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Wednesday, October 6, 2021

The *other* Green Lantern: Emerald Twilight story -- how we almost NEVER got a Kyle Rayner

Sometimes, we here at DC in the 80s stumble onto a twitter thread SO interesting and informative that we fear if twitter ever crashed and all tweet history was deleted that this info would be lost forever. This is a twitter thread written by Dave Shevlin (founder of Comfort Food Comics) that met the above criteria, who (with his permission, of course) allowed us to give his thread a permanent home until he says otherwise. All words were written by Dave Shevlin. All research was done by Dave Shevlin. If you want to quote any of this, please credit Dave Shevlin. If you'd like to contact Dave, send us an e-mail and we'll forward it to him.

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Original posting date: October 28, 2019

Ok, so we're gonna talk about Green Lantern: Emerald Twilight. How we almost never got Kyle Rayner. How Gerard Jones had a very different story in mind. We're gonna talk about how DC made the drastic, correct decision. We're gonna discuss H.E.A.T.

I am gonna preface this by saying: Former Green Lantern writer Gerard Jones was sentenced to 6 years in federal prison for child pornography charges in 2018. There is no debate here. The man is a literal monster. Absolutely disgusting. Cancel culture exists to shun a man like this.

This thread is not to support his work or encourage you to seek it out. Please do not. Rather, its to showcase comics history & show you how we dodged a huge bullet & he was rightfully fired off Green Lantern & we got one of the best runs in comic history with Ron Marz.

So, historical context: Green Lantern as a franchise was struggling in the late 80's. It didn't have its own series, it was running in Action comics Weekly with some odd specials here & there. Hal Jordan wasn't that huge. In 1990 Green Lantern Volume 3 was launched by Jones:

Your mileage may vary on Jones' run & what he did for the GL franchise. The gist of his run is showing how OLD Hal Jordan is. He spends most of the series as an old drifter, wandering the country, with some fresh greyed hair. It is by no means an exciting book with Hal as the lead.

Anyways, this series runs for several years with Jones always battling with his editor Kevin Dooley about its contents. Meanwhile in the Return of Superman story, Hal Jordan's hometown, Coast City is destroyed by Cyborg Superman & Mongul.

Now this is followed up in Green Lantern 46 & 47 by Gerard Jones. Here's the last page of GL #47:


Hal certainly seems ok with everything that happened & he's ready to move on to some other story. Doesn't seem like he's gonna lose it & go crazy over the loss of Coast City, does he?

That's because Ron Marz' Emerald Twilight was originally not planned! Jones had his own version of Emerald Twilight planned. It was even solicited with house ads for it even appearing in books at the time!! Here's the house ad that was to be the cover of GL #48 by Kevin Maguire:

Here are the original previews that were sent out to retailers for Green Lantern issues 48 & 49:

GL 48 by Jones, Cobbs,& Tanghal 

"Superman and the Justice League gather by Green Lantern's side as Hal confronts the horror of the destruction of Coast City. Meanwhile on Oa, the Guardians of the Universe find themselves fighting a lethal battle against the Guardians of the Universe?"

GL 49 by G. Jones, Haynes, & Tanghal 

"Green Lantern is caught up in a battle raging between two equally powerful groups of the Guardians of the Universe. Hal's side loses, and the winners' first act is to take away the power rings' 24-hour time limit, and their yellow impurity Their second act is to appoint a new leader of the Green Lantern Corps --- Sinestro! This issue leads directly into the landmark Green Lantern #50, a major turning point for the series."

So as you can see we almost got a VERY different course of action for Green Lantern in the 90s. Now those are hints of the original proposed plan, but Jones actually went into it all in interviews & a plot synopsis. Here is Jones' original plot for Emerald Twilight in its entirety:

"The destruction of Coast City and his breakup with Carol make Hal realize that he can't find the roots he wants on earth. He's inspired by the memories of the dead, especially his father, to become a better hero; he decides he must affirm himself first and foremost as a Green Lantern, finding his community in the Corps. But when he goes to Oa for the big swearing-in ceremony of all the new GLs, a new group of Guardians appears, claiming to be the true Guardians.

These "New" Guardians claim that the "Old" Guardians are impostors who plan to use the GL Corps to reduce the universe to chaos. The Old group counters that the New ones are impostors who plan to use the GLs to subject the universe to tyranny in the name of "order". Adding credence to the New Guardians' claim--and raising the stakes--are the Zamarons, convinced that they are their husbands. The Zams are about to give birth to the ultimate Cosmic Children, whose power will be such that whoever controls them can control the cosmos. The fate of the universe--chaos or tyranny--hinges on whichever set of Guardians can win over the GL Corps and gain control of the Children.

Hal--who knows the Guardians as no other GLs do, having seen the Old Timer at his most human and vulnerable, and having gone through his conflict with them and his "act of faith" in GL 35--knows in his gut that the New Guardians are the impostors. But the weight of evidence is against him and he can't convince the other GLs (the "Twelve Angry Men" dynamic).Hal has a choice: break with the GL Corps, now his only hope for community and belonging; or collude with something he feels will reduce the universe to tyranny. Hal chooses the former.

He enters the battery to increase his power, fights the Corps and takes the Old Guardians into hiding as he seeks a way to convince his fellow GLs or beat the New Guardians. The stakes for Hal are high: if he's RIGHT about the New Guardians, but they WIN, then the universe is doomed. If he's WRONG in his gut-feeling and HE wins, then HE'S doomed the universe. If he's WRONG and he LOSES, then the universe is okay but Hal is ostracized from the only group that means anything to him. The pressure is on him not only to win, but to be damn sure he's right.

The New Guardians announce their new leader of the GL Corps: Sinestro, renowned for his devotion to order before he broke with the GL Corps. He whips the Corps into a paramilitary group and starts a program of "good" but ruthless acts: like destroying the Khund homeworld. Hal sends his only ally, Star Sapphire, to appeal to her fellow Zamarons. She learns some things about the way the New Guardians convinced them of their legitimacy that suggest to Hal that the power behind the New Guardians is ENTROPY.

Hal contacts the confused but sympathetic Arisia, trying to argue his point with other GLs through her. But Sinestro has them all wowed or cowed...and when Kilowog throws in with Sinestro and his tough new approach, Hal feels his struggle to win over the Corps is becoming hopeless. Hal returns to the Coast City monument, to commune with the memory of his father, whose grave was destroyed along with the city. But the Hunter GLs-revived by Sinestro to police the Corps' internal affairs--catch him there.

He escapes for the moment, but they've destroyed his ring. But the inspiration of Hal's dad makes him want to find a way to keep fighting, and he discovers that he has power within him. His trip into the battery enabled him to internalize his power, but he couldn't realize that as long as he felt he needed his ring, and the Corps. Hal fights back, knowing he may have to fight alone to his death, and defeats the Hunters.

Sinestro reacts to this by getting even tougher with the Corps and speeding up his acts of "purification," and some GLs begin to wonder if Hal was right. The Zamarons, meanwhile, are about to give birth, which would give the New Guardians the power they need to take control of the universe no matter what Hal does. The clock is ticking faster and faster. Star Sapphire, acting under Hal's instructions, learns enough about the New Guardians through the Zamarons to start forcing Entropy to show his hand.

Hal gathers DC earth-heroes to join him against the Corps. When Sinestro tries to send the whole Corps against Hal and his allies, Arisia rediscovers her nerve and fights back against him. Other disaffected GLs join her--but not enough to stop the rest. Arisia's splinter group flees into space, is nearly caught and destroyed by Sinestro's group...but are saved at the last moment by Hal.

Hal now leads his rag-tag band of heroes and rebel GLs against Sinestro on Oa. But Entropy, through the New Guardians, throws him a curve: they reveal to Hal that his father didn't die by accident; his death was arranged by the Old Guardians.... who saw the potential for a great GL in Hal but foresaw that he would need a trauma to make him the fearless man he could be.

At the moment before the final conflict, Hal is shaken to the core: can he fight to defend the beings who killed his father? Hal realizes that his private grief and rage means nothing against the fate of the universe. He fights for the old Guardians despite what they did. The babies are about to be born. The New Guardians capture Sapphire and are about to kill her. The battle begins.

Hal goes head to head with Kilowog, the most painful battle of either of their lives. In the heat of conflict, though, Sinestro begins to reveal his true, wretched self. Hal tricks him into showing his true colors. Kilowog realizes he's been suckered. Enraged, he joins Hal's side. Sinestro's support collapses. The New Guardians dissolve, revealing themselves as mere manifestations of Entropy, and Entropy throws himself personally into the fray. His goal all along has been to reduce the universe to lifeless entropy by robbing it of its life, its ability to change. Too much order (Sinestro) is essentially equal to too much chaos (Entropy). The Old Guardians represent the right way, the way of Life. Now he's about to seize the Children as they're born.

The Old Guardians show up--thanks to Hal's power--and tip the battle. They snatch the babies from Entropy at the last moment. The GLs turn on him. He's destroyed. All seems well. Deceived GLs are forgiven. The Guardians send the Corps off to do its thing while they tend to the Children who will become the greatest powers in the universe.

But all isn't well with Hal. He fought for the Guardians, because it was right, but he can't go on serving the cosmic manipulators who killed his father. They say they don't do things like that anymore, but it's too late. Hal has his own internal power now, and he's learned that he fights best alone. He won't be manipulated again. He goes off to become the Protector!!"


... AND THATS THE END OF THE PROPOSAL! There are a lot of similarities in the proposed & realized Emerald Twilight: Sinestro, Hal fighting the GL's, Hal taking on a new identity clearing the way for a new fresh Lantern to take over the book.

Jones had this to say about it all in a Fanzing interview about his proposed plans:

"Even before Paul, Mike and others said so, (GL Editor) Kevin Dooley and I were talking about using issue 50 to turn everything upside down, bring in a new Green Lantern, give Hal an indefinite break, and get back to basic, exciting stories. 

Unfortunately, Denny O'Neil, who was Kevin's boss, and Paul Levitz and Mike Carlin, didn't feel it was big enough to turn around readers' perceptions of what by then had been a lousy comic for about a year. Particularly if the writer stayed the same. 

As Denny said to me later, sometimes the market has to see that a complete creative shift is occurring, including the creative team. Which makes total sense, although at the time I was very angry and frustrated. This whole series was my frustration, the series I really wanted to make great but that for four years had never felt like mine, and here I saw a chance to start over and make it good at last, and I just couldn't get there. 

What I feel worst about in retrospect is that Kevin was apparently going to bat for me again and again with his bosses, but because he wasn't free to tell me what was going on behind the scenes, and because I was mad at him about other petty crap, I blamed him. I criticized him to his bosses, wrote a nasty fax, really puerile ways to blow off my frustration. I apologized later, and I think everyone understood that I was just a clueless freelancer, 3000 miles away. But it was an ugly finish. I quit so they didn't have to fire me. 

Then they had an emergency plotting session, Paul, Mike, Denny, Archie [Goodwin], and Kevin, and they handed that plot to Ron Marz, who was coming up at the time, had worked with [Jim] Starlin, had a cosmic resume going. 

First, I hasten to say that "The Protector" was a working title! We were going to do better than that! But yeah, there was going to be a new, younger GL, which I'd originally preferred to doing a Hal who was too burdened by the ball and chain of continuity. Hal would have popped in and out, maybe gotten his own miniseries, and then maybe or maybe not have become a GL again. I had various thoughts about the down-the-road story. But issue 51 would have been the introduction of a new GL, a completely new character, who was still in the vaguest development when it all ended."

SO! What happened next?? DC, in a real pickle here has Jones leave the title, but a huge supposed "Break the Bat"/"Death of Superman" Green Lantern Emerald Twilight story has been solicited. In an emergency situation they turn to Ron Marz, who has this to say:

"I got a call late on a Friday night offering me the book," says Marz of 1993. "I'd actually been down in New York for the day at the Marvel offices. I came home, my wife and I went out for a quick dinner, and then I guess around 9 o'clock the phone rang and it was Kevin Dooley offering me the job. Mike Carlin, Archie Goodwin and Denny O'Neil were in the room, as well as Eddie Berganza, who was Kevin's assistant at the time. I believe Paul Levitz might well have been there too."

"Kevin said he wanted me to take over 'GL' because the book needed a fresh direction I was excited, because I'd always thought Hal was a pretty cool character, and I love that costume. And then the other shoe dropped. Kevin explained what was planned, essentially removing Hal from the book and replacing him with a GL that I would make up. Pretty serious stuff. The real kicker, and I swear to God this is true, is I was wearing a Hal T-shirt when I got the call. It was one of those pocket T-shirts from the Warner Bros. Stores. I still have it."

So Ron Marz takes over the books with a plot & we got what was published. Hal Jordan, utterly broken by the destruction of Coast City jarringly tries to remake it in his image with his ring. Stopped by the Guardians & gone mad with grief, he destroys the Corps & becomes Parallax:

The response to this was shock. Some people loved the new direction & Parallax. Others thought it the most disrespectful thing ever done, spawning one of the most toxic, awful fanbases ever: H.E.A.T. - Hal's Emerald Advancement Team. On newsgroups, Prodigy, GeoCities sites, AOL rooms, CompuServe & all of the other 1994 internet chat rooms of the time, people enraged over this direction came together. They harassed DC, sending death threats & countless awful messages to the writers & editors. These fans together made H.E.A.T. whose mission was: As Green Lantern fans, it is our goal to encourage and advocate the return and exoneration of Hal Jordan as Green Lantern, the restoration of the Green Lantern legends, and the revival of the honorable Green Lantern Corps.

This is one of the first recorded toxic fanbase groups. They did not die down, they did not quit. In 1997 they took out a full page ad in Wizard Magazine. These people were unhealthily obsessed:

They are infamous for spending more than 5-10 years trying to harass DC & anyone who would listen into reversing this story & putting Hal back on top as a character. They are a clear cut case in what not to do as a comic fan.

In 1997, Will Allred of Quantum Zone interviewed Jack Grimes from H.E.A.T. detailing his efforts to advance Hal. Here's a few interactions from the interview:

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Allred: Now that we know I'm a fanboy, could you give us a little background on how this project got started?

Grimes: Well, I had had the idea for a Hal/Green Lantern Corps advertisement swirling around in my head since the Green Lantern Corps page's "Green Lantern Corps Petition" really started taking off, racking up something like 50 signatures a month. I just didn't have the initiative (nor the time) to investigate. That is, until late August, when friend and fellow Green Lantern fan Harry Philipo publicly suggested taking out an ad to the "regulars" on AOL's DC Online GL message board. When almost a dozen people immediately pledged at least $20, I figured we might actually have a shot at it, and I e-mailed them with my interest in organizing the ad. We did some investigating and found the ad rates for a few industry magazines. Despite the vastly greater cost in Wizard, we decided to make the biggest impact possible and go with the industry's most widely distributed magazine. Kevin Huxford opened communication lines with Wizard, which I then followed. Joe Sturgeon and Harry lent their computer graphics talents in constructing the ad itself, which I chose the image and wrote copy for, while I drummed up support on the Internet from the most publicly adamant fans.

Allred: You've got the ad. What do you hope to accomplish with it?

Grimes: Obviously, we want to see Hal Jordan in a prominent, heroic position again in the DC Universe, and the Green Lantern concept enriched once more with the mythology of the Corps. But at the core of it, it's to send a united message to DC, and all comic companies. A message that says long-time fans are tired of taking a back seat to hot trends and disposable incomes. And a message to fans of Hal and the Corps letting them know that they are not alone.

Allred: Do you think it will work and bring Hal and the Corps back?

Grimes: I don't see why not. We certainly aren't calling for the end of the Kyle Rayner Green Lantern. There's no way we'd wish "Emerald Twilight" on any comic fan, no matter the character. What we would like to see is in everyone's best interest: a bigger, brighter, more successful GREEN LANTERN.

Allred: How do you think those at DC will react?

Grimes: The optimist in me says, "Immediately hire Kurt Busiek." The pessimist in me echoes one comic professional I contacted for contributions (I contacted several, and most sent their best wishes of support, but declined to donate due to conflict of interest), who said that DC might treat the ad as a joke. But I really don't know how DC will respond...if past experience is any indicator, they'll probably shrug it off as the "cries of the loud minority," but this is a unique situation. I truly hope and expect them to take us seriously and at least consider where we are coming from.

Allred: Anything else to add?

Grimes: I'd just like to make it clear to all Kyle Rayner fans that we are not calling for replacement. We're calling for expansion and restoration. And, I'd like to once again thank all those that helped make this ad possible!

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Now, personally, I love Emerald Twilight. Do I think its a jarring, sudden story? Yes, very much so. But I always point to Superman 83 as a integral piece of the puzzle a lot of people may have missed which comes between GL 47 & 48 and shows Hal on the cusp of cruel madness.

In response to fan backlash, Marz had this to say: (source: Emerald Archive: Ron Marz answers every question regarding 'Green Lantern')

"Look, people are going to believe what they want to believe. But if there are actually people out there thinking it was somehow my life's goal to 'destroy' Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern mythos ... please, seek help. I was offered a job. The job had certain parameters. I took the offer and worked within those parameters, and did the best job I could." 

"The truth is, if I hadn't written Emerald Twilight, someone else would have, and the story would have been substantially the same. That's by no means an effort to pass the 'blame.' I did write those stories, and if you don't like them, feel free to blame me because, yes, my name is in the credits box." 

"I still think 'ET' was a gutsy move by DC at the time. To effect permanent change upon one of your top characters is brave. I liked Hal as a character. I still do. But he'd been badly handled for a number of years prior to my tenure. I can remember picking up the first few issues of what was then the new GL series, and coming away just not caring because Hal seemed like a wuss wandering the country searching for … whatever. This was a fearless test pilot?" 

"So the thinking at the time was that something drastic was needed, something that would attract a lot of attention back to what had become a moribund franchise. That much worked. When I agreed to take the book, issues #48, #49 and #50 were all due." 

"The book was late, the planned issues had been pulled, and things had to get moving right now. So I wrote my first three issues at the same time. That's why there were three different artists on them. I remember writing part of issue #48 between sets at a Peter Gabriel concert. I found a quiet place where I could steal a few minutes to write." 

"The deadlines were that tight. I would have loved to write 'ET' over six issues. I think that's about the length that would have been necessary to really make Hal's descent believable and tragic. So what we ended up doing was a bit rushed because of circumstances, and I regret that. But if I'd had six issues, the events would have been generally the same. I just would have had more room for the character stuff. Sometimes you just have to play the cards you're dealt." 

"I had a few pages of notes from editorial, dictating the broad strokes of what needed to happen: Hal goes nuts, wipes out the Corps, kills Sinestro and blows up the Central Battery and the Guardians. The details were up to me."

"I decided to have Hal kill Kilowog on camera, because I felt we needed to feel the loss of a more known character to make this thing have some weight. I decided that Ganthet would be the one Guardian to survive, since he'd had some previous exposure." 

"I've never given much thought to what I would have done differently, because that wasn't a possibility at the time. As I said, though, more pages to tell the story would have been great. I had the most freedom to develop the new Green Lantern. DC just let me make up Kyle from scratch. The name, the look, the background, everything. I'm really thankful for as much leash as I had." 

"I guess I saw Hal as a classic character who had turned into a dull character that not many readers cared about. Very often it's not the character itself, it's the portrayal. And once readers become bored with a portrayal, it's very hard to get them to come back. 'ET' certainly jump-started interest in GL, so from that viewpoint, it was a success."

"As to whether it was necessary, apparently sales were sliding enough that something drastic was needed. Having read what was originally written and drawn for issues #48-#50, I can say that those issues would not have stoked interest in the series, because those issues were more of the same. That's not a qualitative judgment. I'm just saying that the material wasn't exciting enough to attract new readers."

So there we have it. All the behind the scenes drama surrounding Emerald Twilight & the huge change to Hal Jordan as a character by DC Comics.

Dave Shevlin

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The views and opinions expressed by Dave Shevlin are those of the author and do not reflect the official beliefs or opinions of DC in the 80's, its Editors, or other contributors. Any content provided by our bloggers or authors are of their opinion and are not intended to malign any religion, ethnic group, club, organization, company, individual or anyone or anything.

As mentioned, Dave Shevlin is the founder of Comfort Food Comics, which has it's own podcast (go ahead and give them a listen) and is passionate about comic binding. Check out his custom bound editions of the 1989 Mister Miracle ongoing series and Marv Wolfman-era Superman stories.

1 comment:

  1. H.E.A.T. never sent death threats, that was debunked years ago. BTW, they helped John Broome attend his only comic convention, created a Gil Kane scholarship at The Kubert School & sent 3000+ comics to children's hospitals. Plenty of "toxicity" from Kyle fans & Dooley himself as well.

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