Have you noticed that we go through a Green Lantern about once every ten years or so?
The Trinity -- Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman -- adapt to each decade, as do their larger casts. They change their styles and personalities but still remain quite recognizably themselves.
But other characters, the ones who didn't continue being published through the Wertham Era, their personal momentum was halted. When they were re-started by Julie Schwartz in the Silver Age, they were ripe for replacement. And this has (so far) doomed the name "Green Lantern" to a succession of replacements at a rate of about one per decade, each a product of his time.
The Green Lantern of the 1940s. Alan Scott. A manly man of the WWII era. Barrel-chested and broad-shoulders, just as like to throw a punch as use his ring, which was full of strange mystic power.
Thanks to Dr. Wertham, we'll never know exactly what the Green Lantern the 1950s might have given us. But...
The Green Lantern of the 1960s. Hal Jordan. Ah yes; the space age. Test pilot, and dinner jacketed swinger. Smooth, but still kind of dorky in a NASA way. And, as the Guardians came into play, he became the Company Man. With his two brothers in tow, he was also the JFK of the hero set. Truly, a character of his era.
Hal Jordan tried to become the GL of the 1970s by hanging out with liberal Green Arrow and tuning in to the scene. But it really just showed how square he was. Eventually, instead of becoming the 70sGL, he became the 40GLs. A straight-laced eminence grise (grey hair and all). This is a pattern the other GLs would follow, as well. And so he was slowly displaced by...
The Green Lantern of the 1970s. John Stewart. Blaxploitation films, big hair, fighting The Man and The System, grassroots battles rather than galactic ones.
Ah, but the 1970s didn't last forever and John's political activism devolved into Political Correctness and "Mosaic" in the '80s. New decades demand new Lanterns, like...
The Green Lantern of the 1980s. Guy Gardner. You see, Gardner had been created much earlier (1968), but hadn't been very active. Comas will do that to you. No, Guy didn't really become his own man until the Big Eighties. Brash. Conceited. Childishly competitive. While John Stewart was busy being ignored as the main character of the Green Lantern series, Guy Gardner was becoming famous as the GL of the JLI. But Guy became as hard to take seriously as the pretension of the decade of his floruit, and so we got...
The Green Lantern of the 1990s. Kyle Rayner. Oh, Guy Gardner tried to become the Lantern for the '90s: tattoos, enormous guns that formed out of his body (ick). But that's not really what the decade wanted. It wanted a release from padded shoulder pretension of the '80s. It wanted ... Young! Edgy! Struggling! Down to earth! In search of himself! Ah, Kyle, sketching, hanging out in coffee houses, sleeping with his colleagues. In the 1990s, somebody gave Joey Tribbiani a ring, it seems.
But the new decade -- and millennium -- wanted something more. Millennial rebirth, a return to greatness, a Brave New World. Kyle tried, even becoming the godlike Ion; but it was still, in the final analysis, just Kyle. A new Green Lantern was called for.
The Green Lantern of the 2000s.
Sure, the other ones are around, but they aren't the one the series is named after, are they?
Is this "Rebirth", then, the end of the cycle?
I hope so. For I do not like the Decennial Character Cycle of the Green Lanterns; it is like building a castle on the sand, only to see it washed away with each successive tide. It has spread, now, to the Flashes, and threatens to beach the Aquaman name as well.
DC; If you want these characters to remain also-rans behind the Trinity, stick with the Decennial Character Cycle. If you want these characters to grow in greatness, keep the same person in the role and evolve or adapt them, not just toss them aside as soon as the culture shifts underneath them.
What do YOU think, Absorbascommenters?