Today In Comics History: The First Appearance of Hal Jordan, Green Lantern!
On this day in 1959, issue #22 of DC Comics' Showcase appeared on newsstands. Three years earlier, in issue #4, the anthology series had introduced a radically new take on the company's super-speedy Flash character, and in doing so, laid the groundwork for a full-fledged revival of the superhero genre. In the time since, Showcase alternated through a variety of new features (Manhunters; The Flash; Challengers Of The Unknown; The Space Ranger; Rip Hunter, Time Master; Superman's Girlfriend, Lois Lane; Adam Strange), but with #22, it once again returned to the well of iconic properties, taking the name of a Golden Age hero and lending it to an all-new character.
The original Green Lantern of the 1940s was a guy who channeled mystical "green flame" powers through a talking lantern (and a ring made from metal that he cut out of said lantern), and wore an eye-popping multi-hued outfit that looked like it was assembled by a color-blind tailor on his last day before retirement.
This new Green Lantern, however, possessed an all-new origin story, a sleek and stylish costume, and in John Broome and Gil Kane, a creative team that ranked among comics' finest talents. This was a superhero for a new era: Hal Jordan, a test pilot who was drawn to a downed UFO, and inside discovered a mortally wounded agent of an intergalactic peacekeeping force.
With his dying breath, the alien officer bestowed upon Jordan his uniform, a green ring that focuses mental energy to give its wearer great abilities, and the power battery that can be used to recharge the ring. The human Hal Jordan was now a representative of the space-spanning Green Lantern corps, charged with protecting all of Sector 2814 (Earth and its surroundings) from threats.
This premise was a brilliant melding of classic superhero tropes with the late '50s space age aesthetic, Broome's science fiction plot and Kane's polished lines putting a thrillingly modern spin on a well-established genre. Within a few short months, Hal Jordan would appear in two more issues of Showcase, be given his own ongoing series, and become a founding member of the Justice League Of America.
The Green Lantern Corps quickly became part of the bedrock of the DC universe. Numerous new Green Lanterns were introduced over the ensuing years, many of whom went on to become well-established characters in their own right. Hal Jordan himself would prove to be one of the most durable and popular characters in DC's stable, undergoing a number of transformations, enduring a number of different interpretations, and reflecting changing times as he passed through the hands of different creative teams.
He could be portrayed variously as a thrill-seeking man of action, a bull-headed space cop, an unwitting tool of the establishment, a well-meaning social activist, a short-tempered hothead, an elder statesman, and eventually, in the grim-and-gritty-era of the 1990s, a mass-murdering madman, driven over the edge by the destruction of his loved ones.
But don't worry – after a dark decade or two as the villainous Parallax, Jordan took over the mantle of the justice-dealing all-powerful Spectre, then was eventually reborn, and regained his status as a Green Lantern, having exorcised the parasitic Parallax entity. Or something like that.
Now, in the modern-day DCU, Hal Jordan is once again recognized as a true hero, one whose dedication and underlying optimism keeps him fighting for good through brightest days and blackest nights. And in popular culture, he's become one of DC's most recognizable characters, appearing in animation and live action projects, and emblazoned on countless products, from T-shirts to sunglasses to shot glasses. He's grown from his midcentury modernist origins to become an iconic and timeless figure, endlessly versatile and instantly recognizable.
So today, we recognize John Broome and Gil Kane's artistry, and celebrate the heroism of their creation: Hal Jordan, the greatest Green Lantern of all.