People either love Guy Gardner or hate him, but as the second Green Lantern of Earth the outspoken red head has a long and storied history dating back to 1968. Like Hal Jordan, Guy Gardner was created by legendary comic book creators John Broome and Gil Kane, however many fans know very little about the history of the man who could have been chosen over Hal and the history that has shaped him into the character we love and hate today. Guy Gardner’s story is one of triumph over tragedy and never being afraid of being yourself…..even when it’s not politically correct.
Guy Gardner’s first appearance was a result of an alternate timeline story in which Hal Jordan was shown Abin Sur’s final moments, expanding the story told in Showcase #22. In Green Lantern #59 (Volume 2, 1968) written by the legendary John Broome it is shown that Abin’s power ring found TWO candidates worthy of wearing the ring, Hal and Guy. Due to the need to quickly find a replacement the ring choses Hal due to him being closer to Abin’s crash site. In Booster Gold’s comic it was shown that Guy would have been closer and chosen over Hal had Booster not intentionally convinced Guy to go to the East Coast to visit his dying father. In the story Hal gets to see what would have happened had Guy gotten the ring and the outcome was that Guy would have died some months after getting the ring which would have then gone to Hal.
Guy Gardner’s backstory was told in the form of a Year One tale in the pages of his solo title which gave a great deal of humanity to the character. As it’s told, Guy was born and raised in Baltimore and was a victim of child abuse at the hands of his father, Roland. In a bid to win his father’s affection Guy threw himself at his studies but it never resulted in the attention he wanted. He found escape in his comic books, even fashioning his now famous bowl cut after Ernie, the sidekick of his favorite hero, General Glory.
Rebelling against his situation Guy became a delinquent and had several run ins with the law until his brother, a policeman, helped straighten him out. Guy went on to get degrees in education and psychology and was a successful football player until an injury ended a promising sports career. After graduation he worked as a caseworker helping prisoners rehabilitate, however he found that it often triggered painful memories from his childhood that would result in aggression. He left his job to become a special education teacher for children with disabilities and it’s at this point in his life when Hal Jordan befriends him after he learns that Guy was equally as worthy of wearing a power ring.
Guy’s existence helped Hal deal with the pressures of being a Green Lantern with him knowing that a worthy successor was there for him and Guy was considered Hal’s backup. During an earthquake Guy is seriously injured when he was hit by a school bus during an attempt to rescue one of his students. This chain of events resulted in the selection of John Stewart as Hal Jordan’s backup. (Green Lantern volume 2, issue 87)
Upon recovery Guy was called into active duty when Hal was unavailable and when he attempted to charge his ring the power battery, damaged by a villain called the Crumbler, exploded in his face and he disappeared, presumably blown to atoms in the explosion. (Green Lantern volume 2, issue 116)
Guy’s girlfriend, the psychic Kari Limbo, falls in love with Hal Jordan and eventually the two were to be married. As it turns out the power battery explosion managed to send Gardner to Phantom Zone where he was tortured by General Zod and other beings inhabiting the Kryptonian prison. Guy reaches out to Kari Limbo mentally and the wedding is canceled (Green Lantern volume 2, issue 122).
Guy is subsequently released from the Phantom Zone, but the damage from the bus accident, the explosion of the power battery, the effects of the Phantom Zone and the mental damage done at the hands of his torturers left him comatose and brain damaged. Guy would remain in that condition for several years until the Guardians find need of his talents in the universe’s darkest hour.
Crisis and Resurrection –
During the Crisis on Infinite Earths Guy is revived by a renegade subset of the Guardians and given a special power ring not tied to the Corps and the uniform that has become synonymous with him, one based on the Hands of the Guardians, the Internal Affairs arm of the Corps and forerunner of the Alpha Lanterns (Green Lantern volume 2, issue 195). Guy’s mission was to recruit a team of the most ruthless villains in the cosmos and try to destroy the Antimatter Universe, the kind of task which continues to be handed to him today.
While Guy was always a bit stubborn he was a far more likeable person before the explosion, and the resulting brain damage led to the manifestation of the character traits that were always there somewhere beneath the surface. Now Guy was arrogant, childish and violent, prone to speak his mind regardless of the social awkwardness or filters that most people have in place. He believed that he was the one true Green Lantern and far superior to everyone, especially Hal Jordan for whom he held a grudge not only for the relationship Hal had with Kari Limbo but for being chosen over Gardner in the first place.
Guy’s mission was thwarted by Hal and John Stewart when it was discovered that it would have led to the destruction of the universe and as atonement Guy was to be taught the ways of the Corps by Appa Ali Apsa when the rest of the Guardians left the universe to rejoin with the Zamorans, something which Guy really resented. He managed to flee Oa and returned to Earth only to be recaptured. At Kari Limbo’s request Hal successfully pleaded with the Guardian to set Guy free which did nothing in Guy’s mind to restore a connection with his former friend.
Guy was eventually chosen over John Stewart to be the Green Lantern for Sector 2814 when the Guardians returned to our universe and assigned Hal to recruit new members for the reforming Corps. It’s during this time that Guy helped to establish Justice League International and an event that continues to be referenced by writers today. Resentful of Batman’s leadership Guy challenged the Dark Knight to a fist fight, one which lasted mere seconds when Batman defeated Gardner with one punch. It’s also during this time when Guy developed a romantic relationship with JLI teammate Ice until it ended in tragedy when she was killed by the Overmaster.
When Hal returned from helping establish a new Corps he was reassigned as the Green Lantern of Sector 2814, but Gardner refused to accept the decision. Challenging Hal to a fist fight with the loser quitting the Corps (Green Lantern volume 3, issue 25), Guy is defeated after a brutal confrontation with Jordan and resigns, however his ego drives him to make his way to Oa where he takes the Qwardian power ring off Sinestro’s dead hand from where he lays in state in the crypts and renamed himself Warrior.
Hal Jordan’s possession by Parallax caused Guy’s yellow power ring to falter and during Emerald Twilight Ganthet first offered the last power ring to Gardner. Guy declined the ring, paving the way for Kyle Rayner to be chosen. Seeing visions of Oa’s destruction Guy takes a team of heroes to Oa to investigate only to have the entire team decisively beaten by Parallax, a fight which left Gardner’s ring destroyed and Guy severely beaten and minus one eye.
Three weeks later Guy woke up in a hospital and finding himself powerless he set out to change his situation. Leading an expedition to the Amazon Guy encounters a chalice containing Warrior Water which he drinks. Unknown to Guy the DNA of his bloodline had been altered during ancient times by an alien race called the Vuldarians and the Warrior Water triggered dormant abilities that allowed Guy to have shape-shifting abilities and eventually the ability to turn his arms into various weapons. This was DC’s attempt to profit from the success of the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers as well as continue to establish the new paradigm for the Green Lantern character.
During this time Guy creates Warriors, the superhero themed bar which served as his main source of income as well as a base of operations. Guy fought a number of battles using his new found power and he managed to reconcile his past when the Spectre gave him the opportunity to talk with his deceased father. The event led to Guy’s father not only apologizing for the rough childhood Guy had, but he went on to tell Guy how proud he was of all that his son had accomplished.
The Return of the One, True Green Lantern –
Guy made the decision that it was his role to take on the kinds of things that other heroes like Superman would never do since they crossed moral and ethical lines that they would not cross. This new mission lasted for some time until the changes to his DNA by the Vuldarians was undone when Guy became possessed by Parallax during Green Lantern: Rebirth and he is subsequently chosen as a senior officer of the new Green Lantern Corps after the defeat of Parallax. Guy plays a major role training new recruits alongside Kyle Rayner and Kilowog despite not enjoying a role that keeps him out of the action.
Guy stepped up as a leader during the attack by the Spider Guild and is named the first member of the Honor Guard and has since then often been given tasks which play to his personality and often require unorthodox and questionable actions. Guy was also part of a Black Ops division of the Corps, dubbed The Corpse (Green Lantern Corps volume 2, issue 7). However Guy’s memory of that time was erased by the Durlan Von Daggle, one time leader of The Corpse who found that Guy’s reluctance to use lethal force left him a poor candidate. In fact the existence of The Corpse was never referred to again once this particular storyline ended despite fan interest in the exploring the darker nature of the Green Lantern Corps.
During the Blackest Night Guy Gardner became enraged over the death of Kyle Rayner and transformed into a Red Lantern which allowed him to channel the power of two colors of the emotional spectrum successfully destroying the Black Lanterns. Mogo was able to purge the Red Lantern rage but Guy would not be free from its influence until the War of the Green Lanterns when Kyle Rayner, temporarily wielding the power ring of the Blue Lanterns, successfully eradicated any trace of the Red Lantern energy from Guy Gardner’s body.
Guy’s ability to take on the toughest situations led to him participating in a secret pact between Ganthet, Atrocitus and Guy regarding Krona and his plans to replace the Guardians with his own version of a multi-emotion army. This led to a fracture of trust between Guy and some of his fellow Corpsmen, namely Kilowog and Arisia, when they discover what Guy did. However Gardner’s actions redeemed him in their eyes and it reinforced the notion that Guy will put everything and everyone second to the bigger picture.
While his lack of a social filter often plays against him, Gardner’s ability to make the hard choices has continued to make him of the Green Lantern Corps’ greatest assets. Guy currently serves on Oa alongside John Stewart and to this day is often chosen to take on the missions that no other Green Lantern can.
Guy Gardner recently appeared during Episode 17 of the Podcast of Oa as the inadvertent subject of a Green Lantern Spotlight when he called in to the show. Gardner chose the opportunity to chastise one of the hosts who had been expressing a dislike of Gardner, calling him his least favorite human member of the Corps.