The Men Who Made the Mythos
The Second in a Series Examining Green Lantern History
Throughout the months of June and July we are celebrating the 75th anniversary of Green Lantern’s first appearance via a series of features each of which focuses on the characters and creators who had a lasting impact on the rich history of Green Lantern mythology.
Born the son of Jewish immigrants in 1915, Martin Nodell left his childhood home of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to attend art college in Chicago before heading to New York to explore a career in either art or theatre. While living in Brooklyn Martin decided to explore the comic book field and journeyed to All-American Comics, which eventually merged with Detective Comics to become DC Comics, where he met with editor Sheldon Mayer. Though the meeting didn’t land him a job Mayer liked Nodell’s work enough to suggest he come back with an idea for a new superhero to add to All-American’s ever growing roster.
Taking inspiration from a subway worker waving a railroad lantern Nodell combined his love of theatre, Chinese folklore and Greek Mythology to create the Green Lantern. Nodell’s original concept included a 24 hour ring recharge cycle and oath – facets of the mythology which lived far beyond Alan Scott’s Golden Age roots.
Martin Nodell left All-American before the fall of superhero comics and worked at Timely Comics where he drew the Human Torch, Namor the Submariner and Captain America. Martin left comics to go on to do more advertising work, something that at the time of creating Green Lantern had driven Nodell to initially use the pseudonym of Mart Dellon for fear that any negative connection to comics would lead to him losing jobs. Nodell notably helped to create the Pillsbury Doughboy in 1965. While Nodell provided art for a handful of comics it wasn’t until his 1980’s return to DC Comics that fans were exposed to his work. Nodell made a number of appearances at comic conventions alongside his wife Carrie until his passing in 2006 at age 91.
Like so many people who entered the comic book industry, Bill Finger was a first generation American. Born to Jewish parents in 1914 Denver, Colorado, Finger and his family moved to New York City during the Great Depression. Finger was an aspiring writer and having met up with Bob Kane at a party got introduced to the job of ghost writing and began writing comic strips.
Kane and Finger both graduated from the same high school and after the success of Superman Kane sought to create his own superstar in the form of Batman. Kane’s Batman was a far cry from what the world came to see when the character in Detective Comics #27, complete with red tights, wings and a domino mask. Finger took the loose concept and redefined it, suggesting the now-famous cape and cowl look and inventing elements such as Batman’s secret identity, Bruce Wayne, and Batman’s detective skills. Batman and Kane went on to become famous and it wasn’t until long after his death that Finger began to receive the credit he deserved for creating so many characters and aspects of one of comics most beloved characters.
Finger was brought in to work with Mart Nodell on his creation, Green Lantern. Unlike Batman, Green Lantern was a complete creation that Nodell had come up with, but Finger added so much to the mythology during his seven years working on the character that he is credited frequently for the character’s creation. Finger evolved Alan Scott’s abilities beyond some of the simple things that characterized early stories, creating the ability for Green Lantern to form hard light constructs limited only by the wearer’s imagination and establishing the Golden Age Green Lantern’s weakness to wood. Finger died in 1974 at the young age of 59.
Known as one of the founding fathers of science fiction, Alfred Bester was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1913. In his early twenties Bester began writing science fiction short stories while working in public relations and won a contest which led to meeting editor Mort Weisinger who published a number of Bester’s early work. When Weisinger left his job to join Detective Comics as editor of the Superman and Batman books he called upon Bester and lured him away from writing short stories to take on comics.
Bester wrote Superman, The Phantom and Mandrake the Magician and replaced Bill Finger on the Green Lantern series, adding some antagonists for Alan Scott besides the regular criminals he usually fought, notably creating Solomon Grundy and Vandal Savage. Bester also changed the oath that Martin Nodell had created for Green Lantern to the infamous “In Brightest Day….” oath that lives on today.
When the comics industry faced the demise of superhero comics Bester found his way to radio where he wrote a number of scripts for shows like The Shadow and Charlie Chan. Bester went to on to be a prolific writer for television, magazines and novels as well as returning to his short story roots. Bester died in 1987 at age 73.