Canton Repository gushes like a flood over Marz/Banks take on GL
The mid-90's was a tumultuous time in the world of DC comics. Superman died. Bruce Wayne had his back broken by Bane and was paralyzed from the waist down. The radical changes weren't done either. The next hero on the chopping block at Warner Brothers was long-time Green Lantern Hal Jordan.Wow, "believable"? Oh yeah, isn't that saying something. I don't see what's so believable about a guy going nuts and taking his anger out on thousands of GLC members rather than the villainous entities he'd fought against before, including Lord Malvolio. After all, weren't they the ones responsible for all the misfortunes that befell Earth and the alien allies? Already, this article is gearing up to be one of the most unintentional comedies of all time. What's so strong about writing where the 1st girlfriend, Alexandra deWitt, was set up as a sacrificial lamb, and those who came afterward were already established heroines like Donna Troy and Jade? On top of that, Kyle Rayner did not have much of a personality, if at all, and some Chuck Dixon readers summed up the problems fairly well. As a result, it all couldn't have come off worse.
The plan was not only to remove Jordan from his role as a Green Lantern and replace him with a brand-new character, but also to turn him into one of the biggest villains in the DC Universe. It's a change that could have gone horribly wrong and been quickly undone. Thanks to the strong work of writer Ron Marz and Columbus artist Darryl Banks, though, it couldn't have come off better. Banks reflected on getting the call that would forever change the course of the Green Lantern mythos during a recent stop at Bill's Books and More in Canton.
"There were a lot of things happening," Banks said. "A lot of transitions going on, not just in DC comics but the industry as a whole. DC decided they wanted to shake things up a bit in the Green Lantern franchise. I'd like to believe that we did that."
Banks and Marz did that, and more. They pulled off the turn from hero to villain for Jordan in gut-wrenching but believable fashion. The result was Jordan killing the entire Green Lantern Corps while also taking the life of long-time series villain Sinestro. One single Green Lantern ring survived the attack and fell to earth, landing in the hands of a young artist leaving a bar late at night. This character's name was Kyle Rayner, and he would go on to be the title character in the Green Lantern series for over a decade.
I also don't understand why the reporter who wrote this icky fawn-job sees nothing wrong with turning a guy who never hurt anybody in real life into a mass murderer, or why he'd consider the GLC's members by and large a worthless supporting cast. Anybody that unobjective can't be a real superhero fan, IMO. The part about shakeups reminds me that over 15 years ago, I found a reader on an early message board telling everybody he'd once spoken with editor Kevin Dooley, the primary crafter of that mess, in the mid-90s at a convention, and Dooley made it clear that was all he cared about; he wasn't interested in actual character drama. And from the look of things here, I guess the writer of this lumpy piece isn't either, proving he has no respect for the art form, superhero or otherwise.
"I was very surprised that he was the title character for so long," Banks said. "In the 90's, the order of the day was big changes and big shakeups left and right. I thought that after all of it died down that Kyle Rayner would kind of go away."The reason Rayner remained a GL for 10 years is because of Dooley for one. He shut out all dissent, and you wouldn't see it in the letter pages, if at all. And all because people like him were too cowardly to admit they'd made mistakes and gone about their directions the wrong way. It's basically a form of obsession and greed. And all those changes and shakeups were just the problem, doing nothing to improve upon already uninspired writing.
It wouldn't be for lack of trying or for the lack of creating a compelling character. The previous characters to wear the Green Lantern ring were by and large very mature, serious individuals with military backgrounds. Jordan was an Air Force pilot. John Stewart was Army infantry. Guy Gardner was most recently portrayed as an ex-Baltimore police officer. Rayner was none of those things. He was a carefree, likeable, creative young man who lived with his girlfriend and helped take care of his single mom.Fascinating how the writer obscured the exact history of Hal, John, and even Guy since the Silver/Bronze Age. None of them began as military officials by any stretch. Hal was an aviation test pilot, but the USAF background was only recent, thought up by Marz nearly 2 decades ago. The retcon to John was even more recent, and apparently thought up by Geoff Johns and company in the mid-2000s. Before that, John had been an architect when he debuted in late 1971. Even Guy's police background was a more recent retcon, and long before that, he'd been a sports instructor. Funny they don't mention the original GL, Alan Scott, who began as an engineer and later took up a career as a TV station manager. His daughter Jenny-Lynn Hayden (Jade), who has similar but more internalized powers, was a model. And she was the second girlfriend after Donna Troy, who goes curiously unmentioned here. I assume the writer knew this was pretty cheap and mechanical, so he didn't name them, lest anybody figure it out immediately and wonder how using superheroines as co-stars instead of casting them as their own agencies makes for compelling writing.
"In the back of my head, I felt that he wasn't a gimmick," Banks said. "I thought he was a genuinely well thought out character. The way that Ron Marz envisioned his personality, I thought it would catch on. I was pleased to see that it did."What does that mean? That up front, he knew the setup was a gimmick? Of course, he's not going to admit so easily it was all a whole waste, and that the premise did not have to be, nor did they have to alienate so many GL fans, whom the interviewer conveniently obscured.
Rayner's occupation as an artist allowed writers and artists to work on him to create constructs that were much more elaborate than any that had been portrayed before in the Green Lantern mythos. It wasn't uncommon to see Rayner summon a mech or a samurai construct to deal with enemies. Jordan often preferred to create more simple objects such as giant boxing gloves and baseball bats to take out foes.Now it's becoming additionally hilarious, as they echo a defense the editors used for justifying their direction: that a fictional character like Hal Jordan was "unimaginative". And here in the early 70s during O'Neil/Adams' run, there was one point where he was seen conjuring up riding horses and even gorilla-shaped energy constructs. There's probably even much more from those times that'd contradict what they say here. Since when did Jordan "prefer"? I thought it was the writers/artists like John Broome and Gil Kane. If they didn't come up with enough to satisfy these phonies who'll never be happy, then clearly, the phonies don't have the courage to admit they believe the early writers and artists failed them. Seriously, how could the constructs Banks conceived not possibly be done with Hal, or even John? I'm sorry, but they have only made a joke of themselves. But if it matters, how come Hal's singled out as the unimaginative one, but not a lot of the other GLC members?
"It was a blast drawing those constructs," Banks said. "I feel he is still one of the most visually interesting characters to draw. There's no limit as far as what we could see. Trying to maintain that issue after issue was a lot of fun. Even if he created the same thing, I tried to make sure he never created the same thing twice. For example, if Kyle summoned a shield, I would draw one that would look midieval and the next issue I would draw one that looked like it came out of a Japanese anime."
As Banks mentioned, times change. Superman quickly came back to life. Bruce Wayne found a way to reclaim the Batman cape and cowl. The characters that DC used to replace the two in their absence quickly faded into the background. Very few comic fans will remember Jean-Paul Valley's tenure as Batman or the bizarre blue and gold armored costume he wore during Knightfall. Nearly every fan knows who Kyle Rayner is, though.Not really. Truly, how many fans are there? By the end of the century, a title like GL was already selling less than 50,000 copies, and I'd found clues around that time that there were people out there who reevaluated the whole direction.
Though Hal Jordan would return to the title role as Green Lantern, courtesy of some nifty storytelling by Geoff Johns that explained away his actions as the result of being possessed by an evil cosmic parasite known as Parallax, it didn't make the end of Rayner's role in the franchise. Jordan, Stewart, Gardner and Rayner instead emerged as key figures in the mythos whose adventures would spread across several different titles in the Green Lantern universe. It's a setup that exists mostly to this day.It's just like them to fluff-coat Johns' body of work to boot. Much like with the Flash, his work on GL was also nothing short of execrable, and the stories that followed with Rayner were no more inspired than the first ones.
Rayner has proven so enduring that he may be on tap to be one of the stars of the Green Lantern Corps movie scheduled to hit theaters in 2020 as part of the new DC Cinematic Universe. The film is rumored to feature Jordan mentoring Stewart and Rayner as they make the transition into being corps members. Early rumors have "Mad Max: Fury Road" director George Miller being sought to helm the project. No casting has been announced. That doesn't make the potential of it happening any less exciting for Banks.If Rayner turned up in another GL movie, one can only wonder if they'd use the same premise as in the 1994 embarrassment. I'm guessing that, as with one of the animated cartoon adaptations, they wouldn't, because they know it'd make a commercial embarrassment. Or would they use that setup? If they did, they'd only demonstrate all that's wrong with the 1994 storyline. Much like this article itself, which pulls the wool over the readers' eyes. This just serves as an example why comics coverage in the press is so awful.
"That would just be astonishing," Banks said. "If I could look up on the big screen and see Kyle Rayner, that would be fantastic. One can only hope that it happens."