In 1959 DC Comics editor Julius Schwartz was looking to follow up the success of his Flash revival, and chose Green Lantern for his second subject. Much as he did with the Flash, Schwartz opted for a more streamlined, science-fiction approach, and placed his new assignment in the hands of writer John Broome and artist Gil Kane.
As reconceived by Broome and Kane in the pages of SHOWCASE #22, the new Green Lantern was daredevil test pilot Hal Jordan. The story, “S.O.S. Green Lantern,” opens with the crash landing of an alien spacecraft, piloted by Abin Sur, who lay dying within. Abin Sur was a member of the Green Lantern Corps, an intergalactic organization of “space policemen” organized by the Guardians of the Universe, a race of immortals with great intelligence and mental power. In his final moments, Abin Sur commands his power ring to seek out a deserving Earthman to carry on as his replacement, one entirely without fear.
At that very moment, at the Ferris Aircraft Company in Coast City, California, pilot Hal Jordan is suddenly enveloped in a green glow and whisked through the air at amazing speed. Jordan touches down at the site of Abin Sur’s grounded craft. The dying alien explains to Jordan that he has been chosen to take his place in the Green Lantern Corps, protecting this sector of the universe.
Abin Sur further explains that Jordan is being given a power ring and the battery of power, which can do anything that the wearer imagines, based only on his will power. To charge the ring, it must be touched to the power battery every 24 hours. Then, the bad news: due to a necessary impurity in the construction of the battery, the ring and battery will have no effect on anything that is yellow. With that, Abin Sur was no more, and Hal Jordan was Earth’s Green Lantern.
Like the Green Lantern of the 1940s, Hal Jordan also recited an oath as he charged his ring:
“In brightest day, in blackest night,
No evil shall escape my sight!
Let those who worship evil’s might
Beware my power — Green Lantern’s light!”
Gil Kane’s modern art style was a perfect match for the new Green Lantern. In contrast to the gaudy operatic costume of Alan Scott, Hal Jordan’s Green Lantern uniform was sleek, streamlined and downright snazzy. The stories were vastly different than the urban jungle of the 1940s’ street-crime-focused Lantern tales. Instead, the sci-fi trappings of the new GL origin opened the door to all kinds of cosmic concepts, such as the Weaponers of Qward, evil scientists from the anti-matter universe of Qward who are determined to get their hands on all of the Green Lantern power batteries.
At first, the GREEN LANTERN series fell into the familiar pattern of a love interest who only had eyes for the protagonist’s costumed alter ego; in this case Hal Jordan’s boss Carol Ferris, who swooned for that dreamy Green Lantern.
Writer Broome quickly stood this cliche on end by introducing the Zamarons, a female race of immortals much like the Guardians, who chose Carol as their queen due to her uncanny resemblance to their past monarchs, and transformed her into Star Sapphire. When Carol tried to say “no thanks” to the new job offer due to her love for Green Lantern, the Zamarons hypnotized her and commanded her to use her new powers to destroy GL. Eventually the Zamarons would lose interest in Carol, but the powers and evil split personality would remain.
In time, Hal Jordan would meet other members of the Green Lantern Corps, an organization of galactic peacekeepers 3600 strong. Members included the birdlike Tomar-Re, the crystalline entity Chaselon, the walking vegetable Medphyl, the alien chipmunk Ch’p, Kilowog of Bolovax Vik, the enormous GL charged with training new recruits, and many, many others. (Nothing’s funnier and still at the same time cooler, by the way, than seeing the rock dude, the veggie-man and the chipmunk charging their rings and reciting the Green Lantern oath.)
The Corps was headquartered on the Guardians’ homeworld of Oa, a planet located at the exact center of the universe. The individual members’ power batteries took their power from the Central Power Battery on Oa, which is itself fueled by the combined mental energies of the Guardians.
Hal’s most tenacious adversary over his career would be the renegade Green Lantern Sinestro. Once a revered member of the Corps, Sinestro was seduced by the power he held, and set himself up as dictator of his sector, forcing the Guardians to strip him of his ring and banish him to the anti-matter universe of Qward. For supposedly omniscient superintelligent beings, the Guardians have shown themselves to have a problem with long-term thinking, or else they might have foreseen Sinestro hooking up with the aforementioned Weaponers of Qward, who equipped Sinestro with a yellow power ring, the perfect weapon against the Green Lantern Corps.
With the success of both new, dynamic versions of Flash and Green Lantern, what was Julius Schwartz up to next? He’d be thinking bigger. Leagues bigger…