Friday, May 17, 2024

Green Lantern #3 (August 1990)

Fan service for the Hal Jordan lovers in the '90s.

Comic book fans often complain about the amount of fan service in modern comic books but I'm pretty sure fan service was worse in previous eras. Mostly it's a problem with writers. I read a lot of comic books but I only truly love a small percentage of those comic books. And it has to do with the writers. Was that obvious? Anyway, a great writer understands the character they're writing on a level where the story feels organic. But some writers only understand a previously created character on such a shallow level that their stories generally amount to nothing more than ten to twenty pages of what they think the audience wants. Sometimes a character is introduced by a writer as a means of expressing something critical about the world and the people in it, perhaps introducing a flawed paranoid character who mistakes his delusional perception of the world as the way the world really is and his obsessive need to act out God's punishment for every sin he "sees." But then readers might rally behind the flawed character, not merely because they don't understand the commentary but maybe because they themselves feel helpless and forgotten, projecting the character's misguided power onto themselves and how they might show the world their own power, if not someday, at least in a momentary daydream while reading their comic book. Other writers notice this love of the character and decided, "I'm going to portray this character as serious instead of tongue-in-cheek, or satirical because look at all the raving fanboys who love the character's ethically and morally dubious actions!" Then the fans go even more wild for it and eat it up for years. The writers double down on this character's most obvious traits until the character becomes a huge parody of itself, having grown so out of proportion that nobody can ever take it seriously again. At least until a Real Writer comes along and decides to delve deeply into what makes this character tick.

I was sort of thinking about various characters while writing that, some that actually didn't get the "over-the-top" treatment because they didn't really remain in continuity (Rorschach* (*I know, I know! Eventually DC did go there! But it was so forgettable that I've forgotten it all)) to characters like Guy Gardner and Lobo. I suspect characters like Wolverine and The Punisher probably got a bit of this treatment but I wasn't really reading much Marvel in the '80s and early '90s (I didn't read much Marvel until all my favorite writers began writing for them!). Guy Gardner especially became a bipolar monster/hero depending on how the current writer felt about him, or what the current editor felt audiences wanted out of him. Guy Gardner had fans who loved his bad-ass fuck authority way of thinking which stood out from the more stolid, unthinking, and mundanely stubborn "fuck authority" of Hal Jordan. But a lot of people hated Guy, including many writers. And you can always tell when a writer hates Guy Gardner because they portray him as a clown who gets turned on by violence and sexism. I've only read two issues so far so I can't quite judge how Gerard Jones views Guy yet. So far he seems to be a bratty little brother with low self-esteem who feels a desperate need to show up his more mature sibling.

I guess that had more to do with how writers and editors feel about what they present to an audience than fan service. But editors often did want to present what they thought fans wanted. They did, after all, want to sell as many comic books as possible. So this cover is part of that feeling. It only took three issues for Jones and the editors to say to potential readers, "You want Hal Jordan back and taking control? You want a solid Green Lantern comic book? Have you also had enough of this blowhard ruining the Green Lantern reputation? Don't you fucking hate Guy Gardner fans who think he's somehow better than Hal Jordan when we, the editors and writers and super smart readers, know that he's not?!" And then you get the cover all the Hal Jordan fans have been waiting for. Guy Gardner getting the shit beaten out of him yet again. Just like every hero had to beat Lobo in the late '80s/early '90s to show that they could beat the most dangerous character in the DC Universe, they also all needed to put Guy Gardner in his place to show that they're honorable and just and not simply wearing costumes and beating the shit out of villains for a quick erotic buzz. Wait, that was a plot point in Watchmen, right?

Oh no. I just wrote an amazing slash fiction story behind this cover due to this detail:

I won't bore you with the story but the working title is "Guy Gardner's Glory Hole Cock Up."

The story begins with Hal back on the road. Except now he's dropped the metaphor of being on the road for the Taoist belief of just being. The road is no longer a metaphor for the journey of life. It's no longer an analogy of seeking. It's simply a road and Hal's just being. He's no longer seeking something which is what you do when your lost which means he's finally been found. He's at one with everything, even the mosquitoes. Although pointing out "even the mosquitoes" seems like maybe he's still got some judgment in his heart and he hasn't achieved the sort of harmony he believes he has. But for Hal, it's a huge step! He's not being driven by his past or rushing toward some ideal future. He's just Hal walking down a road listening to the river and thinking, "Man, even the mosquitoes aren't annoying me right now." Oh no! I just realized something after that description: Hal's on opiates!

Hal's brief moment being a Buddhist's ideal bagel doesn't last long. Before you know it, Guy Gardner shows up to call him a weenie because, even in 1990, Gerard Jones knew DC wouldn't publish what we all know Guy really called Hal. This issue is called "Sound and Fury" which is a Faulkner reference on top of a Shakespeare reference and possibly a Biblical reference because aren't all references, ultimately, just tarted up scripture? I suppose "sound and fury" is also as apt a description you'll get of Guy Gardner. Especially when you tack on the next part Will's sentence, "signifying nothing." It's like Shakespeare met Guy Gardner at a party and Macbeth's soliloquy birthed itself fully formed in his mind. Oh, also the whole "tale told by an idiot" part. Pure Guy!

Hal's been hitchhiking unsuccessfully which is what has given Hal the moment to become one with his surroundings. So maybe the universe was teaching Hal about getting what we need. This seems especially pertinent because Guy thinks Hal has been unsuccessful so far. And if Guy thinks one thing, everybody knows that one thing is the wrong thing. Anyway, Guy shows Hal how to get a car to stop for you.

Pretty sure the men in this car have just been killed which really makes Jones' choice to never mention them again a little odd.

Instead of taking Guy by his ear and hauling him off to the police station for reckless manslaughter (is that the term for this? Or was it premeditated murder since Guy knows what his ring is capable of?), Hal takes Guy to a diner to continue their sibling rivalry.

Or their lovers' spat.

Hal and Guy are two men arguing in public in the South. And since neither one of them has drawn a firearm at this point, or maybe because they're obviously referring to their firearms as "you-know-whats," the crowd around them assume they're lovers. Also, I mean, the "you-know-what" could actually mean a "you-know-what," if you know what I mean.

Hal accepts Guy's challenge. They take off their rings, give them to the waitress, and then go out in the parking lot to fuck.

I grew up in the '70s. Let's get it on means sex.

Even if Guy hadn't said, "Let's get it on," I'd have mentioned they were going to fuck. Every time two men get overly aggressive and want to punch each other in the face, all I can think about is how much more pleasant fucking each other would be. Why would you rather get hit in the face then have a nice orgasm? I bet if I were in a crowd cheering on two guys fighting, I'd get them to stop. While everybody was yelling, "Fight! Fight! Fight!", I'd be yelling, "Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!" That would probably make them both too uncomfortable to continue with the violence. Sure, they might go after me. But would they dare when I was already so excited about all the fucking about to happen?

You have to admit. These dudes have the facial expressions of guys about to see some sexual penetration.

Pretty sure Jeff is washing his mouth out after sucking off the other guy excited for the fight. Like Guy on the cover, he's got semen all over his mouth.

I just don't understand why guys have to be so aggressive. Problems can be solved in an infinite number of ways without resorting to physical violence. Not to mention most problems are never solved through physical violence. Once you commit violence against another person, you haven't "won" in any sense of the term. You've just created a person who has been beaten, humiliated, and angry. You know they're going to want to get revenge. So now that you've "won," you get to spend the rest of your life acting defensive, constantly looking over your shoulder, and building up a huge standing army with taxes that could go to the public good! You might have just realized I stopped talking about individuals somewhere in that last sentence. War doesn't solve problems. It just kicks the can full of problems down the future road.

Don't bring up self-defense to argue my point! Because that's already been my point! When you've committed violence to defend yourself, it's usually because some other dumb, fearful, overly aggressive piece of shit has decided to resort to violence! And if they didn't resort to violence but you did and you claimed self-defense, guess who the dumb, fearful, overly aggressive piece of shit is in that situation?! Hmm, you probably can't do logical math if you're a dumb, fearful, overly aggressive piece of shit. So maybe just stop trying to understand the words I'm typing and just look at the pictures of Guy Gardner and Hal Jordan punching each other silly in a diner parking lot.

Why is Guy Gardner's war cry about a cow's asshole?

When Hal and Guy handed their Green Lantern rings to the waitress, she was all, "Who would try to steal them?" But Guy Gardner is dressed as Guy Gardner, the Green Lantern. Everybody in the diner should recognize him, right? Is it possible nobody would try to get one of those rings off the waitress? I'm not saying they'd be successful being that the rings basically have minds of their own. But the whole scene seems to be playing out as if nobody recognizes Guy Gardner!

To make the fight seem a bit more fair than Hal Jordan fans would probably like, Guy Gardner pops Hal in the face in that previous panel. But he has to kick him first and everybody knows that's dirty fighting! If you didn't know it was dirty fighting because you read this when you were a refined Victorian woman who wouldn't dare think about any sort of physical violence at all, Jeff and Wash, the gay guys, make sure to express it to the reader.

Another clue that they're gay is that they're skeedaddling because the jerk small town sheriff has just arrived on scene.

Hal and Guy wind up in prison. It must be illegal to fist fight in this city. Maybe that's why everybody got so excited to see the fight.

Once more, Hal Jordan finds himself in jail. He was looking to change his life after so many years as a Green Lantern and it looks like he's just repeating all of the same mistakes (mostly the mistake where he winds up in jail). He didn't drink drive a good friend to paralysis this time so maybe he has become a better man. This time he was just thrashing an idiot in a park when an overzealous cop decided to arrest him and the guy whose face he was shoving in the dirt and making say, "I like to suck big dicks. Mmm! Mmm! I can't get enough of 'em."

While in jail, Hal Jordan tries to act as therapist to Guy Gardner. But just when they seem to be opening up to each other, Hal realizes he doesn't have his ring and they both freak the fuck out. Apparently the ring means more to Hal than he's been letting on. Hopefully Guy noticed so he can stop thinking Hal thinks he's too good for the ring which is somehow a commentary on Guy being a huge loser because he needs it. Hal makes his phone call to the diner and the waitress is all, "Oh, those rings I said I wouldn't lose? I lost them." I guess that gay duo took them to use to do crimes. Gay crimes.

Meanwhile on Oa, the insane, lonely Guardian attempts a mind union with John Stewart. Mind Unions must be things every other alien in the universe can do. I guess humans can't do it because humans can love. Mind Unions and love must conflict on some basic biological level. That's pretty much the entire theme of the original Star Trek. John fights against the Mind Union so the Guardian, realizing he might have trouble merging with the only other person on the planet, decides to take huge chunks from other planets all over the universe and bring them to Oa. I guess this is how Mosaic starts?

Gay Wash and Gay Jeff have taken the rings. And while they learn to use them, they realize they can't stand everybody in town. So they decide to make every single one of them shit their pants.

Unless you can shit your pants out of pure joy, my pants would remain clean if I saw this. Well, as clean as they were when the huge raccoon appeared, anyway.

What's going on with the art team of Broderick and Patterson? This raccoon is the third character in the series to be shown post-dick sucking.

The cops let Hal and Guy out of jail to stop Wash and Jeff on their little crime spree. I guess the sheriff finally put clue one together with clue two and realized he had the famous Guy Gardner, Green Lantern, in his jail cell. Or he was just so embarrassed by all the shit in his pants that he just wanted them out of smelling range.

Guy Gardner stands by doing nothing dressed up in his flamboyant outfit while Hal Jordan out willpowers Jeff and Wash. He gets both of their rings back and only then does Guy Gardner think, "Maybe I shouldn't be such a dick to this guy."

Oh, well I guess Guy Gardner is a regular human being now? Does respecting Hal Jordan equate to being a respectable hero again? Has this fixed him?

Green Lantern #3 Rating: B. Guy's respect came a little bit too easily for my tastes which is why this issue doesn't get an A. Plus I'm still not really a huge fan for this Robert Crumb-esque underground comic book style. But I guess Guy has tortured Hal long enough, so I'm just glad this whole "Guy Gardner is being a huge asshole for absolutely no reason" plot is over. I wouldn't mind if they butted heads and it took something like this for Guy to get Hal's respect. But the jail scene where Guy was actually opening up to Hal was too short for their repaired relationship to be truly meaningful. Hal had every right to be pissed off at Guy (although I think threatening to break his arm (and outright stating that he'd love to do it) may have gone too far) because Gerard Jones had Guy acting like a pissy toddler. It was reminiscent of the way Dan Vado would decide to characterize him in Justice League a year or two later. You can't just make Guy Gardner a sexist dog turd who doesn't care about hurting innocent people just to make himself feel powerful. I mean he seriously hurt or killed two guys in a truck at the start of this issue and nobody fucking cared! I'm not sure he should have ever been let out of jail!

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