Green Lantern: Must-Read Comics
In brightest day, in blackest night, Warner Bros. has yet to get Green Lantern right!
11 years after the average-at-best, Ryan Reynolds’ Green Lantern (2011) feature film, and still with only the promise of an HBO Max production, fans wait. They wait like the refugees hoping for safe passage from Michael Curtiz’s Casablanca (1942).
They wait for a Green Lantern film everyone can enjoy and be proud of.
Other DC heroes certainly had their moments on the Silver Screen. Christopher Reeve made 70s’ cinemagoers believe a man could fly in Superman: The Movie (1978), and Heath Ledger brought well-deserved, Oscar-winning gravitas to Batman’s deadliest foe in The Dark Knight (2008).
However, the success of superhero films lies with storytelling more than on-screen talent.
In hindsight, Taika Waititi might have been the best thing to come out of the Green Lantern feature film flop. However, the best DC movies ultimately succeed thanks to their stories, not the actors and actresses starring in them. Granted, it’s hard to imagine The Dark Knight without Ledger’s Joker, but the film still would have succeeded without him because David S. Goyer, Christopher and Jonathan Nolan’s superb story is impeccably crafted.
Gal Gadot excels as Wonder Woman, but even she couldn’t save WW1984 (2020), and don’t get fans started on how George Clooney and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s talents were wasted on the travesty known as Batman & Robin (1997).
If Greg Berlanti, Michael Green, Marc Guggenheim and Michael Goldenberg (four screenwriters working on one script should have been a HUGE red flag) penned a worthwhile Green Lantern script, then the talented Ryan Reynolds, yes, he was perfectly cast as Hal Jordan, may have never become the chimichanga-eating, foul-mouthed Deadpool we all know and love today.
Perhaps Marvel fans should thank Berlanti, Green, Guggenheim and Goldenberg for not drawing from, and more accurately adapting, the seemingly endless library of Green Lantern source material. There are literally dozens upon dozens of compelling Green Lantern stories just begging to be adapted for the big screen.
In the spirit of seeing the Emerald Knight on top where he belongs, here are 5 must-read classic comics for Green Lantern fans which could translate into box office gold.
1. SOS Green Lantern (1959)
Yes, Hal Jordan’s origin story, and the first appearance of the beloved, Silver Age Green Lantern, graced the pages of Showcase No. 22 in the late 1950s. Hardcore Green Lantern fans all know the story of the dying alien, Abin Sur, who crashed on Earth and how he passed on his power ring to an unsuspecting test pilot.
However, what’s really unexpected is how much more emotional and effective the origin story comes across in the panels of that comic book compared to the 2011 film. If you want to get to know more about the Green Lanterns before the HBO Max production, this is a remarkable story to start with. Now, Showcase 22 doesn’t come cheap: CGC-graded 4.0 (Good) copies will run you upward of $6,000!
But be without fear just like the Green Lanterns, friends. Affordable reprints of Showcase No. 22 are available online, and the origin story is brilliantly retold in the six-part mini-series Emerald Dawn (1989-1990). ED is another must-read.
2. The Battle Of The Power Rings (1961)
While Sinestro had already been introduced as the Renegade Green Lantern two issues earlier, Green Lantern No. 9 revealed Sinestro made his own ring: A yellow band which steals its power from Green Lantern rings.
Intent on getting revenge against the Green Lanterns, Sinestro traps Hal in a cage, and then the Renegade Green Lantern impersonates Earth’s protector in order to ambush the Guardians on Oa. Hal manages to escape, and he races in to confront the Renegade Lantern.
Jordan realizes Sinestro’s yellow ring feeds off the Green Lanterns’ power rings, so Hal overloads Sinestro’s ring with more energy than it can handle, and the yellow power ring explodes!
Hal subdues his enemy. Along with the combined might of the Green Lantern Corps, Hal and the others then banish Sinestro into deep space.
3. The Secret Origin Of The Guardians (1965)
Green Lantern first appeared in All-American Comics No. 16 (1940), but a vastly different hero donned the power ring prior to the United States’ entry into World War II. Alan Scott was the Golden Age Green Lantern, but Hal Jordan took his place at the dawn of the Silver Age some 19 years later.
In 1965, DC thrilled comic book readers by bringing Scott back, and writer John Broome teamed him up with Jordan to face off against the alien scientist, Krona. Krona, in his first comic book appearance, began his siege by taking over Scott’s body. The mad scientist then attacked and defeated Hal Jordan in the body of the Golden Age Lantern.
Separated from his vessel, Scott’s soul helped Hal find Krona who, in the meantime, had taken the Guardians captive. Together, the heroes defeat Krona by using Alan Scott’s power ring against the scientist’s yellow shield. While Hal’s ring can’t affect anything yellow, the weakness of Alan’s ring is wood. Krona is taken by surprise, and Hal frees the Guardians.
Scott is returned to his body, and the stage is set for numerous Green Lantern team-ups in the comics. Green Lanterns joining forces could translate into any number of Silver Screen masterpieces featuring any number of fan-favorite Emerald Knights including Guy Gardner, John Stewart and Jessica Cruz.
4. They Say It'll Kill Me... But They Won't Say When (1971)
One of the most controversial stories coming out of the 1970s was written by comic book heavyweight Dennis O’Neil and drawn by the incomparable Neal Adams. Green Lantern No. 86 (1971) shocked readers as Oliver Queen aka the Green Arrow discovers his ward Speedy is addicted to heroin!
While Queen sets out to find the drug dealers who hooked his ward on the smack, Speedy ultimately admits his heroin addiction to Hal Jordan. While Speedy plans to quit the drug cold turkey, Hal brings Queen’s ward to Dinah Lance aka the Black Canary for help.
The story shows the vulnerable, human sides of our heroes, and its narrative is the very antithesis of the Bruce Wayne/Dick Grayson father-son relationship carefully cultivated in the pages of Batman and Detective Comics.
A gritty story like this would resonate with today’s movie audiences, and the dark reality of the comic comes to a head when Speedy actually blames Green Arrow for the addiction he eventually kicks!
5. Emerald Twilight (1994)
In the aftermath of Reign of the Supermen (1993), and confronted with the ruins of his once-beloved Coast City, Hal Jordan snaps. In his attempt to recreate his home using his power ring, grieving and angry, Jordan lashes out at the Guardians. The once heroic Hal journeys to Oa, with the intention of stealing the Central Power Battery’s energy to resurrect Coast City, and no one will stand in his way!
Hal goes on an unprecedented murder spree in which even the most beloved Green Lanterns fall when they try to intervene. Sinestro, Kilowog and Tomar-Tu all succumb to Jordan’s wrath, and the Guardians themselves die when they reluctantly give up all their powers to a single protector, Ganthet.
The day is lost as is the defender of Sector 2814. Jordan’s victory is stained with the blood of his Lantern brothers, and once he has the Central Power Battery’s energy, Hal Jordan ceases to be Green Lantern. In his place, Parallax is born!
In the bleakness, hope remains for the future, though. The last of the Guardians, Ganthet, creates a new power ring and bestows it upon the young earthling, Kyle Rayner. In this pivotal moment, Rayner becomes the last hope, the last Green Lantern.
Which Green Lantern comics are you dying to see adapted into feature films? What stories would you like HBO Max to lead off with in their upcoming streaming production? Sound off in the comments!