Thursday, February 23, 2012

First 10 - Golden Age Green Lantern

So I plowed right through another first 10. This marks a couple of firsts. This is my first first 10 in the DC Universe (although everything I read took place on the pages of All-American Comics and All-Star Comics which were bought by National Periodicals which became DC. Comics be crazy) and my first Golden Age first 10. So yeah, exciting.

So the comics I read covered both Alan Scott's transformation into the Green Lantern as well as his inclusion in the brand new Justice Society of America. The Justice Society comics featured a lot of solo work by each member followed by some late teamwork. All the solo pages were already drawn and published in each character's solo title and the few pages at the end where they get together to deliver the finishing blows to the bad guys were the only original pages in the book. It's a bit lazy, but it was a platform for pushing all the solo series in the All-American stable. The importance of the Justice Society cannot be understated. They were the first superhero team ever. Even though they were created as a marketing tactic, the team took on a life of its own as time went on and inspired every subsequent superhero team.

Before I get to the solo Green Lantern titles, I want to rank the original members of the Justice Society in order from most favorite to least because as I read the first couple JSA issues, I found characters I loved and characters I didn't care for.

1. Spectre - I love everything about this guy. His costume is so great that it hasn't changed in any major way since 1940. He's powerful, he's enigmatic, he's everything you want in an engaging comic book character.

2. The Flash - Jay Garrick is a champ, pure and simple. He has one major power and it's a great one. Also, I love the look of the Golden Age Flash. I also love the look of Barry Allen (as well as all subsequent Flashes), but there's something about the silly helmet and blue pants of the original Flash.

3. Sandman - This was something of a toss-up. I could have just as easily gone with Alan Scott, but I think I like Sandman just a touch more. The fact that his MO was to use non-lethal force to get the job done in addition to the fact that he has no superpowers gives a level of tension to his stories. Also, his costume is awesome and mysterious. Should I ever attend a con, I'm dressing as Golden Age Sandman.

4. Green Lantern - Alan Scott has a lot going for him, though not quite as much as the three guys I listed first. I was a bit annoyed by a major continuity error within the first few issues (In All-American Comics #16 he's a railroad construction engineer. In All-American Comics #20 he's suddenly a radio engineer). I still love the business with the ring and its connection to the lantern. Alan Scott set the precedent for the much more engaging Green Lanterns which would come later (see: Hal Jordan)

5. Doctor Fate - Mysterious and enigmatic. Great costume (really love the helmet). Powerful. And yet he still plays second fiddle to Spectre (at least in my book). If anything Doctor Fate is a little too mysterious and not well-defined enough in the first few JSA issues.

6. Hour-Man - I like the idea of the Hour-Man, but it isn't as well-executed as I would have hoped. I wish Miraclo could only be taken a certain number of times in a day, or that it was extremely expensive to make. I really wanted Hour-Man to be constantly walking the line of losing and gaining his powers. It looks like his character does become a lot more interesting when Miraclo turns out to be addictive, but none of that plays out in the early issues of JSA.

7. Hawkman - Nothing about Hawkman appeals to me, and yet he is far from the worst that the original JSA had to offer.

8. Atom - Al Pratt is as lame as a comic book character could be. He's super short, really annoying, and has no powers whatsoever. If he got killed in the line of duty, I would flip the page with nary a tear shed or even so much as a sigh.

9. Johnny Thunder - Though not a full member of the original JSA (he would join early on), he tagged along in all their early adventures (I can't for the life of me figure out why). The adventures of an accidental hero couldn't possibly interest me less. He's more of a pest than a hero.

Anyway, with that out of the way, lemme talk about Green Lantern for a bit. I noticed two things about Golden Age comics right off the bat. 1) They were clearly written for kids. The language used in the stories as well as the stories themselves seemed geared toward a young audience. I can't imagine many adult comic book guys in the 1940s.  2) They were imaginative, but only to a point. Golden Age characters were much more limited in their powers than their current counterparts. Most notably, Golden Age Superman couldn't fly. Alan Scott didn't have many of the powers Hal Jordan did, and his activities were limited to Earth, not the vast expanse patrolled by later Green Lanterns. Basically, Golden Age superhero powers were merely slight tweaks to reality rather than complete departures from it.

So Alan Scott didn't have crazy powers or intergalactic adventures. So what? He played out awesome crime-busting adventures similar to the other heroes of his day (I really like the gumshoe archetype, and Alan Scott does a fair amount of gumshoe work). He kept a decent cover identity (I wonder how many superhero alter-egos work in mass media. It seems like a lot), his powers have well-defined limits, and he has clear weaknesses. Golden Age Green Lantern stories are compelling and fun to read.

So if you're scoring at home (you're not, are you?) I'm still keeping Fantastic Four in the driver's seat, followed by Punisher with Golden Age Green Lantern close behind.

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