Thursday, September 9, 2010

Comics Review: GREEN LANTERN # 37 (Third Series: 1993)

To (Ahem!) “Kick-Off” the 2010 NFL Football Season, here’s something I wrote at the start of the 1997 NFL Season for my APA and Fanzine column THE ISSUE AT HAND.

I’m guessing no one will mind SPOILERS to a 17-year old Green Lantern story. If so, please come back next time, when I might just spoil a Popeye story.

The Issue at Hand is: GREEN LANTERN # 37 (March, 1993) Published by DC Comics.

"The Final Game" Story by: Gerard Jones. Pencils by: Mark Badger. Inks by: Romeo Tanghal.

If ever there were a superhero with an “identity crisis” it would be Green Lantern. Not merely unique to comics but, perhaps, in all of fantasy! You see, in GL's line of work
(where one is literally defined by one's costumed alter-ego) there is only one Superman, there is only one Batman – but, across space, there are 3600 Green Lanterns!

Members all of the Green Lantern Corps, a vast galactic peacekeeping organization - with each one responsible for ensuring order and safety to a sector of space. Indeed, our featured Green Lantern, Hal Jordan, is not even unique within the corps as an "Earthman"!

His predecessor, Alan Scott, his successor Kyle Rayner, and alternate Green Lanterns Guy Gardner and John Stewart have all defended our own "Sector 2814" with dignity. Throw in Charlie Vickers, an Earthman who safeguarded a different space sector, and you have a total of six - not to mention an incredible array of alien GLs to boot! Why, even “real life” New York Jets player Wayne Chrebet was nicknamed “Green Lantern”!

Indeed, your Green Lantern of choice is probably directly related to when you began reading comics. Though I doubt Charlie Vickers and Wayne Chrebet would get many votes in any case.

Each Green Lantern is essentially an above average, yet decidedly "mortal", member of his or her respective species, with no inherent extra-normal or "super" abilities to speak of. But, each is issued a device in the form of a "ring", which taps into the pure green energy of the planet Oa, homeworld of the Green Lantern Corps.

A Green Lantern's power ring can transport its wearer to any point in the galaxies ( at both sub-light or warp ), ensure protection from mortal injury, and produce solid manifestations of the green energy in any form the wearer can imagine. This last option can provide the GL the protection of anything he or she can envision; from a "big green boxing glove" to a "big green Tyrannosaurus Rex".

A recurring problem within the Green Lantern mythos, concerns Guy Gardner. Originally, Guy was "second choice" to Jordan - and was later passed over in favor of John Stewart, after sustaining severe physical injuries. Guy Gardner clearly resented the fact that he never "got his due". He was activated at last by the founders of the GL Corps, the powerful aliens known as the Guardians of the Universe, when the cosmos faced its ultimate crisis in 1985 (!) [ C'mon, the world almost ceased to exist - you gotta remember it! ] Gardner has been an off-and-on Green Lantern ever since, and openly resentful of Hal Jordan.

Enough background! It's game day! Not just any game, but the Super Bowl - though, oddly enough, referred to throughout this story as simply The 'Bowl! Reading this made me pause and wonder, if the term "Super Bowl " may not have been copyrighted or otherwise restricted from general commercial use.

Funny, over the years, DC Comics has copyrighted such proprietary terms as Superman, Superboy, Supergirl, Superwoman, and even Super Dog ( Everyone remember Krypto?), Super Cat ( AKA Streaky ), Super Horse and Super Monkey ( Comet and Beppo, respectively ). Yet, is DC somehow barred from the use of "Super Bowl"? If so, then what does Clark Kent use? ...Uh, to eat salad, I mean!

As a publicity gimmick, this year's 'Bowl ( "Super" or otherwise ) decided to provide free tickets to super heroes in thanks for their many deeds of derring-do, and Hal Jordan was only too happy to oblige... until he found himself seated next to none other than Guy Gardner! In the long history of the corps, has a Green Lantern ever been on record as having said "D'OH!"?

Conjuring up images of Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca, Jordan laments: "Of all the free seats in all the stadiums in the world, why did you have to get the one next to me?!"

Methinks Hal is leaning a tad toward the melodramatic. Sure, Guy Gardner can be ornery and obnoxious, but there can be much worse. It's not as if he's seated next to Second Hand Smoke Man ...or Belch Boy! And don't get me started on the "joys" of sharing a luxury box with the likes of The Fart Fiend! Fortunately for Hal (and us) the latter three opted to be "no-shows"!

Anyway, for the lowdown on the big game, let's quote the story's "One Panel Cameo John Madden Caricature":

"The Bay City Gold Miners [ READ: San Francisco 49ers ], the world's most popular team, are going for an unprecedented fifth championship! And the Mudville Maroons [ READ: the Cleveland Browns ] are looking to spoil the party in their first ever 'Bowl! Boom! That's excitement!" ...And, yes, the "John Madden" character really says "Boom!".

And "excitement" it is... not just for Jordan, Gardner, and the many millions worldwide plugged into the game - but an "excitement" which transcends dimensions! A palpable swelling of emotion of such magnitude it awakens an otherworldly demon whom Guy Gardner had imprisoned in some dimensional limbo years earlier. Using this newfound power of "psychic agitation", the demon, Sapolu, plans to break free of his mystical bonds and exact revenge on Gardner. In the "super hero game", these things just have a way of coming back to haunt you, I guess!

Using the power already flowing through the conduit of The 'Bowl, Sapolu sends two of his acolytes through to our world to subtly "influence" the play of the game so that the Maroons lead 13 - 7 in the closing seconds. It is Sapolu's plan to have the Gold Miners score the winning touchdown in those final moments, thus giving them the record fifth championship - and "engineering" one of the greatest 'Bowls of all time! The concentration of raw emotion at such a dramatic last second victory would free Sapolu and loose him upon the Earth!

Sensing a "familiar" sensation of psychic energy, Guy Gardner uses his ring to "see through" the deception of Sapolu's acolytes. Hal Jordan is understandably skeptical of Gardner's insistence that they prevent the Gold Miners' predestined victory (...after all, Guy IS a noted Maroons fan! ), until Gardner is laid low by one of the acolytes.

As the winning touchdown pass is aired, Hal agonizes over whether to interfere. The 'Miners are HIS team - and just because you're a super hero doesn't mean you can't maintain a healthy rooting interest! He acts by aiming a power beam at the arcing ball, but the beam is deflected by an acolyte in a referee's outfit!

The catch is made! The stadium, the country, and the world go wild! Hal goes through a quick period of denial: "Maybe it won't happen... Maybe it's just another one of Guy's crazy ideas!". As blasts of energy split apart the very ground, Hal weakly declares: "...Or maybe not!".

Sapolu is free! "Free to wreak vengeance on the vile Green Lantern - and to slaughter his entire dimension!" “ENTIRE DIMENSION?!” Now wait a minute here... I had nothing to do with it! I just write a fanzine column!

The great fear and emotional chaos caused by the sudden appearance of this hideous demon feed him all the more. The Green Lanterns move swiftly into action. Getting even more into the spirit of things than those guys who paint team colors and logos on their bare chests, Gardner's ring helps transform him into a "supernatural linebacker", who throws Sapolu for a loss beyond the stadium walls and away from the frightened and agitated crowd.

Hal, deducing that "...the game generated the power for him to be free, and the TV coverage of this super hero fight keeps him going!", decides to "...give the global audience the opposite of excitement!"

Blacking-out the game more effectively than any NFL Commissioner's ruling, Hal's ring substitutes repeats of "Leave it to Skeeter" over all broadcast channels! ...Funny, you'd think that (at least at first) THIS would raise the emotion quotient even higher than the infamous "Heidi Game" of over three decades ago. Perhaps Hal's ring sent out some "calming rays" as a supplement to "Skeeter"!

Weakened by Gardner's blows and their own waning psychic force, the demons turn forked tail and retreat to their realm! Hal lords the 'Miners' victory over Guy until a man from the League office delivers the final "kicker" that, since Bay City's POINT AFTER was never kicked, the game was declared to have ended in a tie!

If ever Warner Bros. decides to give us a GREEN LANTERN ANIMATED SERIES, this would be a great story to adapt!

More football comics fun to come…

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