Because the truth is, the Green Lantern known as Hal Jordan, who made his first appearance in 1959, was actually a reboot of a character from 1940. And that’s who we’re talking about today.
In 1940, writer Bill Finger (known to modern fans as the writer of Batman in his earliest days, though he was never credited as such) teamed up with artist Martin Nodell (under the pseudonym Mart Dellon) to create a new superhero for All American Comics #16.
The story wastes little time on introductions. Alan Scott is riding a train across a newly constructed bridge built by his company. The train’s engineer expresses concern that someone named Dekker (a suspiciously… Germanic name, isn’t it?) will want revenge for losing out on the bridge-building contract, but Scott, who just happens to be toying with a green lantern that was sitting in the cab, dismisses the idea as paranoid nonsense.
Then the bridge blows up.
When Scott comes to, dazed but unhurt, he is still holding the green lantern. The train is in pieces at the bottom of the canyon and everyone else is dead. Scott faints (and this may be one reason the character never caught on the way others did–it’s never a good sign when your manly hero starts his career by fainting).
The lantern then flares to life, and a mystic voice speaks, telling the tale of the lantern. It was made from the metal of a green meteor that fell from the sky, and its ghostly voice gave a prophecy that it would flame three times–once to bring death, once to bring life, and once to bring power. Its first flame killed the villains who unjustly killed an old man in ancient China. Its second flame cured a patient in an insane asylum, the man who made the Chinese lamp into a modern lantern.
And now the lantern tells Alan Scott that he shall receive power, the power to fight evil. He must use a tiny portion of the lantern’s metal to make a ring: a ring with green flame–green flame. The ring will grant him marvelous powers limited only by his will power and faith in himself, but it must be touched to the lantern once every twenty-four hours to maintain its power. And so…
Scott discovers that the ring’s power enables him to fly and pass right through the walls of Dekker’s house, where he confronts Dekker and his thugs (and strangely, the thugs are all, like Scott, wearing jodhpurs; Dekker, the master villain, is the only one wearing normal trousers). Bullets just bounce right off Scott, and a knife breaks against his chest. But a wooden club stuns him.
That’s right. The ring made from the green lantern has one weakness, and that weakness is wood. He can’t be killed by bullets or fire, but a wooden stake through the heart will… um… is it possible that Scott died in that crash, and that the lantern brought him back as a… vampire?
Oh well, we’ll circle back to that one. Scott recovers from the blow and routs the thugs, then grabs Dekker and takes to the sky with him to force a confession.
And of course, the villain dies conveniently without the necessity for the hero to get blood on his hands. Just another day in the life of a Golden Age superhero. Scott vows to continue using the ring to fight evil, but decides he needs to wear a costume: a costume “so bizarre that once I am seen, I will never be forgotten.”
That’s right: the costume was that ugly on purpose.
How ugly? Dude…
See you next week.