WC: GREEN LANTERN #8

This issue of GREEN LANTERN was noteworthy right on the face of it, as it featured one of production maven Jack Adler’s washtone cover treatments on Gil Kane’s illustration. These washtone pieces were experimented with on assorted DC titles in the late 1950s and early 1960s, most often the war books. But as far as I can remember, this is the only time that the treatment was tried on a mainstream super hero title. The effect gets a little bit dark, particularly on the Green Lantern figure, but that Gila monster looks great, and I’ll bet this was an arresting image to come across on comic book racks at the time.

The issue was also noteworthy in that it featured a single book-length story rather than multiple adventures as was largely the norm. It was also the first of a sequence of stories that introduced a new wrinkle into the life of Hal Jordan, Green Lantern. Editor Julie Schwartz and writer John Broome liked to come up with ideas that could be recurring bits of business-it was a good way insuring a supply of future stories. Like the other books in this series, I got this copy as a part of my Windfall Comics purchase of 1988, where I scored about 150 silver age books for $50.00, a massive bargain. I had already read this particular story years earlier, when it had been reprinted in an issue of DC SPECIAL in the 1970s. And I wrote about that book here:

So this story opens up in the far future, where Green Lantern is the Solar Director of future Earth, responsible for the planet’s protection. What? The clock then winds back to clue the audience in on the answers; in the far future, mankind is facing a threat that it cannot cope with, one that has already taken the life of its last Solar Director. To replace him and deal with the crisis, it is suggested that Green Lantern be projected forward into the future. However, the process of time travel that exists erases the memory of anybody so transmitted, so GL would be useless, his mind erased. To compensate for this, the men of the future Earth whip up a fake biography for the Lantern, which them implant into his blank mind upon his arrival. As far as he knows, he is secretly Pol Manning, famous asteroid explorer and citizen of the 57th century.

A quick digression as Chapter One gives way to Chapter Two for one of those great Ira Schnapp ads for upcoming DC Annuals–including in this case SECRET ORIGINS. This book included the origin of Green Lantern, which would only have been around two years old at this point. But such was the hunger for the new super heroes that DC had started to roll out.

It turns out that the threat the future civilization is facing comes from the Zegor, hyper-evolved Gila monsters who mutated deep within the ground. Green Lantern heads out to confront them, but just as on the cover, their own eye-beams successfully block his power beam at every turn. Studying the matter, GL’s power ring reveals that the beams from the monsters aren’t disintegrating their targets; rather, they are shrinking them. When GL’s fictitious girlfriend of the future Iona is struck by one of the creatures’ beams, the Emerald Crusader uses his power ring to reduce his own size in pursuit. At microscopic size, he finds not only Iona but every other soldier who had been zapped by the Zegors’ rays. His power ring can restore them to their normal size, but unless the Zegor’s reducing capability can be dealt with, there isn’t any point, they’d still be vulnerable to attack.

So Green lantern restores himself to normal, then follows emanations that his power ring picks up to a stronghold that the Zegors have constructed. it turns out their shrinking vision isn’t a natural ability, but one whose power is transmitted to them across the globe from this power source. Destroying it, Green lantern robs mankind’s enemies of their greatest weapon, and in no time at all, the Zegors are on the run and the war is won. Green lantern has accomplished all of this within 23 hours, fortunately, as his power ring will run out of juice in another hour (why the future guys didn’t think to bring the power battery along with GL is a mystery–perhaps it couldn’t be transported.) So, his work here done, Green Lantern must be returned to his proper point in time–despite the growing feelings that Iona has for the fictitious “Pol Manning.” When the Lantern is returned to his own time, he will forget all about this adventure in the future, and his own memories will be restored.

Pause here between Chapters two and three for another half-page Annual advertisement, as well as Superman’s standard invitation to be his guest at the Palisades Amusement Park in New Jersey.

Next comes the Green Lantern’s Mail Chute letters page for this issue. Schwartz, while he remained still largely nameless, encouraged a more literate response to his titles than most of the other books in the DC line, and so missives from readers who seemed a bit older and more thoughtful would typically be run in this space.

From there, we get back to the climax of the story, as Green lantern is able to resume his battle with a gigantic aquatic creature that was interrupted by him being drawn to the future. It must be said that while artist Gil Kane didn’t think much of his work in this sedate period where all of the action needed to be sanitized, and neither did he like the inking of Joe Giella, who kept his work in line with the prevailing DC house style, the end result is very streamlined and sophisticated artwork, some of the best of the period. Kane’s sense of design still comes through, even if he isn’t quite able to cut loose in the manner he would like to just yet. The Senate hearings on comic books were still recent enough that companies genuinely worried about making sure that their product was as clean and inoffensive as possible. Green Lantern was in some ways an example of this phenomenon. I don’t think he throws a punch in this entire issue, instead using his Power Ring to achieve whatever effect was needed in a non-violent manner, even when he was attacking.

In any case, Green Lantern is able to work out that the attacking creature, because it is impervious to his ring’s power directly, may be vulnerable to the acid Aqua Regia, which destroys gold. Mixing up some of the stuff, he’s able to overcome his foe before it can destroy an atomic submarine it is imperiling. And before Green lantern can have troubles of his own–as he returns to Ferris Aircraft, his power ring seems on the verge of losing its energy despite being freshly charged. This is a mystery for Hal, but not for the reader, who knows that Green Lantern spent 23 hours in the future that he’s unaware of. And in the future, Iona pines for her time-lost love, while a final caption lets readers know that Green Lantern will return to the future again in subsequent issues. And he did, all throughout the 1960s, in a series of tales. It’s a great little science fiction-tinged super hero adventure, and way more fully realized than just about anything else in the DC line at this point.

8 thoughts on “WC: GREEN LANTERN #8

  1. I came in on this series-within-a-series late — the last Silver Age story in which Pol Manning is the villain. But it’s such a clever idea, as well as a good story in itself.

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  2. I’ve never read a Pol Manning story but I’ve always been fascinated by the concept. I’ll have to hunt some down. I definitely wouldn’t want to have the idea revived though in the Dark Future Crisis status of DC in recent years.

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  3. ” But as far as I can remember, this is the only time that the treatment was tried on a mainstream super hero title.”

    DETECTIVE COMICS # 239 had an Adler wash cover.

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  4. This issue’s original cover art is featured as the centerspread of The Amazing World of DC Comics #10, January, 1976. An explanation of the washtone process was printed in the letter column of Green Lantern #10.

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  5. I’m so old…
    …I got this on the newsstand. I think. At least *somehow* when first published. Cover blew my little kid mind, story likewise.

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