Check out the front of today’s Dispatch of Casa Grande, Arizona, circulation 8,458.
Do you see the skybox at upper right? Here’s a closer look.
The story is about DC comics’ rewriting of the history of one of its characters to make him gay. In comics lingo, this is called “retcon” — a retroactive reworking of the continuity, or history, of a character or story.
Last year, DC dumped nearly all of its history and “rebooted” its entire line of books in order to give longtime heroes like Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman and the others entirely new backgrounds and, yes, new, “edgier” attitudes.
In this case, DC is making one of its longstanding characters a gay man.
But here’s the problem on the front page of today’s Casa Grande Dispatch: That’s the wrong Green Lantern.
The artwork the Dispatch used in its skybox today is of Green Lantern Hal Jordan (below, left), a character that was created in the 1960s, was killed off for a few years and then returned. Naturally, that death thing never really happened — that’s been retconned from his history. Hal — a test pilot — was the character featured in last summer’s Green Lantern movie and is also the start of an animated TV series that my daughter and I watch every Saturday morning.
The character who is now gay, however, is Alan Scott (above, right), the original Green Lantern from the 1940s. He was originally a railroad engineer but was later retconned to be the owner of a radio news operation (this was, um, in the days before TV news was popular). In recent comic book stories, Alan was very old and semi-retired, along with other heroes of his era.
In the new story, reportedly, Alan is younger — about the same age as Hal Jordan, Clark Kent, Bruce Wayne and the rest. And he’s not living on the same Earth as most of these other heroes — he lives on a parallel-universe Earth.
And, of course, he’s gay.
All this — about this not being the more famous Hal Jordan character — is made quite clear in the story the Associated Press sent out Friday:
But purists and fans note: This Green Lantern is not the emerald galactic space cop Hal Jordan who was, and is, part of the Justice League and has had a history rich in triumph and tragedy.
Instead, he’s a parallel earth Green Lantern. James Robinson, who writes the new series, said Alan Scott is the retooled version of the classic Lantern whose first appearance came in the pages of “All-American Comics” No. 16 in July 1940.
DC comic book readers will tell you there have been, in fact, five Green Lanterns on Earth: Hal and Alan plus (left to right) Guy Gardner, John Stewart and Kyle Rayner.
When not flashing his bling, Guy was a high school P.E. teacher who later owned a superhero-themed nightclub. John was an ex-Marine-turned-architect. And Kyle was a comic book artist. In fact, my favorite incarnation of Kyle Rayner — in an animated Superman TV series in the 1990s — portrayed Kyle as a graphic artist for the Daily Planet, the newspaper where Clark Kent works. Anyone who’s ever worked as a news artist really needs to go watch that episode.
And those five are just the human Green Lanterns. In fact, there are thousands of Green Lanterns. The Green Lantern Corps is an interplanetary police force in which each member patrols a sector of space assigned to him by the Guardians — little blue guys who live on a planet called Oa. Hal, is the official Green Lantern of sector 2814.
Way too much information, I know. But here’s my point: If you don’t know anything at all about superhero mythology and don’t care, then that skybox means nothing to you. So putting Green Lantern there was a waste of time, as far as you’re concerned.
If you are interested — even a little — in superhero mythology, then you either realized right away that the Dispatch used artwork of the wrong character. Or you figured it out as soon as you started reading the story.
I don’t know for sure what story the Dispatch put on page 11A today. That’s the national news page, so I presume it’s wire copy and, most like, the aforementioned AP story. I looked for it with no success on the Dispatch web site this morning.
I did spot this, however, in the center of that web page:
So at least the Dispatch doesn’t have to worry about Hal Jordan filing a lawsuit over this mistake. Heh.
The front page is from the Newseum. Of course.