Archives for posts with tag: will power

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While WXL is officially a comic book blog, it’s been a while since I addressed an comics-related issue. I’ve been rereading the Green Lantern/Green Lantern Corps, starting with Rebirth. I’ve just finished The Sinestro Corps War and will probably stop after the other Lantern Corps are introduced, but before Blackest Night goes into full swing. It’s hard to read this material without considering the impact that Geoff Johns has had on the Green Lantern and the DC multiverse in general. When Johns and his various and very talented partners-in-crime brought Hal Jordan back as a Green Lantern, he had been possessed by both Parallax and the Spectre, spent a bit of time with the Phantom Stranger, and played a role in bringing about the destruction of both the Green Lantern Corps and his hometown Coast City. In the books leading up to Blackest Night, the GL creative team resolved the matter of Parallax’s infection of Hal somewhat, enabled Hal to shed the Spectre, returned the ring to Hal’s finger, reestablished the Corps and established additional colors, and brought Coast City back from its ashes.

Please don’t take this article too seriously.

Coast City is traditionally depicted as a California city- sometimes it feels like San Diego and sometimes like San Francisco. Its creation fills a void left by Gotham City and Metropolis’s similarities to New York City and Chicago, Star(ling) City’s similarity to Seattle, and the Gem Cities’ similarities to the Twin Cities. In the Silver Age, Coast City embodied much of the essence of California as understood by the American imagination- a little more laid back than the East Coast, but on the edge of the future, cowboys living better through chemistry. More than Metropolis, Coast City was the city of tomorrow. As the 20th century progressed, California dreaming changed its tone and the American imagination adapted, crafting a new vision of what California meant. This new vision reacted to the rise of new subcultures that became closely associated with California- the Beats, hippies, the Manson family, pornographers, Black Panthers, Scientologists, Silicon Valley, People’s Church, Church of Satan, the out gay community, United Fruit Workers, and other strong personalities that informed both California and US identity. Coast City still somewhat resembled San Diego minus the Hispanic population, but it hardly resembled San Francisco by the time it was destroyed in the 1990s. I see Coast City more like Detroit, incredibly optimistic in the Silver Age and ruined largely by outside factors. Detroit came to mind initially because it’s the hometown of Geoff Johns.

Let’s look at what destroyed Coast City and what destroyed Detroit. Once the Oa of automobiles, Detroit’s contribution to US culture and its international reputation has largely been overshadowed by its economic decline. Can you imagine the American experience without Motown or MC5, much less without the automobile? The economy of Coast City when it is first introduced centers around Ferris Aircraft, which isn’t the automobile industry, but both employ machinists, mechanics, and engineers, if you know what I mean. These two industrial cities are destroyed from within and without.

The destruction of Coast City is generally attributed to three individuals:

Mongul loves yellow

Mongul

Is it just me or are there some underlying racial issues with this character? He is a yellow-skinned villain bent on world(s) domination through dynastic rule. His name is one letter away from Mongol, shorthand for Mongoloid (if you subscribe to the antiquated theory of three distinct races (Negroid, Caucasoid, Mongoloid)) which refers to people with ancestry from Asia. He’s built much more like a Mongolian than a Japanese person and his name is likely inspired by the notoriety of the Mongol Empire. In the late 20th century, the failing communist nation of Mongolia posed little threat to Detroit. Japan and its robust automotive industry, however, posed a significant one and that idea continues to find a captive audience. Manufacturing in Asia has only grown as a go-to scapegoat for a decline in US manufacturing. The nations of Japan and Korea developed economically, achieved legitimacy, and consolidated regional influence largely on the backs of their automotive industries. Their rise came at the cost of Detroit.

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Cyborg Superman

As his name implies, Hank Henshaw is a half-human half-robot version of the Man of Steel. In a dangerous partnership with Mongul, Cyborg Superman transforms Coast City literally into an Engine City. Coast City is replaced by an exponentially more industrialized version of itself to serve the ambitions of the foreign power Mongul. Much like Detroit’s woes, there is an undeniable John Henry overtone to the terraforming of Coast City. It’s man vs machine and machine wins.

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Hal Jordan

The legacy of Coast City’s destruction is best characterized by its effect on Hal Jordan. Left so distraught by his hometown’s demise, Hal Jordan allows himself to fall victim to Parallax or what FDR might call “fear itself.” The decline of Detroit has certainly taken a toll on the will power of the people of the city and perhaps in some of their darker moments, people have embraced fear over optimism.

When Geoff Johns brings Hal Jordan back to the Green Lantern mantel, he also brings Coast City back into existence. By doing so, I believe Geoff Johns is communicating a hope for his hometown to persevere through difficult times and eventually revitalize itself. In one of this last moves as Green Lantern kingpin, Johns introduced the character of Simon Baz in his native Detroit, providing a much less nuanced role for his hometown than any parallels that could be brought between Coast City and Detroit.

I like when creators represent, whether it’s Johns placing Simon Baz in Detroit or Robert Kirkman setting the Walking Dead in Georgia. Comics can capture physical and spiritual geography in ways unique to the medium such as Strange Attractors, Deogratias, and Palestine. Of course, the Marvel Universe approaches real-life geography in a way distinctly its own.

In conclusion, I would welcome Aquaman to Atlanta. He’s gonna love the fountains at Centennial Park.

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Image I recently posted the Will Power Timeline I’ve been working on. It attempts to draw connections to real world events with developments in the Green Lantern narrative. It’s unfinished, a work in progress. Any suggestions on things to add are appreciated. Also if you notice any glaring errors, I would appreciate it if you could bring those to my attention as well. I will keep adding to it as my research continues. You can visit the timeline by following the link at the top of the page or clicking on these words.

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Few superhero franchises echo the spirit of American ambition like the Green Lantern. In each incantation, the Green Lantern characteristically looks at emotion in a primitively simple fashion, centering its understanding of the universe around the nature of will power. Each era of the Green Lantern reflects changes in the American understanding of Will Power as a component of national identity. In the Golden Age, Alan Scott answers to no Green Lantern Corps. He is a rugged individualist who vigorously pursues his own happiness, much like popular contemporary protagonists Casablanca’s Rick Blaine and Citizen Kane’s Charles Foster Kane. In the Silver Age, Hal Jordan embodies the spirit of the U.S.-Soviet Space Race as a cocky test pilot who flies for the sake of the flight, not the destination- the Chuck Yeager-era ring-slinger that inspired disdain and camaraderie in the Megaphone Mark Green Arrow. John Stewart is a black Howard Roark. Like Luke Cage or Jason Todd, Guy Gardner is the reformed delinquent with a chip on his shoulder; unlike Cage and Todd, Guy also has a shiny green chip on his finger that derives its power from that chip on his shoulder. Kyle Rayner and his limp Will speak to a certain American impotence.  Parallax? The excesses of the over-Will.

When Martin Lodell and Bill Finger created the original Green Lantern in 1940, the American literary imagination enjoyed an infatuation with the concept of the individual.  Western literature of the 1940s featured some of history’s greatest intellectual champions of the nature of the individual, such as Ernest Hemingway, Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus, Herman Hesse, Richard Wright, F. Scott Fitzgerald, George Orwell, and Ayn Rand. The struggle of the individual against the shackles of society has been fundamental to the Green Lantern since Alan Scott took the ring in All-American Comics #16. The Green Lantern continues a stubborn American tradition of associating a strong will power with bravery, a tradition with roots in pioneerism, Protestantism, and an irrational suspicion of education.

While suicides, car crashes, and possible murders claimed the likes of Hemingway, Camus, and Wright, the Green Lantern soldiers on. Unlike most stories, the collected Green Lantern is longer than Ayn Rand’s collected works.  The staying power of the Green Lantern narrative lies in its organic nature and how it responds to the monthly shifts in the zeitgeist. Alan Scott appealed to an absurd Objectivism in vogue during the Second World War. Alan Scott appealed to the sense that an individual could change the world whether that individual was Hitler, Gandhi, or Mao. Alan Scott appealed to a 1940s understanding of the American Dream- a dream as green as the Emerald City and Gatsy’s green light.

Below you can see an article that found its way in to the back of several Green Lantern comics. It’s written by Dr. William Moulton Marston, one of comic history’s greatest characters. Marston believed passionately that comic books could sculpt the collective consciousness as to avoid the catastrophes of groupthink such as war. With the credentials of a Harvard-trained psychologists, he gained a following, allowing him to experiment with the messages he believed would improve the world. In addition to writing this strange article, Marston invented the lie detector, created Wonder Woman, and successfully navigated a polyamorous relationship. The article below invokes the tone and language of political propaganda. As nationalism became more sophisticated in the outburst of hostilities that was WWII, the human psyche enthusiastically pursued more meaningful ways to understand their national identity. Americans began to picture themselves as distinct from the rest of the world not simply because of geography or race, but because of their way of life. Will Power emerged as a totem of the New Capitalism and the indoctrination stated early. On the first page of the article, Marston advocates exercises in Will Power, so that one’s Will may enjoy endless growth and the ability to overcome any adversity, including physical handicap. Much of this discussion plays as a precursor to Scientology. L. Ron Hubbard, of course, came from a science fiction background, thus we can conclude that a quasi-school of thought existed in the science fiction community that considered Will Power somewhat magical or holy.  On the second page of the article, Marston depicts George Washington and Ulysses Grant as superheroes of U.S. history. Washington and Grant represent the two most important military victories of the U.S. government, one against the British and one against itself. Marston is asserting that Will Power created and saved the country. The student becomes the master as the article urges kids to share the article’s wisdom with their ignorant parents.

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