20/4 The Green Lantern S2 annotations
LIBRARY artefact #014
The Green Lantern S2 Annotations
Given the complexity and density of The Green Lantern Season 2 issue #4, Liam and I decided to change gears abruptly and give our readers a break with a straightforward fight issue – Hal Jordan versus a sociopath super-couple and their dog!
This ‘Hyper-Family’ made its first appearance in SUPERBOY #144 as a team of super-protectors residing on the planet Trombus. Nothing in that story hinted at the homicidal family secret Liam and I chose to reveal in our story, where it turns out Hyperman is addicted to crystal meth and murder; tendencies kept secret by his ambitious wife Hyperwoman.
Liam was between art styles, searching as ever for a new approach to keep himself interested and challenged, so for issue #5, I’d suggested a ‘Pop Art’ style using sound effects, Ben Day dot squirrely moires and other graphic abstractions that stole back from Roy Lichtenstein what he pinched from comics artists in the first place.
Liam’s first instinct was to start with Kirby but we both knew that wasn’t quite the right approach and we both had to acknowledge that there had been dozens of Kirby imitators in comics ranging from the sublime to the crudely imitative, making it pointless to compete.
Regrouping, we looked instead to the first wave of Kirby imitators in the ‘60s and, in particular, Jim Steranko.
Liam proceeded with a Steranko-inflected pop style that worked well in the context of this issue but failed to lay out a new artistic direction for the book.
As I said, this was a very simple straight-ahead fight/survival story – cornered with a damaged ring, could Jordan outwit a monster with Superman’s powers?
Oceania is the earth-like home of that other Hyper-Man, superhero from the planet Zoron and the costumed identity of television reporter Chester King, first introduced in ACTION COMICS #265.
We assume from Hyperwoman’s comments that Hyperman has previously killed or tried to kill King’s girlfriend, later wife Lydia Long, at some point in his twisted campaign against gal reporters across the universe.
Likewise, the planet Zumoor, home of Mighty Boy, later Mighty Man, and his girlfriend Charise Kaan and his girlfriend reporter Charise Kaan both of whom first appeared in SUPERBOY #85 from 1960.
This story contains one of my all-time favourite lines when Hyperman yells ‘DIE LIKE A MAN!’ and Jordan replies…
‘YOU FIRST. IF IT LOOKS COOL, I’LL THINK ABOUT IT.’
I admit I feel bad about killing Klypso the Hyper-Hound…
I like animals, super or otherwise and I prefer to change existing characters radically rather than kill them outright, ending their potential for future twists. Klypso was a good dog when he first appeared in Adventure Comics as an otherworldly counterpart for Krypto the Superdog.
I like to think that various cosmic shenanigans will conspire to restore him as a good dog once more! He deserves a place in the Legion of Super Pets, perhaps as the Wolverine-type character – brought up to be a killer but with the potential to be a great hero..!
One thing I was pleased with in Season 2 was the development of Jordan’s little ornitho-kids; first seen hatching in issue #2, they turn up to save his life as babies in issue #3 and here appear in their teenage forms to save the day again, by cooking Klypso with their eye beams sadly…
Their story both concludes and begins in the upcoming issue #11. I love the idea that this little family of confident, upbeat superbird youths as inspired by ‘Unca’ Hal Jordan are out there exploring the universe!
So confusing were those times that I can barely remember when we were jerked on our puppet strings one last time and given the go-ahead for Season 2 to play out for with its original 12 issues. By this time, driven to distraction on these shifting sands while DC editorial began to adjust to the aftermath of Dan Didio’s departure as publisher, Liam and I were foaming at the mouth, cornered junkyard dogs showing the first indicators of rabies.
Through it all, I have to give props to our editor Brian Cunningham steadfast as a rock in the tempest. Brian seemed to roll with every new demand from higher ups, encouraging us simply to do our best and see it through.
We only wanted to bring the whole experiment to a mad crescendo of self-expression and damn the consequences, now we had the opportunity to go back to the original plan and see what could be salvaged!
But first, it was back to artistic basecamp – a moment to take both stock and a breather – and issue #7.
Liam went back to the rich, detailed pen and ink style he’d developed for most of Season 1 – a sturdy old school sci-fi approach but I knew he’d outgrown his own limits and wanted to stretch his wings.
The narrative voice on the opening pages of The Green Lantern issue #7 is done in the style of the early British Invasion comics of the ‘80s. You can imagine the captions opening a story about a space hospital in Warrior, 2000AD or some Marvel UK title!
Nurse Leylo Olaqua was introduced in Season 1 #2 but here we learn she and Jordan have romantic history. I wanted to suggest that a boho Lothario like Hal Jordan with a whole universe of worlds at his disposal would tend towards a pansexual persuasion…
This was one of a few stories I had planned from the outset for a potential Season 2 and as the title suggests it started as a vague Assault on Precinct 13 riff. Arriving here felt like a major milestone on the way to getting through what now felt more like a war of attrition, what with disappointing sales and a shocking lack of serious engagement from the general comics readership.
Issue #6 – Assault on Sector General - features the return of Crassius Qwipe-6, the humanoid lion character we’d introduced in Season 1, issue #3, doing his best with a throwaway role as a black-market dealer in rare and exotic intergalactic animals.
Thanks mostly to Liam’s inspired ‘cowardly lion’ design, I saw Qwipe-6’s potential as a classic Harry Mudd (Star Trek) ‘loveable rogue’ recurring guest role – an unscrupulous but charming wheeler dealer who could show up in the most unlikely places and bring some light relief to dark situations.
On page 12, that’s a Dxaundii, otherwise known as ‘The Super-Moby Dick of Space’ from Adventure Comics #332 or at least some starfaring ancestor of the creature that ate Lightning Lad’s arm and turned the young Legion of Super-Heroes member into a sci-fi Ahab!
There’s a whole little story going on here with Qwipe-6 and the space dolphins who appear early in the story and were seen previously as Qwipe-6’s prisoners back in season 1 – the dolphins obviously recognise their former tormentor as he runs past the space whale tank. Then on page 19, as Qwipe-6 makes his escape in a life-raft, we see the dolphins catching up with him…
‘Doctor Kel-Dar’ (named for TV’s Doctor Kildare show from the ‘60s) is a RULANN, a race of starfish-shaped creatures from the planet Rojira who first appeared in 1969’s Green Lantern -#67 in a Gardner Fox story entitled ‘The First Green Lantern’.
A Rulann space pirate also appears in our very first issue of The Green Lantern, again as part of our ongoing attempt to consolidate 80 years of DC interplanetary history, but their obvious ancestral connection to Starro (‘The Conqueror’) the Conqueror has yet to be established and turned into a 12-part Star Crisis maxi-series!
Issue #7 came about when we got the news we were back to 12 issues for Season 2 – you can see the attempt to re-ignite a bunch of plotlines we thought we would never get back to and there’s an obvious scramble to catch up with the Young Guardians, the Ultrawar and whatever the fuck was going on with Zundernell, the Cosmic Grail and the Majistry.
It was a lot to cover but I feel we accomplished what we had to in an elegant enough manner. Now rested, Liam’s muse had made the decision for him that he needed to push in the more painterly abstract direction suggested by his work on issue #3.
Issue #7 is an interesting way station on the journey towards the final form of Liam’s GL work in issues 9 - 12 - the influence of Bill Sienkewicz and Dave McKean is clear as he processes a number of new and interesting possibilities through his filters.
In this issue, Hal Jordan briefly dies and goes through an afterlife quest for understanding, dressed in the Spectre cloak he wore during that odd period in the character’s history where he’d been given the powers of avenging ghost the Spectre, introduced in 1940 by Superman creator Jerry Siegel.
The Ultrawar concept derived as so many of these ideas do from observing what appeared to be increasing levels of hostility and division in the world around me. Confronted with a world in which, it often seemed, every communication on any subject was regarded as an invitation to combat, I found myself thinking in terms of the Hermetic axiom, As Above, So Below and looking at the human species as a whole, as a single entity with a surprisingly vicious hatred of many of its component parts for the others.
It seemed significant to me that homo saps as a whole was at the time reeling from the impact of a catastrophic worldwide battle with an invasive virus but our tendency to think individually, or at best tribally, can cause us to overlook events at the macro-scale.
During the first wave of the Covid pandemic, we were hearing a lot about the ‘cytokine storm’ – the unfortunate result of an immune system over-reacting and causing a catastrophic cascade of inflammation and ultimately death.
I wondered how much of the aggression and division I was seeing could be regarded as both a metaphorical cytokine storm and a literal one raging through the human biota – a shockwave, turning us against ourselves on every scale – from wars within our immune system, to Twitter spats, ‘cancel culture’, the wars in Ukraine and elsewhere.
So was born the idea of Ultrawar – the final war of everything against everything else.
The illustration on page 11 showing various Jordan girlfriends was originally intended to more obviously resemble a menorah rather than a colour spectrum. Hal Jordan is, of course canonically Jewish, and this issue owed a lot to Jewish esoteric ideas.
The fight on page 14 quotes visually the fight in CAPTAIN MARVEL #29. Jim Starlin’s ‘Metamorphosis!’ is one of the foundational comics in my development as a writer of comic books and this issue was a very definite nod in that direction.
I was also quite fond of the exchange between the experienced Hal Jordan and the Young Guardian which to me pretty much summed up the essence of generational conflict – ‘YOU’RE TOO YOUNG TO UNDERSTAND HOW THE UNIVERSE WORKS.’ Followed by ‘AND YOU’RE TOO OLD TO REALIZE IT CAN CHANGE!’
I love the final pages here, set on the monstrous anti-matter world of Qward and accompanied by bleak narration and a Giger-esque diseased version of Liam’s rapidly developing new approach.
According to our current scientific and cosmological understanding, when matter and anti-matter were created during the so-called ‘Big Bang’, there was curiously more matter than anti-matter. I liked the idea that – at least in DCU terms – the ‘evil’ anti-matter universe was much smaller, and it took way more energy to be bad than good!
At the same time, the power and ferocity and cruelty of evil was so intense that a small amount of it could go a long way and almost convince ‘good’ it was up against an equally powerful ultimate adversary!
Instead, the Young Guardians refer to the asymmetric war with evil as a concept as ‘punching down’!
More to come…