Monday, January 23, 2012

What a Guy!

It’s been about five months since the whole DCnU thing started and I haven’t bought a single issue of “The New 52” for myself.  Granted, on Wednesdays, I tend to get twitchy… and sometimes I break out in hives... but on the whole it’s been working out, as I haven’t really seen anything in the solicits, or issues other people read, that has tempted me.  Considering I’ve gone from multiple books a month including EVERY Green Lantern title, this is quite a change.  The overall weirdest part is that out of all the Lanterns that I faithfully followed, Guy Gardner is the one I miss most.

This is extremely odd, as for many years I considered the greatest Guy appearance of all time to be Green Lantern Volume 3 Issue 25, where Hal (my favorite since childhood) beat the snot out of him and took his ring.  Other highlights were the classic JLI “One Punch” moment with Batman, and the Armageddon 2001 possible future story, where he railed against President Superman and had his ring, once again, forcibly removed. (Note to non-comics readers: That last sentence makes perfect sense.) 
Not what he'd call "greatest hits."
Basically, Guy was not anywhere near my favorite.  I viewed him as a boorish, unintelligent, bullying thug with superpowers, and got extremely annoyed when he’d get an arc in the (then only one) Green Lantern title.  I savored any time he received comeuppance for his non-heroic behavior.

Now I miss his adventures more than the other Lanterns. 
What changed?
(Apart from the entire DC Multiverse, but that’s not the rant for today.)

What changed was each and every one of the main Green Lantern group.

Hal Jordan:
It always starts well.
Hal was the epitome of the Silver Age: honest, fearless and near limitless power (with the exception of two really weird limits).  He was a dashing ladies’ man who could still be great friends with the bookish Barry Allen, and also a conservative member of an organized enforcement group that could be great friends with ultra-liberal Oliver Queen.  There were many times as the universe changed around him that he was the Last Hero Standing of the old school variety.  From time to time writers spun some excellent stories (O’Neil, Jones) where he doubted his normally iron will and resolve, but in general he was the square jawed hero of old.

He didn’t always agree with the Guardians’ methods, but because he was the best of the Corps, he could get away with times of thick headed defiance while still being respected by them and the rest of the Lanterns. His dedication to the Corps was the main focus of who he was.

Then he went nuts and killed a bunch of people, (Hey kids, comics!) but Geoff Johns said it wasn’t his fault, and most of them either came back or weren’t dead anyway.  No harm, no foul then. 
He's feeling much better now.
Johns then went on to bring him back to prominence and to being the Hal of old…

Sort of.

The new Hal had a much stronger connection to the military than his previous (and much cooler) test pilot life.  He also had a penchant for punching people in the face at mild provocations.  Hal was always overconfident, but often correct in that estimation because he was the best.  After his return it came off more as straight arrogance, and his dedication to the Corps as more of an unhealthy obsession.  He seemed too eager (for a Silver Age hero, anyway) to embrace the Guardians approval of lethal force, and then managed to get himself kicked out of the Corps.  In the DCnU series (apparently) he’s working with his arch enemy, the newly reinstated Green Lantern- Sinestro, to try to get back in. (And once again I need to ask: why bother with that when they were rebooting the universe anyway?  Just start over with Sinestro training the new recruit Hal. Sorry, back to today’s rant.)  In other words he’s compromising everything he believes in to get back into the Corps…the Corps which he’s quit in the past rather than compromise his beliefs.

John Stewart:
Detailed, well thought out and designed constructs, very architect like.

He started as an angry young man and racial activist.  Then due to his own anger and overconfidence, the planet Xanshi was destroyed.
This weighed heavily on him, and forged his personality as he went through several different personal and super heroic phases afterwards.  John was the introspective lantern.   He was a thinker and planner as fitting his architect background. He became a symbol of how to move beyond past misjudgments by learning and growing from them, not ignoring them or being destroyed by them.

The changes made to his character when he was chosen to be the Green Lantern in the Justice League animated series enhanced the story lines.  His back story was too dark and complex for an ensemble cartoon.  Also, as the ONLY Green Lantern, it made sense to have him be the one member of the group with experience of how a combat team should work together. Giving him a Marine background added to both his character and his interactions with the rest of the cast.
And they made an adorable couple...Shut up.
When the Marine background bled into the comics however, deeper changes took root.  Hal’s new origin story includes meeting John in an Air Force/Marines bar fight back in their service days.  Stewart in uniform at that age is a far cry from his original antiestablishment youth.  The personality changes went from past to present as John also easily accepted the Lethal Force Directive.  In fact he used it to the fullest (after years and years of personal soul searching and agonizing over Xanshi, might I add) to blow away a possessed Mogo (a living planet that’s a member of the Corps) with a large construct created gun. (All of these things also make perfect sense in comics, just not for John.) Very little soul searching followed that act, other than a quick, rude, “And I’d do it again!” to his detractors.
Much less architecty now, no?

Kyle Rayner
You might not want to stand so close, Alex.
The Torchbearer: what can I say?  The little artist that could grew on me. I went from quitting comics completely because of his introduction (This time I’m just quitting NEW ones.) to being a fan of the kid.  Kyle was the ultimate romantic.  When he fell in love it was utterly and completely.  Relationships ended badly for him, but it was always due to writer’s choices for the women involved, not his character traits.  First there was Alex, the original Woman in a Refrigerator, designed for that fate from her creation.  Next came Donna Troy, the older, more experienced superhero.  It was a well-crafted dynamic that led to one of my favorite romantic scenes in all of comics. (Shut up, again.)  Kyle presenting her with the construct necklace signifying he’s always thinking of her was a very cool idea.
So cool the movie stole it (and most of Kyle's motivation) for Hal.
Once John Byrne decided to totally ruin Donna’s life, Kyle met up with Jade.  The daughter of the original Green Lantern made for a relationship that was a new take on superhero legacies, until she got bumped off in yet another cross over.  It then looked like Kyle had gone for his usual “all in” romance with Soranik, the daughter of Sinestro.  That is until a member of another color of the rainbow lanterns showed them each their true love, and we found out Kyle was now living the Rolling Stone’s “Love the One Your With”.  Of course with his true love never having existed in DCnU (not sure if it was Jade or Donna, they’re both gone anyway) it makes the whole thing make much less sense (even for comics).

He also had many other interesting, unique elements going for him. As an artist, the focus of his ring slinging was much more on his creativity then will power.   He no longer had the yellow weakness, or the strict twenty-four hour ring charge.  More importantly, what really made him unique was that he was the first Green Lantern who knew fear, and then was able to overcome it.  Ganthet (at one point the last Guardian) and others said this would make him the strongest Lantern ever. 

Weeeeellll, not anymore Kyle, me boy.

Now that’s the general definition of becoming a Green Lantern, and once fear is overcome, the yellow weakness is as well.  All ring charges may work on his “gas tank” method too, or they may not, depends on what day of the week it is, I think.  With almost everything that made Kyle special taken away already, (attempts at making him Ion “The nice Parallax” are not worth mentioning) the reboot was the final nail.  Originally, he was the last member of the Green Lantern Corps for about a decade.  Now with the DCnU compressed timeline of everything happening in only five years, I think that means he was the Torchbearer for Memorial Day weekend the summer before last.

Alan Scott:
"The Big Guy"
The first and original Green Lantern.  A leader in the business world, ever since he was positioned as “The Big Guy” in Robinsons’ excellent The Golden Age, he was written as the powerhouse, and almost a Superman stand in, for the JSA. (As the Golden Age Superman didn’t exist…for a while.  Really, in comics it makes perfect sense.)  Over time his role providing the voice of age and experience to Corps Lanterns was diluted by the source of his power.  Green Lantern was originally a version of Aladdin and his lamp, but with a Green Magic Wishing Ring.  However, since the Silver Age Green Lantern tales were created more as science fiction, their power couldn’t simply be magic. (Although it still worked exactly like a Green Magic Wishing Ring.)  Because of this and other differences in their origins, Alan’s ring was identified as being truly based on magic, and he was placed in stories further from the GL Corps group.  Instead he was included with the magicians and mystics of the old DCU.
Much less big, and way too colorful for that gang.
In this group his role as the voice of age and experience, and even his role as “the Big Guy” were greatly reduced.  Heck, it doesn’t have to be magic…Alan’s ring emits a green light and doesn’t work against wood, maybe it’s a wearable Sonic Screwdriver? 

It isn’t like any of that matters now, as he doesn’t even exist in the DCnU.  Rumor is he’ll be young again on the new Earth 2. (Earth TwnU?) That kinda reduces his ability to be seen as an elder statesman of the JSA, a father figure to Kyle, the Green Lantern with the most experience in the galaxy, or even a mentor to Batman as Gotham’s previous hero. 
It takes a special hero to impressively out-spooky Batman in his home town.
Without the generational aspect of the DCU implemented during the last reboot of this size, all of the character development that’s driven him for over twenty years is gone. He’ll just be Earth Two’s Green Lantern, in a strangely multi colored costume.  (Maybe all the “underwear on the outside” that’s missing from Nu Earth will go to Earth TwnU? I can dream.)

Guy Gardner:
What's not to like?
As stated, I felt guy was every bully I ever knew, but with a power ring.  However, things have changed.  First of all, I learned more about his history from several  excellent blogs.  I found out that the explanation for his behavior was brain damage from a past encounter with Hal where he was in a coma and/or another dimension while Hal was hooking up with Guy’s girlfriend. (This also makes sense…at least for Hal, that rascal.) Guy also started to transform throughout his Yellow Ring, Vuldarian powered, and Warrior’s Bar days. During the time he and the other Lanterns became mentors/older brother figures to Kyle, due to the more volatile nature of his character than the rest, their connection seemed emotionally stronger.  These aspects of Guy showed up in the character’s friendship with Kilowog and others, also in his relationship with Ice.  His past as a teacher and social worker also added in to his “big brother” role in many cases…a smart mouthed, rambunctious big brother, but a big brother none the less.

I think the two key moments for me both happened when Guy was in Hell. (In comics this makes sense because Hell is more like Camden, NJ when the Turnpike’s closed than a theological realm of punishment.  It’s difficult to get to, dangerous to stay in, and no one really wants to go there, but it’s still fairly accessible.)  One was when Superman met the then deceased Guy in Hell after Our Worlds at War.
He got better...perfect sense.
Guy’s explanation to Superman that he did the things that Superman couldn’t do cemented his personality after the brain damage was repaired.  Now he annoyed the crap out of people and drove them crazy by choice, rather than due to mental instability. For reasons I probably will never adequately be able to explain, that made him extremely likeable to me.  The other was his and Fire’s apparent failure to rescue Ice from hell in I Can’t Believe it’s not the Justice League’s version of the Orpheus and Eurydice myth.  (Let’s hear it for comics as a source of literary knowledge!)  The true nature of his feelings and character were exposed from their normally hidden places.
Yes, I cried too...SHUT UP!

The last portions of his transformation came during his return to the Green Lantern Corps in Rebirth, where he admitted everything he said about being glad he wasn’t in the Corps anymore had been a lie.  His dedication to the Corps became an overwhelming part of his character, exemplified when he wielded a Red and Violet Ring simultaneously yelling that he loved the Corps and hating feeling the rage he needed to wield a Red Ring, which he did only to further the Green Lantern Corps. 
OK, maybe it doesn't all make sense, but with that kind of display, who cares?

He was a member of the Honor Guard, and because of his abilities and dedication he could get away with times of arrogant defiance while still being highly respected by both the rest of the Corps and the Guardians.

I could end these thoughts by saying that I figured out why I miss Guy, because he became Hal. That’s not completely true. 

Hal would never moon Batman no matter how much he richly deserved it, and the ability to do that makes Guy a lot more fun to have around.


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