Ultimate Green Lantern
20 September 2006 — Several months ago I posted a thread over at the forums asking writers to help with a follow-up to last year's Ultimate Batman piece. It was quickly decided that we should focus on Ultimate Green Lantern, simply because the concept has endless potential — the power can be alien, magical, spiritual, mental, genetic, whatever. What follow then are three such updates, all of which provide a new starting line for the Green Lantern concept. Enjoy.
James D. Deaux IV
The Green Lantern mythos has always held true to a few things:
The ring is arguably the most powerful weapon in the universe, and its energy can take on any shape the bearer imagines. (This also allows for force fields and the ability to breathe in outer space and underwater.) The stronger the mind, the more powerful the ring's potential. The ring bearer must be nigh fearless and have a nearly unbreakable mind and spirit. The ring bearer cannot be blinded or the ring will essentially cease to function properly. And the ring must be recharged every so often with a battery shaped like a lantern, or, again, it will stop working.
In all honesty, I like these rules. They set a good backbone for a universal policeman / soldier. I would keep all of that the same. However, there are three things I would change.
01. The ring, doled out by the Guardians, will still choose its bearer, and there will be only one bearer per planet at a time. The ring will maintain all of its current powers, as well. However, the bearer cannot be an adult (think Codename: Kids Next Door, only far more serious). "Years" can mean any amount of time across the universe, and who knows when a race of people in another galaxy consider one of their own an adult? Therefore, when the ring bearer becomes what could logistically be called an adult, the ring will part with the being and choose a new youth in that sector to wield it. The ring also knows to find a youth that has intelligence far greater than average.
The reason I would make all of the Green Lanterns children / adolescents is because first off, most of them have unbridled imagination and curiosity. This, in and of itself, makes the character more interesting in battles and makes their powers that much more fascinating to behold. Secondly, the Guardians understand that adolescents are not as likely to be corrupted as an adult would be. Adults have years of resentment for various things — lost loves, money problems, job stress, personal guilt, whatever — and most children haven't yet been exposed to, or personally experienced, such things. Therefore, their minds are clear and can be molded into the way of the Lanterns. After rigorous training (à la military school) they are sent back to their planets to patrol just like DC's GL Corps. This idea isn't unprecedented. The Green Lantern in Batman Beyond is shown to be a child, and a genius one at that.
02. Everyone knows about the problems rookie Lanterns have with yellow objects. Well, throw that out the door because it is no longer a weakness of the ring. Parallax does not exist in my Ultimate universe. I've never liked that yellow setback anyway because even mere semi-experienced Lanterns have used loopholes to get around it since forever. So why even bother with it?
03. They are not only willing to use deadly force, but it is, for all intents and purposes, a common activity among the Corps in quelling threats and stopping villains across the universe.
The Green Lanterns, despite being young, are a super-intelligent universal police force, so it only makes sense that such a body would be willing to execute those that threaten peace and justice throughout the reaches of space. You terrorize a planet or its people and you refuse to stand down, then the Lanterns will kill you if necessary. Simple as that. That the Green Lanterns kill villains regularly will never sit well with entities like the Justice League. Therefore, no Green Lantern, including Earth's own, can ever join the Justice League (or the Teen Titans), as it conflicts with their number one rule of not killing their enemies. Furthermore, this will especially put the Green Lanterns at odds with people like Superman and Batman. Can you imagine Batman watching a teenager obliterate another human, good or bad, without even thinking twice about it? Talk about tension when he jumps in the middle to stop the execution. Not to mention that he would have a major moral dilemma deciding on whether or not to attack a child. However, the Lanterns are still considered heroes because they strive to put an end to evil in the universe. And despite their philosophical differences, the Lanterns and the JLA do have a grudging respect for each other due to their common goals.
Along with the Lanterns, two villains will be altered for my Ultimate plan.
Sinestro: When you think of GL enemies, you automatically think of Sinestro. Sinestro in my Ultimate universe was once Earth's Green Lantern when he was young. However, he was relieved of the power when he turned 18. As one of the Corps most accomplished and well-respected soldiers, he felt cheated. Years and years of resentment over losing such marvelous power have turned him into a borderline psychotic hermit, but still with a brilliant mind. Now in his 30s, he has dedicated his life to destroying the GLC one by one. He has become obsessed with black magic and has created a ring that utilizes power in much the same ways as the Lanterns' rings. Sinestro's ring, however, gains it power based off of the hate and resentment in his soul instead of the power of his mind. Being that there is no shortage of either in Sinestro, the ring has near-endless dark power that poses formidable challenges to all the Lanterns. Think the Joker, DC's Sinestro and Felix Faust all rolled into one and you have my Ultimate Sinestro — a fearless, maniacal, resentful, black magician and former Lantern hell-bent on brutal revenge.
Doctor Polaris: A former college science teacher obsessed with magnets, Neal Emerson was caught stealing magnet-related supplies from several of the university's laboratories and was promptly fired. He was never a popular professor and was constantly mocked by students and coworkers alike. For this reason, he secretly worked on building an electromagnet that would allow him to entrap the university inside a magnetic force field and kill everyone contained within. However, he never stole enough parts to build such a gargantuan machine. Still determined to get revenge on those who ridiculed him, he used what parts he had to build an electromagnetic centrifuge in his home that he hoped would enable him to gain magnetokinesis after long exposure to its waves. As he was activating the machine, Earth's Green Lantern, having sensed the immense magnetic waves already coming from Emerson's house, stormed into it. The young Lantern prepared to ensnare him with a force beam, but a large section of his house collapsed on top of the Lantern and the debris knocked Emerson, unconscious, into the now activated centrifuge. The Lantern regained composure, but it was too late to save Emerson. The machine exploded from heavy damage sustained from the house caving in. The Lantern barely escaped. Emerson emerged from the rubble glowing with a strange aura. He achieved what he set out to do, but at a heavy price — he was hideously scarred from the explosion. If he had had complete control over his newfound magnetic powers, the Lantern might have met an instant demise. However, with metal objects floating around everywhere due to magnetic waves encompassing the entire area, they provided enough of a distraction for the Lantern to escape. Thus, Dr. Polaris was born and he swore from that day to kill Earth's Green Lantern, even if it meant destroying the entire planet to do so.
Well, that about does it for my Ultimate Green Lantern plan. Though the Lantern characters themselves might lack deep backgrounds, I think it would definitely be interesting to have the Lanterns as young people / beings. It would be like a universal Teen Titans, only much more resolute and deadly in their evil-suppressing activities.
The fun part about re-imagining something in the comic universe is that you get to take a character you love and sever all ties to continuity. You get to start fresh with something that you want. The problem with this is that things often come so close to the original that re-imagining becomes an excuse for retelling all of the same old stories.
I looked at this as a challenge: take a character I love, Green Lantern, and bring something new to the idea without grasping onto notions of current continuity. First things first: distill what is essential to the character in order to create him anew.
I always wondered why they called Hal Jordan Green Lantern when Power Ring, the name of his Earth-3 mirror image, would have been more appropriate. Sure, I get it, guiding light, beacon of hope, yadda yadda yadda. The point is: why would an alien race as old as the universe itself have created the lantern as the symbol for its universe spanning cosmic police force? It makes no sense. The lantern worked for Alan Scott and it worked for its creator, Chang. The lantern was originally a meteor shaped into a lantern by an ancient Chinese craftsman. That makes sense, but the modern rendition does not. The ring is dispensable and the lantern should be made the reservoir for the central weapon of the new Ultimate Green Lantern: the unadulterated power of the green flame like Sentinel and Jade. My favorite Green Lantern story has always been "The Legend of the Green Flame" by Neil Gaiman. Accordingly, the source of my GL's power will be a green flame.
I also like the transference of the power (i.e. Abin Sur to Hal Jordan) but have found that this was taken advantage of with back-up GLs who were only created to add more of a human presence to the book. There should only be one human Green Lantern at a time. For the purpose of my character, there will only be one Green Lantern period.
The only other important thing for understanding the core of the character is the criteria for becoming a Green Lantern. A Green Lantern must be fearless and have great will power. The bearer's willpower and imagination are the only limitations to their power. This is central to the character and will also be kept.
Now, we can get to the story.
The Green Flame is legendary. It is the fire that ignited the Big Bang and has moved from galaxy to galaxy since time began. But, it has no will. Its sole purpose is to find a suitable host; it resides in the body of someone who is without fear and whose will power is unshakeable in times of dire need.
Never before has there been a more dire time. Legion is a suicide pact cult that has been cultivating for centuries on earth. They have gained immense power in all areas of government and industry worldwide. The world's top scientists and theoreticians toil under their watchful eye. Their high priest, Hector Hammond, woke up as a child with his right hand stained black. He grew to manhood fascinated by black holes and theoretical physics. His disfigurement was seen as a gift of darkness. He knew what he was destined to do: travel back in time to the Vanishing Point, the place where time began, and create a black hole at the time of the Big Bang. This will either negate the explosion that created the universe or alter it in such a way that all existence will be entirely rewritten.
Cut to Alan Chang's bedroom. It is dark but the light from a camping lantern illuminates the room. He sits among a huge collection of lanterns lost in his thoughts. The only thing that has been effective in capturing his imagination is his massive collection of lanterns. He has gas lanterns, camping lanterns and paper lanterns. It doesn't matter whether they are lit by fire or electricity, he loves them all. In the hallway his parents argue over whether Alan should be put in a special high school or not. Alan is autistic and very hard to deal with for his parents and teachers. He does only what he wants and no one can convince him otherwise. He has been known to touch the burners on stoves or jump from high places just out of curiosity. He is entirely fearless. One can imagine the difficulty of dealing with a child like Alan.
Alan's mundane life changes forever when the Green Flame chooses him. Once imbued with the ancient power, Alan begins to change. His subconscious mind has taken over and his physical appearance begins to reflect this. He has become a full grown man. A deep emerald hood obscures his face but green glowing eyes peer out of the darkness. The Green Flame, its transformation still incomplete, absorbs the entire collection of lanterns. Slightly confused, what once was Alan looks down at the barren floor where his lantern collection was and a long staff appears in his hand with a green lantern hanging from its hooked tip.
Alan's unique mental condition has confused the usual transformation of the Green Flame. Ordinarily, the Flame takes total control of its host to meet its purpose. Alan still retains control of this new power; the only mental change is an awareness of a wrong that must be righted. Alan must now use his newfound abilities to thwart the plans of Legion and destroy their deluded master. He must now show those who worship eternal night the power of the Green Lantern's light.
Michael David Sims
On the surface, creating an Ultimate Green Lantern appears to be an easy task. Hand the ring to someone besides Alan or Hal or Guy or John or Kyle, and presto: Ultimate Green Lantern! But that's what makes this so damn hard; that's how DC has kept Green Lantern fresh for 65 years, and it's how they will continue to do so.
To put it another way, DC is famous for its legacy characters: Robin (four), Doctor Light (two), Clayface (six), Green Arrow (two), Blue Beetle (three), Aquaman (two), Doctor Mid-Nite (three), Dr. Fate (six and a half... don't ask... going on seven), Hourman (three), Spectre (three), Batgirl (four), Batwoman (two), Ray (three), Atom (four), Starman (seven, going on eight; does not include future versions) and don't even get me started on Hawkman, Hawkwoman, Hawkgirl and Supergirl! Hell, at one point or another even the Holy Trinity has been tampered with. (Do the names Jean-Paul Valley, Donna Troy, Artemis, Queen Hippolyta, Kon-El, John Henry Irons, Hank Henshaw and The Eradicator ring any bells?)
As you can see, most of those characters have been updated only a handful of times — some more than others. Green Lantern, on the other hand, truly has a legacy. Not only have five earthborn men sworn an oath to Oa, there's a corps filled with thousands upon thousands of 'em. (And that's not counting the hundreds of thousands who've come before.)
With that many Green Lanterns zipping around in space, with the ability to focus on any one of them for any length of time, writers are presented with limitless possibilities! Bored with B'dg? Write a 12-issue Green Man series, a six-issue Sodam Yat tale, Rot Lop Fan and Katma Tui can team for five issues. Endless!
(On a side note, I personally feel Kyle Rayner was the definition of Ultimate Green Lantern. The Corps and legacy were dead, leaving Kyle alone to shoulder both the burden and shame of Hal Jordan's final days. His self-doubt was thick, and provided writers with the opportunity to explore fear, hesitation and awe — none of which they could have with Hal. Furthermore, he was young and inexperienced, making him the perfect entryway character.)
All that said, how does one create Ultimate Green Lantern?
Change the concept.
Forget the aliens and space battles and intergalactic police force. Leave the modern world behind. Most of all, however, goodbye power rings!
You can close your mouth now.
— The Setting
A dank, dreary England provides the perfect backdrop for the type of story I'd tell, especially in the last months of 1888 and beyond.
— A Bit Of History
Between 31 August 1888 and 09 November of the same year, a man dubbed Jack the Ripper murdered (at least) five women in the East End of London — a famously impoverished area of the city. With the world's gaze cast directly on England, no longer could city officials overlook the conditions of the area or its denizens.
— A Left Turn
Where my story deviates from fact is here: in the months following the unsolved Jack the Ripper murders, the brutal assault of local women continues unanswered (actually, that part is still fact; many more women were found murdered in the area around the time of and after the slayings credited to Jack the Ripper). This leads to the formation of a Criminal Investigation Department (CID) in the East End.
— The Players
Detective Superintendent Alan Scott: Heads the unit from behind the scenes. Very level headed. Violent acts against children are seemingly the only thing which faze this hardened officer of the law.
Detective Chief Inspector Hal Jordan: A former Commodore in the Royal Navy, Jordan honors his country and the law above all else. Black and white — that's his world. Gardener's brazenness and Stewart's tendency to empathize with whores and other "petty" criminals irks Jordan.
Detective Chief Inspector John Stewart (historically he'd be a white man): Having grown up in the East End, Stewart knows why people steel and women prostitute themselves: to survive. In an effort to clean up the place of his birth, to rid the streets of killers and rapists, John became an officer of the law.
Detective Chief Inspector Guy Gardener (accuracy demands his surname be spelt as such): Very brash. If you don't like his methods, you can thumb your nose at him — and he'll punch your lights out for doing so. Despite his attitude, Gardener is very passionate about his job and the law. Thinks of himself as a lady's man. He and a local whore are seen together once in a while.
Detective Inspector Kyle Rayne (again, note the name change): The youngest of the group. Despite his age, Kyle is one of the best Peelers in all of England. His meteoric rise up the ranks sparked jealousy amongst constables his own age, which occasionally brings him down. Despite his position and skills, Rayne feels out of place amongst the more seasoned men he's surrounded by.
— Green Lanterns, you say?
Historically speaking, constables are referred to as Peelers and Bobbies in honor of Prime Minister Robert Peel who revolutionized law enforcement. Similarly, in this story, members of the East End CID are commonly referred to as Green Lanterns (or GLs) due to the eerie events surrounding their first major case.
In the wake of the vicious Jack the Ripper murders, a string of ritualistic slayings is uncovered. In order to better investigate the crimes, D/Supt Alan Scott splits his men into two teams: Jordan and Stewart, and Gardener and Rayne. The former is tasked with investigating the dead and following cold leads, while the latter interviews survivors — who are few.
Over the course of the ensuing week, few clues are found:
— The victims were all women.
— All of them between the ages of 16 and 19.
— They all disappeared shortly after midnight.
— Each had their eyes plucked out.
— Their bodies were found on the shore of or floating in River Lea.
Two women survived, though one was in a coma and the other near death. With no concrete witnesses and nothing pointing them in the right direction, Scott feared this would explode into another "Jack-like fiasco." Thankfully, he was wrong.
That night, while Gardener was visiting his prostitute-lover, she recounted a recent assault on her by two men — who appeared "like ghosts" through a solid brick wall. Before they could spirit her away, however, she clawed at one man's eyes (leaving four deep scratches across the bridge of his nose) and smashed the other one in the jaw with a solid punch — something Guy taught her to do. Not only that, but she recognized one of them as the local baker's apprentice.
From there everything should have been academic, but no one could have predicted the outcome.
Upon arresting the young man (the scratches made him easy to identify), he confessed to being part of a group called The Children of Oa. They believe this world to be a filthy, sinful place and wish to transcend to Sto-Oa. To open the gateway between the two worlds, the Children abducted young women and "relieved them" of their eyes. When asked by Jordan, "Why the eyes," the young man sobbed, "In blackest night. In blackest night."
Further interrogation revealed the location of the Temple of Oa, which all five members of the unit stormed that night.
Lanterns in hand, the men surrounded The Children of Oa, who either didn't notice the officers or simply ignored them. Either way, a small, pale man ("the eldest of the Children") led a chant — "In brightest day, in blackest night, no evil shall escape our sight. Let those who coddle evil's might, beware our power — Sto-Oa's light!" In that instant, something remarkable transpired: every last one of the Children (including the apprentice who was under lock and key back at the station) vanished in a plume of magical green flame. As the detectives would quickly notice, every torch in the temple, including their own handheld lanterns, now radiated an uncanny green flame — one that refused to extinguish.
Once the press got word of this odd occurrence and the events surrounding The Children of Oa, everyone worldwide began calling the officers of the East End CID Green Lanterns.
Though some might comment that this feels more like an Elseworlds book rather than an Ultimate title, it's a fresh starting point — and that's all an Ultimate comic book is. Plus, much like Neil Gaiman's original plans for 1602, this story could reasonably fall within continuity.
That concludes our second Ultimate piece. As always, I hope you enjoyed the experience. Down the road it's my intent to update some of DC's villains, such as Lex Luthor, Solomon Grundy and Catwoman. If you have any suggestions or feedback, feel free to post it at the Earth-2 forums.