‘Green Lantern’ 101: A Guide To The Comics Behind The Movie

Green Lantern, DC Comics’ intergalactic hero, soared into theaters this weekend, introducing many people to a character who made his debut more than 50 years ago.

DC scribe and Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns was heavily involved in the making of this film, so it should come as no surprise that the comic books themselves form the basic fabric of the movie’s story.

As we’ve done in the past for films like “Thor” and “X-Men: First Class,” we’re taking a look at the various elements of the film and breaking down for you just where they come from in Green Lantern’s decades of comics history.

Oh, and if you haven’t seen “Green Lantern” yet, consider this your SPOILER WARNING!

Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds), the alter ego of our titular protagonist, first appeared in Showcase #22 in October of 1959. Echoing his comics debut, Jordan is shown to be a cocky test pilot with a reputation as a lothario, and continually plays a cat-and-mouse game with his boss, Carol Ferris (Blake Lively).

It is interesting to note that artist Gil Kane frequently modeled his Green Lantern characters after real-life actors or other notable people, and in Jordan’s case, the model was movie star Paul Newman. The film also portrays a young Hal (Gattlin Griffith) scarred by the line-of-duty death of his test pilot father, Martin Jordan (Jon Tenney); this aspect of Hal’s background was first explored in 1989’s Emerald Dawn miniseries.

Jordan’s best friend is Inuit engineer Tom Kalmaku (Taika Waititi), who has been upgraded from his comics origins where he was only a mechanic. Even so, Kalmaku was one of the earliest examples in comics of a non-white character receiving a non-stereotypical portrayal; Kalmaku was a well-rounded character from the start, treated by Jordan as an equal and the only one he trusted with his secret identity.

After getting into trouble at work due to his piloting antics, Jordan has a close encounter that will change his life; he discovers the dying Green Lantern Abin Sur (Temeura Morrison), who has crashed on Earth. In the comics, Abin Sur’s crash was caused by a simple accident; his ship was hit by yellow solar radiation from our own sun, and because the Green Lantern rings were originally powerless against anything of the color yellow, Sur was mortally wounded in the ensuing crash.

This aspect of the Green Lantern mythos has been revised many times over the ensuing decades, but the current version, as told in 2008’s “Green Lantern: Secret Origin” by Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis, explains that Abin Sur had been escorting a dangerous prisoner by the name of Atrocitus in his ship. Atrocitus was able to subtly instill fear within Sur’s mind, thereby weakening the Green Lantern’s power and allowing Atrocitus to break free. Atrocitus then mortally wounded Sur, and escaped, leaving Sur to crash-land on Earth.

The movie revises this further, by introducing Parallax (Clancy Brown), the embodiment of fear, into Sur’s story. Parallax originally was simply a new identity that Hal Jordan adopted, in the wake of 1994’s “Emerald Twilight” storyline, when he apparently went mad and destroyed the Green Lantern Corps. But as Geoff Johns and Ethan Van Sciver revealed in 2004’s “Green Lantern: Rebirth,” Parallax was in fact a cosmic entity representing the power of fear, who had possessed Hal Jordan.

The movie’s take on Parallax involves a renegade member of the Guardians of the Universe (the founders of the Green Lantern Corps) named Krona accidentally unleashing Parallax, who dwells within the Yellow Central Power Battery in the Vega System. This is a synthesis of several disparate elements from the comics.

In the comics, Krona originally hails from the same species as the Guardians of the Universe, but he predates their group’s formation, and was never a member. He was a scientist with an insatiable curiousity who broke a long-standing taboo regarding peering into the origins of the universe, and in doing so, was responsible for a cataclysmic event which introduced evil into the universe, as first shown in 1965’s Green Lantern #40 and expanded upon in 1985’s “Crisis On Infinite Earths,” although there was no involvement with Parallax. The Guardians themselves formed, and eventually organized the Corps, to combat that evil.

Parallax’s residence in the Yellow Battery echoes the revelation from “Green Lantern: Rebirth” that he had been trapped within the Green Lantern Corps’ own battery, and was responsible for the yellow impurity which left them powerless against the color yellow. The Vega System is a region established in Green Lantern lore to be off-limits to all Green Lanterns, due to a treaty with Larfleeze, the wielder of the orange light of greed, as shown in Geoff Johns and Philip Tan’s 2009 “Agent Orange” storyline.

The Guardians are initially successful in correcting Krona’s error and recapturing Parallax, this time imprisoning him in the so-called Lost Sector, which is devoid of life; in the comics, the Lost Sector is the home of the undead Black Lantern Corps, as shown in 2009’s “Blackest Night” event. But Parallax once again escapes, and Abin Sur is fatally injured trying to stop his interstellar rampage, leading to his crash-landing on Earth.

After having received the Green Lantern ring from the dying Sur, and discovering a few of its amazing powers, Hal is transported by the ring to Oa, the home planet of the Guardians of the Universe. There he meets three key Green Lanterns who will assist in his training; Sinestro (Mark Strong), Kilowog (Michael Clarke Duncan), and Tomar-Re (Geoffrey Rush).

Tomar-Re, who looks like something of a cross between fish and fowl, first appeared in 1961’s Green Lantern #6, while Kilowog, the monstrous-looking drill sergeant, was created years later by Steve Englehart and Joe Staton in 1986’s Green Lantern #201. Both go on to become Hal Jordan’s closest allies in the Corps, but Sinestro, who debuted in 1961’s Green Lantern #7, will become his greatest enemy, though we only see the seeds of that turn in this first film.

Back on Earth, Abin Sur’s body has been recovered by the Department of Extranormal Operations, led by Amanda Waller (Angela Bassett). Waller, who first appeared in the 1986 “Legends” miniseries, is best known as the supervisor of the government-conscripted team of villains known as the Suicide Squad. She has also been affiliated with the comics version of the Department of Extranormal Operations, an agency charged with policing metahuman activity which first appeared in 1998’s Batman #550.

Her film incarnation recruits Hector Hammond (Peter Sarsgaard), a xenobiologist, to perform an alien autopsy on Abin Sur. Hammond debuted in 1961’s Green Lantern #5 as a petty criminal who happens upon a meteorite, whose powers he uses to enslave others in order to garner fame and fortune for himself. But the radiation from the meteorite eventually mutates him, giving him his now trademark over-sized head as well as vast telepathic and telekinetic powers.

The movie streamlines his origin, and ties him in more closely with the Green Lantern mythos, by positing that a shard of Parallax remained in Abin Sur’s body after the attack, and it is exposure to this which causes Hammond’s mutation, and drives him mad.

Hal and the Corps now have two major threats to contend with, and the Guardians decide it may be time to fight fire with fire; since Parallax is an entity based on fear, they decide to begin construction on a power ring fueled by fear-based yellow energy in order to defeat the menace.

Naturally, Sinestro, being one of their most skilled and experienced Corpsmen, will be the one to wield it once completed. But Hal is able to rally the Corps to defeat Parallax and Hammond, and in the end, the finished ring is sealed away, never to be used… or so they believe.

As readers of the comics know, Sinestro does go on to wield the yellow ring (which, in the comics, was built for him by denizens of the anti-matter universe known as the Weaponers of Qward in 1961’s Green Lantern #9), and not in the service of justice. But audiences will have to await the next installment in the Green Lantern movie franchise to see how that particular story plays out on the big screen.

What elements of the comics would you like to see in the next Green Lantern film? Let us know what you think in the comment section or on Twitter!

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