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Thursday, January 21, 2016

Review of Green Lantern v2 #133 to #151 (1981 - 1983): Marv Wolfman’s run

After Green Arrow was evicted from the series, Green Lantern v2 began to get a whole lot better. (Green Arrow already had a long residency as a feature in World Finest v1 since 1977 - so don’t feel too sorry for him.) Denny O'Neil, who had been writing Green Lantern since it’s DC Explosion revival in 1976 (Green Lantern v2 #90), wrote another six issues after Green Arrow had been booted out of the series and then left DC to work for Marvel comics in 1980. In his last six issues of Green Lantern, O'Neil managed to return Hal Jordan to his roots - Carol Ferris was re-instated as a potential love interest, Thomas Kalmaku (AKA Pieface) was back to being his sidekick, and Hal Jordan was once again a test pilot for Ferris Airlines. Another element O'Neil brought back was Hal Jordan’s arch-nemesis Sinestro - most of O'Neil’s final six issues involved a running plot of Hal Jordan battling Sinestro (with a dash of classic Green Lantern villains Hector Hammond and Star Sapphire thrown in for good measure). Whether it was a good time for O'Neil to cut and run from DC was up for debate as he had previously killed off Batwoman (Kathy Kane) in the pages of Detective Comics that very same summer.

Green Lantern v2 issues #130 to #132 had guest writers. Bob Rozakis wrote issue #130, Mike W Barr wrote #131 and Paul Kupperberg wrote issue #132. What’s noteworthy about these issues is that we’re starting to see more of Green Lantern’s classical villains appear (Sonar and Evil Star). Another interesting development was occurring: now that Green Lantern wasn’t tethered to Green Arrow, there was more room to explore the Green Lantern mythos, and that included the Green Lantern Corps. The Green Lantern Corps played a prominent role in a few of O'Neil’s post-Green Arrow issues, but more importantly, the Green Lantern Corps received a back-up feature in Green Lantern v2 #130. Written by Bob Toomey and drawn by Alex Saviuk, the Green Lantern Corps stories were some previously completed but unpublished work that finally had a chance to be printed. Fans loved the concept and demanded more Green Lantern Corps stories. [more about that later]

Green Lantern v2 #132 saw a price jump from forty to fifty cents - this involved an extra eight pages of story and this is when Adam Strange became a back-up feature. Written by Laurie Sutton, the Adam Strange back-ups would run until Green Lantern v2 #147. There would be another price increase to 60 cents by issue #144, for an extra 2 pages of story in 1981.

Marv Wolfman became the regular writer for Green Lantern v2 at issue #133. DC comics acquired the talented Mr. Wolfman after he had just left Marvel comics due to a dispute with Marvel’s editor-in-chief, Jim Shooter. Building on the momentum of O'Neil’s ‘back-to-basics’ approach for Hal Jordan, the first thing Wolfman did when he started writing Green Lantern was to shine up all of Hal Jordan’s relationships that had gotten a little vague over the last 20 years. He aimed to bring Hal and Carol Ferris back together, get all the characters set up, give Hal some new friends and create a new support cast as a launching pad for more stories. Wolfman also continued with the hit parade of classic Green Lantern villain appearances: Dr Polaris, Goldface, and Black Hand all appeared during Wolfman’s run. Interesting to note that Wolfman tried to make Goldface THE arch-foe of Hal Jordan. He wanted a foe whose super-powers were less important than the threat of his very existence. Wolfman also brought back an old one-time Green Lantern foe, The Tattooed Man, only to have him killed off*. This was possibly one of the first times a Green Lantern foe had been killed off - fans were a little annoyed by that little stunt. Wolfman explained that the Tattooed Man was killed off because his powers weren’t unique. Wolfman introduces the Omega Men (and the Vegan Star System) in Green Lantern v2 #141 (this would spin-off into it’s own series).

Long-time readers will most likely remember Wolfman as the writer who 'humanized’ Hal Jordan. Wolfman believed that what made a series work were the characters - if they are interesting and if their problems are engrossing. He believed that a blend of good stories, good characters and situations, coupled with interesting action sequences was the key to a successful series. Wolfman and his editors (Jack C Harris, Len Wein, Cary Burkett and Dave Manak) decided to infuse a stronger personality in Hal Jordan (more so than done in the past). Wolfman really tried to get to the 'root’ of Hal Jordan. Another interesting plot element that Wolfman likes to explore is the masked crime fighter versus the legal system angle (as seen in Green Lantern v2 #145 - #146) - Wolfman would further explore this idea in his 1983 Vigilante series.

As you are also probably well aware, Marv Wolfman was the mastermind behind the Crisis On Infinite Earths event - a grand gesture intended to make DC’s continuity way less confusing. You begin to recognize that Wolfman was making a concentrated effort to establish a DC-wide continuity in his Green Lantern v2 run:

  1. Re-introduction of older characters to a modern audience. These include Space Ranger from Green Lantern v2 #136 - #137, and Bruce Gordon/Eclipso from Green Lantern v2 #136 - #138. Wolfman is a stickler for cohesion, and demonstrating that characters from the old DC anthologies were still an active part of DC continuity is a major part of crafting a sense that everything is tied together and occupying the same universe.
  2. Integrating characters from another title into the storyline. The Gordanians make an appearance and the H.I.V.E. are mentioned. Both sets of characters are from the New Teen Titans series that Wolfman was also writing at the same time. Most fans don’t realize this, but Wolfman was writing New Teen Titans, Action Comics and Adventure Comics while he was writing Green Lantern v2. Integrating characters from another series as a way to create cohesion within the DC universe.
  3. Answers the age-old question: if Hal Jordan was facing a global threat, where were all the other heroes? During Green Lantern’s battle with Eclipso, Wolfman made a point to show the rest of the Justice League’s efforts in combating the threat. Trying to keep the idea that although all of these characters occupy different comic book titles, they all occupy the same planet. 
  4. Wolfman addresses problems about Green Lantern v2 not meshing with prior DC history (case in point: Green Lantern v2 #136-#137 contradicts 1978’s Showcase #100). Wolfman explains that someday soon they will straighten all of that out (pre-lude to Crisis on Infinite Earths?). 
  5. Wolfman later incorporates some pre-existing Guardians of OA history into Crisis on Infinite Earths. The scene where a rogue Guardian (Krona) tries to view the creation of the universe thus unleashing the anti-monitor already existed prior to Crisis on Infinite Earths being written - Wolfman just retconned it slightly without altering anything major to meet the story’s needs. The Guardians of OA would come to play a major part in post-Crisis DC continuity (see: Millennium event)

The last issue of Wolfman’s Green Lantern v2 run was issue #151 - after which he plotted issues #152 and #153 (while Gary Cohn and Dan Mishkin scripted) and became co-editor with Ernie Colon shortly thereafter. Wolfman dropped the series because he was too busy with the Teen Titans, Action Comics and the new horror/adventure series that he was planning. Wolfman left the series sending Hal Jordan in a new sci-fi direction (banished from earth by the Guardians of OA), his view was to get Hal off of Earth - Wolfman reasoned that Hal should be the Green Lantern of his entire space sector, not just the planet Earth. Green Lantern v2 #155 was the last issue pencilled by Joe Staton (Keith Pollard took over pencilling chores afterwards) - Staton would return as regular Green Lantern penciller two years later. 

What was Wolfman’s impact on Green Lantern during his two year run? Green Lantern’s sales were very good when Wolfman took over, but dipped quite badly after the Space Ranger story arc. Sales of the series started climbing again after the introduction of the Omega Men. Sales for Green Lantern v2 were really high as of issue #147, so Wolfman left the series in pretty good health when Mike W Barr took over as regular writer.

While Wolfman’s excellent writing, characterization and new direction for the series during this time period is definitely worth noting, I’d say the biggest development during this two year period was the Green Lantern Corps taking a more prominent role in the Green Lantern mythos. The Green Lantern Corps appeared in Green Lantern v2 #127 (while O'Neil was writing) and there seemed to be a pretty good response from the fans, so the Corps started to get a little bit more exposure in the series.

In 1981, a 3 issue mini-series written by Len Wein and Mike W Barr was published titled Tales of the Green Lantern Corps that mainly focused on the Corps as a single unit (this included Hal Jordan). Various Green Lantern stories in the past had featured alien Green Lanterns in one-off team-up stories, but suddenly it was made aware that the Green Lantern Corps consisted of a diverse race of aliens with it’s own culture.

The critical and sales impact of the Tales of Green Lantern Corps mini-series had a notable impact on Green Lantern v2 - lead stories began to have more alien Green Lantern Corps members and, as a result, more Green Lantern Corps members (Ch'P, Salaak, Arisia, Galius Zed, etc…) were introduced in the pages of Green Lantern v2. The Green Lantern Corps were so popular with the readers that the Adam Strange back-up feature was removed (#148) in favor of more Green Lantern Corps back-up features appearing instead. Paul Kupperberg (who was fresh on his stint from DC’s Ghosts) was writing said back-up tales and Don Newton and/or Carmine Infantino was illustrating. Incedentaly, Kupperberg/Infantino also worked together on 1982’s New Adventures of Supergirl series.

*In possibly THE most obscure spin-off ever, the Tattooed Man received his own Vertigo mini-series in 1993:  Skin Graft: The Adventures of a Tattooed Man written by Jerry Prosser and illustrated by Warren Pleece.

This article first published in June 2014.

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