Mild-mannered reporters by day, Greg Phillips and Nick Duke share an intense love of comic books that has made them the Hard-Traveling Fanboys. And if there’s anything that fanboys love, it’s debating what book is better than another book or which character is “cooler.” Enter Countdown, a monthly column where Greg and Nick will give a top five list and debate the merits therein.
Nick: Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, dear readers, but after a brief hiatus, the Hard-Traveling Fanboys have returned to this very special corner of cyberspace.
This month has five Fridays, meaning later this month, you’ll be seeing a brand new Hard-Traveling Fanboys GIANT SIZED edition, this time in the form of a podcast celebrating all thing Green Lantern. Just to give you a little taste of the audio goodness that’s coming your way, Greg and I have decided to Countdown our five favorite characters from the Green Lantern mythos.
Greg: There are few areas of the comic book landscape more near and dear to our hearts than the rich mythology of the Green Lantern Corps and all it entails. On our list, you’re as likely to see heroes as villains, and you may even see Lanterns of various colors. Unfortunately, fans of Goldface will likely be disappointed.
Let’s get things started with Nick’s fifth-place selection.
Nick’s No. 5: Carol Ferris
Greg: Hal Jordan’s longtime love interest and Kyle Rayner’s recent love interest, Carol is so much more than that. Over the course of 50 years, she’s evolved into one of comics’ strongest-willed, most independent women (in an industry with too few of those for most of its existence).
Nick: One area where I often find DC to top its Marvel-ous competition is in the area of the two companies’ respective love interests for their most popular heroes. I find DC’s women to be, for the most part, strong independent characters who are more than capable of standing on their own two feet even if they do sometimes fall under the umbrella of being damsels in distress.
And perhaps no woman in the DCU embodies strong and independent more than Carol Ferris. From her early days as the daughter of Hal Jordan’s boss, Carl Ferris, to her days as the boss of Ferris Air, she was more than a match for Hal’s womanizing ways.
Greg: One of the things that makes their on-again/off-again relationship so entertaining is that she’s more than willing and able to give Hal a dose of his own medicine in the attitude department. She’s just as cocky, just as stubborn and just as dedicated as Hal is, if not moreso on occasion.
And even apart from Hal, she’s carved out a niche as a genuine superhero (and villain from time to time), engaging in several great battles and helping fend off threats such as Sinestro and Nekron.
Nick: But where Carol truly stands apart from most love interests was in her role as Star Sapphire. The Star Sapphire has been both an antagonist and ally of Green Lantern over the years, and both offered their own twist on Carol Ferris. Under her guise as a villain, Carol was possessed by the spirit of the Predator, the avatar of love. That possession caused he to lash out at Green Lantern, who she viewed as the object of her unrequited passion. She certainly did some despicable things over the years, most notably murdering John Stewart’s wife Katma Tui. For a long while, it looked like Carol would ultimately be remembered for being a villain more than a love interest.
However, as would often happen in the 2000s, Geoff Johns came along and revamped Carol. Not only did he restore the will they/won’t they aspect of Hal and Carol’s relationships, but much like his work on Hall’s villainous turn as Parallax, Geoff revealed that carol’s actions were due to her inability to control the Predator. Carol was soon enlisted in the new Star Sapphire Corps, which offered a different, nobler take on the powers of love. It’s here where I find Carol to be at her best, as she’s gone from love interest/damsel in distress to someone who can stand alongside Hal and hold her own.
Notice I haven’t mentioned her recent relationship with Kyle Rayner. That’s because it’s stupid as hell and shouldn’t exist.
Greg: I’m not as opposed as you to the idea of a Kyle/Carol romance (temporarily), but the execution has certainly been horrendous.
Carol has advanced enough that I honestly feel she could carry her own title. We’ve seen books for Red, Orange and Yellow Lanterns, why not a Star Sapphire ongoing at some point? She certainly has a strong fanbase.
Nick: A split from Kyle without her instantly reuniting with Hal could set the stage for a great solo series, if such a thing were ever deemed prudent.
Greg: It could be a great answer to Marvel’s successful Captain Marvel series that focuses on comics’ other prominent Carol, Danvers.
But speaking of characters who can and do carry their own titles …
Greg’s No. 5: John Stewart
Nick: John was one of several characters that just missed my list. He’s evolved from a one-note Blaxploitation character in the ’70s to a fully realized, fleshed out character more than capable of being featured alongside the best the DCU has to offer.
Greg: John was one of the most important creations in DC history. Sure, he was originally an “angry black man,” but Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams invented him for a very specific reason — the largely white readership needed to be faced with a dose of reality, and minorities needed a face to represent their beliefs at the time. Frankly, John had plenty of reasons to be angry.
John came into the very “good old boy” world of DC Comics superheroes and made an impact. By the late ’80s, thanks to a variety of great creators, he’d been established as a three-dimensional character capable of carrying great Green Lantern stories on his own. From Gerard Jones’ “Mosaic” to Van Jensen’s current Green Lantern Corps, the last 25 years have been especially kind (from a storytelling standpoint) to Mr. Stewart, even while the character himself has gone through numerous tragedies.
John is unique from the other Earth-based Lanterns. He is both an architect and a Marine, a thinker and a warrior. And unlike Hal and Guy, John always feels like a natural when it’s time to step up, be a leader and get the job done. Where Hal might make a boxing glove and Guy might use an intense beam of pure energy, John is likely to go for a precise sniper rifle or an advanced holding cell.
And we can’t discuss John without talking about his role on one of the greatest pieces of comic book-related media ever produced: Bruce Timm’s “Justice League/Justice League Unlimited.” Largely thanks to the writing influence of late, great Dwayne McDuffie, John is now THE Green Lantern in the minds of many people. John was given an incredible character arc and perhaps the most compelling ongoing romance in comics television history with Hawkgirl.
And I may be alone, but I cannot read Stewart’s comic book dialogue without hearing the voice of Phil LaMarr. He really brought life to John.
Nick: As great as John has been in the comics over the last 25 years or so, I have to agree that perhaps the best thing to ever happen to the character was his inclusion in the Justice League animated series. It exposed an entire generation of fans to John, and like you said, they now think of him as “their” GL.
Greg: In recent years, Geoff Johns, Dave Gibbons, Peter Tomasi and Van Jensen have all added layers to John that make him one of the most compelling superheroes on the stands.
Nick’s No. 4: Mogo
Greg: Not to be confused with what the French call a certain I Don’t Know What, Mogo is the creation of one of comics’ greatest and most important creative teams — Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons.
That’s right, the guys who gave us Watchmen also gave us a Green Lantern who is a sentient planet. And we cannot thank them enough for those gifts.
Nick: Admittedly one of the stranger concepts in the GL mythos, Mogo is a sentient planet that just so happens to be a Green Lantern. He (she? it?) was introduced in Alan Moore’s classic story “Mogo Doesn’t Socialize” in which renowned bounty hunter Bolphunga the Unrelenting sets out to find and take down the legendary Green Lantern known as Mogo. Once he sets down on a strange planet, he becomes increasingly frustrated by a series of strange events on the planet’s surface. Eventually, it is revealed that the entire planet is alive and bears a landmass in the shape of the Green Lantern insignia.
Since that introduction, Mogo has popped up from time to time, most notably once again in the pages of Geoff Johns’ iconic run. Here, Mogo is revealed to be perhaps the strongest member of the Green Lantern Corps and saves the Corps on countless occasions. Whether it’s destroying the rings of other Lantern Corps, serving as the new home to the GL Corps or taking on Ranx the Sentient City, Mogo has earned his place as perhaps the most revered and respected GL of them all.
I wish I could say more about Mogo, but honestly, it’s just the strangeness of the character and how cool Johns was able to make the character that draw me to him.
Greg: In many ways, Mogo serves as the Charles Xavier of the Corps — a sounding board for the problems encountered by the foot soldiers taking part in the never-ending space wars that happen in their sectors. It seems to always be there to help out, and when the time comes for a badass battle between a living planet and a sentient city, Mogo delivers.
Mogo has also been the source of some great GL comedy over the years, not the least of which was its debut in the aforementioned Moore and Gibbons classic.
Nick: On to your No. 4, sir.
Greg’s No. 4: Larfleeze
Nick: I knew the guru of greed would make an appearance at some point on your list. I just have to say I’m surprised it’s only at No. 4.
Greg: Well, my list is highly interchangeable. Depending on my mood, I could put Agent Orange all the way at the top. On this occasion, longevity won out on my list and forced Larfleeze the Great and Terrible to the four spot.
Larfleeze is the newest character on the list (created in 2007), and he is also my absolute favorite Geoff Johns creation. I just love this character. More than Zoom, more than Atrocitus, more than Simon Baz and, yes, even more than Saint Walker.
Why do I love the Avatar of Avarice so much? Well, to sum it up, he’s unique. In a universe of characters who share common traits and personality types, Larfleeze stands apart both in the fictional DC Universe and in the pantheon of DC characters. In the DCU, he’s a complete idiot who also happens to be insanely powerful and motivated ENTIRELY by greed. He’s like a satire of the lame motivations for most Silver Age villains, yet he’s so earnest in his simple-mindedness that he often comes off charming, even to those who want to fight him.
And he’s unique in the broader sense because he is a flat-out comedy character in a (post-New 52) universe that has very few of them. Sure, there are hints at tragedy in his past, and an overarching sense of despair when the ‘Fleeze is separated from his ring, but 90 percent of the time we spend with Larfleeze is spent laughing at his bizarre desires and antics. Johns truly outdid himself with this character, as it has honestly caused me more laughs over the past seven years than any other comic book character, and it’s really not even close. Who can forget his first encounter with Hal Jordan (who, confused, can only refer to him as Gonzo due to his Muppet-like appearance), his quest to find Santa Claus (in the now-classic Larfleeze Christmas Special), his hilariously awkward confrontation with the equally bizarre Hector Hammond, or his kidnapping of hapless space butler Pulsar Stargrave.
Perhaps Larfleeze said it best: “In the beginning, there was Larfleeze. And Larfleeze looked out upon himself and saw that he was good.”
Nick: My own personal favorite Larfleeze moment is in the Larfleeze Christmas Special, in which it is revealed that Larfleeze has settled on Earth. When he learns of a jolly fat man who will give you anything you write down on a list. He then seals himself away in a far off log cabin to construct his own Christmas list. When Hal Jordan eventually finds him, the entire cabin is filled from head to toe with a list that details Larfleeze’s every desire.
Greg: I have a feeling Larfleeze and 1998 Chris Jericho would get along nicely.
But yes, that’s an excellent example of the terrific humor that follows Larfleeze from story to story. I also adored Larfleeze’s interactions with Lex Luthor around the time of “Blackest Night,” particularly since he insisted on calling him “Hairless Lex Luthor.”
Nick’s No. 3: Hal Jordan
We have our first upset of the week, as the most prominent Green Lantern places third on your list.
Nick: It must be stated before I begin that the margin between my top 3 characters is razor thin. I considered naming them all co-number 1s, but I decided that would have been too much of a copout. These three characters aren’t just my favorite GL characters; they’re among my favorite in all of comics.
Greg: I faced a similar conundrum with my top four characters, so I can relate!
Nick: Hal Jordan is undoubtedly the most notable Green lantern of all, and it’s difficult to argue his place as the greatest Corpsman in the long and storied history of the Green Lanterns. He’s evolved plenty over the years, from cocksure test pilot to seasoned hero to even a villain for a time.
He helped to redefine the very concept of Green Lantern during the Silver Age, and was our point of entry into a universe that hadn’t really been explored — that of the sci-fi superhero. Along the way, he provided us with countless thrills, laughs and even a few tears. Whether it was his battles against Sinestro, his trips into the antimatter universe or his failings in love with, ahem, numerous partners, Hal was always something of an everyman, while at the same time maintaining his own edge. As the years passed, he became the Corps’ elder statesman, and was one the few characters in comics allowed to age. The early ’90s Green Lantern run by Gerard Jones is one of the most underrated runs in comics history, largely because it features a middle aged superhero trying to find his place in the universe.
His time as Parallax was certainly controversial, but I’ve come to love it largely because it set up so many great stories for Geoff Johns. And it can’t be overstated how great those stories were. It is, in my opinion, the greatest run by any writer on a character in comics history. Under Johns’ guidance, we saw Jordan go from feared spirit to resurrected hero to untrusted Corpsman to savior of the universe.
It’s been a long, strange ride for Hal Jordan, but it’s one I wouldn’t trade for the world, warts and all.
Greg: I want to save my thoughts on Hal, but I certainly agree with everything you wrote. He’s truly grown and adapted as a character through multiple generations and eras of comics, and here’s just a brief list of some of the legendary names who have crafted classic Hal stories: John Broome, Gil Kane, Denny O’Neil, Neal Adams, Steve Englehart, Alan Moore, Dave Gibbons, Gerard Jones, Geoff Johns, Ethan Van Sciver, Ivan Reis and Doug Mahnke, to name just a small sample.
Do any Hal moments or issues stand out as your favorite?
Nick: There are so many, but I’ll throw out one that’s kind of an indirect Hal moment. In Green Lantern: Rebirth, Ollie Queen dons one of Hal’s old backup rings to try and stop Sinestro. When he finally manages to use it, all he can muster is a single green arrow before collapsing with exhaustion. Ollie asks Kyle Rayner if the experience of using the ring is that exhausting every time, and he confirms that it is. You see in that moment Ollie gain a newfound respect and awe for what his friend Hal had done for so many years.
Greg’s No. 3: Guy Gardner
Greg: I first encountered everyone’s favorite/least favorite bowl cut-wearing GL as a young child during “The Death of Superman,” when he was slinging a yellow Qwardian anti-matter ring as an obnoxious member of the Justice League of America. Even though he was clearly a self-centered jerk who wasn’t nearly as tough as he thought he was, and even though his biggest fan was the equally annoying Mitch, I found myself drawn to him from the first line of dialogue I read. Once again, I was attracted to Gardner because he was different. As a kid, I didn’t really get into the “stick in the mud” team leaders — Leonardo, Cyclops, Cap … you know the type. Superman was my favorite hero at the time, but I found myself drawn to characters who were a little rougher around the edges — Wolverine, Gambit, Lobo and, naturally, Guy Gardner.
Here was a guy who was a hero, seemingly, in name only. Oh, sure, he’d do what he could to protect innocents and beat up bad guys, but he’d spend the whole time complaining about it and lamenting that others (like the most frequent target of his insults, Superman) would steal his spotlight. And yet, like a great wrestling heel, he managed to be incredibly entertaining along the way.
Fast forward through an admittedly bizarre 10 years and a tenure as “Warrior” (no, not Jim Hellwig), and Guy was one of the numerous characters remade and reimagined under the guiding hand of Geoff Johns in the pages of “Rebirth.” Guy, certainly, had become more of a hero in the preceding decade and grown in his maturity level, but Johns shed some light (no pun intended) on the things that really make Guy tick. He (and artist Ethan Van Sciver) showed the unique way Guy wields the ring, and he made sure Guy retained his hard, tough edge.
Dave Gibbons took that and ran with it in “Recharge” and Green Lantern Corps, allowing Guy to remain a jerk, but a quite lovable one.
However, it was Peter Tomasi who truly added depth to Gardner and made him one of the best heroes in comics. Yes, Guy’s still … well, Guy … but Tomasi added a rich backstory and a strong emotional core to Guy that was missing before Tomasi’s iconic GLC tenure. Guy Gardner is a true hero now, who would die for the Corps (whichever one he is affiliated with at a given time), and he deals with an incredible amount of self-doubt and insecurity along the way (couched, naturally, by his gruff exterior). He’s a delight in Charles Soule’s Red Lanterns, and that’s directly attributable to the roughly 10 years of development under the Johns/Tomasi Green Lantern regime.
My favorite Guy issues came during the “War of the Green Lanterns” arc in 2011. Stranded on a planet with diminished power and facing sure death, Guy and longtime rival Hal Jordan are forced to team up on a suicide mission to save the universe. That leads to two of the best GL issues I’ve ever read, and one in particular features a classic Hal-Guy fight and a great story of former enemies forging an everlasting bond.
Nick: I certainly agree with your sentiments on Guy Gardner. He’s yet another example of a Green Lantern character who was somewhat of a one trick pony for years before Geoff Johns and Pete Tomasi got their hands on him. Love me some Guy, as I’ll expand further on in a moment.
Nick’s No. 2: Sinestro
Greg: Perhaps no character on superhero comics has undergone more growth and development through the last decade than Thaal Sinestro. Geoff Johns made it his mission to redefine Sinestro and his place in the DCU, and he certainly succeeded in that goal.
Nick: Stop us if you’ve heard this before, but the character of Thaal Sinestro has certainly come a long way since his Silver Age origins. Originally introduced as a one-note, mustache twirling villain who sought to lead the forces of the antimatter universe on a full-scale invasion of the positive matter universe, more commonly known as the main DC Universe, he had a ridiculously large head and bright purple skin.
He was presented as a disgraced former Green Lantern who had turned evil, gotten booted from the Corps and was now seeking revenge on the Corps and the Guardians of the Universe. However, years later, Gerard Jones would introduce one of my favorite retcons in all of comics in Emerald Dawn. In this new version of Hal Jordan’s early days as a Green Lantern, Hal was a rookie GL assigned to a mentor, the greatest Green Lantern in the history of the corps — Thaal Sinestro.
In Emerald Dawn and then Emerald Dawn II, we get to see Hal and Sinestro come together as Corps brethren before they are eventually torn apart and Sinestro is stripped of his GL status. In this updated version of the Sinestro story, his motivations are actually somewhat noble and you find yourself feeling sorry for Sinestro rather than celebrating his downfall as a GL.
And then, of course, there came Geoff Johns. I don’t have the time or the space to adequately express how great Johns’ work with Sinestro was. In fact, I would argue that Johns’ run is ultimately more about the redemption of Thaal Sinestro than it is about Hal Jordan. Sinestro leads a corps of his own, all powered with yellow fear-based rings, but we’re led to believe that he led the Sinestro Corps not to actually win, but to effect change in the Green Lantern Corps. He winds up playing a key role in saving the universe from the Black Lanterns and later is restored to his past role as a Green Lantern. Ultimately, he re-embraces fear, but does it only so he can defeat the First Lantern and save the Corps. That’s a very brief synopsis of the Sinestro legend, but I’ll wrap it up with this. There isn’t a more relatable, fully realized “villain” in all of comics than Thaal Sinestro. Period. You can’t and won’t find one.
Greg: Great points all around. In fact, great minds think alike on this one …
Greg’s No. 2: Sinestro
Greg: Everything you just said was right on the money. Sinestro has turned into, as I said earlier, one of the most complex and compelling characters in superhero comics. He is, in some ways, the Magneto of DC Comics. Like Magnus, he is motivated by duty to his people. Like Magneto, he is often willing to go to extreme measures to achieve his goals. But, like Magneto, he has a very strict code of honor and is more admirable than some of the heroes he fights against.
And, of course, there’s the ego. Geoff Johns always instructed his artists to draw Sinestro hovering slightly above anyone with whom he conversed. That iconic Sinestro pose — hovering a few feet above the hero, nose turned up — was subsequently mastered by the likes of Ethan Van Sciver and Doug Mahnke.
What makes Sinestro so compelling is that, despite all his noble qualities, his actions usually leave him as the villain of the story. His tragic relationship with archenemy/friend Hal Jordan is one of the most complicated and yet fulfilling in mainstream comics. Johns’ final issue, Green Lantern #20, perfectly summed up that relationship as well as Sinestro’s 10-year journey into relevance. Today, he is my favorite comic book villain and the one I feel most capable (along with Magneto) of carrying an ongoing book, as he’s doing right now under the stewardship of Cullen Bunn and Dale Eaglesham.
Nick: Well said, sir.
Nick’s No. 1: Guy Gardner
Greg: The redheaded, rage-filled Lantern has cursed his way into our hearts over the years.
Nick: It’s hard to say it much better than Greg did earlier, but when it comes to Green Lantern characters or really comics in general, there’s just no one else quite like Guy. Even if he hadn’t undergone a complete character overhaul under the guiding hands of Pete Tomasi, Geoff Johns and now Charles Soule, he still would rank very highly on my list.
The version of Guy that annoyed his fellow Green Lanterns and DC heroes for the better part of 20 years from the 1980s through the mid 2000s was one of the great comedy characters in history. The cocksure ego, the leather vest, and yes, even the bowlcut. It was a character that never should have worked, but it completely did. From drunken antics in “Pink Elephants” to being “one punched” by Batman, Guy gave us hilarious moment after hilarious moment. He was the guy you couldn’t help but love to hate.
But then, in the wake of Green Lantern Rebirth, he became a guy we couldn’t believe we had all grown to love so much. Johns and Tomasi took Gardner to new, more relatable heights, perhaps making him the most human of the earth GLs. But it isn’t the character overhaul that deserves so much credit — it’s the fact that it came all without losing what made Guy so unique in the first place. Now, along with the hotheadedness and bragging, we could see a level of insecurity beneath the surface. We all grew with Guy over the course of 8 years, and we’re still doing so in the pages of Red Lanterns. He may not be the most popular GL, but he’ll always be my GL.
Greg: All right, as I asked about Hal earlier, give me your favorite Guy moment or moments.
Nick: I’ll point to Green Lantern Corps: Recharge. Once it’s made clear that the Corps is being reestablished and the Lanterns will be taking a leave of absence from the Justice League, it’s Guy who bids the most poignant farewell of them all. As Hal and Batman say their final pieces to one another, Bruce looks up to see the asscheeks of Guy Gardner pressed firmly into the window of the Watchtower. With his ring, Guy has written “Bye Bye Bats” across his ass. Brilliant.
Greg: Ha! Perhaps no moment better summarizes Guy’s personality.
Greg’s No. 1: Hal Jordan
Nick: Hard to argue with having the greatest Green Lantern of them all at No. 1.
I’ve said my piece on Hal, so I’ll let Greg take center stage here.
Greg: Technically the second man to be called Green Lantern, Hal Jordan is nevertheless the one that comes to mind first in the minds of most comic book readers. Hal held the mantle from 1959 through 1994, and he returned to the role in 2004, just in time for the brand’s ascent to the top of the industry. Hal has been through so many wars, romances, twists and turns that it could fill an encyclopedia.
We’ve already discussed Hal’s status in the Corps and his incredible journey from hero to villain and back again, so let me try to explain, as best I can, what makes Hal stand out among his peers in the superhero community. In my eyes, Hal represents everything a comic book superhero should be in order to be compelling. He is brave, noble and always TRIES to do the right thing. However, he’s also got some identifiable flaws — he’s a little too cocky, he often acts without thinking, he’s prone to making poor decisions in his relationships, and he goes through periods of depression and self-doubt. In other words, he’s human.
Obviously every superhero doesn’t need to be a human, but I do think the most compelling heroes have those human characteristics that we can all identify with — flaws and foibles and problems they struggle with. What makes them heroic is their ability and desire to overcome those flaws and excel in a way we humans should strive toward. Hal is one of the characters whose fate I most care about, because we have been shown, over the course of several decades, his push to evolve and correct his past mistakes.
One of my favorite Hal moments had to be near the end of the Sinestro Corps War. With the city in ruins and the Sinestro Corps descending on Coast City, Hal urges his family to leave town and find safety. Instead, they tell Hal they’re staying and that they believe in him. Then the entire city lights up green. Despite his past misdeeds and the destruction of Coast City that occurred under his watch, Hal had earned the city’s respect and love, and that belief inspires him to defeat Sinestro and save Earth from the invaders.
Nick: Beautifully said, sir. And with that, we bring this edition of Countdown to a close. Come back next week, as The Longbook Hunters keep it cosmic and take a special look at Guardians of the Galaxy, Volume 1: Legacy.
Greg: Light us up on Twitter (@gphillips8652 and @nickduke87), email (GregP@placetobenation.com or NickD@placetobenation.com) or through the Place to Be Nation Facebook page.
And remember: In brightest day, in blackest night … all will be well.