The DCU Green Lanterns Series Has Plenty of Earth-Based Stories to Inspire It

TJ Dietsch
TV Comics
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James Gunn’s recent rundown of his vision for the DC Universe as it pertains to film and television has comics fans the world over talking about the upcoming projects and many Green Lantern enthusiasts were particularly intrigued by the reveal that two of the stalwarts of that franchise will star in an HBO Max series.

Called Lanterns, the show will focus on Hal Jordan and John Stewart, though Gunn added: “We have a few other Lanterns peppered in there.” Gunn described this as “a terrestrial-based TV show which is almost like True Detective with a couple of Green Lanterns who are watching over precinct Earth. In it, they discover a terrifying mystery that ties into our larger story of the DCU.”

Hal Jordan, John Stewart and the Green Lantern Corps

For those unfamiliar, the Green Lantern Corps consists of intergalactic officers who uphold the law of their bosses, the self-appointed Guardians of the Universe. Each Lantern is granted a Power Ring which allows them to tap into their willpower and create constructs limited only by their imaginations.

While most Green Lantern stories in recent memory have revolved around other worlds and the ever-growing number of different-hued Lanterns, there have been some very interesting Earth-based stories that might play into the upcoming series…

Hal Jordan’s Secret Origin

Abin Sur and his successor Hal Jordan

Hal Jordan’s roots go way back to 1959 when he debuted in Showcase #22 and soon moved into his own title, Green Lantern, which ran from 1960 through 1988. While many of those early stories did take place on Earth, they’re not what you might call modern classics. However, as part of his expansion of all things Lantern starting in 2004, writer Geoff Johns did go back and retell stories of Hal’s early adventures in a story called “Secret Origin” from Green Lantern #29-35.

Drawn by Ivan Reis, the story not only digs into how young Hal became a daredevil pilot seemingly scared of nothing, but also what brought his Green Lantern predecessor Abin Sur to Earth. When Sur crashed on the planet, he was mortally wounded. The ring sought out someone nearby with the willpower to wield it and that was Jordan. From there, Hal took his first trip to the Green Lantern planet Oa, meet his training officer Sinestro (before he went bad) and encountered villains like Hector Hammond and Black Hand.

Johns had already begun building up an entire rainbow of Lanterns by the time this story came out. In “Secret Origin,” he added some of those characters — like the rage-fueled Red Lantern leader Atrocitus — into Hal’s early days. It will be interesting to see if Lanterns utilizes the other Corps and if they might be related to the big mystery Gunn mentioned.

Training Day… and Beyond

John Stewart as Green Lantern

In 1971, Dennis O’Neil and Neal Adams introduced John Stewart to the world by way of Green Lantern #87. In that issue, Hal’s backup Lantern Guy Gardner got hit by a bus during an earthquake meaning that Jordan needed to fill his boots. One of the Guardians appeared and lead him to architect John Stewart. In the midst of training, Stewart managed to uncover a plot to frame a black gunman for the attempted murder of a racist white politician who set the whole thing up himself.

Stewart appeared a handful of times from then on, but after Hal Jordan quit the Corps in Green Lantern #181, the Guardians tapped John to take over full time in the following issue (though the actual offer would not be shown until GL #185). While John and Hal both appeared in the comic, they did not interact with one another much. Still, readers got to see how the new Lantern did in his early adventures, most of which took place on Earth leading up to #200.

Ultimately, Jordan got his old ring back, but Stewart gained another from a fallen Lantern and these issues helped forge him into the hero he is today. Perhaps Lanterns will focus on this time in Stewart’s life with him being trained by the more experienced Jordan.

Hard Traveling Heroes

Green Arrow and Green Lantern, Hard Traveling Heroes

In addition to creating John Stewart, Dennis O’Neil and Neal Adams also came together to create one of the most groundbreaking DC stories of the 70s: “Hard Traveling Heroes.” With 1970’s #76, Green Lantern changed into Green Lantern/Green Arrow and saw Hal Jordan teaming up with archer Oliver Queen (AKA Green Arrow) and fellow Justice Leaguer Dinah Lance (AKA Black Canary). The title remained changed for quite a while, but the O’Neil/Adams run spanned #76-87 and #89.

While on a road trip across the United States, the heroes found themselves facing real issues like racism, drug addiction, the irresponsible business owners, exploited workers, toxic masculinity, Native American issues, pollution and beyond. Plus a few super villains here and there.

If you’re paying attention to the timeline, you’ll realize that John Stewart did not show up until the end of this tale and he admittedly does not play a prominent part in the ongoing story. Even so, the more real-world based adventures and social issues addressed in “Hard Traveling Heroes” will most likely echo throughout Lanterns. Also, the road trip set-up could be used by the show’s creators to reveal even more of the DCU.

Back And Better Than Ever 

John Stewart, back in action

For a time, the Green Lantern Corps ceased to be after a corrupted Hal Jordan destroyed the Central Power Battery that fueled all of the rings. A young Earth man named Kyle Rayner was selected to be the sole Lantern in all of space, though he spent most of his time on Earth. Kyle became THE Green Lantern to a generation of readers in the 90s, but his journey is so unique, that his stories seem unlikely to play into Lanterns (not to say we couldn’t meet Kyle down the line of course…)

However, Kyle did eventually become friends with John Stewart, who had previously joined another group of space cops, the Darkstars, after his ring stopped working. In the deeply emotional Green Lantern #147, John looked back at his life dealing not only with his childhood trauma, but also the reasons he had been in a wheelchair for a time. He triumphantly slid the ring back on in GL #156 and has carried on as a hero ever since. Between these issues and his decades of history, there will be plenty of elements for the Lanterns crew to draw from.

Hard Corps

Kyle Rayner and Guy Gardner, two more Earther GLs

In the mid 2005, Geoff Johns continued rejuvenating the entire Green Lantern concept by writing Green Lantern Corps: Recharge with artist Patrick Gleason. At this point, the Guardians decided to change procedure by assigning not one Green Lantern per sector, but two. The partner aspect went a long way to making the Corps look and feel a lot more like a cop drama, something Lanterns definitely looks to be incorporating.

Throughout the five issues, readers get to see what the new system looks like for veteran Lanterns like Guy Gardner, Kyle Rayner and Kilowog as well as a number of rookies hailing from every corner of the cosmos. Along the way, they uncover some sinister plans that threaten the Corps itself.

Recharge might seem out of place on a list about Earthbound Green Lantern stories because, well, it almost entirely takes place in space and Hal Jordan and John Stewart only have cameos. Still, it’s safe to assume that the cop/military vibe established in Recharge will resonate in some form through the Lanterns show.

Simon Says

Evern more Earth-born GLS: Jessica Cruz and Simon Baz

Not done adding to the Green Lantern ranks, Geoff Johns and Doug Mahnke introduced a new one from Earth named Simon Baz in 2012’s Green Lantern #0. After dealing with racism his entire life and falling on hard times, Simon stole a van to make enough money to live. Unfortunately, someone planned on using that van to hide a bomb. Discovering his unexpected cargo, Baz drove the vehicle into an abandoned building. Even though he saved lives, he was also marked as a terrorist. He was being held when a Green Lantern ring showed up and inducted him into the Corps.

Baz went on to become a prominent Lantern, but in Green Lantern #13-16 he continued to deal with the fallout from the bomb while also facing off against the Justice League and trying to figure out how his ring actually works. As it happens, there’s a major cosmic story in the works which will eventually take Simon into space where he will prove his mettle.

It’s possible that Simon will appear in Lanterns, though there are literally hundreds of other Corps members also vying for those spots. But it’s also worth noting that in a series called Green Lanterns, Simon teams up with another new GL named Jessica Cruz, who debuted in Justice League #30. Even with Hal and John swapped in, it feels like some of the dynamics present between partners seen in Green Lanterns with partners clashing over ideologies and interpretations of the law just might translate onto the small screen in Lanterns.

One More Possibility…

Earth One Hal Jordan

Gunn gave a good deal of specifics in his presentation, but many people are still looking for deeper meaning beyond the obvious. In the case of the Lanterns segment of the presentation, the images used for Hal and John coming from a graphic novel called Green Lantern: Earth One Volume Two stand out. Earth One was a series of graphic novels that re-imagined many famous characters from the ground up. In this case, Corinna Bechko and Gabriel Hardman made Hal Jordan an astronaut miner who stumbles upon a Green Lantern ring near a murderous Manhunter robot. In this world, the Corps had been nearly wiped out by the robots, but Jordan and a few others figured out how to use the rings and did their best to restart the Green Lanterns all while fending of Manhunters.

The second installment continues the story with Jordan and the other GLs still dealing with the Manhunters, but also coming into conflict with a new group called the Yellow Lanterns. During the volume, John Stewart even wears a yellow ring. While it might seem far-fetched that an out-of-continuity story would be used as the backbone of a new DCU series, don’t be surprised if changes made in these graphic novels are reflected in the series, like Hal being an astronaut instead of a test pilot. The beauty of this new direction is that all avenues are open!

TJ Dietsch writes about all things geeky, from comics and collectibles to horror and...comics.