Wednesday, May 12, 2021

College Days: Green Lantern

Verdict: Hal Jordan went to school but didn't finish his degree.

This one took some thought. Hal is the first character in our "College Day" series not to have existed in the Golden Age, so that's an entire era of 'evidence' missing. Now, I could double-down by re-reading all of Hal Jordan's Silver Age stories for any trace mentions of his alum mater, BUT...

that would have involved me reading all Hal Jordan Silver Age stories, and, frankly, I'm not that dedicated and would rather be hit in the head repeatedly by a yellow lamp.

I simply know of NO mention during that period of Hal having gone to college; please inform me otherwise if you have such evidence.  One of the problems with this is his job: he's a test pilot.

Now, in the Silver Age, it's believable that a private industry test pilot wouldn't necessarily have a Bachelor's.  You don't need a college degree to fly a plane, even to fly it really well.

It's disturbing who they'll let fly a plane.

You still don't. I mean, it's LIKELY that a private test pilot would have a Bachelor's, because nowadays plenty of people do, so surely that would be the industry's preference.  In fact, unlike in the Silver Age, you can now get a Masters in, well, being a Test Pilot.

To get a job with a college degree as a private test pilot with an airplane manufacturer, they'd have to, say, feel guilty for causing your dad's death, or you'd have to be sleeping with the owner's daughter or something.  

But, in more recent times it's become Hal's backstory that he was in the USAF, where pilots get bachelor's degrees in the process of becoming pilots (since all pilots are officers).  He joined the USAF against his mother's wishes at age 18 and then got kicked out for something stupid, like punching his CO in the face so he could go visit his dying mother.

It became Hal's go-to solution.

Which would mean that he was in test pilot school in the USAF, essentially getting a college degree as a test pilot, but didn't finish. So he would still have experience as a "USAF pilot".  

Even though this backstory is a modern invention, it would explain a lot about Hal's life during the Bronze Age. Specifically the jobs he was taking when NOT test piloting.  Toy salesman. Truck driver.  Insurance adjuster.  These are not occupations that demand a college degree (certainly not during the Bronze Age).  

In any case, I'm not going to require of myself that I make sense of a backstory that actual creators may not have fully thought through. I simply can't reconcile whether Hal was or was not a USAF pilot BEFORE getting kicked out. If he was, he got his commission and a college degree.

Even Grant Morrison, bringer of clarity, couldn't make sense of it!

But if there is not evidence in any stories that Hal went to college and his job(s) don't actually require it and the ONLY thing that demands that he get a degree would be becoming an USAF pilot which he never actually go through doing then, I can pretty much come to no other conclusion than that Hal Jordan doesn't have a degree.

That said I'd love to be proven wrong, because I would very much enjoy making fun of whatever college gave Hal "Head Injury" Jordan a degree.


Bryan L said...

My first thought was no, Hal had to have a degree. But upon reflection, I've come around to your way of thinking. I don't remember Hal working as a test pilot for anything but Ferris Aircraft, and as you point out, nepotism explains that hire. If he'd held a test pilot job for another company, I'd cite that as prima facie evidence that he needed a degree, but in the absence of any other test pilot position, I must accept your reasoning.

John C said...

I know Guy graduated (he's a social worker, and I believe he has a real-world alma mater), and assume that John still did (though I'm never sure if his military background displaced his architecture career), but yeah, the closest I can find to Hal going to college is Geoff Johns phoning it in to have him formerly enrolled at "West Coast University." Granted, comics being a mostly all-uppercase medium, that may have been meant as "a West Coast university," but I like the idea that he was so indecisive that he picked the vaguest name that he could find.

I assume that he didn't do well while he was there, no matter what the name. Even as someone who grew up liking Hal, I would never have described him as "academic"...

Scipio said...

Guy definitely had a degree; he was a Baltimore gym teacher at one point. But did Johns say Hal WENT to college or was GRADUATED from college?

John C said...

I never read the Johns Green Lantern run, but secondary sources all seem to suggest the former. I can't find any reference to graduating, only enrolling. And given the shoddy name of the school (if that was really it), I almost wonder if it was a real school...

Anonymous said...

GL/GA #120, Hal mentions having gone to college. But of course, your first question should be: "clown or barber?"

I'll link you to a couple scans from #120, because they're kind of hilarious in an unsettling kind of way, how Hal's approach to dealing with Hispanic men is to grab them with green energy hands and just lock them in his semi:

In scan #2, Hal refers to the guy as "Juan", which happens to be his name, but Hal has no way of knowing that. So maybe Hal just thinks all Hispanic men are named "Juan".

RIP Hal's truck, though. This is about where his truck driving career officially ended and he had to go crawling back to Carol Ferris. A few issues after this, Hal will spend every penny he's managed to save on security equipment to detect Sinestro's arrival through an anti-matter portal, and not long after that Hal's trailer gets blown up. In the space of a few issues, we see Hal go from a man with a little go to a man with nothing. That's where Hal's been ever since.

The full GL/GA 120, in case you want to take in the full splendor:

Scipio said...

THanks! That is quite helpful, and definitely indicates that that writer, at least, assumed that Hal went to college.

I'm choosing to look skeptically at it as 'evidence', however. Since Hal calls it a "college language course", he COULD have merely take a Spanish course at a local college rather than matriculating (let alone being graduated).

Of course, I can't imagine the circumstances under which Hal would TAKE a college Spanish course, except to woo a Spanish-speaking maiden. Say, doesn't his ring act as a translator, anyway?

Anonymous said...

The writer was Denny O'Neill.

I feel like, as with Batman, previous generations felt like heroes should be educated, just on principle. These days, people feel it's enough that a hero is good at kicking ass.

Perhaps it comes down to how it used to be that heroes were aspirational figures, but people these days don't like heroes that make them look bad by comparison. As evidence, we can actually contrast Hal and Kyle:

Hal: test pilot, super brave, always clever (yeah he was actually clever in the Silver Age), could handle himself in a fist fight -- better than you and me in every way INCLUDING ability to withstand head trauma

Kyle: selected on the basis of "you'll have to do", mopey, collects action figures, is held to be an average guy

Not that Kyle was ever just an average guy, but that was always the conceit, so that readers could say "this is what I'd be like if I got a power ring".

John C said...

Weirdly, the following issue (I was vaguely interested in how the vanishing act was going to pay off...) turns the "college Spanish class" line into a sitcom-style bit. Carol questions her "college Spanish class" on meeting El Spectro, and then an editorial footnote takes a jab at Denny's "college Spanish class" handling future translations. O'Neil definitely had a degree, and Carol's ambitious nature suggests that she would, but the context makes me think that Hal is meant to be the Rule of Three's outlier.

Granted, it's not sparkling wit in any scenario, but it at least makes sense as a joke, if Hal's definition of the phrase is different from the college graduates, like dropping out early or, like Scipio suggests, taking a random course because wanted to know what Tom (a.k.a. "Alaska Juan") was saying behind his back. (Actually, Hal pulls Juan's entire name out of thin air, at some point; presumably they had a quick chat between panels, which is fine, since it probably wasn't interesting.)

cybrid said...

Isn't it possible get advanced degrees from a website "these days"? A writer could say that Hal has a PhD and it wouldn't be IMPOSSIBLE. :-|

Scipio said...

What would Hal have a Ph.D. IN? Traumatic Brain Injury?

Anonymous said...

Literally LOL'd at "Alaska Juan".

Oh Hal, you are so much fun to make fun of.

cybrid said...

"What would Hal have a Ph.D. IN?"

That's just it, on the internet, the sky's the limit. Lionel Hutz got a law degree. Nick Riveria got a medical degree. Hal probably knows at least as much about law and medicine as both of those guys put together.