TODAY IN COMIC BOOK HISTORY: July 21, 1940
“Three times shall I flame green! First – to bring death! Second – to bring life! Third – to bring power!”
With that The Green Flame of Life granted engineer Alan Scott a ring that bestowed him with immeasurable power. Scott decides to fight crime as a man of mystery, calling himself The Green Lantern.
The original Green Lantern wasn’t a part of any intergalactic police force. He was just a guy, the sole survivor of a train crash, who found himself in possession of a magic ring.
The Golden Age Green Lantern’s origin goes back a thousand years, when a strange green meteorite fell in ancient China. A villager molds a lantern out of the meteorite’s metal which stayed alight with a green flame. This became the power source of the ring and Scott was forced to use it to charge his ring every 24 hours.
Later stories would recon this origin slightly by stating a Green Lantern pre-dated Scott, but the power corrupted him leading to the Guardians plotting his downfall. His ring and the Lantern were burned, damaging the Lantern’s intelligence. So when Scott eventually found the Lantern, it was no longer connected to the Guardians of Oa and Scott forged his own path separate from the GL Corps.
I definitely prefer Scott’s original origin over the revisioned one, but the New 52 has wiped everything clean, so the point is moot.
Bottom line – The Golden Age Green Lantern was a huge hit. He gained a massive readership, increased sales of All-American, enjoyed his own solo series, was a founding member of the JSA and successfully combined pulp cereals, detective comics and superhero comics seamlessly.
After WWII his popularity, like all super heroes, declined and he went away for a while. Showing up a decade later in DC’s Silver Age titles. However, he would never again headline his own solo book.
[Above, All-American Comics #16
Cover Art by Martin Nodell
Story by Bill Finger]