Friday, February 24, 2017


Script: Denny O’Neil | Art: Neal Adams
Inks: Frank Giacoia (#77 & 78) | Editor: Julie Schwartz


Right off the bat, our socially relevant excursion begins on something of a false premise. Green Lantern arrives in Star City to visit with his colleague, Green Arrow (and were they ever especially close prior to this run of issues?) but first bumps into a young man roughing up an older gentleman. Naturally, GL takes the older guys’s side and sends his assailant off to police headquarters for booking, which results in the area’s remaining citizens promptly pelting him with trash.

Green Arrow appears and explains that the fellow GL just saved, Jubal Slade, is a slum lord with plans to demolish the tenement housing the young man who attacked him, along with numerous other Star Citizens. Arrow takes GL on a quick tour of the building, which leads to our afore-mentioned false premise: an older black man confronts the Lantern, calling him out for working for “the blue skins” and helping the “orange skins” and “purple skins” but doing nothing for the black skins. Ashamed, Green Lantern has no rebuttal.

John Byrne, not exactly renowned for his racial sensitivity, nonetheless has an excellent point about this scene: Green Lantern has saved Earth countless times. He has saved the entire human race countless times. He has, therefore, saved the “black skins” countless times. He is above such things as petty racism. He routinely battles threats of intergalactic proportions. Going out of his way to help any particular race is absurd because he goes out of his way to help the entire human race every day.

Nonetheless, Denny O’Neil needs someone to represent “The Man” in his social allegory, so he's chosen to turn Hal Jordan into a blind follower and heavy-handed authority figure ready and waiting to be brought low and have his eyes opened by Green Arrow’s progressive attitude.

Long story short, our heroes get Slade arrested (and I have no problem with this; the guy’s an utter slimeball even if what he's doing is technically legal) and then Green Arrow gives a speech to one of the Guardians, GL’s superiors, about coming down to Earth to walk among the common man. Surprisingly, the Guardian agrees and soon he, Hal, and Green Arrow’s alter ego, Oliver Queen, set out in a pickup truck to see the country and cure its social ills.

One issue in and I'm unimpressed with this classic run, though the Neal Adams artwork is gorgeous and O’Neil’s scripting is fun.


Traveling through a nondescript mountain range, Green Lantern, Green Arrow, and the Guardian fall in with a group of miners rebelling against their tyrannical boss, Slapper Soames, and his Nazi war criminal security squad in a town called Desolation. Green Lantern faces a crisis of conscience and learns that the Guardians have severely dialed back the power of his ring while he's on leave, but nonetheless our heroes win the day.

This story is a bit more of a straightforward action tale. There's still some commentary, but it's not nearly as preachy as in the prior issue, so I have no real problem with it. My main concern instead is that, even with his power ring functioning at partial capacity, Green Lantern is a really incongruous fit for this type of “street level” story. I assume Green Arrow was added as the series’ co-headliner in an attempt to boost sales and not strictly from a storytelling perspective, I can't help feeling some other less powerful hero would've been a better fit to travel the country with the Emerald Archer. (Of course if that were so, you'd lose out on the novelty of DC’s two “green” characters working together.)


Our next tale finds the emerald duo and their alien companion in Washington State, where they tussle with a motorcycle gang and then save Black Canary from a hate-cult presided over by a mentalist named Joshua. The story’s not bad, and the message is perhaps a bit heavier handed than in the prior tale – but not nearly as ham-fisted as in the original chapter. This time our heroes wonder about the nature of racism and suspect that every human has the capacity in his or her soul to hate, and possibly to kill, a member of another race.

Of note is that O’Neil drops a Native American cook into the story when the group stops for lunch, and he conversationally refers to himself as a “red man” while continually calling his guests things like “paleface” and “white eyes”. I'm unsure if this is all in earnest on O’Neil’s part – this was, after all, pretty common language, at least in fiction, circa the early seventies – or if it's a sly way to inject some casual racism into the story before we learn that its core is, in fact, a question of race-hate.

We also see the motorcycle gang beat up Black Canary and steal her motorcycle (built for her by Superman, of all characters, in JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #75), leaving her unconscious by the side of the road – and I'm thankful that's all they do. A DC comic in recent years would have almost certainly had her raped as well.

Speaking of the Canary, I should note the inks by Frank Giacoia here. In my lifetime, my exposure to Neal Adams has been pretty much exclusively his original Batman work and his short X-MEN run, where he was inked by Dick Giordano and Tom Palmer, respectively. This is practically my very first time seeing Adams inked by anyone other than those two or himself. And while Giacoia does a fine job of remaining true to Adams’ signature style in most places, he seriously glams up Black Canary to the point that she looks more like a “Giacoia girl” than an “Adams girl” – and I can't complain about the results. She's really quite striking here.


  1. Green Lantern has saved Earth countless times. He has saved the entire human race countless times. He has, therefore, saved the “black skins” countless times. He is above such things as petty racism.

    Above, like on a lonely orbital satellite, saving the mankind from external threats from time to time, but utterly helpless in saving it from itself? ;)

    I don't know. I like problems being solved with excess amount of plasma being wielded towards it as much as the next guy, but... I kind of have to admire the famously liberally-slanted creators in their early attempts in trying to find a way to make the supposed superheroes connnect with the other kind of ills in the world than gimmicky bank robbers, all within the genre limits. It's an issue you can't keep beating the bush around endlessly, and maybe it's just fitting that it's builds up to be a big thematic in those vaunted works of mid-80's that left the genre a bit wrecked, if we understand the nuclear war to be the biggest imaginable societal ill. Alan Moore having the Comedian point just that out in the Crimebusters reunion of '62 in WATCHMEN (and Ozymandias' solution to it) really emptied the slot machine, and maybe that was why superhero comics had such a hard time carrying onwards from that point.

    1. Honestly, I would have less of an issue with this if O'Neil and Adams had taken the route you joked about in your first sentence! Have the guy berate Green Lantern for spending too much time on the "big picture" and not looking out for the little guy. I could buy that. He's so engrossed in saving the world every day that he has no time for the "common man". It's mainly just the racial aspect, which seems really poorly thought out, that bugs me. If they'd made this out as a class thing rather than a race thing, I'd be on board.

    2. It almost reads like the old man was being a bit too racially aware when berating Green Lantern for the (possibly) justified issue of having no time for the common man in general.

      As you brought up, only two issues later there was the Native American cook similarly conscious of his and his patrons' race. I can't read it was meant as normal parlance without intended relevance when the very comic deals with issues like racism. So, maybe both instances were subtle hints of the dangers of digging yourself too deep into racial trenches when many issues like poverty can be common-human.

    3. It's certainly possible I'm not reading deep enough into this stuff. Metaphor and symbolism have never been especially exciting for me! (Yet somehow I minored in English...)


  2. I think my first issues of Green Lantern, outside of a DC Special with reprints, were early in the GL/GA revival again written by O’Neil and drawn by Mike Grell. Whenever it was I finally read this stuff I had essentially the same reaction as what you quote Byrne as saying, mixed with what Teemu suggests above. Plus, I found it hard to shake the notion that however personally enriching Hal’s odyssey with Ollie might be the whole point of being a Green Lantern is to protect and patrol an entire sector of space.

    1. I had one issue of the GL/GA Grell run when I was a very little kid -- like, I'm not even sure I could read yet. It may have been my first exposure to Green Lantern and probably explains why I've always thought he was a really cool character.

      As far as Hal's travels with Ollie, it occurs to me that since he takes a formal leave of absence from the Green Lantern Corps for their trip, wouldn't you think his backup, Guy Gardner, might've been activated to cover for him? But that doesn't seem to be the case as we see some issues later, so who filled in while he was "off duty"?