Near Mint Memories 4.29.04: The Man In Green

The beating fans heap upon some comic creators is appalling! As a case in point, the current situation with Chuck Austen who can’t seem to please an extremely vocal group of individuals who seem to hate everything that he writes, yet continue buying his work. A very similar situation happened to Ron Marz, who undertook the challenge of reinvigorating a franchise that just didn’t have the oomph it once did. Marz too was attacked unabashedly by supposed comic fans. Marz took one of the icons of comic fans young and old and spun him on chaotic streak of self destruction; from those ashes he created a character that was greater in every way, one that has maintained readership and interest for more than decade. Ron Marz succeeded with Kyle Rayner in creating a new icon, an icon that fit in the modern age. Marz truly did the impossible…here’s the story of how he pulled it off!

Tearing it all down

Character changing events were the norm for DC, and every other comic publisher, in the early 90s. 1992 saw “The Death of Superman” and 1993 saw Batman’s “Knightfall.” 1994 brought another major event—one that still resonates today. DC felt that it was time for Green Lantern’s (Hal Jordan) “Emerald Twilight.” The major changes and the end of an era didn’t last long for Superman or Batman, but the fall of Hal Jordan has endured for more than ten years. Ten long years for fans of Hal Jordan, who cannot give their pining a rest. Ten amazing years for those of us who gave the new GL, Kyle Rayner, a shot.
Kyle Rayner was one of the many attempts to bring a drastic youth-movement to the DC Universe’s franchise characters. As things worked out, Batman replacement Jean Paul Valley lasted about a year before Bruce Wayne retook his mantle. The quartet that replaced Superman only replaced the true Man of Steel for less than a year. Others lasted for varying degrees of time, but Kyle was the only one from this early 90s crop that actually stood the test of time.

As “Emerald Twilight” approached, Gerard Jones, who had been the regular writer on Green Lantern since the relaunch in 1990, was posed with the task of making the major changes that were mandated to turn Hal Jordan’s life upside down. Jones had an angle all cooked up, but in the end, his direction, would have fallen a little short of the epic changes that DC was hoping for. If you’d like to read about the “big almost” in Green Lantern history, give a look here.
DC’s house ads of the time proclaimed, “We Killed Superman…We Broke Batman…Green Lantern is next!” So, the rogue-Lantern concept with Hal Jordan was thrown out, and Ron Marz was brought in to tweak “Emerald Twilight” at the last minute. His story was so gripping, the downfall of Hal Jordan so believable, and the new hero, Kyle Rayner, so well conceived that this change has stood in the face of all other such gimmicks.
Why did Kyle’s replacement of Hal Jordan succeed where almost all other changes of this type failed? One of the only other instances where major comic character was successfully replaced was Wally West stepping in for Barry Allen and becoming the new Flash. The reason these two succeeded? It’s all about building a better character. While the replacements for Superman and Batman were decent in their own right, they were nothing compared with the icons! Wally and Kyle simply were more interesting characters than their predecessors.
Sure, Wally West had his growing pains as writers attempted to find the new Flash’s footing in the world, but eventually they did and the character that emerged was far superior to the one-dimensional Barry Allen. While it took some time for Wally to hit his stride (snicker), Ron Marz went for broke with Kyle, and the stride was hit early and for the remainder of his run!

The Twilight before the glory

“Emerald Twilight” ran in GL issues 48-50, and saw Hal Jordan go insane in his attempts to resurrect his home of Coast City. Coast City was destroyed during “The Return of Superman” storyline, killing 7 million people. Hal Jordan could not accept this fact and his ring was not powerful enough to bring the city back from the dead. Hal then went on a tear throughout the galaxy taking out Lanterns at every turn and adding their rings to his collection. When he reached Oa, he caused the demise of the Guardians of the Universe and absorbed the energy contained within the Central Battery. Of course, the more power he attained, the more corrupt Hal became. His once noble aim was quickly turned into something far worse. He wiped out the Guardians, and the entirety of the Green Lantern Corps.
Kyle Rayner made a brief appearance in issue #48, but he was unleashed to the world in the follow-up to “Emerald Twilight” in issue #51. A lone Guardian, Ganthet, escaped the destruction and brought the final power ring to Earth in an effort to pass along the legacy of the GLC. Kyle Rayner happened into an alley from a club he was partying at. He was given the ring by Ganthet, with a simple, “You’ll have to do” and thus our new hero’s search for answers began.
Honey, what’s in the icebox?
Kyle Rayner had perhaps the weirdest story arc built around a love-interest ever in a “Big Two” comic. Alexandra DeWitt was Kyle’s squeeze from the start. With her smarts she helped Kyle on his way through his earliest adventures. Unfortunately for Alexandra, her time in the spotlight would be short. Ron Marz blew all expectations out the window in issue #54, with an event that to this day still gives me a shudder of revulsion. Kyle came home from “Lanterning” to find Alexandra stuffed in the refrigerator. Yes, you read that right! Talk about a shock, to Kyle and the readers!
You see, the government was very keen to get their hands on the newest Green Lantern’s power ring. They sent the uber-villain Major Force out to acquire said ring, and Alexandra was some bait. By issue #60 Kyle gains a modicum of revenge on Major Force with the aid of Guy Gardner (then known as Warrior). Of course these events were so shattering to Kyle that they continue to reverberate through the series!

Two very important developments came out of this gruesome storyline. First, Kyle gained the power battery—certainly an integral part of the Green Lantern mythos—which until then was just a slab of metal the government was holding. Second, and most importantly, Ron Marz gave us a very clear indication that things would be moving forward with this title. We wouldn’t be stuck in a never-ending rehash of things that came before. The usual pseudo-changes that are expected in comics (i.e. costume change, job change, or a move to a new locale) wouldn’t be the order of the day, but major character changing events. Thankfully, this would be the only time a character was shoved into an appliance in a GL comic—probably a good thing. It wouldn’t be the last time that Ron Marz used horrible tragedy to advance Kyle’s story, but this was a clear indication of the roller coaster ride of emotions Kyle would go through in the ensuing years.
I’d like to see DC let a writer stuff Lois Lane in a blender! Just not going to happen. That’s the duel edged sword of a classic, real change is difficult, but the characters are truly timeless. Yet, Kyle Rayner’s adventures were rarely about telling a story featuring a character. They were about telling the best damn stories possible, with little to no back pedaling, and certainly no wimping out!
Well, I think this point has been belabored enough. Shall we move on?

A View to a Parallax

Kyle Rayner finally came mano-a-mano with his predecessor Hal Jordan in the stirring two-parter “Parallax View” in GL 62 & 63. Although they had tangled a few months prior in the Zero Hour crossover event, this was the big showdown between the former and the current. This storyline sees Ganthet come to reclaim the power ring from Kyle, because the Guardian considers him undeserving of the ring. Ironically, Hal Jordan, one that is truly unworthy to bear the ring, comes in and demands Kyle’s ring from Ganthet. In the ensuing melee, Kyle outdoes the JLA, and takes down Parallax, proving his worth once and for all.

Meeting an greeting with the superhero community

Kyle had finally proven himself worthy of his place as the one and only Green Lantern. Ron Marz now began some major character building. Lot’s of wonky stuff had happened with Kyle Rayner up to this point, but as year two was coming to a close, Ron Marz sent Kyle to learn what it was really like to be a superhero. Issues 71-73, “Hero Quest” saw Kyle traveling the DCU, learning what it takes to be a hero. He battled alongside the likes of Batman, Captain Marvel, and Wonder Woman. This is a right of passage for any up and coming hero, and Kyle performs admirably, and the journey picks up steam.
Green Lantern 76 and 77 crosses over with Green Arrow 110 & 111 and “Hard Traveling Heroes: The Next Generation.” Just as Hal Jordan and Oliver Queen (Green Arrow) took to the road and became great friends, Kyle and the Green Arrow of the time (Connor Hawk) end up joining forces as Kyle goes in search of his long lost father. Things are a bit clunky in this storyline, but Marz succeeds at advancing Kyle’s character and giving us some backstory.

Fatality

“Retribution” was a three-part epic that ran through issues 83-85. Introducing Fatality….
Fatality proved to be one of Kyle’s toughest foes, and is probably the second best villain to come out of Ron Marz’s era on GL (sorry Hal fans, but Parallax is the coolest villain by far. In fact, he’s one of the best DCU villains in a long time).
Fatality is out for blood against Green Lantern’s (sounds like Hal Jordan) because John Stewart inadvertently caused the destruction of her planet in the John Byrne/Mike Mignola tale Cosmic Odyssey some years before. Those viewers of the Justice League cartoon may remember a first season episode that was based on these comic events.

Fatality was a brutal fighter who had as her sole purpose the complete eradication of all Green Lanterns. Of course, the one she wanted more than any other was John Stewart, even if he was no longer a Lantern. The person she had to fight, and often, was Kyle. They say a villain helps to define the hero; Fatality served her purpose, and proved a tremendous foil for Kyle over the years.

Hal and Kyle–Emerald Knights

Issue #100 was a true anniversary adventure. Kyle Rayner ends up traveling back in time, and joining Hal Jordan in the “Silver Age” as he takes on Sinestro for the first time. Ron Marz tells one of the most stirring tales of his run. It’s wonderful to see Kyle and Hal team-up in a time travel adventure befitting the big anniversary. At the end of the adventure Ron Marz sets up the next six issues, which is probably my favorite Green Lantern story ever.
In the process of sending Kyle back to his time, guess who gets sent back too? Ron Marz pulls off a classic as Hal and Kyle get to work together for six more issues. This time they’re on Kyle’s stomping grounds, the modern DCU. In the first part, Marz beats all expectations by having Kyle explain the whole Parallax situation to Hal. That’s got to be one hell of a kick in the ribs! The fact that Hal learns that he’s going to kill most of his Corps-mates, destroy the Guardians, consume the Power Battery, and try to restart the universe during Zero Hour, gives Hal quite a bit to think about.
With that dread information on his mind throughout the storyline, Hal proves himself to be a truly selfless superhero once more. He has to choose between the end of Parallax and the end of the Universe. Ron Marz proves all the loudmouths wrong that said he wasn’t capable of writing Hal. He writes Hal better than he’s ever been written before. Hal Jordan, who was now dead in the modern DCU (during the Final Night crossover), yet he grows inexorably during this return to the spotlight.
Let’s see, Hal Jordan with his best characterization ever, and Kyle Rayner continuing his movement forward! Yup, this is easily my favorite Green Lantern story ever!

Kyle and Hal meet again

Ron Marz even got one more attempt to play with Hal Jordan, albeit in yet another incarnation. During the Day of Judgment crossover (there certainly were a lot of these) event Hal became the new host for the wraith of God, The Spectre. Even though the character had an amazing arc of stories that gave him a touch of catharsis that we never get to see with classic heroes, this was a logical step for the character. In an attempt to appease the Hal fans, here was the one incarnation that made sense.
Hal and Kyle meet at a frequent locale in Marz’s stories, Radu’s Coffee Shop, where they get to catch up a bit. Hal’s the Spectre now, and he’s not there to chit-chat. Instead, he brings Kyle into his realm, “the in-between place,” and shows Kyle some of the good he’s capable of. We are treated to a wonderful moment between Hal and his former lover Carol Ferris, and the apparent end of her troubles as Star Sapphire (a presence that infested her at various times and made her a supervillain threat). There’s more excellent character work with Kyle and Hal, and we seem, finally, to get some real closure between the two. It’s as if they’re both as cool as they’ll ever be with where they are.

The Many Loves of Kyle Rayner

When you come home from a long day of superhero action to find your girlfriend chilled, literally, it is understandable to find dating a turnoff. It would be sometime before Kyle jumped back into the dating scene. Yet, when he did, Ron Marz made it count.
Donna Troy (Wonder Girl, Troia) slowly became a more important aspect of Kyle Rayner’s life. Starting with issue #58, Donna showed up with more and more regularity. She became a featured part of the series and a wonderful comic-hero relationship was born. There were fantastic moments between the pair. Kyle had to deal with the burden of Alexandra’s death, so the going was slow. Finally when things began to pick up, Donna’s life fell apart when her ex-husband and infant son were killed in a car accident.
Donna departed the series at this point. It may seem like this was a way for Ron Marz to throw in another big shocker. This one was mandated by John Byrne, who was taking over on Wonder Woman and simply had to have Donna Troy all to herself. Ron Marz save what could have been a very awkward departure, by again putting characterization first, and making the events play out in a logical fashion.
The woman that Kyle is probably most known for dating is Jade. Daughter of the original Green Lantern, Alan Scott, you couldn’t ask for a better coupling. Various hang-ups from both parties have kept the pair form tying the knot, but their lives are still tied intricately together. Events that played out in this week’s issue of Green Lantern (#176), promise some interesting developments. But, we’ll talk about that in a moment.

Departure

Ron Marz ends his mammoth run with a quiet little issue that focuses completely on Kyle Rayner. Kyle uncovers a mysterious race of people on the Moon and uses his ring in some very amusing ways (including caricatures of the rest of the JLA) to beat back these aliens. We’re treated to a perfect bon voyage from Ron Marz as Kyle is given a fantastic monologue that draws things to a close. Marz doesn’t try to close everything out, he instead leaves things wide open for incoming writer Judd Winick.
Marz worked on Green Lantern from issue #48 and wrote almost every issue until #125. Truly an epic run and much like Chuck Dixon with Tim Drake (the current Robin) he’s the man that made the character what he is today. Did he wipe out one of the icons of the Silver Age? You bet he did. But, he did it with a story that has gone down as the prototype of the fall from grace.

He’s back!

If you’re not aware, following the extended runs of Winick and Benjamin Raab, Ron Marz is back, this very week, for a six issue return engagement on Green Lantern. Rumors have been swirling that Hal Jordan is waiting in the wings for his own return. Whatever Marz has planned, I am certain that it will blow away all the preconceived notions and may just become another Marz/GL classic. Ron Marz time on Green Lantern is one of my favorite creator runs on any comic book. His return, even for six issues, is wonderful news.
My only request: whatever Marz does here, and whatever DC has planned with regard to Hal Jordan, don’t let this be the end of Kyle Rayner. As great a mistake as it’s been viewed by many fans to kill off Hal Jordan, it would be an equal disservice to rob the comic reading public of a character that still has many years of fine stories left to be told. Anyone that matters, if you’re listening, there’s plenty of room for Hal and Kyle. Don’t try to correct what you now view as a mistake with a bigger mistake!

Reading Rack:
Emerald Twilight/New Dawn: This one’s got it all. Collecting issues 48-55, you get the three issues of Twilight that see Hal fall, plus the first stories of Kyle as he begins his heroic journey.
Green Lantern: Baptism of Fire Collecting issues, 59, 66-67 and 70-75, you get guest stars galore. Kyle teams up with: Impulse, Batman, Captain Marvel, Wonder Woman, Troia, The Flash, and many others as Kyle’s “Hero Quest” is in full bloom.
Emerald Knights: This is it folks, the seminal Green Lantern story by Ron Marz. Kyle travels back to the Silver Age and fights alongside a Hal Jordan in his prime. Then, Hal comes to the modern DCU and more adventures ensue. The edition collects Green Lantern 100-106 as well as Green Arrow #136.
Emerald Allies This trade paperback covers a variety of meeting between GL and GA. The issues covered within are: Green Lantern 76-77, 92 and Green Arrow 104, 110-111, and 125-126.