In the DC Comics Universe, there are different types of magic aligned with either order or chaos. And long ago, there were also forms of magical energy that were aligned to neither of these fundamental forces. The Guardians of the Universe, near-immortal beings who created the Green Lantern Corps, believed that these random, unfocused magicks were too dangerous to leave alone. So they collected the energy and imprisoned it in the heart of a star.
Years later, the Starheart developed a mind of its own and released a piece of itself into space. It landed on Earth as a meteor and the first man to discover it carved it into a lamp. It passed through many hands over the centuries, later influencing another man to carve it into a lantern, perhaps because the Starheart sought to emulate the technology of the Guardians. After granting death to some and new life for another, the Starheart lantern decided to give a human being power, to have its own Green Lantern warrior just as the Guardians did. In one account, this was due to the lantern having merged with the soul of a dead Corps member.
Alan Scott was an ordinary man who found the Starheart lantern just before a bomb meant for him wound up killing several other people. Wishing to avenge these deaths, Alan took a piece of the lantern and made a ring, as he was instructed to by the magic force that then empowered it. Calling himself Green Lantern, Alan Scott was the first Earth-born human being to use this title, even though he was not a member of the Corps. As the Emerald Crusader of Gotham City, Alan’s ring protected him from most forms of harm while allowing him to fly, phase through solid matter, deliver blasts of energy and fire, and create physical objects he imagined. It’s major weaknesses were Alan’s own concentration, the need to recharge the ring regularly with the lantern, and that the green flame had difficult with plant-matter and especially anything made of wood.
Guarding Gotham City for years, Alan Scott also became a founding member of the Justice Society of America, history’s first superhero team. As the Golden Age of Heroes ended, Earth’s first Green Lantern retired for decades along with many of his peers. He only operated on rare occasions, such as when he decided to investigate the new vigilante Batman who appeared in Gotham years later. Soon after the modern age of heroes went into full swing, Alan Scott finally returned to the fold along with many other Golden Age heroes who still had some fire in them. Along with the surviving members of the old JSA, Alan now helps to guide and train a new generation of heroes. Over the years, he’s sported quite a few different outfits. Let’s take a look then. As usual, this column is focusing on mainstream continuity.
BIZARRE MASKED HERO
Alan Scott debuted in July, 1940 in All-American Comics #16. He was created by artist Martin Nodell and writer Bill Finger, the same writer who penned most of Batman’s early stories and came up with the Dark Knight’s origin. When Alan Scott first went into action, he just wore his normal clothes and was surrounded by a halo of green light and flame. After taking down the criminals who had intended to kill him with a bomb, Alan Scott decided that it didn’t need to stop there.
He could become a masked vigilante, like the ones that had been showing up in the last few years. He needed a mask to protect his identity, of course. As he considered a design, he thought to himself, “I must make myself a dreaded figure! I must make a costume that is so bizarre that once I am seen I will never be forgotten!”
Well, "bizarre" is right. Alan Scott was not exactly a fashion designer and it showed. This costume looks as if he grabbed a lot of stuff from the storage room of a theater. A swashbuckling shirt, laced boots, simple canvas pants and a high collared cape. And many different colors. For a guy called Green Lantern, green doesn’t seem to be the dominant element here.
Take away the cape and this outfit actually makes a little sense. It’s very similar to what many pulp fiction and high adventure heroes had worn in the decades earlier, guys such as Doc Savage and John Carter who paved the way for later characters like Indiana Jones. It’s the kind of thing you’d see worn by a man of action who would be in a bar brawl during one scene, fighting Nazis during another, and then exploring a hidden city before he got home for dinner. Alan Scott was a character in the same vein, fitting into many different genres. He’d have strange adventures with hidden civilizations and would fight Nazis, only to take down Gotham mobsters and living taxicabs in another issue.
Another thing that made Alan Scott very similar to these swashbuckling adventurers was the fact that he often relied on fists and brawling rather than magic. His ring was an incredibly powerful weapon, but he didn’t like to rely on it as a cure-all. Most of the time, he used it to fly or allow himself to phase through solid matter. But once he was actually in the presence of an enemy, he was fine throwing a few punches and kicks rather than immediately blasting them with green flame.
This was a guy who could handle himself in a fight without a ring and made sure he never lost that edge. In later years, writers would imply he behaved this way in order to never become corrupted by the power of his ring. An understandable fear. In one Golden Age story, a Nazi captured Alan Scott and attempted to wear the powerful ring only to be immediately burned alive in green fire. In a later story, the same happened to a would-be terrorist who attempted to wear Scott’s mystic ring.
Not all artists drew the boots the same way. Most have drawn the boots of Alan’s classic costume as having gold laces. Some have drawn them more like streamlined superhero boots with gold trim. This does seem to work a bit better. The lacing just stood out a bit too much for my tastes.
So the major outfit actually makes sense (even if the red and green combination risk bringing Christmas to mind). What about the cape? Well, by itself, the cape also makes sense. Alan Scott is a powerful hero wielding incredible magic. He casts a light on “dark evil” but he also intends to intimidate people as much as provide hope. And he inhabits Gotham City, a place known for shadows. The cape design basically works with that. How about the color, though?
When Alan Scott first began adventuring as Green Lantern, his cape appeared to be black with a green interior, with the artist using either gray or purple highlights to give the exterior a sense of texture. Black and green can definitely work. But later on, it became standard to make the cape solid purple with a green interior. Which means the costume now has a mixture of green, red, purple and gold and that’s a lot of colors to put together into one look.
Red and green can imply Christmas; red, green and gold/yellow are colors that can imply a hopeful, bright-humored hero; green and purple are usually associated with super-villains or menaces in comic books. We’ve got clashing ideas here.
This also affected the mask color. Some artists made the mask black, some made it green, most made it purple like the cape. Again, I’d prefer a character called Green Lantern to have a green mask.
However, the medium can make all the difference. Some artists and inkers have been able to really make this costume work despite its bizarre nature. In the graphic novel Brightest Day, Blackest Night, from which the above picture was taken, the character was depicted in a way that made his clashing colors actually appear quite beautiful.
Likewise, sometimes when Alan Scott is shown operating at night and lit only by his own ring, some artists have used this as an excuse to darken his overall appearance. For some fans, this has indicated that the costume may actually work better with a different color scheme.
But whatever else you can say about the costume, two things are very apparent. First of all, it is as memorable as Alan Scott (and his creator Martin Nodell) intended when it was first designed. Second, there is obviously something about it that works because despite Alan Scott utilizing different designs in later adventures, artists seemed determined time and time again to return him to his classic look when they can.
Before we continue, here’s another thing to note. Years later, when Hal Jordan appeared as the new Green Lantern, artists decided to make sure there was a strong visual difference between the energies of his ring and the energies of Alan Scott’s ring.
In the old days, Alan was often depicted with a simple aura of light while his energy blasts and ring-projected weapons were delivered via a green beam, like Hal’s ring did. But for years now, it’s been the practice to have Hal’s ring create projections or energy as a beam of green light (sometimes sparking) and for Alan’s ring to create things out of green flame. Likewise, his aura is usually fiery in nature. Just a simple touch to indicate that one ring draws its power from light in some way and the other ring draws green flame from a mystical source.
Like many of his colleagues who fought during the Golden Age of Heroes, Alan Scott encountered strange forces that affected his body and retarded his aging rate. Decades after having been around for World War II, he only looked to be in his forties rather than an elderly man. But in the 1990s, something happened. Alan Scott woke up and found himself even younger again, looking as if he were 25 and with renewed vitality. He traced this effect to the Starheart and along the way he got a new costume too.
This is very much a modern idea of Alan’s classic look. Swashbuckling shirt, boots and canvas pants have been replaced with a more typical superhero style. And we’ve got new gloves along with a new symbol. He’s still recognizable as the figure we knew from the 1940s, though, which is a good thing. And unlike many character redesigns in the 1990s, it does not involve unnecessary pouches, extra belts, spikes and/or shoulder pads. It’s very sleek.
The cape’s color works better for me. Dark green with lighter green on the interior. And keeping the idea that it matches the mask works nicely. The cut of the trousers works nicely (we definitely didn’t need that huge belt buckle). But the boots and gloves, I’m not sure about. I think this outfit works better with a solid cover all the way done, merging the boots together (again, let’s play done the red. And I think maybe shortening the gloves could be a good idea rather than extending them almost to the shoulders. Or maybe no gloves at all? Alan’s green aura takes care of fingerprints, so he really doesn’t need to cover his hands.
The cape collar has become more ridiculous, unfortunately. Alan is magical but he’s not a dark-natured sorcerer like Dr. Fate, Dr. Strange or other cryptic-speaking mages in comics. He still sees himself as a working class guy from Gotham, so I’d like to tone down that collar. Likewise, artists now drew the mask with little horns that make it look more sinister and I’m not sure that really fits Alan’s personality. He’s from Gotham, but he’s not Batman.
While I dig elements of this look, one thing I am against is the new symbol and the new ring Alan was sporting. Both were redesigned to bear a greater resemblance to the symbol and rings of the Green Lantern Corps. No, no, people. Beyond the fact that he also used the name Green Lantern, it’s important to let readers understand that Alan is not a member of the Corps and his abilities are not identical. By making his symbol and ring more closely resemble them, you’re blurring the lines.
Besides, I personally thought it was pretty neat that Alan Scott’s ring actually looked like a tiny train lantern. That was just cool and funny. Later on, Alan’s ring was drawn in its more traditional way again.
So this outfit shows a lot of promise, I just think there could be a better compromise between it and the classic style.
SENTINEL OF LIGHT
During the crossover Zero Hour, Alan Scott decided to finally retire for real and gave up his ring (which was then destroyed soon afterward). Later, he visited the grave of fallen comrades and was seemingly attacked by their reanimated remains. During this encounter, he discovered that he’d somehow absorbed the Starheart energies over the years and could not give up his abilities by simply dismissing his ring. Though he was disturbed by the idea that he would never be able to leave this life behind, he decided that fate had made his path clear and so he resumed the life of a superhero. As he no longer wielded a ring, he changed his name from “Green Lantern” to “Sentinel.”
During this time, DC had (temporarily) done away with the Green Lantern Corps and had made new character Kyle Rayner the last of the Corps. There was an attitude that Kyle needed to be the only Green Lantern in order to make him more special and to increase the sense of his ring being amazing. So Alan Scott was hit by this as well, as DC decided that they didn’t want him to be active but still using the GL name. Years later, this attitude would change.
This costume is basically the same as his earlier '90s design except that we’ve made the boots and trousers one solid color (which I do think works better) and we’ve altered the chest symbol. Now that he no longer charges his ring at a lantern, it makes sense he wouldn’t use that design anymore. Instead, he has a star over his heart, indicating the true source of his abilities. Not a bad idea. I don’t think it’s necessary to change Alan Scott’s name or pretend he’s not the original character to be called Green Lantern, but if you have to follow that edict then I understand this costume design.
Later on, Alan Scott faced down the Starheart itself, which had become stronger in its sentience and had become corrupt. After their battle, Alan looked to be in his forties again rather than in his mid-twenties. Deciding not to imply he had allegiance to the personality of the Starheart, he dismissed the chest symbol entirely now, leaving himself with a blank, red shirt. Some artists also started involving a gold clasp for his cape, recalling the gold elements of his original suit.
This isn’t bad and notice the red boots came back. But now this costume is pretty generic. “I’m the red and green guy! Fear me!”
A few years later, Alan went back to his original costume. And a few years after that, he recreated his ring and just started calling himself “Green Lantern” again.
THE GREEN GUARDSMAN
In the cartoon series Justice League, there was discussion about involving the Justice Society of America in one story. This idea was later scrapped and instead the Justice League met a group of what they believed to be fictional characters, the Justice Guild of America. Each of the members of the Guild was a substitute for a JSA member. Instead of Alan Scott as the Green Lantern, we saw a man called the Green Guardsman.
So this is basically the classic Golden Age GL suit but with a different color scheme and chest symbol. And you know what? I think this color combo works. This guy looks like someone who would be called Green Lantern. Different shades of green that keep the costume from blending too much rather than four different colors fighting for attention. Very nice, actually.
I normally don’t go into alternate continuities or Elseworlds stories, but this one wound up affecting mainstream comics afterward so it would be silly not to mention it. In the critically acclaimed mini-series Kingdom Come, Mark Waid and Alex Ross gave us a vision of the possible future of DC Comics. Heroes had changed and the world had become darker. And we learned that Alan Scott had become Earth’s watchmen, orbiting the planet in a satellite base his ring created, alert for any alien invaders. In this new role, he wore a suit of armor with his lantern power battery as the chest plate.
It was a pretty interesting design and evoked a very strong feeling of Alan Scott being an Emerald Knight (which was one of his nicknames). So on occasion, it has found its way into modern-day comics time and time again.
Although this design is a great showstopper and can work nicely in a story, it doesn’t really work for Alan as a standard suit. It’s a little too removed from his classic look and says “knight” but not “superhero.”
Of course, the Kingdom Come suit isn’t the only time Alan’s created armor with his ring. Over the years, there have been a few times where he’s used the green fire to suit up. And recently, he had to do so again for very special reasons.
Recently, the Justice Society of America have been put through some hard times. New villains Dr. Chaos and Scythe have caused major problems with them, and many casualties occurred as a result. Alan Scott wound up paralyzed by the powerful villain Scythe. Medical superhero Dr. Mid-Nite believed there was a chance that Alan would never be able to walk again. But our boy doesn’t ever give up. Using his willpower and magic, Alan created a new suit of armor that not only allowed him mobility once more but gave him a chance to kick Scythe’s ass in front of everyone.
This is a similar take to the Kingdom Come design in that the power battery is incorporated into the suit. But in this case, the armor seems to be a giant version of the battery, making Alan Scott resemble a true living Green Lantern rather than just a guy who uses that as his name. The neck brace and the exo-skeleton extending over his limbs make complete sense since this is a functional piece of equipment. I dig the gauntlets and the boots. And the white and green color combination works nicely. Maybe Alan’s shirt should have been white all these years.
But on the whole, the design doesn’t quite work for me. The chest piece is too clunky and the neck brace’s nature means that Alan looks pretty stiff and limited in movement. What really bothers me is that Alan has this big handle bar behind him. I understand that lanterns have handles, but having it there makes our hero resemble a Transformer rather than a guy in a suit. Seriously, if he puts his hands on his hips, he’ll seem like he should be called the Green Teapot rather than the Green Lantern. So this suit serves a function, but as a new standard it doesn’t work. Though Alan Scott hasn't yet made an appearance in The New 52, chances are he'll be some part of the May-debuting Earth 2 series, and could very well be sporting another new look.
And that brings us to a close, folks. Hope you enjoyed this week’s column. Until next time, this is Alan Kistler, Agent of S.T.Y.L.E., signing off!
Alan Sizzler Kistler is an actor and freelance writer living in
New York City. His work can be found on various websites and he has been
recognized by publishers and news media outlets as a comic book
historian and Doctor Who historian. He is the author of the Unofficial Game of Thrones Cook Book (coming out in April) and a contributor to the book Star Trek and History,
coming soon. He knows entirely too much about superheroes, time travel
stories, Muppets, and vampires that don't sparkle. His website is AlanKistler.com and his twitter feed is @SizzlerKistler.
Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's FACEBOOK and TWITTER!