebuilt. All of Earth’s former Lanterns (Guy Gardner, John Stewart, and even Alan Scott) became involved as Hal Jordan was reborn, as well as The Guardians of the Universe and all of the dead Corpsmen. It turns out that the source of the rings’ power was a cosmic entity known as Ion, while Sinestro’s ring was powered by Parallax. The Lanterns battle the now unleashed Parallax entity while Sinestro returns from the dead. In the end the Corps is restored, but Sinestro returns to the Anti-Matter Universe with some big bad plans for the Green Lanterns….