green lantern movie

Are you telling me this ISN’T Science Fiction? Aliens, robots, weird things, futuristic cities…

It’s at times like this I had much deeper roots in the Comic industry than I do right now (Hey, Josh!), as the last few weeks have seen some interesting developments that made me jealous of whoever might step in to fill this role: DC Comics’ Geoff Johns is retiring from his position as chief writing peep on the Green Lantern comics, which may mean the titles associated with GL may be about to undergo a massive change in direction.

For the record I should state that I’ve never been big on superheroes, whether Marvel or DC. Growing up in the rural parts of the southwest UK meant that I had limited access to decent comics and I was weaned on a steady supply of Eagle and 2000AD – making me a staunch fan of Judge Dredd, Strontium Dog, Rogue Trooper, ABC Warriors, just to name a few. As a result, superheroes were always hokey to me. Sure, I read a few comics, watched some movies, but by the time I was out of young-adulthood, say 25-28, I could only say that a tiny handful of superhero oriented comics I had read were of any real value to me. Marvel’s Elektra: Assassin and DC Comic’s Marshal Law. It would be another five or six years until I read Watchmen and a few other guilty pleasures, such as League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. And of course, all these are largely critical of the superhero genre and its tropes. Yeah, me and Superheroes don’t get along much.

Green Lantern happens to be one of those titles that gets a general bad rap, kinda like Aquaman, the runt of the DC Universe. The stigma of its past involving a hero that could be defeated by the colour yellow, and at other times, bits of wood, etc, has lingered a long time. It has been rebooted several times, gradually gaining traction and a loyal following, keeping its head above the proverbial waters, but never becoming the headliner that some people believe their favourite hero should always be.  I guess I was surprised when a Green Lantern movie was released.

Nope, I didn’t see it in theaters. Nor when it came out on DVD. I caught it on the tail-end of its first run on The Movie Network on cable. I caught it half way through and I don’t think I even stuck around for the end. I didn’t like the weird constructs, or the costume with its ridiculous “identity concealing” mask, which even the movie makes light of. But what captured my imagination was the planet Oa, a league of aliens protecting the civilizations of the universe and the terrors of primordial powers such as Parallax. There is a lot of history there, but its only hinted at in the movie.

It shouldn’t have been a surprise to me, as I had in essence heard of it all before. I had after all read E.E.”Doc” Smith’s Lensman series and Larry Niven’s short story anthologies “N-Space” and “Playgrounds of the Mind” both of which (IIRC) detailed some of Mr. Niven’s work on Green Lantern, but I had never thought about them in the same context. The connections between these wasn’t made until after I had seen the Green Lantern movie once or twice and read an article on io9.com specifically about Mr. Niven’s contributions to the universe of Green Lantern.

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The veritable metric shit-ton of aliens that make up the galaxy-wide Green Lantern Corps. (click for larger image)

Green Lantern is less about superheroes and more about space opera, in my opinion, and it is done a disservice by wearing its superhero surface details too strongly.  I’ll admit that this is a very subjective, opinionated thing to say, especially by someone who is a newcomer to the title and has barely read less than a third of what is currently available, but I’d stake my reputation on it.

And that’s where Mr. Geoff John’s retirement from the series comes in. Any time the showrunner of a project leaves and someone takes over is a time of massive upheaval – a new start, a new direction for whatever creative talent takes over the helm. I don’t think it will be a reboot as Mr. Johns has brought the title to a satisfying level for a lot of fans, why waste what is a good thing? But where will it go from here? I’m not going to try and predict that, but I think its interesting to point out this.

The Green Lantern Animated series (GLAs) is essentially Star Wars: the Clone Wars (SW:TCW). Its obvious that DC wanted to mine some of the viewership of the Clone Wars and I think its worked, at least, in terms of the quality of the show’s content.  GLAs has so much in common with Clone Wars, its hard to separate it from Star Wars.  They both center about a galaxy-wide force protecting its peace (Jedi, Green Lantern Corps.). They both have an antagonistic force that is themed along rage/hate, the colour red and feature pale, grey or white, or red skinned characters (the Sith/Darth Maul, Red Lanterns/Atrocitus).  They both have  a character who is caught between the good and evil forces (Anakin, red lantern Razer.) They both feature other antagonistic forces risen from the past to challenge the current state of things (Mandalorians, Manhunters), etc.  At this point, you might be thinking that GLAs is really a rip-off of SW:TCW, but it has enough of its own identity and dramatic hooks to separate itself from its rival on the cartoon networks.

The comics are infused with less space opera notes than the animated series is. Outside of Korugar (home world of one of the major characters Sinestro) and a few other planets, we don’t see much of the galaxy as technologically advanced civilizations. We see tons of aliens, but mostly in the context of the Green Lantern’s powerbase on Oa and Earth (which apparently in DC Lore is the center of the “Multiverse” making it annoyingly important, one of my fiction pet peeves.  The Guardians of the Universe and the Green Lantern Corps have virtually unlimited power – able to travel faster than light, create out of pure energy anything they need, manipulate matter by sheer will – yet none of this trickles down to the planetary civilization level, as though some Star Trek-like “Prime Directive” keeps the GLC from bestowing this technology on anyone else. Perhaps that’s part of the “Book of Oa” I haven’t heard of yet. Keeping this in mind, if the average person doesn’t live in a world shaped by such power there should be all manner of spacecraft and other SF tropes.

The fabricated history of the Green Lantern universe goes back over 3.5 billion years, with the immortal Guardians of the Galaxy creating the Green Lantern forerunners, the Manhunters (kinda odd to call them that, since… well, “man” won’t be around for 3.4999 billion or so years after their creation), and goes forward to the 31st century, where very little remains of any of the characters, even the largest, most important ones. This sort of time scale is very reminiscent of grand space opera and contains so much potential it seems a shame just to leave it there untouched.

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This is why Green Lanterns don’t like yellow.

Since the series is primarily based on the idea of the emotional dichotomy of Sentient Will vs. Primordial Fear, and recently the idea of a whole “emotional spectrum” (with rage, hope, love, etc, filling out the rest of ROYGBIV), I’m hoping that new developments venture into deep cosmic horror, á la H.P. Lovecraft, but then I hope the same of all franchises. 😉  The idea of the “Yellow Impurity” (which is the GL ring’s weakness against yellow/fear) and Parallax stem firmly from this sort of story trope – the ancient evil that required a sentient presence in order to attain freedom. Just like Cthulhu needs cultists (human or otherwise) to free it from its eternal prison, so too does Parallax need emergent species capable of emotion to exist.  Since in GL lore, sentient species have been in the galaxy for at least 3.5 billion years, it seems likely there have been a lot of entities like Parallax and their stories would be interesting to hear.

This is where I would love to see Green Lantern in its new incarnations heading toward, even with its current leading characters. The world it occupies is so much larger, deeper and more science-fictional (is that a term?) than the one we see in the comics, it seems only natural to open the property up and explore it on those levels, while keeping true to the core ideas that Geoff Johns has consolidated during his tenure.  I feel that GL keeping its SF notes distant in order to still be “recognizable” as a superhero story is hurting it in terms of potential readership. GLAs was already a bold and welcome step on this front, in my eyes, and I think that it wouldn’t hurt the comics either.

And if DC Comics has need of a writer to do it, well, I just happen to know a writer who’d like to do it. 🙂

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“Fuuuuhh! The biggest event in Green Lantern history and I forgot to clip my nails…”

P.S: Yes, I know Blackest Night touches on this on several levels, but like all things Cthulhu, Lovecraft and cosmic-horror, you can never have too many Eldritch Abominations. Unless you’re in the story…

Image Credits:  Movie image, Warner Bros. Comics images: DC Comics