So-called readers who act as though fictional characters are real people they’ve met on the street are still around, and now, Joe Grunenwald, a managing editor for the awful Comics Beat, is tearing down on 2nd Green Lantern Hal Jordan along those very lines in yet another textbook example of the wrong approach, one that completely obscures entertainment value and creator responsibility for the sake of an unrealistic argument that risks blanket smearing much of the audience, no matter their own personalities. It begins with one of the most classically stupid insults:
A few weeks ago, DC Comics released a cover image for an upcoming issue of Batman & Superman: World’s Finest. The art by Dan Mora features Superman and Batman in the foreground and Green Lantern Hal Jordan in the background. Mora is a great artist, and I joked with my fellow DC Comics reviewer pals that I was “Mad at Dan Mora for making me think Hal Jordan looks cool.” And truly, we should all be mad about that.
Because Hal Jordan is the worst Green Lantern.
Okay, let me back up, that might not be fair.
Hal Jordan is the worst Green Lantern compared to all the other Green Lanterns.
And why? Because he didn’t have a personality any more than most other fictional superheroes created up to the late 1950s? This is so poorly written, and tragically not a joke, it demonstrates perfectly why Comics Beat is so irrelevant. But it also obscures the vital question of how good the overall entertainment merit is in the classic GL stories published until say, mid-1988. An era which Mr. Grunenwald apparently never bothered to read in any format, as he strongly suggests in what follows:
I know there are a lot of people who really like Hal Jordan. Some of those people even famously banded together to harass DC Comics writers and editors back in the ‘90s. I expect that some of those people might pop up here in the comments to tell me how wrong I am.
Welcome, H.E.A.T.ers! Please explain yourselves to me! Why do you like Hal Jordan so much that you would send someone death threats over how they’re treated in a comic? What about the character is compelling to you?
I am a thirty-nine-year-old man who grew up reading comics in the ‘90s. Maybe I met Hal Jordan when he was on his downswing? Hal with his graying temples and a bunch of more interesting characters around him. Guy Gardner has a personality. John Stewart has a personality. Hal Jordan has never struck me as Mr. Personality. He works for a bunch of little blue guys and they tell him what to do and, for the most part, he does it. It also may not have helped that Hal’s adventures were being written by someone who would turn out to be a literal monster.
Now it goes without saying Gerard Jones, based on his illegal activities for which he’s still currently residing in prison, is a most abominable person. But the problem with Grunenwald’s discussion is he seems to be implying Jones’ crimes are the only reason why the 1990-93 material is sour, not because it was badly written, and filled with political allusions so tasteless, they made even the most questionable moments in Denny O’Neil’s early 70s stories look like pure masterpieces. Even if Jones hadn’t committed criminal offenses with child pornography, that still wouldn’t make the material he wrote palatable. Certainly, it’s possible not everyone would’ve reevaluated and concluded as much if Jones hadn’t been caught and imprisoned.
But having taken the time since to reevaluate his resume, I for one feel Jones was one of the worst omens that could’ve befallen the medium, seeing as he was an early example of a SJW who drained entertainment value for the sake of poorly written political metaphors, some of which were very startlingly contrived, like the part where the corrupted Appa Ali Apsa transports tons of heavy cityscapes to planet Oa to combine in a patchwork quilt for a leftist’s PC-laced idea of racial strife and co-existence. Why doesn’t Jones’ lack of talent count? People like Grunenwald are the reason Jones was able to get away with his horrible hack writing for so many years, because they believe fictional characters are the ones deserving punishment, not the real life writers/artists/editors in charge of the storytelling.
You know when Hal Jordan became interesting to me?
Emerald Twilight. When he became Parallax.
For as long as I’ve been reading comics, Hal Jordan has been hailed as ‘the greatest Green Lantern’. He’s the Green Lantern who can do no wrong, to the point that when he does do something wrong it gets retconned away that he was actually possessed by a yellow fear demon.
The greatest Green Lantern becoming a villain? Completely rewriting the rules of what it means to be a Green Lantern? But still believing in his heart of hearts that he can fix things if he’s just given the chance? That is interesting. That’s a compelling hook for a character.
Hal Jordan was never more interesting to me than when he was either Parallax – a villain who thinks he’s just a misunderstood hero – or The Spectre – a hero trying to atone for the sins of his past.
And here, our dreadful pseudo-fan turns to the classic insult to the intellect that the only way to make a fictional character they alone decide is “boring and bland” interesting is to change them from hero to villain, which is far worse than killing them off through grisly circumstances. This is practically the kind of twisted logic even civilian co-stars like Jean Loring from the Silver Age Atom fell victim to. So too in fact did Stephanie Brown/Spoiler in the Batbooks. Even Marvel, if you know where to look, has some characters who were sacrificed under this kind of sick logic with a most notable example of recent being the Scarlet Witch, during Avengers: Disassembled. All because of phony fans who likely never read the books in question, and never wanted any improvement in characterization and overall story merit. Suggesting that, if they did read specific books, it was out of spite, not because they sought escapism, let alone thought-provoking tales with educational value.
That’s certainly the impression I got from a would-be reader on a message board years ago, who seemed to take out his anger against Hal entirely because he’d read the 1989-90 Emerald Dawn, one of the worst “updates” to a character’s origin, and decided based solely on that, that Hal Jordan should be damned for eternity, and he allegedly read the Kyle Rayner run in GL’s 3rd volume out of spite for an imaginary character who was not responsible for any blandness that resulted from his characterization – or lack thereof – in said miniseries. It’s also the same mentality that, for better or worse, led to Jason Todd’s elimination in the Batbooks, though the difference there is that Jason at least died a hero, while Hal was changed into a murderous villain, which again, is much worse.
I don’t really have a favorite Green Lantern, but if I did it would probably be Kyle Rayner, an everyman who came into possession of the most powerful weapon in the universe and made it his own. He’s a character with trackable development over a number of years, both in the pages of his own series by Ron Marz and Darryl Banks and also in writer Grant Morrison’s greatest Green Lantern run, JLA.
Hal Jordan was a test pilot who was gifted a power ring because he was the best. He was already Green Lantern before he ever got the ring. Kyle Rayner had to earn it. He had to overcome his fear and his doubt, and there was a steep learning curve to get there, including a company-wide event that thrust him into a starring role mere months after his introduction.
Once again, writers/artists and their talents – including John Broome and Gil Kane – are ignored in favor of the pretend-they’re-real cliche applied to the fictional characters. Does this mean aviation pilots are totally wrong for these roles because they have to muster considerable courage for the job they’re in? Do FBI officers and Marines also not qualify for similar reasons? And who says Hal didn’t earn or qualify for the role ahead, when here, Abin Sur scanned around, and found Hal’s personality to be sufficiently good for working as his successor? Worst, there seems to be some kind of contempt for the notion of having characters with admirable careers star in these tales. I’m sure if Clark Kent were Green Lantern instead of Superman, he’d immediately be subject to the same mentality.
I should be clear: I want to like Hal Jordan. I read Green Lantern: Rebirth and the first dozen or so issues of the 2005 Green Lantern ongoing series hoping that things might be different. Maybe now that he had more of an interesting past, Geoff Johns (the writer who had made Hal The Spectre in 1999’s Day of Judgment) could do something meaningful with the character. I wanted to read about a hero trying to earn back the trust of everyone around him.
Aside from his interactions with Batman, who famously at the time trusted no one anyway, there was none of that. Hal was back and he was back to being the best, no questions asked. Parallax was just a fluke. His time as The Spectre was ignored. The gray in his temples was even gone, that’s how perfect he was/is.
When’s someone going to do something good with this character? Is the core conceit of the character flawed? Or am I just missing the inherent thing that makes him great?
I implore you, dear reader, please explain it to me.
Or maybe Mark Waid, Dan Mora, Tamra Bonvillain, and Aditya Bidikar will be able to finally show me in that upcoming issue of World’s Finest. That cover almost made me a believer, after all. Still a little salty about that.
Now, I don’t like Johns’ writing style. I felt his work alternated between being too violent and crude, recalling there were moments alluding to sexual assault in his stories that left a bad aftertaste. And let’s remember Johns later turned to social justice propaganda a decade ago when he introduced yet another Earth-based GL whose defining background was that he was a Muslim. But if Grunenwald’s saying there was literally nothing wrong with turning Hal into a mass murderer, even though this is a most offensive direction to take with a character I thought we were supposed to be rooting for, created by folks in the Silver Age with far more decent intentions than today’s far-leftists in charge, and that this should remain rock solid in place…that’s truly repellent.
Some of the commenters to the post replied with some valid points, such as:
Aw come on Joe, a person can like Kyle AND Hal. I think of the two I do prefer Kyle, but I was reading about Hal for years before Kyle came along and he wasn’t a perfect, boring hero. You say yourself, you’ve not read any Hal as GL before the Nineties; why not go back and read some Silver Age stuff, see his ingenuity? Or the Bronze Age Marv Wolfman and Len Wein runs, when he was very human? This modern received wisdom that Hal is a bore and always was is kinda lazy.
Absolutely. But it’s also lazy to punish a fictional character instead of the writers guilty of bringing things down to such abysmal depths.
You don’t read the comics.
First off let me be clear….Kyle Rayner is a great character. In fact he’s the only GOOD Lantern other than Hal. His importance within the mythos may not be as great/the same but he. Is. Still. Important. You can like him AND Hal In fact a lot of FANS do. But let me repeat FANS of the character who aren’t racially motivated.
Do you know what is the problem with Green Lantern right now? It isn’t Hal. It’s the fact that over the years this character has become a dump for “diversity” and a thin veilled attempt at inclusion. Why do we have so many Earth Lanterns at the expense of the lore? Because giving minorities a ring is easier than making them original characters like Black Lightning or Vixen.
Now moving into Hal specifically. He’s naturally the heart and soul of the mythos. He is the original just as much as Johnny Blaze is to Ghost Rider. 99.9% of the villains are his except for the few that are Kyle’s. The problem people like YOU have though is that he doesn’t check off a box. He’s just a “generic white dude” as so many of you chuckleheads like to point out. I mean seriously you think John is better? His personality is so bland. Right now he’s trying to Replace Hal as the face of the franchise and, guess what, the current run SUCKS.
Lastly let’s talk about Emerald Twilight. That whole storyline was character assassination and, yes, it gave way to Kyle but it also drastically nuked the character. That’s why we got H.E.A.T. (Something that btw is in the past). How else do you think pissing off a fandom is gonna go? They could do it to any other popular character and it’d be the same. And eventually sales dropped and they NEEDED Hal to come back and it brought about one of the most successful runs in GL history while fixing the character assassination that was dealt to Hal by, yes, coming up with the very ingenious way to also explain why the hell GL was always weak to the color yellow
So all in all pick up a comic, stop being a bigot, and either say something good about Hal or just shut up.
And you know what the funny part is? You bitch about Hal being perfect but he isn’t. It’s his struggles he had Before the ring that make him so compelling and makes you want to root for him. Secret Origin does this very well. So it’s opposite. Hal Jordan is NOT perfect. He’s been called a screw up multiple times in fact lol. He actually more of the every man more than Kyle (which isn’t a dig at him btw) but it’s true. So really that line, “He was a Green Lantern before he got the ring” is more misinformation. He had to earn it just like Kyle.
It would be a blessing if these awful columnists would just stop talking about these characters they believe are real people altogether. The commentor has a flaw though, that he too risks approaching Hal as though he were real, considering he doesn’t stress the scriptwriters’ accountability any more than Mr. Grunenwald does. I must seriously object to way he’s alluding to John Stewart; it’s not John’s fault for a bland personality, but whoever’s writing him now. This reminds me, nobody’s ever complained how embarrassingly bad the storyline from Cosmic Odyssey was, where John accidentally enables the slaughter of an alien population, as though the X-Men’s Phoenix saga weren’t questionable enough in a similar vein. Oh, and while the commenter still didn’t improve much on his approach to references of John, he did go on to say:
I’m editing previous comment.
It’s funny you bitch about Hal being perfect but he isn’t. It’s his struggles he had Before the ring that make him so compelling and makes you want to root for him. Secret Origin does this very well. So it’s opposite. Hal Jordan is NOT perfect. He’s been called a screw up multiple times in fact lol. He actually more of the every man more than Kyle (which isn’t a dig at him btw) but it’s true. Your really no different from any other activist I’ve met and it’s pathetic. You know absolutely nothing about the character but, given you don’t read, it is not a surprise. I just hope you have this same energy for Sinestro or else your victory will be showing:)
Ah, now here’s something to ponder. Over a decade ago, Sinestro was turned into something more like a good guy prior to Geoff Johns’ departure, yet Grunenwald doesn’t complain about that? What, does a villain suddenly become more interesting when he becomes a goodie, in contrast to the hero becoming a villain? Wow…not only is that hypocritical, it’s one of the most bizarre two-sides-of-same-coin tactic I’ve ever known. But at least it tells what’s wrong with these journalism school flunkers. They root for the villains way too much! And there’s a valid point to find in this statement that the only reason these days anybody like the Comics Beat writers would rag on Hal is because he’s white. Would they do the same with John? Nope. Nowadays, whites are an easy target in an era jammed with political correctness.
Since I’d mentioned the lady lawyer who’d been a leading co-star in the Silver Age Atom’s stories, I also thought of commenting on this pretentious commentary from Women Write About Comics, supposedly panning Heroes in Crisis, but then botching it badly in a way that ignores Mark Gruenwald’s important point, “every character is somebody else’s favorite. You shouldn’t kill them off lightly, or worse, ruin their appearances in retrospect”, and even puts the site’s “feminist” credentials seriously in doubt:
Wally is the murderer. He eschewed the help offered to him at Sanctuary and instead lost control and “accidentally” murdered everyone who was there. Totally believable for the man who had just proven himself to be the best Flash (in Josh Williamson’s The Flash) to completely lose control of his powers and accidentally kill a dozen people, including one of his best friends. But to make it worse, what came next is a complete betrayal of Wally West’s character as a whole. You see, back in 2004, DC had another Crisis comic that focused on the trauma of being a superhero.
In 2004, Brad Meltzer and Rags Morales told the story that serves as a thematic prequel for this book, Identity Crisis. Much like Heroes In Crisis, it was a blatant excuse on monetizing trauma, and revolved around murder in the superhero community. Also, much like this book, it was a mystery at heart. I’ll say Meltzer was better about not telegraphing who was actually behind the murders. The biggest difference is that I don’t really care that Jean Loring was a murderer, and I do care that Wally West suddenly became one. […]
Well well well, this is definitely telling. Considering Jean was meant to be an example of a woman who thought/stood up for herself, and was trying to establish a career in law just like Mary Jane Watson was a modeling/acting career a few years later in Spider-Man, it’s bizarre some so-called feminist, as I assume the writer is, would take such a repellent stance and say she’s perfectly okay with turning Jean into an evil, repellent criminal. I guess the reasons for this are that Gardner Fox and Gil Kane’s characterization for Jean doesn’t meet the selfish modern standards of the charlatan who penned this shoddy insult to writers and artists past? When they created her in the early 60s, she was depicted as favorable to marriage, but was only willing to do it after she’d built up her law career, and expected Ray Palmer to prove himself in his own career as a scientist. I guess openness to heterosexual marriage is the big no-no for these regrettably leftist PC types at sites like WWAC, huh? Very sad. And I honestly find it hard to buy this woman’s a fan of Wally either as a result, because what if he were a minor character, and turned into such an awful mess simply because he’s a straight white guy? Don’t be shocked if these phonies would turn their backs on him as well.
It should be noted that, if Mary Jane had been a minor cast member of the DCU instead of Marvel, and Ray’s girlfriend instead of Peter Parker’s, many of the people with lenient views on turning Jean into a murderous horrormeister would’ve been perfectly fine with that too, and I can hardly wait to hear them shooting off at the mouth denying it. Point: it would make no difference how the characters were written today; the people who turned their backs on the characters years before still wouldn’t read the books they appear in, and that’s why it’s truly awful DC/Marvel pandered to their twisted viewpoints. Lest we forget, Carol Ferris could’ve fallen victim to this too, and come to think of it, she did back in 1988, when, instead of reversing the Star Sapphire status, despite how the door was left open for it to be done, the editors made everything worse by shoving her in an atrocious GL story in Action Comics Weekly #601 where she was depicted murdering Katma Tui, who, last time I looked, was still in the afterlife. (And even Johns never seemed to reverse that. Some “respect” he’s got for Katma, huh?) Adding insult to injury was when, during the story, Hal started punching Carol at one point while they were fighting. It was absolutely insufferable. Christopher Priest may have admitted he regretted writing the tale years later. I certainly hope so. What really stunned me though, was that Kane was willing to illustrate such a monstrosity, though if memory serves, he bailed before the last part of the first storyline in ACW. I sure hope he too regretted his role in that horror later on.
It’s a terrible shame we still have an alarming problem with so-called experts in comicdom who take unrealistic views of fictional characters, and add insult to injury by punishing the characters instead of the worst writers. Even some of the audience responding to them are at fault for not pointing out the flaw in the columnists’ logic. And that’s why it’s exceedingly difficult to make the vital improvements needed. Hal Jordan’s not the only one, but as a fictional character, he has been one of the worst victims of this whole mentality nobody on the left’s apologizing for. And it’s very sad. Sometimes, I also find it infuriarating Warner Brothers botched the GL movie from 2011, where Geoff Johns served as one of the producers. Because of that, no more sequels were to be seen so far, and now, with all the wokeness abound, it may never be possible to do a GL movie with a white Hal Jordan again…unless the protagonist is retconned to gay, just like Golden Age GL Alan Scott was in one of the TV productions that may have been produced in recent years. Which just demonstrates how badly the wokeness has gotten out of hand.
But, if those 90s GL stories are really so important to the Comics Beat editor who won’t see the forest for the trees, then let me just say in fairness that I’d be perfectly fine with letting many of those stories enter public domain, seeing how awful they were to begin with, along with the ACW material. Then, Mr. Grunenwald, if he worked at a publishing company, could have the pleasure of working on reprinting them at his leisure, and marketing them to whomever he thinks would lap them up. Someday, public domain is the destination a lot of mainstream superhero tales are headed for anyway, no matter their quality.
Originally published here.