Much like The Flash and Robin, there’ve been several characters who have acted under the name “Green Lantern”. While a B-list hero in the DC Universe, he has become a legacy character nonetheless. While the Corps. features literally thousands of Green Lanterns, there’ve been five who came from Earth and acted as protector of Earth’s sector (2814)
While many recognize Hal Jordan as THE Green Lantern, it’s interesting to note that he was actually the second. The original Green Lantern didn’t even have anything to do with the Corps that became the backbone of the Green Lantern mythos.
The first Green Lantern was an engineer named Alan Scott. Alan Scott came across a strange green lantern that, as it turns out, had been made from an ancient and mystical “green flame”. The lantern told Scott to make a ring from the same material. Scott did so and started a career as a crimefighter named the Green Lantern.
The ring granted Scott similar powers to the ones later seen by other Green Lanterns. Scott could create shields as well as shoot beams of energy, but he could also use it as a flamethrower and has used his ring to temporarily both blind and paralyze his opponents. Like the later rings, Scott’s was useless against certain items. Where the rings of the Corps were useless on things that were yellow, Scott’s ring was ineffective against wood.
Scott remains active to this day, acting as a mentor figure in the Justice Society. While he’s not a member of the Green Lantern Corps, the Oans do consider him an honorary member and it was revealed that the “green flame”, later named the Starheart, did have some ties to the Guardians.
Scott has fathered two heroes, a daughter named Jade, who has similar powers to his, only with no ring, and a son who operates under the hero name of Obsidian. For a while, he operated under the name, “Sentinel” but returned to Green Lantern a short time after.
When DC had success revamping the Flash, they decided to take a similar tact with Green Lantern. This time, the focus was more on science fiction rather than mysticism. They introduced the now classic character of Hal Jordan, a cocky young test pilot who “has no fear”. An alien ship crashes to Earth and the dying alien, Abin Sur, tells his ring to find a man without fear. That man is Hal Jordan. Hal is inducted into the Green Lantern Corps, a galactic police force that enforces peace throughout the galaxy. Each lantern is equipped with a ring that can do anything and is only limited by the bearer’s willpower and imagination.
The rings get their power from a small lantern, that draws power from a much larger lantern on the planet Oa that contains “almost limitless” power. The ring has alternated between having a 24 hour limit before needing to be recharged and having a certain amount of “fuel” before it runs dry,much like a standard battery.
Hal soon became “the greatest Green Lantern” and rose to prominence, both in the comic world and the real world. He has been featured in several various animated series and films. He was also paired with fellow hero Green Arrow in a series of comics where the two traveled across America to reconnect. The writers took this oppurtunity to make social commentary on a variety of issues.
One of the more iconic scenes depicted in this “buddy comic” had an elderly black man approach Hal and demand an explanation for why Hal “never did anything for the black skins”. Hal, rather than explain that he saves the planet on a regular basis, says that he can’t. I really want to see Geoff Johns re-enact this scene with Guy Gardner at some point, only instead of relinquishing, Guy smacks him and reminds him that he’s a protector of the whole planet.
As high as Hal flew, he also fell the farthest. After two villains, an alien despot named Mongul as well as the Cyborg Superman, destroyed his home town of Coast City, Hal tried to use his ring to reconstruct it. The Oans called him out, reminding him that this was a major no-no. Hal snapped and all but declared war on the Corps. He took the name Parallax and went on a killing spree before making attempts to rewrite reality to undo the wrong that was done.
After his death in Final Night, Hal’s spirit bonded with the Spectre, God’s agent of vengeance. He was recently brought back to life in the recent Rebirth arc and has operated as Earth’s primary Green Lantern since.
The third Green Lantern introduced, and the second one involved with the Corps, was Guy Gardner. A hot tempered red head from Baltimore. It was explained that Guy was the runner up candidate when Abin Sur’s ring sought out a new bearer. The only reason Hal got the ring was because he was closer. Guy was a fairly straight laced character, but was put into a coma after a long series of circumstances.
When he awoke, he was brash, arrogant, and rude. He developed an odd inferiority complex when it came to Jordan and was set on proving himself the last “true” Green Lantern.
Like Hal, Guy operated as a member of the Justice League. This was during the Giffen/Dematteis “JLI” years so he was used as a foil more than anything else, but he was still a member.
At one point, Hal returned and automatically assumed that Earth was his to protect. Guy, insisting that he had been doing fine long before Hal returned, challenged him to a fist-fight. The loser would have to forfeit his ring and give up the Corps. Guy roughed Hal up, but Hal ended up taking the win.
In true Guy Gardner fashion, he enlisted Lobo to help steal Sinestro’s ring (the villain was dead at the time). This seemed like a perfect setup. Guy could operate on his own terms while still keeping powers similar to the ones the Green Lantern ring granted him.
Writers disagreed and instead came up with some crazy story where Guy was part extra-terrestrial and became a living weapon known as “Warrior”. This was retconned in Rebirth and Guy now operates as an elite member of the Green Lantern Corps. While he still has a brash, trash talking personality, it’s portrayed in a much more serious light and where Giffen and DeMatteis usually had Guy get humiliated, he is now a competent hero in his own right and no longer holds any resentment towards Jordan.
After having a bunch of white guys operate as Green Lanterns, DC decided to bring in an African American to act as another replacement for Hal. This brought in John Stewart, an architect who was selected after Guy Gardner was seriously injured.
Steward proved himself a capable Lantern, albeit one with terrible luck. He fell in love with fellow Lantern, Katma Tui only to see her die at the hands of his enemy, Star Sapphire. He was imprisoned for it, and when he did break out he ended up freeing a serial killer as well as a terrorist. The biggest disaster that befell him was the destruction of a planet named Xanshi. John did everything he could, but was unable to stop the anti-life equation from consuming the world. This was notable as it gave birth to the villain known as Fatality as well as became a moment that almost drove John completely insane.
The Mosaic arc gave him a chance to shine as a solo character as well as mentally heal from the devastation he had endured. He had been given command over a planet of a variety of races from different planets and was told to maintain peace.
Like Guy and Hal, John returned to duty after the events of Rebirth. He worked as Hal’s partner as Earth’s Green Lantern and they have a rotating membership in the Justice League (allowing writers to use whichever Green Lantern they prefer).
John was a fairly obscure character until he was brought into the animated Justice League series. Fans were upset and confused at first, but he soon proved himself to be a great character in his own right. The military background that the show writers gave him was even worked in to comic canon as his career before settling down to become an architect.
The most recent Green Lantern introduced was Kyle Rayner. He was a young, struggling artist. Unlike the others, who were chosen for some specific character trait, Rayner was completely random. Ganthet ran into him outside of a bar and Ganthet just handed the last remaining ring, each one described as “the most powerful weapon in the universe” to a guy he didn’t even know.
Kyle was not well received at first. A lot of people thought he was just a Peter Parker rip off and, more importantly, they were ticked at how the entire Corps was destroyed to bring Kyle into the picture. While he suffered from subpar writing at first, Kyle always seemed intent on honoring the legacy of the Corps, often spending time with Guy and John talking about what it was like and trying to learn everything he could.
Kyle has operated as both a Teen Titan and a member of the Justice League, it was here where he started to become fleshed out and more three dimensional. Kyle proved himself to be a capable Green Lantern and soon developed a following of his own. Even though, both are active the Hal/Kyle fanboy wars continue to this day.
Each character has developed a fandom of their own, while also developing hatedoms. Whatever your character of choice, you can now read about them in one comic or another. All five are currently active and operating in different capacities.