Friday, September 01, 2006

On Brightest Days

Hal Jordan is my favourite Green Lantern. But I think his character may be flawed.

I think some writers have difficulty with him because he's a Fearless Fighter-Pilot. And Fearless Fighter-Pilots tend to get written a certain way. I guess it's easy to get bored writing a character like that, which may explain why so many writers tried to change his personality, until eventually they changed the character into a villain and replaced him. The problem is, I guess you really have to dig the character to take the time make him more that just a cardboard cut-out hero. You need to accept that he can be a bit of an arse about some things, but not others. Geoff Johns is willing to take the time to develop Hal Jordan's character, while keeping him a Fearless Fighter-Pilot. I think Darwyn Cooke did it even better.

And, of course, there's no shorthand way of describing why Hal Jordan is interesting as a character. I've been thinking of it this way:

John Stewart: Civil rights protester and architect.

Guy Gardner: Brain-damaged obnoxious prick.

Both characters have immediate, interesting qualities for a writer to play around with (you'd think).

But Hal Jordan?

Fearless Fighter-Pilot. His interesting qualities are far to subtle to boil down into a single sentence, because on the surface he's just another great white hero. If he's guest starring, for example, you get the shorthand character sketch, which gets you something Fearless, and (more rarely) something Honest. Let's face it, Fearless Fighter-Pilot is a cliche. It's almost as cliched as John Stewart in JLU, where he's Angry Ex-Military (admittedly, I'm probably doing JLU a disservice as I haven't seen many episodes, but that's the shorthand message I took away).

I have to say, what fascinates me most about all Green Lanterns is probably what may turn many people off- they have to be Honest and Fearless. When written well, the Honest and Fearless requirements don't automatically make every member of the Corpse the same character. It doesn't automatically make you a hero. It doesn't even make you likeable. In Sinestro's case, just because you're an alien psychofascist, doesn't mean you're not honest and fearless. Or for Guy Gardner, just because you're an obnoxious prick, doesn't mean you're not honest and fearless.


Blogger mick said...

I have a soft spot for ol' Hal myself. Maybe it's because of the great artists that have drawn him; Gil Kane at the start, Neal Adams and Dave Gibbons. I also loved how sometimes his hair was brown, and a kind of orange at other times.
They struggle to write for him as the clean-cut all american hero fighter pilot is an outdated concept these days, we like our modern heroes to be flawed, and fighter pilots these days are perceived as someone who will bomb a school or shoot their own comrades by mistake rather than someone who will save the world.

7:40 pm  

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