Wednesday, January 04, 2006

In Praise of Hal Jordan

So, why is Hal Jordan better (in many ways) than other Green Lanterns?

He's Special Forces.

I was talking to an acquaintance (hi, Phillip!) who used to be peripherally involved in special forces. He made the case that, while most of the corps are good soldiers, Hal is more. Hal is a Special Forces guy.

The argument made sense to me. Like a Special Forces member, Hal can turn the "GL/soldier" persona off and on in a split second. In fact, he was like that in his earliest appearances and as Geoff Johns writes him. Similarly, while other soldiers are overly dependent on regulation, orders, and their weapons, Hal's an out-of-the-box thinker. Face it, Hal's as likely to hit you in the face as use his ring. He caught me off guard with the tactic of using the Shark against Gremlins in his last issue!

You want other evidence of independent and lateral thinking? Hey, it was Hal who colored outside the lines and figured out he could use his ring to take over Oa. Anyone of the GLs could have; but only Hal thought of it. People think what Hal did as Parallax was out of character. In some ways, it was precisely IN character. Hal is the Coriolanus of the Corps, which makes Sinesto, the other Corps "free-thinker", a perfect foil for Hal.

  • John Stewart? Willful, but too weapon-dependent, too rigid a thinker. That's what led to the Unfortunate Incident on Xanshi. Engineers color between the lines.
  • Guy Gardner? Has too much trouble staying in between the lines. Can't turn his GL persona on and off. An attack dog is not a police dog.
  • Kyle Rayner? A bit too focused on the light show, I think, to use his ring too efficiently. And totally unable to balance his superhero life with his personal life, something Hal did almost casually.

Since Hal likes boxing (or, at least, the gloves) so much, look at it this way....

  • John Stewart is the thinking man's efficient boxer. He's not going to do anything his opponent doesn't expect; he plans on winning by simply being better than you are.
  • Guy Gardner is the palooka. Big, strong boxer with long arms who doesn't bother with finesse because he'd rather just knock your block off.
  • Kyle Rayner is the dancing, weaving, bobbing boxer. He'll distract you with fancy footwork and creative attacks, then take advantage of your dizziness to knock you out.

Hal? All of the above, from one moment to the next. That's why people think he's better.


Gary said...

Caius Marcius Coriolanus? Bonus.

I wouldn't mind see a couple of posts on the Classics every once in a while to break up the comics stuff.

Steven said...

Wouldn't this make Hal Muhammad Ali? Makes sense. He's the guy who keeps getting hit in the head, over and over again, until you get tired and he slams you with his fist. Which means Hal can look forward to a future of Parkinson's Disease. Ah, it's funny cause it's sad.

Ragnell said...

Okay, I'm scared now.

Mainly because the boxer analogy made sense, so I'm not sure he's joking anymore.

Tim O'Neil said...

You knwo this makes a remarkable amount of sense... but it would be better if these personalities had actually been designed this way, instead of evolving at random based on the whims of dozens of writers over many years... the fact that there's any coherency at all to these characterizations is pretty amazing.

Especially since Hal was himself a cipher for so long...

Vic Fluro said...

That sounds like some kind of new-type John Stewart. The one I remember kicked Hal's arse because Hal was too rigid a thinker that one time. BAM! Right in the face.

Scipio said...

Vic, like many people John got a little stodgier as he got older. But to make you happy, I'll show that little incident soon to make you happy.

Tim, I personally prefer the GLs (or any character) as the result of Evolution rather than Intelligent Design.

Gary-- I'm afraid you and I might be the only interested people! Perhaps I can look for other intersections of the two subjects. "Bonus Coriolanus" was his little brother, I think....

Steve; yes, that's exactly what I was thinking.

Ragnell. I am always serious. Comic books are not a laughing matter.

Amy said...

I really dig this analogy. (And no, not just because of the Hal praise.)

A question for further thought: Where does the Animated Universe John Stewart, a former Marine, fit into the equation? Is he a representation of John himself, or a composite of all the comic-world GLs (which would, by your theory, really make him Hal in disguise)?

Word verification joke: unffgl, the noise I made choking on my morning Coke when I realized your promise to make a sincerely positive post about Hal Jordan was genuine.

Devon said...

Man, I just don't know you anymore!

appa ali apsa said...

The boxing/Ali analogy is well taken. GL (the previous series) #25 featured a fight between Hal and Guy for the rights to be GL of Earth/2814. Winner got the title, loser left the Corps. Both decide to forego their rings in favor of a hand to hand fight.

Hal ultimately wins (paving the way for the launch of the Guy Gardner series) by pulling a rope a dope and absorbing all the punishment Guy dished out until Guy exhausted himself, at which point Hal came back and beat Guy down.

(issue was also notable for the somewhat creepy, and never again mentioned fact that Guy had been turning his ring on himself for years to help with his physical conditioning.)

jamawalk said...

interesting analogy, the whole boxing idea. but consider: perhaps he is all those things due to a schizophrenia of writing. his character and his style are all over the map, because no one knows how to make him distinct, or perhaps, no one cares to.

G'nort. Now THERE'S a Green Lantern.

Julio Oliveira said...

Yeah, I think the Animated Universe John Stewart is Hal Jordan after he used the "I'm curious (black)" from that Lois Lane comic.

Vic Fluro said...

Oh realistic time! Why did you have to affect John Stewart with your spare tyre? All other comic characters are free of your malign touch!

(Thanks, Scip, that'd be a great post. Even in the realm of the mind, Hal is rubbish.)

The Thing That Walks Like A Man said...

A question for further thought: Where does the Animated Universe John Stewart, a former Marine, fit into the equation? Is he a representation of John himself, or a composite of all the comic-world GLs (which would, by your theory, really make him Hal in disguise)? -- Amy

I never liked John Stewart at all, until I realized that the animated series was going for "Shaft in Space."

Since that revelation, Stewart is my favorite Green Lantern ever.

Amy said...

The animated universe makes absolutely everyone cooler. No exceptions.

Highlander said...

Hal didn't balance his personal life and his GL career effortlessly. He was, just pre-CRISIS, scorned by the entire Corps because Carol Ferris demanded he give up his power ring if he wanted to keep banging her, and Hal actually did it.

It was editorially directed, of course... the time period was one where Tony Stark had been 'retired' for a year to be replaced by Rhodey in the IRON MAN title, so naturally Len Wein had to follow Denny O'Neil as fast as possible across the continuum divide, because that's just how comics generally work. This 'retire the original guy for a year and put someone new in his place to pep up sales' madness reached its absolute nadir with the whole Batzrael thing, but it started in IRON MAN and GREEN LANTERN was the first to really jump on the bandwagon. So we got a year of John Stewart, with a ring-free Hal, leading up to the first CRISIS... and all because Hal was pussy whipped.

Still, leaving aside the other-directed editorial mandate origin of the story arc, nonetheless, it does show that Hal can only balance his personal and his professional life for so long, and when he's pushed to the wall, well, to paraphrase Adam Baldwin in FMJ, his word is poon tang.

I'm about to say something nice about you on my blog, assuming the kids leave me alone long enough. Check it out, if you've a mind to.

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