Marv Wolfman Redefines Hal Jordan for the ’80’s
Flashback Fridays shines a light back on some of my favorite Green Lantern stories and moments from the past, prior to Green Lantern’s resurgence during the days after Geoff Johns resurrected the Green Lantern Corps in 2004’s Green Lantern: Rebirth. The first installment spotlighted Hal Jordan’s appearance in Marvel’s Incredible Hulk series and in our second installment we are going to revisit the 1980’s in a story which sought to redefine Hal Jordan for a new era.
Between Denny O’Neil’s run and before Mike W. Barr took over on the main Green Lantern series writer Marv Wolfman held the reins for his own twenty issue run on the title. Wolfman’s run was notable for trying to elevate some of Green Lantern’s rogue gallery and also served as the introduction of The Omega Men in Green Lantern #141. Marv started his run with Green Lantern #133 by reviving Dr. Polaris and turning him in a major threat for Green Lantern in a three issue arc which spent considerable time building Hal Jordan up as a character.
Having lured Hal to the North Pole Dr. Polaris uses the magnetic forces of the Earth to incapacitate Green Lantern, taking his power ring and leaving Hal in the arctic wilderness while he unleashes his plan to access the “magnetic core of the universe” to gain unlimited power. While Hal is away things unravel at Ferris Aircraft and Carol Ferris is kidnapped. To make things right Hal must survive the harsh frozen landscape with nothing more than his raw willpower to push himself through to the end.
There are a few things about this arc that made it one of my favorites of this era. First and foremost is how Wolfman made the story about Hal the man and not Hal the superhero. The script to this story underscored why Abin Sur’s ring chose him in the first place and it’s only by sheer willpower that Jordan managed to survive the brutal conditions to make it back to civilization alive. In issue #134 Hal is faced with no protection from the elements, no food or water, attacks by animals only to find himself snowblind and wandering. The combination of Wolfman’s script and Joe Staton’s pencil do a brilliant job of stripping all the superhero and science fiction trappings away to reveal the bare essence of Hal Jordan’s character. It’s in witnessing Hal overcome these obstacles and still coming back to take on Dr. Polaris with nothing more than nerve and grit that the reader sees Green Lantern redefined for what was then a new era for the series.
Something else that Marv did was get rid of a lot of baggage between Hal and Carol. Like he does with Hal, Wolfman bares Carol Ferris’ soul and in issue #133 we see Carol completely open herself up to Hal and finally acknowledge her true feelings. It’s a real turning point in the Hal/Carol dynamic that leaves Hal teary eyed and is a great example of how multi-dimensional their relationship is when handled correctly. Yeah, I’m looking at you, Justin Jordan.
There is, of course, some of the traditional goofiness that plagued comics at the time. Seeing Hal exclaim “Great Guardians!” is just as cringe worthy today as it felt then but there’s more to like than dislike in this arc. Seeing Hal remove the power ring from Dr. Polaris’ hand by using his will alone is a powerfully heroic moment in a story which is replete with them.
Green Lantern #133-135 were issues that resonated with me very strongly in my teenage years. As a youth grappling with the ongoing struggles with a birth defect which has challenged me every day of my life this particular story was really important to me. Seeing that Hal could overcome tremendous odds without his power ring was very powerful and made my favorite hero all the more important in my life.
Next time – Green Lantern shares a jail cell with….Black Hand!?