Green Lantern in “The Leap Year Menace!”

That time where Hal nearly destroyed a city.Hal Jordan has always been one of my favorite comic book superheroes. At first it was simply because he had the coolest costume. Then I read his comics and found out that I like the character as well.

There are a lot of things that set Hal Jordan apart from the rest of the classic Silver Age superheroes, such as the fact that he’s got a female boss or the fact that his early issues dealt with racism against Inuits (yeah). But the biggest thing that sets him aside from others is that he’s an impulsive man-child. This is a guy who tries to do the right thing, but he’s hampered by the fact that he doesn’t think things through and is kind of an idiot. Perhaps because I am also a well-intentioned idiot, this resonates with me.

There seems to be a large amount of dislike for Hal around the Internet, with many people arguing that he’s boring. Like him or not, I can tell you one thing for sure: he’s not boring. Allow me to show you what I mean as we delve into the classic Silver Age Green Lantern story known as…“The Leap Year Menace!”

This story relies on an old tradition from the 1960s where on February 29th, it is socially acceptable for women to ask men to marry them. Carol Ferris, aka Hal Jordan’s boss, aka his occasional girlfriend before she became his boss, aka the chick who is totally infatuated with Green Lantern, decides to take advantage of this tradition by asking the Green Lantern to marry him.

This is bad news for Hal for…some reason. As with most superheroes of the time, there was an implied necessity for Hal to keep his identity secret from his loved ones. Hal seems to know this, but he doesn’t really provide a good reason why. At one point he worries that his enemies will attack Carol if they find out she’s involved with the Green Lantern. This might be a good point, if the Green Lantern hadn’t made out with Carol at a very prominent social gathering the first time they met:

"Hi Carol! I'm totally not Hal Jordan. Wanna make out?"

“Hi Carol! I’m totally not Hal Jordan. Wanna make out?”

So anybody looking to strike at Green Lantern can probably start by going after the lady whose trachea he was exploring with his tongue.

Hal’s other explanation is that he wants Carol to love him for himself, not because he’s the Green Lantern. He seems to ignore the fact that only Carol’s sense of professionalism has kept them from dating currently and that, just as a reminder, he made out with her as Green Lantern. Clark Kent gets to complain about Lois loving Superman, since he didn’t give her a reason to go after his alter ego. Hal doesn’t get to whine about a problem that he himself created. But then, Hal Jordan is not a smart man, as we will soon see.

Carol intends to pop the question to the Green Lantern at a charity event for the local community chest. Rather than consider just saying “No,” we get the following amusing internal monologue from Hal:

Yes Hal...use all your wiles.

Yes Hal…use all your wiles.

After doing his part at the charity event, Hal is cornered by Carol. Rather than just claim that there’s an asteroid heading for Earth that he has to stop, he comes up with another plan:

Chiller. Diller.

Chiller. Diller.

And then this happens:

Hal retains his title as King of Head Trauma.

Hal retains his title as King of Head Trauma.

Oops.

Oops.

Yeah…possibly as an explanation of why Hal is kind of a dolt, he suffers a lot of head trauma through his career. He has literally picked a fight with a billboard and lost. In this case, he gets clocked in the head by a toy airplane and knocked out shortly after he’s created a giant green monster that only he can stop.

Interestingly, the monster can think for itself:

 

It thinks, therefore it is.

It thinks, therefore it is.

This raises some key questions about the Green Lantern’s constructs. Are they all self-aware? Do they die when the ring’s power supply runs out? Could a Green Lantern theoretically create a civilization of ring-people that think and act on their own?

This big guy’s problem is actually a matter of near-sightedness. He stumbles around and damages Coast City by accident, but he’s no real threat. Or at least he wouldn’t be if Coast City didn’t have a nuclear stockpile sitting around for no good reason.

Wait...did Thunderbolt Ross used to go by the last name of Willis?

Wait…did Thunderbolt Ross used to go by the last name of Willis?

Green Lantern eventually recovers from his head trauma and erases the poor monster from existence with his power ring. He gets credit for saving the city, never telling people that he was the guy who put the city in danger in the first place. To his credit, he does decide to sue his ring to clean up the damage caused by his monster. I guess it’s a net win overall – Hal looks like a hero, the city doesn’t get destroyed, and the local community chest has a few extra dollars to do their thing.

Oh yeah…there’s Carol’s marriage proposal to deal with. Luckily, the Green Lantern fan club is composed mostly of women, all of whom have the same idea as Carol:

Egads! What a fan club!

Egads! What a fan club!

Okay...you got me. Some of these are black and white because I'm relying on Internet searches rather than just taking the time to scan a comic that I own. I am a terrible person.

Okay…you got me. Some of these are black and white because I’m relying on Internet searches rather than just taking the time to scan a comic that I own. I am a terrible person.

This comic sucks is AWESOME! It is one of the more unique comic book stories I’ve ever read, and it really embodies what I think of Hal Jordan as a character. Hal is a well-meaning idiot who just happens to have been given the most powerful weapon in the universe. This is a fun, amusing comic where the best thing we can say about the hero is that his hair-brained scheme didn’t accidentally kill somebody. I love every silly page of this thing.

I’m also completely serious when I say this comic could be used as a model for Hal Jordan’s modern appearances. Rather than make him the gung-ho cowboy who really isn’t all that different from Superman or the Flash, turn him into the short-sighted dummy who despite all of his idiocy still manages to be one of Earth’s greatest heroes when the chips are down.

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