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Astrojive: My Green Lantern Wish List

Richard Lee Byers contemplates the future of Hal Jordan and company

The big news in comics is that after nine years, writer Geoff Johns is leaving “Green Lantern.”

The scripters on the other two GL books, whose stories frequently dovetailed with whatever tale Johns was telling, are leaving, too.

Johns and his collaborators worked certain ideas pretty hard. I don’t mean that as a knock. They told some compelling stories doing it. Still, now that a new team is taking over, a fresh approach might be, well, refreshing, and thus I offer the following recommendations:

First, put the power back in power rings.

The idea of a Green Lantern ring is that it’s the mightiest weapon in existence, the supreme technological achievement of the oldest and most scientifically advanced sentient species in the universe. Yet in recent stories, the damn things are constantly running out of juice, having the energy siphoned out of them, or coming up against more formidable weapons.

It’s gotten bad enough that when I saw a drawing of Simon Baz, the new human GL, with a gun in his hand, my immediate thought was that I understood why he wanted a backup weapon, given that the rings have become so unreliable.

Because I’m a writer myself, I suspect I understand the reason for the downgrade. The mightier the character, the harder it is to come up with a bona fide challenge for him and generate suspense. But this is a case where awesome power is integral to the concept and appeal of the characters, and I hope the new scripters will bite the bullet and figure shit out.

Second, stop basing stories on hitherto unrevealed secrets from the deep, dark past of the Guardians of the Universe and the Green Lantern Corps.

What with Sector 666, the Book of the Black, and now the First Lantern and the hitherto unseen Guardians who spent millennia serving as his jailers, we’ve had enough of these revelations. Trot out any more, and the ongoing saga is apt to start looking insanely convoluted if not downright silly.

And DC, if you absolutely can’t resist the impulse to create more of this kind of backstory, at least leave Abin Sur, Hal Jordan’s alien predecessor, out of it. It already strains credibility that the guy was involved in as much as he was.

Don’t retell the personal backstories of Hal Jordan or any of the other Green Lanterns, either. I say that knowing it may be tempting, considering that he New 52 (the most recent reboot of the DC Universe) left their histories in shambles. “Rebirth,” for example, the absolutely key story in which Hal rises from the dead and resumes his Green Lantern identify, prominently features a version of Green Arrow who, in the new continuity, never existed.

Shouldn’t somebody fix that?

No. No one should. Not ever. When DC writers try to repair glitched continuity, they produce stories so recondite and devoid of drama that even the most obsessive fan is apt to consider his three bucks wasted. It’s better to resolutely ignore the inconsistencies lurking in the past and bravely forge ahead.

Third, enough with the prophecies.

Sure, we can posit that by recourse to psychic powers or outright time travel, characters in a science-fiction story might glimpse the future. Still, an ancient tome containing ominous predictions from the dawn of time is fundamentally a fantasy trope, not an SF one, and in its freewheeling superhero way, the Green Lantern saga is science-fiction.

Fourth, cut back on humongous epics where the entire GLC faces destruction.

For a while now, it’s seemed like the planet Oa gets besieged every month, and again, as a writer, I get it. The higher and more personal the stakes, the more intense the reader’s involvement. But that principle stops working if the storyteller reaches a point where said reader is thinking, Didn’t I just see this? Like, two or three times?

There’s no reason every story needs to involve bad guys coming after the Corps. The GLs are a police force. Instead of having them perpetually on the defensive, how about more stories where they’re out and about doing their jobs? At this point, such tales would provide a change of pace while still affording abundant opportunities for adventure and suspense.

Fifth, when you must tell a gargantuan outer-space epic, don’t always put the Earth at the center of it.

Admittedly, it isn’t just GL scripters who do this. Many writers assume that readers are more likely to take an interest if it’s our own world in the sights of the antimatter cannon. The stories also appeal to our vanity by asserting that, even though we humans aren’t capable of interstellar travel yet, we are nonetheless such special snowflakes that spacefaring aliens just can’t leave us alone.

Again, this storytelling gambit fails when it starts to seem implausibly repetitive. Outer space, the reader thinks, is pretty big. Surely Earth wouldn’t always be the final battleground.

The success of comics like “Annihilation: Conquest” and “Guardians of the Galaxy” shows that space-based superheroes don’t have to constantly swing by Earth to hold our interest. Which is not to suggest that no GL stories should happen here. Considering that Hal, John Stewart, Guy Gardner, Kyle Rayner, and now Simon Baz are all human, that would be weird. But when it’s time to mobilize the whole Corps for a throw-down with evil on the intergalactic scale, maybe some of those could happen someplace else.

Sixth (and last), don’t stomp all over real science when it’s unnecessary.

Like all superheroes and supervillains, Green Lanterns and their foes possess abilities that defy scientific explanation, and comics fans accept that. If we didn’t, we couldn’t enjoy the stories.

But superpowers are one thing. When a story depicts a huge, blatant violation of natural law that isn’t clearly attributable to somebody’s powers or otherwise explained, that can still pose a problem that destroys our willing suspension of disbelief.

Unfortunately, in recent years, the Green Lantern saga has had a couple moments like this. The one that bothered me the most was when the living planet Mogo came close — really close — to Earth, and his gravity didn’t cause us any problems. If the new writers can avoid that kind of thing, their stories will be the better for it.

And there you have it, my advice to whoever ends up writing Green Lantern next. Of course, if DC thinks it’s sound advice and wants to be sure of getting someone who will take it to heart, they could always hire me. Hal Jordan was my favorite superhero when I was a little kid, I still dig him today, and I’d be delighted to recite the GL oath, charge up my own power ring, and fly around with him for a while.

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Could they be a Rut-ro! Shaggy
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