Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Green Lantern: Choices, Choices

In the previous flashback entry, I mentioned how the multitude of Lanterns made it easy to start a movie with a fresh POV character without the need for a long backstory. Unfortunately, this is comics. While Issue #1 may skip on the backstory, I feel that the setting requires a logical framework for future stories to build on. A Showrunner's Bible is needed if you are going to have multiple characters across multiple stories and titles in order to keep things consistent.

And man, is Green Lantern inconsistent or what.

Let's start with the Green Lantern Corps. Who are they, exactly? A bunch of folks from hundreds of worlds, each given a copy of what might be one of the most powerful weapons in the universe. They are guided by a council of wise old babies with massive psychic power and are tasked with something something something.

Seriously. What the hell is the point of the Green Lantern Corps? Broadly, they seem to be depicted one of two ways - either a military force or a police force. On one hand, you have a bunch of Lanterns standing in the way of aggressive alien conquerors, but on the other, you have them tracking down criminals and solving space crimes. Which is it? Being a United Nations Peacekeeper requires a much different skillset than being a member of Interpol.

I can see a scenario where the Council of Oa discovers the green lantern battery and is is like "Okay, with great power comes great responsibility, let's use this power to make a better galaxy." But is the Green Lantern Corps really the best way to do that? If the Corps are going to go the military route and protect weaker planetary civilizations from being rolled over by the strong, then wouldn't they also start to meddle in world politics? So if on the planet Gothax, they notice a dictator with expansionist dreams coming to power, wouldn't they just take him out? But now they're mired in Gothaxian politics! The Corps can't just leave the Iraqis Gothaxians to slide into a bloody civil war of succession, so they have to stick around.

Even if the Corps rules out preemptively taking out threats and instead focuses on protecting the weak and defenseless, there'll be problems. We've seen from the setting that almost anything can be sentient - a tree, a rock, a planet, a color, whatever - so Lanterns would have to get involved constantly in developing societies. "Sorry, we know you were excited for your first moonbase, but it turns out there's a semi-sentient form of moss right where you want lay your foundations. So hands off the moon."

And if the Green Lanterns' goal is to prevent the loss of life and generally make existence better for everyone, why are they not going around sharing wonderful space technology with developing planets? "Hey, we were cruising by and saw you have a lot of people dying from cancer. Here's a beam that cures it. Also, here's a way to turn water in to energy with no pollution. L8er, d00dz!" I mean, I can understand alien societies not being too keen to share their knowledge with others for free, but for a group dedicated to fighting evil and injustice, why not? And what do they do if a planet denies their help? "Okay, Krypton, we won't bother you about your soon-to-explode planet any more."

So the Lanterns be can't a military force. They can't be humanitarian force. Well, they could be Red Cross in Sspppaaaacccce, but who would want to read that? There are only so many times you can tell the story of "Lanterns bring Medical Supplies to needy planet, jerks intervene, battle ensues." I'm reminded of a bit from The West Wing where a character says that to really help Africa, you need to build roads, but nobody wants to because it's boring and expensive.

So I guess they need to be cops? But even then, there are problems. First off, where do they get their authority? Who exactly says that the dander of panda bears is illegal because it's basically PCP for Gothaxians. For the Lanterns to be cops, there needs to be a legislative body somewhere making rules. For them not to be evil, this body would require the participation of the cultures it wishes to pass laws over. This means that multiple societies would have to willingly sign some or all of their autonomy over to the Galactic Congress or whatever. While that might be a hard sell, I guess it has a precedent in Starfleet, so I guess that can work.

Except that means for Green Lantern to have any sort of jurisdiction over Earth, humanity would need to sign up, which totally changes the basic world setting. Which sucks, because there's definitely some meaty story there. Four words: The Wire in space. Think about it. Green Lantern McNulty struggles against the bureaucracy of his own organization as he tries to take down the Qwardsdale gang.

Which would be awesome. Let's save that for an Elseworlds story, Green Lantern: Blackest Noir. "Omarfleeze comin', yo!"

So back to where the hell does the Green Lantern Corps get the authority to do what it does without causing major interplanetary incidents?

Well, there's the rings. Those suckers are powerful enough that they bring authority with them wherever they go.

Except they make no sense. Chalk me up as a member of the "Willpower is not an emotion" brigade. The whole emotional spectrum stuff of recent Green Lantern comics is, in a word, dumb. It'd be one thing if that it was mentioned and then glossed over and forgotten, but by the time you have a rainbow of different rings each fueled by different emotions in totally different ways, things are off the rails. Okay, so if you have a ring that is powered by some mystical spark of creation and that power is shaped by the wearer's emotion, then you need to be consistent about it. Rage works. So does Love and Hope. Fear? Mmaaaybe, but does that mean the wearer has to be scared? No? Only cause fear? So if nobody is scared of them, does the power fail? That must suck when flying between planets.

And let's not get started on Life and Death.

Anyways, let's get started on our version. We'll keep one or two of the concepts of the Emotional Spectrum. First that there are multiple flavors of Lanterns and second that the powers of these flavors stem from vast unknowable cosmic beings. Except rather than these cosmic beings being created in response to life (Red Rage born of the first murder, Green Willpower of the first step, etc), these things are straight up Lovecraftian horrors leftover from the initial act of creation. They are not alive or exist in any sense that wouldn't cost you major SAN loss. When the Big Bang turned on the light of the multiverse, these entities were the roaches caught out on the kitchen floor.

Half-formed and trapped between existence and non-existence, these entities went mad. In their rage they fought each other, the stronger devouring the weaker. Entire realities were wiped out in their struggles. When the first of the entities broke into the reality that is the Drewniverse, the Oan scientist Krona spearheaded the effort to contain it before it destroyed everything. It took years and many lives, but eventually the Oans did it, managing to contain the entity, known as Ion, in a prison.

Problem is, these entities are still awash with the power of creation. No prison can hold them because in time they'd simply swell beyond its capacity to contain them. So the Oans needed a way to bleed off their power.

Thus the rings. That's why each Lantern's ring has to 'recharge' - it's a way of bleeding the pressure on the main battery-prison, like bailing out a sinking boat. They do it by bucketfuls rather than just hooking a pump up to it because if they do the latter, there's a chance Ion can escape. Of course, once Ion broke through, other entities were bound to arrive. In its initial form, the Lantern Corps were tasked with rounding these beings up and containing them (intergalactic Ghostbusters!). Smaller ones could be tossed into the main power battery where Ion would eat them up. Maybe this act of feeding Ion "tamed" it a bit?

So now the Oans have a reason to give out power rings to everyone (bleed off Ion's power) and send the ringbearers out and about all over the galaxy (keep watch for new breaches). However, being jealous of the power of harnessing these entities, the Oans give their agents a cover story. In the Drewniverse, this cover story basically makes the Lanterns a sort of intergalactic cross between the Texas Rangers and the Knights Hospitaller. They are tasked with setting up in a sector, keeping tabs on what's going on, and responding to any threats. What constitutes a "threat" is kept deliberately broad so as not to tip the Oan's tiny blue hands as to what they are really looking for. Given that even a small Entity showing up would be like Cthulhu rising from watery R'leyh, it's pretty fair to say that a Lantern would try to intervene.

Should an Entity show up, the Lantern would report it in as a matter of normal protocol. When that happens, the Council of Oa would task a team of specialists to assist. Of course, in order to keep up the charade, there would be other types of specialists that could be called in depending on the situation. Need to stop an interplanetary war? Diplomatic Corps. Crazy space cultists threatening to sacrifice a moonbase if they don't get their way? Call in negotiator Lantern D'hani R'homan.

The secret of the main green lantern power battery is known only to the remaining members of the Council of Oa and maybe a few high ranking Lanterns. There are others out there that know the secret too, maybe even a few who have managed to capture an Entity of their own. Because the technology behind the pokeball lantern battery might be different for each trapped Entity, this explains why other Lantern Corps' rings manifest their powers in other ways. It has nothing to do with emotion. The size/power of the captured Entity merely determines how many rings its prison can support. So Larfleeze's captured Ophidian may be tiny compared to Ion, but one on one, Agent Orange should have the same amount of power as any Green Lantern.

So why go into all this backstory? Because the eventual discovery of the truth about the rings, the pulling back the curtains of how reality works, will be the overarching plot of the Green Lantern lines. You'll get hints of it when dealing with Sinestro, for sure, and maybe even Hector Hammond's big brain was an accidental mutation that allowed him to tap into an Entity somewhere.

Also, I feel it helps answer some of the nagging questions I've always had about Green Lantern.

Next up, more questions as I get into the identity and character of Earth's Emerald Knight and how the Green Lanterns interact with the other heroes of the Drewniverse.


  1. I love the concept for the Corps' raison d'etre. I'd never thought about how little sense the Corps makes.

  2. This is pretty great. I would read this book.