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!”
A Proposal from Carol Ferris
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:
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.
Just Say No
Hal’s easiest escape to this dilemma would be to turn her proposal down. It’s not hard – he just has to say “No.” Instead, he decides to enact an elaborate plan to use his ring to create a monster that will serve as a diversion. Unfortunately for him and all of Coast City, things go awry thanks to some kids getting reckless with a model airplane.
Yes, it’s fairly unrealistic that Hal would get knocked out by a toy airplane. However, you need to remember that suffering a concussion makes you more susceptible to future concussions. Even this early in his history, Hal had taken several nasty knocks to the head. By now, a light tap on the head is effectively a medical emergency for him.
Compounding matters is the fact that Hal went down after creating his monster. Thus, Hal’s inability to turn down a proposal leads to the creation of a giant green monster that might destroy Coast City.
The Philosophical Implications of a Rampaging Monster
This story has some untapped potential that I wish somebody would follow up on. For example, the giant monster Hal created seems able to think for itself.
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.
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.
The Dangling Marriage Proposal
Oh yeah…there’s still 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:
Hal bails out of the whole thing by saying, “I just can’t marry you all — so I’ll marry none!” I guess he’s in big trouble if the country ever loosens up its polygamy laws.
This comic is awesome and 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 story 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.