The Green Lantern is well-known, but when I hear someone say something like “the Green Lantern did this,” or “I like the Green Lantern,” or “I’m not really into the Green Lantern,” I often wonder which dude they’re talking about because DC has a bazillion Green Lanterns. I read comic books, and even I have a problem at times, so how do non-comics fans do it?
Between Hal Jordan, Guy Gardner, John Stewart, Kyle Rayner, Alan Scott, and the umpty-jillion other Green Lanterns, that corner of the DC Universe is mighty crowded.
It may take a wee bit of explaining for those you who don’t know much about the characters, so here we go. In DC land, the Green Lantern Corps comprises a bunch people who wear green power rings that give them powers. They charge these rings with green energy from cosmic lanterns (hence the codename “Green Lantern”) so they can fly and use the energy to either shoot blasts or create solid objects out of almost anything they can think of. There are tons of green rings all over space, which means there are tons of people wearing them, so we’re talking, like, THOUSANDS of Green Lantern superheroes here.
And even more confusing, one of the Green Lanterns, Alan Scott, got his powers from somewhere else: a magical energy source / sentient being called the Starheart. And according to the DC Comics Database, the Starheart was distantly related to the cosmic energy source that gave those OTHER Green Lanterns their powers. So yeah…. confusing.
Alan Scott’s been around since 1940, Hal Jordan since the 1950s, and other lanterns have popped up in the decades since, so DC has been confusing the hell out of us for generations. And that’s just in comics; movies and TV haven’t made it better. The Green Lantern movie and the current computer-animated cartoon feature Hal Jordan, and the Justice League Unlimited cartoon features John Stewart. Who knows WHO DC will have wearing the ring if the Justice League movie comes around.
Now, I may be making mountains out of molehills for you if you’re a comic book fan. You probably already know about Green Lantern history, possibly better than I do. But if you didn’t read comics, don’t you think it might be tough figuring this stuff out? (And let’s not get into all those other lantern colors out there, and how some of these folks switch ring teams. These days, being a Green Lantern fan takes a damn master’s degree to keep up with this mess.)
I think the Green Lantern legacy is interesting, but I wonder if its pop culture potency has been diluted over the years. There have been fewer guys calling themselves Superman, Batman, Captain America, and Spider-Man than there have been calling themselves Green Lantern. Does this make being a Green Lantern less special or unique? Has the title’s importance diminished over time?