Now that "Green Lantern" is in theaters, more people know that the DC Comics universe is a big place, with the self-styled Guardians of the Universe watching over 3600 individual sectors, each assigned its own member of the Green Lantern Corps to patrol and protect it.
As you can probably imagine, one sector in particular — numbered 2814 — has proven extremely troublesome time and again. In fact, it’s one particular planet in that sector where most of the trouble comes from (or, in the case of the "Green Lantern" movie, ends up on): a little mudball called “Earth.”
Because of the constant problems stemming from this planet, the Guardians determined over time that more than one Green Lantern is warranted to watch over it. in the new film, we see Hal Jordan become the Green Lantern of Sector 2814 — but there have been others, past and present, who have come to Earth’s defense when needed.
For those who saw the film and want to catch up on the Corps, we've put together a quick primer on who's come before and after Hal Jordan in the Green Lantern comics universe.
Alan Scott is the exception to the rule; he is a Green Lantern, but he is not a member of the Green Lantern Corps. How can this be? The answer lies in the publishing history of DC Comics. Alan Scott is in fact the original Green Lantern, debuting in 1940’s All-American Comics #16. There was no Green Lantern Corps when Scott got his start; instead, he derives his power from a mystical lantern forged from the heart of a meteorite.
Scott reigned as the Green Lantern until 1951, when superheroes fell out of vogue, and his adventures ceased publication. In 1959, DC was ready to give it another try, and introduced Hal Jordan, along with the Green Lantern Corps and most of the other familiar elements of today’s Green Lantern comics. But many readers remembered Alan Scott, so DC brought him back and integrated his backstory into the modern Lantern mythos.
Today, Scott continues to answer the call of the Green Lanterns whenever he is needed, and proudly serves as a member of the Justice Society.
Not every Green Lantern tasked to defend Earth has been a native of the planet. Before Hal Jordan, there was Abin Sur, an alien from the planet Ungara, who patrolled the spaceways of Sector 2814 until crash-landing on Earth. With his dying breath, he granted his power ring to Hal Jordan, and charged him with accepting the role of Green Lantern of this space sector. Since then, Jordan has sought to live up the example of his heroic predecessor.
In the new film, actor Temuera Morrison plays Abin Sur.
Hal Jordan was chosen as Abin Sur’s replacement due to his honesty and fearlessness, but 1968’s Green Lantern #59 reveals that Hal was not the only possible choice. Sur found that there was another worthy candidate, Guy Gardner, a physical education teacher from Baltimore, Maryland.
Jordan was ultimately chosen simply because he was geographically closer, and the dying Sur had no time to waste. But Gardner, whose brash, outspoken personality contrasts starkly with the easygoing Jordan, would not see his talents go to waste, and was eventually given his own ring, filling in when Jordan was incapacitated, and joining the Justice League as their Green Lantern for a time. Gardner’s accomplishments were recognized when he was elevated to the Corps’ Honor Guard, but even this dignified position is not enough to prevent from sharing his opinion… usually in the most in-your-face way possible.
John Stewart is not only the first African-American Green Lantern, he’s the first African American ever to take on the identity of a major superhero. Created by Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams in 1971’s Green Lantern #87, Stewart finds his skills as an architect put to good use when employing the Green Lantern ring, which can create any construct its wearer imagines.
In contrast to Jordan’s privileged life as a test pilot, Stewart comes from a hard-scrabble background, giving him insight into solving problems and skills in relating to people that Jordan lacks. Stewart continues to be the Green Lantern in the minds of many, as he was the sole Green Lantern in the Justice League animated series, leading some to voice confusion when the Caucasian Ryan Reynolds was chosen as the star of the big-screen adaptation!
There were some rumors that John Stewart makes a cameo in the new "Green Lantern" movie, though the scene may have ended up on the cutting room floor.
Kyle Rayner became a Green Lantern under the worst possible circumstances; the Corps had been decimated, the Guardians virtually wiped out, the Central Power Battery drained, and all at the hands of their most trusted member; Hal Jordan. Hal was possessed by the fear entity Parallax in 1994’s Emerald Twilight storyline, and there was no one left to oppose his rampage, until the sole surviving Guardian Ganthet named Kyle as the last Green Lantern.
Kyle served with distinction as the sole Green Lantern until 2004’s Green Lantern: Rebirth, in which Hal Jordan finally confronted and defeated Parallax, redeeming himself and reclaiming his title. Kyle went on to adopt the identity of Ion, the embodiment of Corps’ ethos of willpower, and remains a vital part of the reformed Corps to this day.
Who best represents Earth in the Green Lantern Corps? Let us know what you think in the comment section or on Twitter!