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Showcase Presents Green Lantern Volume 1

1/09/2011. Contributed by Eamonn Murphy

Buy Showcase Presents Green Lantern Volume 1 in the USA - or Buy Showcase Presents Green Lantern Volume 1 in the UK

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pub: DC Comics. 528 page black and white graphic novel softcover. Price: about GBP11.50 (UK) if you know where to look. ISBN: 978-1-4012-2274-1.

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This bumper edition, over 500 pages in glorious black and white, has stories from ‘Showcase # 24-26’ and ‘Green Lantern # 1-17’. It all starts when test pilot Hal Jordan is sitting in a wingless pilot trainer. It takes flight and he finds himself moving through the air at fantastic speed. Bought in to land by a crashed spaceship, he finds Abin Sur, a dying alien with a green lantern power battery and a power ring which is effective for 24 hours once charged by the aforesaid battery. Scanning Hal with a green beam from the ring - well, a clear beam because this is black and white, Abin Sur finds that Hal is honest and fearless and so qualifies as his successor. Abin Sur breathes his last and Hal is left with green power that can do almost anything but is helpless against yellow stuff.

It's worth mentioning early that the power of the ring is completely illogical. It can scan minds, turn metal to water, blast things and create a monster that then goes out of control. At one point, Hal Jordan is dreaming that he turns his pal, Pieface, into a bird and the ring, obeying his unconscious commands, does it. Pieface is the nickname of Thomas Kalmaku, an Inuit who was Hal Jordan's mechanic. He is useful narratively as he knows Hal's other identity and gives our hero someone to chat to about his adventures. A ring that can do anything makes it easy for the writer to get the hero out of trouble but is not very good dramatically. As comics is a visual medium, the best bits are when GL uses it to create green things to use: safety nets, big hammers, big fists, shields, parachutes and so on.

Green Lantern goes extra-terrestrial early, in ‘Showcase # 23’, when a message from his lamp to 'the possessor of the power lamp in sector 2814' tells him there is an emergency on Venus. After flying there without the aid of a spaceship, protected by a green shield to keep air in, he finds primitive caveman humanoids menaced by a race of ruthless pterodactyls. Our hero goes interstellar in ‘Green Lantern # 1’, which also introduces the Guardians of the Universe, big heads of the Green Lantern Corps. After checking him out for suitability, they erase his memory of the encounter for some reason. He is then dispatched, again by a message from the lamp, to the planet Calor in the star system nearest ours, to save more cavemen from a monster. This issue also re-introduces the oath - 'In brightest day, in blackest night, no evil shall escape my sight, let those who worship evils might beware my power, Green Lantern's light!' I say re-introduces because, apparently modified, it was first used by the Golden Age Green Lantern.

Progressing fast, Hal goes inter-dimensional in ‘Green Lantern # 2’ when a decent chap from the evil universe of Qward comes to him for help. He is being hunted by a Destroyer who throws golden thunderbolts. This story dates from late 1960 and I'm bound to point out to Mister Roy Thomas - a writer I hold in the highest esteem - that he bears a not inconsiderable resemblance to Arkon, a yellow thunderbolt tossing villain from another dimension who troubled Marvel's Avengers a few years later.

In ‘Green Lantern # 6’, Hal is called to assist Tomar-Re, Green Lantern of the next sector along who is humanoid with a head like a budgie. Tomar-Re tells Hal about the Guardians of the Universe who have great knowledge and run the Green Lantern Corps. Hal, of course, has had the memory of his earlier encounter wiped so this is news to him. However, in the very next issue he gets to meet the Guardians and also comes up against his number one recurring villain, Sinestro. This long-headed n’er do well was Green Lantern of a world called Korugar in section 1417 and went bad while the Guardians weren't looking. When they noticed, they stripped him of his powers and sent him off to the evil universe of Qward but from there he launches attacks on Hal. With the Guardians, the Green Lantern Corps, Qward and Sinestro introduced the main features of the series are in place and the fun begins.

The stories are mostly by John Broome and the neat and tidy art is by Gil Kane, inked by Joe Giella or Murphy Anderson. While the art is excellent, the stories tend to stretch credibility a bit too far. It’s the sort of Science Fiction that flourished in the pulps before editor John Campbell got things straightened out. John Broome was born in 1913 and began writing for pulp magazines in the 1940s, soon moving on to comics. Speaking of former decades, there is something very 1950s about the early Silver Age DC, very buttoned-up and respectable, very Eisenhower era. The good people all wear suits and have regular jobs and nice wives or girl-friends with whom there is little emotional difficulty. Hal's girl-friend, Carol Ferris, seems to prefer Green Lantern to him but that's just a device to make stories, not a cause for real upset. It evokes no tears or fury from Hal, merely an occasional puzzled frown. All this is not bad by any means. It gives the stories a comfortable nostalgic feeling. Of course, things were not perfect back then and children's comics are hardly an accurate reflection of reality. Still, when us old folks get tired of the grim news on telly we can pull a DC Showcase off the shelves and retreat into the past. (Sigh!)

Eamonn Murphy

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